In High School I knew a girl who danced as though she was in pain. My heart would bleed for her. I felt like leaving my seat to go walk her out of the stage and sit her down and just be there for her. Offer her my only handkerchief, bring her water, hug her and tell her it was okay. Tell her she did not have to dance if it hurt her so much because even God who so generously bestowed upon her the gift of dance would understand. You see, the suffering her face displayed reminded me of this poor little baby I once witnessed trying to pass stool; he had constipation. She was in every dance event. She could really move this girl. Her waist had zero restrictions it just melted away. I wanted my waist and legs to do the things hers did but I could never try. I am afraid of physical pain; her dance face screamed of it. I will never know if it hurt. I never gathered enough courage to ask her, she was a senior and she was popular. My ilk would never deserve the dignity of a stool on her table.
When one day a form four student asked me to join her dance group for her music practical I wanted to run away from the school. She had the pained dancer girl in her team. I was so scared of the moves we would have to make. Maurine said we would have to smile and enjoy the music. We would have to sing, dance and smile. I imagined “Miss my body hurts when I dance” picking the moves and I wanted to quit, but Maurine was my friend and I did not want to disappoint her. Plus it was really long since I shook a leg and it would be the first time I would grace the precious stage. I used to be a liturgical dancer when I was a little girl. I had also been flower girl in a few weddings so I consoled myself. Plus I had already outgrown my most embarrassing dance moment of back then when the common cold and my brand new half-petticoat conspired to make my life miserable.
I had been around eleven or ten; I was leading my line in church. I used to obediently spring; dance on my toes as instructed and I must have done it so well because a grand lady , Auleria would give me a twenty shilling coin after mass on every Sunday that I danced. I made sure to walk to her after mass just so she wouldn’t forget. This particular Sunday my petticoat kept running down past my uniform hem and I kept struggling to pull it back up to its place. My nose was running too. I had lost my handkerchief somewhere between the changing room and the church door. So I had to look up high even when the dance moves required bending to force my nose to hold its contents. I had never known that much suffering in my life. It would take more than divine intervention to have me back on the liturgical dance team after that; I joined the choir.
So when Maurine asked me to dance I was ready. After grueling practice we were ready to present to the music teacher for assessment. I do not know what she told Maurine, because Miss pained dancer left our team. I love to think that maybe that experience spared the girl the pain I think she felt.
Since then I’ve taken to watching peoples’ faces and bodies when they dance. People have all sorts of expressions and moves. Some faces look as if the Devil is forcing terrible deals with them in their heads. Some dance like someone destroyed them and they are trying to avenge or something. Some use so much energy they sweat between their fingers. Some move every part of their bodies. I have watched very skinny people move almost non-existent parts that much endowed people were unable to move and I’ve silently wondered at how the universe can be so unfair.
I love the people who really understand rhythm. I love watching flexible people move. I enjoy watching those who aren’t so blessed in the flexibility department put in effort. I love it most when they do it happily. I whisper a prayer for them because of how they really allow the music to take them away. I also love to watch the one move dancers. How they believe they’ve switched to a different move when all they’ve done is face a different direction. I will never understand some styles.However, that will never stop me from appreciating their effort. Sometimes I clap when a dancing person who is really struggling or dancing to beats that are in his head and not really playing , looks my way. I smile and nod my encouragement, somehow the situation always worsens. I don’t understand. What I know is dance is therapy. Everyone with ability should dance.
Matilda is a happy dancer. She smiles the ear to ear when dancing. It is evident she enjoys the music. She does not rush to the dance floor. She downs a drink while observing. She enjoys the music awhile. I am not sure if she stands because she can no longer stand the other dancers or because she can no longer restrain herself. She can dance through the night. There is no struggle. She just lets the music take her away. I’ve seen people stop to watch her. She refuses to say whether she enjoys the attention. She seems so lost in the music I doubt she notices the eyes on her. She dances to everything. God is proud of her I am sure.
Last Friday I saw the DJ and the guy next to him watch her from the time she stood up. Ben did not stand to dance with her. He just sat there watching her and once in a while watched the DJ and his friend watch his girlfriend. When Matilda sat, the guy walked to their table, said something to Ben in Kikuyu, whispered to Matilda how great a dancer she was and walked out. Matilda stood as if new energy had been pumped into her depths. She did not leave the dance floor and Ben did not continue to sit, he did not leave her side. How could he? Matilda is my type of dancer!