You’ll be up on your feet after reading ‘And Then We Danced’

You can’t stop your feet.

They need to move, to tap-tap-tap, to side step, and do-si-do. The music’s on and you gotta move. You can’t help it, your toes gotta go and in “And Then We Danced” by Henry Alford, you take the lead.

Think of all the times you danced in your life.

Your first was likely some bouncy-toddler thing you did, and the adults around you laughed. Later, you endured embarrassing and awkward boy-girl classes, or school events until you became cool (even if only in your mind) and snuck into clubs. You’ve danced at weddings, for fun, for joy; and Alford has danced for work. He’s a journalist who immerses himself in his subject in order to write about it but, in the case of dance, he’s been immersed his whole life.

Dance, he says, is a “universal language.” If you suddenly found yourself in Siberia and you began dancing, nobody would mistake what you were doing. It’s an art, yes — but it’s so much more.

Dance, he says, is a way of “Social Entrée.” Cotillions and debutante balls are good examples, dancing in a club falls into this category, and if you ever took classes from an Arthur Murray studio, you get the picture.

Politics can step onto the dance floor, Alford says. Think about your favorite candidate on the campaign trail, dancing with potential constituents. Or think of the Cakewalk, a dance that was “Originally devised as a way for slaves to mock their masters…”

Teenagers know that dance can be a form of rebellion; icons such as Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham knew that, too. Dance can be a form of emotional release, happy, sad, or angry, and it can involve one’s entire body, almost without thought. Any good church choir can tell you that dance is spiritual. With the right group, it can bring on feelings of nostalgia. And dance, if you need it, can be healing.

There’re a few pleasant little surprises to this book about moving your body: it’s also author Henry Alford’s memoir, and it’s a series of mini-biographies of dancers you may know and admire. And it’s delightful.

Part of the reason is that Alford uses his youth as example here: he was a gawky kid who tried very hard to ignore his gayness, an attempt that made junior high boy-girl dances understandably more awkward. His tales are mostly universal (who didn’t hate forced dance class?) and they’ll make you laugh, while anecdotes of researching to write this book – Alford dives into dance, remember – are woven between the life stories of Murray, Duncan, Graham, Savion Glover, Toni Bentley, and other dancers, as well as lighter-side dance history through the ages.

Yes, there are “Awww, naw” moments along here with the Nae Nae, but the joy in this book supersedes any sadness. All in all, it’s a quickstepper, and for a hoofer, ballet lover, line dancer, or anyone who shimmies and bops, “And Then We Danced” will have you on your feet.

More in Life

‘Talk to Me’ draws from real life

The view from above was stunning. The cliché says that people look… Continue reading

Photo by Haley Ausbun
                                The Browne’s treehouse has evolved from child playland to den.
The transformation of a treehouse

The structure went from pirate playground to practical den.

Illustrations by Rob McClurkan
Dr. Universe tells us the smelliest fruit

Ask Dr. Universe is a science-education column from Washington State University.

Winter is time to dream big, get seed packets ready

Dreary winter days can be spent ordering seed packets, providing dreams of new plants in the spring.

A complicated man, a look into ‘The Mule’

Recommendation: 3/5 Stars, STREAM Plot: “A 90-year-old horticulturist and Korean War veteran… Continue reading

Breathe easier in 2019

Kick start your lung health with National Take the Stairs Day, Jan. 9

You’ll want to hang tight when reading ‘The New Iberia Blues’

Your hand is deep in a bucket of crunchy goodness. Without popcorn,… Continue reading

The return, a review of ‘Ben is Back’

Recommendation: 4/5 Stars, SHOWTIME Plot: “A drug-addicted teenage boy shows up unexpectedly… Continue reading

Most Read