A Monthly Awareness Song and Blog by Kristin Hoffmann
“If You Feel Like Dancing (Remembering Roberta “Bertie” Altman)”
Oh, if you feel like dancing, move your body
Just dance, just dance
And if you feel like singing, raise your voice
And just sing, no regrets
And if you feel like loving, open up
And just love, just love
And if you feel like living, be here now
And just live, no regrets
I say hey yeh hey yeh yeh
I say hey yeh hey yeh yeh
If you feel like walking, take a step
And move on, just move on
And if you feel like laughing, let it out
And just laugh, no regrets
And if you feel like growing, find your path
And just grow, just grow
And if you feel like knowing, look inside
And just know, just know
Oh if you feel like playing, let it go
And just play, just play
And if you feel like shining, be a star
And just shine, no regrets
Oh if you feel like dreaming, close your eyes
And just dream, just dream
And if you feel like clapping, find the rhythm
And clap, just clap
Roberta Altman’s fun and mischievous laughter rings through the light filled rooms of my childhood memories. I can still see the vivid, playful sparkle of her eyes, and feel the magic of her whimsical stories that carried my heart into flight. She wore her long dark hair pulled back like the tail of a wild horse, and every so often it would be freed into cascades of faery wonder, catching the wind as she danced…and how she loved to dance…
“Bertie,” as I always called her, was my mother Nancy’s fabulous best friend in life. They had met teaching kindergarten together in New York City in the 70’s and were immediately enthralled with each others’ mirrored abilities to be as silly as was humanly possible, while remaining inspirationally focused and determined around their teaching and personal growth. My mom used to giggle as she remembered Bertie’s uncanny ability to “deal with the naughty boys” in their shared classroom.
Nancy and Bertie had schemed to get pregnant at the same time, and according to plan, Bertie’s first daughter, Lisa, and I were born into the world just one month apart…my longest running friendship to date.
Bertie had spent part of her twenties in the Peace Corps in India, and I could always feel a loving sense of “home” as she shared stories from her life there. She was the best person to eat Indian food with…she authentically knew how to order, could tell you about all of the dishes, and how to pronounce their names correctly. I remember going for an Indian meal directly following my mother’s cremation, a bit over 5 years ago…how the simple pleasure of sitting next to Bertie and hearing her order chana masala wrapped my heart in a protective cocoon of familiar motherly love, and kept me rooted to the Earth amidst a time of great loss.
Bertie adored dancing. From her ballet years as a girl into her womanhood as choreographer and teacher of movement, she danced from her soul and savored the expression of energy in motion. It had been no surprise when her second daughter, Mandy, began dancing as a child and into her own womanhood…inspired by her most trusted mentor.
I spent the evening of Mother’s Day 2016 with Bertie. She was brimming with excitement as she revealed a new colorful flowered skirt, in which she had been choreographing a soulful devotional piece, complete with epic world music. I felt the beauty of her passion for dance, still so ripe and alive at age sixty-eight!
About one month ago, Bertie called me to talk about ideas for meditation and continuing her own spiritual growth. We had all learned suddenly, a month prior, that the “parasite” she had been told she was dealing with was actually pancreatic cancer. It was a devastating blow to her path, and all who loved her so dearly, but she stayed strong in spirit. She shared how she wanted to savor every moment, every breath with her daughters and friends, taking nothing for granted.
Over the passing weeks she continued to laugh, love, cherish the beauties of life, surrounded by Lisa and Mandy, who selflessly cared for her needs, while whispering loving affirmations and memories in her ears.
My last night with Bertie’s is one I will always hold dear. I had brought my sound healing gear over to her apartment on the Upper West Side, and while she lay, like a tiny bird, in her bed with her daughters, I had the honor of creating music to soothe her Being, gently opening up a candle lit sacred space in which to flow.
At one point I felt Bertie’s Soul Song start to channel through me…it was mystical, like her, with words from an unknown language, the taste and feel of ancient Indian homelands. I saw her head turn in my direction, eyes filled with oceans of love, her soul dancing throughout the room. She was boundless, free and utterly beautiful.
Post music we all cuddled in the bed, re-living childhood years of fun and frolic…one last turn through our collective archives.
This past Tuesday morning Bertie peacefully danced on into the next realms, surrounded by Daughters’ Love. I received Lisa’s call a few minutes after narrowly avoiding a run in with a little turtle, who was making a slow summer trek across the road to a pond in the distance. I thought of Bertie and her journey ahead as I turned my car around, drove back down the street, activated the hazards, and jumped out onto the pavement.
The little turtle was both powerful, for her small size, and vulnerably slow. I lifted her up, carried her in the direction of travel, and laid her down in the grass on the other side of the street. I couldn’t help but see the metaphor of Bertie’s pilgrimage ahead. I was not surprised when the phone rang minutes later.
May the life of this beautiful soul, lived ever so brightly, remind us all to live more fully now. If you feel like dancing…dance! If you feel like singing…sing! If you feel like loving…love! We are the only ones who make these expressions of Being more difficult than they need to be.
These are the precious moments of our lives…and now is the time Dear Souls…
All song downloads and donations for “If You Feel Like Dancing,” through September 16th, 2017 will be donated to a charity for the Arts/Dance in Roberta’s honor. Just click “buy” on the song player above to make a donation.