Last night I found myself in the arms of a stranger, 40 years my junior. It can happen to anyone. You just have to put yourself out there . . .
I’m visiting my daughter who’s a senior in college this year. In her years at school, she’s been enjoying dance classes for her physical education credits: ballroom, country, and her favorite, West Coast Swing. I’ve been living vicariously through her dance stories, remembering back to when my husband, then fiancé, and I took a ballroom dancing class. Our most memorable moment was attending a tea dance, roaring across the floor doing the tango, learned only the day before. We found ourselves in the corner trapped among the potted plants, unable to turn around. Chagrined, we backed out and plunged back into the fray, only to find ourselves in the potted plants on the other side. That was 29 years ago and we haven’t been out dancing since. Courtship was very different from married life.
But last night . . .
My daughter and her roommate, Maia, planned to go to a weekly college dance that featured ballroom dancing at 9 pm and West Coast Swing at 10. I remember those days of leaving the house late to start my evening. Now I’m in pajamas by 9. But I was persuaded to join them, even though I knew I would not be dancing. Besides, I wanted to see my daughter dance, her long thick blue ponytail swinging wildly.
As we walked to the building on the Quad, Maia pointed out the dance room windows. “My partner nearly flung me out those open windows last week. Luckily the teacher wasn’t looking.” Wow – must be some vigorous dancing! We arrived just as the ballroom segment was ending, and a young man immediately grabbed my daughter and swept her out onto the floor.
I was fascinated by the moves for West Coast Swing, having never mastered Swing which is supposed to be simpler. The count always unnerved me: six-count dance moves to a four-count beat. Apparently West Coast is the same, except for one move called the Whip that is an eight-count – way over my head (or feet).
So I happily watched. Some people were exceptionally good, especially a male couple that Maia told me was on the University Dance Team. I noticed that many of the better male dancers had their own technique, and my daughter had clearly danced with each of them often enough to be able to match their moves. One guy especially intrigued me, dancing flamboyantly with a style all his own, a joy to watch. Maia told me that he was so gracious, always making any mistakes that the gal made look like his own.
On the next dance, my daughter disappeared across the room to find one of her fun partners. At that moment, Mr. Own-Style materialized in front of me, offering his hand: “Will you dance?”
Flustered, I stammered, “Oh no, I don’t dance. I don’t know how to West Coast Swing. I’m just here to watch my daughter.” Maia laughed and urged me to go. My inner voice scolded, “You’re supposed to be living life full out!” So as I continued protesting, I was also taking off my jacket, and getting up from the bench.
He took my hand, led me out to the floor, and settled us for a moment. I was nervous, and explained again that I knew nothing about West Coast Swing. He smiled and said, “Just follow your thumbs,” whatever that meant. Then he launched us, starting with movements slightly reminiscent of the Monkey and Pony, only holding one hand. He had guessed my era perfectly. Then he led me through sort of a Foxtrot, and then a mild version of West Coast Swing, with lots of twirling.
OMG I was having fun! But also getting dizzy. “Don’t get me too dizzy. My bifocals make me wobbly enough.”
“Okay, then I’ll twirl.” And he did, multiple times under my arm. The song finally ended and he escorted me back to my seat. With a broad smile he said, “Thank you, and welcome to the dance floor.” Then he was off to dance again.
My daughter returned laughing. “I was looking to see if you were watching me, but you were GONE! Then I spotted you on the floor. Face-palm! LOL! I actually stopped dancing. My partner asked what was wrong. ‘My Mother!’ He laughed, ‘Of all the guys, she’s dancing with him!’ What my partner doesn’t get is that you are as ‘out there’ as he is, just in different arenas. Too bad you didn’t get pictures. This would make a great blog!”
I wanted to know what she meant by ‘out-there.’
“He’s definitely very confident. You can pick him out in any dance crowd.”
I was a little sheepish, but also proud . . . and out of breath, heart pounding hard. West Coast Swing is definitely a vigorous dance for a beginner. A couple times I thought I was going to fly right out of his grip and I understood Maia’s concern about dropping out the window.
I had asked the girls earlier how they could possibly dance in boots, but I had just done that: the person who goes barefoot or wears sandals all year.
After recuperating and before our second dance (YES!), I asked Mr. Own-Style if my daughter could take pictures. I asked about a possible blog essay and he shrugged. “Why not? At this point, I’m anonymous.” And again he launched me. This time he taught me a new move, a back turn, or something like that. I was gaining confidence and having a ball! I was the oldest person at the dance by at least 35 years, feeling 20 again. The song ended way too soon.
With me feeling a bit like Cinderella, the girls and I left at 11 pm. My Fitbit buzzed, informing me I had walked 10,000 steps. That’s good. But even better was taking my own advice: get out of your comfort zone and live life full out. You won’t regret it. And you might even make some memories.
The author wishes to thank Mr. Own-Style for his kindness and graciousness.
For other dance essays, see Come dance a meditation – ecstatic dance.
If you like my blog, you’ll enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.