Hangar Dance

image of dancing with B

There were two or three other Rosies at the hangar dance last night, but only I had the privilege of dancing with the one who looked just like the one in the poster.

The entertainment at Madison’s annual hangar dance is provided by Ladies Must Swing, an all-girl band that plays tunes made famous by the great swing bands of the 1940’s, so the dance has naturally taken on a 40’s theme and people come dressed in costume: Women get their hair poofed up, wear 40’s dresses and nylon stockings with lines down the backs of their calves. Guys wear zoot suits or army uniforms. There were a lot of prohibition-era gangsters and mols, too, but nobody seemed to mind the discontinuity there.

B got the idea to dress as Rosie the Riveter about two weeks ago because what could be more 40’s, right? I was afraid there would be a glut of Rosies at the dance, but as it turned out I saw only two, one of them in a pair of overalls and another in a denim work outfit like B’s, but neither one of them had the authentic Rosie polka-dot bandana and B did.

She almost didn’t, though. The hangar dance was Saturday; she waited until Thursday to order it. Couldn’t say exactly why other than, that’s just her way. When the mailman delivered it Saturday afternoon she came into the house squealing, “It’s here! It’s here!” as she tore open the padded envelope. With polka-dots on her head she was the most-photographed Rosie at the dance. “You’re just so adorable!” one woman told B as she took a snapshot of us dancing.

“That’s the first time a perfect stranger has called me ‘adorable,’” B said.

“Well, you are,” I assured her.

The hangar dance marked our debut: It was the first time we used our classroom-learnin’ in public. We had a lot of fun with it, but dancing in a crowd is a lot different from dancing in a studio with the whole floor to ourselves. We didn’t run into anyone, that wasn’t the problem. What presented the biggest challenge was trying to remember our steps while we were preoccupied with watching everyone around us. By the time night fell and the dance was almost over we remembered most of the steps we’d learned, but dragging them up from our memories was more trouble than pulling hen’s teeth.

We’ll have a whole year to practice before next year’s hangar dance, though, and we ought to be able to come up with some decent costumes by then, too. I’ve also made a note to find the most powerful mosquito repellent in the world, preferably in a country where there are no pesky health regulations to keep them from using ingredients like DDT or napalm. Right after sunset but before it got dark, mosquitoes descended on the crowd like a biblical plague. To make things worse, the band had coincidentally gone on a half-hour break at exactly the same time the mosquitoes showed up for dinner. If we’d have been able to keep on dancing we might have kept them off us, or at least made them chase us and earn our blood, but no joy there. All we could do was swat and swat and swat until the music started again.

Once night fell and the band started up again, the mosquitoes left us alone and the cool, evening breeze made the rest of the evening just as much fun as the first half, maybe even more so for us as we remembered more dance steps. We stayed until the last dance and went home tired but pleasantly so, enough that we slept in late the next morning.

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