Yesterday afternoon, I went to something called cello temple
. It was in on the third floor of the Fitzwilly's building. My Sunday morning dancing is on the fourth floor of the same gigantic old building. This was in a yoga center, which I had never been to before, so instead of placards and loud music, there were long silent halls with shiny floors. My shoes were muddy from the trike, and the cellist was in the tiny coat room. I felt a little shy and claustrophobic. I took off my shoes and coat, went inside and found a cushion near someone I know a bit.
The cellist, Stephen Katz, was wonderful. His music reached me right away, and he got up and did a big spinning dance move with his cello at the very beginning. He had on pants with billowy legs and the human qualities to the cello were both audible and visible. There were lots of people there -- a couple sitting on chairs, most on the floor, sitting or lying down. I recognized some from Sunday mornings, and knew that they were strong dancers. There was a big space cleared in the middle of the floor.
I had come wanting to dance, but the atmosphere was too much like a performance for me to do that. People were slow to start dancing, but when they did, it was beautiful. They were doing contact improv. I wish I knew where to learn how to do that (inexpensively, from someone gentle, respectful, smart and prepared to help me work with the limitations and strengths of this body at this moment). Lots of low moving, crawling kind of things at first, and then dancing together, in pairs, in mounds, people moving with at least one point of contact between them. Rather formal, respectful approaches, courtly in feeling, sometimes, then a man is in the air upside down on another man's back, then rolling over his shoulder and landing on his feet, caught and the movement keeps going. Two women do something that looks like a waltz to me, and then touch foreheads and and roll so that they are leaning backwards, connected at the head. It's moving, and it starts to look to me like a metaphor for human culture, for connection. The music expands everything.
There were lots of aging bodies out there. No one my size, not even close. The cellist started dancing, too, dropping back on his back, still playing while people held him up or danced with him. He played with the cello against the head and then the back of a woman sitting still. It looked risky. At one point, he was separated from the cello and the bow. At another, he was being held upside down, playing Mary Had a Little Lamb. Kind of astonishing and adventurous, but it also seemed like a natural extension of the music and the relationships already in the room.
I had started moving where I was sitting early on, back from the center, knowing I wasn't ready to go out to the middle, because I didn't understand the basics of the way those folks were dancing, and it seemed to me that a person had to be ready to take someone else's weight. But I was moving around on the ground, and starting feeling as if there wasn't enough space, and there would not be enough room for me on the dance floor. That "not enough room" feeling is an old, deep, tender place, and it can lead to all the ways I feel or have felt that there's not a place for me in the world -- fat pain, dyke pain, no job, no place for my book -- that abyss. I was open from the music and the beautiful way the dancers were leaping and stepping and moving together, from the subtle spectacle of their trust in each other, which I almost wanted but couldn't share. I started to cry: tears and big, shuddery breaths. So I knew I had to get up.
There were a few sets of ropes hung along the wall. I saw a woman get in them and hang upside down. A child wanted to swing next to her, but she asked him not to. I was sitting near them, and when a set was free, I got up and went to them. I didn't know anything about what I was doing or what they were for, but they looked a little like pulleys, with loops at the end. I tried them, and they were strong, tied securely to hooks on the wall. I played with putting my hands in two of the loops and leaning back, then pulling myself up. I ran my hands up the ropes, which were twisted blue and white, to the wall, then back again. Then I got inside the big loop and slowly leaned backwards. I let go of the ropes and let my hands rise at my sides. I used to love doing back bends when I was a kid, and this time, I didn't come close to gettng my hands on the ground, but I was suspended on trust, on a rope, leaning backwards over the hard floor, with my legs shaking beneath me. It was emotional, it was wonderful. It was probably not graceful. My back hurts today at the point where it was bending over the rope, holding my weight. It might not be smart to do things I haven't ever done before without any guidance, but it was a beautiful, physical expression of an answer to my grief, my fear, my pain. There was room. There was an adventure to be had. I didn't have to risk more than I was able, because what I was able to risk was plenty.
The cellist, the wonderful cellist, ended by singing and playing and dancing an inspired version of "If I Only Had a Brain." He hugged some of the dancers and thanked his friends. I folded my blanket, put my shoes back on and went triking off to dinner and bread pudding. The night, I know I've said this, was rainy. It was rainy. It was dark. It was warm.