Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Dancing Before I Knew How

I recently received a reply from one of my posts and it got me to thinking; actually, reminiscing. One of my most favorite activities is dancing. I go dancing virtually every friday night. In fact, I took lessons for close to ten years: swing; waltz; foxtrot; and, the latin dances like cha-cha, meringue and salsa. I'm considered to be an advanced level swing dancer.

I prefer dancing east coast swing, which is close to jitterbug, but not close enough to Lindy for a Lindy hopper and an east coast dancer to jump, jive and wail in syncopation. I know this first hand because of dancing on friday nights.

Once, a few months after moving to Massachusetts, I went to a swing dance in Cambridge. Most of the people there were doing the Lindy. I had gone to a dance camp a couple years prior and learned Lindy but I didn't stay with it and forgot the stepping pattern. The evening turned out to be a bust for me when a dance partner remarked: You don't know how to Lindy, do you? It got me right in my ego.

I really started dancing about a year after my marriage broke up. I remember sitting in my apartment wondering what I was going to do for a social activity when I saw an ad for a class sponsored through rec. and parks. I learned how to do the jitterbug, cha-cha, Madison, and the Stroll. Dances popular during the years before I knew how.

In my early teens the only dancing I did was slow dancing, except that somewhere along the line I learned basic cha-cha. At the CYO dances there were chaperones who walked around with a ruler and would put it between you and your partner to reinforce keeping a distance. At that age, just being close enough to barely brush against a girl's body was incredibly sensuous for a young teen. The ruler, had it been able to measure sexual excitment, would have made an interesting calculation; as it was, its effect made an entirely different measurement.

In my senior year of high school a classmate, Maryln Kerner, got tickets to go on the Buddy Deane show and invited me to go with her. My two older sisters, jealous but also sympathetic, gave me a crash course in the Jitterbug, Pony, Watusi, and the Mashed Potato. All I got out of it was confusion and anxiety.

One afternoon after school, Maryln and I caught the #20 bus to Television Hill, the major bus line to the show. We sat quietly on the bus as it traveled from our high school, Patterson, in far eastern Baltimore to the City's north side; the bus in turn passing the stops for Poly, City and Eastern high schools. As each group got on the bus, catcalls and other verbal abuse would come forth about whether there were any "Deaners on the bus." Marlyn and I sat even more quietly and I know I tried to become invisible.

We got to the show, stepped into the lights, saw the cameras and met the various members of the Buddy Deane Committee. Marlyn was all excited and went right out and started dancing. I tried to hide among the bleachers set up along the side of the dance floor. But, wouldn't you know it, I was asked to dance.

I was asked to dance by none other than the most popular girl on the Committee, Little Eva. She took me out on the dance floor to do the Pony. I admitted to her I didn't know how. She then told me to just do the Mashed Potato. I told her I didn't know how to do that, either. She asked me what did I know and I said I knew how to cha-cha.

So there I was, on TV, being watched by just about every teenager in the Greater Metropolitan Baltimore Area, dancing with Little Eva. She was Pony-ing away and I'm there, on camera, under the big lights, doing the cha-cha.

At our last high school reunion just a few years ago, Marlyn and I talked about the day we went onto the Buddy Deane show. Interestingly, she and I had entirely different recollections. Hers was softer and more forgiving.

When we danced at the reunion, now that I knew how, I found myself somewhat wistful. If only I could have danced then the way I can now. I wouldn't have wanted to out-Pony Little Eva, but I certainly would have had more fun, as I now do, now that I know how to dance.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my favorite "Frank" stories ever! Do you ever wonder why Marlyn asked YOU instead of some other teen dude?

8:25 PM  

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