Dancing? Did someone mention dancing? Well, here's a tiny little twist of fate that came my way: Friday evening, as the world attempted to absorb the terror in Paris, I went with my wife to one of our friend's celebration of her fiftieth birthday. It was our friend's wish to ring in the second half century of her life with, of all things, a barn dance. It wasn't held in a barn. There were no bales of hay. There were a lot of cowboy boots and hats. There were a lot of faded dungarees. The band consisted of a bass fiddle, a guitar, a fiddle and a banjo. There was even a real-life square dance caller. He was there to tell us what to do. He told me when to bow to my partner. He told me when to allemande left, and allemande right. When to do si do. I listened intently, and did what I was told because first and foremost, I am a good sport. I was also doing my best to get some sort of aerobic catharsis for all of the news coming from across the sea.
We didn't talk about it but all of us gathered in that room, the community center instead of a barn, were there to celebrate life. That is the nature of dance. My wife teaches Zumba to high school kids and retirees. Not at the same time, but she wakes up in the morning with music in her head and a new step to go with it. In this way, she has her own internal square dance caller.
I don't. most of the dancing I have done over the course of my adult life has been under the tutelage of my very patient wife who has over the years created a reasonable facsimile of a dancing partner out of a husband who tends to hear the sound of his own drummer more often than not. This is probably due to the trauma of experiencing the Social Dancing unit as an elementary school student. We learned the Virginia Reel and the Mexican Hat Dance. Somehow these two sets of steps were enough to fill a couple weeks of indoor PE during the cold winters in Colorado. The scar I was left with did not come from my lack of coordination or sense of rhythm. I managed that part alright, but it was the dearth of female partners that had me dancing with the other round boy with glasses after all the girls had been paired off. This was my first experience of what I would come to know as "not popular."
I endured. When I moved on to junior high, where the potential of social dancing was limited to the dances held after school that my popularity kept me from attending. It wasn't until that last dance of ninth grade that I felted once again moved to move. Mostly I didn't, but if I had missed that chance to shake my groove thing I might never have found myself decades later out on the floor once again. I was social that night. I participated with the group. It made me part of a room full of grown ups looking for a way to divert their attention from the world outside the barn. We gathered there to swing our partners and bow to our corners. And somewhere in there, we all grew a little closer and the awful world outside faded away just a little bit. I understood just a little more of the terpsichorean muse and its importance to our culture. And I felt a little less not popular.