Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Here’s one that’ll take me a little while to live down, at least in my own mind: My Darling B and I go to a group dance class each Tuesday and Thursday night. It sounds like a lot, but each class is only forty-five minutes and it goes by so quickly that it’s over just as we’re getting warmed up and feeling the urge to keep on going all night long.

I think we’ll probably be going on Monday nights, too. The schedule just changed and on Mondays they’ll be teaching some swing steps. We’ll need to learn as many steps as we can between now and the night of the hangar dance at the airport on July 31st. Right now we can do a grand total of two steps, and I can twirl B in circles a lot. That’s not going to get us very far.

But back to last night: As I said, the schedule just changed and Tuesday nights they started teaching waltz steps. This is a huge deal because I just love to waltz. The other dances are just fine, and I believe I had almost as much fun as B did learning salsa steps, but when we start waltzing I don’t want to stop. I think the last time I had that much fun was when I was learning to fly. The two are pretty much the same thing, as far as I can tell. Waltzing gets me just as high, and there’s no danger of crashing and burning.

We must have left the house to get to last night’s lesson too early, or traffic was much lighter and much faster than usual, because we ended up at the dance studio about fifteen minutes before the class started, so after changing into our dance shoes B and I stepped into the back room to warm up a little.

B bought herself a pair of dance shoes after the second or third lesson. She was already well down the road of becoming a dance nerd, although she has yet to order a pair of heels. She says she’s going to sew a ball gown this winter, too, and has already spied out a pattern. Photos to follow, promise.

I held off buying dance shoes until last week, not because I wasn’t totally devoted to learning to dance but because I’m a great big cheapskate. I already have a pair of shoes, what do I need another pair for? I’ll tell you what I need them for: I need soft, lightweight dance shoes so I don’t mash all ten toes of every dance partner at the studio to jelly. I’m sure there’s a limit to how many times they’ll put up with a pummeling from my size-twelves with patented Vibram soles, no matter how bravely they smile and assure me, “That’s all right.” Bravery is routine to women who will dance with beginners, particularly a salsa.

For our warm-up I led B through a couple basic turning box steps, an underarm turn, a crossover or two, and then, when I tried a cross-body lead, it fell apart at the end so completely that we couldn’t start up again and ended up just standing there, unable to pick up the beat. The expression on B’s face said, What the hell just happened? so vividly that we both broke down laughing.

“Okay, let’s try that again,” I said, thinking it was just a fluke and we would be able to glide right through it once we got going. It was such a simple step, and we’ve done it so many times, that surely we could fly easily through it again.

But no. I led her into it, she came to the turn, and when I stepped around to pick her up we were both out of step and couldn’t sync up again. Bizarre.

“We did this just last night,” B chuckled. “We shouldn’t have forgotten it by now.”

So we tried once more, and once more it fell apart at the end. This isn’t a hard step, and we’re two fairly intelligent people. We should have been able to figure this out, but no matter how we tried to break it down we couldn’t quite find the point where we lost it.

As we were about to give up and move on, Christopher, our regular instructor, popped into the back room. He was working with another couple out on the studio floor but would have been able to see us through the French doors and apparently couldn’t bear to watch us dork up this one simple step any longer. Or, to hit the dork squarely on the head, he couldn’t bear to watch me mess it up. The first rule of ballroom dancing is, Mistakes are the guy’s fault. He leads the dance, after all. I’m not sure how fully I agree with that, but in this case at least it carried plenty of weight.

“You’ve got to bend your arm,” he told me, giving a quick demonstration before he dashed back into the studio by lowering his left arm, then crooking his elbow. This is the signal from the gentleman to the lady that they’re about to start the cross-body lead. I’d been lowering my arm but I’d been keeping it ramrod straight, not bending it. Could the answer to our problem be that simple?

His laser-sharp eye had zeroed in on exactly the one part of our dance that would put everything right. As we stepped through half a box I dropped my arm, tucking it back by bending my elbow, and B glided effortlessly through the turn. Hey! It works! To make sure it wasn’t a fluke we tried it again, and again we pulled it off without a hitch.

How could I have missed that? Won’t miss it again, though.

The Secret | 9:09 am CDT
Category: entertainment | Tags: , ,
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