When I started this multi-faceted blog back in early 2014, I wrote the first couple posts about my life-long OCD (obsessive-compulsive dancing). First was the one explaining my personal motto: There’s dance in the old dame yet. The second was about nightlife and my history of dancing in dives and jive-joints. Then I got distracted by subjects in history, politics, and art. Now it’s high time to catch up on public dancing in Santa Fe (NM—not CA, FL, TX, or elsewhere).
I last wrote on the subject four years ago when we actually had two dance clubs in town: the gay bar Blue Rooster (successor to the Rouge Cat) and a new straight nightclub called the Skylight. To my dismay, within a few months the Blue Rooster closed down (cold-cocked?), and I had no choice but to dance among the straight young things at the Skylight to considerably less danceable music. Any port in a storm.
Happily, the SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage soon caused a sea-change in social attitudes about gays, and we became much more accepted in straight venues like the Skylight. It wasn’t uncommon to see guys and gals dancing with each other, respectively—or even sharing PDAs (public displays of affection). In this newly comfortable environment, I’d go out to dance almost weekly (whenever the old man has the energy) for many wonderful carouses.
The only fly in the ointment at the Skylight was the music. In my adolescence I’d been an avid American Bandstand rock’n’roll-er and then switched to Latin wildness for a few years in college. Only much later, I got hooked on disco, and that was my main style for some decades. However, disco music at the Skylight was only painfully occasional.
The more frequent music there was hip-hop, rap, and metal, which didn’t particularly ring my bell. Fortunately, at times they played Latin (called Hispanic here), which took me back to my debauched youth in frenetic cumbias and exuberant merengues. And with an effort of sheer will, I tried to get into the new EDM (electronic dance music), which only sometimes was danceable. Like the little girl with the curl, when it was good, it was excellent, but when it was bad, it was perfectly horrid—and way too loud.
All my life dancing has been a philosophical thing (I dance, therefore I am!) Or maybe better, a spiritual practice (To dance is to live!). Spiritually speaking, I’m a dervish. As I’ve explained in my second memoir (in process), “…unlike ball-room and folk dancing, both Apollonian in their structure, synchronization, and impeccability of movement, my dance is free-form and unrestrained, responding on a visceral level to rhythms and melodies and surrendering to the divine frenzy of Dionysius.” Call me a maenad!
Then came that Saturday night in early December last when I ambled down Don Gaspar happily anticipating another divine frenzy. Only to find the Skylight’s big iron gates closed up with a huge chain and padlock! Stunned, I staggered up San Francisco Street to the Plaza (with its outrageous holiday lights), and ran into Brandi, Santa Fe’s prima donna drag celebrity, who confirmed that our nightclub was indeed closed down totally. Nowhere to go but home, bereft.
After a few weeks of complaining to all and sundry about the loss of the Skylight and dancing at home in solitary splendor to reggae and Salsa Sabrosa (on KUNM), a dear friend mentioned a group called Embody Dance that meets weekly on Thursdays at the Railyard Performance Space. Their website sounded very like a group I’d visited back last spring for a splendid ecstatic experience. Though I’d put myself on their mailing list, I never heard from them again.
The last Thursday of 2017 I showed up for a session of Embody Dance and was thrilled to find the perfect venue for my OCD: shoeless, unspeaking, and idiosyncratically undisciplined, with adventurous and dance-inspiring music. In the delightfully diverse company of some sixty folks, for two non-stop hours I surrendered to the divine frenzy and left feeling perfectly fulfilled.
The next Thursday, the first in 2018, I went back to Embody Dance and jubilated again with an even larger crowd, some of whom were maybe even as old as I! After sixty years of dancing, I finally feel like I’ve come home. Tonight I’ll be doing the mad maenad thing again.