Saturday, February 19, 2011

Feeling the music

I've admired ballet dancers for years. For their grace, for the practiced ease with which they move, for their flexibility and strength, for their poise. It's only in the last year, though, that I've admired latin dancers. Being older than a young girl, ballet seems difficult to learn as an adult, though certainly possible. However, it's easier to learn while your body is still as pliable as a child's, when you can train and discipline your body to move with apparent effortlessness. Latin dance appeals, on the other hand, because of its accessibility. What is most required in my personal favorite, salsa dancing, is passion. This passion in dance does not come effortlessly to me, but it's amazing how much the philosophy of latin dance spills over to my outlook on life.

I met Ricardo right around the time I was falling in love with dancing salsa. The more I danced, the more I realized I've been a tightly closed flower, now beginning to open up and breathe. Slowly, I stopped listening to my self-conscious voice, warning me not to make a fool of myself doing something I might fail at. I guess you could say I kicked up my heels and started dancing off my lack of confidence. Dancing began showing me about the way I am in relationships, about how I feel about myself as a woman, about my approach toward life. It also began teaching me about this technique that's not a technique at all, which Ricardo lovingly refers to as feeling the music.

The best salsa dancers are not necessarily the ones who have practiced technique for hours upon hours, or taken class after class. Technique can be learned and mastered. But no one can fake the passion of feeling the music while dancing, and no one can masterfully dance salsa without this ability. The dance may be perfect in form, but it will fall flat. It will fail to inspire. Because latin dance is all about passion, about letting go of self-consciousness and inhibition and learning to follow the voice of the music.

Sometimes I like to close my eyes while dancing with Ricardo, especially if we're in a very crowded room. I am prone to attention-deficit disorder while dancing, so big crowds can be disastrous for me, distracting me from hearing the music. When I close my eyes, it takes a moment to adjust, but then I pick it up - the heartbeat of the music - and slowly I begin to follow. Pretty soon I'm smiling with my eyes closed, dancing freely, unaware of how I look, only how I feel.

Over time, I guess how I am on the dance floor is teaching me something valuable about dancing in life. Recognizing the value of technique and classes, of discipline and training, I know the real treasure lies in letting go and diving into life each day with a passion to feel the music and follow it, risking mistakes and feeling foolish, trusting I am capable of going with the flow of the music. Which for me translates to, following the flow of the Spirit's music each day. Not that it has to look "spiritual", but that following God is more like a passionate dance, more like feeling the music and going with it than learning a technique. For that reason, dance for me is neither secular nor sacred, but a medium through which I can enjoy the freedom of movement, and in a broader sense, the free-flowing twists and turns of life. It's about accepting who I am, someone beautiful in her own unique expression, and growing comfortable in my own skin as I try to keep in step with the Spirit each day.
I think we were created to be dancers.


  1. I am so very intimidated by all forms of Latin dance, especially now that I am surrounded by the sounds and rhythm of it daily. It seams to me that in Mexico you learn these beautiful steps as you learn to take your first steps as an infant. It has a language all its own. I love it!

  2. I think you're right! Ricardo has talked so much of how he grew up surrounded by the culture of dance. It is a language all its own, for sure - and one I wish I'd grown up with. Enjoy being surrounded by it! It may just suck you in... where are you at in Mexico?