My daughter, Jenny, wrote this in response to an essay by Paloma McGregor. I love it that Jenny has consistently found a place for dancing in her adult life, and really admire her for doing it. She's a wonderful dancer--and a wonderful writer, too.
I’m moved to write this after reading the “Why I Dance” essay by Paloma McGregor. To me it has always seemed that there is only one answer to this question. It is this: I dance because I have to. But Ms. McGregor has said what I think is the same thing in a way that maybe is better because it seems less desperate and, frankly, more joyful. She says that what she knows now is that “Your greatest love will never let you go”. This I know to be absolutely true.
By profession I am no longer a dancer. I am an attorney-I went back to school after a couple of years of trying to earn a living as a dancer. I am also a mother and a wife. But I still dance, and I remain, first, foremost, and always, a dancer. I don’t dance as much as I would like–nowhere near it. There is very little here (in Indianapolis) for an adult dancer, especially an adult jazz dancer. Advanced level classes for adults not part of a professional company don’t really exist, again, especially not for jazz dancers. And while higher level jazz classes for teenagers sometimes are open to adults, they aren’t particularly satisfying for me. I perform locally in community and, occasionally, professional theaters (most recently as a tapping Santa in the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra’s run of Yuletide), but am at the mercy of those who determine the schedules: often there just isn’t much for a dancer. So, I return to NYC a couple of times a year and take class at Steps where, years (and years) ago I was on scholarship.
Obviously, class at Steps a couple of times each year isn’t enough to maintain the level of technique I once enjoyed–what little turn out I had managed to wring out of my legs when I danced on a daily basis is largely gone, and I doubt I could battement into a full layout, my head reaching towards my supporting heel, something I used to do with astonishing regularity when I took multiple classes in a day. In so many ways, large and small, I am nowhere near as strong a dancer as I used to be.
Yet, oddly, sometimes I find I am a better dancer, because, nearly 20 years after I was a scholarship dancer at Steps, I know so much more. I know that the most perfect happiness I have ever known, and probably ever will know, has been found in a jazz class. Once in L.A., in Doug Caldwell’s class at a studio whose name I’ve since forgotten, with the music so loud that I couldn’t have heard myself speak, and the sun streaming in through the open doors and windows. And several times in class at Steps, where I could look out the window and see Broadway snaking downtown towards the lights of the theater district. At these times, seemingly miraculously, what I want my body to do has merged with what it actually does, and I’ve felt free and strong and completely content. I know now to recognize that for what it is, and to take a moment to acknowledge it, because it is rare, and fleeting, and I can’t know when it will come again. I know that there are so many awful things that can and do happen in life, and that the only way I can process them and keep moving forward is by moving my body. And I know that, while I wasn’t cut out for the gypsy lifestyle of a dancer, I will never be anything more or less than a dancer, and that I will dance until I absolutely can’t dance anymore. And I believe that these, and so many other truths show in my dancing in a way that they never could have when I was younger.
So, to Ms. McGregor, thank you for giving me another answer to why I dance–because my greatest love will never let me go.
I also love this because...writing feels the same way. Maybe all art does, when you love it purely. When the greatest pleasure that comes from it is just...doing it.