I believe in dancing with children. And I’m not just talking about at weddings. My most cherished childhood memories are of my father putting on a record, picking me up and the two of us spinning around. Our house was always filled with music from my father’s eclectic collection. On any morning we might be waltzing to Strauss, and in the evening we would be rocking out to The Who. It didn’t matter what the genre was, we danced and laughed and felt the rhythm. He would tell me who the artist was and what the songs were about as we clumsily tried to keep the beat. You see my father is not a great dancer. If you need a visual: think Blues Brothers gone wrong.
The songs that we danced to have become part of the soundtrack of my life. The year before my birth in 1977, Stevie Wonder came out with “Isn’t She Lovely”. My father decided this was the perfect song to dance to with his newborn daughter. As I grew older different songs became staples in the musical montage. Dire Straits’ “Sultans of Swing” was a regular. It has a great guitar solo which my father thought was perfect for turning into an air guitar performance, which, if you can picture it, involved me as the guitar. My outstretched arms became the guitar neck and my stomach the part to be strummed. My five year old mind could imagine nothing better than being tickled to music.
Now that I have a three year old daughter, I make it a point to dance with her. She gets to pick out the CDs that we dance to. And since our music collection is almost as varied as my father’s, it is always with amusement that I wait to see what comes up when my daughter presses “play”. Recently, we had rap singer Nelly’s “Ride Wit Me” followed by The Andrews Sister’s “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”. We swing, bounce and jump around together as best we can, because I’m not a very good dancer either. But my daughter doesn’t care, she just wants dance. When she likes a particular song she has taken to yelling out “shake your body!” I have no idea where she picked this up. But it makes me laugh and I think this commandment springs from joy inside her, so I comply and shake my body for all its worth.
I believe in dancing with children. Not because it helps with music appreciation or is a good workout, which are both true. But because it helps me connect with my daughter in a physical and emotional way, that lets our spirits soar. It also reminds me of dancing with my father, who by the way, is still at it. The last time we were at my parent’s house he introduced my daughter to “Yellow Submarine”, a great song to dance to. Grab a child you love and try it.
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