Dancing with Strangers
I am a dancer. I am the product of parents who danced well together–my mom and pop would “swing out” as entertainment at informal family gatherings. I even married a man with whom I dance well–our specialty is the calypso. Now, I have no formal training, and my dance is primarily popular dances of the 60’s and 70’s–yes I am a proud die-hard-the-new-forty-baby boomer. I love the music of my youth, and I mostly buy replacement music for the “old school” music from back in the day. But dancing is my thing; I will dance by myself if the song calls me to the floor. But more than dancing by myself, I cherish my dance with strangers.
I first noticed it the about 12 years ago. I was dancing in the isle at the final concern at the Essence Music Festival. Frankie Beverly and Maze were the final act, and I was up dancing in my own world when I opened my eyes to find that a young man, perhaps half my age, was dancing with me. He as singing; I was singing; everyone was caught up in the hysteria of Maze. The song “Happy Feeling” was rocking and this young man began to motion with hands as if he was dispensing “happy feelings.” He looked me in the eye, nodding his head, and hocus-pocusing his hands as Frankie sang “these happy feelings; I’ll spread them all over the world.” I felt it; so gave it back to him. I never forgot this experience and now whenever I am dancing, I practice opening my eyes and connecting with the person that I’m dancing with. Sometimes the person is not even on the floor; they are sitting in their seats. But I’ll catch their eye and we’ll exchange smiles. Two years ago, while dancing on the final concert night, I caught the eye of young woman of Asian ancestry and signaled with my come-here finger for her to join me. We shared a dance, a photo, and a warm embrace. This past year, a woman came from the back of the stadium to dance with me. When the song ended we connected so well that we hugged each other like family or reunited love ones. I thanked her and she said, “no, thank you.” I knew then how critically important, and healing, my dancing with strangers had been
Dancing helps you experience your body and forget your body at the same time. You know you’re moving but then you’re free to not know –not to be invested in anything but feeling good—and feeling happy. This is what makes dancing a spiritual experience It is one way to connect with ourselves and other without judgment–without words. There is no space for judgment, or bigotry, just connecting and loving. The delight in your partners eyes (on and off the floor) is energizing and you know you’re helping; you’re healing–it’s magical.
But my gesture was a summonsed by a campus-wide movement that I started at my university–“Do Something Different.” The movement encourages and challenges everyone on our campus to reach out and be inclusive. And since dance is my thing; i invited her to dance with me. And now I invite you to spread the “happy feelings” in whatever way the fit with your thing.