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My People Didn’t Dance

October 31, 2017
dance

By Mathina Calliope

When my father turned 64 a few years ago I gave him a playlist especially for him. I labeled it The Happy Birthday Daddy Salsa Primer. Salsa—the dance and the music—was a fierce passion of mine but unknown to him, and I hoped he would enjoy discovering something both new and important to me. But at the party we threw for him, my mother thought I was giving him instructions for dance rather than an introduction to music—an insensitive gift for a man with a bad back. From across the living room, I saw disappointment pinch her face before she rolled her eyes and looked away. It was subtle, but it rent me.

What passion for dance my mother might have held had died one night in the fifties when her father, turning into the driveway on a darkening Upper Michigan evening, spied her youthful profile in the warm yellow rectangle of her bedroom window. She was dancing in front of the mirror. I imagine her twirling, or lifting her arms over her head and letting them drift down, like silk parachutes, to her sides. Until, that is, my grandfather burst through the door, belt in hand. In his household, dancing was a sin against God.

Dancing was okay by my father, who loves many kinds of music. Alas, his family did not genetically endow him with that crucial dance prerequisite, rhythm. His clapping hands seldom sync with the beat. Continue Reading…

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