For anyone with a little girl or boy at home, Joanna Rohrback’s amazing Prancercise moves will look familiar. (See the video below.) The shimmying hips, the lithe leaps, the fancy footwork that obviously require ankles of Schwarzeneggerian strength. This is a woman whose inner child is strong and vibrant and not shy about shining. And I say, shine on! Or gallop forth, as the case may be.
The unbridled spirit on display in Rohrback’s video is a perfect metaphor for how rejuvenating and liberating one can feel playing with a little kid. Oh, I know, I know — for those who read me with any frequency, you’re probably more used to my whining and moaning about how boring it gets reenacting routines like “Let’s eat at Zurg’s restaurant!” over and over again. (I just can not make the Toy Story guys talk anymore. The well from which I drew the voice of Buzz Lightyear and the gang has run dry.)
But fanciful frolicking is another thing entirely. Just last night Felix asked to “play baby,” where one of us pretends to be a baby that the other must care for. When is the last time you screamed and cried at the top of your lungs demanding a pacifier — which in our house we call a ninny, a word Felix used as a tot, a riff off of binkie. It is emotionally liberating to throw your head back and cry from the gut, to fake cry so many times that it stops feeling fake and the body gets tricked into actually feeling things. Biology is a wonderful, mysterious thing.
Playing baby is like orgone therapy, a complicated theory about creative energy developed by Wilheim Reich, which in practice boils down to locking yourself in a metal-lined wooden box and screaming for an hour. Reich claimed this would increase libido and sexual pleasure, and who knows. All I’m saying is, chasing a little kid around the dining room table while wielding a faux drill and screaming “I’m gonna fix you!” sure does let off some steam. So maybe there’s some stock in Reich’s theory, which eccentrics from William S. Burroughs to J.D. Salinger and even the band Devo evidently believed. Just like I fully buy there is a liberating, recharging effect to Prancercising.
If you take the time to go beyond the video, you’ll find the Prancercise website is the gift that keeps on giving. Rohrback’s book Prancercise: The Art of Physical and Spiritual Excellence promises not just to improve your fitness but expand your mind and creative spirit with explorations of innovative artists and “the dark side of the meat and dairy industry.” (Because you can’t move like a horse while eating like a pig.) There’s even a chapter on first aid, which I imagine must come in handy when your going all out in a Prancercise trot. It’s as if a character from a Thomas Pynchon novel or Arrested Development has come to life. (Couldn’t you just see Tobias Funke or GOB Bluth Prancercising?)
But if you’re confused by my tone, don’t be. The welcome page of Prancercise says “It’s about self-expression. It’s about non-violence. It’s about conservation.” Yes, yes, and yes: I endorse this message. “It’s better to be punching into space, then in your face!” Rohrback says in her video, and I swear I’ve said the same thing to Felix at some point in his toddlerhood. (Perhaps she should write a parenting book next?)
There is real emotional value in playing, in goofing off, in being silly. Perhaps, as an adult, you have less of an appetite for crazy pretend games and uninhibited movements that smack of doing the Humpty Dance. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover your hunger for this freedom, and the pleasure it brings, still there. Sometimes it takes a video like Pancercise to remind us our inner kid has not yet grown-up.
Man, I can’t wait to go home and do the the Shadowbox Prance with Felix.