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I love dance, even if I'm not much good

Aug 1, 2013 - By Clair McFarland

Some important things can be accomplished under layers of lace.

Not long ago, I got to attend my youngest sister's dance recital.

It was fun, artful. Toddlers in tutus bounced around with teddy bears, children weaved and spun, and teens did amazing things with their ankles.

Seeing this, or any product of diligence, tends to elicit from me the two-fold reaction of both awe and a heightened perception of my own incompetence within the field at hand.

That said, the reader must know that I'm not much of a dancer. It's an odd thing; I come from a family of dancers. My mother has taught herself and others to dance, and both of my sisters got the gene.

Besides fulfilling my need to see local talent (a feat which Mrs. Thornton's Riverton High School Javert also achieved, while shaming Russell Crowe in "Les Miserables"), the dance recital reminded me of my own awkward dance career.

Amidst all the real talent of my sister and her peers on stage, I tried to remember how many recitals I'd done, how many dance outfits my hopeful mother had bought with her hard-earned money, and what exactly was the purpose of lip liner.

I couldn't recall any answers.

I was 7, perhaps, when I became some poor dance instructor's bane. Let's just say there were some very graceful girls in my class, and I was nothing like them.

Note: I'm not being stereotypical here. In those days, there really weren't any boys in (at least my) dance class. It was a shame, too, as the male dancers of today's guild seem almost to carry the girls, and exude all the confidence of miniature Broadway stars.

Anyway, I gave it a few mandatory years, then my mom let me quit. After that I participated in other sports, all of which felt better to me than the tap shoes I'd worn so unworthily under layers of torture -- er -- lace.

So, now I am a full-grown gal who can only be motivated to dance by a few things in successive order: my sister's dance recital, Vanilla Ice, and too much caffeine. Thus unravels the psychoanalysis of the awkward girl from dance class.

Although it reminded me of when I was the Zach Galifianakis of ballerinas, the recital did inspire me. I thought about dance for days afterward. (So stop, collaborate and listen.)

The dance routines performed on stage hit hard because of their purity. A fifth-grader extending all limbs alternately to a song she's felt in her bones for months isn't dancing for cheap attention, or for the sake of fitting in. Instead, she does it as a statement of true effort and value, and for the sake of standing out. What she's doing is a reaction to the music, not to the hurricane of society.

If my words fall short here, I'll offer an illustration: In any number of concerts, public gatherings, and parties, people have forsaken the dance in order to look like sets of Siamese twins doing the hula hoop. This is now called "dance," though I hope only in jest.

So, ballet, tap, and jazz aside, where's the swing? The two-step? The fox trot? Where's the dance that says "we are representing a life of effort and skill"?

From what I can see in the local world, it is only in organized dance programs, amongst girl-children and a few (very male) Christopher Walkens of short stature that the pure art of dance is preserved. (And, within my parents' house, where I'm sure my dad still spins my mom around and makes my younger sister wish for the day when she can become one half of a flourish -- just as I had, and as my older sister had, as well.)

The qualifier of purity for any dance, I believe, is the ability of the dancer to feel something, and to make others feel something -- something that's not fleeting.

This can even be accomplished from within layers of lace.

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