Tidal Basin

Germination Detail Part III, by Leslie Shellow

contemplations about what stays in the net

Monday, September 20, 2010



I would like to say that I went to a modern dance class tonight, but the words are strange and unfamiliar, from an age I was long ago. How does it feel to sink, release, roll up and sway, accent and tuck, relinquish, extend, and catch myself falling?

I heard fireworks in my shoulder and all I could think of was: This has to be good because if it’s not, I won’t be here again any time soon in the presence of this kind and beautiful teacher.

My right shoulder feels fine now, but my neck is warm and there is an unusual pain that is not responding to Advil. I will wait until morning to suffer.

The joy was immense, like taking off in a hot air balloon and giving oneself over to wind. I had no choice but to dash across the floor in my small group of four, hoping to remember when to suddenly drop from the air onto the floor and twist into myself and become heavy. We changed direction so many times that I had to ask my mind to stay out of it. Swirling, swirling we were, left and right and left and then down. Pushing away from the ground with both hands now and up again, spinning.

If I weren’t my age, I would have been terrified of making myself a fool. And, perhaps I will be next time. But during this class, I was a child exploring. Which reminds me how I have made myself a fool this year in the best way possible – a total hurling of the heart with both hands as far as it could go. And I think of Annie Dillard, who writes of a run she takes away from the grown man she has angered with a snowball and how the run, like childhood, is something she thrusts herself into wholeheartedly; how she’s never been that free since.

I felt that free tonight. I hadn’t danced in class in years. My back was beginning to hurt again. I threw myself into this class as if it were my last chance to dance (I shall find out in the morning if that is true.) I threw myself in because I had only myself to lose. 

Dillard, Annie. An American Childhood. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. 

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