Getting physical: it’s all dance to me

Movement comes from the inside out, not from the outside in. At least that’s my truth. Someone asked me once how I decided to dance to a particular piece of music. “It’s not up to me,” I said. “It’s up to the music.”  Let the music in and out the movement comes. You’ve got to keep self out of the way. In other words, don’t interrupt.

Movement: a form of dance like jazz, ballet, modern, a form of what society calls exercise or sport: running, swimming, climbing mountains, hiking, biking, walking, kissing, love making… hell, it’s  all dance to me. I’ve seen definitions of dance I like such as, to perform or take part in as a dancer, and, to bring into a specified condition by dancing. These help me understand why, when live wounds or rewards deeply, getting physical is inherently part of my response. When my mother committed suicide in 1992 I ran two marathons in two weeks in 1993. When my daughter was born, I could’ve danced forever.

Of late, swimming is my “dance floor” and  get-physical refuge, though I’m eyeing some challenges on my bike (summiting Mt. Greylock, Massachusetts’ tallest peak at a modest 3,491 feet) and a few others  I’m keeping off the page (for now).  I’m quietly joyous about my relationship with swimming. I can swim a mile freestyle now. For me this is a big deal. It was fall 2012 when I (finally!) decided to face my fear of water, deep over-my-head water.  Now when life wounds or rewards I’m in the water early morning, churning through, moving, dancing all the way. That movement experience when body, spirit, mind, heart and soul are one.

No better place to be fully alive than in the moment, the only place you have to be, in the moment.


The following is an excerpt from the memoir

I am 12 years old walking across Lincoln Center Plaza on my way to catch a cross-town bus to go to the Harkness School of Ballet. I just got out of my classes at Professional Children’s School, a private school for children in the arts: dancers, actors, painters, models, musicians, composers and so forth.

My weeks are packed. I take dance classes six days a week, go to school five days a week, and work off the books for a couple of hours one day a week washing dishes at a local restaurant near my home. My Dad has instilled in me the importance of always having a job, no matter how few the hours, so I can always have a couple of dollars in your pocket.

I am passing the fountain in the plaza’s center when a middle-aged man with red hair begins to walk next to me. He is on my left. I am in a hurry.

He says, “How are you today, young man?”

“Fine,” I say.

He says, “Where you off too?”

“Dance class.”

“Dance class, really…that sounds nice.”

He continues at my side as we reach the end of the plaza. He says, “Can I ask you something?”

“I gotta catch a bus.”

Would you like a blow job?”

“I already have a job.”

He looks bewildered. “No no. I wanted to know if you want a blow job.”

I am not the most patient 12 year old on the planet. “I just told you, I already have a job.”

We have reached the bus stop. The bus is arriving. He looks at me. “I’m asking you if you’d like a blow job, kid.”

I’ve had it. “What are you, stupid or something? I just told you I have a job.” I glare at him before getting on the bus.

The middle-aged man with the red hair stands outside the bus giving me a strange look. As the bus pulls out, I give him the only reasonable response I can think of, the finger.

My Dad and I are driving home that evening on the Palisades Parkway when I tell him some guy kept offering me a job today.

He sounds surprised. “Somebody offered you a job?”

“Told him I already had a job.”

“Where did this take place?”

“Lincoln Center.”

“Really. What kind of job?”

“He asked me if I wanted a blow job.”

Had I known at that moment what a blow job actually was I would have been immediately as impressed with my father’s ability to keep the car on the road as I am today.

“Oh, Pete,” he said, looking worried. “We need to talk.”

“You okay, Dad?”

“Your okay, that’s what matters. And yes, I’m okay.”

My father then explained what kind of, well, job, I’d been offered. And although I didn’t realize it then, I know now that while ignorance may not always be bliss, it can protect you from trauma.