Saturday, December 22, 2012

Two Left Feet

My Christmas shopping was unexpectedly interrupted today as I walked past the window of a popular dance studio. Couples gracefully dancing the Tango caught my eye. I stood on the sidewalk for quite some time just watching them. 

Their bodies were plastered against one another as they performed elegant dips, walks and quick turns. Where did the idea that two people clasping hands, arms slung around shoulders and waist; gyrating to some kind of rhythm come from? And why? It was fascinating but confusing.

My father always told me I had two left feet. His words rang true which always made it difficult for me to feel comfortable on a dance floor to wait for the inevitable, repeatedly stepping on the toes of my partner.

I walked through the door, watching the dancers a while longer, and then slowly wandered down a hallway gazing at photos of dancers arranged side by side. There were couples of all ages and sizes, beaming with pride at having won trophies or ribbons. The Las Vegas, World-O-Rama, The Miami Superama. 

Couple number 146 was having a blast on the dance floor, at least that is what the caption said. The position their bodies were in would suggest otherwise. The champs, another first place finish for East Coast Swing. Awards, awards, and more awards. 

The photos, like arrows, drew me down the hall until I found myself in what seemed to be a salesroom. I gazed around, blinking dumbly. I suddenly realized that had been lured into the marketer’s lair.

One by one, like mushrooms under a shady tree, svelte dance instructor salesmen appeared, smiling brightly and smelling of aftershave. I was cornered. Questions were aimed at me from every direction. Did I want to have more self-confidence? Did I want to meet people and make new friends? Did I want better health and social ease? Did I want to stand out on the dance floor? Not really. 

I felt like I had developed mental paralysis. After forty-five minutes of high density charming, and persuasion, I understood, there was only one way to get out of that office. I would have to dance my way out.

“Slow…quick, quick…slow,” my dance instructor chanted. Thank God my Peripheral Neuropathy wasn’t acting up.
“Don’t look at your feet,” he ordered. His breath mint made my eyes water. “Make a frame with your arms and let me drive.” Now I was confused. I looked around at the other dancers for help. My movements seemed unnatural and my breath came out in short huffs.  It felt like my pantyhose were on backwards. Was the Foxtrot really the missing ingredient in my life? 

“Dancing gives you a sense of well-being, doesn’t it?” he asked.
I smiled stiffly, wondering if I was the only one in the room who was worried about the perspiration circles growing under my armpits. I glanced into the wall-sized mirror; my efforts were looking less and less like the Foxtrot and more and more like a backward death march.
“Isn’t this normally performed to music?” I asked. He didn’t respond.

I looked up in time to see him exchange a goofy expression with a fellow instructor. What did that mean? I knew it. I was one of those hopeless beginners, doomed to roam the earth without rhythm, without dance shoes.

After twenty minutes of me framing and him driving, he stopped. I watched him walk over to select some music and suddenly the whole studio was full of Moonglow.
“Shall we?” he asked with an extended hand.

I took a deep breath and placed my hand in his. He swung me around; forcing me to cling to his shoulder then he began to chant again.

“Slow…quick, quick…slow.”
I had to check the mirror again to make sure, but it was true. I was smiling. Now I get it.

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