My beautiful, passionate, talented, giving friend Anjini comes from India. Her children and mine have been going to school together since preschool and Anjini has been sharing the customs of her country with our community since our oldest kids were 3. Every year, except the year she had a baby, she organizes an Indian Festival based on traditional festivals of her homeland. She designs costumes, coordinates the decorations, makes crafts with the kids, cooks traditional foods, designs and coordinates the making of a Flower Mandala, choreographs dances for the children and, perhaps most tellingly, convinces varying numbers of parents to learn and perform 2 or 3 dances as well. For the whole school.
For some parents this is nothing but fun. Some are up for anything, some are actual dancers. For myself, well, every year I've got to go through all my stuff again. I used to be a performer, not a dancer but an actor and singer, comfortable on the stage. I also used to be younger, thinner, and well-rehearsed. When I was working I had an everything must be ready, as good as I can get it or I'm not going out there mentality and rightly so. People coming to see your work deserve your best. Once I was ill-prepared, singing at a celebration for people who are important to me, and I was awful. My lack of preparation detracted slightly from the beauty of their day. It was a shameful experience and though it was 20 years ago sometimes it haunts me, feeding my perfectionist monster, using its stick to push all my control buttons. Today, not often "working", singing only at home and mostly lullabies, I won't even do Karaoke unless I've had a few drinks. So when Anjini asks me to dance the voice in my head instantly goes to, not this year, I don't have time, I don't remember what we did before and I can't learn new dances. "Come on, of course" she says in her soft, melodious voice, "you know it." What is the sound of a small moan pushed out between clenched teeth while shutting your eyes and maybe even sort of hoping the person who is making you uncomfortable will see that you're scared and not ask you to dance? That's the sound I make before I say "yes."
So why, do I do this then? Well, it's fun. It makes me feel beautiful because dancing will do that. And it's truly a gift to be able to join in this glorious Indian culture. Thank you, thank you dear Anjini. Also I remember a mom, strong and lovely, who said yes to Anjini back in preschool and danced with such a smile on her face. I envied her. When she was killed in a car accident a few months after that Festival, leaving 3 children under 10, our small, devastated community talked a lot about her dancing and sang a song called I Hope You Dance at her memorial service. Message received.
Also, did I mention that Anjini is very persuasive?
I'm an English/Irish girl from Pennsylvania. I'm never going to look like the cast of Slum Dog Millionaire. There's no way I can do this perfectly. And that's okay. To tell you the truth I don't even really know all the steps of the second dance. When we were rehearsing today there were a few moments when I just bounced up and down (in the back, thank God) and waved my hands around like I was at a Grateful Dead show. So, with a little anxiety (and a small prayer that I still fit into the Kurta I've been wearing to dance this way for 6 years now) I said yes to dancing again. And that's what I'll be doing at 8:30 tomorrow morning. When you get the chance, I hope you dance, too.
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