Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Politics of Dance

In growing up, when I would attend weddings or celebrations, my relatives would well-meaningly say "come on Carol, let's dance" and they would swoop me up in their arms and dance with me. Even as a child, I was very uncomfortable with this form of dance. Not so much by the gesture but more about my immobility, being inserted into the arena of movement ... of dance.

I was so glad that I grew up in an era where going to the dance didn't mean dancing at all. The really cool kids would just stand, or in my case sit, along the wall and be cool... ya know, just be all knowing and too cool to dance. This generational tradition was my saving grace. My disability blended in perfectly. I could just gossip, throw around some profound wisdom that I had no clue what I was talking about and just be cool with the rest of the on-lookers of those who really thought that dance was for dancing.

It wasn't until many years later that the dreadful dance was once again in my social domain. I attended my first Society for Disability Studies conference. I heard so much buzz about this event called The Dance but I figured it was just a social culmination of the conference, probably an event for schmoozing, hooking up and impressing fellow academians, dropping the title of your latest article or book that was about to go to press.

Much to my horror and downright fear, the dance was actually a dance. People jirated in all forms and styles with whatever part of their body that they could move and they chose to move. I remember very carefully selecting a table back by the wall and making sure that I had a tall glass of of beer with a straw that I could drink independently from. This was my fortress. I could just look and appreciate the chutzpah of my dancing peers or my peers that had a lot more fluidity than I but my destiny was not to escape. A friend of mine who I admire immensely spotted me trying very hard to look nonchalant and engrossed in doing nothing. I knew when she swung her chair in my direction that there wasn't any way out. I either had to show my political disability arrogance by dancing or be found out as a hypocrite. I was right, Simi Linton gave me what I fondly refer to as "The Linton Test." So, after all these years, there I was on the dance floor shaking my head, letting my arms flail and acquiring the skill of the tounge dance.

I survived the dance and to be honest I still can't say that I'm a convert. Everytime I attend the SDS dance, I have feelings of ambivalence but since I always have to make sense of everything, I think the dance whether one is enthralled by it or more lukewarm is a political statement that represents evolution of an oppressed people. The dance is a montage of anger, joy and liberation I know those of you reading this blog are probably saying "Carol, why don't you just shut up and dance."

6 comments:

Greg said...

I'm not a dancer but I would join you for a beer with a straw ! I'm all about drinking independently ...

Carol Marfisi said...

Sounds good to me Greg!
Then I could talk about the politics of drinking beer through a straw!

Carol

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