Friday, June 13, 2014

Ordinary Dancers

When I was eight, or nine, or maybe ten, Mom gave me a Hawaiian themed birthday party. I'm not sure why. Ken painstakingly hollowed out pineapples from which we drank sherbet punch. We all wore plastic leis. I think I had a straw hat. I vaguely remember being disappointed that coconut didn't taste like the inside of a Mounds bar. And we danced the hula. Or we danced our understanding of the hula. Mom said something to me, which I can only paraphrase. She said I didn't move like a fat person. She would never have said it in those words. I remember not being sure if she was saying something good, or bad. It was not the only time I was given that particular ... um ... compliment.
Daniel wondered what I might write about this. It's a wonderful video of a man dancing.
I remember watching Susan Boyle singing and Simon Cowell's (who I find loathsome) jaw dropping with disbelief. Tears well up just thinking about it. She's a very good singer but it was the busting of expectations that made it so emotional.    
There are so many of these talent shows now. And there are so many videos that surface on Facebook titled in a way that frames the performance of an individual in terms of surprise. Maybe they're missing a limb or, they're very young, or they're different in some way. When you think about how narrow the cultural idea of coolness and beauty is the numbers of people seen as unlikely are overwhelming. I don't really like these shows. I rarely click on the videos any more. I just find myself weary of tired ideas about talent. I did check out this video of a woman dancing the other day. Made me smile. You have to have strength and stamina to do that.
So when I checked out the video that Daniel sent me I was  a bit braced. And. Oh. Wow. What a great, sweet, fun, heart opening thing it is. The guy is dancing from the top of his head to the tips of his fingers and toes. His face is dancing. He is having fun. He is playing. And he has moves, baby. I loved it.
Of course. "No one saw" his performance coming because, I suppose, he's fat.
I wonder if we will ever just be open. Just see people and think ... oh. What are you about? Who are you? Do you dance? Do you sing? Are you funny? Are you smart? Just be open to truly get who any one is and what they're capable of and what they might bring. When will we just be delighted by the possibility of  another person?
The narrative of unexpected or unseen talent is the base of so many great stories. It's not always about physicality, or difference. Jennifer Beals in Flash Dance is the unlikely story of a working class girl trying to get into ballet school with street moves. I was rooting for her. I get the appeal of the unexpected winner. Maybe there's just too much of it now.
And, specifically when it comes to fat people I get cranky. Men who can rock the floor like the man in the video, or hang upside down on a pole like the woman in the other video are great fun. They are delight-full. And for every fat dancer who doesn't try because they don't think they can, these people are encouragement. Amber Riley ripped up Dancing with the Stars. Everyone claps and smiles and then a minute later they all nod in agreement about how impossible it is to be healthy and be fat.
I guess I want to celebrate how great these people are and I also want the fact of them to be ordinary.
I loved dancing. Every Friday when I was a tween I was a at the rec center dancing. For hours. As I got older I danced less. I became more armored. And then I had a band and I was dancing again. And now. I feel it in my bones. I might not be able but I still feel it. I have always moved like a fat person.