Kathy Anderson, me (my red back) and Susan Bartron Reents
“Vanz Kant Danz”—John Fogerty
MAYBE VANCE CAN’T DANCE BUT I CAN
An acquaintance recently made a chance comment that set me off down a path where I’d been before, a path I didn’t like the first time. I liked it even less this time.
The blithering acquaintance said, “The last thing I wanted to see was some fat person out there sweating and dancing.”
I am a fat person, what Alexander McCall Smith calls a woman of “traditional build.” I love to dance. When I dance, I sweat.
The vacuous, insensitive comment took me right back to the day I sat in the faculty section of the auditorium at the high school where I taught. Next to me was a small-boned and slender teacher, a lover of the arts, a runner. She ate fiber crackers and maybe a few grapes for lunch, and a soft-boiled egg for dinner, tiny bits in order that she might stay thin.
We were looking at the stage where the high school dance team was performing a number. One of the young dancers was more robust than the others.
The non-eater said to me, “That is ugly. Fat people should not dance in public.”
She said that to me as if my largess was invisible. Her BIG-otry shattered me.
I always find dancing magical and mesmerizing. Music and movement in their exchange of molecules elevates us to a higher place. In a blur of bodies and rhythm, synchronicity resides. To my eyes, the young woman of traditional build was by far the best dancer on the stage, entranced and entrancing. She was joy personified. How ironic to hear Miss Thin say this dancer out of all of them onstage shouldn’t be there.
Stunned, I kept quiet but I was sure the dancer and I had just been put down by a big chunk of fatism.
No wonder people are afraid to dance when critics like these lurk, waiting to strip them of their joy.
I have to endure “women-sized” clothing designed as if giant squares of cloth sewn together is considered stylish. I have to endure outdoors companies telling me, “We don’t make winter coats for women your size,” as if we shouldn’t be allowed to hike, ski or snowshoe along with our friends.
I will no longer endure rude comments by those who also feel other fat people and I should not be seen dancing. Hello? Have you seen Queen Latifah dance? How about Marissa Jaret Winokur, that cute woman from Hairspray? How about sports analyst Warren Sap, who made it to the finals of Dancing With the Stars, not because of his precise technique but because people all across America loved witnessing his absolute joy of dance?
Dancing is what humans do to show who they are and how they fit into this world. Dancing is how we demonstrate happiness at being alive. Dancing is ritual and tribal trancemaking. My favorite music is the kind that makes me want to jump up and dance. I do.
Nobody’s going tell my sisters and me that we can’t break into dance when we hear a good song at the grocery store. Not only do we dance that song, we sing it too and we have BIG voices. We’ve been dancing amongst the oranges and grapefruit for years.
A bunch of folks have taken our lead. On the internet, check out Antwerp’s Centraal Station in Belgium or “Brian and Katie’s Evolution of Dance Wedding.” Watch Judson Laipply in “Evolution of Dance,” or “Matt Harding’s World Dancing Tour.” Have you seen those videos on You Tube? If you need more, watch T-Mobile’s ad made at the Liverpool Street Station or the Grand Central scene in the film, “The Fisher King.” Everyone, from large to small, is having a good time.
I’m older now, besides being fat. Next thing you know, we old, fat people are going to be told no one wants to see us dance. Those Nasties better not be coming to my Zumba class then because nobody is gonna stop my feet or my hips once I get them started!
As prescribed by his doctor, my 85 year-old uncle dances three times a week and he’s still going strong. I’d say that’s a hell of a lot better way to die, if it comes to that, than sitting in a stupor in front of a TV screen.
The truth is that we’d all be healthier if we danced every day no matter what our size. We’d be more joyful. Dancing is a blessed felicity that builds on itself.
When I get hit by happy, it just has to come out and the best way it comes out is by dancing. If seeing me bouncing about bothers you, just turn your head because I’m not stopping. I’ve got a move on.