Whenever I attend a wedding reception or any social event involving dancing, I spend most of the evening just sipping at my table beside the dance floor which, to me, is about as inviting as a minefield.
When I rise between dance numbers to make my way across the floor to the bar, the women scatter out of my path like deer frightened by gunfire. Once, during the meal, wanting to borrow a salt shaker from the next table, I leaned over to the nearest woman and said, “May I have…..”, but before I could finish, she got up and ran off.
I have a terrible reputation as a dancer. I suspect a chemical imbalance depriving me of the necessary means of coordination or perhaps a skeletal defect which rules out graceful movement. I think Doctor Frankenstein’s monster had a similar affliction.
Or perhaps It’s because of my traumatic introduction to dancing. It was decided to change our seventh graders’ Wednesday gym periods into dancing classes. I was very disappointed. On Wednesdays we had always played Bashball, a violent version of tag where it was possible for a talented basher to render the taggee unconscious. How could dancing possibly sharpen my marksmanship?
Mrs. Stumbly, the dancing teacher, paired me off with Lagertha Olsen for the entire semester. Lagertha, a strong-willed Scandinavian girl, outweighed me by 25 pounds and had the upper foot in all of our dancing maneuvers. I never learned to lead. In fact, most of my effort was spent in trying to at least keep in touch with the floor.
Lagertha ruined dancing for me. She went on to a brilliant career as a professional wrestler and then was successful with her moving business which she somehow operated during the first year without a van. She probably never realized she’d left behind a culturally deprived twelve-year old.
I began to improvise during my high school dancing years by creating an all-purpose two-step that I applied to everything from waltzes to foxtrots. It worked fairly well during the slower numbers, but I had to become a witty conversationalist to distract my partners from our erratic movements around the floor.
Things came to a head at the senior prom. I two-stepped my way through the slower pieces with Wanda, my date, and suggested punchbowl breaks during the lively numbers. But then I got careless during a medley that began with easy going “Blue Moon”. I managed to keep up with the following lively “Buttons and Bows”, but then, after the slightest of pauses, the band struck up a very energetic rendition of “Music, Music, Music”.
“Let’s jitterbug!” Wanda shouted just as I was about to guide her back to our table. I desperately shifted my two-step into warp speed, but we began to lag and looked like lost tourists wandering through a stampede. I tried switching to my emergency box step, but we began bouncing off other couples.
As Wanda’s smile began to fade, I tried to copy one of the wild gyrations going on around us. I swung her out at arm’s length, intending to snap her back briskly, but I lost my grip on the outswing. With arms flailing, Wanda careened across the floor, heading inexorably for the punch bowl table.
Wanda’s smiling parents were waiting up when I brought her home. Her father had his camera ready, but put it aside when he saw us. Wanda was very unhappy. She was, in fact, quite blue, and so were her prom gown and dancing slippers.
I saw Wanda in the park the other day and waved to her, but, as usual, she turned and crossed the road. I wish she’d forgive and forget so we could be friends again. I’ll have to be patient. It’s only been 65 years. And she still looks great!