A couple of weeks ago an Irish band called 'Rattlin' the Boards' was playing at the Harrison Memorial Hall. I like Irish music in general, anything from traditional fiddle tunes to The Waterboys and The Pogues - and as anyone who knows me will tell you I love to dance - so Vern and I decided to go. The hall was packed, and extra seats had to be placed at the back. Concerts at this hall are rather special: it holds only about 200 people and the organizers set up large round tables, covered in rose coloured tablecloths that warmly glow with the fragmented light of candles set in stout vases of wavy glass. Each table seats eight people and at a sold-out concert, especially, the atmosphere is festive and cozy.
Vern and I, as volunteer ticket takers and part of the clean-up crew, sat at the very back for the show. I had dressed warmly because it can be a fairly cold job standing in a doorway taking tickets and handing out programs on a windy fall evening by the lake. After we could fit no more people than the fire department allows in the hall, we closed the doors. The music started and it didn't take long before people were up and dancing in the area in front of the stage. I spotted my friend, Marilee, who I can usually count on to dance with me (Vern likes to dance, but Celtic music isn't really his thing) and went up to join her. Marilee even knows the proper steps; I just sort of fake it and let my Celtic roots see me through. Among the several dancers, I noticed a teenage boy enjoying himself immensely. I recognized in him the features of Downs Syndrome, and for some reason it made me really happy to see him hopping up and down with great abandon. After I, in my light sweater and woven silk scarf, became entirely too hot to keep on dancing I went back to my seat. The boy, however, stayed up on his feet, and I think, danced every dance, no matter the tempo. The band announced a five-minute break, which they said would be twenty minutes in Ireland, and we volunteers took the opportunity to bus the tables and get ourselves a drink.
The lights flickered indicating the break was over. The band started again and we die-hard dancers rose, including the teenage boy. The band announced a series of reels and each song was progressively faster than the one before. Before long I had to sit down again, dripping with sweat in my long sleeves, and one by one everyone else left the dance floor - except for the boy. He jumped around, he twirled, he raised his hands in the air like a highland dancer in plaid shirt and jeans, and as the floor cleared, he expanded his routine to fill the space. I stayed at the back but stood so I could see him better. The dancers up front stayed to the side and also stood, watching the boy. The music rose with him and carried him away. He was flying. He was joy. He was - a true dancer. The tears were running down my face and I'm sure I was not the only emotional one in the crowd. The reels finally came to an end and the crowd, many on their feet, cheered and whistled in appreciation. "A free CD to the best dancer in the house!" cried the band's fiddler into the mike as he rose to shake hands with the boy. More cheers. The boy smiled with all his might and took a bow.
The band played on and the dance floor filled once more. We all danced again, including the boy and my husband. Rattlin' the Boards played one of the longest encores I've ever experienced, the tempo rising a notch with each new tune, but all the dancers stayed with it until the very end. We were all flying by then.