Saturday, April 14, 2012

We're Swingers

Some charity is getting ready to put on a walkathon, and they've strung up banners all over town. "March For Babies," the banners say, and I say it's about time. Someone needs to march for babies because they damn sure can't march for themselves. Even getting one to demonstrate a sense of rhythm is problematic, and herding a squad of them into formation is getting into monkeys-typing-Shakespeare territory. Every time they try to stand up and walk, they roll around and fall on their heinies, teeter-teeter-whump. They're like little tiny drunkards, with better enunciation. Scatter a group of them in a nursery and it looks like Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale, scaled down.

I'm impressed they even try to do something as daunting as walking upright. They're already total wizards at scooting along on all fours, but almost to a baby they decide to stand up one day and give it a whirl. They look like goofs and everybody laughs, but they don't care. I admire that drive to reach for the stars, or the shiny doo-dad on the countertop, in spite of the near certainty of failure and humiliation. It doesn't take too long for humans to grow up to the point that they're acutely aware of the opinion of others and they begin to constrain themselves within limits of their own making to avoid mockery. So wired are we to conform to people's expectations and approval that many of us waste most of our lives not trying anything new, in case we fail.

That's where old age gives us an advantage. Old fartdom confers upon us many of the characteristics we had as infants, and except for the bladder control issues and inability to eke out an entire sentence, this can be very liberating. No one's looking at us anymore, we're not likely to attract either attention or a mate, and taken as a whole, it's an ideal time to begin taking swing dance lessons. Even if we look goofy, everybody gives us points for trying.

East Coast Swing was one of the dances we took a stab at in our Crash Course Ballroom Dancing class last year. That class was so comprehensive that in six short weeks we were able to say with confidence that we had failed in no fewer than seven dances. Swing seemed the most promising of the seven because it was the one that afforded the most physical distance between the leader and the follower. If the follower were going to get stepped on or mauled in any way, she was often able to see it coming in time to take evasive action. Also, the music was the best. Dave and I have long had the problem of hearing Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" and not be able to do a thing about it except bounce up and down in our seats, which is hard on the bladder. We needed a plan.

The trick in swing dance is for the leader to be able to convey his intentions to the follower a split second before she commits to a totally different direction. To do this he has to know what his own intentions are. He has to push her out and snap her back, spin her out and reel her in. It's a little like operating the little paddle with the ping pong ball on a rubber string. Sometimes it goes all out of control. Dave, despite his advanced age, still has rocket reflexes and good hand-eye coordination and is frequently able to retrieve me before I go careening across the floor. It looks just that much more spectacular, I must say. We'll be home free once we perfect the look of "I meant to do that" in place of the more natural "what the hell are you doing?"

So it looks like we're going out swinging. But at least we're going out.

Here's something a little different. I wouldn't ordinarily put in a video from our beginning lessons, but you need to see the part where I stop Dave and tell him he's holding my hands too tightly. And he explains that he can't help it--he has a sphincter THIS SMALL. Enjoy.

60 comments:

  1. Murr, I love this. I smiled from the first word to the last. Swing on, sister!

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    1. It's all about the sphincter control. No, wait, that's something else.

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  2. (Sings) They're doing choreography! And I love that lavender ensemble - it's Just frllling!

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    1. That, my dear, is a genuine atikluk, made for me by a cherished member of my sweet Eskimo family. I love it too.

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  3. You look so CUTE in those little mary janes with socks. I loved it, too. You guys are pretty good! :-)

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    1. It was either those or the hiking boots.

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  4. You are one lucky lady. I canNOT get my husband to take any type of dance lessons.
    Dance on!

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    1. I put it down to luck too. It's not that I'm living right.

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  5. Damn, heroes are meant to be tall! It's a good thing I have you on a pedestal Murr or is Dave a real giant? Nice moves though, who said old people dancing look geeky?

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    1. He's 6'5" and refers to that height as "regular-size."

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  6. You guys look great out there on the dance floor. Such courage! Mrs. Chatterbox and I took Disco lessons in the 70s but flunked out because we couldn't do the "Dip."

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    1. Dave's done the Dip, but then again that's one of my nicknames.

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  7. If there is such a medium as cyber-osmosis perhaps I'll absorb your abilities. Well, there's no other way I'll look competent on a dance floor.Nope.

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    1. A lot of the people in our class are old and one or two of them are worse than we are. We cherish them.

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  8. I started swing dancing back in the '50's but it was to get girls (I was 16). It worked too. As I got older that pretty much fell by the wayside. My bride and I can still "cut a rug" but we're not very good at it.
    The best swing dancers I've ever seen was in their seventies and he had a wooden leg (prosthesis).
    I didn't pay much attention to the tall guy but the young lady is magnificent.

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    1. Anyone with a wooden leg would be just that much less afraid of getting stepped on.

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  9. Love it - you guys look great! I'd like to try swing dancing, but I'm incapable of following, and Hubby is rhythmically challenged to start with. Our "dancing" ends up looking more like hand-to-hand combat.

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    1. You have to have some tension to be able to lead or follow. But that comes with the marriage.

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  10. Hey now. That was just what we did in the '70s, we didn't call it that.

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  11. You two look so good! I would love to take a class like that, but I don't think the obvious partner choice would agree.

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    1. Unless the obvious partner choice cooks, it's time to get a new one.

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  12. You've described the leading/following issue SO well.

    We took a similar crash course years ago. My husband, who is a mathy-type person with no rhythm, quickly memorized the steps but danced like a stick. Me, being an artsy-creative-type person, kept forgetting the steps but looked super flowing as I stumbled and fumbled and got stepped on. What fun!

    You guys look good out there! Have you "gone dancing" since then? Do tell.

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    1. Uh...well, Dave says no more lessons until we go out in the real world and try doing what we learned. And we haven't gone out in the real world. However, we're getting pretty good at not hitting the corner of the dining room table whenever some good dance music comes on the radio.

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  13. Murr, my dear.....you are fabulous. Love your dancing. I am so proud of you....especially since Dave is so tall...it is more difficult to dance with someone who is so much taller than you.

    I want you to know that Swing Dancing was the thing we all did in the 40's and we danced to the real Benny Goodman playing Sing, Sing, Sing live. How 'bout that?

    Oh, Gawd, I miss that.

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  14. You two have mastered the rhythm method! Well done, but what I really, really like is your frilly little purple apronish top! THAT's the cat's meow!When we dance, I want to spin all over the place, and John just stands and sort of jiggles to his own jiggery-do.

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    1. Yet another explanation for why we didn't have kids. Thanks for the clarification, Susan, you nut.

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  15. Are you sure that was an early lesson? It looked pretty accomplished to me. Though here on the home front standing AND walking is an accomplishment.
    Another brilliant post. Thanks.

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    1. Yuh, we had five moves at that point, and now we have about ten, but we lose track after six.

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  16. I have come to accept that the more I drink, the better I dance. I am told I am alone in that opinion.

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    1. I, on the other hand, believe you, Robert.

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  17. I must say, you two did quite well. Wish I could dance like that, but my knees say no way!

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    1. Don't you be taking no orders from your knees.

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  18. My husband is a much better swing dancer than I and he also saves me from careening out of control because I don't understand the technique or whatever it is that I don't get! I feel the rhythm but can't get the moves quite right. But then as you say at our age we are just great for having a go!Love the lavender top and the shoes and socks and the joie de vivre!

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    1. A good leader can definitely make you look good. Plus if he's a good catch that can cut down on injuries.

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  19. Ahhh Mary.... Jerry has to see this! 'Wonerful, wonerful'! Such a sense of rhythm!

    a

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    1. Aww, we never got to have Lawrence Welk on in our house. Dad didn't like it. I guess Mom wasn't consulted. She used to dance a lot before she married. I'm making things sound sort of dire, now...I believe there were compensations.

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  20. Swingers have all the action and the fun because music keeps them hopping. Good for you both:)

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    1. It's those size thirteens of his that keep me hopping. Using the same theory that jumping up and down will save you in a plummeting elevator.

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  21. Pretty annoying, overall. If I work on it for several days, then on occasion I can come up with something that sings and sways and entertains like this. You do it almost every goddamned day.

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    1. I am well satisfied if I can annoy you, Franklee, because you are a verbal fusspot of the first order, and I mean that in the nicest way.

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  22. laughing! loudly! Studley and i have taken many Salsa dance lessons. and the only way i can let him lead is if i close my eyes... but we giggle and snort our way across dance floors across the city. and are known as "that couple that laughs while dancing and fighting". you guys rock! or swing...

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    1. Hey! I should at least snort! Good for you. Salsa is WAY too fast. I can't get my feet up in the air in time for them to come back down.

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  23. "Dance as if nobody is watching" actually went through my head last night as I went out - solo - and cut a rug. (Funny how that expression means "dance" when dancing on a rug would be particularly problematic. Maybe that's why you CUT it.) Thank goodness I came of dancing age in an age when couples weren't really expected to lead, follow, or even hold hands while dancing! The hardest part for me was "letting" somebody else lead - you have to kind of surrender control - the kind of control I didn't truly have in the first place. Every now and then some guy would actually be able to swing-dance, and it turned out to be an advantage, that I was shorter and smaller than the Leader. Did you notice how smoothly that arms-over-your-head spin works for you and Dave? Height difference. I recommend leaning heavily on that move.

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    1. Yeah, if I can get him to loosen up. When he's got a death grip, twisting is problematic. And when a guy tells you he can't help it because he has a sphincter THIS TIGHT, there's no arguing with him.

      I wish I'd grown up in a dancing-with-partners age! It's harder to learn now. And that thing we learned to do by ourselves is all well and good with the right drugs, but it's overrated.

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  24. We have two local couples that teach swing. One couple could suck the life out of a rock. That said, I'm not sure I could drink enough to attempt swing dancing in front of my mule, let alone people. Probably why I don't have any kids.

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    1. It could be your particular mule is overly critical. Those sterile types are pissed all the time.

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  25. That looks like fun. I want to take dancing lessons with Paul, just so that when he says dancing is hard, I can say try doing it backwards, in heels!

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    1. Bill, please send us a video of you dancing backwards, in high heels.

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  26. ...and what were the other dances that you covered, in your Crash Course Ballroom? You sent my mind reeling back to my days in "The Arlington Cotillion" (or was it "Junior Cotillion"?). I did the Rumba with Barbara Rambo, the Waltz with Kathy Worthington, and the Foxtrot with everyone. But we never did the Swing. I think it was way too much fun to be allowed at the Lyon Village Community House....BTW, I can't remember the last time I saw you in a skirt and Mary Janes! Love it!

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    1. Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Rumba, Salsa, Cha Cha, and East Coast Swing. I KNOW you did the waltz with Kathy Worthington. You took her to the junior prom, too. And I had such a crush on you.

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  27. Way to shake it, lady. All this...and without liquid courage. Great job.

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    1. Just because you don't SEE the liquid courage...

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  28. Good for you folks. Truly impressed I am.

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  29. Well that looks like fun. Maybe even as much fun to do as it is to watch.

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  30. I just love the pics! The look on your face is priceless. I've alway wanted to take lessons, but have no one to dance with. That is my sad story and I am sticking to it!

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  31. You two are brave. Somewhere between 250 and 500 grams of vodka improves my dance skills to the point I will try it in public. Tanya can dance up a storm and step dance too. She would love it if I could dance.

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  32. You two look fine! As if you've been doing that for many years. I took ballroom for several years, but my husband refuses to dance at all--except when he was trying to trap me as his girlfriend. Then he said he hated it, and I haven't been dancing in years. Sigh. Memories.

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  33. Lordy, I love you guys. And ain't that what we do this blog thing for?

    Love those mary janes.

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