Tuesday, October 10, 2006

What I Always Wanted

A bare dance floor, with the light gleaming off the hardwood, so fresh, so empty, inviting movement; running and turning, swooping, and swinging; leaping, bending, rolling. No mirrors.

When I was little, I loved the school corridors when they were empty. Scarred, gleaming, they were an invitation to run. I remember being sent to the principal's office to show her a poem I had written. I was in second grade. The long empty hall with the light bouncing off the floor was irresistible. I ran like the wind, then stopped myself just before her office, and strolled in, clutching my little paper. She looked at me over her glasses.

"Were you just running in the halls?"

I stared at her, open-mouthed. How did she know?

I always wanted freedom. I just didn't know what it looked like. When I was younger, I could only articulate that desire in negative ways, "I don't want to go to school." "I don't want a 9-5 job." "I don't want to have to wake up to an alarm set for 6:30 a.m. and go out and spend my day workng for other people."

Negative energy became the dominant force in my life. "I don't wanna..." Even to my own ears I sounded like a whiny two-year-old. The older I got, the more embarrassing and self-destructive it became to hold onto this posture.

When I see the dance studio at Interplayce, I find a way to say I want. I want to fly. I want to learn how to fly higher, better, longer. I want to have other people's bodies pressed up close to mine. I want to be able to linger against them and release. I want to sing. I want to soar and laugh and weep and create. I want an empty space so that I can create into it. No emptiness, no creation. I want my life to have space in it, not to be filled to the brim with obligations and deadlines...

Yesterday, in Wing It! rehearsal, I was finally able to bring synagogue into practice by way of the music. For several years I've been kvetching: Why am I the only Jew in Wing It? Why do we almost always sing in major keys? Why is Interplay so full of ministers?? God, I can't stand how Christian culture just PERVADES the organization. Etc., etc.

Part of the problem was that I didn't feel I could bring my culture in fully because I didn't trust myself to carry a tune. Jewish songs are modal, and the ones I prefer have long languid swooping rhythms. When someone with a great sense of pitch and timing leads, it's all good, but on my own, my voice falters and slides off the song.

Synagogue last Saturday was ecstatic, full of singing and dancing which had gotten me high as a kite. I wanted to share it, to bring it in to my other tribal space. So when there was an opportunity, I stepped in and taught one of our chants: "Ahava. B'rachamim. Chesed. V'shalom." ("Love. Compassion. Kindness. And Peace.")

Cynthia, our director, helped me by making me establish a beat with my foot while I sang. It felt like rubbing my stomach and patting my head to have to focus on rhythm AND pitch AND Hebrew all at the same time, but I did it, and my voice got strong and everyone joined in and started adding their own harmonies, and the chant became a beautiful mishkan, a sacred tent, as it is meant to be.

Three years ago I couldn't have done this. Two years ago I couldn't have. Not until now could I do this. This very long slow road I've been on to learn how to fit the flying inside me into form.


Askinstoo said...
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Gretchen Wegner said...

And it was beautiful, Alison! Thanks for giving the rest of us a chance to embody the sound of your sacred music... It was a joy for me to try on something new!