Thursday, October 24, 2013
Dancing Ups and Downs*
I’m just crazy about line dancing. This week is the four-year anniversary of my joining my Tuesday night class at the fitness center. Only one other person, Evelyn, has been there that long. Katja and our friend Donna started out with me. However, Katja discontinued to have knee surgery, and Donna, who’s an excellent dancer, decided line dancing was too repetitive and stopped going too. I myself, though, become more infatuated with line dancing every week. The music is really good, from country to boogie woogie to hip hop. We’ve learned over a hundred different dance numbers since the class began. While each routine is distinctive, they tend to be different combinations of the same basic set of steps. So, while learning new dances is always demanding mentally, you can become proficient in a short time. When things are going well I find myself “in the zone”, merging with the music without having to think about the dance steps at all. That’s the best.
Recently I signed up for a second line dancing class that’s held on Monday nights at a school out in the suburbs. With sixty or seventy students, it’s about four times as large as my Tuesday night class. About 90% of the participants are women. I don’t know why line dancing draws more women than men, but it seems to do so. Maybe women like dancing by themselves in a group situation more. Sometimes I feel a little odd about being a token male. Last week I was the only man there for the first ten minutes. Finally one other guy arrived, and I relaxed. I do like this big class a lot. There’s so many people that you can get lost in the crowd, and you feel like you’re part of a big, anonymous, cohesive conglomeration.
Thinking I should expand my repertoire, I suggested to Katja that we enroll in a ballroom dance class that a local dance studio was advertising. We’d taken lessons there once before and enjoyed them, so she readily agreed. Two male students (a guy named Rex and myself) and fifteen women showed up for the first class, not an ideal gender balance for couple dancing. The head instructor, Jean Ann, took the male role in dancing with female class members, and her assistant Richard also participated. Nonetheless, ten of the women dropped out by the time of the second class, so we were down to more balanced numbers.
I was doing o.k. until we began learning the rumba in session two. The class operates by switching partners every few minutes. Shortly into the class period I got paired with a petite, red-haired woman named Arlene. I’d already decided Arlene was the best dancer in the class, especially on the rumba. We’d danced for about ten seconds when she told me in a stern voice that I wasn’t holding her hand firmly enough. I think I’d been being timid, trying to avoid contact with female strangers. I tried to correct my grip but she admonished me again and said she was going to push hard on my hand if I couldn’t push on hers. She did push hard, and then it was time to change partners. Fifteen minutes later Arlene and I were about to be paired up again. However, she turned to the woman next to her and said, “I don’t want to dance with him. You dance with him.” The other woman, Sally, gave her a strange look but did join me. Sally smiled throughout and I thought we were doing better. Near the end of class Arlene and I got paired together one more time. When the song reached its conclusion, I said, “That was good.” Arlene looked me dead in the eye and said, “That was not good. There wasn’t a single thing about that that was good.” Taken aback, I thanked Arlene and moved away. Jean Ann came up and said that sometimes men can have trouble with rhythm. She asked me two times if I was able to hear the music. I said I heard it all right, though, given my less than perfect hearing, I was suddenly not so sure. Jean Ann danced with me for a minute or two, repeating “Slow quick-quick, slow quick-quick” until I finally started moving to the beat. Even though Katja told me as we left that I was doing fine, I felt terrible all the way home. My new dancer self-image was wobbly, to say the least.
At the beginning of the next week’s class Arlene went out of her way to be pleasant, apparently trying to make up for her prior abruptness. I, on the other hand, responded by groveling. I said that I was a beginner, I’d never danced before, and I didn’t know anything. I said that I would appreciate any tips Arlene might have and that I would try to do my best. Arlene commented that Rex, the other male student, was taking the class for the fourth time, implying that I shouldn’t feel bad about being so much worse than him. Jean Ann began teaching us some still more complicated rumba steps, and, flustered and self-conscious from the outset, I struggled the whole time. At the end of the class Jean Ann asked how we all were doing, and I said, “I got a C minus at best.” Jean Ann said, “Oh no, you are definitely improving.” However, we both knew that wasn’t true.
Despite my fantasies and dreams, it looks like I’m not cut out for a professional dance career. When Donna discontinued line dancing, she said ballroom dancing is a lot more fun because coordinating with a partner is more challenging. I believe the challenging part, for sure. Katja and I will stick with our ballroom dancing class for another month, but now I’m clear where my heart lies. In line dancing you can be as awkward as you like, and nobody every criticizes anybody. I don’t think anybody even notices. That seems like an ideal arrangement. I’m eager for Monday night to roll around.
*Pseudonyms used in this story.
-Phyllis S-S (10-27): Wow! Arlene is taking this way too seriously. Hey Arlene, try to have some fun.
-JML (10-25): K*** says: tell your dad that it doesn't matter that Arlene tried to make it up to you. She is a b....h and if I ever meet her I'm gonna kick her ass. I have nothing to add to this except that I really enjoyed this blog