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Dancing with Abandon

Friday - 05/07/2021 — That saying about dancing as if nobody’s watching sure seems to apply in this photograph. I can’t recall a single time in my life, though—not until the last twenty years or so—when I was willing or able to dance that way.

Did I ever have that kind of joy when I was a child?

All I remember is being held to account for every action, every response. It didn’t take me long to learn that I would be judged harshly for any action that didn’t meet societal expectations. “Behave yourself, Frances Joe,” was a frequent refrain in our house.

My sister was brave enough to do her dancing, although she did it away from home. But I never had the nerve.

Even as an adult. Sometime around 1990 I took a modern class course at Trinity College. One of the exercises we were asked to do was to kneel down, spread our arms out wide, and arch our backs until our faces were turned to the ceiling. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t make myself that vulnerable. I couldn’t bear it.

I ended up curled into a fetal position with my forehead against the cold wooden floor, sobbing.

Our instructor, Hannah Dennison, spoke no useless platitudes. She offered no advice. She rested a hand on my shoulder and let me cry until well past the end of that class period. Several weeks later she invited me to lunch at a neighborhood café. She was open, empathetic, caring, strong, joyful. All the things I felt I couldn’t be. She showed me so much about what life could be when one embraced it (rather than shrinking from it).

I envy this child her joy, her spunk, her delight. I wish I could have visited that same museum when I was her age. I wish I could have danced like this back then.

The good news, though, is that I can do it now.

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