So this is my attempt to explain my moment of pure joy on Thursday night of Pinewoods. Describing what happened is easy. Describing why it made me so happy may not be.
Every night at Pinewoods, for about two hours, there was a dance. Bob and Julie were in charge of this event, and every night they put together a dance from a different culture. One night they put on an English Ceilidh. One night they called dances from the Minnesota-Canada Border. One night staffers Bill and Livia programmed a Balkan evening. Every afternoon a band of staffers and campers would work through the sort of music they would play that night.
I mostly sat and watched the dancers, but not entirely.
The last dance was a "best of" night, when various dances called earlier in the week were called again. One of these dances was a simple dance, in sets of six, with three men on one side and three women on the other. The figures reshuffle the order of the three-person lines, and for the chorus the three women, in a line, move around the men. Then the three men, in a line, move around the women. In dances this simple, there can be a lot of room for improvisation. Oh, and silliness. The first time this dance was called, there was a set of the young Morris folk who would, for example, move halfway around the entire dance floor very fast instead of just around their set. Or they would walk like Egyptians. Childish? Maybe. Fun? You betcha'. Other dancers improvised silly movements as well. This was a situation where from my observer's seat along the side I got to see more of what was happening on the dance floor than anybody in the dance. The entertainment value was great.
When Julie announced that they were doing this dance again I was sitting to the side, as per usual, when I heard some of the Morris kids call my name. As in, "Get Steven!" "Yes, Steven will join us". "Steven! We need you here." These calls came from a set consisting of Anna, Erika, and Emma on one side, and Ian, Young Adam, and an empty space on the other. So first of all, there was the undeniable pleasure of being called in to this set of fine and strong young dancers, at the end of the week when I was feeling very bonded and teamlike with everybody. Woo-hoo! This was going to be great. And we knew what was coming, in the dance.
To tell the truth, I'm not really sure what the women did for their chorus turns, because these happened fast and the guys were always having a quick consultation about what we'd do for our next turn. Mostly we did Morris steps: Giant sidesteps, and splitters, and -- for the last chorus -- actual leapers around the set in a circle. For one chorus Ian yelled quickly "spin around and hop and do the bunny-bunny gesture" so the three of us spun around and hopped and did the bunny-bunny gesture, fast and energetically and way high in the air, still managing to get back to our positions in just a few measures. We were way high in the air for all our steps. My splitters were as high as ever they've been. I was inspired by the excitement, and the music, and the pleasure of the dance, and the week of dancing. It was solid fun, beginning to end. I was completely lost in the energy, in the surges, in the silliness. It was joy through movement alone, not through words or song or wit any of the other things I often think I need to rely on.
I think this was all par for the course for the other folks in my set -- Adam is 16, and he jumps and capers and runs and moves about just walking down the path, and never stops doing Morris steps ever except maybe when he's playing his fiddle for a dance. But for me this was like being a kid again, except that I never behaved like this as a boy. It was just a dance, just some huge leaps around a circle with some wonderful young folks, but it felt like so much more than that. It may have been the only time all week when I felt no sense of generational separation from the kids. Ponce de Leon, eat your heart out.
When the dance was over I was as happy as a man can be. That's when I realized what pure joy this had been. I was excited for a long time. I'm excited now just remembering what it felt like to leap over Adam, to show off my splitters for the longtime family friend who was watching from the side, to do my splitters as high and wide as Ian, to be of a piece with those five hotshot dancers.
Every one of you should experience at least one dance in your life that is this much fun.