In my mind I'm a lithe, graceful, coordinated dancer with smooth, creative movements and a clear sense of rhythm. I close my eyes, and I can see myself gliding on the dance floor with a tall, elegant partner who guides my movements with a firm but subtle touch.
In real life, however: not so much. I bite my lower lip and bob my head and lose track of the beat. I step on my partner's toes. I try to lead, even though I don't know where I'm going. I'm an object lesson in unrealistic expectations.
Well, all that embarrassment is coming to an end. Mr. Peevie and I have signed up for four very low-key, very basic dance classes at the kids' school. It started off badly when we missed the first session because of circumstances outside of our control.
But when we showed up for the second week, we were relieved that the instructors looked like regular people and not like Bruno and Carrie Ann. I don't know what I was expecting -- ball gowns? sparkly lights? -- but the gym looked like a gym, and the other dancers were wearing, for the most part, regular clothes. (One woman was draped in a long, flowy, sparkly jacket-thing, but maybe she was headed out to a big gala after the lesson.)
Dance instructor Greg was wearing jeans and scuffed shoes like a regular guy. Richard Gere, unfortunately, was nowhere in sight. Dance instructor Penny had real leather dance shoes peeking out from under her pantlegs, but otherwise she avoided any resemblance to Jennifer Lopez in Shall We Dance. I considered this to be a distinctly positive thing.
Greg and Penny started us off easy, repeating the lessons from the previous week. The box step: simple, straightforward, honest. Mr. Peevie and I were briefly confused by the ONE-two-three-FOUR-five-six count when we tried to do it to actual music--this goes back to what I was saying about my lack of rhythm--and I started to get frustrated because Mr. Peevie was too passive.
"You're supposed to be leading," I hissed at him. "You're too passive!" So he clamped his hand on my scapula, stuck out his jaw, and danced like a man. "Now that's more like it," I said, following his manly lead while we box-stepped our way through Let Me Call You Sweetheart.
After we had nailed the box step, we moved on to the swing dance: slow, slow, quick-quick, or step, step, rock-step. This one got tricky when we tried the old under-arm-turn maneuver. Poor Mr. Peevie practically ended up with sprained fingers because I kept turning the wrong way. After a bit of one-on-one tutoring with Greg and Penny, I finally got the hang of it--although I still found myself moving my lips as I counted the steps and kept time to Gershwin's* In the Mood.
Finally, we got to some real music and real dancing: the cha-cha, to Santana's Oye Como Va. Surprisingly, the simple cha-cha was the easiest dance of all--I didn't even have to move my lips or point fingers at Mr. Peevie.
I believe I felt rhythm deep within my soul, and I know for sure I felt soreness deep within my quadriceps. After a week of rest and Tylenol, I am ready for Week Three: The Forbidden Dance.
[Update: I had Gershwin on my brain, but In the Mood was actually popularized by Glenn Miller. Duh. Props to Moses Butcher for the correction.]