Day Five: Dance Wherever You May Be

Four years ago, I discovered an exercise class called Nia, which combines dance, martial arts and healing arts in a class choreographed to music. The class was taught in the studio where I practiced yoga. You couldn’t help but notice the freedom and pleasure on people’s faces as they left Nia class, animated and chatty. They were a community, not just a class. I thought it was all a little weird.

Who knows why I walked into that first class. The focus that day was “sensing joy.” “Be present to your sensations,” the teacher prompted as we danced. “What does joy feel like in your body?”

Joy has a lot of physical sensations, I have since realized: Breath that fills the lungs all the way down to the small of your back, power, speed, air on skin, music vibrations washing over me. I have learned it is impossible to skip in a circle or exchange smiles and not embody joy. Perhaps spirit has to be incarnate in part to experience these physical sensations of joy and community.

They cut me down but I leapt up high
I am the life that will never never die
I’ll live in you if you live in me
I am the Lord of the dance said He

Dance dance wherever you may be
I am the Lord of the dance said He
And I’ll lead you all wherever you may be
And I’ll lead you all in the dance said He.

—Sydney Carter

The “He” above, in the poet’s mind, I always thought, is God, or maybe Jesus. I’m not really familiar with the author, Sydney Carter, so I googled him. I was thinking he was some kind of pious, tight-assed Episcopal choir master (with apologies to all the sweet, open-hearted choir masters I’ve ever known), one of those guys who’s all letter and no spirit. But it turns out, Sydney Carter was an English folk musician who wrote the words above in the trippy 1970’s. He wrote musicals and revues, and a song cycle entitled “Songs of Doubt and Faith.” (This is my kind of guy — how can you have one without the other?) He was a committed pacifist, a conscientious objector in World War II. He had a minor hit in 1962 with the song “Last Cigarette,” about trying to give up smoking and failing. You just never know where your next dance will take you.

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