catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 10 :: 2013.05.10 — 2013.05.23


We can dance if we want to

My mother loves to dance.        

I’m not talking about the acceptable-in-almost-any-denomination waltz.

I mean the first-on-the-floor-at-the-wedding-reception, arms-up-in-the-Y-formation-to-the-Village-People kind of dancing. I mean the kind of dancing that requires rolling up the family room rug on Thanksgiving to make room for disco moves to ABBA’s Greatest Hits while unabashedly squeezing my dad’s backside in front of the grandchildren.

The history of dance (in two shakes)

When I was 12, we lived in a house that had an intercom system. For my mother, it was a means by which to pipe music into every room. I especially remember her dancing in the kitchen, because it really wasn’t a place for cooking. So in between taking the fish sticks out of the oven and putting the tater tots in, there was always time for “disco arms!”

My mother wanted to be a dancer when she was a little girl. But instead of tutus and lessons, she fished and beat up the neighbor boy and dug up her dead cat — hardly ballet class. But the need — nay, the compulsion — to shake, shimmy and perform gymnastic feats with her bosom was part of her make-up even before a bosom became precariously involved.

And she passed this compulsion on to me and to her granddaughters. All four of us women have the innate ability to shake our groove thang. No one would ever believe it, but NO professional training has ever been acquired by any of us…except for a few belly dancing classes I took at the community college, during which I engaged in stretching exercises, inevitably ending up touching my toes directly behind a 5’ x 5’ aspiring exotic dancer who apparently had devised a way to incorporate farting on cue into her routine.

First on the floor

My mother lives for weddings. You dance at weddings. You are not embarrassed to mimic the antics of gay men famous for performing the classic hit “YMCA” while simultaneously contorting their bodies into the corresponding letters of the alphabet. Mom is usually the first on the dance floor, yanking along my father, who will commence to move his feet as if he’s putting out a cigarette under his shoe.

Shopping for the perfect dance outfit precedes these festivities. My mom invites me on the hunt for a new wedding reception outfit: something flattering but age appropriate, something sexy that — at this point my mother bends over in front of the dressing room mirror and shimmies — withstands the “if I do this while I’m dancing nothing will fall out” test.

Get a disco

My son quickly discovered that going shopping with his grandmother was a safer bet at the more subdued American Eagle, because in Abercrombie, my mother cannot peruse the merchandise without dancing her way through the racks. During one shopping excursion, she proceeded to “bust a move” among the vintage polos, causing my mortified son to duck his six-foot frame then skirt around the perimeter of the store to avoid being seen with us.

I am not embarrassed by her public displays. I’m proud of her. How many grandmothers walk boldly into Hot Topic, slide a nearly-filled frequent shopper punch card out of their wallets, and start shakin’ it to Rob Zombie?

The cashier with the black fingernails was amused by this woman who was shopping for her teenage granddaughter and wearing a pink sweater and a Swarovski crystal Mickey Mouse pendant.

“You are so cool,” she told my mom.

Ooo, see that girl, watch that scene

I look at my mother’s dancing as an expression of joy and freedom; as a kid, her example gave me permission to do the same. Although a painfully shy adolescent, I was introduced to a way to express my spirit physically, in a way other than writing and drawing. Once I started to dance, there was no such thing as being shy.

I was the gangly fifth grader who never made the cheerleading team, but made it up on the stage at the talent festival to perform a choreographic masterpiece to “Banana, What a Crazy Fruit!” I was the high school freshman hiding in my locker during the day, but gyrating at the school dance like a regular on American Bandstand.

Today when my mother visits my home, my elder daughter cranks up “It’s Raining Men” and exclaims, “Back-up singers!” to which my younger daughter and I respond by jumping off of the couch to get into the act. Then all four of us — three generations sick with Saturday Night Fever — dance our joy out into the world…

…the world in which my mother is the “Dancing Queen.”

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