Long Arms

I’m gonna talk about Martha Graham today. One of my favorite books, The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood, is about an apocalyptic future and the pods of goodness that are surviving in the midst of the chaos.

One pod of goodness is taking shape at a small liberal arts university called The Martha Graham College.

It was the kind of college for the kind of kids who didn’t fit into or understand or want to take part in the mainstream.

In this apocalyptic future, The Martha Graham College is falling apart, with big chunks of the walls and the ceilings caving in on themselves.

Survivors of the flood move in to The Martha Graham College, and gingerly begin to build their own society and culture inside of the crumbling structure.

I am 20 years out of any sort of college or university or school situation, and I still have nightmares - sit-up straight in bed nightmares, can’t catch my breath nightmares, sweating and panting and moaning nightmares - about DANCING IN COLLEGE, both undergraduate and graduate.

Weird and embarrassing.

My most common reoccurring nightmare is that I failed a required course, and I am still in college.

I am still in the dance studio with the marley floor and the big wide windows, and the ballet barres encircling the space.

I am still in my leotard, tights, and ballet slippers, with my hair shellacked into a tight bun.

I wake up in the morning from these nightmares, with such relief and liberation in my heart that this isn’t my reality anymore, that I have been known to jump up and down on the bed, whooping with joy, waking all parties who were just moments ago sleeping cozily in said bed.

This expression of exultation at 6am does not go over well with the humans and the non-humans at my house, therefore I would not recommend this method of release at your own home, in your own bed, when you yourself wake from a nightmare of being back at dancing school in an outfit that makes you feel like a sausage spilling out of it’s casing.

But back to the crumbling down Martha Graham School in Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood:

I have found this school, The Martha Graham College, right here in Boulder, CO., the year after our own flood rocked this town to its core.

And since attending this particular dancing school, my nightmares have started to abate (which thrills my household to no end) and the idea of dancing school or dance class or any formal dance training is not so distasteful to me at this moment in time.

I have found my own little pod of goodness in the back corners and darkened hallways of the very shiny town in which I live.

Every time I enter into my own Martha Graham College, I feel Ms. Graham sitting there waiting for me, along with Doris Humphrey, Isadora Duncan, Hanya Holmes, and all the others who, with their tireless and renegading spirits, generously invite me, and you, and your mother, and your grandmother, to step into the dance that has always, always been there, just waiting for all of us to notice.

Your dance mission for the week is to imagine that your arms are long, longer than they actually are.

With your extra long imaginary arms, begin to dance.

Right now, at your desk, or on the floor, or while sitting on the train on your way to work.

Dance with your very long and articulate arms.

Here’s a song to get you going.

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With Warmth and Jivey Vibes, Joanna of Joanna and The Agitators sweetly agitating/persistently upending