Third grade music class. Our teacher asked us to share our musical talents. Only problem: I didn’t play any musical instrument. I didn’t dance (wait for it!). I “only” played soccer.
Buuuuuut, it never entered my head that that was a “problem.” I loved dancing. I used to put on records and dance in our family room. The Beachboys, Elvis, Simon and Garfunkel, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and yes, even the Singing Nun! It didn’t matter that I had never taken a dance class in my life. To me, at least.
At home, I selected the song I would dance to. It was Christmas time and I selected a lively song with fun lyrics: Frosty the Snowman. The day came when it would be my turn to share my “talent.” After fellow students performed on the guitar, clarinet, and recorder, the teacher called my name.
I carried my record to the front of the room, told my teacher to put on “Frosty the Snowman,” and waited for the music to start.
I had no idea what I was going to do.
I had danced to this record and song a million times. But from a place of shear delight. Not a place of “being watched” or because I was “good” (or not!) at it. I never “planned out” my dances. I just heard the music and moved my body.
But now, up in front of a class full of kids and a teacher who was about “sharing a talent,” I felt a bit uneasy. For the first time, I realized, “Ohhhhh, there is a RIGHT way to dance. And I don’t think I know it.” I stood there. Absorbing this new reality into my consciousness, my memory. It was one of those moments in life when you realize something and your world shifts. For decades.
Yet…standing there, looking back , I think I must have intuitively done what now I must consciously do: ground myself and honor what I know I need to do.
I danced. I made up each move as I went along. I can seriously remember moments in the dance when I said to myself, “Ok, now let’s do a turn to the left and spin.” And “Ok this is the part when Frosty is running and saying ‘catch me if you can.’ I’m going to run over there to the other side of the room.” And the finale: “Here it goes…’Frosty the Snowman had to hurry on his way, so he waved goodbye saying don’t you cry, I’ll be back again some day.’ Look back over your shoulder, Lis, and wave to everyone!”
I finished. I don’t remember what anyone’s reaction was. I only remember going back to my seat on the floor in the middle of the room on the right side, sitting cross-legged, and I grew quiet.
Part of me was wondering if I should be embarrassed, wondering what others thought. That feeling, that new awareness that maybe there was a “correct” way to dance and my way of doing it in my family room wasn’t it, stayed with me.
In that moment, though, I knew I couldn’t have done the dance any differently – I had to dance how I defined it.
I couldn’t have named it back then, but the quiet within me was partly one of contentment. I somehow knew I had done something courageous: I honored what dance was to me, from within every cell in my body, even if that didn’t fit into someone else’s definition of ‘dance.’
And my “talent” was just that: honoring the movement within me even if it may not be the “correct” way of doing it.
It has taken me decades to reclaim this courageous nine year old.