Several people at Quaker Meeting today wanted me to share this message I spoke at Meeting for Worship this morning. So here's the gist of it:
Last night I attended two dances.
I ended the evening at a soul party in Fort Greene. There was a certain kind of joy in the room, with a crowd of young people enjoying the music being performed by the skilled musicians. But at a certain point I started feeling like this was a room crammed full of people all dancing alone.
I started the evening at a very different kind of party. Right below us in the common room was a contra dance organized by our welcoming committee.
I have long had my own personal reservations about contra dancing. The idea of having a leader call out the steps and everyone following along seems to me very unquakerly. And contra dancing is a bit too country and quaint for my tastes.
What I always forget is how much fun contra dancing actually is. After a certain amount of time learning and practicing the basic steps, everyone relaxes and there is a joyful abandon in the room that is remarkable.
If you have never experienced contra dancing, it's quite wonderful the various patterns and configurations of the dance. You might start off dancing with just your partner, and then there are four of you dancing together, and then six, and then the whole room dancing together, and then back to just you and your partner. At a certain point in the dance you make a tiny connection with nearly every person in the room, whether it be a touch, a glance, or a smile.
In that light, contra dancing seems to me very quakerly.
[CC-licensed image by grassvalleylarry. thanks!]