Shall We Dance
“We’ve just been introduced,
I do not know you well,
But when the music started,
Something drew me to your side.” Anna, The King and I
There is no record of this, no photograph, no video, and probably no one remembers this but me, but our first dance was a polka, at the Wisconsin State Fair. There was an accordion, and lederhosen, and yes, in the immortal words, beer was involved. Probably, it being Wisconsin, and 1976, it was Miller HighLife. It wasn’t a pretty polka. But it was a determined polka. We clenched the bit in our teeth and ran with it, to the delight, I am certain, of anyone paying attention and the detriment of my bare feet (I wore sandals….it was the 70s…did I point that out?).
“Or perchance,
When the last little star has left the sky,
Shall we still be together,
With our arms around each other,
And shall you be my new romance?
On the clear understanding
That this kind of thing can happen,
Shall we dance?
Shall we dance?
Shall we Dance?”
For fully half the human population, these are magic words. Hearing them sung, this weekend, by a chanteuse in the spotlight with a baby grand not 15 feet in front of our table, made me close my eyes and reflect on romance, music and the continuing compromises between husbands and wives. Because I love to dance…as most women do…and moving across a dance floor in psychic harmony to beloved melodies is high on my list of romantic idylls. But even a man with an equal appreciation of the music has a separate means of expressing it, i.e., seated with toe tapping the maximum physical expression.
Over the years we have been presented with a wide range of opportunities to dance. We did some square dancing here in Tarkio not long after we were married; we’ve ushered in many a newlywed from elegant country club settings to the low ceilinged friendly confines of the Tarkio Community Building. We were unable to resist the temptation to be great pretenders above our social station when we danced at the Washington Hilton to the mellow trombone of Eric Felten and his big band with all the trimmings. At one point, we tried to improve our lot with a dance class in Maryville: the erstwhile goal some semblance of competency at a waltz quite nicely for a wide range of tempos and styles from the American songbook to George Strait. We can indulge our love of music and exhibit our approval of the band without major embarrassment. It’s too bad Blake and I are part of the generation that never learned the civilized pleasures of real dance; I envy our kids who seem to have a foot in dance worlds of the far past and present and our parents who came to dance as a normal natural part of a happy culture. But we still “step out” to share the exuberant spirit of any number of wedding celebrations, carrying on the tradition of our parents before and setting an free spirited example for any kids around whose feet can’t hold still.
Counting our first polkas, we’ve been dancing for more than 35 years. When we dance, we stand near eye to eye. He steers so I don’t back into some other dancers. We don’t try anything too fancy, but we aren’t bound by petty convention, either.
In dancing, in life, as partners, as a team, we have a sensible compromise: I don’t try to teach him new steps and he doesn’t tell me to sit down.
“I’ll never know
What made it so exciting.
Why all at once my heart took flight. I only know when he
Began to dance with me
I could have danced, danced,
danced all night!”
Eliza, My Fair Lady (for wedding reception purposes) and an irrational desire to swing dance and trip the light fantastic.
That effort enjoyed a modicum of success, to the extent we have settled on a modified two step that serves us