Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ballroom and Writing: Letting Go, Being Alive


            Bars are where some of the fun dancing takes place. I'm not really a bar person; salsa dancing is why I go. My first State College salsa night was a cool early summer evening; dark, lively, the way only summer evenings seem capable of being. I was agitated as we headed to the Lion's Den to dance. My friends laughed as I struggled to get my license out of my wallet at the door. But then we were in. It was dark and warm, the dense sound of talking, and the middle floor filled with people spinning and twirling.
I noticed Matt, a rather good-looking fellow who had helped me in ballroom class, on the other side of the room. He nodded his head, came over to me, reached out a hand wordlessly and took me to the crowded dance floor. My back and arms were tense, trying to read his motions, still anxious from waiting to dance.
"Hey, loosen up!" he said after a few minutes of music. "This isn't class. This isn't standard. Loosen your hips. And look at me."
Reading motions is not following. Turning the mind off, letting it come, following without thinking is dancing.
I try too hard to write. I have perfection in my head but forget that even my head probably has the wrong version of perfection. The harder I try, the more impossible it becomes to write in a way that follows the true story and does not attempt to make it an act of will power. There is a physical difference in the body that comes through in the writing. Attempts at accuracy instead of spirit, the anxious wait to see if you will be perfect in a new setting, are felt in shaking hands, the inability to get an ID out of the wallet. But in letting go, the body settles into focus and concentration, physically comfortable and content from hard word making.

When we left that night, I noticed the quiet of the world after dancing, strange and calming. The air is clearer, freer. The sweating and movement slows and the slightest breeze feels cold and still. Voices are quieted from chatter into real talk or silence. There is an awareness that comes when the body is tired from moving and moving well, from music in the ears that are now listening to its absence. Walking slowly feels graceful.
The quiet after writing is the same, remembering the impermanence and beauty of the work. No one remembers, not even the air we passed through, whether our hair flicked regally in the tango turns or whether that particular piece of writing was a masterpiece. No one and nothing. The temporary is beautiful in its playfulness. It is the way one stays attentive, to the world, to the body. It is a way to stay more alive. 

And it is addicting, this being more alive.

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