Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Where I grew up, a lot of folks reckoned that dancing was sinful and incited youth to lust. So nobody ever taught us how to dance. Sure, we had dances in high school. Homecoming, the Sweetheart Dance, the Junior-Senior Prom. But nobody actually knew how to dance. We'd just "freestyle", i.e. wiggle and hop around as the music moved us and like we saw in movies. Slow dancing was just hugging while standing up and shuffling around. There were just the three dances all year, and none of us ever got any better. I certainly didn't. Even Baptist weddings didn't involve dancing.

By the time I got to college, the disco era was in full gear. So we learned a couple of stupid moves involving swinging our partners around a little and emulating the dancers on Saturday Night Fever. The dance floors in the clubs were usually too packed for most people to do much in the way of moving around, so we usually just reverted to winging it like we did in high school.

Only by then I was considerably more confident, no longer being a total dateless loser, and I felt free to innovate in my dance moves. This consisted primarily of looking disinterested most of the time while barely moving or getting really creative. My creativity generally involved pantomiming in a highly stylized fashion some sort of activity, such as fly fishing. I'd cast an imaginary line and reel it in, reel it in. Sometimes, if the music moved me, I'd catch a fish. Other movements I would deploy included "starting the mower", "rowing the boat", and "calling the dog". Later on I moved up to "riding the pony" and "sailing the sunfish". Throughout my career as a very bad dancer, I could always fall back on the old familiar "pancake breakfast".

I was blissfully unaware that I was not an excellent dancer until my wife and I and another couple went to a swing dance at Glen Echo back in the mid 1980s and saw what real dancers looked like. My wife couldn't dance, either. I thought she was worse even than I was, although I never had the heart to mention it.

Last year or the year before, I signed us up for a group dance class at my gym. I missed the first class because of a business trip. At the second class, the instructors kept referring to me as a cautionary example for the other students. I was so humiliated I didn't want to go back, and Mrs Vache Folle didn't press the point. I think she was embarrassed to be the partner of the spaz.

Now I'm single again with a lot of free time of the evenings, and I've signed up for private dance lessons with Lyudmilla and Yevginniy. I don't have a partner, and I don't know that dancing with another non-dancer will help me much, so I decided not to go the group lesson route. I hope that I am teachable.

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