A Dance Passion Essay

Thanks to Joan Bennet for forwarding this.

From: Grace Bighouse 
To: Grace Bighouse 
Sent: Wednesday, February 25, 2009 2:21 PM
Subject: dance passion

This NPR essay from For This I Believe came across my desk recently. 
Dancing All the Dances as Long as I Can
by Robert Fulghum

Robert Fulghum has written seven bestsellers including All I Really Need to
Know I Learned in Kindergarten. 
A native of Waco, Texas, he was a Unitarian minister for 22 years and taught
painting and philosophy. 
Fulghum lives in Seattle and Crete. 

"My passion for tango disguises a fearfulness. I fear the shrinking
of life that goes with aging.
 October 28, 2007  I believe in dancing.

I believe it is in my nature to dance by virtue of the beat of my heart, the
pulse of my blood and the music in my mind. So I dance daily.

The seldom-used dining room of my house is now an often-used ballroom - an
open space with a hardwood floor, stereo and a disco ball. The CD-changer
has six discs at the ready: waltz, swing, country, rock 'n' roll, salsa and

Each morning when I walk through the house on the way to make coffee, I turn
on the music, hit the "shuffle" button and it's Dance Time! I dance alone to
whatever is playing. It's a form of existential aerobics, a moving

Tango is a recent enthusiasm. It's a complex and difficult dance, so I'm up
to three lessons a week, three nights out dancing, and I'm off to Buenos
Aires for three months of immersion in tango culture.

The first time I went tango dancing I was too intimidated to get out on the
floor. I remembered another time I had stayed on the sidelines, when the
dancing began after a village wedding on the Greek island of Crete. The
fancy footwork confused me. "Don't make a fool of yourself," I thought.
"Just watch." 

Reading my mind, an older woman dropped out of the dance, sat down beside
me, and said, "If you join the dancing, you will feel foolish. If you do
not, you will also feel foolish. So, why not dance?"

And, she said she had a secret for me. She whispered, "If you do not dance,
we will know you are a fool. But if you dance, we will think well of you for

Recalling her wise words, I took up the challenge of tango. 

A friend asked me if my tango-mania wasn't a little ambitious. "Tango? At
your age? You must be out of your mind!" 

On the contrary: It's a deeply pondered decision. My passion for tango
disguises a fearfulness. I fear the shrinking of life that goes with aging.
I fear the boredom that comes with not learning and not taking chances. I
fear the dying that goes on inside you when you leave the game of life to
wait in the final checkout line. 

I seek the sharp, scary pleasure that comes from beginning something new -
that calls on all my resources and challenges my mind, my body and my
spirit, all at once. 

My goal now is to dance all the dances as long as I can, and then to sit
down contented after the last elegant tango some sweet night and pass on
because there wasn't another dance left in me.

So, when people say, "Tango? At your age? Have lost your mind?" I answer,

"No, and I don't intend to."