Adriana introduced the Shim Sham Shimmy to our class at Dancin’ on the Door studio while I was away. A fellow dancer found floor space to bust a move from the recent lesson as she waited tables at the restaurant where we had dinner. I was nervous about matching the speed of her steps.
On the fourth day of air so heavy even the dog didn’t want to be outside, ninety minutes of highly physical activity in a lightly air-conditioned building held minimal attraction. The alternative was continuing to reconstruct a really good short story that fell apart during revision.
I knew I shouldn’t leave my computer or walk away from the three “finished” versions of the story. Guilt nicked the happiness of seeing my dancer friends. Lack of focus knocked me off rhythm during our first warm-up. Yet all the stretches, the delightful readjustment of a tense neck, easing of raised shoulders, the disappearance of leg cramps and curled toes shut the door on my rabbit hole of writing doubts. Here was music, movement, and the camaraderie of seven women working our bodies and minds.
The classic Shim Sham Shimmy, a 32 bar sequence of choreography, began roughly ninety years ago in Harlem music clubs. We built on stamps, steps, shaking shoulders, Tack Annie’s, freezes and breaks. After walking through steps to moving with a gentle tempo, we laughed together during a glorious attempt at dancing the shimmy to Beyoncé. Most of us are far beyond twenty, but that made no difference. Not one of us looked in the mirrors as our feet made music. If anything ached in the morning, I wouldn’t care.
On the way home from class I knew I had to shake the wounded story back to its original structure and concentrate on language. It is a story built for readers’ pleasure—a classical structure with good vibrations and defined direction. Worked carefully, the story will move slowly until it needs to move fast.
That’s the second reward for staying with the awkwardness of learning something new and creative instead of pushing paragraphs around and around another full day. Step it out of the comfort zone, sister.