6. Dancing in the Desert


Blog 6: End of September, 1996—I’m in the middle of New Mexico. I wrestle with restlessness late at night after days of looking for work and a place to live that’s more creative or affordable than staying with Judith, my current housemate. My challenge is not knowing how long I’ll be here in this desert city of Albuquerque. My plan was to make it to the West Coast, and here I am, rerouted!

While I’m looking for home, I meet Richard, a local New Mexican I begin to spend time with and date. He’s quirky—very smart, and spiritual, but quirky and a bit awkward in his skin. I like him, though.

I also meet Eric, another unique character. I discover him at the university’s student union building. He’s singing opera to piano accompaniment, and when he’s done we both gravitate toward each. He loves dancing, he says, and I love opera and singing. Within minutes we walk back to his house, with him practicing an Irish accent, and me completely convinced he’s Irish and not from his hometown of Philadelphia. He tells me he came to the desert to heal from his stepfather’s death, and, of all things, to discover his Jewish roots in a place dominated by Spanish Catholic and Native American influences (although, I later learn there are Sephardic—Spanish Jewish—roots deep inside the earth)! When we get to Eric’s small rental, he puts on some old, scratchy records, and we bounce around the house like monkeys dancing our hearts out.

I also encounter Victor in the street. We pass each other, and I ask him if he dances. He tells me “yes” and we go to a local club. I have all this energy from the East Coast, and from New York City specifically, and I seem to attract people like Victor to me in this sleepy city.

While I enjoy dancing out, I miss taking dance classes as I had in NYC. In the mornings, I stretch and then start dancing African Dance to a drumming CD before eating breakfast, and then I join classes at the university. But I battle between being still—reading Alberto Villoldo’s shamanic travels through Perú on Judith’s porch in the dry and warm September sun—and dancing all of this excess, restless energy out of me.

What I do know is that it’s integral for me to be creative. When I am, my energy doubles itself and vibrates with a need to create beauty. I have so much to give, I feel. And this energy I carry is so much bigger than me.



13 thoughts on “6. Dancing in the Desert

  1. A memory that comes to me is when I was a child in the Bronx, New York. We would go to Orchard Beach my family and I. I loved splashing in the water; particularly twirling and using my hand to scoop the ocean up into the sky and make little droplets of crystal that would envelope me as I circled around. I just loved the way the water would dance around reflecting the light. Moments of magic and wonder. Although this was not the last time I danced and played, it is the memory that emerges.

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  2. So much of what we do in this world involves judgment or discernment. What is good? What is bad? What is talented? What is amateurish? What is dance? What is not dance?

    When we play unfettered by judgment–especially our own self-judgment–we become real to ourselves, and we reveal our naked selves to others. Only then can the duende enter us. Only then can we surrender to its raw, feral presence.

    There was a time when I was a younger man that I found that sense of unbridled play through music. I rediscovered it many years later playing Flamenco guitar for a small crowd at a festival. But it always seems fleeting, ephemeral. Still, every day the spirit grabs me and often I hear the palmas of a solea, only to realize it is my own hands clapping.

    But what is most profound for me is I have learned that the dance does not always have to look like a dance. When I am working in my lutherie shop, carving a guitar neck, my hands also shape the rhythm of the spokeshave dancing on the wood, the wood singing quietly as it reveals its new form. And the hours pass unnoticed within the music of my labor as the spirit grabs me and holds me, and won’t let go.

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    • May the spirit of duende keep playing through us like the wind through the trees, dancing life back into these ancients limbs that have, for centuries, forgotten what it means to live…bit by bit…breath y breath…whisper y whisper…touch by touch…Ole!


  3. Ahhhhh the fettering light of dance!

    I don’t dance as often as I would like to. There is always this wall of awkwardness as my body starts out slow, self conscious, anxioius, lumbering, and as each sweep of the foot; each wave of the arm; each twirl of the self; each bending at the ankles and hips occur; that stiffness melts away, as well as self-judgement, self consciousness, as well as the social awkwardness. Each motion makes the idea of entering the dance become easier and easier, one less step than there was before…

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  4. I understand this range of emotion, stillness vs moevement, creativity. It is like a drive frim deep within. I love to dance but only get to around the house. My husband is not a dancer. Sounds like you met some really cool people. It’s like that when I visit my sons in Lincoln, NE. Not so much the dancing but the openness of most of the young people there.


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