Don’t Look by Kim Kluxen Meredith

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I first did it at age four.

I still do it at 62.

I did it in a barn.

I do it in my kitchen.

I have done it with Tchaikovsky.

I prefer to do it with Frank Sinatra.

Sometimes I wear funny clothes when I do it.

I have even done it topless on a hot summer evening.

Alright, I confess: I am a closet dancer.

Dancing makes me happy. I prefer not to have an audience. In fact, if I am in a public place and have the chance to dance, I hold back and quietly mix in with the crowd. I do not call attention to myself. My best performances are when I am alone.

When I was four years old, I made my own tap shoes. I nailed Orange Crush bottle caps to the toes and heels of my red Keds. They turned me into Ginger Rogers. Fred Astaire and I danced for hours in the big red barn behind my home, my playhouse. An old crank-style Victrola provided the music. I am not sure whose record collection I was using. The variety of 78s was not exactly current. But they were all I had. I liked the rhythm of the “Garbage Man Blues” and “Haven’t Seen No Whiskey.” “Glad Rag Doll” was my favorite dancing song.

When I was in elementary school, before church on winter mornings, I would sneak down to the family room and put on the stereo one of the 33 1/3 vinyl records from our Tchaikovsky record collection. My parents were trying to introduce us to classical music, but I just wanted to privately buzz about to the New York Philharmonic Symphony’s recording of the “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” It was liberating. Around and around the furniture I flitted. Sometimes, I trailed a scarf behind me and pretended I had wings. Everyone else was asleep upstairs and missed the show.

High kicks, motored by my adolescent bare feet on the dewy grass early on summer mornings in our backyard in Ames, New York, channeled Isadora Duncan. My skinny, long legs sliced through the lawn with the urgency of a fairy drawn to the moonlight. Faster and faster I leapt from one side of the yard to the other in the cover of thick hydrangea bushes. My arms waved wildly above my head like helicopter blades. The warm air pushed back the bangs of my pixie haircut and I felt like Mary Martin, flying like Peter Pan above Never Neverland.

In college I actually studied modern dance for a semester. My subdued movements met the class’s requirements. I carefully observed the instructor and took note of some new techniques for future private dancing. I obediently blended in with the other students. I did not go rogue. I needed a good grade.

At age 50 I could no longer resist and gave in to the tap dancing Siren. I actually bought a real pair of tap shoes and signed up for a local adult tap class. The thick, bright metal pieces on the toes and heels of my new, tan tap shoes worked better than the scuffed, aluminum bottle caps on my tiny sneakers. My 50-year-old feet struggled to keep up with the instructor’s rapid commands. Alternate steps called out from my head. They battled. I felt mine were superior. But, soon, I was relegated to the end of the line in the studio where I was told to watch and follow the other adult students in front of me. My defiance incited my teacher’s displeasure. He stared at me over the tops of his glasses and did not smile. He did not appreciate my creativity. His required steps seemed so stiff and boring to me. I needed to breakout and feel the music. I never made it to the first recital. Instead, my basement became my new studio and, once again, I was happily dancing in secrecy.

Dance. The movement of my body to any type of music is still my private elixir. It releases endorphins and makes my heart soar. I can pretend that I am performing on stage with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall or I am the lead ballerina in Swan Lake in front of a polite audience at the Bolshoi Theatre. I have been to all of these venues and many more theatres, so I can readily imagine my stage. I can picture exactly where I would dance, and I can hear the thundering applause in my head.

My best performances are when I am troubled. My heart starts out heavy. I can escape the darkness through dance and leave behind my sorrow. I become light and fanciful for an hour and return later to pick up my long shadow.

Dance is better than booze. It doesn’t give me a hangover, and it is free. Dance unlocks my imagination and has no limits. It is my secret, safe, fun place.

So don’t look for me at an Arthur Murray studio gliding across the floor with a partner. Don’t expect me to be a stand out at the next wedding for I will remain anonymous. But, most of all, don’t look in my window late at night. You just might see a shadow in my dimly lit kitchen doing a pirouette or a series of fan kicks with jazz hands around the center island in my nightgown.

Kim Kluxen MeredithKim’s self-help book, Listen for the Whispers, published in 2010, introduced the power of her inner voice, her “whispers”, to readers through her acceptance of the untimely loss of her husband. She has three stories in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and numerous other articles published online and in print. Kim lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and is working on her next project, a memoir of her small town life in upstate New York.

You can read her blog on her web site: www.listenforthewhispers.com. Follow her on Twitter @kimkmeredith.

STORY IMAGE CREDIT: Flickr Creative Commons/hen3k hen3k

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  • Elaine Mansfield

    Wonderful secret and wonderful article, Kim. And now the secret is out, so close the shades. I can’t remember if you danced in Toronto. Maybe a little? I miss my dance partner of 42 years and dancing makes me feel that absence. And dancing alone is deep soul work. Third to last paragraph touches on this–beautifully and lightly. Thank you.