“…I think [a woman] should have the right, on occasion, to move in extravagant clouds of her own making. The right to sail forth with all flags flying while the rest of us tumble about in her wake. The right, when she wants it, to take up some space.”
-Alyssa Harad, Coming to My Senses
This is what I want from this dance thing, I think, as I watch our instructor execute a jumping turn, knees bent behind her, toes pointed and arm like a streamer over and around her head. Her gracefulness defies the simplicity of the jump. Simplicity notwithstanding, I am still self-conscious to attempt it. Memories of a wood floor rushing up to crash into me during my very brief ballet experience, as well as multiple falls ice skating, seem to have written it in my bones: awkward, clumsy. But this, this freedom in breaking contact with the floor, the lightness and whirl and flowing arms, all bound in certain beauty, this is the desire that sparked in me when this instructor invited me to join her folk dance class.
I wanted to feel beautiful in my bones–beauty in the movement and graceful in taking up these spaces. More than just taking up space. I want to inhabit, to grace the space. The stage is a three dimensional canvas, and we are taking the paint to all the corners, leaping, turning, running this chain of bodies from curtain to edge. We are striving to cover the ground, and risk results more approximating a game of crack-the-whip than a daisy chain.
There is beauty in all the styles we’ve learned tried. I loved the loose, bouncing Turkish dance mimicking fishing nets and undulating waves of the sea– its allure was in its strength, its power grounded in forceful stomps and kicks; and the energetic beauty of the Bollywood was colorful and exhilarating even without bright-hued silks adorning us. But this Israeli dance has the type of traditional beauty I’ve always felt eluded me. The steps are balletic– saute, chasse, glissade– delicate, with a strength that buoys them.
And it is worship. Eyes lifted, arms an offering,this dance is a gathering of gratitude for providence and harvest, a dance of praise, of grace.
We grape-vine a circle, opening our bodies as much as possible. We want to be more than we are. I imagine the larger stage, wonder if I will be able to stretch my legs long enough to cover the ground. Our instructor smiles at an invisible audience, and I hope my sinews and muscles will learn this lightness, that I will be able to smile soon, too.
Dancing is such a bold act, a brazen way of taking up space. Of saying that I deserve to be here. That Someone values me, and deems me Worthwhile. My small sons know this intuitively. They fold and fling their limbs, leap the rug and laugh. The music flows from their fingers and toes. They haven’t learned inhibition yet, or the desire to blend in; they never worry about being in the way.
I delight in their dancing.
So I bring the unfamiliar combinations home, practice the toe-points and twirls, leaping in my bedroom, in front of the mirror, in front of my sons. They smile small and curious, inviting and encouraging. I laugh at my dizziness, at myself, at the fun I am having.
Motherhood–the gestation and birthing, the nurturing and nourishing, the dancing with my children– has been writing a new story in my bones: My body is good. My body is blessed.
One thought on “On Taking Up Space”
This post left me breathless, friend. The image of you practicing in front of your sons, letting them see that part of you, is so special and will stay with me. Such a beautiful picture of motherhood and passing on a sense of adventure and exploration. What a gift: to let our children see that we are alive, always learning, still discovering.