Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Dance With Me

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique."
~Martha Graham

Lulu with Herci Marsden
A bit about Lulu: She is très, très, bienreally, quite welland thanks All for your inquiries and good wishes. Well enough, she is, to be trying out for the dance team at a new school she'll be attending (where she'll be joining big bro) come late August.

Above, is a photo from a few summers back, when Lu participated in ballet boot camp with the Herci Marsden of The State Ballet of Rhode Island. In the late 1960s Ms. Marsden introduced dance to the University of Rhode Island (my alma materwhere I also danced for four years, à la Martha Graham, with URI's modern dance troupe), and at seventy-three years old, she can still work those legs at the bar.

Unlike Lu, who seemed to be entirely out of step during the performance that consummated two weeks of training. For every plié, she did a relevé. For every pas de chat, she made passé. If the dancers' feet were in second position, she was in fifth. I couldn't tell if she was running far behind or ahead, or just playing the opposites game.

See what I mean:

That's Lu without a leg up.

But she kept at it, giggling to herself, didn't leave the floor like she did when she was four, telling me (in almost so many words) the movements were too slow and constrained for her. Not surprisingly, as much as I wanted her to stick with balletwith the exception of Marsden's soft-toed boot campshe did not. And I understood this. Dance is an emotional and intuitive expression of life, and for Lu, ballet was all ball and chain, technique where she desired tempest.

Lu's been talking dance the past year or so
jazz, tap, hip hopasking for lessons at a dance studio, which requires a big commitment, lots of dough, and comes with all the pecuniary trappings: myriad performances, caked on make-up, questionable costumes and grand competitions. Like traveling overseas to perform. Seriously. Seems the entire discipline has been commercialized.

And to that, I say Pooey.

But here we are, headed to a school with dance as an elective, and I can't deny her any longer (besides, it's included in the tuition!). Nor do I want to, for I know the girl needs to move, needs to spin, needs to let her heart spring from it's cage, expand, bounce, and exceed its own yearnings. 

Isn't that what we all need?

Well, maybe not the part that makes you dizzy.

We ought to dance with rapture that we might be alive... and part of the living, incarnate cosmos. 
 ~D.H. Lawrence


  1. as a dancer myself, THANK YOU for supporting this love of your daughter's....dancing saved me, nurtured me, and pulled me out of my shell...being on dance team was everything to me, and even though injuries sidelined me a few years later, it remains part of me. not all of us play traditional sports, and dance fills both art and sport - plus dancers have the healthiest physiques, especially jazz where you need to be both lean and strong! and yes, i love that NV song as well :)

  2. Nurture the talent, whatever it is. This country has squelched the arts, always has and I suppose in the face of all the new cuts to the arts and education, always will. And parents, how many would be artists had their confidence stolen by parents encouraging them to study something 'worthwhile'.

  3. Oh, I'd love to be able to dance, but I'm not good at all. When my friends and I go dancing, they crowd around me on the dance floor. I think they were trying to hide me, bless them.

  4. Jayne, Lu is so lucky to have a mom that can say things like this: “I know the girl needs to move, needs to spin, needs to let her heart spring from its cage, expand, bounce, and exceed its own yearnings. “ I love this!

  5. I agree with Leah, how wonderful it is that Lu has you as a mother. Everyone should have someone that supports them and urges them on to pursue their interests. I think dancing teaches disipline, grace, appreciation for art and music. What a wonderful thing to study. I hope she enjoys it and is fulfilled by it.

  6. cute post - as someone who has zero coordination I can totally sympathize with her.

  7. Ecco- I have to admit, I didn't always support it... I worried about its trapping, the competitions, etc... I came from a more classical background, where performance was bare boned. But dance, no matter what kind, feeds the soul, as all art does, and how could one not support that? We need more of it in our public schools--it can save so many kids! Glad it saved you. :)

  8. Ellen- Absolutely. It's a shame it is not viewed, by many, as a worthwhile endeavor.

    Nessa- Ha! They are trying to get closer to you, to observe what you're doing, so they can reproduce those moves. ;)

  9. Leah- Oh, but I can also say so many other things the girl does not like to hear! (Sometimes, I don't like to hear them myself.) ;)

    Gideon- Thank you so much for stopping by upon Roberts recommendation. (And I'll have to thank Robert, too.) It's not always so girly-girl here... I've been indulging my daughter a bit a lately. Hope you felt of bit sway for your stay. ;)

  10. Cheryl- Thank you, kindly. I think now that Lu's a bit more mature, she's going to get a lot from it. Certainly, I hope, all the things you mentioned.
    It's definitely in her blood. :)

    David- Bwaha! I hope her sense of balance improves... will do wonders for her confidence.

  11. Ah, dance. I'm frightful at it, unless dancing around a fire with drum. Other than that, I suddenly sprout extra left feet. 4 or 5 of them, usually.
    Here's to your progeny having two awesome feet of different type, and the love of dance to move them. And to you for being her awesome mom.

  12. I miss those dancing doll days of taking my daughter to lessons. I'm glad we had them though! ANd yes, expensive!!!

  13. Love the Lawrence, love the Lulu, love the dance so much, I'll hurt myself trying to keep it up.

    Once, at eleven, I was invited to graduate from ballet to en pointe by my honor that took my breath. But we'd just moved further from the studio and my careerist mother handled her guilt by convincing me that my feet would become deformed and painful. I'd have to deal with that for the rest of my life, she said.

    Life went on, without dance. But at forty, I suddenly decided I would dance one way or another and I did for another ten years, though more the stuff Lulu seeks now than formal ballet. And I'm paying for it, as promised. Paying and grieving the loss of the dance.

    As I sit to read and comment on this post, I'm sitting in an inner tube of ice. I attended my first hour of Zumba today. I will dance if it kills me, because, while I dance, I forget all the world and everything.

  14. Get the fugg outta here J-girl....I love this film by Godard and I try to convince total strangers to try and find it in the 'arthouse' section of their local video store....
    The dance scene is so cool...I even had a go at doing it...errr maybe I should not have said that....I dance like an badly medicated epileptic baboon that's had a couple of doses of strong acid, five bowls of hash and a hefty bump of meth.'s all about me isn't it? This is one great piece of writing, I am enjoying watching your development.
    You are doing the pas-de-deux with you mind and hands...;)

  15. With about a half-dozen of the guys I hung out with, I actually attended dancing school for a few months in, oh, it might've been 6th or 7th grade. No ballet, and I think I want to thank the gods for that, but it included all the "standards" like foxtrot, cha-cha, waltz...

    This sounds like a good thing until you factor in that 11- to 12-year-olds -- boys, anyhow -- are among the planet's most awkward creatures. It's like they're auditioning for the main role in the James Thurber piece about the combination card table and ironing board in the attic, folding and unfolding of its own noisy accord during windy nights.

    I mean to say: we (at least I) never got over the idea, practiced every week, that dancing included lots of stumbling and gangly foot-tangling and partner-toe-crunching. (And red faces.) Only later did we (I) learn that it was to include everything but all that. Sigh.

    So I'm both in sympathy with Lu and envious of her, because I know in just a few years she'll be graceful and comfortable doing all this... probably even without another lesson.

    One of my favorite fantasy novels, James Stephens's The Crock of Gold, includes this lovely line: "I would like to dance, indeed," returned the Philosopher," for I do believe that dancing is the first and last duty of man." I can pull that off metaphorically but am in awe of those who can do it for real.

  16. Glad to see that you're encouraging her.
    Isn't it sad that music, dance, art which saves so many is the last to be saved in schools?

    The arts were big in my household and I'll be grateful for the rest of my life.

  17. Agree with everyone, dancing is a wonderful thing, just wished my legs agreed with me.

    Your girl look fabulous, the love for the art is the best.

  18. As long as her feet are following her heart, she'll be happy. I love that out-of-step photo. There's tender humour in it. :)

  19. I suppose I'm a suburban survivor myself, balancing motherhood with my creative endeavors, so happy to follow you. Come visit and see if you'd like to follow me back! :))

  20. I totally love the concept of "ballet boot camp". What images that conjures in my imagination.

  21. Kudos to Lulu... happy feet, happy feet.

    I took ballet in college and enjoyed it. I liked the feeling of being in balance.

  22. DB- I like the idea of that male-bonding drum dance. That's as good a dance a any. Have you seen the tribal dance known as "Mandala"? I'll bet you'd be right at home one stage with a Mandala dance. ;)

    Tana- This is encouraging news... a time when I may miss playing taxi. I know it will come, but in present time, the only thing I'm missing is a break. ;)

  23. Nance- Invited to graduate from ballet to en pointe? Oh my, a little ballerina's dream. And I suspect that if you had really, really wanted to pursue ballet as a profession, nothing--not even a careerist (good for her) mom--would stop you.
    And the wonderful thing about dance, is that you can always go back to it, at any age.
    But zoomba? That's a workout. I have neighbor who teaches it and I've taken it from her in the past.
    I have another suggestion for you, although it may still require some apres dance ice:
    Nia. I'ts a sensory based movement of dance and martial arts, and if done correctly, fairly forgiving. See if you can find a class in your area. :)

  24. Dan- I fell in love with Godard in the early 80s when I discovered his films at an artsy cinema, with tattered velvet sofas and coffee tables, which showed mostly foreign films (like Godard's Breathless). And then, of course, I wanted to BE his muse Anna Karina.
    And now that I have a visual of your particular choreography, I'm looking forward to my first dance with you. Because I will get to Australia, you know. ;)

  25. JES- I have three brothers and not one of them ever took dance. And even with the benefit of witnessing, on many occasion, my father and mother waltz and jitterbug across the floor, none of them have advanced much beyond that "stumbling and gangly foot-tangling and partner-toe-crunching" phase.
    Every boy should be made to take dance.
    That said, I had my son in a class once, and it didn't go over very well.
    However, if you attended dance school, if only for a few months, I would imagine you're long past the stumble stage.
    As for Lu, she seems more graceful on the basketball court than in the dance studio... but, I agree, it will come with time and practice.
    I have to admit, though, I'm weary of recitals (unless I can slip in only for her performance!).
    Thanks for that Stephens quote. I haven't read him, but I love the Irish authors of that time. I'll have to look him up. :)

  26. Antares- I can't imagine life devoid of art. Any kind. I think it impossible, as the human spirit is filled with art. I'd like to imagine art alive and well and encouraged in every household. Sad for the children if it's not.

    Shopgirl- I used to dance more frequently, and with ease, but I'm not quite as limber as the old days. All this talk though, makes me want to get back it in a hurry.
    Dance is for anyone of all ages, and with your lyrical smarts, I have a feeling that you have a mean sashay.

  27. Hilary- Aw, feet following heart... I love that thought. That photo is one of many with tender humor. The video--even funnier. By the way, Lu gave me her blessing to post the photos and narrative. She's got a wicked sense of humor. :)

    Sandra- Nice to make your acquaintance, and thank you for stopping by. Another suburban survivor, huh? I'm guessing there are many of us. ;)

  28. Robert- Yes, ballet boot camp it was. I'm glad it's conjuring images, and I'll bet yours are not too far off the mark. ;)

    Munk- Ballet in college? I know only one other guy who danced ballet, and he became one of my best friends in college (and is still a good friend to this day). And let me tell you, that guy can dance! How I love to hit the floor with him.
    Oh, the ladies must race to you when the music starts. ;)

  29. Long ago, when I was about 18 years old, I dated a ballerina with the NY Ballet and I can remember that what she mostly talked about was how much her feet hurt, even at that young age. Hopefully your daughter will achieve her dreams (and also not end up wit terminally sore feet).

  30. Laoch- I can't imagine my daughter ever getting sore feet. But you never know... this might prove to be the thing that will actually get her to sleep!