Why to Dance

I wonder when I learned to dance. I danced last night and didn't know I knew the steps until this morning. She took my hand, quite unexpectedly, a beautiful girl in a sundress. Soft face, rose pedal skin, catty, curly, gently smiling lips. She took my hand in hers; pulled me onto the floor before I'd even seen her. All introductions were made, mid-dance.

I don't know that I've ever danced with a woman before, though I'm sure I'd never truly danced before I danced with her. Together, somehow, we were lighter than one. We floated, fluid slipping through the people, chairs, and things around us. I imagine she was leading then. Anyway it wasn't me. I was being drawn - not pushed or tugged - but coaxed along by an invisible force, the way a fast-flowing river moves around you when you give yourself over to it. Then, a whirlpool! We spun so fast and free I let her go for fear I'd hurt her arm in holding on.

The people around us smiled, felt our joy, and all began to dance as well. At some point, music began to play. We hadn't waited for it, after all. When we came together again I tried to take some sort of lead -- as much as one can lead when two are in such blissful harmony. I put my hand at her waist and gently bucked the current around us, teasing the shores and eddies of the river in which we flowed. We danced so beautifully. When I remember it, I feel as though we must have kissed, the memory has that flavor, that touching, caressing delight -- but we didn't. The kiss my heart recalls, the warm embrace and shared release of one into another: it was the dance. The dance was her kiss.

At last I put my feet down deep into the sandy soil of the river pulling at our waists and held fast against its currents as I dipped her. The dip was not the will of the dance, but my own; my fervent desire to dip, to have dipped, this wonderful creature of freedom and beauty and life. I loved the shape of her motherly body, I loved the fabric of her dress, I loved her golden skin and curled cheeks. I loved this girl who had come and seized me by the hand, who showed me now - not how to dance - but that I had it in me to. So I dipped her with all my gratitude and love. And though it was not the will of the dance that I should stop and bend us so and look so into her eyes -- though it opposed the currents under foot, this too was beautiful.

The dance we danced was a pure, unselfconscious delight the likes of which I've never known before and cannot imagine ever knowing awake. For sooth we danced in dream. Still, until this very morning I would not have believed I could know such a lightness in my being, even in sleep. My mind and heart and spirit are so often divided, so often at war... I could not before imagine them capable of such an armistice; of granting me the inner peace to truly, freely dance.

I keep imagining that I was visited by an angel. That some other being descended from a high place, to come into my dreams, dance with me, and show me what was hidden within; what I had gathered in pieces, and was lacking only a beautiful stranger's dance to bring together as a whole. Under my angel's tutelage, in one night, for a moment, I mastered the art of dance. I don't mean technically. I don't mean the motion and maneuver or the precision of step. These are but measures of the inconsequent. It is the unfettered, child-like joy; the complete lack of self awareness... That! That is dance! To know no mirror, no reflection, no vanity; to sense no other self floating overhead, no critical observer casting judgment; no embarrassed ego, mindful of the thoughts of others. To dance and be one. To dance with another and be two being one. I wake from a dream and suddenly know that dance is the fusing of self into self, and perhaps at its highest, of self into other. It is a harmony of inner strings that, well-tuned, allows the music of unbridled passion and joy to resound within.

The freedom of movement! To be led! To lead! To feel the unseen current tugging at your hips, choosing your path of its own flitting whims. Truly this is God. God, the gentle artist full of whimsy, painting airy scenes with long, delicate fingers and fine, horsehair brushes. He painted a tree, made the tree to leaf and flower, made the leaf and flower to fall, and in their falling God painted the dance. And was much pleased.

But God painted man to dance better. For when leaf falls, its dance is its falling: its complete submission and perfect obedience to the master artist's stroke. Man's dance is better because his dance resists the fall. And even God knows not what dance will come when he deigns paint of man. Man twists and turns and grasps and leaps and dives in his fall, first against it, then toward it. He resigns to it in one moment, drifting with the painter's will, and in the next he stands in violent opposition; in running right and left; in climbing up again from where he fell before. Man's dancing is the stroke and flourish not even God's brush can create. It is the movement come of soul seeking heart and heart seeking mind; division's desire to oneness; separation's yearning to embrace. Dance is man's becoming God.

This dance is in me. I know this now. I've danced this union, if only in dreams! My heart has loved purely, my soul has felt the invisible's ebb, and my mind has known only the now. That is how I danced with the lovely girl in the sundress. That, I think, is what it really is to dance. I may surely never dance this way while waking, but it is great encouragement and comfort to my soul that some part of me knows this freedom and joy. I felt it in my dreams. It's there. Somewhere inside myself I know not only how, but why to dance.


  1. enjoyed reading this one quite a bit. nice feeling you've created here.

  2. Surely the best thing to come out of me in a long time. This piece - and my personal evolution in general - owes more and more to Herman Hesse. I don't know what I'll do should I exhaust his body of work before attaining spiritual Nirvana. I mean, if you still can't become the Buddha having read all of Hesse...