London, England: Dance Like Nobody’s Watching

With special thanks to Slice of Life for giving writers inspiration, space, and voice

Slice of Life Day 19 of 31: Journeys (my March theme)

“We don’t take a trip. A trip takes us.” -John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

The London Eye offers a unique perspective of the city. High above it all, one can see for miles and miles and note distances between landmarks. To the traveler, perspective is important; but the majestic view can’t compare to what we see when our feet are on the ground.

Ticket to the London Eye, June 7, 2019

Looking out, I thought of Peter Pan, flying above the city with all the freedom and fearlessness of a child – especially above Big Ben, even though they were doing some cleaning and refurbishing of the iconic landmark in the summer of 2019. The classic red double-decker buses, blood cells coursing the veins of the city, brought back memories of the metal toy bus that my brother had brought home from London years ago.

View of Big Ben under refurbishment from the London Eye, June 2019

I’d visited London in 1984 with my parents and brother, and again in 1999 with my first husband. Its beauty and history hadn’t changed when I visited in 2019. Of all the things to love about London, my favorite is its theater. Something about those stages mesmerizes me – the smell of musty old wood, the creaking of floors, the old velvet seats and thick-piled carpets, the dust settled long into crevices that always make me wonder whose strand of historical hair may be resting somewhere beneath my feet, the lights and the actors and actresses that bring stories to life.

But there is one entertainer who comes to mind frequently and has the power to melt my heart at the sheer memory. Have you ever had one of those moments when you saw something so beautiful that completely captured your heart to the point that you had to fight off tears that threatened to come out of nowhere- and then you just gave up and let them flow – and people were aflutter all around you, not seeing the very same thing you found so moving? I have – and still today, I have to keep that memory guarded, because if it slips up during a meeting at work or in the frozen foods at Kroger, my eyes may get glassy and I may be moved to a place of deep introspection.

I heard one of my favorite songs and stopped to listen to the street performer singing Leonard Bernstein’s Hallelujah. People were walking in all directions, some running, like human versions of the London buses flushing veins and arteries with blood cell movement, ……and then I saw the little dancer on this crowded street in Covent Garden, without fear or inhibition, living fully in each breath. I had no inkling of the profound effect that this one single moment would have on me then or in the coming years, especially when the world shut down with Covid the following spring and the dance brought smiles in the midst of sadness and loneliness. It found a place in the crevice of my heart, like that theater dust that settles in and takes up residence.

This little dancer caught my eye and stole my heart

He jumped, he leapt, he spun, he twirled, exuding joy and the love of the moment that no one else around him seemed to have. I watched, completely taken by this child’s in-the-momentness. I don’t know his name or where he lives, but in my impossibly full travel itinerary, he brought pause and wonder – a shift in my approach – a deeply introspective personal challenge henceforth to look for what is missed by everyone else: what’s the one thing that I see that no one else sees? I need more embracing of life like this kid understood. Big Ben is boldly there for all to see. Peter Pan will always be soaring in the minds and hearts of those who live on the edge of childhood. The stages of London draw the eyes of millions every year.

And yet it wasn’t a landmark, it wasn’t a Lost Boy from literature or a stage that took my heart on a completely unexpected journey in the heart of London.

It was a young boy whose name I will never know, dancing to the music of life. As we all should.

He danced like no one was watching – exactly how I want to live life! I told him what a great dancer he was and that I wished I could dance that well – he smiled and embraced me and I hugged him back, two strangers sharing a moment, and I saw his mother with teary eyes, watching our interaction.

Psalm 149:3 

Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!

6 Replies to “London, England: Dance Like Nobody’s Watching”

  1. Kim, Kim…awe. At the way you weave place and story, literature and life. And then his video of the child responding to the song “Hallelujah” with such joy. He IS the model to follow; how much of our lives is spent in navigating the grind, when we need to *LISTEN* for the song and respond from the depths of our being? I note, too, how the sun was shining down…like grace.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, and what a beautiful moment you witnessed, this joyful dancing! Loved this phrasing – “when you saw something so beautiful that completely captured your heart to the point that you had to fight off tears that threatened to come out of nowhere” – I do know these moments; I think you have described ‘awe’ so well. I have never been to London; I do hope to do so, one day. Thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The best tour guides tell you to watch the people, connect with them, not the places, for that is how traveling enriches us. I can see how this particular moment filled your soul and taught you a precious lesson, all because you took the time to pause and watch. Thank you for sharing this memory with us!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. This is exquisite writing, one that I will return to because it offer so much. Through imagery, unique phrases, point of view and attention to details, you’ve transported me to London. You wove all of these aspects together to create an important message. Love the video. Thanks for sharing. I strongly suggest that you send this piece out into the world for all to savor.

    Liked by 1 person

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