Dad had just come home with the new video camera, the hulking piece of electronic equipment that would capture so many of our moments. “Krista,” he called from the living room. “Can you come here?”
Though I was in the middle of building a Lego house, I dropped the blue plastic pieces and skipped into the living room. I found dad with the black technological beast on his shoulder, looking through the lens and pulling his head back every so often to glance at the various buttons on the side.
“What’s that?” I asked, sidling up to him.
“It’s a camera recorder, a camcorder. Can you do something in here for a little while? You know, put on one of your dance shows or something?”
“Okay,” I replied, eyes sparkling. I raced back to my room, yanked open my dresser drawers, and picked out one of my favorite outfits: a purple-and-red striped t-shirt, a turquoise corduroy skort, and white tights. I pulled them on quickly and tucked in the shirt that was getting too small for me. Hopping over to my pink radio, I ejected the Amy Grant tape inside and bounded into the living room. I pushed play and took my place in the center of the tiny living room. The camera’s red light blinked on just as the speakers hissed and then blared the mid-80s music.
I spun in place for a while, but began to swerve and bump tables, chairs and the couch. Dizzily, I gyrated to the syncopated beats of the song. I jumped, twirled, hopped, clapped, tip-toed and flourished – dramatically posing like a statue at the end of each song.
My feverish feet gracefully leapt, toes pointed, when it was time to flip the tape over. I pushed play again and took my place back at center stage for Act Two of my imaginary recital.
The camera hummed as the tape inside turned, and dad sat stoically behind it, experimenting with the novel fading and zooming options. Mom walked back and forth a few times in front of the camera, cleaning in the kitchen, and then folding laundry in the bedroom. I didn’t notice any of this though, not until recently while watching the video again.
I had forgotten about the camera, and dad, and even the music. I danced to my own beat. And the dance I performed in that small living room transported me to a moment outside of time. A moment of pure freedom.
Not for one second did I realize, or care, that what I wore was mismatched or that I had outgrown it. Nor did I care that my dance moves, while well executed, were nonsensical. I lost myself in the dance – in spinning until I bruised my leg on the rocking chair, in rug-burning my knees on the carpet, in performing for the imaginary crowd looking on in awe. I lost myself – and found myself – in the splendor of an uninhibited spirit.
I don’t possess very many moments like that, where I let the spark residing deep in my soul come to the surface and bubble over. Maybe we’re only like that when we’re kids. Maybe freedom like that is meant to be rare. Or maybe, without recognizing it, we have stifled our beautiful, boundless spirits.
There are a million reasons why we quiet our fire, our spunk, our individuality: status quo, loss of innocence, fear. We put defenses up for myriad reasons and, while those defenses keep bad things out, they often hold good things captive inside. And, before we know it, we can’t even imagine dancing, let alone finding our own dance floor.
But if we will watch for it, if we will welcome it, if we will make the moment ours, we can dance again.
Not too long ago, I found another dance floor. I wasn’t looking for it, but the moment found me at a wedding reception for a couple of swing dance teachers. Enticing Big Band tunes resounded in the dance hall, but the floor remained nearly empty. With my husband’s hands in mine, I braved the wide-open space and remembered the steps my grandpa had taught me. One, two, three, four, step back. We danced till it was long past time to leave.
I danced that night with abandon; forgetting what others thought, unafraid of missing a step or two, and fearlessly trying new moves. Stripped of everything that could possibly break my spirit or defeat my soul, I danced. Really danced. And there it was again, that moment of pure freedom.
I laughed and smiled as faces in shadowy outskirts blurred. I stepped, and turned, and let life wash over me. I gloried in the dance. In letting my spirit free. In remembering how to live. In twirling and kicking, leaping and spinning the way I did when dad came home with a camera one day and asked me to perform.