Dancing reveals latent left-footededness

If the blame need fall on anyone’s shoulders, it should be mine. After all, I’m the one who took Boy Kerry to the Wednesday night dances at Fredonia Grange where he had witnessed the likes of long-married couple Elray and Marge Jones swirling synchronized around the floor.

Wayne Cross and his lady friend, Keitha Post, were just as inspirational, smilingly matching steps in perfect time to the music.

“Aren’t they beautiful to watch,” he asked over my shoulder as we pressed awkwardly into one another, each shuffling step as if it were our last. “We need to learn that.”

So maybe it was his fault. He was the one who had located the affordable dance classes hidden among the fitness offerings at the YMCA.

East Coast Swing at 7:30, followed by Waltz at 8:30 seemed like a foolproof way to spend three successive Tuesday evenings. But the dance instructors hadn’t yet met fools of our caliber. We’re not your garden variety.

Two other couples were in our class. One hadn’t danced since their wedding 28 years ago. We instantly liked them. The other couple had been dancing forever and taught dance somewhere else. They were there to polish their style and to tarnish our aspirations. We distanced ourselves.

Dressed in matching red shirts and black slacks, instructors Bob and Melissa exuded the bubbly enthusiasm of those who can dance, talk, and chew gum at the same time.


“Women, do the exact opposite of what your man does,” was Bob’s first instruction. Easy enough. I’ve been doing that for years.

“Let your partner lead. He’s in charge,” Melissa reminded. Easy enough when Bob’s your partner. It assumes a certain degree of partner competence, the absence of which surprised me that night.

Boy Kerry is normally one of those people who are good at everything they try. I’ve come to expect it. I would follow him anywhere. Except across the dance floor.

Bob wore black and white wingtips that gave him a debonair, penguin appearance. Melissa wore a pair of no-nonsense black sturdies. Boy Kerry’s shoes were similar to Melissa’s, for what good it did him. I wore open-toed sandals the first week and combat boots the next.

Know your enemy. It might be your partner.

I’m not going to make any bull in a china shop analogies because that wouldn’t be fair to the bull. Let’s just say Boy Kerry is to dancing what I am to Euchre. I knew he was somewhat tone deaf, but his total rhythm impairment threw me. He honestly couldn’t tell one beat from the next, the building block of all dances. Relying on his cueing would be like allowing someone colorblind to put together an outfit for me, or accepting marital advice from Elizabeth Taylor.

No way.

One of my favorite activities is watching nice people try to find something nice to say when there’s absolutely nothing nice to say. Melissa went from couple to couple, praising, “What I really like about your dancing is . . . ” When she got to us, there was a pregnant for twins pause before she added “how his hand rests on your shoulder,” thus avoiding the debacle of our feet. Straw grasping at its finest.

Kerry made her our straw man, whispering it was Melissa’s “giving beginners way too much information way too soon” way of teaching that was preventing him from tapping into his inner dance potential. Right.

I, however, was on Melissa’s wavelength. Shortly after her pathetic praise attempt, I made my biggest mistake of the evening: I caught on. Suddenly, I could swing and waltz with the best of them. Well, the best of the beginners.

There’s nothing more irritating than being around someone who sees the light while you’re still fumbling in the darkness. Once I was no longer his fellow Arthur Murray reject, Boy Kerry regarded everything I said as patronizing. Okay, most of it was. I had found his Achilles heel and trod on it, along with several toes.

We went to class hoping we’d become Fred and Ginger. We emerged Fred and Ethel. But which couple had more fun? Just to be safe, I’d better drive separately next week.


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