Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dancing with Myself (Uh-oh)

All of my life I have wrestled with a sort of love/hate relationship with dancing.  It began in first grade when my mother enrolled me into a ballet class even though I had been desperately petitioning for tap.  No, no – she dreamed of me as a ballerina.  (She so wanted me to be a real girl…)  The culmination of this horror show was a recital in a very scratchy pale blue tutu and wherein, as the tallest in the group, I had the supreme pleasure of leading our wobbly line onto the stage.
Mom had made a matching tutu for my little teddy cat, and it was after my first epiphany that I announced to her, “His name is Cowboy and He is a Boy!”

I also had the delight of coming down with measles the night of the recital and my sweet revenge was infecting many of the rest of the dancers.

Fast forward to seventh grade.  I was at a party at my best friend Marcia’s house and we were listening to music in her backyard.  "The Bunny Hop" came on and we gathered in a circle to dance.  As I was hopping around happily, Marcia, with the unconscious cruelty of a pre-teen, said to me, “You dance like a horse.”

I stopped dancing immediately and never resumed until the advent of Chubby Checker.  The Twist was fairly easy to do, even for me – stand in one spot and move only from the waist up.
Dance fell away for a couple of years after that – I watched Bandstand but never attempted to learn any of the popular dances.  I just loved the music.

When I was a sophomore, I was invited to the Junior Prom by a friend from my art class.  He was very socially awkward (think Sheldon Cooper crossed with Ichabod Crane) and I did not want to have anything to do with the stupid prom, but, alas – my mother made me say yes.  My girlfriend Ruth and I were double dating for this event, and we bought matching bright green wool sheath dresses.  My mother was horrified but hey, at least I was going to the prom.

No members of my family had ever danced that I knew of, but my mother decided to teach me how to Cha-Cha.  The only record I owned that was a Cha-Cha was “Down by the Station” and we played it over and over on the console stereo in the parsonage living room.  One, two, cha-cha-cha.  Three, four, cha-cha-cha.
Luckily, my date’s desire to dance was even less than mine (I do not recall that we danced at all) and although I was maneuvered into one slow dance with my Sunday School teacher’s very short young son (could he really have been wearing his Scout uniform?), Ruth and I hid giggling in the girl’s bathroom most of the evening; then we all left early and went bowling.

A boy from church invited me to my own Junior Prom and I declined, and then, the following year, a Future Farmer asked me to the Senior Prom and I turned him down as well.  So that was the end of dancing in high school.

Dance reared its ugly head again in 1979 – I was 33 years old and had become a devotee of the late night cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show.  Our ragged little group of would-be thespians performed in synch with the movie every Friday and Saturday for the midnight show.  Several times I had the misfortune of attempting to portray Magenta and that required doing the "Time Warp" on the slanting sticky floor in front of the screen at the Granada Theater.  I retired after two performances in which I nearly tipped over.

In 1981 I was introduced to The Continental and discovered that on their dance floor, no actual dancing was required.  Jumping around or swaying pretty much covered every situation, from the DJ upstairs to the bands on stage downstairs.  One night I was upstairs swaying to Billy Idol’s “Dancing with Myself” and some punk in engineer boots stomped on my foot.  I was rescued by Michael, who has been one of my best friends ever since.

Another incident comes to mind.  My friends and I were attending Sandy’s wedding reception and one dear old friend asked me to dance.  I demurred, telling him that I did not know how to dance.  He dragged me out on the floor and started to (try to) dance with me.  I had no idea what to do.  He stopped after a few missteps and remarked, “Wow, you really don’t know how to dance, do you?”

I’m afraid I’ll have to admit it – I ain’t no dancer.  Leonard Cohen will just have to take his waltz and dance someone else to the end of love.