‘Cheek To Cheek’: Jammin’ with the One

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‘Cheek To Cheek’: Jammin’ with the One

excruciating pace, I treat myself to two or three songs, enough to break a sweat. Pushing back from the computer for a 4-minute dance break offers reprieve from the frustration of a clunky paragraph, invigorates my mind. My best "breakthroughs" pour out of me in a fatigued but intellectually-sparked state. Writing for me is the most joyous labor I know. But it is labor, and most challenging for me is its solitary nature. Whatever loneliness in me that needs to be filled, dancing, for the most part, can fill it. Plus, I can't fail at it. Neither can you.You may feel silly or clumsy, but failing is no option. I have fallen in love on the dance floor and felt the spirit of love abandon me on a dance floor. I have made egregious errors in judgment based on the swivel of hips. I have felt the bitter hardness after a lovers’ quarrel melt away the moment we embrace to dance. And I have had life-altering, life-affirming epiphanies in the midst of thunderous vocals, a bass beat that could wake the dead, my dancing partner twirling me about. When David Bowie orders ‘Put on my red shoes and dance the blues,’ I revel in bringing more color to the palette. I understand that Marvin Gaye plea, ‘Dance with me, come on dance with me baby,’ is an invitation to passion, to victory. Who would refuse him?

I couldn’t, and I got it honest. I come from a dancing family. Big Mama, my grandmother, was nicknamed Chicken for her 'bird-like' legs, but also because she was a great “stepper.” Lisa, my baby sister, was nicknamed “Boogie” at age two because she liked to put on everybody else’s shoes and dance in them.  One of my favorite pictures finds her dolled up in pink in my stepfather’s Florsheims, knees bent in the toddler bounce. Momma (“Fuzzy” in our family) is light on her feet, full of expressive energy, especially fond of spinning—never out of sync (her spin ends exactly where it began); if I am a good dancer it is because my mother is.

Culturally speaking, dance occupies a vital space in African American life, reflecting an evolving tradition both in dialogue with an African past and influenced by the American present. Scholars Jacqui Malone (Steppin’ on the Blues: The Visible Rhythms of African American Dance); Katrina Hazzard-Gordon (Jookin’: The Rise of Social Dance