We roar around the circle; strangers, family, friends, arms around shoulders, ties undone, dresses flashing, flushed faces, singing and laughing, my nephew and his bride right there, celebrating this moment of all moments. A big Jewish, Ukrainian, Irish, African American, American wedding: My family.
A lifetime ago when I was a dancer, we’d be in rehearsal or on stage, all of us, when we would forget we were dancers and just dance with abandon, big circles of us to the music of Stravinsky’s Petrushka, Copland’s Rodeo. Bright faces, colored lights, sweat flying and the joy of humans dancing.
These moments are connected for me.
The physical act of dancing transported us. This is what dance is supposed to do. We were not just struggling artists, we were not just a wedding party, we were all part of a larger universe of us: Humans, dancing. We were connected to the First Tribes, who danced before there was a name for it.
Can you imagine us, pounding our feet in the dirt, faces glowing in the fire underneath comets, bursting novas and stars? Can you imagine?
I can. I don’t need to eat. I just need to keep spinning in that circle of us, dancing with tears in my eyes. Nor do I need to sleep, the radiance of the people around is enough for me.
This is what transcendence feels like. We lose ourselves. We no longer experience ourselves through the lens of self-awareness or self-pity. We stop thinking about how we look and whether we fit in. We are in the circle of dancers and that’s enough.
But transcendence is temporary. Life is hard, there is suffering and pain. People leave us, punching holes in our spirits. We can be ground down by the daily inanity.
Sadness can envelope us and loneliness can eat at our souls. We want to exhume ourselves from sadness. Sometimes we just don’t know how. So we dance.
Thirty years after my sister Katie died, I felt the need to dance. I was thirty-six. Alone, through the entire house I flung myself around until I couldn’t breathe. I wanted to paint my face in the ancient Celtic way and be violent for a night, smashing all that I could find in that rage-against-the-young-dying. But I danced until I fell to the floor and slept.
Even dancing alone, I felt connected, in John Dunne’s words, “a part of the main.” I was just one more human, one more of the billions of us that are and have been, experiencing and expressing humanness by dance.
The Hora. The Circle. Arms around each other. Moving slow, moving faster, flying now, clinging to each other, spinning, laughing, crying and holding tightly to each other. Don’t let go. Never let go. We face the universe; cold, frightening and mysterious, and we dance…