There was a time in my life when I believed that dancing was a natural gift that you were born with or not. My father was an accomplished dancer who in his eighties could whirl my mother around the room in a waltz that was at once beautiful and graceful! And my younger sister had such good moves that people would move aside so everyone could admire her improvised creativity and passion on the dance floor. I felt that I was missing the dance gene and so I stood rigidly with my back to the wall at high school dances although my feet kept tapping to the beat.
After Mary Ann and I married, we found ourselves regularly visiting a hotel where the bands always played reggae music. We used to wait for other dancers to take to the floor but when no one did, we threw caution to the wind and danced alone under the stars, undulating to the reggae beat. The band members always got a kick out of watching my quite unusual moves and would say: "Look at Preacher Man, oh boy, he's in his own world!" And yes, that was true enough! My head had finally given in to my body's yearning to move and ride the reggae beat like a surfer rides a wave.
Bob Marley's "Stir It Up" and "Three Little Birds" kept us up dancing the nights away. One of our other favorites was "What a Feeling' " from the 1983 soundtrack of the movie Flashdance. We led many other couples on to the dance floor before losing ourselves in the frenzied rhythms! Over the years our love of dance has been enriched by movies such as Dirty Dancing, Billy Elliot, Footloose, Happy Feet, Strictly Ballroom, and Saturday Night Fever.
"If you can talk, you can swing, and if you can walk, you can dance," says a Zimbabwe proverb. The older I get, the more I sense and appreciate the truth of Huston Smith's realization that humans danced out their faith before they thought it out. Prayers and praise lie hidden in our shoulders, hands, bellies, groins, thighs and feet. That is why the late Gabrielle Roth could write, "Sweat is holy water, prayer beads, pearls of liquid that release your past, anointing all your parts in a baptism by fire." Want to warm up your body and soul? Dance. Want to trip the light fantastic? Dance. Want to bring joy to yourself and others? Dance.
And, last but not least, my favorite image of death has become God reaching out her hand to me and saying, "Save the last dance for me."