Friday, March 14, 2014

I Will Dance, Just Ask Me

I love to dance. I am not a good dancer but I am an enthusiastic dancer. I have a good sense of rhythm and I pick up steps easily.

When Elvis Presley was first becoming so popular on the radio I used to bop around the house as we listened to him sing. Maybe it was not my first attempt at dancing but I do not remember anything earlier.

My sister and I desperately wanted to go to a dance. There was a live band instead of jukebox music. We begged until Daddy drove us and dropped us off. He would pick us up later.

We were so much younger than everyone else there. And neither of us actually knew how to dance. We stood against the wall most of the night. We felt terribly out of place. Once in a while we would turn our backs and practice a few of the steps we saw others doing. What a relief when Daddy came to pick us up and take us home.

In junior high school we learned to do "partner" dancing. Because girls and boys were not allowed to mix during school hours I usually took the place of a boy because I was tall. And of course National Bandstand (which later became American Bandstand) was on television so we could learn the popular dances at home.

As we walked in the door at the dance we were given a piece of construction paper with a number on it. The boys got a blue paper and the girls got a red one. The first dance was announced. When the music began the boy and girl with matching numbers would dance the first dance with each other.

The boy who had the same number as me and I found each other. I walked up to him, put my arm around his waist, took his hand in mine, and began to lead him around the dance floor the way I had learned.

I was so embarrassed. As soon as I could do so gracefully I went home.

In high school we were required to take a semester of modern dance. We learned how to wave in the wind like trees. We learned to mimic the movements of animals. And we learned two choreographed dances.

One was to "Shortnin' Bread". I do not remember the dance. The second was to "Go You Chicken Fat, Go" sung by Robert Preston who played the leading role in the movie The Music Man.

The dance was awful. We had to contort our bodies into shapes and positions that are impossible for most people, including me. The song is fast and long. It was supposed to be a song to accompany an exercise program, not a dance.

As time had progressed I had learned to dance however. I could do all the popular dances. The slop. the bop, the jitterbug, the Frug, the jerk, the lindy hop, the stroll, the twist, the hand jive... all of them and more. I am also quite good at following the male during a slow dance so I learned something from my earlier embarrassment.

My boyfriend and I went with his best friend, his friend's sister and parents to their club. It was dance night. The two adults were doing a fascinating dance. They were watched by everyone. I do not to this day know what the dance was but it was great.

The father asked his daughter to dance with him. When they returned he was chuckling because every time his daughter would loosen up and relax a bit while he was trying to teach her their dance, she would lapse into the jitterbug. They had a good time but they looked awkward.

Then he asked me to try. I tried to relax and just let him lead me around the dance floor. I followed him and we did quite well. A lot of people came up to compliment me afterward. It felt good.

They played all sorts of music that night. We even did some square dancing. I had such a good time.

I do not think I ever mentioned this before but my children are no fun. They liked it when I sang to them for instance, but they would never sing along. And when I tried to get them to dance with me... they would absolutely not do it. Even if they were very small and I was holding them in my arms to dance with them, they would wiggle out and run away. My dancing is not that bad.

When my daughter was taking dance classes (Yes my daughter. She still would not dance with me) some of us mothers would go out for a while after our children were taken home. Usually it was to somewhere that there was dancing.

We were in a bar one night. There was a great big bear of a man who was celebrating. His wife had just given birth to a baby girl. He was buying shots and serving them to everybody in the place.

This big man came over to ask my extremely pretty friend to dance. She said, "No, but Emma will." I did not know how (at that time) to refuse him so I got up to dance. I am tall and solid so I was surprised when he started dragging me around the dance floor. I was flopping around like a rag doll. All my friends were laughing so hard. I threatened to kill them all, with a particularly slow and agonizing death for the one who offered me as a dance partner.

My husband was driving a truck owned by the proprietor of a bar. The man was Mexican so naturally he had a Mexican bar. Often we would go into the bar to pick up my husband's paycheck. They had Mariachi bands sometime and sometimes they had regular bands who could also play Mexican music.

My husband did not dance but if he had a few drinks under his belt he would get up and flail around. We learned to do a Mexican line-type dance. Everyone danced following a great big circle. We called it the Mexican polka but I do not know if that is what it really is.

Then we discovered the band that I eventually managed. That is another story. But they played fifties and sixties rock and roll and some country music.

We could shimmy, conga, pony, cotton-eyed Joe, electric slide... and line dances were all the rage. Some of those line dances were really complicated. There was even one that employed calisthenics as a part of the dance.

Of course there were slow dances too. The band called them "belly rubbers". And not all partner dancing is slow. One that I could never get the hang of was the polka. I do not know why but it eluded me.

Then the father of one of the guys in the band asked me to dance. He was a very nice man and an accomplished dancer. We waltzed, cha-chaed, and then came the music for a polka. I tried to refuse but he insisted. As i followed him I DID IT! I did the polka. Now if someone can lead me through it I can polka.

Dancing is excellent exercise. Because of the music it is fun and you do not even realize that you are doing so much good for your body. Try it, you will like it.


  1. What a delightful choreographic chronicle! Appreciated it even though my dancing is very limited. Grew up in small town, so learned square dancing. Then, when I was 50, a friend invited me to dance with the Sufis --surprise, allemandes, doe-se-does, reels-- same steps but no fiddles!

    1. Congratulations on your gig with the Sufis. I am not good at square dancing but I enjoy it. I always wanted to learn to clog but have never had the opportunity.