Monday, June 8, 2009

On Dancing

My first dance was our eighth grade graduation dance (remember: in 8th grade, I thought I was ghetto, and so did just about everyone around me, though most of them were actually more ghetto than I). I'd never danced before save for line dances at parties and pretending to be a nightclub singer in the privacy of my room.  A few songs into the dance, my Indian best friend came over to me and said, "Claire.  Stop.  Like this."  My first dance lesson.

High school had dances, too, but it was also high school, so the sensuality and laziness of the bump and grind method, compounded by the fact that I didn't know anyone who danced to anything other than hip-hop (or sometimes techno, but techno was never my scene) and my inability to do the "I'm a white person who can't dance so I'll do dumb funny things like the Shopping Cart and the Lawn Mower" dance moves (for the record: I love these dances and am somewhat jealous of those of you who pull them off so well)...  that was a long clause.  What I'm trying to say is that I enjoyed dancing, but I mostly danced because that's what you were supposed to do at dances and it was fun, but that was about that.

Enter college, and swing dancing.  At this point I'd had one (long and painful) dance lesson with Dad on vacation, in which the only thing I learned was how to stop trying to lead and just follow the man - which is assuredly the most important dance skill I've ever learned.  My unproved belief that I was a good dancer was here tested for the first time, as I swing danced with many guys of varying skill levels without ever being completely bewildered.

In college also entered the charismatic renewal, which (among many other things) brought the concept of praise dancing - that is, of worshipping the Lord by dancing (to, say, praise and worship music) in addition to or in place of singing.  The pertinent detail here is that dancing became an activity not just of good, clean fun but of using my body to praise the Lord.  There's only so much variety in different types of dancing, so soon all dancing I did felt like praise in its own way.

Back to swing and (occasionally) salsa dancing.  I came quickly to see how these types of partner dancing were an excellent analogy for the spiritual journey.  Let me explain.  My job as the woman in these dancing situations is to follow the man, to do what he tells me to do even though he doesn't use his voice to communicate (I once heard it described as being a rag doll, in a non-derogatory sense).  One of the most exhilarating feelings is always when my mind has no idea what my dance partner just signaled me to do, but by the time I finish thinking that I realize that my body has already done it.  So docility to the Holy Spirit can be easily likened to a dance, since we're all feminine in relation to God.

Now that I'm back home, I've found bar that does salsa lessons and dancing weekly, and have convinced some friends to go with me regularly, so the presence of God is frequently on my mind as I exercise my body.  My attendance at a Filipino-Puerto Rican wedding yesterday only added to the feelings of joy that come with such dance.  Each dance was exhilarating partly because of the dance itself, but even more so because of the love I bore for my dance partner and all those dancing around me.

One final thought: this wedding was on Trinity Sunday, and the priest's homily compared the spiritual life to dancing, but in a different way.  The love of the Holy Trinity is the dance, and the Father sent the Son to us so that He could teach us the steps (as slowly and painstakingly as we might need).  I think the Holy Spirit is what enabled us to keep the steps?  That part's fuzzy.

My point: Dancing as metaphor for the spiritual life.  Think about it.  I like it.  :)

Note: Posted from Seattle, WA, from the offices of My Catholic Faith.  You should check them out, 'cuz they're cool.  And Dr. Curran gave me a free copy of his really cool-looking book on the Mass.  And I'm not saying that just 'cuz he gave it to me for free.  :)


  1. You realize that, as a blogger, getting free items means that you have to review them for the general public.

    Quid pro quo, Ciara, quid pro quo...


  2. When I was in the 8th grade back in 1989, we didn't have line dances. We either had fast songs or slow songs. There was nothing in between. I'm a terrible dancer anyway, and I had no one to teach me how to dance at St Joe's. I think the only person who would have tried would have been Mrs Abello.


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