jayellebee's Blog

March 9, 2012

The Lesson

Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 9:50 pm
Tags: , ,

     Sixth graders in the Oakland USD were “encouraged” to attend Friday night dance classes in the late 50s.  We girls stood along one wall of the cafeteria (which reeked of institutional lunches and cleaning agents), wearing our Sunday dresses and trying to see which boy we would be paired with once the session began.  The boys lined the opposing wall, grumping in leather shoes, white shirts and their fathers’ ties.  I learned to love dancing, despite this rocky start.

    The nuns who ran my husband’s elementary school did a much better job of killing his dancing spirit.  They orchestrated an annual school-wide spring  festival.  Mothers stitched costumes to compliment each class’ dance performance.  Our sons never tire of teasing Ken about the yellow, ruffle-sleeved shirt and magenta sash he donned for a flashy Rumba number in seventh grade.

     Ken and I danced during our dating years.  Part of the courting ritual, I guess.  But as we settled into married life, and child rearing replaced opportunities to dance, the love of my life made it clear he preferred to sit and listen when the music played.   This disparity in our interests was an anomaly, but it caused more than its share of discord.  I would invariably go home annoyed after an evening of watching others dance while my body ached to participate. 

     We struck a compromise some 25 years ago.  I promised not to ever again badger Ken to dance with me.  He promised to take dancing lessons if and when one of our sons was engaged and the reception was going to involve dancing.  

     So, last night we attended our first ballroom dance lesson at the Nevada City Veteran’s Hall.  I have to admit,  I was apprehensive.  Registration was through the local community college.  Would students be way younger than us?  I rarely wear anything but jeans these days.  Was denim and athletic shoes proper attire?    Most worrisome of all, what if the instructor made us switch partners? 

     Ken made no effort to hide his lack of enthusiasm.  For two weeks, he proposed one possible Thursday night schedule conflict after another.  Then we actually got “lost” on the 1.5 mile drive to the Vet’s Hall.  I felt so guilty, I told him we didn’t have to return for follow-up lessons if  the first class was too unbearable.

     Our blond, falsetto-voiced instructor was in her early seventies.  Six couples of similar ages made up the student body.  Four of the men were clearly not there by choice.  One couple had taken the class before.  He seemed ambivalent.  The sixth guy was clueless and, judging by his lack of coordination, possibly under the influence.

     We began by simply walking, hand-in-hand, around the room in time to the music.  I feared Ken would bolt each time we neared the exit.  His ocular muscles are probably sore today, there was so much eye-rolling going on.  We quickly progressed to assuming a proper “dance frame” (Ken’s right hand on my waist, my left on his shoulder…) with the men walking forward and we ladies walking backward around the circle, still in time to music.  No sweat.

   Then the teacher began putting us through our paces.  In the remaining 90 minutes she exposed us to:  the foxtrot, box step, waltz, swing, cha-cha, and rumba.  Apparently it’s better to be bad at lots of dances than anywhere near proficient in one.   When we tackled the tango, images of Pacino in Scent of a Woman and  Arnold Schwarzenegger/Jamie Lee Curtis in True Lies flooded my mind.  Giggles disrupted my concentration.   None of our peers saw the humor.

     There was some good news by the end of the evening.  Being on my feet in heels for the first time in months raised no blisters.  My husband’s  enveloping arms are reassuring and infinitely better than touching (ugh!) a sweaty-palmed sixth grade boy.  And, best of all, Ken agreed to go back next week. 

  Watch out, Fred and Ginger, the Browns are coming.




  1. Charming and delightful. Are these experiences, as children and adults, universal? I remember standing against the wall staring at the boys opposite, also the challenges of engaging in grown-up waltzing around the ballroom. I admire your making this effort, and certainly kudos to Ken.

    Comment by Jean Georgakopoulos — March 10, 2012 @ 11:12 pm | Reply

  2. This is sooo exciting! Keep us posted on future developments. The last time I was on the dance floor with my husband . . . oh wait . . . that was BEFORE he was my husband. Thirty plus years ago.

    Comment by lizbooks — March 13, 2012 @ 5:39 pm | Reply

  3. Dancing is what drew drew Bob and I together. We both love it! And have taken dancing lessons so we can be more like Fred and Ginger (OMG they dance as if they’re one being–lovely to watch). We love to dance at the summer concerts held in our community. I’m sure you and Ken will be the picture of elegance on the dance floor at your sons’ engagements and weddings.

    Comment by Chris Pedersen — March 13, 2012 @ 9:33 pm | Reply

  4. It seems husbands either love it or reject dancing. Mine thought he knew how. Because he rushed the rhythm we often danced adding an extra step. Did I get used to it? No. Fran

    Comment by Fran Wojnar — March 16, 2012 @ 4:50 pm | Reply

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