GNL number 55

a report of doings at meeting #55, Sunday, December 4, 2011
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


I would only believe in a God that knows how to DANCE.
—–Friedrich Nietzsche


What many-splendored fun the subject of DANCE gave us!  From memories to wild demonstrations.  First the memories, and Anna’s went way back to when she was in her late teens in New York, and was actually doing modern dance, even studying with a Martha Graham group. She showed us several stunning old photos of herself in beautiful, expressive poses as lead dancer in a group or solo dancer.  She said by the time she was about twenty and facing the choice of a dedicated professional career, she backed off, and soon began her cross-country adventures, and after a while, other interests like photography, never to return to dancing. She now feels those early years of intense dance were in large part responsible for the hip deterioriation that led to two hip replacements in the last ten years.

Sue also remembered when she discovered as a young student at Oberlin College, how freeing and relaxing dance was for her in that climate of intense study, and how she continued this through school.  She gave us other happy dance images too, like her dad doing Elvis with a flower in his teeth, and more recently, her 3-year-old grandchild’s joyously uninhibited dance recital performance!  And she showed us two, also joyous, small papier-mache dancer figures, read some wise and witty quotes, and referred us to Joanna Macy’s Elm Dance.

Ann did some recalling too, eg. about those school years of required gym dancing which most of us hated and she fought, but then later in adulthood the discovery she loved the more communal kind of dancing, as in contra-dance, with its wonderful rhythmic,fiddle music.  This she and Ell have done for years, especially in Cooperstown, at the Dance Flurries—fun-filled, community-spirited events where, she assured us, people of all levels of proficiency or none, are welcome and fit in!  And indeed later we put on the country dance music and did some wild doseydoeing.

Gail’s memory was also stirred by this subject; dancing in the kitchen was a common thing in her childhood home. And she and Virginia still love music.  Virginia brought a cd by one of her favorite country singers, Taylor Swift, and later we did dance to a couple of Taylor’s swingy, sweet songs.  But we should have done the chicken dance, because they reported they’d recently taken part in Cobleskill’s 4H parade of member kids and their animals, and V had brought her chicken (yes, chicken) which she’d dressed in imaginatively festive garb.  Pictures next time, we hope.

Vijaya, who grew up in India, where dance is very much part of life, remembered her own refusal as a child to do the dancing expected. In fact she said it was only much later when she was 52 and here in the US, that she had a change of heart and decided she needed to dance.  So the next time she went back to India, she totally astonished her family at a gathering by dancing up a storm!   Today she brought her beautiful, special dancing skirt, and wore it as she and we danced up another one.

Nancy wanted to say less and play more, so she brought two CDs, and we played three songs and bopped till we dropped, or in some cases, fell down from laughing.  These were from Dan Zanes’ CD: Dance Party—All Around the Kitchen (with Loudon Wainwright III), and from Taj Mahal’s CD: Shake a Tailfeather—the song of the same name, then The Land of 1000 Dances, and they featured such cherished gems as the twist, alligator, fish, mashed potatoes, watusi, boogaloo, and shingaling. Could we remember how to do these? Of course not.  Did that stop us? Of course not.   We probably ought to do this every time as part of the liturgy.  (CDcopies available.)

Since there is still need among this county’s flood victims, we decided to give our offering once again to SCCAP’s Flood Relief Program.


And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane
by those who could not hear the music.


Sunday, January 8, 2012 (1030), at Sue’s house, on Quarry Street, Cobleskill.  The topic will be Looking Back and Looking Forward.   (And Sue reminds us to be thinking about that interesting question, What’s your earliest memory?  Even if it was not a clear event, but a more felt sense….)


from Sue:

  • Gorky once said that a people who do not dance will die.” ~quoted by Willow Wilson in “The Butterfly Mosque: A Young American Woman’s Journey to Love & Islam, Atlantic Monthly Pr., 2010,” p. 181
  • “Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.” ~William Stafford
  • “Dance is the only art of which we ourselves are the stuff of which it is made.” ~Ted Shawn, Time, 7/25/’55
  • “Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.” ~ Samuel Beckett
  • “If I can’t dance – I don’t want to be part of your revolution” ~ Emma Goldman
  • “Dancing is moving to the music without stepping on anyone’s toes, pretty much the same as life.” ~Robert Brault, (one I didn’t read)
  • The Elm Dance—created and used by Eco-Feminist & Peace Activist, Joanna Macy in her workshops around the world to heal, encourage, and re-empower people who are working towards The Great Turning.
  • Youtube video of Elm Dance
  • Dancing figures by Sarena Mann

Might as well dance
Going the way of all flesh down
into the animal earth
the trail is clear, footprints and
hand of those who went before.
Happiness is brief and every day
we tell ourselves—this will not
last. To each of us comes
the enormous beast. Fortunate
the mothers whose children
outlive them….
In the meantime, dance.
My man his hands marking
time upon my body,
my man tells me:
On the radio I heard
an old Zen man say:
Only fools dance,
only fools watch the dance.
Might as well dance!
I answer with my hands and mouth.
I answer stomping doo-dah time:
This little wisdom
these radio words you heard
translate well caress and clasp.
This body that will die
dances best with you
alive and knowing
~Susan Fantl Spivack, 1989

from Ann:

  • a classic 6wordie:
    • Dancing while driving; thanks cruise control.

    from Nancy:

    • Never trust a spiritual leader who cannot dance.
      —–Mr. Miyagi, in The Next Karate Kid
    • Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but your living room.
      —–Kurt Vonnegut
    • Socrates learned to dance when was 70 years old because he felt that an essential part of himself had been neglected.
      —–Source unknown
    • Anyone who says sunshine brings happiness has never danced in the rain.
      —Author unknown
    • Stifling an urge to dance is bad for your health—it rusts your spirit and your hips.
      —–Terri Guillemets
    • To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful.
      —–Agnes De Mille



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