‘Dance in America’ by Lorrie Moore

A brief dip into the life of a family who reside in ‘Pennsylvania Dutch country’, ‘Dance in America’ is the best example of what Moore does exquisitely – conveying how happiness and joy must exist amidst trouble and sorrow. The family’s young son has cystic fibrosis, and when the narrator, a dance teacher, spends the night at theirs whilst working in the area, she dances with him and his parents. She herself has her own troubles, having been recently left by her partner – a seething undercurrent to the evening. When they dance to a Kenny Loggins song, and Eugene, the son, runs out of breath, the narrator goes to sit with him before they get up and – fuck it – dance again.

As Eugene rallies the body given to him by fate, she says angrily:

I am thinking of the dancing body’s magnificent and ostentatious scorn. This how we offer ourselves, enter heaven, enter speaking: we say with motion, in space. This is what life’s done so far down here – this is all and what and everything it’s managed – this body, these bodies, that body – so what do you think, Heaven? What do you fucking think?

The dance at the end of this story is one of my favourite moments in any story – I love seeing such joy and sympathy on the page. Moore reaches beyond the limits of domestic realism not through show-offy similes or wild allusions, but simply by showing both the beauty and anger in a quiet evening of people gathered together.

First published in The New Yorker, Jun 1993, and available to subscribers to read here. Collected in Birds of America, Knopf/Faber, 1998, and The Collected Stories of Lorrie Moore, Knopf/Faber 2010

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