Plaiss ’13: ‘I Danced Today’

John Plaiss ’13 — I danced today.
Around 2 p.m. the crew and I rolled out of the Franciscan compound we’re staying at and went to a museum.  Or at least I was told it was a museum — it was more like a large auditorium. And because I’ve forgotten the name of that auditorium I’ll just have to describe it to you. The entire thing was made out of dark wood. It was in the shape of a circle with the stage in the middle. Large beams held the ceiling high and were clamped together at the top. The seats were many — too many to count. The inside of the structure resembled the Coliseum in Rome — the chairs in a circle raked upward at a steep angle. There were many levels. I sat in the bottom front row.

John joining the dance.

What I was watching was traditional Kenyan dance. About 12 dancers filled the stage, six men, six women, and all of them danced furiously to drums and instruments. Throughout the presentation dancers would invite members of the audience to dance with them. Every time this invitation was offered to members of the row I was sitting in. And every time the dancers skipped me in their invitation.

I was somewhat thankful and relieved.

This feeling of relief was lost when the dancers performed their last dance. That’s when the performers invited all the Wabash students to dance with them. And I danced.
This was the first time I’ve danced in public and I wasn’t ashamed.  I was embarrassed, but not ashamed.  And strangely enough I met this embarrassment with a smile.  I wasn’t the only one who couldn’t dance!  And despite the fact that the dancers were laughing, it was not ill-natured.  They were happy to have us dance, and in turn that made my Wabash friends and me happy too.
Let me tell you another story.  In order to fully understand this story I should tell you that I’ve been a member of the Holy Roman Catholic Church for 20 years.  At my home parish at Queen of All Saints in Michigan City, Indiana we have a solemn liturgy.  Dusty old hymns are sung by equally dusty old parishioners in a dusty dank Church.
This past Pentecost Sunday I went to a Church that had life, and it was a Catholic Church, too.  The church was called St. Francis and it was out in the middle of nowhere.  A dirt road leads to the Church and when the van I was in pulled up we were met by dancing.  They did the same throughout the liturgy.  This Church was alive and I knew that because this Church danced.  It was as if the Holy Spirit filled their bodies so much that it poured out of them in the form of a frenzy.  These people were happy and loving, so much so they couldn’t keep it in.  These people inspired me.
Despite the fact I was hesitant to dance today, I did want to join them. It looked fun. So when the invitation came I was grateful, though reluctant. Not knowing one step of dance I decided to go for it anyway. I danced and, in dancing, I shook off the dust.
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2 Responses to Plaiss ’13: ‘I Danced Today’

  1. Laura Livingston says:

    So happy for you and you Wabash brothers. Keep shaking off the dust!

  2. Bert Stern says:

    Thanks for this, John — a fine piece of writing.

    Bert Stern