Saturday, June 21, 2008

With thanks to R and D

I've seen a lot of good dancers in my time. As a part-time swing dance instructor, I've developed an eye for that magical combination some people have of musicality, rhythm, grace and joy. And it seems to me that in most cases, the great dancers I've met end up marrying people who aren't that into dancing. Seems reasonable -- you meet your kindred spirit, and you click on a bunch of levels but are different enough to be interesting to each other, and maybe you're different about how you feel about dancing. I get it.

Every now and then, though, you see two people together who are both great dancers, and you watch them dance. Separately (with partners other than their spouses, I mean), they're impressively good -- they catch your eye and sometimes the people around them stop dancing to watch. I'm talking good. But when they dance together -- *that's* the treat.

You see, two great dancers who are also in love don't just dance to a song, and they don't just move their feet and arms and bodies. The great ones paint their whole marriages into each gesture. It's not in how close they stand or in how they know each other's bodies -- it's in a small smile that's meant just for each other. It's in the way they're emboldened by the comfort and security of one another to try new moves and rejoice when they work, or laugh together when they don't. You get the sense that they don't just move together -- they breathe together. They bring not just their training and experience to the dance floor, but their trust and their faith. They dance in whispers and feather-light touches in a way, because when one extends a hand, the other will already have an answering hand there to grasp it.

I watched a couple like that tonight. It was any song, playing at the monthly dance they've attended for years. There was nothing special about tonight. There wasn't a particularly great crowd out to share in the music. There was not a single thing that made that song special, that moment magical, except the two of them. And watching their simple, sweet and short dance together was such an intimate experience that I almost had to look away. It's not that it was lewd or suggestive -- on the contrary. It was perfectly appropriate. But they danced without barriers. They danced without fear, without reservations or hangups or second-guesses of themselves or each other. They danced without even the need to keep up with where they each ended and the other began, simply because they were part of a single unit anyway, so what did it matter?

I realized that as heartbreakingly lovely as it was to watch them tonight, theirs is a dance that will continue to ripen and develop over the years of their marriage. And someday at their 45th wedding anniversary, they'll look at each other in just the same way. The moves might be different, and the song will probably be slower. But they'll step into that tiny space and blend into one another fearlessly and effortlessly, all the more beautifully for the years they've invested in the practice of a marriage of dancing.

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