essential rhythms


On a whim, a dance class tonight, the first in 28 years. I was 10 then, trying to be a ballerina just like the other girls, but barely hanging on. That year, there had been an audition for "The Sound of Music," and I had made the callbacks. A choreographer had been brought in to help make the next round of cuts. My fate was sealed. I couldn't retain the steps, kept fumbling with the turns, the counter-directional movements of arms and head and hips. I couldn't keep track of the timing, and it took only minutes before she bent down close to my ear and whispered, "Sorry, honey."

I have not had much of an interest in choreography since.

So I'm not sure what, exactly, brought me to the Argyle Studio at the ODC Commons at 7:30 on a Wednesday night. Maybe it's just this feeling I've been having lately that I want to shatter my old boundaries. To extend beyond my pre-conceptions of what I can do. To play beyond my comfort zone.

I thought I would spend an inordinate amount of time trying to see myself in the mirror once class started, make sure I looked good, even if I didn't know what I was doing. But almost immediately, I found myself not caring at all what I looked like. I had to spend all of my energy focusing on what the teacher was showing us, and watching her through the entirety of the routines. Even so, I was only getting a fraction of the moves, so I was utterly relieved when she said to the class, "It doesn't matter how you do it. Just move."

So I did. Clunkily, awkwardly, gracelessly. And yet, completely joyously. Halfway through class, I realized I was smiling, and it felt like that smile came all the way from my bones. I had abandoned the impossible task of flawlessness, and it made me incredibly happy.

There is such freedom when you surrender to the inevitability of your mistakes. I moved through the combinations in class like the kid I was, loving the briefest moments when I managed to keep in sync with the other students and completely absolving myself of my many missteps. I flapped my arms and swiveled my hips and shook my shoulders and knew that in my own way, I was dancing like the rest of them.

And as we wrapped up the class with a series of stretches, I realized that I could do just about anything if I gave myself permission to do it badly.

I am never going to be a ballerina. But that's fine by me. Because it doesn't matter how I do it. I just need to move.