Friday, November 30, 2012

Dance, dance, dance

"If they want me to believe in their god, they'll have to sing me better songs..... I could only believe in a god who dances.”—Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzche

Surely God dances. Why would he not dance? He’s God, the essence of joy, so I have to believe he dances.

I started college in September of 1965. I was at the University of Maryland, my hometown school. My family’s house was just blocks from the campus so there was no option for me to live on campus. I was just a townie and in the end I left school after my second year. I ran away from home and got married.

What do I remember most about those two years in college? I remember trudging across campus in the cold, I remember classes in huge lecture halls, and I remember going to Vietnam War protests. Nearly every day I wore desert boot and jeans and wool socks and my navy blue “poor boy” sweater. And I remember dancing.

During that time I was friends with two guys who were in the same disenfranchised caste as I was. We lived off-campus, we weren’t in the college "in" crowd, and we were scraping by financially. Fred Wilde had moved to Maryland from somewhere in Texas. John Hufnagel was from Connecticut and he had a beat-up old Karmann Ghia. (One day in December John and I decided to drive to New York for the day to see the Christmas decorations. The car broke down in Delaware. The car was towed away and we had to find a bus to take us back to College Park. We never saw Christmas in New York but it was a memorable adventure.)

Fred and John and I loved to dance. As often as we could we squeezed into John’s Karmann Ghia and went to Georgetown. We would go to places that are long since gone—places like the Crazy Horse, where they had recorded music and cheap beer. The three of us would occupy a table, nurse a couple of beers throughout the evening, and dance until we could barely walk. Because I was the designated girl, Fred and John took turns dancing with me. I never sat down. I danced.

When I got home at two o’clock in the morning I would fall into bed. And woe to me on the days when I had an early class. I flunked German I. I nearly flunked Diplomatic History of the United States. German? Useless and unnecessarily difficult language. Diplomatic History of the United States? Useless and boring. I sacrificed it all to dance. And, given the chance, I would do it again.

So this morning I’m walking outside. I’ve got my iPod cranking out my chosen work-out music. I turn right on Churchill, thinking move it, move it, pick up the pace. And right in middle of the street, where Ingleside crosses Churchill, I found my life’s calling. I was born to be a dancer. It all changed for me in an instant. I was no longer walking. It may have looked like I was walking, but I was dancing. Chuck Brown got me moving. Then zydeco music and Aretha and Junior Walker and Warren Zevon. The hell with getting a prescribed amount of daily aerobic activity to preserve my cardiovascular efficiency and my bone strength. I don’t need to focus on maintaining my body, I need to fill up my spirit with joy.

People might say it’s strange for a 65-year-old woman to suddenly decide that she’s a dancer. But I say it’s probably the most sane thing I’ve ever done.

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