What initially mesmerized me when I witnessed the tapping feet of folklore dancers was the profound mystery I felt. Let me take you into the first experience I can remember when seeing, feeling and gazing at dancers’ feet.
I was 5 years old, living in my home village in Portugal. I was sitting on the edge of the wooden stage at the yearly saint celebration. Slow motion memories flooding my inner sight. Plain white crochet-sock-feet shoed in black patent leather heels. The graceful spinning in and out of skirt fabric with yellow, red and green ribbon rims.
Strangers sketching movements of short lines and circles with their feet, the inward and outward movement in circles, partners switching positions. The growling voice of a lady screaming her heart out over stomping drums, pouring accordions and tingling triangles. Big men and small men, round women and young girls, swinging in and out; they knew their movements off by heart, the repetition had surely added to the joy of now jumping and hopping with fun and laughter.
I remember clearly how the sensation of their movement swayed my heart, I was mesmerized and it was as if I was right there on the stage moving with them, although I sat completely still in my little body, observing in quiet breaths.
Guilt rose, as I remembered I was supposed to be home already. The church bell echoed 4.30pm strikes; – afternoon snack time. I was hungry, of course, but the movements were just too captivating. They made me forget time.
The next memory is fast forward 1992, in Luxembourg. I was watching the figure skaters Winter Olympics on TV. Wearing my dad’s slippers, I was gliding over the tiled living room floor. Drawing the same shapes, feeling the motion in my legs of what an impact landing on ice could feel like, exploring the energy and extreme presence expressions of the dancers during the competition in my own body. The sparkles pearling down their face proving that the performance is high level, their whole body was built to grace the extreme conditions. Anyone whom had never done such acrobatics, would instinctively know the effort it takes, and so did I: Dreamily I would extend my arms and flick them inward, posing in elegance, imagining I was right there on the ice, performing full of fervour to be judged by a phantom face.
Dance and movement surely have the ability to take you on a journey, to let your imagination loose, to dream and to turn that dream so real you can feel it trembling in your every cell. Pulsation.
“Would you like to learn how to dance?” asked my Mum. “You seem so happy dancing and gliding here, why don’t we take you to a Ballet class?”
My heart stopped. Excitement. Thrill. Curiosity. What? Learn how to dance?
The opportunity then opened that me too, I could learn and become a dancer one day.
To a little girl, the first ballet class is the HIT!
I guess the nerves made me forget what happened that day when we entered the Conservatory. I vaguely remember being measured and asked to do a few easy moves such as sitting in butterfly, standing straight, pointing and flexing my feet etc.
From then on, dance became a stable and steady part in my life.
Twice a week I would skip in and out of the classes. The joy and passion grew and grew.
As a teenager many of my days would go by spotting the classroom clock, yearning for it to hit that relieving strike! Finally! I could go meet my dancer friends. I loved it! Dance grew onto me.
I believe that I survived most of the teeny blues thanks to dance. Arguments, worries, first heartbreaks and uncertainties were soon swept off my energy field and turned into confident young lady attitudes. When anger appeared, I would lock myself up in my room, play the music out loud, and the sounds would soon invite me out of the weeping corner into a graced sequence of poises and ephemeral dance doodles. And I would feel happy again, back to my good old fun self. I was blessed that I could turn towards dance to thrive as a person and so did my friends circle.
You can spot the dancer from miles away when you are one yourself. It’s like an invisible ID that makes you a part of the secret clan.
That team buzz nobody can take away: you work on your splits together, you try to remember that last routine, you avidly absorb every advice the dance teacher gives you and discuss it later. Their gentle words of courage just mean the world to you! You talk about how this and that person really lacks memory, giggle about the boy that came along to watch the cute little girl through the window…. yes, well teenage-gossip shapes you too! If not least, it entertains the long winter months. Dance talk day in, day out.
And when the Summer came by, it was show time!
And that’s what we all looked forward to! Of course! Exhilaration and excitement filled changing rooms, hair spray smell, eye-liner, twitches of tights, fitting of point shoes, and warm-up stretches…. Heartbeats rising, last minute on the dot wee (how am I going to get my costume back on??), the lights fade out… curtains open and off into the steam heat of the lamps… Blindness, dark shades in the background somewhere… oh, there’s my brother! Smile! Argh, I can’t see… ok… breathe… don’t forget that extra arm extension in the landing… 1, 2 and 3 … ok, that was smooth, ouch, my shoe is a little tight… ok, last one! Done. Hold the final pose. Don’t wobble. Smile!
Applause, whistles & flash lights would flood the suspended silence. And there went the short mini sequence of what we imagined would be the real dancer’s life.
Being on stage is one of the most amazing experiences I’ve had in life. Nothing compares to it! You are pulled right in the middle of the present moment. Nothing else matters!
This was what I lived for all year long: this moment. I knew that it was what I wanted to experience over and over again.
This pure and simple moment is when I feel the most alive. It is the highest, most alert, vivid, vulnerable, free floating, beautiful state I have witnessed.
I believe movement and dance contain all that life is about, in a simple and profound way. And this is why I think that dance is and has always been an integrated part of society, especially in the tribal cultures. No other means has been a better healer than moving to the rhythm of the music.
Dance is a container for the most sophisticated to the most mundane in humanity.
Thank you for visiting my page.
Feel free to share your first dance memories below, I would take so much joy in reading them!
Lisy Butterfly x
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