Archives for posts with tag: Dance

Rock(in’) It
by Todd Duffey

One humid day
on a back yard deck
in Houston, Texas,
It was 1983.

One white boy,
padded down like
the Michelin man,
spun on his helmeted head
to the seminal song “Rockit”
while his mother watched
from a bathroom window.

He fell, and bounced
off himself, off his padding.
He moonwalked, poorly.
He then violently rippled his body,
his chin smashing into the
cardboard underneath,
then his knees.
Chin, knees. Chin, knees.

He stood, then whirled his
leg around, twirling, then falling
to the ground, where he curled up
and spun sadly on his back.

He was Rockin’ It.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I tried many things as a child. I was too small to play sports, so my mom put me into dance classes to keep me active. I fell in love with the adoration of the audience at recitals, and ventured out into breakdance, as it was something the cool kids were doing. But the dexterity it took for me to shuffle my tap shoe to “New York, New York,” or ball change my way through The Rolling Stones’ “Get Back,” were different from what it took to thrash my body on the ground to the 1/16 tempo of an electronic breakdance beat. I gave up the dancing life and moved into acting, where I could break hearts, not bones.

todd duffey

Todd Duffey
is the annoying waiter from the cult film Office Space. He was also the puppeteer and voice for the puppet squirrel Scooter McNutty on the kids’ show Barney and Friends. He’s been acting entirely too long and has many stories about these adventures. Currently he’s being considered for publication for a memoir he’s put together after years of drinking and trying to forget said stories. His stories and writing style are as he thinks — no filter, just get it out and deal with the offended people later. This is a true-to-life moment from his life, when he was trying to learn to breakdance. His mother actually put him in a breakdance class, where he failed miserably. He lives in Los Angeles, where he still believes “he coulda been a dancer, if he could only get the shit off his shoes.”

The Hop-On Hop-Off Poem
by Jacalyn Carley

Get on here, get off there,
this is a hop on- hop off poem.
No windows on the trip, you’ll need
an audio guide to see.
Where are we?
You’re in me. Welcome aboard the $10 tour.
Settle back. Ear buds plugged?
Language chosen? You hear
knees knocking?
They’re mine. $10, this tour
de force inside, I said, of me.
It’s a tour of me body, of mindless
pine barrens, bulky
mountains, with whole
states of swamps and neon lures
on liver-fed quicksand.
Lean back, trust the audio guide
as we begin by whitewater rafting
an artery. Helper verbs race by.
On your left, proper nouns are beached
like leaky banana boats. Let them rot.
You riding the force? You one with it?
Relax and enjoy as we move on
take out your ear buds, stop
beyond syntax, here at still waters, hear
distant muscles chanting.
Ahhh. Powerful adverbs eddy,
and their suction
is pleasant. Look around. Have you
always assumed that a muscle is nothing
more than a noun begging a ligament, a bone…
begging purchase? The guide notes:
Muscles are monks, neither fast-
talking preachers nor down-and-out bums
on a bench but monks, i.e., nothing more than
conjunctions in training.
Back on, please, we must move on.
Time now to ride the rush
of consciousness, head down,
to drop anchor.
To stomach lost love, bad relations,
toxic fumes, sulfurous vapors
You bothered? Have interjections?
Wanna exit? Too bad. Hop on.
We will finish this poem,
paddle one more vein. Come along
to intersection heart and lung.
Beats stomp. Bass and drum traffic in
signals of old iambic.
This route is blocked by clutter,
weeping, waste and detritus,
an endless ebb
of suicidal adjectives.
Do you hear knees knocking?
Fear there’s no emergency exit,
no volta out of here?
Scared? The guide notes
all goose bumps have roots.
When hairs stand, where
do they end? Skin
is a modifier, it splits the infinitive,
ensures the ocean of self stays contained.
You’re drifting. Hey you
guide calls, time to
sign on for the bonus,
visit the brain where fairies
and fungus lie together, embedded in pronouns.
And you decline, claim to be broke and that fast
you’re spiraling a barky, craggy tunnel,
riding the tailbone’s slippery slope and
then you are floating, a participle waiting
for the parachute to open
you see the light,
know now for certain
you prefer your poetry
as motion, not action
with its ingredients undigested and
at the very worst as bones on a plate that you can see
and suck the greasy rest of.
Say it: You prefer poetry where roots harbor flowers,
as an emotional pick-me-up, not some stinking
surging hop-on hop-off junket…
the guide interrupts
you’re dangling thoughts, claims
you don’t know what you want
at all. Your lines are tangled, a
haiku gets stymied. Lymph live-streams
free verse to your old viscous poem
and you’re hooked,
a swinger-on

PHOTO: The author in her dancing days.


As a young dancer, my job was to be technically brilliant by emulating the images of other famous dancers — dancing from the outside, so to say. With time, a sea change occurred in how I understood the human body. Moving from the inside became my goal. This meant working with internal images, what we now call “somatic work,” and involves everything from envisioning organs and bones to meditative instructions, and then moving from that internal place into the world, even onto the stage. None of this has much to do with writing, which is something I did in order to keep my cognitive sanity in that highly abstract and competitive environment.  When an unfinished manuscript of mine was bought by a publisher – an event that coincided with increasing knee problems and disillusionment of the modern dance world – I decided within a week to stop dancing. I disbanded my company, turned over teaching jobs, gave money back to sponsors for new work. The transformation was abrupt. I shed an old skin with nothing more than hope and blind faith that the new one would suit me. The poem, “The Hop-On Hop-Off Poem” is a dancer’s journey, literally, into the body of a writer. (Image from The Human Anatomy Coloring Book.)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jacalyn Carley transformed from a choreographer to writer midlife. The author of several books of fiction and nonfiction, she is currently writing a series of poems about the nude artists who paint the nude models as well as ekphrastic poems. She lives in Berlin, Germany.

Megamorph Ka-pow
by Joan Jobe Smith

I didn’t just metamorph
doo-dah diptera
I megamorphed, jumped over, pole-vaulted
from pupa stage to scutterfly
after that man left me with three kids and a fine-toothed comb and I
wearied into that go-go bar wearing my beige wedding suit just like
Doris Day wore in Pillow Talk and I
asked for a go-go girl job because I couldn’t take shorthand or type

and all shook up I expected the go-go bar owner to be a leering lech
smoking a Havana cigar who’d ask me to show him my legs
but it was the woman bookkeeper, mother of the bad-ass
bouncer in charge that day who hired me and said I had “class”
didn’t even notice my skinny kneecaps
peeking out of my nervous skirt, she viewed
I was a Girl Next Door type with that dorky hairdo
not even mascara on my eyelashes and she told me I didn’t have to
wear a French bikini, let it all hang out, unless I wanted to
a leotard was okay and she didn’t even see that my hips were too
scrawny to show off anything but pelvic bones

and so I went to work 8 days a week
Good Girl once taught to do what she ought to
pupa housewife who baked cookies, changed diapers
morphed overnight
no cocoon phase into a go-go girl ka-pow
but fascinated with all the fluorescent glow and beer flow
and those crazed runaway girls, those poor butterflies
who’d flutterfly-fled rotten stepdads who did bad things in the night
after Mom turned on the light on daughters gone blind
to megamorph into belly-buttoned sexpots in French bikinis
but it took me 2 years to morph brave enough to be seen
baring and bearing red sequins
and by then it was time to megamorph ka-pow again: quantum leap
surpass, bypass my taxonomic rank and specie
to a mightier deracination blast
toward the sky, moon, Mars and stars
and maybe the gods
to become a poet
and a writer.
     Oh, my.

IMAGE: The author as a go-go dancer in 1967.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joan Jobe Smith, founding editor of Pearl and Bukowski Review, worked for seven years as a go-go dancer before receiving her BA from CSULB and MFA from University of California, Irvine. A Pushcart Honoree, her award-winning work has appeared internationally in more than five hundred publications, including Outlaw Bible, Ambit, Beat Scene, Wormwood Review, and Nerve Cowboy—and she has published twenty collections, including Jehovah Jukebox (Event Horizon Press, US) and The Pow Wow Cafe (The Poetry Business, UK), a finalist for the UK 1999 Forward Prize. In July 2012, with her husband, poet Fred Voss, she did her sixth reading tour of England (debuting at the 1991 Aldeburgh Poetry Festival), featured at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull. She is the author of the literary memoir Charles Bukowski Epic Glottis: His Art & His Women (& me) (Silver Birch Press, 2012). Her writing is featured in LADYLAND, an anthology of writing by American women (13e note Éditions, Paris, 2014). Her poem “Uncle Ray on New Year’s Day . . .” won the 2012 Philadelphia Poets John Petracca Prize. Her latest book is Tales of an Ancient Go-Go Girl.

I Was Trained
by Eileen Wesson

I was trained
by the people in my house
to forget what I saw
to forget what happened
to forget my stories.

Invisible strings
made me dance
for the amusement
of the people in my house,
big people
controlled my strings.

A hollow tree became my mother
her crackled skin branches
cradled me while I slept
her leaves flattened
to weave me a blanket.

I talked to the Earth
through the palms of my hands.
She was my guardian
My protector
I was the princess of her skies
braided weeds were my crown.

Angels and flying horses
healed my bruised body
they took me far away
away from the pain
away the tugging strings
they freed me
To run fast and strong
to hide away
to live in my dreams.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: Here I am in my first ballet recital at age 5. I loved to dance and would practice at home in front of the bathroom mirror every day. But because we didn’t stay in one place very long, I had to stop taking ballet lessons. We moved over a dozen times when I was young. I attended more than seven schools before I graduated from the eighth grade. My mother was a nightclub singer, so when she applied my makeup it was thick heavy pan stick and way too much lipstick and eye shadow for a little girl. When I got to the recital hall, I was the only one wearing makeup. Even so, I was so happy I got to dance.

NOTE FROM AUTHOR: The little me is my doorway to understanding my past and how it shaped my life. She is the keeper of a library of continuous unfolding stories. As an actor, I reclaimed my emotional life and tell the richness of all my feelings. Now, as a writer, I can give voice to all the parts of me, big and small, light and dark. I ask them to sit with me and tell me who they are. A reunion of Self. Writing continuously feeds my soul.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eileen Wesson is a member of the LA Collective. Her prose and poetry have appeared in FRE&D and CG Magazine.

dancerina dolls in san francisco: a lamentation
by Teri Elam

especially at daybreak when I am silent
a bevy of ballerinas tiptoe-glide
creaking inn floors allegro en pointe
chattering about cute boys or girls —
like odette betrayal not yet released
they spin fair-haired grins from lavender
leotards long pink-opaque-legs
masking blister-toed-danskins;

these free-flowing teenaged swans
nimble-limbed not immutable like the dancerina
doll left under our stark aluminum tree when i was 6
her pale-haired blue-painted-eyes point-toe
hands bent in permanent position hard-plastic torso
stuffed in harsh fuchsia tutu hard to hold
her pink crown spinning spinning spinning —
my pony boy cap gun holster-vest
missing beneath the tree;

these young ballerinas raw-grace
not awkward like me at 6 begging to quit dance
my mother bemused missing my pleas my please
for sulfur-smoke-smelling red bang caps
slow-rolling my feet after a good round
spinning faux-pearl-handled silver toy gun back
holster-hanging right hip smooth like heath barkley
on big valley — wild afro puffs my daddy’s smile
not a ballerina i was a cowboy;

at midnight on the bus i spy the teenaged swans
flaxen hair hanging giants caps side-cocked
beats their new jewelry black tee over skinny-jeans
blister-bejeweled feet in chuck taylors rapping
cute boys or girls — at mission street they get off
hip hop bass rock shouts their greeting — a lamentation
they slow-lift into the crowd spinning spinning spinning —
hushed i watch them i watch them vanish
i watch them vanish into a mist of pink glitter dust.

PHOTO: The author as a child in an outfit she preferred over leotards.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was six, my parents enrolled me in a ballet class, and, being a quiet child, I did not protest. Luckily, after the first recital, they must have realized that I would not be making the cut for The Nutcracker. Many moons later, I shared space with several young ballerinas for a couple of weeks. In observing them, I realized how my six-year-old self still lived on via my many subsequent encounters with awkwardness (sometime humorous) and/or silence/silences since.

teri elam

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teri Elam resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and has had poems published in Chemistry of Color, Dismantle, Electronic Corpse, and The Ringing Ear. She started her poem one summer when she shared space with some ballerinas while attending the VONA/Voices Writers Workshop.


by Susan Mahan

According to certain African beliefs,
the limbo dance reflects the whole cycle of life.

The dancers move under a pole that is gradually lowered
from chest level and they emerge on the other side
as their heads clear the pole.

This symbolizes the triumph of life over death

I am in limbo
as I wait for the results of a biopsy

I hope to God my head clears the pole.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Mahan has been writing poetry since her husband died in 1997. She had wanted to be a writer as a kid, but life got in the way. She has subsequently written over 350 poems and many of them have been published, including on the Silver Birch Press blog.

You say tomato, I say tomato…Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers sing “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” (music  by George Gershwin and lyrics by Ira Gershwin) in the 1937 movie Shall We Dance. In this clip, Fred and Ginger not only sing, but also dance on roller skates. A classic!

by Mitch Roberson

It begins with the lewd macarena
each of us performs in the shower,
then the modified twist we are hip to
with that ever-absorbent partner, the towel,

and on to the funky chicken of stepping into underwear,
the shimmy of stretching into hose.
There is no music, none that anyone
can hear, yet no one can escape the boogie.

Outside beneath the disco ball of the Sun
no one is a wallflower, not even the two lugs
in the crosswalk lugging a huge mirror,
one at either end pressing his cheek

into the cheek of his own reflection, arm
extended, hand clasping his own hand in a tango
more about control than passion, one couple
leading himself forward, the other slide-stepping

backwards across the intersection made double
by the infinite burden they shoulder together.
At the entrances of buildings even those afflicted
with two left feet find grace with a stranger

in a revolving door, where, regardless of gender,
we share a pause and glance to communicate
who will lead, who will follow,
close to each other but never quite touching.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mitch Roberson majored in English and political science at the University of Tennessee and holds an MFA from Vermont College.

SOURCE: Poetry (February 2003)

IMAGE: “Icarus,” by Henri Matisse (1944)


The Diction of Dance (Excerpt)

by Wendy Lesser

…Like poetry, choreography speaks to us about the familiar, but in a way that makes us see it anew. The materials, in both cases, are part of everyday life (speech, movement), but these materials need to be transformed in a way that makes them more than merely documentary. So a certain level of stylization (whereby the real gets stripped of its excess, turned into something clearer and sharper and more shaped) is required in both art forms for them to be art forms. At the same time, the ever-present danger is that stylization may interfere with feeling—may get between the artist’s expression of something and the audience’s reception of it.

To combat this danger, poets and choreographers remain eternally alert to the sensibilities of their own times. Just as Wordsworth revolutionized the poetic diction of his time by bringing it closer to ordinary speech, choreographers must continually replenish their known storehouse of stage gesture with movements that they observe in life: on the street, at home, in offices and playgrounds and parks. Yet to abandon the languages and gestures of the past entirely would be not only silly but impossible. Poetry and choreography both derive from all the work that has gone before them, even as each maker tries something new and special with the form…

MORE: Read “The Diction of Dance” by Wendy Lesser in its entirety at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wendy Lesser is an American critic, novelist, and editor based in Berkeley, California. Lesser did her undergraduate work at Harvard College and her graduate work at University of California, Berkeley, with time in between at King’s College, Cambridge. She is the founding editor of the arts journal The Threepenny Review, and author of ten books, including one novel, The Pagoda in the Garden (Other Press, 2005), and her latest nonfiction book, Why I Read (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2014). She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, the Dedalus Foundation, and the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, among other places.

IMAGE: “Fred and Ginger” by Mel Thompson. Prints available at

by Cornelius Eady

My friends,
As it has been proven in the laboratory,
An empty pair of dance shoes
Will sit on the floor like a wart
Until it is given a reason to move.

Those of us who study inertia
(Those of us covered with wild hair and sleep)
Can state this without fear:
The energy in a pair of shoes at rest
Is about the same as that of a clown

Knocked flat by a sandbag.
This you can tell your friends with certainty:
A clown, flat on his back,
Is a lot like an empty pair of
dancing shoes.

An empty pair of dancing shoes
Is also a lot like a leaf
Pressed in a book.
And now you know a simple truth:
A leaf pressed in, say, The Colossus
by Sylvia Plath,
Is no different from an empty pair of dance shoes

Even if those shoes are in the middle of the Stardust Ballroom
With all the lights on, and hot music shakes the windows
up and down the block.
This is the secret of inertia:
The shoes run on their own sense of the world.
They are in sympathy with the rock the kid skips
over the lake
After it settles to the mud.
Not with the ripples,
But with the rock.

A practical and personal application of inertia
Can be found in the question:
Whose Turn Is It
To Take Out The Garbage?
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the answer to this question,
As well as book-length poems
Set in the Midwest.

To sum up:
An empty pair of dance shoes
Is a lot like the sand the 98-pound weakling
brushes from his cheeks
As the bully tows away his girlfriend.

When he spies the coupon at the back of the comic book,
He is about to act upon a different set of scientific principles.
He is ready to dance.

SOURCE: “The Empty Dance Shoes” appears in Cornelius Eady’s collection Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1997), available at

IMAGE: “Dance” by John Crothers. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Poet and cofounder of Cave Canem, Cornelius Eady has published more than half a dozen volumes of poetry, among them Victims of the Latest Dance Craze (1985), winner of the Lamont Poetry Prize from the Academy of American Poets; The Gathering of My Name (1991), nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; and Brutal Imagination (2001), a National Book Award finalist. Hardheaded Weather: New and Selected Poems appeared in 2008.