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Dancing: You Know How To Get Down

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In my high school, a large contingent of the student body was Vietnamese. Feisty and fun, they were regularly the first to boogie when school dances got underway. Their pint-sized, lithe bodies would tear up the dance floor and rouse others to follow. I, on the other hand, preferred the quiet along the sidelines. I loved music, played a bit of piano, bought CDs before I even had a player, BUT I 'couldn’t dance' and didn’t believe I should disgrace the rest of the school by trying. Dancing wasn’t 'my thing,' I reasoned. I’d stick to appreciating music, reading books, and making conversation.

Two of my Vietnamese friends cornered me one night and told me, in no uncertain terms, 'Girl, you’re brown, you know how to get down. Get out there!' Out of deference to them, I gave it a halfhearted try. It was embarrassing and hard to keep going for long, but I do remember feeling a small smile start to wiggle on my face.

Scientific studies and dance instructors extol the health benefits of dancing, including increased endurance, flexibility, weight loss, and reduced risk of heart disease. One acclaimed study from early in this millennium even said that dancing was associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s. Plain old exercise didn’t have the same effect; it’s something about dancing’s mix of a physical workout tied with mental acuity (you have to remember all the moves!) and its emotional core.

In a deeper sense, dance has always been an integral part of cultures — an intimate expression of a people’s history and personality. The sub-Saharan drum dance of the African continent couldn’t be more different from the stepdancing Irish jig or the sexy, tantalizing tango of South America. The diversity between national dances is akin to the crevices between cultures. However, a thread of truth weaves them all together — it’s about movement, and every body needs to move.

After the blushing moment with my Vietnamese compatriots, I got older and less beholden to what others thought of me and my non-dance dancing. I found myself on the dance floor more and more, in my living room, at weddings, family gatherings, and festivals. Yet I wasn’t under the false impression that I was suddenly graceful or had collected through osmosis some secret dance moves from my high school boogie-movers. No, it all boils down to the simple fact that music compels me to move. Not all music does it to the same degree, but I respect it when it happens and then I seek it out again.

Summertime in Tahoe/Truckee offers a ton of chances to get your groove on. Duck into venues ranging from restaurants to backyards and the Crystal Bay casino to the Squaw Valley Chapel, and you will find rock, classical, country-western, hip hop, bluegrass, glitch breakbeats, and sometimes even world music. If you don’t find it irresistible to move, try out another genre.
I am now convinced music is food for the soul and dancing is its expression. Who are we to resist our soul’s sustenance?

As always,
Mayumi Elegado

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March 14, 2019