Saturday, January 15, 2005

I Do Not Shake My Booty. I Artfully Rearrange It as I Glide Across the Floor

I am calling you now, ballroom dancers of a modest -- indeed, I would hope deficient and limited -- level of skill, to come dance in the Intermediate Ballroom Dance class at Piedmont Adult School. My wife and I do not like it when we are the most Otherwise-Abled of the dancers in the intermediate class, and I fear that is the case at the moment. The beginning class is a circus of despair, but not the intermediate class.

There is still time. First class was Friday night. On the beat, walk our way quickly.

This session we are doing the Foxtrot, the Double Mambo and the West Coast Swing. (The West Coast Swing is also known as the Liz Taylor, since it is not so much a dance as a full employment strategy for divorce lawyers. My wife is utterly patient with my slips and misses in all other dance steps, but she is convinced that I am using the West Coast Swing as a way to do her harm, as a husband might who flings his arms about wildly after he is "asleep" at night.)

We have been taking ballroom dance classes on and off for almost ten years. It started when my university began holding a big winter banquet for its queens and drones at a fine San Francisco hotel. When the news first came down, it was mentioned there would be dancing afterwards, and I was so desperate in those days to cut a figure in the classroom, in the committee meeting, while having coffee at the cafe, in the hallways, while walking across Harney Plaza in full manly thoughtful analytical empathetic dialectical spiritually evolved stride that it was only natural to want to add to the legend on the dance floor.

As it turned out, ballroom dancing was the last thing on the minds of the faculty PhDs, ThDs, MFAs, MBAs and ABDs (which means all but the dissertation which means an untenured faculty member whose blood is curdled with fear 24 hours of every day) -- all these hyper-educated elites as it turns out are creatures of their times and want to do the shudder-shudder shimmyshake, not the refined and elegant waltz, foxtrot, mambo, rhumba, slithery tango....

Well, some of them like to do swings.

But ten years ago my wife and I did not know how to do any dance of any kind from any place or time. We were raised in churches that said dancing was sinful. We were told that dancing if not tantamount to intercourse was a prelude to intercourse. Later of course, we learned that though most things are not tantamount to intercourse -- including sometimes intercourse -- absolutely everything is a prelude to intercourse if done with some combination of style, good will and sympathy. So might as well dance. But by then the "dance window" in our lives had closed, though the "intercourse window" had opened. What did we know from dancing? Had never been there. Had never done that.

Anyway, under a huge misconception we signed up for dancing lessons. Though we quickly learned what we were learning had no application at the Dean's Ball, we also learned we liked taking dancing lessons. It was not so much that we like dancing per se, for in the years since we began lessons we have almost never gone where people go to just go dancing as opposed to going to class to learn how to dance -- to learn and learn and learn some more. We like structure. We like that learning component. We like dancing class the way a member of the all-volunteer army might like being taught to slit throats. There is freedom in choosing to be required to do something.

That's true for partnering, too. Dancing with other people still seems a little forward, quite possibly orgiastic. But our teachers force class participants to spend most of their time dancing with other people. It's all so retro. Ballroom dancing is premised on the man leading and the woman following -- I now forgo the many sneering jokes that might bring this sentence to a close. It is a true fact that if a husband and wife dance only with one another, rather than lead-follow they may develop the habit of merely cooperating or, even worse, the habit of follow-lead, the woman dragging the man along.

You may say in a better world the model would be different, but there is no better world within early-evening driving distance of Oakland, so we are stuck with lead-follow. It is the paradigm, and we must observe it since we spend a good deal of time dancing with other people.

(Which is not a prelude to intercourse no matter what it says in Zagat).

The class is in a gym, so there's lots of room. The teachers review and review and review. I will personally put you at ease by my lack of expertise on display in full 360 panoramic degrees. And, contrarily, if you are in a relationship that you are unable to bring to a conclusion because your significant other stills cares and you don't, it's time to show your SO that she/he has hooked up with a true demon lover.

Three little words:

West Coast Swing.


B. Wieder said...

I understand that the latest trend among American adolescents is "freak dancing," which according to adult observers is not only tantamount to, but sometimes virtually indistinguishable from, intercourse. I can get you courtside tickets for $80 a pop.

Anonymous said...

None of this is any good if you have a fat ass.