For those of us who Lindy Hop, dancing to a live band is a treat; the sound of music fills our bodies and inspires us to syncopate our triple steps as we connect with our partners. An exceptional band will play with the crowd, rather than at them. If live music inspires dancers to dance, imagine what happens when musicians play to a room full of women ready for exercise…a transformation can occur.
I walked into the World Dance class and noticed a group of women hovering in the corner. When they lined up for class, the crowd scattered themselves toward the back of the room, far away from the mirror. Some looked truly scared.
Judy, our instructor with a voice like Judi Dench on a megaphone, warned, “If you think you’re standing in the back of the class, you may not be…so don’t think you can hide back there.” Judy introduced the three piece percussion band members who wore outfits that belonged in the Caribbean than the Tucson desert. When the music started, her body moved to the beat as if the music were created for her. There was pure ecstasy on her face. Within seconds she had us doing hip and body rolls. Then we were skipping, bending, squatting, extending our limbs as far as they could go.
She told us to give the band all of our energy, since they feed off of it. That was easy to do and we gave it all we had. The raw drum beat encouraged us to move our bodies, whichever way it was
supposed to go. Some of us were apprehensive and others more free, I was somewhere in between: a controlled sense of freedom.
As a Lindy Hopper, I’m used to being led through moves and creating figures by a dance partner so I had to get used to moving solo, with only the wild drum beat acting as a guide. Dancing this way was strange to me at first. The next sentence will sound cheesy but as our bodies surrounded the drummers, I felt the power of their sound, saw the smiles on their faces, I almost burst into tears.
There is no explanation to my reaction other than dance opens up ways for strangers to connect. I took acting lessons at the famous HB Studios when I lived in New York City. One of the acting instructors described that stage actors feel a sense of “public isolation.” This is the exact concept that can be applied to the experience in the World Beat dance class. I was in my
own world, I knew I was part of something bigger, a community of others who shared what I was experiencing, in our own ways.
When we move to a beat, in unison and without rules, we share a common sense of purpose…whatever that may be for each person. All that really counts is what our intentions are.