Tip toes

May. 10th, 2009 05:33 pm
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This morning, I danced with a tall, elegant, self-contained woman who I would place in her sixties. I felt elegant myself while we were dancing. Her arms were very long, and I went on tip toes when we did one of those disco over the head joined hands twirls.

After, I waited on the sidewalk for a sweet Mother's Day parade with tall puppets on stilts and someone leading the way dressed in a fluttery white costume like a bird.

Also, I'm excited about the F to Elvis event that [livejournal.com profile] jasonelvis is curating at the National Portrait Gallery in London in August, so I've been thinking all day about Elvis.
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Jumping up and down with a little girl, waving hands in the air and mouthing the words to You Are The Sunshine of My Life is an excellent way to spend a piece of a morning. She had sunflowers on her shoes.
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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.
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There were a few light flakes of snow as I rode in. There's supposed to be a big storm coming tonight.

Following me up the steps this week was the man who cried last week. He was very polite, almost meditative in the way he went my pace as he walked up the stairs. About the third flight, he said something I couldn't understand, and laughed in a friendly way, but when I said, "What?" He said, "Oh, nothing." Then, he mumbled something like, "We're going the same place." I smiled and nodded, both because we were and because it made me happy. I stepped aside and gestured for him to go up the last flight ahead of me. It felt a little like starting the dance on the stairs, with all the placards telling us anyone can dance.

I spent some time with a cushion on the floor, stretching and playing a little with how it feels to get up and down. I watch people go to the floor with so much grace, but what is between me and the floor is something else. For one thing, if the chairs of the world are too flimsy or too small, the floor and the grass or the ground always stretches out to accommodate me, and I take it up on that, sometimes regardless of propriety. Because my arthritic knee needs padding under it if I rest my weight on it on the hard floor, I get up like a baby, walking myself up with my hands on the ground, my legs a little straddled and and my butt in the air. I was self conscious about that when I first had to figure out how to do it, but now it comes naturally. So, yeah, I don't swoop down and leap up, but I bent over and slapped the floor for a while today, like people make steps with their feet.

They played Rock Steady! What it is what it is.

I was trying not to jump around because my knee was sore all week, so I spent a long time planted in one spot. But then they played some kind of country song, and I couldn't figure out what to do with it until I started skipping all over the room, which felt like flying, it was so fun. Other people started doing something like it, too, and it was pretty delicious to weave in and out of everybody dancing (a young willowy girl in a black leotard and filmy skirt who danced with her even younger sister like a ballerina letting her hair down; an older woman doing contact improv with a young man -- her son? -- who might have been autistic, rolling him over her back, dancing with another woman her age as they both kept physical contact with him; a little girl tossing a rubber snake back and forth to her mom; couples doing swing dance moves), I liked it, and my mess-with-me friend from last week was doing it, too, but I has to skip out the door in the middle of the song to gasp and drink water, because I am not so used to moving that fast.

Later, when I was dancing in a corner, a young woman came over to hug me and tell me that I radiated joy. A guy who had been dancing behind me said, "You have more fun than anyone." Which might be true. I think that this was something that I've been needing -- in a time when I'm looking urgently for paid work, and holding the experience of getting so much no and silence back from putting my beloved book out into the world, when my personal obstacles can set up a clamor with the big struggles and hard times -- to have somewhere to stretch physically, socially, emotionally, to explore connection and separation, to move. It's very wild to me that this is a bodily thing, not an intellectual thing, not about language, and that I've started to feel reflected back there in a way that I've been thirsty for. There are a lot of things about it that almost embarrass me, especially once people start talking, but I can't afford the luxury of indulging my taste for critique, not now, not yet, maybe not at all. Mostly, I'm just grateful that it's there, even for the likes of me, and that all I had to do was find it, drop my five dollars in the basket and dance.
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  • I was going to skip dancing this morning, but my body wanted to do it, so I jumped on my trike and went downtown. I liked shaking, liked the drummers, liked rolling around on the floor and kicking my legs in the air, walking my feet up the heated pipes along the wall. Okay, maybe I really am a hippie. I was singing "The Age of Aquarious" as I pedaled away.

  • I rode to State Street Fruit to get a ticket for a poetry performance, then read about Dickens and mesmerism at the bagel place.

  • The big poetry show was at the Academy of Music. There were slam poets I enjoyed, but the deep heart of it, for me, was Richard Wilbur. I got to hear him read poems I love, including this one.

    In which he says to his daughter, who is working on a story, about writing:


    It is always a matter, my darling,
    Of life or death, as I had forgotten.



    I'm needing nerve, focus, and flexibility. There are so many ways to keep getting there: movement, poetry and community among them.

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  • I found out about it on usaservice.org. I'm going to go fold clothes for the hospice shop and collect canned food for the survival shelter tomorrow from an event I found there, too. There's a lot to be seen about the Obama administration, but I appreciate that they found me a place to dance.

  • It was snowing this morning. Not too much, but it made for hard triking! They had barely plowed, so I had to ride right in the middle of Route 9, in the only place that wasn't thick with snow. The cars had to go my speed until I pulled over to the deeper stuff and let them by. I almost didn't go because of the snow. (And, you know, fear.)

  • When I got to the drive for the Fitzwilly's building (site of an encounter last summer with a rude man and his motorcycle) I had to get off and push the trike through the slush. A woman walking asked if I needed help, but I was waiting for her to go by. She was nice, then she went into the door I was headed for. Two other people, looking happy, went in, too. Okay!

  • It was on the fourth floor. (Another reason I almost didn't go.) I could hear the drumming. There were placards along the stairs with quotations from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. They were saying beautiful, profound things. I went slowly up the stairs and read the placards. This made me both less winded and less scared.

  • I took off my boots in the anteroom. I like an anteroom -- it's good to have another moment of transition. I peered into the room -- everyone was the floor while someone danced in the middle. Yikes! But they looked like old hippies, and other generations of hippies. Hippies and artists taught me how to dance in the first place. I like them, in general. I'm not exactly one of them, but I dance like them and I understand a lot of their ways. I liked the sound of the music.

  • Then, there was a little dressing area, where I took off my coat and my jeans, and saw the nice woman who had offered to help me with my trike. She said that she hadn't been there in a long time, and I said that I never had before. "Oh, you'll love it," she said. I go too many days when I don't have nice, simple, small conversations in person with someone else. This was very good, and I was also glad that there was no talking once a person went in to dance.

  • I put my can of baked beans into the basket. I put my five dollars in another basket. People were up and dancing now, and, why not?, I started to dance. There were handsome women drumming and singing in the front. There were grey-haired men in tie dye. Some people rolled over each other or lay down on mats and did acrobatic dancerly moves, alone or together. They were fun to watch. Lots of women my age or older, including a couple of fat women. A few kids running and laughing. Mostly white, but not everybody. I started dancing at the back near the nice lady from the driveway. People looked at each other lightly, not demanding, but with some sense of welcome. There was a window with a ledge that always had someone sitting in it.

  • The drumming was good for shaking, arriving that way. It felt so good to move. I was quickly too hot. I had on leggings and a body suit and a little brown dress that came in the [livejournal.com profile] amarama's magic box for my birthday, with straps on the sleeves that dangle and fly. I liked having a skirt I could swirl by the hem.

  • After a while, a grey-haired man who was tie-dyeish came up to dance with me. He did a shaking all over thing, like me, and hand motions, like me. It was funny and fun for a minute or two, and then the song was over, and I sat down on the floor, and that was enough of that.

  • I liked the live drumming and singing. After they left, I liked the highly altered version of We Will Rock You. I stomped and even jumped up and down, which might not be wise. There was a tall, blonde woman who struck me as an lgbt person, who was smiling very sweetly at me and pressed her hands together and bowed a little when I smiled back, stomping.

  • I didn't dance in the big line and circle with most people at the end. Wasn't quite ready for that, but did stand up and dance on the outside, and that song ended with a piece of a speech by Martin Luther King, not "I Have A Dream," but he was talking about a call to love.

  • Then we watched a video on the wall. The Dells doing the Star-Spangled Banner, with a background of intense images from African American history, including slave imagery and a lynching. I watched, and felt it, and followed the lines from the writing I've been doing over the past few years to these images and back.

  • Then, there were circles. We said our names, and drew a quality from a basket. I got "education. " Then we went around with announcements. Afterwards, most people left, but I stayed for a small circle in which people talked about their experience at the dance and anything else that was coming up for them. Nothing was perfect, but the whole thing had this quality I love of a bunch of people trying to keep something happening because they care about it and because they think it might be a good thing in the community. I folded up a couple of scarves and put away a few placards.

  • Right before I left, the tall blonde woman came up to me and whispered in my ear, "I loved to watch you dance. You're a dancer. " That was lovely. And it felt true -- I felt like a sweaty, hippie dancer, in my body, ready to trike home (the roads were plowed! an old hippie guy that I'd seen at the dance actually threw me a peace sign with his fingers from his car window as I pulled out on my trike!), and being the other things that I am, hot to tell the story to you.

  • Now it's 3 pm and I better eat lunch and do the next thing. But the dancing felt so good!

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susanstinson

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