Love and Ballroom Dancing
Love and Ballroom Dancing is a clip from a creative writing class I took while pursuing my undergrad at Iowa State University.
I’m swirling and twirling, my feet gliding across the floor as if retracing the steps by memory. The dim lights and shadowed shapes melt together, creating a watercolor of fleeting visions.
“I think we should try out for So You Think You Can Dance,” I half yell, half spit at my 20-some- thing trust-fund partner. We’ll call him Chad.
“The crowd doesn’t love us that much,” Chad counters. “Plus, you’re highly intoxicated.”
Valid point, Chad. But I don’t give up on my dreams.
“Twirl, Chad, twirl!”
The air of Penny Farthings in New York’s East Village is stale with the smell of beer and sweat, the floor and better part of my black dress are wet with both. I’m holding an over-priced gin and tonic in one hand as the crowd, mostly comprising my sister and friends from university, cheers us on.
Not exactly a scene for a family-friendly television program, I’ll give Chad that.
The last time I took a formal dance class was in the fourth grade. It was a hip hop class, a room full of fourth-grade girls shaking their prepubescent bodies to whatever beat of Britney Spears’s “... Baby One More Time” they could keep. I remember the move that ended my dance career. It was called the windmill, and it was hard.
The memories come flooding from the abyss of my mind, psyching me out and leaving me wondering if I should bolt right back through the door I just entered. But I don’t. I stay put, practicing my basic box. I’m in the corner of a harshly-lit dance studio in an old building on campus. Dan, the instructor, can’t have more than three years on me. He’s wearing colorful board shorts, though it is a chilly fall night with no gnarly water for miles, and his blond, shoulder length hair is pulled loosely back into a pony.
I think Dan is somewhat of a free spirit. Or he could be someone who wears cloaks and LARPs in his free time. I can’t decide. Maybe the two go hand-in-hand? I would imagine one would have to have little inhibition to pick up a foam sword to protect the pretend king of the pretend kingdom, all the while donning the nest chainmail in all the land.
Wait, what was that clap?
We’re forming two lines, girls opposite their guys. But I’m partnerless. I should have known better than to show up at a ballroom dance class partnerless. Who did I expect to one-two-step with? Luckily I find a similarly lost and vulnerable soul and force eye contact.
His name is Mando. Mando isn’t taking to my awkward sense of humor. But we’re waltzing and we’re twirling and we’re turning and we’re playing near bumper cars with our more apt neighbors and even though Mando can’t manage to lead us to ending up arms-length and facing each other, I don’t care. I’m dancing! I’ve got my steps down and even Dan is impressed! (Mental note to include this outside turn in my choreography for my SYTYCD audition—take that, Chad.)
Mando and I finally get our shit together when we play musical chairs and move one man down.
“Kitty hands, everyone!” Dan announces.
I’ve clearly missed something. Everyone promptly lifts their arms 90 degrees and proudly salutes their paws to their steadfast skipper. We’re back in our lines facing our partners, mine of retirement age fittingly wearing a Hawaiian button-down and neatly pressed khakis.
His name is Larry. Larry likes my sense of humor. Larry doesn’t blame me for his mistakes. Larry is winning over Mando so far.
Kitty hands locked in place, Larry and I are off, this time taking on a swing.
“It’s my 36th wedding anniversary,” Larry offers, distracting himself from over-thinking the steps. “My wife had to remind me over breakfast this morning.”
“Is that what happens after 36 years?”
“I suppose so.”
I think back to my longest relationship. It was in middle school. Seventh grade, to be exact. Our one-year anniversary was creeping up when I invited him over after school one day and, feeling brave, he kissed me on the cheek. An innocent enough gesture to show he cared, much like the side glances I catch Larry easing at his wife dancing with a 20-something student—is jealousy still a thing after knowing someone nearly half your life? I broke up with him the next day, my seventh-grade boyfriend, and that was when I realized I had it.
Commitment issues, that is.
I could read through my rap list of ex-boyfriends faster than Dan could twirl, which is pretty fast. I’ve never been one for relationships. Call me a flake, call me hard to get, call me a tease. I like to refer to myself as independent, the next Carrie Bradshaw, as my roommate so gingerly put it, trying to ease hints at the fact I could very well be single for the rest of my life. I wonder what it’s like to be with someone for such a long time. Neither Larry nor his wife are dance aficionados, but it doesn’t matter. There is no pretense to impress one another, they are just there to learn and experience something new together.
That is the beauty of knowing someone so well.
Shoot, I just missed his cue. That’s one thing his 36-year wife has on me. They move together as one. Larry and I, on the other hand, have known each other for approximately 10 minutes, and our telepathy hasn’t quite set in to full force yet.
Forward step, center step, twirl, back step. We nailed it! And we didn’t even step on each other’s feet and he didn’t awkwardly shove me and my hands didn’t get trapped somewhere between my body and his.
Larry and I thank each other for the dance and part ways. I walk over to the door, slip on my shoes and glance back. He’s grabbed his wife and they’re floating across the dance floor. In sync like only 36 years of knowing someone can do.
Whether it’s fate or destiny or luck, one glance at the two of them is all the proof I need that soul mates exist. I can only hope to be so lucky.
Maybe I’ll call up Chad for another shot.