Washington Goes to Dance Class
The news this morning feels to me like the United States itself is going into what astrologers call retrograde. It’s a funny little quirk of planets that, because of how elliptical orbits work, appear to being going backwards from the standpoint of Earth. It perhaps does not go without saying that the rest of the planet is not going retrograde.
So much of what’s being written right now is about undoing the doing of the least-doing-est, most damaging, administration in the history of the executive branch.
It’s come out now that just prior to leaving the World Health Organization, fondly known as the W.H.O., the president of the United States made seven utterly ridiculous, thoroughly self-serving, demands as conditions for the U.S. staying in the organization. One hour after he ordered the Ambassador to Switzerland to present these demands, he withdrew from the W.H.O. in a press conference blindsiding both the ambassador and the W.H.O.
“‘It was an enormous backfire, and it was bound to be,’ added Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University law professor and longtime W.H.O. adviser who also reviewed the list. ‘It wasn’t a negotiation. It was blackmail.’”
In itself that’s no real surprise, is it? Not to me. “[Mr. Gostin] said the list smacked of politics, not good health policy. ‘It was all about my country, my politics, my election.’” Hasn’t it always been? Mayhap the question is better asked, what hasn’t been? It’s a much, much shorter list.
The W.H.O. isn’t the only organization that has been battered by the current administration. The list is too long to print here, but what isn’t too long for this page is the worldwide colossal mess that the Biden-Harris administration will inherit.
And that made me wish that choreographer Debbie Allen’s wish would come true.
Debbie Allen is an exquisite dancer. She played Lydia Grant, the dance teacher, in the movie and the television series. Fame. Now she leads a dance academy in Los Angeles with her overflowing talent and the tough love she’s learned to dish out from her heart.
In a delightful interview from yesterday’s Times, the interviewer asks, “‘Because isn’t passing on that confidence what helps to make a dancer, too?’
Ms. Allen answers, “‘Yes, it is. You can go run the world. You could train as a dancer and go to Washington, honey, and pull that thing together. I always say I wish I could put them all in dance class right now and get this mess straightened out.’
“‘What would dance class do?’
“‘It would remind them that there’s something more powerful than they are. And that it’s not just you. When you’re dancing in the ensemble, you have to be a part, and if you’re the leader of that group, then you have to absolutely know where you’re going. Everyone’s following you. You cannot take the wrong step and end up in the pit.’”
That’s what the U.S. did though. We voted in a leader who did not, does not, and will never know where we’re going because to co-opt and bastardize a current phrase, There is no team in I. The man currently sulking in The White House is an island, disconnected from all he surveys except his Twitter feed.
And, really, the idea of the federal government in dance class is just too delicious not to notice. Ms. Allen teaches all kinds of dance — every kind of dance — because she’s most interested, not in whether her students point their toes, but in whether they have what she calls “the spirit of the dance.”
Ms. Allen insists that her dancers understand dance. She says, “[U]nderstanding dance is about understanding all the arts.” To understand dance, her students look to the past and to the future. They study costumers, set designers, painters as well as choreographers and dancers. She wants them so confident in the righteousness of their dancerliness, if you will, that no one can shake their conviction about the contribution they alone can make.
“So what I’m passing on and giving to my kids is that they know they belong everywhere.”
What if all those alienated and annihilating souls in our nation’s capitol knew they belonged to all of us, Beloved? What might that do to governance?
Ms. Allen maintains that this is “why dance — and all of the arts — should be considered essential. … The arts is essential for people. It keeps them mentally balanced and feeling hope and feeling confident.”
We the People have certainly lost our balance. Hope is thin on the ground in a lot more places than is comfortable. Confidence is the lone, brave songbird that flew the coop ages ago.
Debbie Allen says, “I don’t just hope, I do.”
This is why she has an academy. She puts hands and feet on her hope, to borrow from the Quakers. Bodies too.
If we dare to hope in these decidedly hopeless times — I mean hopeless in the sense that the problems seem so big, so tangled together, so insurmountable — then we need to be in dance class with Debbie Allen. Using our bodies and tough love to rebalance, grow hope, and return to the natural confidence that imbues learning, growing, healthy human beings.
In the excerpt of the photo above, Ms. Allen wears an iconic red baseball cap. Any American alive during this election cycle would recognize it. Except … if you look closely, it doesn’t say what we expect it to say. No, it takes the cap, the same typeface, most of the same words … with one important edit.
MAKE AMERICA DANCE AGAIN.
Shall we, Beloved? With a curtsy to Rodgers and Hammerstein, Shall we dance?
The new film “Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker” is certainly about the vibrant and charming reimagining of the holiday classic that the Debbie Allen Dance Academy presents each season. It premiered on Netflix yesterday.
Dr. Susan Corso is a spiritual teacher, the founder of iAmpersand, and the author of The Mex Mysteries, the Boots & Boas Books, and spiritual nonfiction. Her website is susancorso.com.