The heater has been broken at my school for four days. If this was Alaska, I’d be dead, but being San Francisco, it meant teaching in a 52-degree room. Not pleasant, but possible. But by the fourth day, yesterday, with the outside temperature at an unusual chilly 38, it became clear that there was only one way for the kids and I to get through the day—dance!!!
So out went my class plans to work on the Ghana xylophone piece and review some of the jazz pieces. In came the 6th grade and off we went with some vigorous contra dance. In came the 8th and it was time for the Lindy Hop. In came the 5-year olds and up they jumped to the Maple Leaf Rag and marched to Carmen and tiptoed to Mozart’s Sonata and giant-stepped to Handel and galloped to The Wild Horseman and swung to Chopin’s Waltz in Eb and floated to Debussy’s Arabesque and so on. I got some good piano practice in and they got warm. The 4th graders got to skip about in an exuberant game and then learn some cool Shim Sham Shimmy moves taught by my visiting friend Aaron Williams. We all forgot that the room was cold.
They say that chopping wood heats you twice—once from the physical exertion, twice from the logs burning in the wood stove. Same with dancing in a different way. It heats the body and raises the room temperature with 15 moving bodies, but it also warms the heart. A lot of partner dancing that connected people hand-to-hand, the necessary antidote to the cold-hearted texting and chat rooms, group circles with everyone connected in one coordinated large body, the air filled with lively music and giggles and shouts of encouragement and just plain joy. We were born to move and when we move to music in coherent pattern and aesthetic expression, we reach the place where a broken heater doesn’t matter and a broken world feels temporarily in balance. Thanks to Orff Schulwerk for the brilliant practice of connecting movement and music, treating dancing and playing as equal partners. If this had been a traditional orchestra rehearsal, we would have been sawing away with frozen fingers.
Have I mentioned that I love my job?
PS By the end of the day, the heat finally got fixed.