Dancing for Dummies

Times I have heard a song and wanted to dance: 5 million

Dance classes I have taken: 6

Offers I have received to dance at Julliard: 0

Last night at book club, one of our members was late because of the tennis lessons she and her husband were taking. Talk turned to which classes we would all like to take, the skills we would like to gain. One said rug tying, which was new to me. A couple of people mentioned some form of dance, like salsa or ballroom. I started telling about my own aborted tries at dance, and we all scaled our expectations down to line dancing. Maybe not even something complex like country western, but something more akin to the Electric Slide.

Dance and I have a sordid history, much like my relationship with orchids, which is fodder for a whole other post some day. Remind me to tell you about my phaleonopsis-murdering tendencies.

I would like to say that my lack of coordination is genetic, like that my long limbs are ungainly and far from the prima ballerinas who top five feet in their pointe shoes. But my sister took ballet for years and was gorgeous and graceful and has cancelled out that particular excuse for me.

Back in college, my best friend and I decided to fulfill our P.E. requirement by taking Intro to Modern Dance. Our instructor was about five feet tall with funky heels on, wore dancer-y clothes that draped just so, and moved like a cat. But better.

The people in our class were ex-high school dancer types who knew how to sashay and leap and curve their pinky fingers. My friend and I looked like elephants in a room full of swans. The teacher kept us up in front so she could keep an eye on us. Or maybe so we didn’t run into anything in the back of the room… she was saving us from ourselves. By the end of the semester, we earned a B+ and felt pretty good about our effort.

For some reason unknown to me in retrospect, we signed up for Intermediate Modern Dance. For those of you who haven’t signed up for any classes in a while, “Intermediate” means “the gloves are coming off” and “beware all who enter here.”

We skipped into Intermediate like innocent little lambs to a slaughter.

Seriously, I have never listened to a Michael Jackson song again without a frisson of anxiety. He had rhythms in his music that make dancers laugh with glee and non-dancers (ie. me) cringe with unworthiness. The entire semester was spent perfecting the first thirty seconds of “The Way You Make Me Feel.” And we didn’t. The basement room with dank smells and wall-to-wall mirrors and 9 a.m. elephantine dancers had become my dance teacher’s prison. Each time we showed up, she seemed both dismayed and incredulous that we kept coming back only to fail miserably.

There was some kind of belly-dancer-esque wiggle thing that we could not even approximate, and there were micro-movements when we couldn’t even get the macro ones. There was a lot of eye-cutting and giggling, but because we respected our very serious teacher, some serious trying on our part. Michael Jackson, who was still alive at the time, would have turned in his grave.

I might have been a Summa Cum Laude type but for the B in that class. The “B” was for “ballsy,” and “better not ever come back.” And I didn’t. Dance instructors across the area have a photo at the registration desk warning them not to sign me up.

And at every wedding reception, I’m the one at the back, no the side, no turn the other way, of the Electric Slide.

6 thoughts on “Dancing for Dummies

  1. Daryl says:

    Let me add that the voice saying, “no to the side,” and “no turn the other way,” were not from me. I would have already stumbled through the double doors and into the hallway; blaming the square footage of the dance requirements for not allowing me to stay within the confines of the room. If your best dancing can yield you a B, then I would be a zēta.

  2. Anne Wayman says:

    One of my sons and his wife are taking dance lessons… jitterbug was recently on their agenda. They have a ball.

  3. Melissa says:

    If it makes you feel any better, I took dance for about 10 years, was on toe when I quit and I’m about as graceful as a pig on ice. I don’t even know how to do the Electric Slide….or the Macarena for that matter. I was too busy having babies 🙂

  4. annewoodman says:

    Ha! Melissa, That does make me feel better–we should go dancing together sometime! And Anne, I would be hopeless at the jitterbug. But I’m glad they’re having fun.

  5. Andria says:

    Loved hearing about your experience with dance classes. When I was a young teacher I took ballet and then jazz with a group of teachers I worked with. Everything the dance teacher taught us, after we all attempted it, she would call the assistant over to work with me, while the rest of the class went on to the next part of the lesson. It helped me be a better teacher as I learned how it felt to be the one singled out for extra help over and over again. I realized that kids could be trying their best and just needed a little extra help to get it.

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