Learned how to do just a little bit of the Charleston last night, by which I mean that I know just enough to make myself look like I’m having an attack of the heebeejeebies, or I’m trying to stamp out a brush fire. I certainly don’t look like I’m dancing. But it could be a lot of fun.

The annual hangar dance will come a little early this year, weekend after next. Last year it took place at the end of July, but either because of a scheduling conflict, or because they don’t want the mosquitoes to eat us alive the way they did last year, it’s been moved up a couple weeks, so we asked our dance instructor with a little help getting ready.

While we were working on our sweetheart moves he showed us how to dance a little jig that looked really jazzy when he did it. We’ve got a little ways to go before we can make it look jazzy, but maybe if we drink enough beer next weekend we’ll be loose enough to try it in public.


Dance lesson last night. Not our usual night because of a switcheroo with another student who couldn’t make his usual time.

Don’t know exactly what was wrong with me but I suspect that it had to do with the two left feet I was using. Make that three left feet. Two left feet wouldn’t have been enough to screw up as spectacularly as I was managing to do. The simplest stuff was somehow beyond me. Turns and spins and twirlies that had been indelibly tattooed on my brain had apparently become unreadable, as tattoos will do. I would lead B into steps that we both had down cold long ago, but last night I only ended up spinning her away while I stumbled off into an orbit of my own, usually on the wrong foot. If there was an upside to any of this, it was that I was tripping over my own feet most all the time instead of B’s.

The craziness began at the group class, which is a dance lesson for everybody who walks through the door, and last night was all about swing dancing. Mr. Park showed us a flashy maneuver that started out with a step called the sweetheart, then launched into a crazy whirligig that took us the rest of the night to learn. The first couple times we tried it were not so much misfires as they were complete duds. I’d wrap B up in a sweetheart, then try, and try again, and try again and again to unwrap her with the overhead twirly the instructor showed us, but time after time I ended up twisting B’s arm, which is not the kind of thing you want to do to your dance partner at all, or coming completely unglued from her and flying away (literally!), or sometimes just dancing the basic step without any twirly-whirly at all, and no idea how I managed to do that.

It only took forty-five minutes to figure out how to do it with all the twists and turns well enough that (a) there was no danger of breaking any bones, (b) the instructor wasn’t rolling his eyes at me, and (c) we were having fun. Then it was time for our private lesson.

About three months ago we took our first shot at a Viennese waltz and fell all over each other. It’s crazy fast and there’s a lot of spinning going on. Even when we were dancing to a fairly slow song, we could manage to remain upright for just three or four steps before our legs got all tangled up and we toppled over. And even after we managed to move all the way down the dance floor using the first very basic step Mr. Park taught us, he had to follow along behind us and literally give us a shove in the right direction to teach us how to make a turn. I wish I had a recording of that night.

Now, three months along, we can not only dance all the way around the room at a respectable speed, we can even throw in some fancy moves. My Darling B can do a cute little twirl and kick that looks ever so pretty, and I can lead her through turns and dips without dropping her on her head. We’re still building up the stamina to dance that fast for more than a couple minutes, but if you just happened to glance our way when the music started and didn’t know any better you might think we had some idea we knew what we were doing.

Except for last night, when I suffered a major brain cramp and went all the way back to tangling up my legs in B’s and stumbling all over the place. It got so bad I was beginning to doubt if I could remembered my name. We finally gave up when we got to the corner of the room and my one working brain cell couldn’t come up with the right step to get us out of it. B gamely followed me through it two or three times and every time we tried I ended up just kind of walking away. I wasn’t in step with the music – I wasn’t even sure which foot I was on!

So we tried a little rumba instead and, after a slow start, we had quite a lot of fun with that. My brain was still cramped up a little bit but I walked it off and after five or ten minutes we were both having a good time again. Not that I wasn’t screwing up; I was making tons of mistakes, but by that time we were having fun with it instead of trying to get every step exactly right. Probably we’d just gone numb by then.


The Cajun Strangers were playing at the Harmony Bar on Atwood Ave last night. My Darling B and I saw them once before at the same place and they were a lot of fun even though we quickly found out we didn’t know how to dance to their music. We ended up kind of jumping around or swing dancing, which worked just fine and didn’t seem to bother anybody, so we had a pretty good time.

This time around, we got there good and early so we would have plenty of time to grab a bite to eat, then take part in the cajun two-step dance lessons that were offered about an hour before the band started playing. It turned out to be deceptively easy: one-two-three and pause, then repeat. There were twirlies and other fun little zigs and zags you could add on, but one-two-three pause turned out to be just about all we could handle after only one lesson.

When the band kicked in we tried every way we could think of to make that dance step work, but somehow it eluded us. I kept steering B into other people and we fell out of step more times than I cared to count. And the cajun waltz was even worse. We could do the basic step just fine, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit the twirlies and other fun stuff into it, the whole reason for waltzing in the first place.

We ended up simply swing dancing to all the fast tunes and sort of jumping around to almost everything else. And we sat out quite a few of the tunes. Four long days spent digging up the garden under a hot sun had My Darling B well and truly worn out. She’s looking forward to spending a whole day sitting at a desk doing nothing more strenuous than shuffling papers.


Last night was guy night so I should have been making dinner, but I got out of it by agreeing to mow the lawn instead. And if that sounds like a good deal to you, you’re probably a guy.

It really, really needed mowing. Actually, it needed mowing already on Tuesday but My Darling B won’t miss a dance lesson; come hell or high water, we’ll be waltzing Matilda at least once a week and no damn lawn mowing is going to get in the way of that. And Wednesday night we were really super busy with something very important only I’ve forgotten what it was now and it will probably stay forgotten until about two-thirty in the morning when I won’t be able to find a pen and paper to write it down after waking up in a cold sweat.

So I didn’t get to mow it until last night, and by then the grass was ankle-deep and the dandelions were twice as high. It was so thick I couldn’t walk at a normal pace without clogging the mower. I had to take it so slow that at times I looked like an old geezer hobbling along on a walker instead of a guy mowing his lawn. It was like mowing salad.

Anybody know a good way to keep down dandelions that doesn’t involve calling Chemlawn? We like dandelions, but this year our front yard looks like a scene from a movie about invaders from space that look remarkably like dandelions, taking over the world one lawn at a time, starting with ours. The neighbor to the north of us has Chemlawn or Weed Guys come in every year and last night I could see the dividing line between her lawn and ours. On her side, lush, green grass. On our side, dandelions. Millions of ’em.


I was too pooped to drivel last night after dance class. We waltzed from one end of the room to the other in the group lesson, and then we kept on waltzing around the room all the way through our private lesson. And we were working on dance steps for a Viennese waltz. The difference between waltzing Matilda and a Viennese waltz is like the difference between writing a letter with a pencil in all-caps, and writing just about anything in shorthand with a pen. Except that, because we were galloping around the room, we got a lot sweatier than a stenographer would.

Do stenographers exist any more? In this country, I mean. I’m sure there are still plenty of them in places where the google hasn’t taken over. Just wondering.

A Viennese waltz is like flying and, if humans had wings, I think they would realize that it would take almost as much energy to do either. Takes a lot of coordination, too, something I possess in very limited quantities, so I don’t burn it up to do just anything, but waltzing is special. We started waltzing many moons ago, more than a year now, but we didn’t start learning the steps for a Viennese waltz until a couple months ago, maybe the middle of the winter, and even though we thought we were pretty hot shit with our regular waltz steps (we’re not, we just think we’re pretty good), when our instructor taught us the first few basic steps we were just about all the way back to Square One, losing the count, running into walls, stepping on each other’s toes, and collapsing from exhaustion after just ten minutes or so.

This went on for weeks, and it seemed as though, just as we were getting the hang of it, our instructor would add or change a step that would short-circuit our brains and throw the whole sequence off, forcing us to virtually start from scratch. On a good night, we could almost make one full circuit of the room without spraining any part of our bodies, or each other’s bodies. But last night, for the first time, we were able to waltz all the way around the room, not once, but twice! I know! And just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke, we even did it again. We felt well chuffed.

And that was while our instructor was trying as best as he knew how to derail us, throwing in a couple of optional steps we could try, or reminding us to keep our frame solid. If you want to derail us, just shout out helpful technical tips, that’s the last thing we can think about while dancing. It’s like trying to walk and chew gum.

Helpful technical tip: You can build a perfect dance frame by giving your partner a hug, then, without shifting your stance, stand up straight and take dance position. Perfect frame. Every time. Wish he’d shown us that months ago.


We did quite a bit of hovering the other night, not very well, but we’ve only just begun learning how to. It takes a little practice, but with persistence you, too, can hover.

Besides floating above the ground with no visible means of support, hovering is also what our dance instructor calls a step in the wrong direction, so to speak. I have no idea if that’s the technical dancing term for it. Sometimes I think he makes up names. “Some people call it a hover, some people call it a twinkle,” he told us once, many moons ago. Either different dance studios have their own dialects, or he’s having fun with us.

A hover, to get back to the subject, looks like we’re stepping off to go one way, then we turn and go in an entirely different direction. Aside from allowing you to get out of a corner should you get backed into one, a hover is also a shortcut to a promenade, or a hesitation, or any one of a dozen other steps – or would be, if my brain cell could think that fast. Mostly we promenade, because that’s the first thing that comes to me. If I didn’t have to drive all the time we’d probably do something else.

After hovering the night away, we went home and ate some tasty, fattening snacks. Hovering takes a lot out of us.

Cutting a rug

Did a little foxtrotting last night, a dance that turns out to be almost entirely different from the foxtrot we learned when we started taking lessons about a year ago. Turns out there are two versions of the same dance, our teacher says, a “slow foxtrot,” the step we learned originally, and a just plain old vanilla foxtrot, a much livelier step.

The slow foxtrot is a slow step forward, another slow step forward, yet another slow step forward, and finally a quick side step with a little rise in the middle. You can throw a promenade or twirl in there if you like, but that’s icing on the cake. The basic step is a slow stroll across the dance floor.

The foxtrot is a lot more lighthearted and fun — and faster. Much faster. It’s pretty much constant movement around the dance floor, but I find it surprisingly easy to keep a clear idea in my head where we’re going and what we’re going to do next. I have a little trouble with that when dancing other steps. Actually, I have a LOT more trouble doing that. But foxtrot seems to come naturally.

My Darling B seems to like it quite a lot, too.

No Tango

No dancing tonight – My Darling B’s feeling a little under the weather still. She came down with a freakishly nasty head cold last Friday night, spent pretty much all weekend in bed trying to sleep it off and was feeling well enough to try to tough it out through two days at work, but this afternoon her e-mail flashed across my screen: “We might have to skip dancing tonight. I think I’m having a relapse.” And she was still feeling relapse-ish by the time we got home, so we called our dance instructor and begged off tonight, promising to come in next week. Our tango’s going to suffer.

Unstuck in time

I had one of those weird what-day-is-it moments while we were in the middle of a dance lesson last night. I really, really thought it was Wednesday, somehow, even though we’ve had our lesson on Tuesday night for I don’t know how long. I don’t know when or how I convinced myself that it was not Tuesday but it must have happened after I left work, because my desk is surrounded by calendars and I’m constantly referring to my Outlook schedule so I don’t forget anything. When the bubble popped I felt well and truly bummed. Like, Damn! Now I have to do Wednesday over again!

Twirly Whirly

No group dance class tonight, for some reason. We practiced a whole bunch of moves Tuesday night when nobody else showed up for the group lesson, so Mr. Park turned the night into an extended private lesson, starting with waltz. If I remember right, we worked mostly on style, although My Darling B would be the best one to ask about that because she’s taking notes now. She thinks that’ll help us remember the steps we’ve already learned. We’re always asking each other, “What new steps did we learn when we did this last week?” and I hardly ever remember until we start dancing. My muscles have better memory than I do.

The trouble with taking notes is, you have to know what the dance steps are called, and even when we can remember the steps, we have no recollection at all of what they’re called. Mr. Park will ask us to do a fifth-position overhand leaping leaf-spring extensor developay and I’ll look at B for a clue, but she’ll just frown at me and we’ll have to wait for Mr. Park to give us a little demonstration, whereupon a dim bulb will go on over both our heads. “Oh! That one!” we’ll cry in unison, and do it right away. But name them, we can’t.

So B has a notebook filled with made-up names for the dance steps we’ve learned, like “left underarm twirly thing” or “traveling too fast left box.” It would be a lot of fun to hand it to a professional and ask him to perform as many steps as he can possibly figure out. I have no idea how likely it is this will help us remember what we’ve learned, but at least we’ll have mildly amusing names we can use in class that will confuse the hell out of the instructor, instead of the other way around.