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Dancing Queen

Since she was a newborn, Maddie and I have regularly had dance time together. At first it was Maddie in the Bjorn  while I tried vainly to calm her colicky cries; then we moved on to pure entertainment  with Madeleine sitting in the bouncy chair and me running through my best stuff. And let me tell you, she was a tough critic.

But as she developed, girlie moved from spectator to participant. She’s now a full-fledged dancin’ queen and has definitely earned her shoes. Her heart’s always been in it, and I’ve been fascinated to watch how her dancing style developed as her body came under her control.

When she first began participating she was severely limited, since she couldn’t actually walk or stand up. She loved to bob vigorously, though, and would hiney scooch around the floor with the best of them. We added scarf dancing soon after, and she’d wave vigorously while mommy twirled around her.

Being able to pull herself to standing ushered in a whole new era of Maddie dancing, and she never looked back. 

Her first move, and one I still look back on fondly, was the surfer squat. She’d clutch the table with one hand, hold her other arm out wide from her side for balance, and with her feet planted firmly apart, she’d squat vigorously. In time to the music. I’m not kidding here – many people saw it! Put on some good tunes – say, the Beatles or Justin Roberts – and she’d smile, pull herself up to standing, and be off.

As her balance got better, her confidence increased and she began throwing her upper body into it, albeit still one-armed. That free arm, though, would wave vigorously in what I call the Maddie Twist – front, back, front, back, around and around her waist. Put on music she really loved and that arm would become a blur. Add the Surfer Squat for emphasis – Maddie twist for several beats, then freeze in the Surfer Squat, then back to the Twist – and you’ve got some tricky choreography going on.

When she began walking unassisted, of course, her dancing hit new heights. Finally, she was free to twist with both arms, which developed into what I consider her current signature style – the Joe Cocker. It’s a sort of arm move, with the elbow going into her waist, and a simultaneous side bend toward the arm. She throws her whole body into it and can get to really rocking from side to side.

A new step’s begun creeping into the repertoire, though it hasn’t supplanted the Joe Cocker. It’s the Maddie Lou stomp, and you can guess what it involves. She has designated spots in the house or on the playground for the stomp; she’ll run to one of “the spots”, stomp vigorously for several beats (almost running in place), then run to another spot, stomp some more – you get the picture.

Of course, at the park, there’s a water balloon held aloft in the right hand the whole time. Usually an orange one.

Then she grins at you, and goes back into the Joe Cocker.

As cute as it is to talk about the individual steps, I have to tell you that I’m learning so much from her simply by observing her joy in dancing. She’s not dancing because she wants to entertain people, or get a gig, or make me happy, or anything like that. She’s dancing because she’s so happy she has to express it in a way bigger than language, bigger than anything she could say out loud.

She has to shout her joy with her whole body.

Maddie dances when there’s music, sure. Get the worship band going on Sunday morning and there’s no keeping that kid still. But she also dances when I hand her Silky sometimes. She dances when she hears Gamma come in the door. She even dances when I tell her it’s time to eat, or when she sees me with a bag of Veggie Booty in my hand. Just a couple quick steps to express her happiness.

Dancing is a physical “yippee!” from my daughter. It’s her version of tail-wagging, one step up from hand clapping and one step shy of fainting with joy. And I have to wonder – when did we all stop doing that? When did we learn the “right” ways to show happiness?

Maybe I’ll try to take a page from Maddie’s playbook, and I’ll do a happy dance next time I eat some chocolate.


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