When I was a teen, Saturdays were spent doing chores and waiting for American Bandstand to come on television. Watching that show, I got my first dance instruction– like most kids back then. Wikipedia describes the show like this:
“American Bandstand is an American music-performance and dance television program that aired in various versions from 1952 to 1989,and was hosted from 1956 until its final season by Dick Clark, who also served as the program’s producer. It featured teenagers dancing to Top 40 music introduced by Clark; at least one popular musical act—over the decades, running the gamut from Jerry Lee Lewis to Run-DMC—usually appeared in person to lip-sync one of their latest singles.”
I liked seeing those older kids paired up, dancing to the latest songs, and watching Dick Clark interviewing the musical guests. In 1964, the show moved its production from Philadelphia to California; I wanted to look like those teens from there– because everything exciting seemed to come from the West Coast.
While I enjoyed Bandstand, when my older sister and parents weren’t around and I had brief reign of our house, I’d flip the channel to Soul Train. I liked watching the black kids dancing– in a way that was more vibrant, more lively than the white kids on Bandstand. Growing up in the South, a teen during the late sixties and early seventies, it wasn’t proper, or expected for a white girl like me to like that music or to dance in the Soul Train way.
Once when the channel was turned and I was dancing to the music on Soul Train, Daddy came in the house and caught me. I remember he made a disapproving remark, likely his favorite, “Oh, for goodness sake!”
I stopped dancing and turned it back to Bandstand. If he was trying–consciously or unconsciously, to shame me out of liking that music and style of dancing– it didn’t work. As soon as he left the house, was out of ear shot, I returned to Soul Train.
Looking back on the music that drew me, I know that I’ve always liked soulful sounds, and in reading a description of Soul Train from Wikipedia, I see that R & B and soul are listed first and second in the types of music on that show:
“Soul Train is an American music-dance television program which aired in syndication from October 2, 1971, to March 27, 2006. In its 35-year history, the show primarily featured performances by R&B, soul, dance/pop, and hip hop artists, although funk, jazz, disco, and gospel artists also appeared. The series was created by Don Cornelius, who also served as its first host and executive producer.”
Recently when I was in a West Coast Swing class, our instructor, Robin said that dance was created to dance to R & B. It clicked for me that my early love for that kind of music had led me in later life to a style of dance that suited those songs; what was inside as a teen has continued to the present day.
Perhaps the dichotomy of the styles of dance, the differences in music are like other things that seem to be opposite or opposing in our lives. I recently read an article by relationship coach, Jordan Gray https://www.jordangrayconsulting.com and the subject was transitions. Examples he gave were having your first child, starting a new job, and dating for the first time after many years–which was my situation. This is part of what he said:
“Transitions are HARD.
And they don’t get talked about (with the appropriate amount of nuance) nearly enough.
Maybe it’s because we’d rather buy into the false binary premises handed out by all those incredibly watchable-but-misleading rom-coms we see on TV…
Or maybe it’s the illusion of everyone “living their best life” on Instagram through heavily filtered pictures.
Or maybe it’s just that, as a collective, we’ve lost the ability to hold two opposing thoughts in our head at the same time.”
It strikes me that this idea of losing this ability to hold “two opposing thoughts” not only applies to preferences for music and dancing but also to how we view people. We can easily put people into single categories and take away the dynamic, multi-dimensional beings– complex and filled with surprises– that we are. In the past few years, this seems to be the case. For example with the political climate, people have been labeled as either all conservative or all liberal, intelligent or simple, informed or ignorant, good or evil.
When we’re able to hold two opposing views, allowing for the tension and uncertainty in the present moment of polar opposites, then we’re able to know each other with greater understanding. We’re able to be who we truly are– which may seem contradictory, but is actually more true.
I’ve loved the music of Van Morrison. Years ago, I was listening to a CD that I’d had for a while and rather than jumping to my favorites, I listened to every track. For the first time, I heard his song “Soul” and some of the words struck a deep nerve:
“Soul is a feeling, feeling deep within
Soul is not the colour of your skin
Soul is the essence, essence from within
It is where everything begins”
That’s it, I thought. That is where my love of the music comes from; it’s from my essence within. For all of us, that essence from within is deep and multi-faceted and not simply explained. We are beautifully and wonderfully made and we can live our best lives together when we all honor that.
Now, I can think back on that dilemma that I faced as a teen trying to find my way to my identity, trying to choose between Bandstand and Soul Train; I am Both.