Irish step dancing was never a thought when I was a kid, but (Confession Time!) I have always wanted to be a dancer. Okay, I’ve always wanted to be a singer and learn to juggle too although not necessarily at the same time, but I digress…
I have always wanted to be a dancer. How many of you remember bopping around to the J. Giles Band’s Centerfold throwing on Olivia Newton John’s Let’s Get Physical, or gyrating to whatever Madonna song we could blast the loudest from our boom box. Much to the horror of my mother who must have understood better than I did what a Centerfold was, that Olivia Newton John’s “get physical” was not a precursor to Michelle Obama’s school lunch program, and that there was nothing holy about that Madonna, I confess to having done all these things and more.
But I was a tomboy. I played (and liked) volleyball, basketball, and baseball (life in our small town meant, if you wanted to play, you played hardball with the big boys!). I even entered a Punt, Pass, and Kick contest one year. The fact that I performed miserably is a distant second to the fact that I tried it.
But I was still a girl too. And I still wanted to dress up and wear frills and do my hair pretty and wear garish stage make up and complain about my toes hurting and I SOOOO wanted that ridiculous little frilly tutu all my friends had, but ballet, tap, jazz were just not on the agenda for me.
In reality, I was the wall hugger at the middle school dances, the one who only went so I could say I had gone. I clung to the shadows humming songs in my head and praying no one would ask me to dance – or maybe praying that they would.
Yes, I think I missed something other girls got in these dance classes and, despite all the complaints about lengthy recitals and expensive tickets, I see my friends with little girls glowing as they chatter on about those dance classes and their own remembrances of those classes. I think they do give the girls a sense of the God- created beauty all women have but not all of us realize. I always wanted to be pretty and feminine and graceful. Instead I was ugly and boyish and awkward.
By missing out on dance class, I lost something I can never get back!
Or can I???
Irish Step Dancing and the New Me!
You know how things work in life so that they sometimes just seem meant to be? Well, dance class seems to be something not so much denied me, but something God was just holding off for later. About a month ago, a friend and I reconnected at a high school reunion and she was mentioning that she had taken up Irish step dancing 35 years old! I was surprised and more than a little impressed. “Who begins Irish step dancing at that age?” I thought. I cringed knowing I surely wouldn’t. My friend lives in a much bigger city that I and, while I love my small town it does tend to limit some activities of its residents – Irish step dancing for middle age women is one of them.
OR SO I THOUGHT!
Not long after this conversation, another friend (the same one who convinced me rock climbing and repelling down 90′ cliffs was a great idea – she was right by the way!) told me about an Irish step dancing class beginning nearby for (you guessed it!) middle aged women! How could I not go??? It was fate!
So, Tuesday night rolled around and, (despite the devil trying to keep me away by doing everything he could including flattening my brand new car tire and hiding my favorite yoga pants – which has nothing to do with the fact that I have a perpetual pile of laundry waiting to be folded or the fact that my room is always the last to be cleaned I’m sure!) I made it to the local Lutheran church wearing my old leggings – the ones a friend’s dog clawed a hole through – and a baggy sweatshirt.
The best part was, I didn’t care. Yes, I probably looked frightful. Yes, the women in the carpool remarked how my curly hair already made me look like an Irish step dancer without my dressing up, No, my sons were not impressed as I showed them my threes and sevens when I got home.
But none of that mattered!
I was no longer the wall hugger. I was no longer hoping and praying no one would ask me to dance or wouldn’t ask me to dance. I no longer cared. This wasn’t about anyone but me and my journey to discovering who I am meant to be, so I may be the world’s worst Irish step dancer or I may someday take my friend up on her request that we begin feising together, but that’s not the point. The point is that I am discovering the power of dance, of getting to do things I never thought I’d be able to do, to laugh at myself and dance with enthusiasm if not grace!
A friend posted to my Facebook wall that she wanted to come if there was a recital. My initial reaction was to run and hide. Part of me couldn’t believe I had put it out there that I was even doing this dance thing. Who begins dancing at 43 anyway???
But the more I thought about her post, the more I had to laugh through the day. I was no longer that wall hugging adolescent. My independence, my faith, the friendships I have made over the years have taken me so far from who she was. I feel sad for her sometimes, for that scared, lonely, fearful, confused, self-conscious girl/woman she was, for the lost time and missed opportunities, but I am no longer her, and I do not have to miss more opportunities unless it is only to embrace a better opportunity.
And so, thinking of it that way…Yes, L, I would invite you to my dance recital. I would shout it from the rooftops if I were in a recital. I would invite the world, and as much as I want to dance like a beautiful queen, I know that I am more than that old pink tutu, than those clicky tap shoes, or even the curly hair of the Irish step dancers.
I am me, and I will dance beautifully in my mind if not on stage, and my friends will like me for the same reasons I like them and the way any of us dance has very little to do with our friendship (thank God!), and I will laugh at my mistakes and try again when it’s worth my time. And I will embrace the ability to dance in my kitchen and in my shower and in my church and in my heart and I will dance with enthusiasm in all that I do.
With God’s grace, I am already a beautiful dancer.