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The Magic Of Music And A Little Room To Groove

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Alan Heathcock is the author of the story collection Volt.

Last week, my wife suggested we have a dance floor installed in our family room. She was smiling ear to ear, wiping sweat from her eyes. Behind her, our three kids took turns showing off their moves as Michael Jackson's P.Y.T. blared over the speakers.

Years ago, for our wedding reception, we rented steel-reinforced parquet tiles that made up a dance floor in our family room. Every time I stepped onto the floor I felt empowered. I couldn't cross those tiles without tapping my toes. Back then we'd discussed buying the dance floor. But at best a dance floor seemed impractical, at worst a little crazy.

But is crazy all that bad?

I remember being a teen and my friends thinking it was a little crazy that my father had dubbed Friday nights as "Culture Night" in our house. On such nights he'd play records and have us dance. I remember one night he was playing an old Wilson Pickett record, and I tried out some new break-dance moves, spinning around on my back, grabbing myself in precarious places. My father had looked a little confused, but said, "Not bad, kid. Now step aside and let your pop show you a thing or two." Then he did this little James Brown-type thing, sliding to one side while dragging a foot. I wanted that move. I needed that move. I stood beside my father and followed his footsteps.

So many things were affirmed on those Friday nights. We danced to everything from Jerry Lee Lewis to Lightnin' Hopkins, the Bobby Allen Band to Marvin Gaye, my brother and I laughing while we practiced our moves, imagining what we'd unveil at the next school dance. Or watching my mother and father waltz around the room, smiling, and knowing it was love I was watching.

I fell in love with my wife dancing, kissed her for the first time on a dance floor.

My daughters, who are 12 and 5, spend hours working out little routines to Katy Perry songs. I watch them bounce about the room, hitting poses in unison, without the slightest edge of self-consciousness, and I know they know the secret.

I tell my son, who's now 15 and a bit worried about looking foolish, that the only foolishness is going to a dance and not dancing at all.

The world is always moving, cars speeding here and there, the Earth spinning and turning around the sun, and day becomes night and the night becomes day, and even as our lives pass us by we stand still, trapped in the calcified malaise that too often rules our spirits. We've become a world of wallflowers.

What a thing it is to dance, to feel music in your blood, to have your heart alive and your body free. My wife wasn't serious about getting a dance floor installed. But I'm starting to like the idea.

I think we could all use a little room to groove.

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