Our First Dance Date

The rain was cascading in solid 500-thread-count sheets.  We scurried across the street and fumbled with the door knob, scooting into a little country church surrounded by a residential neighborhood.  A tiny antechamber led into an open room with 15-foot ceilings.  The empty wooden floor was waiting; ancient faded quilts hanging between tall, narrow windows wrapped the space.  Chilly, I left my jacket on.  

We didn’t know what to expect, except that we came to dance.  After watching the grace of two couples swing-dancing at a wedding reception, I suggested dancing classes to my husband.  This is an idea we have never once entertained in 32 years together.  Curt investigated the “dance class” scene in our small town, got the scoop and surprised me with a date to learn English country dance.  

Not exactly a class, it was a cross-generation gathering of folks who simply like to dance on Tuesday evenings.  Whole families showed up from little ones on up to Grandmas. Most folks wore casual jeans; some girls wore skirts. No breeches or empire waists.  Eyes bright with a patina of good cheer welcomed us.

The first thing our teacher did was split us up –with apologies–and paired us with experienced dancers.  We made our hands dance, tapping on our thighs to grasp the rhythm.  The feet followed as we learned sides, back to back, circular hey, a few more steps and suddenly we were doing the dances you see in Jane Austen movies.  With the music!  It wasn’t weird; it was fun. 

It turns out Tuesday Evening Folk Dancing rotates Irish Set, International/Balkan, New England Contra and English Country dancing.  Thoughts:

•  Tempo changes things.  We did the same dance to the same music but one CD was very jiggish and the other CD was joggish, if you understand joggish to mean slow and deliberate.   I thought the slower one was more intense, with potential for undercurrent. When you are jigging you don’t have time to wink at your beloved in passing.

•  Eye contact: Ay-Yi-Yi!  Our teacher emphasized how important eye contact was in English country dance.  Whew!  There is something intimidating about holding eye contact, because, I think, eye contact is intimate.  I couldn’t do it. [Remember, I wasn’t dancing with my husband.]  It made me realize how very seldom we sustain eye contact in everyday life.  

•  I never thought of elegant as a masculine adjective.  But there were a few young men–and they weren’t wispy by any means–for whom no other word would be adequate.  I felt my posture improving around them.

•  Being/feeling a fool is good for the soul.  Amidst all our striving for excellence it is a relief to be totally incompetent.  Laughter is a happy detoxification.

•  Ahem.  These folk are not overweight.  I want to hang out with them, learn from them.

•  The Way We Dance