Dance Me a Story

Dance is your pulse, your heartbeat, your breathing. It’s the rhythm of your life. Its the expression in time and movement, in happiness, joy, sadness and envy.
~ Jacques D’Amboise

I sat in the big blue chair by the fire tonight, and worked while we caught up with recorded episodes of 11th Hour. Then Fuzzy was called away by the Work Issue That Will Not Die, and I flipped to a recording of Jacques D’Amboise in China. I like the way he teaches children, not with formal names for steps but with sound and noise. At one point, he took the hands of a small Chinese boy who just was not getting the steps and said, “Together,” and when the child finally got it right they both laughed delighted laughs.

Dance amazes me. Sometimes it’s mime set to music, but at other times it’s abstract, bodies, rest and motion, rhythm and breath and sheer physicality.

Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances.
~ Maya Angelou

When I’m blocked and can’t think of the next word that should be written, I dance around the living room, whirling and spinning and scaring the dogs. I’ve been known to tap dance to keep warm while waiting in outdoor lines for movie openings (time steps take no space and are way more fun than jumping up and down.) Last summer, On Demand had a “Learn to HipHop” series on, but we really didn’t – and still don’t – have the space, and I’m not inclined to move the furniture around.

I took ballet lessons for a while as a child. Sometimes I wish I hadn’t quit, but we moved around a lot. Sometimes I do half-remembered warm-ups before I go into the Word Lounge to write or lift weights. The railing of the balcony hallway that overlooks our living room is about the right height for me.

The Nutcracker is playing in town for the holidays, as it is playing in most every city big enough to have a company. I remember seeing it when I was five, and I remember watching Baryshnikov dance it on PBS every year. My mother and I would watch together. Some years, I still do, and it’s still magical.

I once had an album of The Nutcracker on one side and Peter and the Wolf on the other, narrated by Bob Keeshan (aka Captain Kangaroo). They had written lyrics to The Nutcracker as if it were a musical for kids, and they’re completely cheesy, but sometimes they still sing inside my head. I think I had a crush on the Russian Soldier.

Maybe Fuzzy and I will go, this Christmas.

Dancing was courtship. Only later did I discover that you dance joy. You dance love. You dance dreams.
~ Gene Kelly


I like folk music.

Partly, this is because I grew up with parents who were activists, and partly it’s because I love stories, and storytelling is a key element of all music, but especially folk music.

Every month, the local UU church hosts a coffeehouse evening – there are homemade baked goods and fair trade coffee, and folk singers are hired to come in and sing. Despite the fact that I felt like crap last night, and much of today, I knew the music and company would make me feel better. So we went.

The opening singer was a man named Bill Nash, who began his set with an instrumental piece. He wore a baseball cap, and a rainbow tie-dyed shirt, and used several capos to compensate for a left hand weakened from MS, but his songs were full of amazing imagery and wonderful internal rhyme.

The headliner was Kathy Moser, who has close connections with the UUs in general, and this UU fellowship in particular. Her songs, and the patter between them were full of the sort of observations and wry wit that, as a writer, I really appreciate.

Both singers shared a common background element: participation in the Rocky Mountain Song School, where one of the exercises involves each group being paired off. You and your partner each tell each other a story, and then you write the song of the story you heard. Even without the addition of music to such a project, it intrigues me, and I think there’s a way to turn it into a regular writing exercise.

Kathy Moser will be attending services at the church tomorrow, and singing, and she’s agreed to an interview about her next album for ATG, and about her life philosophy. Her goal is to make production of her next album not merely carbon neutral, but “oxygen positive.”

I like folk music, because of the storytelling as well as the music.
I like folk singers because they are wordsmiths.