Rhonda Cagle

Swayin’ Alive

In Uncategorized on May 6, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Growing up Pentecostal, we didn’t dance. At all. If the religious rhetoric was to be believed, we didn’t listen to rock ’n roll, wear pants, or go to the movies either. More progressive Fundamentalists (I know, it’s an oxymoron) might overlook women wearing pants, but dancing was a conga line with a groovy beat that led straight to Hell’s gates. In fact, there’s an old joke in Pentecostal circles that asks why Pentecostals don’t have sex standing up. The answer? Because people might think they’re dancing. Apparently, Pentecostals also don’t believe in a well-developed sense of humor, but that’s a subject for a different day.

Like all recovering Pentecostals, I’ve moved beyond the restrictions of my youth. I love rock ’n roll (put another dime in the juke box, baby), I’ve embraced pants, and I occasionally watch a movie, when I have time. But I still do not dance. Not because of any moral compunction, but because – well – I can’t. The age when one learns to move and groove came and went 25+ years ago for me. I’m awkward. Self-conscious. I’m middle-aged. I’m 20 pounds too heavy to “shake my groove thang.”Whenever I’ve had a couple of glasses of wine and am tempted to hit the dance floor, I instantly hear in my head the screenplay of the movie Steel Magnolias and the voice of Clairee disdainfully commenting to Ouiser about the mayor’s wife, dancing at a wedding reception… “Looks like two pigs fighting under a blanket.”

In my professional life, I have occasion to attend events that involve drinking, dinner, drinking, more drinking, and dancing – usually in that order. As other couples take to the dance floor to dance the night away, I look for a seat so I can watch. And yes, my feet hurt and I’m thankful to slip off my heels and hide them under my gown or the edge of the tablecloth, but I’m also slightly wistful.

Young women, my daughter’s age, take to the dance floor with a date or with their girlfriends, moving gracefully and mindlessly to the beat. For them, there’s no thinking about how to move or how they look. There’s only movement – allowing something primal and magical and innate to find expression in rhythm, melody and lyrics. They are mesmerizing and captivating, their youth and beauty more beautiful than their dresses or jewelry.

As lovely as these young women are, it’s the older ladies who really hold my attention. They have raised children, welcomed grandchildren, and held together families and neighborhoods. They have weathered storms, buried spouses and survived illness. They take to the dance floor, not because of their appearance, but simply because they can. They dance for the sheer joy of being among the living – knowing both are a gift and miracle worth celebrating. It is breathtaking to watch.

Photo: Birtchtreephotographyblog.com

I wish the Pentecostals of my formative years could have known this wisdom – could have understood that dancing, like breathing, is simply an expression of life. I’m glad my heart has learned this. Someday, I hope my feet can, too. But in the meantime, the band will keep playing and the people will keep swaying. And I’ll keep watching, seeing life dance before my very eyes.

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  1. I have people ask me all the time if it’s too late to learn to play the guitar. I always tell them life is too short not to play the guitar if they have that desire. Sounds like it’s time for some dancin’ lessons for you guys little missy! 🙂

    • Thanks, Linda. I’ve wanted to take dance lessons for several years. Perhaps when I get through Lorenzo’s election, we can sign up for a few classes.

  2. I agree — get your groove on girl! 🙂 Great article, very touching Rhonda. I hope you dance!

  3. I agree with Liinda. Dancing is such a joy.

  4. I agree with the above. Dancing is such a joy. It’s never too late.

    • Kerri, dancing is joyful. Perhaps I’ll be brave enough one day to enjoy it in public. In the meantime, I’ll boogie across my kitchen!

  5. Kitchen boogieing is the best… You go girl.

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