Alice Walker said it best, in the title of her 2010 poetry book, Hard Times Require Furious Dancing. A friend texted me an image of the book’s cover the other day and reminded me of this beautiful work and its author, whom I’ve had the honor and pleasure of meeting several times in my life. Seeing the dancing figures on the cover caused me to admit to myself that yes, dancing nearly every day of late is what’s been getting me through this particular tough time.
Having been sent to my room by the pandemic, I’ve been reaching out to teach my classes on-line, spend time with my granddaughter on-line, and with the help of colleagues, present programs on- line. As part of each session and the times in between, when I’m waiting for the pot to boil on the stove, or the phone call to be patched through–part of each day, each session, involves standing up and moving to music. It’s not necessary that we call this “dancing,” lest we fall into the cultural judgements of who gets to dance and how skilled one has to be in order to even try to do it. We could call it simply “movement,” because it’s moving our bodies that’s required to gain and maintain health, and to keep the stressful energy of these times from settling into our bones, We dance to keep it moving on out beyond our individual energetic fields.
For a year or so a copy of Ms. Walker’s book sat on my bedside table, handy for reading a poem or two for inspiration before going to sleep. After this reminder I had no trouble locating the book from the bookshelf where it had been moved, nor locating my favorite poem, “Calling All Grandmothers.” It begins, “We have to live differently, or we will die in the same old ways.”
In the preface to this volume, Walker states,” I have learned to dance. It isn’t that I didn’t know how to dance before…I just didn’t know how basic it is for maintaining balance.” I too learned to dance and have kept doing it through periods of struggle and strife, and whenever I didn’t know what else to do. No matter what was going on in my life or in the culture of our lives together, I felt better and more able to carry on by doing it.
I’ve been curious for years about the history of what has caused so many people in western culture to adopt the sentiments of the song, “I won’t dance, don’t ask me!” or “I can’t dance,”( I’m too old, too fat, have no rhythm, or only two left feet.) When I lived in Texas I visited a university in the so-called ‘bible belt’ of Texas and was told dancing was not allowed on the campus. Following the restrictions of the religion that originally founded them, their charter stated that there shall be NO dancing, drinking, cussing, or card playing on campus. Not sure if that was the order in the list, but a strange list indeed.
Getting back to the directives to all Grandmothers in Walker’s poem –
“Step forward & assume the role for which you were created: To lead humanity to health, happiness and sanity.”
For the sake of my own health, happiness and sanity, I’ve been dancing in my dance studio, now turned media studio on the ground floor of my home, most days since the global pandemic hit in mid-March. I have invited others to join me, and those that have, through the magic of zoom, as we have explored our own selfcare or the themes of the art of grieving, – we have danced.
The outcome of dance is release, relief, sometimes relaxation, often joy. And dancing on behalf of young people slain by the police and the communities impacted by these atrocities, I see another role for dance. Barbara Holmes, an African American faculty member at the Center for Action and Contemplation https://cac.org/ educates us about black joy. “This is not “joy” in the ordinary sense of the word. . . . This is the communal performance of resistance and resilience through dancing and rhythmic movement….it’s defiance of death and the society that produces it.”
In these hard times, I’d love for you to come join our furious dancing. See some links below.
Friday morning InterPlay Class – June 19th & June 26th10:30 am Eastern 7:30 am Pacifichttp://zoom.us/j/3701856662 passcode 54321
Tuesday, June 23rd at 11:30am EST/10:30am CST/9:30am MST/8:30am PST
Join two dancing social workers and authors Christine & Sheila for their weekly class for radical self-care and a chance to play with tools and techniques for resilience & well-being.