Although I have never watched Dancing With The Stars, the media barrage about the show has stirred my own memories of misadventures on the dance floor, which leads me to make an embarrassing confession. When I was very young – maybe 8 or so – I took dancing lessons. There — I’ve said it and the Earth didn’t open up and swallow me (although the day’s not over yet). Owning up to the experience is painful, but I felt that it was a necessary first step toward helping explain my lifelong dislike of dancing.
I was always big for my age, and like most fast-growing large creatures I was clumsy — so much so that I could trip over the pattern in the linoleum. As I recall, that was the primary motivation behind my parents’ decision to see if dancing lessons might help — or at least, that’s what they said. I’d rather not think too deeply on this point.
I soon found myself regularly visiting the home of a dance teacher who had remodeled her basement into a studio of sorts. I don’t remember too many details (thankfully) but I know that I was taught tap-dancing because I remember thinking the special shoes were kind of cool. I was also matched up with a girl about my age to begin learning something resembling ballroom dancing. Of course, we were never going to get anywhere near a ballroom, but we tried our best in a series of sessions that consisted mostly of her trying to dodge my oversized feet.
By the time the bruises on my partner’s toes began to fade, it was time for the big variety show that was periodically presented by the teacher (who also gave music lessons). As might be expected, parents and relatives were in attendance and all the kids were proudly resplendent in costumes sewn by their mothers. I remember that I was strutting around in a snazzy electric-blue satin shirt while the other acts went on. I think one of them might have been a big girl with an accordion playing “Lady Of Spain,” but – er – that might be a different memory.
My little partner and I weren’t exactly a hit. Our act was designed to end with us dancing apart on the stage and then me going to one knee and holding my hand out to her as the music built. She was then to run across the stage, jump and land on my outstretched knee while grabbing my hand for balance. She got the running part right, but as the audience held its breath she came to a complete stop, then slowly and carefully stepped up onto my knee. You could almost hear the crowd deflate.
The dance lessons didn’t last too long after that, possibly because I made the mistake of mentioning them to friends at school, and it was also about then that I first heard the nickname Twinkletoes. The combination of things made me avoid anything resembling dancing for quite a while after that, but when I entered my teens I soon found that it became more difficult to ignore.
Although I was by no means a party animal, I did occasionally find myself in places where dancing was not only being done but was almost compulsory, unless you wanted to be thought a nerd. Since I was often skirting nerd territory anyway, I tried my best. At one event I even enjoyed the process for a while — until I glanced at the bravely smiling young lady in my grip, who was trying to keep from being crushed by a dancing grizzly bear.
As my teen years continued, I found that my dancing opportunities – or obligations – were pretty much restricted to occasionally shuffling through a waltz with a prom date. (For those too young to remember, in those days proms were very structured and stodgy. Waltzes were the preferred choice.)
Through the years my aversion to dancing has evolved into something pretty much engraved in granite, and has developed to a point where it’s even uncomfortable for me to watch others dance. Ironically, dance music itself – in almost any form – has always been one of my favorites. I like the music of ballet and other classical dances, and I love old big band dance music. I’m even fond of “Land Of 1000 Dances,” by Cannibal and The Headhunters.
Just don’t ask me to dance to any of it.