Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dance Partners

I've had three dance partners in my life, each so very different.

The first was my father.  When I was twelve, our church held a Daddy Daughter Dance in which the leaders called out dances the fathers were supposed to teach their daughters.  Thank heavens my father could already dance before we got there!  Instead of the my dad being taught by the helpful people walking around, he could spend his time teaching me.  Skillfully, patiently, he taught me the steps to first the Swing, then the Foxtrot, and finally the Waltz.  Instead of looking at our feet, my father taught me to look up and follow his lead.  He danced me around the church's gymnasium floor, where other shoes were squeaking on the waxed floor and stumbling over each other.  He led me under the raised basketball hoops and past the stage where the little children held their plays.  With his guidance, I felt graceful and elegant in my most awkward stage of life.  It helped that I had had many years of dance and had even learned a bit of the Waltz prior to that evening, but I felt like a shining star that night.  Not only could I dance, but my father looked in control and skilled at it.  It is one of the few good memories I have in which my father is included.

My next partner was... wait... am I allowed to use real names?  We'll call him.... Brad Dutch (anyone who knows the man about whom I'm typing is probably giggling right now).  Shortly after the Daddy Daughter Dance, the church decided to put on a massive show with the youth being the performers.  It was to be held in the Tacoma Dome and churches from around the area were all being taught the same dances so we could perform together.  We learned all sorts of dances - an all girls dance which was choreographed and included cheerleader skirts and pompoms, the swing, and... I'm sure there were others, but I don't remember them at all.  I know we had hand-made costumes - I still have the red and black flapper costume which was dripping with red fringe.  In all honesty, the Swing was the only one that mattered.

And it was because of Brad.  He was an older man (he had a driver's license!), he was kind and intelligent, and he was the bishop's son.  **swoon**  What a catch!  Unfortunately, since he was so much older than me, I knew I didn't have a chance with him (which became ultimately funny when I eventually married a man 11 and a half years my senior).  Back to the Swing... Brad and I were paired together because... well, because we were awesome.  We were so far ahead of our peers that while they were trying to master the Slow, Slow, Quick-quick, we were practicing him tossing me over his back.  While others were desperate to not step on each others' toes, we were trying to figure out moves we'd seen but had never been taught (I never did get my feet to kick straight up in the air over his head, but not for a lack of trying).  When I danced with him, I had so much fun!  I worked hard, but it was so worth it!  Not only were we accomplishing things I'd never done before, but the way he threw me around made me feel as if my considerable size (I've never been a small girl) wasn't an issue for him.  And, of course, I adored the attention our actions garnered from those around us.

My last dance partner, however, was by far my favorite.  We'll call him Hans.  In my junior year, the senior class (my brother's class) had a foreign exchange student from Germany.  He just happened to be a professional dancer.  When the seniors realized the asset they had, a small group of them got together, found a room at a dance studio they could borrow, and organized weekly dance classes.  I don't remember how it came about, but I ended up being Hans' assistant dance teacher.  I would walk around the mirror-lined room, teaching, helping, pointing, and showing individual students how to do the dance of the evening.  I could teach the individual steps - I had even learned enough about the dances that I could show the guys how to do their part (except for the leading part - I still don't understand the magic of leading).  It was fun and again made me feel special.

But, my favorite part came after the students left.  Each night, after class, Hans would take me in his arms and make sure I knew the dance for the next week.  If I didn't know it, it was usually just a 5 minute lesson (dancing has always come easily for me).  One night, he asked if I knew how to do the Viennese Waltz.  I told him that I had done the Waltz, but never the Viennese one.  He set the music playing and took me in his arms.

Now, with my previous dance partners, my frame was never even mentioned.  Hans, however, took my frame very seriously and had enforced it during our weeks together.  I was very thankful that I had learned about my frame and had learned to use it.  I think it might have saved my life that night!  As I listened to the first few bars of the music to get a feel for it, I realized it was extremely fast.  Before I had a chance to chicken out, Hans had me moving across the floor, our frames locking me firmly in place.

I say that quite literally.  Had it not been for my frame, I can easily picture me flying across the floor and through the wall of mirrors.  Hans had me twirling about the room faster than I could have imagined.  Between my years of dancing, our two strong frames, and his knowledge and skill, I was able to stay upright on my feet with them moving gracefully to the music.  I quite literally had no control.  Had Hans let go of me, I would have flown to my death.  He wheeled me around the room as if I was a marionette on a string.  When the song was done, I was breathless and exhilarated.  I had never done anything so elegant before.  I had never experienced such a complete lack of control of my body, while being polished and lovely.  I wish it had been video taped because I wonder if it looked at all like it felt.  It felt like I looked the part of a professional dancer.  I felt like I was practically hovering on the wooden floor.  Did I look awkward, or did I look as picture-perfect as I felt?  Of course, I had nothing to do with it, but it still felt amazing!

I haven't had a decent dance partner since.  My husband only took me dancing once.  I divorced him.  My last boyfriend took me dancing a number of times, and each time I was embarrassed to be seen with him.  He didn't last very long.  Is it too much to ask that a guy know how to dance?  I guess Hans has set the dance barre pretty high.

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