Are you old enough to remember the movie Flashdance? “Alex” holds down two jobs as a welder and an exotic dancer while dreaming of becoming a professional ballet dancer. It has all the ingredients of a good story … love, failure, triumph and some exceptionally well choreographed music numbers. You can’t help but be on her side, hoping she wins. If I could send myself back in time, I’d want to live her life.
- She had a pitbull named Grunt.
- She had a non-traditional job as a welder.
- She had a kickass converted warehouse apartment …
with a full mirrored wall and a ballet barre.
- She was a street dancer, erotic dancer and ballerina all rolled into one.
- She was the longshot.
- And she got the guy!
I absolutely loved watching her blend breakdancing, striptease and classical ballet. It sounds like something I would do!
My guilty pleasure is binge-watching every movie in the “Step Up” film series. If there is a dance-themed movie, I’ve seen it. Dirty Dancing. Strictly Ballroom. Footloose and Flashdance. All the way back to Saturday Night Fever. And that dress Ginger Rogers wore in 1936 Follow the Fleet is timeless and classic.
Dance has always been a part of my life, although I wasn’t surrounded by it in my franglo-saxon culture. We danced at weddings, schools, and big New Year’s Eve bashes. I remember dancing around my now vintage kiddie turntable, terrorizing my baby-sitter with endless hours of Sesame Street songs. And I am absolutely sure I looked like the uncoordinated white girl I was …
My parents enrolled me in Saturday dance classes when I was five or six. The main event was ballet, but I also learned highland dancing and tap dance. I love them in that order (truth be known, tap drove me crazy!). If only I had photos of the costumes … my tartan skirt, velvet jacket and sword, Pocahontas, a snowflake, a ballerina in a jewelry box, a doll and Alice in Wonderland.
When I was five-ish, I did my very first solo on stage as the smallest Alice in Alice in Wonderland after she sips the Drink Me potion. There were three ballerinas playing the roll … large, medium and small (me).
We – the three Alices – were scheduled for a photo shoot for the Montreal Gazette to announce the performance. I arrived home an hour before looking like something the cat dragged in … literally. I had been up a tree to save a cat and fell, skinning both of my knees. My Mom was furious, but bandaged me up and shoved me into white leotards. This photo was taken with me posed on our credenza in the living room prior to the skinned knees … I am not sure what has become of the newspaper clipping my Mom saved.
I’ve drifted on and off dance floors for the last forty years. Almost broke a toe jumping off a speaker at the Chick n’ Deli sometime back in the 90s. I’ve strutted my stuff through hip-hop and bellydancing, let it all out “Coyote Ugly” style on top of a bar, and danced a rendition of Show Me How You Burleque à la Christina Aguilera. I was working on a solo dance to Britney Spears’ Work Bitch but never performed it. I have a HUGE floor to ceiling mirror leaning on my living room wall which I (and some girlfriends) would practice our belly dancing in front of. I swear on my Bible that is all I have done in front of that mirror, mirror on the wall! I absolutely love night clubbing with my girl friends just so we can dance, although Joey can shake circles around us. Love her energy! I wish I could salsa like a Latina or do the Kizomba with a partner.
I’m famous for my IV pole dance in the Chemo Lounge.
While the broken fibula has cramped my style, it hasn’t completely kept me off the dance floor. But my heart has not really been into it. During chemo, I would run out of breath on the dance floor, forcing me to retreat to the sidelines. I busted out the front and back doors of a few clubs just to get some air, feeling completely out of place. Add a sexy black boot cast to my dress and … well … I kept trying.
So how do I know my spirit is ready to dance again?
I caught myself seductively slicing up the kitchen to Paper Love by Allie X (weird video, though) while making dinner. If my son catches me, he hides his eyes and moans “I can’t even …” Scarred for life. Sorry, dude.
In my mother’s day, women did housework in high heels. I prefer to be barefoot. Unless I am on a real dance floor. I have a closet full of my high heel addictions.
While I can’t sing like my Dad or play guitar like my son, I do appreciate music. My untrained ear just can’t turn around and make music of my own. Lest I give you the impression I could be a contestant on “So You Think You Can Dance” … no. Passable enough on the dance floor that I have been asked for a dance and told I am a great dancer a few times, but I guess it depends on the music and the mood. Some nights I just can’t shake off my awkwardness.
Some nights I don’t want to. I don’t go to bars and dance clubs to be offered drinks and and a bed. I just want to dance and usually stay hidden behind my shield of girl friends.
Lately I’ve preferred a choppy, catchy beat that I can shake my hips to like Electric Love by Serena Ryder.
My ears – and hips – are drawn towards Bollywood infused beats and steps as found in Major Lazer’s (with DJ Snake and MØ) Lean On
Somewhat ashamed to admit that I can ride ’em Gangnam Style by Psy and Save a Horse (Ride a Cowboy) by Big & Rich …
Because I love to blend the arts with the sciences, I spent some time researching dance. It’s as old as we are. We dance to bring rain … we dance in rituals … we dance to celebrate … we dance to entice a mate. Our spirit lifts and soars as we dance. It’s miraculous! It is the physical embodiment of our emotions. Even young children instinctively know to dance to the music. The essence of dance “sanctifies our space” according to Jazz master Wynton Marsalis (1).
And if I can brave the snow … tonight I will celebrate the winter solstice by dancing to the tunes of a local favourite band Juggernaut (who played at my Goodbye Cancer! party) at The Edge!
What a feeling!
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(1) Dancing Makes Us More Alive – Harvard Magazine