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Op-Ed

Invitation to the postelection dance

When in doubt, just emulate Zorba or Gregory Hines or Granny Clampett.

December 16, 2012|By Anne Lamott
  • The point of modern dance isn't to be pretty. It channels and expresses the pulse and impulses that travel through the body; it channels life, and life is not always harmonious.
The point of modern dance isn't to be pretty. It channels and expresses… (Illustration by Anastasia…)

I am traveling around the country these days trying to get people to buy my new book. During the day, I fly to distant cities, my nerves frayed by turbulence, trying to catch a glimpse of the pilot to see if he is drunk or on cocaine. At night, I go onstage, doing the figurative dance we writers do, sharing myself and my stories while trying to sell a few books.

But a strange thing has happened on this book tour. I have found myself not just dancing in that figurative sense; I am also dancing literally, like Zorba, or Gregory Hines, or Granny Clampett.

I attribute this to the election. I'm performing a modern dance of relief in the Jules Feiffer tradition because the election turned out the way it did.

SLIDESHOW: Best and worst outcomes from the 2012 election

In Seattle, my first stop, I danced a shimmying, tribal two-step stomp at the pulpit of a small progressive church. My dance was in gratitude for the state's senior senator, Patty Murray, who took the thankless job of heading the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. No one wanted that job because it seemed entirely possible that Democrats would lose the Senate. Remember?

No one could have predicted when Murray took the job that we'd get such a windfall from Todd Akin and his novel thoughts on pregnancy and rape. Politics is a dance, and as Molly Ivins used to say, you got to dance with those what brought you. That's what Patty Murray did. Ah, life: step, step, triple-step.

Next, in Florida, my intention was to get out there onstage like Hans and Franz on "Saturday Night Live," pumping myself — and my book sales — up. But I couldn't bring myself to do it. I was in Miami-Dade County, the place that helped deliver Florida to President Obama. Instead of hawking my book, I raised my fist, shouting, "Thank you, Florida," and then did an impromptu version of the Macarena. Soon after, in Akron, Ohio, I found myself dancing another ecstatic, if creaky, show of gratitude.

Whenever I see video of Pina Bausch working with new dancers, I think about how frightening it would be to even audition for her. And yet, she gathered a troop of passionate people who let her push them to the truth, using their bodies to say what needed to be said.

I'm not saying I dance like a Pina Bausch dancer, but I have come to understand something lately that they have long known: sometimes, only dance will do. That's how it was for me on this book tour.

The point of modern dance isn't to be pretty. It channels and expresses the pulse and impulses that travel through the body; it channels life, and life is not always harmonious.

This election was nerve-racking, exhausting, demoralizing for everyone who cared about the future of our country, Republican, Democrat or other. And I know that for some people, the turmoil continues. Believe me, I know what it is like to despise the policies of your president and his administration. I know how I felt living with a government that was at odds with everything I believed. So I really do feel for conservatives.

But we need to get on with this business of being a nation, which means we need to help people who are down get back on their feet. Back to dancing.

I know that not everyone will be dancing for joy the way I have been lately. And I know that there will come a time when my dancing won't be so ecstatic. But I've realized something traveling the country: There is always a reason to dance.

The Persian mystic Rumi once wrote, "There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground," and that's true of dancing too. Dance while you do the dishes, while standing in front of a stack of books at the library, while chasing around after a dog or your twin nieces at the park. Sway in place by yourself late at night to the Beatles or Lucinda Williams the way you used to.

The most amazing line of poetry to me — for the crazy paradoxical truth it holds in one sentence — is T.S. Eliot's line, "Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance." There are so many ways and good reasons to dance.

Amen, and cha-cha-cha.

Anne Lamott's most recent book is "Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers."

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