Dance in the Spirit Journal

Volume 1, Number 1 - August 15, 2018





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Volume 1, Number 1 

Dance Like the Full Moon Shines

Karyne Daniels is a dancer, choreographer, teacher, and solo performer. She choreographed for the motion picture Dick Tracy w/ MADONNA and served as choreographer for Emmy Award winning singer songwriter FAITH RIVERA. Visit Facebook.com/sacreddancepath 


In a Zydeco Trance

Eleanor Vincent’s debut memoir, Swimming with Maya: A Mother’s Story, is a New York Times e-book bestseller and was nominated for the Independent Publisher of the Year award. It poignantly describes the death of her 19-year-old daughter in a horse riding accident and the subsequent donation of Maya’s organs to strangers in need. Her meeting with the man who received Maya’s heart, and their ensuing friendship, changes the course of her grief. Her essays have been published in several collections, including Creative Nonfiction’s anthology, At the End of Life, and This I Believe: On Motherhood. Her poems have appeared in The Napa Review, Five Fingers, The Santa Barbara Review and other journals. She holds an MFA in creative writing from Mills College and has taught there as a visiting writer. She is a member of the Author’s Guild and the San Francisco Writers Grotto. Learn more about her life and work, and follow her blog: www.eleanorvincent.com


Ballerinas and Blue Haired Trolls

Laura Fraser is a New York Times best selling author of several books  including An Italian Affair; All Over the Map; and Losing It. Visit laurafraser.com.to learn more about her.  


It was midnight in Mexico, the band was packing up its instruments, and the couples still dancing bachata to the DJ were slowing down, peeling apart, and drifting back to their seats. I left the terrace bar with a friend and stopped by the restroom on the way out to wipe my damp face and neck. My hair and fluttery dress looked like I’d taken a shower and dressed without toweling off: A glowing, middle-aged mess. It had been a breathtaking night, twirling salsa under the stars, cathedral looming overhead, rhythms running through my body, my partners assured, friendly, and playful.


I ran into the bandleader on the sidewalk and thanked him. “Super padre,” I said, really great. There’s nothing better than a band with a crisp, Afro-inspired drummer, a bass player making love to the strings, and a Cuban pianist who can work himself into a Chucho Valdez kind of frenzy.


Ustedes son Cubanos, no?” I asked, meaning we both know only Cubans can play like that. The bandleader nodded and broke into a wide smile. “I like the way you dance,” he said. “You dance with all your heart.”


For a moment, the bandleader had glimpsed the body I felt I inhabited, not the one I imagined people around me had always viewed. He saw a dancer, not an overweight, middle-aged gringa sitting on the sidelines, sipping her mezcal margarita, glancing hopefully at any man who might want to take her for a spin.

I’ve never had a dancer’s lithe form or natural grace, and so for many years my dancer’s spirit, too, was buried deep. When I danced, it was usually in private, to release tensions welling up inside my body, anxious energies bursting into the safe confines of rhythm. Or I would be at a party, my self-consciousness smothered by a few drinks or puffs of weed or the anonymity of a writhing crowd, abandoning myself to the music. I took plenty of dance classes but was never entirely present, too distracted by the image in the mirror that I judged harshly, comparing it to the leaner, lighter bodies around me. I would stand in the back and move along to what was easy, enjoying the music and the light-hearted groove, but rarely taking the risk of getting outside the perverse comfort of my self-criticism.


But here in middle age, I was trying to unearth the dancer in me, as a kind of last-ditch attempt to reclaim a body that had always been judged—by myself and many others—as heavy and wrong. After fifty years, I had lumbered my way to a clear understanding that one of the things I love most in life is to dance, it has been medicine for my body and spirit, but I had not given it the respect and discipline that it, nor I, deserved. Middle age is a time when your body can—and will—decline, becoming stiff and sore, losing nimbleness and speed, but it’s also a time when you are still young and alive enough to inhabit it with energy and intention, to keep building strength and skill as a fortress against eventual deterioration. At 55, it was time to let the dancer out, to tame her and take her seriously, even if nobody noticed, before it was too late. And so I was out dancing salsa. The bandleader opened his long arms wide. He wasn’t afraid of sweaty hugs with strangers. I pressed my slick cheek against his and gave him a kiss. “Gracias,” I said.


I started dancing when I was five years old. I grew up in the suburbs, where ballet was on the list of activities girls had to try–swimming, piano, ice skating, tennis–to see if they had any talent anywhere. Like most little girls back then, I was fascinated with the delicate fairy world of pink tutus and toe shoes. I had a music box with a ballerina that twirled on one tiny pink slipper; I wanted to be tiny and pink, too, pirouetting in a froth of tulle.


Mom took me to a special ballet store to buy a pair of flat black slippers, a pink leotard, and tights. I pulled my fine hair into a thumb-sized bun on the top of my head and leaped and spun around the back yard until I was dizzy. I couldn’t wait for my first lesson.

She drove me to the ballet class on the other side of town. The studio was sleek, with wooden floors, mirrors, and a shiny black piano. The pianist, a woman who looked older than my mom, could play anything, like magic. The teacher was tall and bony, with a strained smile that pulled at the cords in her neck. She lined us up at the barre to practice first position, fourth position, and exotic-sounding moves like pliés, relevés, and tendus. I counted un, deux, trois out loud and tried to move my body exactly as the teacher instructed. I longed to break away from the barre to sashay and spin around the room on my own.




Welcome!

Carla Stalling Walter, PhD

My dearest dance enthusiasts:


I’m delighted and honored to bring the first issue of Dance in the Spirit Journal to tangible reality. The journal is centered upon sharing stories of healing, recovering, celebrating, and finding a spiritual center through dancing. Dance—sacred in nature, universal to all people, awe-inspiring, and ancient in practice—has the power to change your life.


The three essays in this issue touch upon dance, from ballet to zydeco. Laura Fraser, a New York Times best-selling author brings us “Ballerinas and Blue Haired Trolls,” in which she explores the way that dance carried her through self-discovery and awareness. Next, “In a Zydeco Trance,” is by Eleanor Vincent. Vincent, also a New York Times best-selling author, portrays Zydeco dance and music power to heal grief by swooning one into the trance of “the hold-shift-shift-hold rhythm.” And finally, we can all “Dance as the Full Moon Shines,” as Karyne Daniels explains. This poignant essay reveals the ways in which dance has always led her through life, and where and in what circumstances she has listened to or ignored that sacred call. Daniels hails from Hawai’i where she is a professional dancer and choreographer, and is most concerned with the transformative power found in many forms of dance, from hula to hip-hop.


Dance is a Life Force that operates on and through us. Please, find a quiet place to sit and read and savor these heart felt and intimate experiences of sacred dance.


With love and light,


Carla Stalling Walter, PhD

Dance in the Spirit