Dance is often overlooked as a valid form of exercise, possibly because when we are dancing we tend to forget that we are exercising. The inspiration for dance more often than not comes from inside and it’s only after we’ve quelled that urge that we notice how it shapes our bodies on the outside. I haven’t always felt this way about dance. When I first started dancing as a child I only ever thought about how it felt and it always felt really good. Somewhere along the way I got lost in an aesthetic and became more concerned with looking like a dancer than actually being one. Over the years, and after leaving dance for a while to focus on other forms of movement, I gradually relearned how to enjoy movement for movement’s sake and it has once again become a passion instead of a duty.
Dancing is the ultimate life-affirming expression and this has never been more clear to me than recently when faced with so much death. After losing Eve in January my husband lost several relatives in quick succession. His cousin, grandfather, step-grandfather, and grandmother all passed away within a matter of weeks leaving many heavy hearts in their wake. Expressions of grief have been outnumbered by expressions of love by surviving family members who are moving through this tough time together.
Yesterday my husband and I attended a service in honor of his grandparents. There were many beautiful stories to be told by their children and one in particular that they kept coming back to; the memory of their parents at home dancing together. Though many tears were shed this mention made everyone smile. In a world where we all have to die dancing is a great confirmation that we have lived.
When I was pregnant with Eve I often imagined teaching her how to dance. I pictured the two of us dancing around the house, doggie Dee joining in the mix, and my husband laughing at all three of us. It saddens me to think that this will never be but in more optimistic moments I am able to see that it already was. I was able to imagine this scene so clearly because I’d participated in it many times before with Eve dancing inside my womb instead of out in the world. If there is anything I know about Eve it is that she was a mover until the day she died, a great confirmation that she did indeed live.
There was a study in the New England Journal of medicine a while back that among its many positive health benefits dancing lowers the risk of dementia by 76 percent. Though all exercise positively affects the brain in some way, dancing is the only form with this great an impact. Maybe it is the fact that it is not repetitive and literally keeps us on our toes. More likely it is because we remember the times we danced not only with our brain but also our heart.
A favorite memory I have with my husband is dancing around the Chatham bandstand on a trip to Cape Cod. We had just taken a ballroom dance class at home in Chicago and were excited to put our new found knowledge to good use. We danced for the entirety of the performance and though I couldn’t tell you how many calories we burned I can tell you how it felt. It was like we were in a scene from an old time movie: giddy from spinning underneath the stars, hearts filled with love for each other, and, most definitely, alive.