By Mandi Donohue

I’ve been working through an incredible book called “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron over the past six months — an amazing Bible for any creative. Something she does in her book is ask a lot of questions about what you were interested in as a child and what you wanted to be when you grew up. It’s a way of connecting that inner, playful kid with the impossible, stressed, blocked and uninspired adult. I doubt any of us are going to give up our current lives to become astronauts but how often as adults do we stop to wonder at the stars? It makes you think.

As a kid, I was a dancer and I let that marinate. I literally annoyed the whole family because I would never stop moving, and have vivid memories of my exasperated mother yelling “I can’t hear your question over the tapping, Amanda!” I loved dancing so much that if my family hadn’t moved from “Chasse Pivot Turn Kick Layout, New York” to “Step Touch Step Touch, New York,” I truly believe I would be a professional dancer. I still choreograph routines in my head. It’s crazy.

When I had zero inspiration for this week’s column, I turned to the “What’s Happening” portion of our paper and scanned the events. Something struck a chord. There was a Freestyle Movement Dance Class in Twisp on Sunday morning. Immediately my stomach turned as I remembered it was the eclipse, and the gauge on my Fear-Meter read: You Have To Do This.  

What did that even mean — Freestyle Movement? Oh God. I thought of 126 different excuses as to why I shouldn’t go, but I set my alarm clock. When I woke up the next day, some of those excuses were legitimate.  I literally had no clean clothes. The only sneakers I have I wear to work, and they smell like lard and dishwater.

Other excuses were more fearful — Will there be “moves?” What if I can’t keep up? What if it’s a bunch of rock-hard bodies, and in walks a hobbit all the way from the Mazama shire?

What was the worst thing that could happen? All of my extra bits would jiggle and shake for the world to see, people might judge it, and I would live to tell the story. It might feel like dying but I could live with that, right? Probably. I think. Oh God. I drove down to snowy Twisp, invading Sarah Schlock’s territory like The Mother of Dragons, hoping the class was canceled and it was a misprint in the paper. Alas, there were cars parked on Glover Street that fought off the quiet spell of the morning. I walked in and my 16-year-old introvert nearly died.  

What sounded like Indian sitar music was playing as a full dance room of shoeless folks were all doing their own unique thing like a hippy Peanuts gang. I can get out on a dance floor alone at karaoke because I can Molly Ringwald with the best of them, but when it involves vulnerability and losing control, freeing yourself to live in the music? Ugh! I could hear my upbringing taunting me, “So, what, you’re a hippy now?” It was painful. 

And yet, they were all so wonderfully carefree, joyful and welcoming. It inspired me to be fearless and join them. Shoeless, in my electric green socks, I got out on the dance floor and decided if I was going to do this, I was really going to do this. I choose who I am at 38. I choose what makes me comfortable and I just … let it go. No one cared. No one was looking except to smile. I found myself lost in music like I used to get as a kid. I choked back tears. I wanted to do so much more than what my body is capable of doing and that truth spoke volumes. It reminded me that I decide what is possible. 

After the class, I took back my $5 and replaced it with a 20 for four more classes. I can’t say thank you enough to the gracious and warm community at Twisp Movement Studio. It was the safest place for a lost dancer to be found. Or anyone for that matter.  

PREVIOUSLY, IN MAZAMA