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Before I wrote poetry I danced. I told stories with my hands. You might say as a poet I still tell stories with my hands as they float across the keyboard. I was recently prompted to write a blog about what kind of music made me want to get up and dance. Here is my response.
Time has flown since
swam from my fingertips
as I danced
the tales I was taught.
These same hands
built a business,
showed horses how to trust
and the babe
in my arms how to love.
Now spotted with age,
my fingers float
across a keyboard
placing phrases on a page
to tell my stories.
~Judi Van Gorder
I dance to the music in my soul. If it has a beat, I can move to it. I have been a dancer all of my life.
My Mom said I danced before I could walk. By the age of 5 she put me in tap lessons, very popular in the 40s. I graduated to jazz and at the age of 7, the dance school offered a class in hula taught by a Hawaiian instructor. My Mom thought it would teach me grace and enrolled me, There were only 4 girls in our class, I was the youngest. Throughout my teens our little quartet toured with a troupe, dancing the hula and some Tahitian numbers. We were very popular and got pretty good.
Many years later when I first opened my insurance agency, an older woman came into my office for insurance. She had just moved to California from Hawaii. When I asked her occupation she said "hula dancer". And of course, I responded, "I can hula". She shook her head and politely laughed at the blonde houli on the other side of the desk and nicely told me that to be a good hula dancer you need to begin training at a young age. At that, I stood, slipped off my heels, walked around the side of the desk and went into a vamp. She could only respond, "You can hula!". Yes, I can.
A few years later while visiting the Island of Maui as a Soroptimist regional board member for an International Leadership Conference, other board members and myself were out for an evening and stopped at a nice bar for a drink after dinner. There were some locals at the bar, playing ukuleles and guitars and a woman from their group got up and began to hula. It happened to be a song I knew from when I was a kid so I took off my shoes and joined her. The local Hawaiians were delighted that I knew the dance and moved like a native. They wanted more and the woman and I obliged. My fellow board members were in awe and wanted to learn. Of course, I had to shake my head, politely laugh and nicely told them that to be a good hula dancer you need to begin training at a young age.
I may be old now, but my body knows how to move with grace and rhythm. I can still do the hula. I love to dance and don't need much encouragement to do so.
tell a story while hips sway
* Hawaii’s state fish shown through the hands of the hula dancer by extending the left hand, palm down and placing the right hand on top with thumbs protruding on each side. The hands then undulate while the thumbs rotate. “when the humuhumunukunukuapua’a come swimming by” ♬
~~Judi aka Tinker
illustrated by Robert g. Jerore
It was an average size theater, capable of seating two hundred persons. Tonight it was filled to capacity. The variety of entertainment presented during this evenings program was very enjoyable. There had been two vocal solos; a small singing group; an orchestral presentation; twin pianos duet, and a flautist. The twenty minute intermission which allowed a comfort break was over, and the second half of the evenings program was near completion, except for a female violinist who was last on the program.
Auditorium lights overhead dimmed.; muffled sounds emanating from the audience diminished except for an occasional cough. Dark red, velvet curtains slowly opened accompanied with faint clicking of a few worn rollers as they moved along the rail, from which the curtains were suspended. The crowd hushed...another cough.
From the left wing of the stage a lone figure emerged, illuminated by a small spot light beaming down from overhead. He strode toward a Grand piano stationed at left-center of the stage. Placing sheets of music against the upright rest on the piano, he seated himself on a frail looking bench, raising slightly to adjust his tuxedo tails. Not satisfied, he raised and seated himself twice more, before looking beneath the key board. There he tapped lightly with his foot, on the pedals of the piano. Adjusting a small lamp above the music rest, he fingered through the sheet music assuring himself everything was in readiness. Finally, he nodded slightly toward the right side of the stage.
Behind the opened curtain at the right wing, a young woman appeared, carrying a violin and bow. Clapping of the audience began the moment she appeared. She was wearing a light blue, strapless gown that flowed like water around her lithe body as she moved. Another spotlight followed her; its beam causing tresses of her long blonde hair to gleam like spun gold; clapping continued. At center stage she turned toward the audience...bowing slightly, acknowledging their enthusiastic greeting. Slowly, the applause faded, there was quiet except from somewhere in the audience again a light cough.
Turning toward the pianist she nodded. At first his fingers touched the ivory keys lightly, then grew more intense as he played the lead to her chosen song. Raising the violin, she placed it beneath her chin, nestling it against her slender neck. It felt cool there. Drawing the bow across its strings lightly; she persuaded the violin to speak, as only a violin knows how. Sweet strains poured forth from the instrument filling the auditorium with a near human-like quality. Crying softly at first...resembling a plea of pure loneliness. It moaned as though deeply wrought in sorrow, calling out to a lost lover, yet knowing there would be no response to its cries. Softly, its soulful anguish began to fade.
Her slender fingers gripped the violin tightly, pressing the strings more firmly, the music began to change. The instrument’s lament ranged from a lonely melancholy moan to an assertive voice, wantonly demanding further release. She wanted not to give in to the urges she was being drawn toward, but she played on, swaying slowly to and fro, hesitating very briefly, before allowing the violin to press onward.
With a firm hand she manipulated the taut bow relentlessly on tightly drawn strings, her slim body twisting slightly back and forth...keeping with the music tempo for several moments. As music pressed on complying and demanding, a forceful pace increased. Steadily the prominence of the violin seemed to gain control over the violinist. Its sorrowful wail no longer to be a part of the score. Its voice changed to an appeal of necessity. The bow was drawn on strings with forceful urgency. Knowing she was about to lose control, she gripped the violin with greater consideration. In the background the piano had increased its rhythm, the pulse of music was broadening.
Reaching deeply into her reserve, she pressed on in an extreme flurry of movement, forcing the instrument to greater heights. The tempo had reached a frenzied pitch that neither she nor the violin would be able to sustain much longer. The audiences sensed an ending was near. At last the violin screamed outward a piercing note, holding it for what seemed an eternity, before dropping to a near muted sigh. As though a oneness, the breath of the audience released in a culminating gasp of relief. The pianist pounded two sharp chords indicating an absolute ending, then it too faded softly to silence.
The performance was complete; it was a frantic finale. The audience was standing, the auditorium resounded with an outpouring of clapping hands and cheers. A climatic chill rushed down her spine, and loosened itself upon her. She held her position, inhaling deep breaths, then emitting them slowly. She changed the violin and bow to her right hand, then although they were still not visible to her in the darkness, she bowed again and again to an audience on the main floor, then to each balcony. Finally, not to be forgotten, she raised a moisture ladened arm toward her accompanist, extending the audience overture to him also.
Applause slowly ceased; she exited to the right wing from which she entered; each step a cautious step. Behind the curtain, she handed her violin and bow to a waiting stage attendant, and collapsed onto a wooden chair. A cool glass of water was handed to her; she sipped it slowly.
From the auditorium, approval began again. Regaining her composure, she arose and once more made the trip to center stage, her pianist joined her. They took several more bows. The lights brightened above her and the audience. A young man appeared from the right wing as the clapping slowly dwindled. He carried in his upraised hands a large offering of white roses. A smile broadened on her lovely face, as she graciously nodded to him and accepted them. Showing signs of approval, the clapping increased once more. She bowed again one more time, then left the stage walking directly to her dressing room. Her violin preceded her and had been placed in an opened, velvet lined, leather case.
Carrying the flowers to a dressing table, she opened the wrap, and lifted out a few long stem roses. Approaching the violin she gently caressed its surface before placing the roses on top of it. She whispered in a wavering, emotional voice, “These roses are for you. The audience approval and climatic ending I received, was more than I anticipated.”