All Jazzed Up

I was invited to dance today. I don’t always get to dance when the class is invited to perform because sometimes — like today — there is only room for a few dancers and others in the class are more experienced than I am, but today I was given a turn, and oh! What a joy! Of all the surprises life has thrown at me in recent years, the most surprising is this love of dancing and the privilege of being taught by a professional dancer who has studied with many famous dance teachers in Hollywood, Las Vegas, Australia and Hawaii, and who is willing to pass on that knowledge to both the promising young and the unpromising mature. (Unpromising because of age, not enthusiasm. None of us adults will ever be prima ballerinas, nor we will ever wear toe shoes, though perhaps we — meaning me — might eventually be able to point our toes in a dancerly way.)

We didn’t wear fancy costumes today, but we looked jazzy all the same. BTW, in case you don’t recognize me, I’m the second from the left with the page boy hairdo.

Let’s boogie!

20141122_141237b

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

The Joy of Dancing

While doing our routines in jazz class today, I could feel a huge smile stretching my face, and I thought, “I’m dancing!” Of course, since the realization that I was actually dancing made me lose my focus, I immediately missed a step. Still, it didn’t stop the enjoyment because after all, I’ve only been taking classes for a year, and that makes me very much a neophyte when it comes to dancing.

Dancing.

Even now, simply typing the word, I can feel glee welling up inside me.

Of all the strangenesses in my life during the past few years, falling in love with dance has to be the strangest, though in the nicest possible way.

The poster that hangs above the door of the dance studio

Dancing isn’t something I have ever had much interest in, especially classical dance, partly because I don’t have a good sense of rhythm and am not exactly graceful, so I never thought I could do any sort of choreographed dance. It seemed too complicated, not just learning the steps, but remembering the sequence of those steps and performing them with style. And yet, now I am dancing. Fortunately, a lot of dancing is about counting out the beat, generally counts of eight. . . . five, six, seven, eight. And I can count.

(I was one of those strange children who didn’t daydream, but who counted in her head whenever nothing else was going on up there. Don’t ask me why I counted. I’ve never figured it out, except perhaps there was something comforting about streams of numbers.)

But now I have many reasons to count. Ballet. Jazz. Egyptian Classical Belly Dance. Hawaiian. Tahitian. Tap. And soon, maybe even lyrical jazz. Such magical words!

During all the years of grief, when I had nothing to live for, nothing to bring me ripples of happiness no matter where I traveled or what I tried, I somehow knew only falling in love again could bring me back to life. For some bereft, falling in love with a person is the key. For others, falling in love with life is what brings them a sense of renewal.

I fell in love with dance.

I tell my teacher I owe her more than I can ever repay, and it’s true. She is teaching me not only the steps, but is imparting her own love of dancing, and dancing has brought me more joy than I could ever have imagined. (Even during the horrific months of dealing with my father’s decline and my brother’s mental problems, dance brought me a safe haven of happiness.)

Today I took a jazz class. Tomorrow, I have Hawaiian, Tahitian, and tap classes. Oh, lucky me!!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Where Things Make Sense

Dance class still remains the one bright spot of my days, a place I can go where things make sense, where music and beauty are more important than death and sickness, where choreographed movement is powerful enough to tame even the chaos of my life. (Even though my abusive brother is gone, my 97-year-old father is still riding the rollercoaster of old age, alternating between neediness and the need to control, between accepting God’s will and clawing to live, between practiced saintliness and grumpiness.)

During the 3000 miles I traveled on my recent journey, I never once felt at home, not even when I returned to my home state (where technically I am still a resident). I certainly didn’t feel at home when I came back to my father’s house — for me this lovely house has always been a place of death and dying, mental imbalance and grief. (Only the grief was mine. The death, dying, and mental imbalance belonged, in order, to my mother, father, brother.) The one time I felt I had arrived anywhere was when I stopped by the dance studio after my trip. The teacher and my fellow students greeted me with delighted smiles and hugs, held me while I wept, took me to lunch. (Even though they didn’t all understand my tears, considering the abuse I’d been subjected to by my brother, they did understand grief.)

jazz shoesI’m still fighting an allergy-induced sinus infection that kept me from class yesterday, but I was determined to go to jazz class today. I’m glad I went. After we did our warm-ups, we started learning a new dance.

A year ago, when I took my first jazz lesson, I wasn’t sure I’d ever learn the steps. I couldn’t tell what the teacher was doing, couldn’t pick up her cues fast enough, couldn’t make my arms and feet do different things at the same time. By the end of the month, I knew enough so I could write down the first steps of the dance, and I practiced. Now I know that dance plus two others. And today we started a fourth.

During class, while she was counting out the beat as I’ve seen so often in movies — five, six, seven, eight — joy welled up inside me. I was dancing! Actually dancing. Me, who previously could only balter. (Means dance clumsily, for those of you who don’t want to look it up.) Actually, that’s not exactly true. I just wanted to use the word “balter”. I was simply a neophyte. My dancing up to a year ago had mostly been bobbing to a beat, though I did sort of know a polka step that my Polish mother had once tried to teach me before losing patience with my lack of rhythm. (Around that same time, my once-upon-a-time tennis champion father tried for an hour one day to teach me tennis before losing patience with my lack of talent.)

I don’t know where my life is headed. Well, obviously, none of us do. But big changes are coming and soon I won’t have a place to go, nowhere to call home, no place I particularly want to live, no one in particular to make a life with.

But for now, there is one thing I want (need!) to be . . .

Dancing.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.