Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dancing fool....

I was nervous and edgy. I almost talked myself out of going. Here it was, my fourth month of “doing something I’ve never done before” and I was thinking of ditching it at the last minute. But, I pushed through those feelings and drove to the dance studio anyway.

My hands were sweaty as I walked into the chilled studio and I was glad to see there were only a few other people there. That had been my plan, after all, when I scheduled the lesson for the dead of an afternoon during the week. I arrived and watched a woman who obviously was a competitive dancer go through some intricate moves with a partner, while an older woman shuffled along with an instructor on the far side of the dance floor. And, yes, there was actually a mirror ball hanging from the ceiling, ready to cast its jeweled reflections over the room.

I took ballet and tap lessons when I was about 5. I still have the black and white photos to prove it, complete with the tutu and daisy headpiece sliding over one eye. But I had never taken any kind of ballroom or contemporary lessons, and had never had much occasion to dance anyway. (I did go to my senior prom on a blind date...that's a story for another day.....and for the life of me cannot remember dancing.) But inside my head, I was a fantastic dancer, gliding down the staircase on the set of “Dancing with the Stars” to wow the judges with a spicy rumba or tango. In the real world, though, my experiences have not quite matched my mental images. Not quite....

It had gotten so bad that I had taken to refusing to dance with the (few) men who asked me over the years. It was just too embarrassing to walk out onto the floor, not having any idea what was in store for me, and have the guy start gyrating his body, hands flapping around his head, eyes closed, while I stood there clueless about what I was supposed to do.

My father did teach me the two-step during the years that he and my mother were dancing their way through retirement. And I could follow someone who boxed-stepped me around the floor, and sometimes I would encounter someone who led me enough that I felt like I was “dancing.” But they were the exceptions. I usually stepped on a lot of toes and had mine routinely crushed. Or I stood there and watched the gyrations, anxious to sit down so people would stop looking at me. There might as well have been a large black arrow pointing at my head as The One Who Doesn’t Know How to Dance. At least, that's how I imagined it.

And here I was, ready to take my first real dance lesson. Imagine my surprise when it only took my instructor, James, 40 minutes to prove something to me: I CAN dance, just like I experience it in my head.

What is required is a partner who knows how to lead.

Before we were finished, I was waltzing around the entire mirrored dance floor, head tilted just right, music flowing around us, with only a misstep here and there on the turns. We cha-cha’ed, his hand on my back gently telling me where to go as I flowed into the steps he had shown me. We finished with the swing, something I had seen other couples do but thought it must be too complicated for me to learn. It wasn’t. But it was a lot of fun.

This year-long journey is proving many things to me. One is that we are never too old to walk to the edge of the cliff of a new experience and take a leap, even when we’re unsure of what awaits us at the bottom. It might take a little push to go over the side or maybe just someone who can gently lead us.

Thanks, James! I can’t wait for lesson number two next week.

Stifling an urge to dance is bad for your health - it rusts your spirit and your hips.  ~Terri Guillemets


  1. Hey,how great is that! Maybe I'll try too :)

  2. I hear dancing is good for your physical health, as well as, your mental health. Plus, if you can do it, it's lots of fun. Dance, Dance, Dance, as the song says. (Standing OVATION)

  3. Yes, it was Fun, fun, fun! I found out that I COULD do it! (Standing ovation for sure!)