I wasn’t really paying much attention at this point. Not knowing what I was witnessing I was thinking about the work I was ignoring by coming to the concert, checking my phone, wondering about the choice to begin a dance with a 5-minute flashlight entrance in the dark.
When the lights got to full, he was up stage center with his back to us, perfectly still. Two counts of eight went by in complete stillness. His hips started moving to the beat before he did a careful and precise pivot turn. He’s very tall and wiry – with a mustache. Wearing a black t-shirt under a red, open, button-down shirt, black pants and jazz shoes he danced to the song, “Beautiful, Beautiful.”
He was beyond focused. He was in the moment. This moment. Not in five other moments. Not thinking about the work he was missing, finals, SAT’s, college choices, volunteer hours, AP exams, the prom, what comes next or how he looked. He perfectly executed several chaine’s, piqué’s, chasse’s, saute’s in arabesque and a perfect single pirouette, frequently clapping along to the beat. There may have even been a side leap. Nathaniel had enough time to rehearse his dance. Nathaniel is special, so nothing too much was expected of him in his final days of public school. He listened to the music and danced one step at a time.
What could happen in our lives if we could give complete focus to one thing at a time? If we could believe that we were enough to just be one person? Do able-bodied adults have the ability to squelch self-imposed to-do lists and impossible standards? If we focus hard enough can we let go of who we think we need to be?
I want to take the time to clap along with the beat, hear the beautiful music and dance one step at a time, but my brain rarely lets me relax long enough to do that.
Along with most of the audience, I held my breath and watched him through tears. The audience went crazy when he finished. High school audiences are loud in general, but this was deafening.
Two more dancers helped to guide him back offstage.
On school days my daughter, Hannah, walks Nathaniel to dance class and helps him dance across the floor. We’re lucky to have arts education in public high schools here. Hannah is part of the dance program and a “peer facilitator” for one of the special needs classes. Nathaniel is in that class. Both of these programs are a gift to her and to the thousands of students who come through this school. Literally, thousands. I don’t know how the teachers and the administrators do it. I know I am grateful that they do. I know I am grateful for a school that could focus long enough to stand up and cheer for Nathaniel.
This was Nathaniel’s first dance alone.
How many more dances will he get now that he’s graduating from high school? How many more beautiful dances will it take for me to remember that all I have to do is show up and do one thing at a time? Probably more than one for me and hopefully more than one for Nathaniel. Although maybe this one will be enough for both of us.