Joel McKerrow | 23 Mar 2023

What Dancing Taught Me About God

I am BY NO MEANS a dancer. There are many creative expressions I play with, but dancing (and also singing) are definitely not in my repertoire. I do love dance though and I have watched a whole lot of it over the years, and occasionally I’ve even been known to twirl a foot and an arm through the air, be it at a wedding, or a spontaneous communal romp or by myself in the dark.

It always begins with the cumbersome and the weighted down and the slightly awkward and sometimes that’s where it remains. But occasionally I have pushed through to find the freedom that lies on the other side of my inhibitions. 

In the middle of the pandemic and sometime between our endless lockdowns, I got to have two nights away by myself in a country retreat airbnb. Alone in the fields. The stars all bright and shining and so inviting, I let myself go that night. Let my clothes go that night. I was naked dancing under the stars, stretching out my lockdown limbs and throwing my lockdown body through the sky.The emotions welled up inside and I wept as I danced. Nothing else in the world existed but me and my body and the wind and the stars and God. God was there too. Dancing with me. God loves my naked body.

I do remember the day that I divorced from my body. A cut and a separation. I was fourteen and hairy and she was fifteen and told me that she would never date someone with a hairy back. I crumbled. Stumbled. Ran. Headfirst out of that room.

Headfirst. It is the right word. My body did not follow. I left it behind. Forgot that I had one. It was easier that way. I began to wear t-shirts to the beach during teenage years so that I didn’t have to show myself to the world. And I knew that girls had body issues but I was never told that men could have them too. It is too harsh a world with too many a critic and too much to be insecure about in the face of so many opinions. I could not live up to who they wanted me to be. So I separated from my body, without even meaning to. 

Sometimes I wish that we were all just science-fiction heads held in glass jars interacting with the world around us through mechanical arms. It would certainly make life easier. But I am not, and you are not, and we are not made to be like everybody else, to have the same body as everybody else. My body is red hair and freckles. My body is hairy back and the hairy shoulders. My body is awkward and has lumpy bumpy bits. My body is beginning to not work as well as it once did. Creak of back. Limp of ankle. I have never looked magazine ready. It would take a long time to photoshop the hairiness from the pages. But I refuse to laser my hair away. I refuse to give in to the ideal of smooth skin with no blemish. No blemish. It is a lie that does not become us. 

Let us rather look at ourselves in the mirror until we love what we see. Let us rather learn to embrace our whole selves again. To taste again. To feel again. To be sensual again. To dance again. Let us dance again. For it is moments of dance that remind me I have a body. It is moments of dance that connect me back into limb and lung and forward movement. And, of course, the physical flows out into the emotional, and so the tears flow and, of course, they both flow out into the spiritual. Dance has so little to do with the cognitive and the reasoned and the rational. One movement made, or one movement watched at a dance show, and, for no seeming reason, my heart is exploding. I don’t know why it does this, but I know that it does. Dance, says Martha Graham, ‘… is the hidden language of the soul of the body.’ And slowly, so slowly, I am learning how to listen to her.

If God is anything, God is a movement, a hidden language, a naked dancer set-on-fire in the dark night.

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