I was never trained to dance.
I remember us boys being led into the gym when I was in grade school and taught to dance a waltz with girls we didn’t want to touch but were told to grab one of their hands and put the other hand on her hip.
Then we all moved like stick robots counting to three over and over and stepping in some sort of box figure while listening to classical waltz music.
My sweetheart trained to dance.
We have at least one picture of her at an age between 8 and 11 on a stage and part of a line of beauties in lacey dresses posed in a graceful dance move with arms extended like delicate branches of a willow tree.
While I was perfunctorily taught to dance stick-like in a parody of the tin man movements in The Wizard of Oz, she was learning to prepare for essentially solo performances – even if in group formation – but involving no partner taking her hand, placing his other hand on her hip and driving her around a dance floor like one would push a wheel barrow.
So there we go … dancing for the first time in twenty years at one of the several senior centers we joined a couple of months ago.
Let me tell you about the Corbin Senior Center in Spokane
and their weekly Monday night dancing.
2-3 hours dancing to music of the 1940’s to 1990’s (but mostly the 50’s and 60’s) played by a professional two-person duo with one playing an electronic guitar and singing and the other playing an electronic keyboard and singing harmony.
Fast stuff, slow stuff, graceful couples who dance like they graduated from Arthur Murray ballroom dance class and others who dance like they learned it the way I did. Only difference is that after a while they don’t look like stick robots – which is exactly how I felt when I first wandered out on the floor (cause they played a slow one) and Sweetheart and I could dance slowly and leisurely and cheek-to-cheek like we both used to do 40 years ago in our separate high schools.
If the dancing music is faster, then … well …. there’s always what we used to call the Jitterbug which, when I was a boy, I learned to do by watching American Bandstand.
Back in the present and most of the quick-step stuff is from the 60’s and later, the slower waltzy stuff from earlier times or from a source I’ve never appreciated that much: Country and Western.
Regardless, after a while my Sweetheart and I (who in our twenty years together have done very little dancing) sort of figured out how to get comfortable … except for one thing.
If you tell an Idaho farm kid all grown up to grab a ballet-trained dancer and drive her around the floor like you’d push a wheel barrow, yer askin fer trouble.
She learned to dance SOLO performance stuff. She never learned to follow a wheel-barrow driver’s lead … but –
Well, when she’s moving jerkily in almost a parody of the stick-movements I learned in the 4the grade, I’m assuming that it is not because she never learned how to be led, but that I’m just a rural kid whose grace and movement can’t compare to her flowing and stylish movement.
And I ain’t exaggerating. I remember the first time I saw her work in the kitchen when she invited me fer supper. Now, when I pull dishes down from the cupboard or put them into the cupboard I do it directly and almost roughly like I was bucking hay bales.
Not my Sweetheart. She reaches up to the cupboard and touches a plate lovingly and gracefully as if she were carefully plucking a leaf or planting it back on the branch. And her posture is right out of a museum where a beautifully sculpted woman looks like she’s … oh you know.
So we’re on the Senior Center dance floor and she’s moving jerkily because she’s trying to follow my lead and you can almost hear her counting the steps in her head as she tries to move in tandem with me … which ain’t no easy task since my old high school habit of dancing came back alive as soon as I had to start dancing.
Finally she tells me that she doesn’t know how to follow that well cause she didn’t dance much couple dancing in her previous life – mostly the rock and roll stuff of the late sixties and seventies.
Well don’t that beat all … she’s graceful and old Club Foot Jackson isn’t aware that the problem is not just his big feet.
Then she tells me that during one song when we changed partners with another couple at our table, the guy dancing with her told her she was always trying to lead.
Well … we’re working on it. We do well together and each dance session seems more fun that the previous.
One more thing … my Sweetheart absolutely does not want me to do my “chicken thing” which is what she calls it when we are jitterbugging and I go solo for a moment moving my hips, raising my elbows to shoulder height and start waving them while jazzing around in circles.