"If we're not supposed to dance, why all this music?"*

“To be alive: not just the carcass
But the spark.
That’s crudely put, but…”

The lit-up second floor of a country grange hall. Silent countryside stretching for miles in the black night beyond. A polka band playing in the corner. A giant man –your father– telling you to hold his hands tight and stand on his feet. The crowd, lights, music, whirling past your half-closed eyes as he turns you around and around on the creaky wooden floorboards.

* * *

A ballet studio on the second floor of a frame house in a nearby village. First position. Second position. Third, fourth, fifth positions. Plie. Arabesque. Releve.

* * *

The darkened gym of a high school in the country. Rock ‘n roll so loud your ears ring all the next day. The feel of the cinder block wall against your back as you wait out the slow dances, wondering will your turn ever come.

* * *

The Alibi, a bar in a tiny town in Vermont. Nickel beers on Wednesdays, dancing every Friday and Saturday. Ellen in her lavender shirt, you in your red shirt, waiting in the entry way until the cover charge drops to half price. The tiny square dance floor where every song, in your memory, is by the Police.

* * *

A party in Maine. A swing band. A skirt that swings, a man with dark eyes. Your body unsure of itself, unable to follow the tight rhythms. Not like that. Like this— the dark-eyed man curls your fingers tight around the tips of his– Resist me. Follow me, and at the same time resist me. And off you go.

* * *

A wedding outside on a rainy night under a big tent. Boards laid across mud. The band strikes up and the athlete guests spring to their feet. A laughing man holds out his hand: Come on, Alison, let’s go. Mud-soaked red shoes: one heel broken, one strap missing, carried in your hand by the end of the night.

* * *

Late night. A crowded apartment. The music on shuffle. Dancing in the new year with a glass of whiskey in one hand, the other draped around a man’s back. His hand on your waist. The world turning on its axis and the world’s inhabitants waiting for another midnight. Another chance.

* * *

Late night in an empty house. Ouzo on ice. Windows open to the summer air. Bare feet. Dog half-asleep on couch. 92-year-old neighbor washing dishes at her sink. All the lights turned off, the music turned up, and you, dancing around your dining table.

* * *

A summer night high in the grandstand. 95 degrees in the shade. A man pointing up in your direction: I’m not gonna forget about you people way up there. Clapping and laughing with everyone else as he dances his way down from the stage, leaps the fences, up through the crowd, up and up and up until he’s right there in the aisle, next to you, and you and everyone else are dancing with him, dripping sweat and laughing.



“. . . If we’re not supposed to dance, why all this music?”


*To Be Alive, by Gregory Orr.


  1. Tessa · September 15, 2013

    There’s something so beautiful and evocative in this piece – slices of a life around sound and music. I felt so there. thx, tess


  2. Karen · September 18, 2013

    I love this. All the different feelings and impressions–it’s absolutely beautiful. And I’m struck again by the tension I always feel between release and inhibition when it comes to dancing. Late-night dancing alone in my kitchen has no match.


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