This weekend of November 6-9, while attending the 2009 Call to Action Conference in Milwaukee I kept bumping into a coordinator seeking volunteers as liturgical dancers for the final Eucharist.
Slender, graceful, and smiling, she seemed to appear wherever I was heading. I saw her at breakfast, at the registration desk, on the escalator, in the hallway, in the ladies room and each time I saw her I kept hearing an inner voice that said "Go ahead. Take the leap. Volunteer. Dance the liturgy," and each time I heard that voice I told it to shut up. "I'm not a dancer. I bump into walls. I trip on air. I'm old."
While waiting on line at a food stand, the dancer smiled at me. I smiled back. She smiled at me again. Between the hot dog and the relish stand, she lured me into volunteering. Buoyed by the sheer hilarity of me dancing, I managed to talk two more women "of a certain age," into dancing. Later that day, the dancer took seven of us women through the movements of the varied dances. That night I lay awake, unable to sleep, trying to recall what movements went with what line of what song without success.I could remember only one movement -- a clapping sequence to Alle, Alle, Alle, Lu-u-ya.
My friend Virginia told me not to worry. "Let your body reflect the spirit that the words elicit within you. Celebrate. Remember to exaggerate your movements so they will be seen."
I trust Virginia. Her words gave me confidence. For the Eucharistic Celebration that ended the conference, I danced onto the altar, I flitted through the aisles. I gestured and smiled and encouraged others to imitate my movements. We locked eyes, we laughed, we danced. It was wonderful. And that evening, on arriving back in Minneapolis I visited my now grown son, who laughed aloud at the thought of his 70-year-old mother dancing during Mass.
- Beryl Singleton Bissell
- Beryl is the author of The Scent of God: A Memoir published by Counterpoint NY in 2006 and A View of the Lake published by Lake Superior Port Cities Inc. in 2001. She’s been living on Lake Superior for seventeen wonderful years, and spent 10 years writing two popular columns for the Cook County News Herald: Newcomer Notes and Putting Down Roots. Beryl is past president of the Schroeder Area Historical Society and a long-time chair of its Oral History and Marketing committees. She is a past board member of the Violence Prevention Center in Grand Marais and committee member for the Grand Marais Art Colony’s first ever annual North Shore Reader and Writers Festival. She’s been published in the Sun Magazine, Minnesota Monthly, Lake Superior Magazine, and The Trenton Times and in the anthologies, Surviving Ophelia published by Perseus Publications in 2001 and The New Writer's Handbook, Vol. 2, published by Scarletta Press in 2008 and was named Best of Minnesota Writers by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She is currently working on her third memoir: the sequel to The Scent of God.