‘Cheek To Cheek’: Jammin’ with the One

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‘Cheek To Cheek’: Jammin’ with the One

Formations in African-American

Culture); Marshall Stearns (Jazz Dance); Lynne Fauley Emery (Black Dance); and Brenda Dixon Gottschild (The Black Dancing Body: A Geography from Coon to Cool) have written exquisitely on black social and sacred dance.  More close to home, my family shows great eagerness when it comes to dancing.  We dance at birthdays, graduations, weddings, reunions, and just because. One of my fond memories of adolescence is being pulled out on the dance floor—our hideous russet brown living room carpet—by my mother, who paid no heed to my mood. Sure, we had just argued about my hair or wardrobe or the hours I put in on the telephone, but she never failed to transform me into her willing student. She snapped her fingers; a gleam lit her eyes as she commenced a more sophisticated version of what the youngsters were doing, or a new bold and intricate dance move. Then she’d order me to repeat it  Despite my eye-rolling, when we joined each other in motion, in music, Momma and I laughed, sweat. “Come on Shay, bop till you drop. Bop till you drop,” she’d say. I did. We did—to oldies-but-goodies like the Spinners’ “Working My Way Back to You Babe,” or Teddy Pendergrass’s “Joy,” celebrating a special mother/daughter rhythm. A rhythm that impelled me to take the stage, performing original choreographies before large audiences as a member of my high school’s Dance Team, during my most awkward years. (Parents who don't dance with their children are as strange to me as July snow in New York City. Among the moments I live for are the arrival of—and first dance with—my adopted infant daughter, both occurring the same day.)

I have been romantically involved with people from all walks of life: I am lucky, big-hearted, and when it comes to loving, completely fearless, for better or for worse. Distinguished from each other by their individual gifts and idiosyncrasies, race, gender, class, religious-background, what yolks my former loves is an affinity for dance. My first serious adult romance with someone significantly older meant dancing in private, in the living room and the bedroom. The experience of having several men approach my partner (a different one) and me at a packed dive on Kansas City's Main Street—to say that they loved watching "the most beautiful women in the room dance" because we were so obviously in love, "[our] bodies perfectly in-tune"—was a highlight