6: Dance it Out

I am personally responsible for the choreography of no fewer than five hundred dance routines.

In the early nineties, I was the foremost creative force behind countless memorable productions, set to the iconic music of the “Dirty Dancing” and “Top Gun” soundtracks, showcased at 1633 Gary Way. While my brother was doing all that reading, I was behind the closed door of my parents’ bedroom, planning and executing a series of breathtaking performances for an imaginary audience of critics and friends.

I preferred sound tracks over single-artist albums because of their musical variety. To think what I might have been capable of with access to an ipod. Or Spotify.

I offered my fans an up-tempo jazz performance, followed by a slow, melancholy solo, danced gracefully by a dramatic ballerina. The excitement always climaxed during the show-stopping-rock-anthem-ensemble number, right at the end.

When I felt deep and emotional, I chose “Dirty Dancing,” and focused on my technique. I’d make beautiful, sweeping movements with my arms and big, impressive leaps with my legs. I always imagined sharing my routine with a strong, confident partner. He’d lift me effortlessly to the ceiling and twirl me, with one hand, high above his head. On days where I wanted to go hard, bust it out and kick some ass, I’d throw on Top Gun and spend twenty minutes with “Danger Zone” on repeat. I’d always start off stage and burst through the invisible curtains to the pounding beat of the introduction. It was epic, every time.

Occasionally I’d feel nostalgic,and reflective, and throw on “Beaches” to shake things up.

It’s funny how our behavior patterns change in expression.

It’s funny how  in all other ways, they stay the same.

One of my spiritual teachers, Martha Beck, insists the key to unlocking our adult happiness is re-discovering the activities and experiences that filled us with joy as kids.

Dancing my ass of is that, for me.

It is a no-fail solution to all of my, many, spiritual ailments.

When my best friend and I lived together, we’d unwind on a Friday night. After a long-week of public school atrocities, idiotic district-wide emails and multiple failures to save the world, we’d turn up the volume on my “dance party” playlist, open the door to our apartment, then glide, spin and shake, up and down the second floor.

Once in a while, in the early morning, if our summer camp staff felt sluggish and stale, we’d take them out to the parking lot, open up the doors of my mini cooper and teach a new generation of young people the important lesson of moving bad energy out and away.

During my third year of law school I lived alone in an old apartment with a giant living room. One, entire wall had floor-to-ceiling mirrors. The view from my couch looked like the dance studios I’d grown up in. Three or four times a week, I’d turn down the lights, burn a few candles and play out the lead role in “Flashdance,” the musical.

One time a neighbor knocked on the door to ask me a question about the “parking garage” and, as he was leaving, slipped in, “Is someone singing in there?”

He sounded humiliated for me.

“No,” I lied.

Unphased, and undeterred, I resumed “what a feeeeellinnng,” before the door even clicked shut.

My friend Parker used to complain about the absence of a coffee table, and felt particularly inconvenienced when trying to both watch the Nuggets and consume a meal. I can’t remember whether I ever fessed up to why I needed the extra space.

I knew my career as an attorney was doomed when I couldn’t even shake my hips to Rihanna while cleaning the kitchen sink. I dug out “Hey, Mr. DJ,”  by the Backstreet Boys and “I Want You Back” by NSYNC. I’d manage to press my feet to the floor but didn’t have the energy, or inspiration, to do anything with them after that.

The nail dropped squarely in the coffin the night I couldn’t help myself off my bedroom floor for Whitney Houston’s Greatest Hits.

As a karmic reward for the years of  hard-work and dedication spent honing my craft, I found a job where I can perform a new routine, on a beautifully polished wood-floor, any time I want.

Each time is still just as satisfying as the last.

Damn, it feels good, to dance it out.

Ladies Leave Your Man at Home

I hate to interrupt all of the exotic Asia talk, but this is important.

On Saturday morning I feel exhausted. In a revolutionary act of Friday night bravery, I’d stayed out at a bar until 2 a.m. My friend and I lost track of time giggling at tales of childhood dysfunction told with hilarious charm and full-body animation by a tall, dark stranger.

I’m still wiping the crust from my eyes when our dance teacher skips through the studio door. She’s as radiant and energetic as I’d remembered from two weeks ago when we accidentally took her “Diva Hip Hop” class at Your Neighborhood Studio in Culver City, CA.

I briefly consider sneaking away and waiting out the class at the nearest Peet’s coffee.

I look over at the white-haired woman in a black mesh tank top and decide to stay.

Thirty minutes later I’m sweaty and re-energized. I’m watching a middle-aged Asian woman in a pink cotton V neck shake it like it’s a Beyonce Grammy performance. She’s chunky in a real-woman kind of way. Her hair is pulled off her face in the type of ponytail a busy Mom makes while she’s buckling her kid into a car seat and texting her gym buddy that she’s running late. I watch this woman get completely lost in the rhythm of her own body. Her face is soft and sassy. From fifteen feet away I can feel her release the heavy weight of everything else in her life.

Then it’s my turn. My group spreads the length of the wood floor. Each of us finds a space where our face meets our reflection in the mirror. Then the music comes on and we stop looking.

In the all-female dance class there are women of many ages. And races. And sizes. And experiences.

Some of us are terribly uncoordinated and others look like this morning is a warm-up for their gig on the sidelines of the Dallas Cowboys’ game tomorrow.

All of us are rocking it out like we were born to do it.

Here, our bodies are perfect, our minds are clear.

Right now our spirits are soaring.

I’m reminded that womanhood is a powerful thing. That sometimes it is hard for us to love each other, celebrate each other and accept each other. Because it is hard to love, celebrate and accept ourselves.

I’m reminded that when we stop competing and comparing, when we stop being self-conscious and self-critical, we find freedom. The freedom to sweat. The freedom to express ourselves. The freedom to be and act and look exactly the way we are:

Beautiful.