Day 32: Dancing in the Street

Days 32: Dancing in the Streets

After four and a half weeks on the road, and having checked-off all our planned destinations, we made a beeline for home. Expectations low, we were delighted to encounter more than bland stretches of endless interstate on our first day.

That Rainbow Block Party

Cape Cod. Lake Tahoe. Jackson Hole. Big Sur.

Some place names instantly evoke a sense of wanderlust and adventure.

Iowa City? Um. No. That is not one of them.

Let’s face it, unless you’re seeking the University of Iowa or a place to bunk on your cross-country drive, chances are you’ve never heard of this place. Until we started plotting our return itinerary, we certainly hadn’t. The town would serve as a utilitarian stopover where we could rest from one long day on the road and prepare for yet another. Nothing more.

Upon arrival, and with a practiced efficiency honed over so many weeks on the road, we settled in to our hotel. A humble meal assembled and consumed in our room fed our need for a break from restaurant fare. With our bellies full, we headed out of the hotel for a walk around town to stretch our cramped legs before a planned early bedtime.

Visiting this small university town during the summer, we expected an uneventful stroll along sleepy sidewalks.

It began that way.

So we were surprised when we heard the deep bass of dance music drifting toward where we stood regarding an empty manicured lawn at the liberal arts school on Clinton Street.

Curious, we followed the sound.

The unlikely sight of a troupe of talented dancers grooving to the beat in the middle of the street stopped us in our tracks.

Turns out we had stumbled upon opening night of the city’s Soul & Blues Festival. Deciding to check things out, we found a spot along the curb to stand among the locals and enjoy the DJs’ music. From those sidelines we all clapped and danced along as we watched the next inspired dancer emerge from the crowd to defy gravity with flips and hand-stand moves on the black asphalt or to shimmy down the red carpet in a groovy Soul Train callback.

Urged on by the ebullient emcee, a dance jam soon developed.

Cautiously at first, more and more joined in until it finally coalesced into a rainbow of gyrating humanity comprising every color, size, shape, age, ability, sexual orientation and gender.

From a two-year old bouncing experimentally to the rhythm, to a gender-fluid break-dancer showing off their moves, to a wheelchair-bound octogenarian rolling onto that sun-warmed dance floor, everyone was joining in and everyone’s efforts were rewarded with applause from the growing crowd.

As if daylight had been dampening the music, the insistence of the thumping bass grew as the sun fell. By nightfall that beat grew loud enough to quell any remaining self-consciousness so that even the most reluctant observers were drawn from the sidelines to join in a joyful and primal rite of communal dance.

We (yes, even Glenn!) joined in, laughing as we did our best to keep up with the dozens of bodies stepping in sync to the Electric Slide and others step dance songs. When the music changed, movement shifted to a free-form expression of each dancer.

Like primitive life forms swimming in some primordial essence, spontaneous dancing circles formed, joined, mingled and then separated into new clusters. Smiling strangers welcomed all comers, waving them in with open arms as they kept rhythm, celebrating the mutual experience with their own individual styles.

What an enchanting, transcendent experience.

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