Allen’s getting ready to leave for work, but in the mean time, we’re watching Youtube videos of Cha Cha dancers.  It’s another one of those dances whose basic steps are pretty simple, but like Lego blocks, can build on one another based on the unique pair of dancers and the amount of creativity or flair they decided to include.  We’re talking about this thing they do with their legs, and how do they do that?  A certain roll of the hip, a flinging out of the toe… he’s almost late to leave for work because the time flew while we discussed it.

It used to be that boys and girls in America were taught how to waltz.  Dance classes for awkward ten-year-olds was as commonplace as popsicle stains on their best white shirt.  But as a our culture and popular music changed, those skills became less and less useful in peoples’ daily lives, until they came smack dab up against something traditional like a wedding, or their grandparents’ 50th anniversary, or a senior prom.

At which point a boy usually panicked, no matter his age.

“I don’t like to dance,” he would say.  It was an excuse that became a stereotype.

“I don’t have any rhythm,” my husband would say.  It was a creative variation.

It was fairly effective, for awhile.  I would try to cajole him into dancing with me, and he would tell me about his struggles with a semester of ballroom dancing lessons in college.  In his defense, he really does have issues with rhythm.  But out of love for me, he tried.  It helped that I’d never even had the benefit of any classes, so we were pretty much on level ground when we started trying to learn.

There weren’t Youtube videos back then.  There wasn’t an internet back then.  But there were books, and his memory of classes.  We would muddle through tripping over one another at weddings.  We giggled alot and got out of time with the music.  And I loved every minute of it.

Then came The Movie.  Shall We Dance? it asked.  And they did.

That tipped the scales for me and made me want to dance.  Not just to fiddle around in embarrassment at weddings and whatnot.  But to really,  actually, know what we were doing on the dance floor.

Fast-forward a number of years, years of learning to waltz on the living room carpet, of trying to figure out the rhythm of a tango in an L-shaped kitchen.  Lots of laughter, of teaching our kids a basic waltz box step, of watching our boys ask girls to dance on New Years’ Eve and surprising them with knowing what to do.  Rather a useful skill, for men, really.  Amazingly useful.  Usually it’s the woman dragging, cajoling, or browbeating her husband to the dance floor and then being embarrassed because he doesn’t know how to lead.   Imagine her surprise if he had risen from his chair, offered his hand, and asked her to dance without so much as an arched eyebrow in his direction.

We found that it has given us one more thing to do together that we enjoy.  It’s healthy, too.  For the heart as well as the body.  Allen does this little… I dunno what to call it, but it’s this little wiggle to a certain song that he really likes, and that wiggle just melts me.  See — that’s me, in a puddle, just thinking about it.

New Year’s Eve turned into “Hey let’s teach a few steps next New Year’s Dance”, and now it’s becoming “Hey let’s give free dance lessons once a month”.   (All of which has been Allen’s idea, by the way.  I think my enthusiasm is like a drug to him, and he really sticks his neck out for that.)

We teach just the basic step, a turn, a traveling step, and some variations — nothing fancy, just enough for people to look like they have a tenuous grasp on what they’re doing at a wedding reception.  It can’t hurt.  And you can’t beat the price:  it costs nothing more than a little embarrassment. People see that even though we are the teachers, we regularly flub up in the process.  I mean, we can barely dance ourselves.  It reduces the expectations they have on themselves a LOT.  If our inexperience bothered them, no one has said anything.  I mean… whaddya expect for free?  Definitely not Fred and Ginger.

Does it make you curious?  What do you see in your mind’s eye?  Is it two overweight, middle aged, rhythmically-challenged people stiffly wiggling their way across a dance floor?

You’d be right, of course.  But that’s only what’s on the outside.  Looking a little deeper, you’d see there’s a pair of rather happy little hearts doing a fairly decent rendition of a Cha Cha.


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