Saturday, February 5, 2011

Crash Course

The name of the class Dave and I are taking is "Crash Course for Weddings," so we were expecting a little violence. The basics were easy. The man clutches the woman by the shoulder blade and hand in such a manner she cannot escape, and then he tries to step on her. She, in turn, tries not to be stepped on, and with the addition of grace, you've got your ballroom dancing. It's a six-week course, and we're not scheduled to learn grace until the final week.

Most of my personal grace is tucked inside. I don't like to let it out where just anyone can see it; I'm not that kind of girl. There is a young man in our class who already has grace and his own dancing shoes, so he may be a plant. Most of the rest are couples with some seasoning. Our teacher, Melena, wrote out the plan of attack on the blackboard. In the first lesson we were going to learn Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango. The second lesson would cover Cha Cha, Rumba, Salsa, East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, the Stumptown Stomp, the Guacamole Two-Step, the Halifax Hop, and, time permitting, the Zombie Cannonball.

At the beginning of that second lesson, Melena inquired what we remembered from the first lesson. In the ensuing silence it was possible to make out the little grinding noises old people's brains make when they're trying to re-wrinkle, but sadly, most of ours had gone smooth. We spent the next two hours reviewing the left side of the waltz box-step, with particular attention to style, coordination, and the care of the fractured pelvis. Progress was made, and towards the end a dozen couples were lurching across the floor with true bumper-car gusto. Melena was very encouraging, noting that it takes upwards of 10,000 hours of repetition to learn one thing, and recommended we consult youtube videos in our spare time to review the steps, generously assuming we were wieldy with the interwebbing.

By the midpoint of the third lesson, we were enchanting; we were a vision; we were Swan Lake reinterpreted for balky grocery carts with a bad wheel. Melena revised her pep talk with the additional observation that most of us were seventy or eighty years past the time in our lives we were actively acquiring new knowledge, and shouldn't expect to absorb things with as much zip as we once might have. Which is about as delicate a portrayal of what happens to old brains as I have ever heard. She's a good instructor, patient, knowledgeable, and probably very entertaining to her friends over beers right after our class.

The "frame" is the contact point of the two dancers and helps to keep the smaller one from tipping over. With the frame, the leader can telegraph his course of action, if he happens to know it in advance, to the follower, much as a Segway vehicle infers direction by the momentum of the rider. Dave is exactly half-again my weight and packs a lot of momentum, plus his Segway is broken. Still, we managed at least the degree of elegance demonstrated by a man steering a file cabinet across the room.

Full-contact ballroom dancing does bring out the competitor in each of us. Unfortunately, we are not yet moved to compete, Bristol Palin-style, with the other couples. We just compete against each other. It's a start. We're pretty well matched--no telling who's going to win. He might be able to take me in the East Coast Swing, but the money's on me to finish first in foxtrot. Cha-cha-ching!

43 comments:

  1. Omigod, too funny!
    I know exactly what that grinding sound sounds like.
    Sadly.

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  2. Well, it sure looks like fun as you learn how to dance together. And as always, it's a pleasure to come over here and giggle. :-)

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  3. Reminds me of eight years ago when my daughter was getting married...and my wife and I signed up for panic dancing lessons. We were given homework assignments and audio tapes to practice, but we'd just end up laughing or cursing.

    My daughter joined us at the lessons so we could choreograph a father-daughter dance. My daughter was remarkably patient even when I tripped her.

    What was interesting though...when we got to the actual dance at the reception she whispered to me that she forgot her dance steps. As a now seasoned professional dancer I would whisper her next steps to her:

    "Now into a standard box step."

    "Swing to the right....no! to the right"

    "Then....aw hell, let's just kinda' wobble back and forth."

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  4. Elizabeth BrewsterFebruary 5, 2011 at 6:05 AM

    Aww. You and Dave are cuter than Justin Bieber at a teddy bear convention. Looks like a blast!

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  5. I talked my non-dancing husband into taking jitterbug lessons once so I would have someone to dance with. It was embarrassing. Not me, him. the guy has absolutely no sense of music or rhythm. He is the quintessential white guy.

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  6. It's a little easier when the partners are in the same atmospheric zone. Either you will need to wear heels, or Dave will have to sacrifice from the shins down.

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  7. If I learn to dance it will likely have to be Michael Flatly style Celtic dancing where my arms don't have to remember to do anything and can just hang by my side. That leaves only the lower-half to have to remember what to do.

    I remember taking square-dancing in high school - I could never remember the terminology, like what the hell does "Allemande Left" mean?

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  8. I think it means "German to the left." Kind of an oxymoron.

    Unmitigated me, I think we just have to do our best with what we've got. If I put on heels, I'd be real short in a hurry.

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  9. Funny! I admire ballroom dancing but not keen on partners. I'll stick with Zumba and my personal favorite, Hip Hop. Keep moving, Murr!!!

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  10. We tried to learn swing dancing a few years ago, but we forgot the lesson by the time we got to the next one. And our brains weren't as old then.

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  11. This is hilarious! I love to dance, but while M has a black belt in karate, he dances with the fluid grace of an elephant on stilts. I think the music confuses him.

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  12. Looks like you guys are having a superfun time!

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  13. I have not been hanging out at the right places! There's a dance studio offering ballroom right here in my burg; if I want to beat the winter blahs, I should shuffle on down!

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  14. I'm pea green that you can get Dave to do something like this with you. I'm married to a man who once wiped out an entire Polish wedding doing the polka. The trick to dancing with him is not to listen to the music but to follow him, blind & trusting. If you slip for a second and listen to the music you're toast.

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  15. I think it's way too much work for old people..it's just not fair. But its funny as hell. Thank you!

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  16. How encouraging to find other nondancers! I'm okay if I can move and invent as the turtles sway and pirouette in my hands, do the hora in a line dance, or--forgotten now--a warming Highland fling at camp when the water froze in the buckets.

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  17. Six weeks? Geesus wept, Woman! That's not a crash, it's a WAR! You're a riot, Murr.

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  18. Is Malena Argentine, by any chance? Ask her if she knows "Malena Canta Tango". Watch out with the tango: You can not only get severely tromped on but also tripped, shin-kicked and flung clear across the room. And that's just while they're inviting you to dance!! It's not all one-sided though - women get a chance to do some groin-kneeing as well.

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  19. Omigod! I'm hysterical, and it's not only the post but the comments! What a great way to thaw out on a Sunday morning. All my atoms are bashing themselves to death as I read!

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  20. That first pic is a brilliant double-take. At first glance I thought it was you in the shirt and jeans and Dave in the mauve dress and leggings. Then I thought, no that can't be right....

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  21. Just hitting the waves (Science News site, Friday's Science Friday): Aerobic exercise boosts memory. Even walking increases the size of the anterior hippocampus, important source of new neurons in adults, improving memory in older folks (some of whom hang out here, I believe). If walking does that, how about dancing? By lesson six, oh my! I'd like to make a mnemonic visual for this (yep, in order to remember it): hippos dancing at dance school.

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  22. My anterior hippocampus was getting bigger for a while, but I think I've got it under control.

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  23. That's a very ambitious schedule. I think I'd need to begin with refresher on which foot is which.

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  24. It looks like you're having a BALL--what fun!

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  25. I stumbled over here from Sherry's at Feather Adrift. Your comment on one of her posts really got to me....

    "..a real time-saver to have everyone all assigned to their little slots so we don’t have to go to the trouble of getting to know them."

    well... I hate being put into a little slot.
    I guess I am gonna quit saving time and get to know some folks better. And I started with your blog.... this is very nice... and I added you to my blog roll. Hope you do not mind if I stop by once in awhile

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  26. I'm honored, okjimm, especially since I note that you are a Death Panelist. Not that I'm putting you into a slot, darling.

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  27. Another (failed) graduate of dancing lessons here. As someone who grew up in a house that did not (and I mean NOT) believe in dancing, I never learned as a child. So I missed learning to dance at a time that my muscles would have known how to retain the information.
    We got no further than the basic waltz. Other steps beckoned to us, but it was not to be.
    BUT--at least we were able to dance at our daughter's wedding without my tripping over my dress and falling on the floor.
    That's something--you gotta admit.

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  28. Congratulations! I am the FIRST to admit that not falling on the floor is a great accomplishment.

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  29. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  30. Hilarious post. Your writing is awesome, filled with chuckle nuggets. I took a class once, too, with my ex. I had a blast until they pried my fingers off the chair and forced me onto the dance floor. Rhythm saw me coming and two-stepped far away from me.

    (MurrMurrs: do you have a spam filter?)

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  31. You mean, like, for that guy right above you? No. I just go in and delete him. He's been here once before, and a couple Chinese writers, and that's been it for over two years; I don't want to make this too complicated. Chuckle nuggets!

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  32. a doppelgänger!!! Whoa.... My son just moved to Portland.... said it rains alot.

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  33. Wonderful! I'd missed this. I'm way behind on my reading. I'm about to declare Google Reader bankruptcy (i.e. push the "mark all as read" button), but I'm glad I didn't do it before reading this :-)

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  34. No no no. You just declare a Google Reader Purge and leave me in, hon.

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  35. Our church didn't agree with sex standing up as it might lead to dancing. So now I am married to a woman who loves to dance and I cannot. Elephants can't jump either.

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  36. No no no. You just declare a Google Reader Purge and leave me in, hon.

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  37. Our church didn't agree with sex standing up as it might lead to dancing. So now I am married to a woman who loves to dance and I cannot. Elephants can't jump either.

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  38. Looks like you guys are having a superfun time!

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  39. Funny! I admire ballroom dancing but not keen on partners. I'll stick with Zumba and my personal favorite, Hip Hop. Keep moving, Murr!!!

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  40. Omigod, too funny!
    I know exactly what that grinding sound sounds like.
    Sadly.

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