Am I human, or am I Dancer?

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I recently attended my wife Cassy’s company’s Christmas party, and it was fun. It was at a restaurant that was within walking distance of my house, so that’s cool. The food was good, and I enjoyed the company of the people there. There was only one problem: there was a band, and my wife wanted me to dance.

Dance is obviously one of the most natural primal instincts we have. Toddlers are always proving this — they all dance whenever they hear music. They’re utterly unself-conscious, and they get “happy feet” regardless of the time and place. Dancing taps into a source of energy that seems to be always in reserve. My wife falls asleep by 9:30 or so most nights, but she can dance all night. And we’ve all seen Dancin’ John at bluegrass festivals, feet moving for hours and hours.

I danced some when I was younger, but only because it was expected of me. It’s how we boys got our first interactions with the opposite sex, at school dances. And it was then that I noticed a general truism that still seems accurate (albeit with a LOT of exceptions): females seem to get more out of dancing than males do. Males seem to understand dancing as a useful ritual for interacting with women, but women don’t even need men to enjoy dancing.

You’d have to be blind not to appreciate the graceful symmetry of Fred Astaire dancing with Ginger Rogers. Their feet barely seemed to touch the ground as they ate up scenery all over the sound stages. This wasn’t studio trickery either – watch how long the camera followed them, without a break. Dancers in Broadway productions are similarly amazing – all those bodies moving, so flexible, lightfooted and precise.

When my daughter was getting married, I knew I’d be expected to dance in a featured dance with her, my wife and so on, so I borrowed a dancing instruction tape (this was the VHS days), and my wife and I practiced the steps. We did the box step to Marty Robbins’ “El Paso” – it was the only waltz I could find. And I think we remembered most of the steps at the wedding.

I can’t shake the sense of not knowing what the heck I’m doing when I dance, so I just avoid it as much as I can. Playing a band helps – most of the times I’m around dancers, I am providing the music. But there are times, like this past weekend, I’m at some event, and there’s a band, and Cassy will say “Let’s dance!”, and I feel the old familiar dread. Everyone says :”Oh you shouldn’t worry about how you look dancing – just have fun!”, but the same people will also get laughs telling stories of people who look ridiculous dancing, and the old fear will freeze me up.

I really admire folks who enjoy dancing, and to me, they all look terrific, and that includes young and old, fat and skinny. Someday, I’m gonna take some dance lessons and be like them. I think I am missing out on something. I sure would like to cut a rug on the dance floor with my wife without a care. I will put this project ahead of learning how to juggle.


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