Monday, February 1, 2016

1-2-3-4 left feet. Pause.

After returning from New Orleans, Tim and I found a Zydeco dance workshop as part of the Folk Festival. Saturday morning, that’s where we were.

I do love to dance …

… as long as no choreography is involved. Once there are specific instructions – steps – there’s a problem. In high school, when we did calisthenics, the gym teacher would say, “Will someone take Barbara aside and work with her?” At theater auditions, I’d make it past the acting and the singing, but when the dancing happened, they’d all be stepping left, right, swing, turn, jump, spin, right, left … and I’d be stuck at “what comes after ‘left’?”
During the Jazzercise/aerobics craze of the ’80s, I did learn to do it. I got pretty good at it … as long as I did the same routine over and over again for months.

Even when I took up curling and had to slide with one foot while the other went down as I advanced with the stone, I would have to ask over and over before each turn, “Which foot slides when I put it down?” I’m sure there are people there who still wonder how I walk, period.

So the dancing that I love doing consists of hanging onto Tim’s neck during a slow dance (a la high school cafeteria) or moving to the beat of some Rolling Stones so that the beat makes it all happen without any steps, routines, or motor coordination. (I know people laugh at Elaine’s dancing on Seinfeld, but I’m not really sure what they’re laughing at.) Here’s a hint: the first dance I learned was The Freddie to Freddie & The Dreamers. Do you remember? It was so happy!
I met Tim, and he could dance with twirls where he spun me out and back. He even owned cowboy boots. I was very impressed. So years ago – maybe even before we were married – Tim and I took a swing dance class together. Turns out Tim wasn’t as talented as he’d impressed me, so Marlis, our instructor, tried to straighten us out with “slow-slow-quick-quick.” Class was an hour-and-a-half long, and I think one of our first arguments happened when, after 15 minutes, Tim said, “Okay, one-sixth done.”

Twenty some odd years go by. Lots of dancing, no steps. I dance with abandon and have such a wild time maybe people think it’s some sort of demonic possession rather than dancing. Tim twirls me out and back and there isn’t a slow-slow-quick-quick anywhere. Or rather, we always recite “slow-slow-quick-quick” while we do whatever we want. It’s our little joke.

Fast forward to last Saturday and the Zydeco dance workshop. It looked like it should be incredibly easy: “1-2-3-pause, 1-2-3 pause.” It’s a little unclear whether the foot stays in the air during the pause or comes down, but it sort of looks like shuffling so we’re maintaining. But then it gets complicated: one foot goes back while one goes out to the side. All in turn. Which turn? Which foot? Mirror image of each other or doing the same foot? Still with 1-2-3-pause? Or is now when we switch to “1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8”? And we have to switch hand-holding position, too?!?

As Tim put it, we’re the ones who have trouble clapping along with any musician. We seem to catch it a half-clap behind. Dozens of couples moving around, and we’re mumbling “1-2-3-pause,” bumping into people. We lose the beat and just can’t find the “1-2-3,” let alone the pause. We’re marching to our own drummers, “1-2-pause,” “1-pause-2,” “1-2-3-4.” We’re so coordinated we can say “1-2-3-pause” and do “1-2-pause-3-pause” at the same time. Isn’t that an achievement?
Unfortunately, there are many more women than men so the pairs have to split up. Now we take our ineptitude to the population, like a contagion, a spreading virus. Each time we link back up, we share stories of dancers we have confused, bumped into, or sweat upon. Finally, three-fourths done, we escape. Every now and then, we say “1-2-3-pause” to each other and laugh.

Some New Things are just destined to be fodder for a funny story.

Tonight we’re trying Zumba.


  1. OMG--no wonder we're friends. That's me exactly. Skip can dance to the beat though--so that just makes me feel even more discordant.

  2. This is too funny -- and a reader just pointed out the "he leads/she follows" issue. How could I have forgotten that? Four left feet ... and two of them are supposed to be in charge!


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