“Tonight I learned how to dance a poem.” I wrote that last fall in my Word Mess (journal).

At night, when the world sleeps, I push back the furniture and dance, improvising to music. What a relief after sitting cramped at the computer. Movement, a beating heart, a reaching arm—my body finds its reverie in music. Those moments when the body stops between steps are like the white spaces between stanzas in a poem, like the silence between movements in a symphony.  What joy this free dancing brings me. How the bells ring. Dancing hasn’t always been this way for me.

When I was little, I loved to put on music at home and dance with joy. I took ballet once a week for fun. Then twice a week. This is a photo of me at the school show in the 5th grade, dancing  Jo in Little Women. I chose the moment in the story when Jo sold her hair. First, I danced an undecided Jo outside the barber shop, then a shorn Jo (wig) emerging from the barber shop.

I had no idea then that my joy in dancing was about to vanish. In 7th grade, someone at the ballet school (Cornish) decided I had talent and promoted me to the advanced “daily” class, with mostly high school girls. It was daily grinding work, daily rigor, daily criticism, daily fears of not being good enough. Ballet is about being in the right place (the body) at the right time (the moment in the music)  Never once did  a teacher just encourage us to go out on the floor and dance freely, improvising to the music. Never once.

So how did I reclaim the dance?

A few years ago, a doctor told me to exercise my upper body to alleviate pain from computer work.  I  tried Tai Chi. But, like ballet, the body has to exactly follow a prescribed sequence of steps. My life has enough rules. Then I tried dancing, nothing formal, just moving to music. And loved it. My eleven-year-old dancing self returned.

Here is another line from my Word Mess: “Time doesn’t heal all wounds. Movement does.”
Now, dancing at night, my heart and body respond to the music. No censure. No judgment. No one else’s steps to learn and follow. The only requirement: attention and response. My mind is completely engaged in listening to the music and feeling the emotions evoked, my body completely engaged in responding. Meditation in movement. And with that all consuming attention comes rapture.

Rapture is exactly what happens in intense moments of living when the bells ring.

Reclaim your rapture, and the bells will ring.