Every year I make the resolution to dance more. And every year I fail.
This year has been different, due to a few things, not the least of which are hangover-free weekends and the support of others. Still, since I stopped doing dance performances as a kid (shout out to my mom for sending me these sweet hilarious pics today, and for starting my dancing journey at age three), my dancing career has consisted of lots of solo work in my living room, two flash mobs, a handful of Zumba sessions at the gym, a smattering of one-time studio classes, and going out to a club a couple times a year with friends, for experiences ranging from wonderful to horrendously grabby, most landing on mediocre.
So when I was invited in February to attend rehearsals with a group to prepare to dance in San Francisco's Carnaval parade, I balked, despite the fact that I knew a weekly commitment would make this the first year that my resolution had a fighting chance. Is this something I could do, with my anxiety disorder? Is it something I should do, as a white person? Would I be pulling the group down, with my gaps in dance experience? Would I be taking up space that should be occupied 100% by people of color?
When I was finally successfully encouraged (coerced) to show up each Sunday, I soon found an addictive and radical and electric community in Latin Dance Grooves. A place of hard work, shouts of joy, tears of pain, and honest conversations about race and gender and injustice and ancestry and spirituality.
Still, I told next to no one about it, figuring that freaking out and dropping out was inevitable for me.
Fast forward to yesterday's parade, and one of the greatest days of my life thus far. I am so grateful to have danced alongside so many amazing humans. I'm grateful to my friend Christine Maog, who is inspirational in her own dedication to the art of dance, and who listened again and again to my doubts and gripes with tenderness and without judgement. I'm grateful to my encouraging neighbor Lindsay Penrose, who has lived above me for ten years without our ever knowing each other prior to this, who practiced with me in our home and the hallways of our building. And I'm grateful to Elizabeth Soberanes, who created this amazing community long ago- where women of color are at the helm and on the mic- who models unapologetic fierce love with power and emotion, and who refuses to do what so many others do: Separate art away from history and politics and social justice, just to make her dance classes palatable to folks who show up only to get a workout or feel sexy (her students get that too- trust me! But they also get so much more).
Just like when I was that cute (awkward) kiddo, dance brings me joy and new friends. But as a 38-year-old woman, dance also brings me all kinds of things that the kid in those photos didn't know she would one day need from it: a way of working through grief and anger, a way of working with new understandings of my own and others' cultures and histories, a way of working out the weariness of this world.
And, yes, a way of working off cheese and bread.
I smile so big when I think about how much more dancing and learning I have ahead of me in this life.
Best resolution I ever made. (And made. And made. And made again.)
is a health-seeker and health educator living in the US in San Francisco, California. She is also a former (and maybe future) high school English teacher, and she loves words. Maybe health seeker looks better with a hyphen, or maybe it doesn't. You should just get over it. Even if she cannot.