Alice Barker sees herself dance and makes me cry.

Distractify posted a story about 102 year old Alice Barker, a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1930’s and 1940’s, who saw herself dancing for the first time. The films show a beautiful, strong, vibrant young black woman dancing with a big smile on her face. Alice today is a frail, tiny woman who lives in a nursing home and is shown in bed. But her smile is the same.

While watching the video of Alice watching herself dance, I thought of the years and the life that happened between then and now. There she is at 20, so thrilled to dance she seems to fly. And here is is today. Alice’s body can’t dance anymore, but Alice’s hands can.

I cried.

Here is the link to this beautiful story.

http://distractify.com/Deborah-Gross/dont-mean-a-thing-if-it-aint-got-that-swing/

A Pornographic Elastic Heart?

First, watch this video

Then tell me, what is it about?

Is it truly pornographic?

There are so many stories portrayed in this one dance piece, which is why I love dance so much. The movement of an arm and the twirl of a head can shout a hundred words in an instant. In this video, I see a father and daughter trapped by expectation and patriarchy, fighting each other for understanding. The father is hoping to tame his daughter so she stays with him and does what he needs her to. The daughter is trying to break him down, destroy him if need be, so they can both be free. That’s just one story.

Another story is a man fighting his inner demon. If he can only tame it, he’ll have peace. But at the end, even when demon is calmed, the man is still trapped. The grief on his face is heartbreaking.

It’s sad that the only thing so many people can see is a man in skin colored trunks trying to seduce a little girl. Is it the color of his trunks, or her tunic, or that he’s a grown man in a cage with a child? I agree, all of those things could make you uncomfortable, but is it impossible to see beyond the visual and give the art a chance?

The Elastic Heart video is brilliant because it is complex, daring, and controversial. It tells a story we can all feel, while challenging us to feel more.

Art requires fearlessness, not just from the artist, but also from the person experiencing the art. Break out of your comfort zone a little bit and you’ll be amazed by what you’ll discover.

“Dancing with the Stars” is the greatest dance porn since “Dirty Dancing.”

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It’s a new season on Dancing With The Stars, which means I am once again obsessing over Cheryl Burke, Valentin Chmerkovsky, Mark Ballas and Karina Smirnoff. I’m watching fierce dance routines and booing the judges as if ballroom dance was a football game. The “stars” don’t matter to me (how many “reality stars” are there on TV?). I love the Pros, the dancers who train, teach, choreograph, plot and scheme their way to the mirror ball. Why do I love this world of spray tan, fake eyelashes and glitter so much? Because Dancing With The Stars is the greatest dance porn since Dirty Dancing, and I love dance porn.

I admit I’m a little embarrassed by my obsession. I’m an intellectual feminist with a Master’s Degree and a publishing company. But here I am, every tuesday morning (I don’t have cable, so I have to watch it online,) applauding Emma Slater’s creative choreography. In the middle of the night, I’m scouring Twitter for #DWTS comments. I become frustrated that I can’t vote because I’m watching it the day after, and I know exactly how it feels to have to TiVO a basketball game because you couldn’t watch it live, and then have someone tell you who won.

Dancing with the Stars is my escape from the chaotic, stressful, overly-serious world I live in. It feeds my inner child who longs to be a ballerina. When I was little, I was obsessed with ballet and longed to be a dancer more than anything in the world, but we lived in Lake County, California, far away from any dance classes. So I practiced plies’ in my room while studying a book on basic ballet positions, eventually screwing up my knees. The love of dance never left me and I was finally able to take my first class in college at the age of 19. I danced in a troupe for five years and loved every minute of it, even choreographing three productions. Later, I choreographed two shows for children. Yet again, I live in a town with limited dance opportunities, and being a mom keeps me home. I channel my longing to dance into my writing and publishing, but the desire has never left. I’m too old to be a ballerina, but I know I would be awesome at Tango. All I need is a teacher.

Every day at 4:30, I dance to electronic music on Pandora. Dancing is how I de-stress. At the end of my work day, right before I switch into my mommy day, I shake my ass as fast as I can in my kitchen. My daughter thinks I’m crazy, but sometimes she’ll join in. Occasionally, a Tango rhythm will come on and I’ll pretend that I’m dancing with Maksim Chmerkovsky (and that man can dance a tango!).

We forget to play when we grow up, and before we know it the burdens of life drag us down like quicksand. It seems we only remember to be silly when we’re on vacation, or drunk. Why not do something ridiculous every day, like Tweeting about #DWTS or dancing for 30 minutes in your kitchen? Ridiculous is good for you. Silly lightens the load. Just ask any 10 year old practicing ballet moves all alone in her room. What is better than dance to make you feel alive?

Night Clubs and Friendship

Have you ever been to a fancy nightclub, the kind you see on TV filled with young and beautiful people dancing to electronic music, overseen by a DJ who is worshipped by the crowd? I have. I hated it.

To be fair, I probably hated it because I was there just three weeks after I’d been dosed, so my tolerance for drunk, hip people was low. And it really wasn’t my scene; what the hell was this middle aged babe doing in a club filled beyond capacity with gorgeous 22 year olds? I was invited by a much younger friend who has spent a lot of time dancing to ear shattering music under black lights. I love new experiences, so I decided to go for the adventure. When I was younger, I was too broke to go out, especially to a dance club to hear a new DJ. So there I was, wandering a brand new club in high heels and a woman’s tuxedo, feeling 80 years old.

The club was a maze of dance floors with a raised area for the DJ to create his magic. A long, well lit bar crammed with people screaming for drinks was the most visible landmark. The rest of the club was dark, illuminated only by hundreds of multi-colored lights that swam across the ceiling, the floor and the crowd in time to the music. The girls wore the uniform of the hip and cool: clinging short dresses and platform high heels. The boys dressed with more variety, but every one looked rich. Several Go-Go dancers performed on blocks, waving light wands that changed color.  The moment you stepped into the room, you were punched in the chest with music and confused by the swirl of movement.

As we shoved our way through the crowd (it was too crowded to actually dance), I saw roped off VIP areas adorned with scantily clad young women. Many were passed out on velvet couches. People kept dancing and drinking, ignoring the girls who were so messed up they could actually sleep despite the primal thump of the drum machine. Why didn’t anyone help them? One girl had her short sequined dress pulled up over her hips, exposing her tiny lace panties. Why didn’t someone pull her skirt back down? Where were her friends? Her date? Her mother?

That’s when I knew I was waaaaaaaay too old for an ultra hip dance club. Every one of these girls could by my daughter. That boy with his arm slung over the shoulder of that girl wobbling on too high heels could be my son. If he were, I’d kick his butt for not taking better care of his date.

Later, when I asked my friend why no one helped those passed out girls, she just laughed. Why should they? It’s every girl for herself in a club like that and if you’re dumb enough to get that messed up, you’re on your own.

I felt so sorry for my young friend. When I go out with friends, I know they all have my back. On the night I got dosed, three friends came to my rescue; no one left me lying on the floor. My young friend has actually been left on a couch, passed out and unable to defend herself, while her friends laughed at her. When she went out with me and my friends, she was shocked by how much we cared for each other. Her feet hurt and a friend of mine helped her. I drank too much, and another friend held my arm so I wouldn’t fall down. If anyone had thrown up that night, at least two friends would have come to the rescue. That’s just what friends do.

When I was young, I had wanted to go to clubs and party and dance all night, but I had to work to pay for college. I envied the cool crowd with their gorgeous clothes and spending money. But maybe that world wasn’t so cool. The people are lovely, the music intense, the decor beautiful, but the attitude is cutthroat. Going to a club is like playing a vicious game of King of the Mountain with the winner being whoever is most beautiful and can drink the most without falling down.

I think I’ll hang out with friends my own age, preferably in the wine bar like the middle aged chick I am. Being young and hip is far too dangerous.