By Ekta R. Garg
Prompt: Write a new post in response to today’s one-word prompt: Dancing
The music starts, and my heart lifts. I’ve heard the opening bars dozens of times in the last few weeks as I practiced my dance. It’s played hundreds of times, without a device, in my brain as I run through the routine in my memory. Now it’s performance time, and it’s like I’m hearing the song for the first time all over again.
I move. I acknowledge my audience with a nod and a conspiratorial smile. Come along with me, I try to convey with my eyes. Let’s get ready to have some fun.
The beat picks up pace, and muscle memory takes over. Gone are the jitters I felt earlier in the evening, the ones that made my heart flutter with anxiety. A few hours ago, I considered with a great deal of seriousness the option of telling my hosts for the evening I’d changed my mind. I was too old, too short, too unskilled, too much of the wrong something or other to do this.
Not now. Now the floor is mine. Nothing will pull me from it for the next seven minutes.
When I heard this song for the first time 17 years ago, it brightened my mood as was its intention. It also called to me, purred to me, said, “Give me a try.”
I couldn’t then. Not with one of the top dancers in the Hindi film industry and one of the top choreographers matching steps to one another and beats to the phenomenal orchestration. Back then I didn’t have enough courage to throw caution to the wind. I cared way too much about what others thought. About what they might assume about my abilities…or lack thereof.
Now I’m older, and with a little bit of age comes an advantage. You can toss caution with fair abandon. You don’t have to care, because in the end what matters most is how you view yourself.
I improvise a little, despite having planned this dance beat for beat, and surprise myself. My smile gets wider, I can feel it. I didn’t know it could, but it just did.
Joy—heart-clenching, soul-buoying joy—makes me float. The nervousness from earlier floats on the edge of my memory. What nervousness? This floor belongs to me, and I’ve always been destined to return to it.
The music pounds, as does my heart. My entire being thrums with energy, with vitality, with life. I don’t see anyone in the conventional sense. Their enjoyment radiates from their chairs, from all the way in the back of the room. It fuels my drive, makes me dance and flourish and dramatize a little bigger.
I have no sensation of my feet. They simply do what I trained them to do, as do my arms, my head, even my hips. I kept a sense of respect in mind when choreographing this piece, but every girl has to shake her hips a little when the beat demands it. Not enough to shock or titillate. Just enough to make people grin in delight.
Even us almost-40-somethings know how to surprise an audience.
Here it comes; the section that bothered me the most, that gave me fits for weeks as I paced in frustration while I listened to the excerpt over and over, trying to make something fit. Now it floats right into the rest of the choreography as if I’d planned it from Day One. It satisfies me, this opportunity to show off a little bit of technique.
Every dance I’ve choreographed through the years had its own purpose, its own event or occasion. Somehow, though, tonight’s performance means something more. It’s as if, having performed for the rest of the world, this evening I’m dancing for myself. Simply to dance. Simply to share. To say, “Isn’t this music amazing? Let’s enjoy it together!”
I’m unfettered. I don’t worry about anything. For seven minutes, I leave the entire world and enter my own sphere. One of joy and passion. One where music and the beat rule, and I obey. It’s just that simple.
I hear the climax and rock along with it, and my gracious audience senses it too. They start to clap along with the beat, which only serves to make me want to dance harder and faster for these last few lines. It’s my thank you, my appreciation for their willingness to indulge an amateur performer.
The song ends, I hit my final pose—without teetering or losing my balance!—and that’s it.
The applause fills my ears, and I bow, laughing a little that I made it through, that I’m dancing again. Truly dancing. From the inner recesses of my heart comes this overwhelming sense of completeness. For those minutes on the dance floor, I’m my truest self.
Compliments pour forth throughout the evening, and I thank each and every person from that corner of my soul that harbors the love for this art form. They express admiration, surprise, even a little bit of wonderment, and all of them encourage me to dance again. I don’t know when or where, but I’m ready to step onto the floor when the clarion call for performance comes.
For weeks afterward I relive the routine, except this time it’s a sweet memory of the first art form that enthralled me. I danced. They watched. For a little while, every single thing was right with the world.
I want to be dancing. Always dancing.