Come Dancing

Come dancing,
Come on sister, have yourself a ball.
Dont be afraid to come dancing,
Its only natural.

- The Kinks, "Come Dancing"

Emily, as many of you will know, loves dancing. She grew up doing ballet, has taken some swing classes, and is generally pretty comfortable on a dance floor. Me, I've always felt sort of like a hippopotamus in Chuck Taylors on the rare occasions when I've been persuaded out onto a dance floor. I've "danced" at weddings we've been to because Em enjoys it, and I'm usually drunk enough not to care.

On occasions like this...well, let me put it this way. Basil Rathbone was the stock villain in the Warner Bros. swashbuckler pictures of the '30s and '40s. He dueled Errol Flynn in Captain Blood and The Adventures of Robin Hood, Tyrone Power in The Mask of Zorro and even Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. Rathbone was the eternal villain in these pictures because he was an outstanding swordsman, widely considered the best in Hollywood, and he was so good that he could make his on-screen opponents look like masters even when they weren't. That's kind of how I feel dancing with Em. Not that she's some sort of mind-blowingly good world-class dancer - but she's good enough that she makes me look okay, too.


A few weeks ago when we were in California, we were spending the evening with Em's Mom, who wanted to go to the dance lesson at the local community center. Not wanting to be the turd in the punchbowl, I agreed to go. The dance they were "teaching" that evening was the Tango. Friends, let me tell you, it was a disaster. The instruction generally amounted to, "Okay, here's what you do: it goes, slow, slow, quickquick slow. Everybody got that? Okay, good, let's try it." This wasn't just being thrown into the deep end; this was being dropped in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Complicated moves mounted on top of the already poorly-explained basic step, and within twenty minutes I was dripping with flop sweat and spending as much mental effort on a mind-over-matter attempt to settle my churning stomach as remembering all sixty-two dance steps I was supposed to be doing. When an opportunity presented itself, I slipped outside and found a bench, spending most of the rest of the evening enjoying silence and cool air.

Emily and her Mom both reassured me that the Tango was probably the most difficult dance out there, that they agreed that the instructors hadn't explained what we were supposed to be doing very well, and that they were both impressed with how long I had hung in there.

Fast forward a few weeks...

Looking for something to do this evening, I came across a listing for a free class in the lindy hop at a place just a few blocks from our house. It was starting in about ten minutes. "Well," I thought, "it's gotta be better than the Tango, and it's gotta be better than sitting here watching a rerun of 'Science Cops.'" So I showed the listing to Em, she agreed that it seemed like a good idea, we changed our clothes and off we went to learn the lindy hop.

Gentle reader, I would love nothing more than to tell you that I quickly mastered the lindy hop, that Emily and I glided around the dance floor like Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, that I danced with effortless grace, style and panache. I would love to tell you this triumphant story every bit as much as I'm sure you'd love to read it. Sadly, this I cannot do.

The upside, though, is that I did not spend the evening feeling like a hippo in Chucks. At no point in the process did I feel frustrated, clueless or humiliated. The instructor was funny and informative, offering lots of useful advice and carefully explaining what we were supposed to be doing. I didn't hate every moment of it, and what's more amazing is that I didn't in fact hate any moment of it. I enjoyed it. I had fun. I didn't dance even remotely well, but intellectually, I understood what I was supposed to be doing. With a little work, I think I can even forge some sort of connection between my brain and my feet and get them working together on more than a primal, "Well, brain, we'll run or we'll walk, but that's all you're getting out of us" level.

I hope I can, anyway...

Because we're going back for more next Friday.