This is the glorious work of dance: giving up preconceived notions and resistances in order to get, ultimately, exactly what you want. Today I run fast backward without knowing where I'm going and find it kind of thrilling. I apply this new skill everywhere: It works in meetings at my magazine. It makes family time more fun. (When we plan birthday parties, I let the children lead and no longer give a hoot how unorthodox the event turns out.) Through physical experience, I've come to believe that if you're saddled by the need to know the outcome before you set out, you limit your possibilities.
I also recently discovered that I'm not in charge of gravity. I never accepted that I was a control freak until Bill urged me repeatedly to let my weight go. I tend to hold on to my mass for dear life, tensing my quads and torso in an ancient fear that letting go means total collapse—death! One day, when I finally released my weight in a downward whoosh in the waltz, I felt an extraordinary ease traveling through space. I realized I'd been expending tremendous energy to keep myself off the ground and bring myself down to earth. How inefficient—gravity can do that for me, and isn't it perfect that a micromanaging working parent would think she controls the forces of nature?
Dancing with a partner makes me confront my upbringing, too. As a woman who came of age in the sixties and seventies, I'd gotten almost too good at taking care of myself. I was less adept at accepting support. When I first came back to dance, I was so busy managing my body through a step called checked-reverse (in which the woman acts a bit like a slingshot) that I had no idea how good it could feel to give in to my elasticity, get fairly horizontal, and let my partner support me through it. (I support him in other figures, so it works both ways.) Now I enjoy being cared for, and I see that it gives the man a kick to do his job. Two points for my inner tango goddess.
Trust is hard, though. The surrender it demands was counterintuitive for me. Physically, it means dropping defenses, thinking of my skin not as a protective barrier but as an organ of communication with my partner. Emotional barriers have to go, too. This openness makes me vulnerable—sometimes my internal alarms drown out Sinatra's jazzy fox-trot—but it also gives me my sweetest moments artistically. I have an idea this is where I'll find excellence, the thing to make you cry.
I love dance for the moments my spirit soars, lifted away from convention—and from the notion that we exist as mere separate egos, not part of a universal fabric. Albert Einstein called this idea of separateness "an optical delusion of consciousness," and he said it's a kind of prison for us—solitary confinement. Dancing is my escape from the prison. With another person, I respond to the fluid beauty in movement to music. Very occasionally, I experience a moment of monumental stillness. I'm above, observing myself in flight, moving without the usual effort. The music fills my head and recedes. I'm part of something that has become the music, and the music has become the space in a vast quietude. I'm in the eye.
Find Your Passion