Thursday, December 26, 2002

On Goddesses ...

Rose's lucid comment on dance got me thinking (by the way, thanks for commenting. It's always interesting to know who reads this). I mean, it's pretty obvious that dance is not strictly abandonment - at the very least, whether leading or following, I've got to be paying attention to the music and my partner, and those are deliberate, rational acts. And since I spend most of my dance time leading (it's what I'm best at, and it's the easiest way to dance with girls), my dancing is usually even more cognitive. This is because with all but a tiny handful of partners (and only one consistently) I need to figure out how she's dancing and what she can follow, and adjust myself accordingly.

So all this got me thinking: when I think of dance personified by the Footloose Doll, what do I mean? I think what I mean is that I imagine my worldview as largely dominated by three goddesses, or heroines (goddesses in the sense of personified ideas, heroines in the sense of idealized role models). Each of these represents the extreme of some value. I don't want to reach the extreme, but I do want to participate in it. The first of these (in no particular order) is the Dancer, the Footloose Doll. Her value is that of abandonment, the loosing of restraints, the giving in to lawful passions. I don't think that dance is that, strictly speaking, but I do think (as Blue Rose pointed out) that it is something like that. And for me, the best moments in dance are those when cognition virtually ceases, and the waltz spins both time and space into a spun-sugar halo that settles above my partner's head, and there is nothing to think about because there is only the now. Such experiences are, I think, important in the life of a mature human being. So it is that the Dancer's value is abandonment.

The second goddess is Honor Harrington. Honor is the goddess of service, leadership, and duty. She represents that pinnacle of leadership, where a leader's authority comes not from her position but from who she is - she is that kind of woman who commands the sort of loyalty that comes from genuine love. She is the personification of how you earn that kind of loyalty: by pouring out yourself for those that you lead//serve, by somehow giving all you have to everything you turn your hand to, by being superwoman. She represents meekness, because such an exceptional woman is devoted with all her soul to the legitimate authority placed above her. She seeks not advancement but only to perform her job fully and completely - and because of that advancement comes to her. If a man wishes to be called a man, he must understand and participate in these values of the servant-leader exemplar, and so this is Honor Harrington's value.

The third goddess is Alanna of Trebond (not Alanna the dancer who visits the Ailouriskai every Monday). Alanna's value is that of personal determination and of emotional compartmentalization. Alanna is a heroine who reminds me that if the world comes crashing down on your head, still you can press on. She reminds me that happiness is not a virtue - that it is a nice thing, a wonderful thing, but it is not something that you absolutely must have. She reminds me that emotions are wonderful things to be savored - but that when there is a job to be done, they can and oftentimes should be set aside until the necessity has been met. Emotions can't be turned on and off at will, but a truly grown adult should be able to act independent of them. So this is Alanna's value.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list of my virtues. But these are the Natalian virtues which are old enough to be assigned goddesses who are fictional heroines. There are others whose exemplars are real people: for maturity in worship and raw closeness to Jesus, the Hawaiian; for wisdom and spiritual discernment, Maelana. And there are others who yet have no exemplar, such as the value of childlikeness and the related values of gaming and dance. Some day, I am sure, those values will have their goddesses. And some day I will meet the goddess glaukopis who is both an exemplary woman of God and the woman I will marry - and who knows whether even Alanna, my oldest goddess, will be replaced by that woman?

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Red Jenny and Alanna lent me their dance music collections so I would have some waltz music to take home for Thanksgiving's little dance lesson. Because of this, the size of my mp3 collection has increased considerably, and I find myself with a great deal of dance tunes (like any sensible individual with a virtually empty 120 GB hard drive, I simply copied the contents of both CDs). I don't even know what exactly I have yet, though fortunately it mostly came organized. I do, however, have the Brian Setzer Orchestra's "The Footloose Doll" in my swing collection.

In case you aren't familiar with this song (an omission which I encourage you to rectify, if only so this entry makes more sense) I reproduce the lyrics of this song here:

Look at that chick
In the silvery dress
She's got a cool tattoo
And her hair is a mess
And every single guy in the joint
Is just watching her dance
Dance ballerina,shimmy on down
It's your turn to swing
It's your night on the town
A little gin goes a long way
So please pass it around

She's the footloose doll
Dancin' like a hurricane
She's the footloose doll
I don't even know her name
She's the footloose doll

Now standin' at the bar
Was long cool Eddie
He had a few
And he's not really steady
But he had his peepers
Fixated on the footloose doll
She called out "Hey Eddie"
He was there in an instant
She said, "You know you kinda look
Like Gene Vincent"
That was all he needed to hear
And that was all she wrote

She's the footloose doll
Dancin' like a hurricane
She's the footloose doll
I don't even know her name
She's the footloose doll

Now if your ever in town
And wanna try your luck
The footloose doll
Can really shake you up
But never underestimate
The power of the feline cat
They found poor Eddie
By the side of the road
His clothes were all torn up
And his car had been towed
He never had a chance with a chick
Like the footloose doll

She's the footloose doll
Dancin' like a hurricane
She's the footloose doll
I don't even know her name
She's the footloose doll

Apologies for the length of that. The reason I find this song noteworthy (besides the attitude - every bit of attitude in the lyrics is present in the music) is that it's a good bit of Jungian psychology. That is, it describes the archetype (my archetype, at any rate) of the Dancer. And I'm not referring to my Sweatshirt Girl here, I speak of The Dancer, as a concept.

If you are reading this then you likely know that I like social dance a lot (it's even possible that by the end of the year I'll like swing). What you might not know is how much dance of all kinds has always terrified me - and if you know that, you might not know that I have always longed to dance (and if you knew all three of those things, give yourself a pat on the back because you're more than halfway to understanding my relationship to dance). Ever since that fateful day in kindergarten when Mrs. Church put on that music and told us to dance - that day when I had a choice to dance or not, and I chose not to dance, for that day and for nearly fifteen years after - dance has held this terrible fascination for me. And because of that, there is this figure of The Dancer in my worldview. Like Alanna of Trebond or Honor Harrington, The Dancer is an archetype whose characteristics incarnate some part of me. Oh yes, ladies and gentlemen. I may not be defined by dancing the way Antilles is defined by his CD collection, but in an important way I am defined by dance.

So what is she like, this Dancer? Listen to the song and you'll get a fairly good idea; that's why I consider it noteworthy. The Dancer is strong, yes - all my female heroes are strong while at the same time undeniably feminine - but Alanna and Honor have weaknesses; the Dancer has none. She is an almost elemental force, wild and dangerous but alluring, even inviting. She's the epitome of cool, the girl burning up the dance floor during her birthday dance at Jammix whom everybody wants to dance with and everybody wants to be as good as.

If you think that this boils down to the Dancer being an archetype of the untamed maiden, you're right - but not wholly right. Yes, the Dancer is wild and untamed, and there is a certain vague idea in my head that if she can somehow be domesticated wonderful things will happen. But it is not just that. She is dance itself, as well, and dance is her. Dance is the faculty of abandonment, of lawlessness, wild and dangerous but alluring: dangerous because lawlessness is the enemy of order and duty and everything that I have so desperately wrought myself to value; alluring because for all that I recognize that the day will come when it will be safe for me to throw off the inhibitions and just be: sweep the girl off her feet, burn the roadhouse down, do all those things that I've always wanted to but didn't dare or wouldn't let myself. Things like dance.