Last Saturday we went to the Fred Astaire Dance Studio Showcase Extravaganza at the Somers Middle School, and it was a twirl-wind of activity. There were twists, turns, bumps, grinds and dips, and that was just in the parking lot. Thirty-four students of all ages and sizes danced the night away in well-choreographed two and a half-minute routines to all different types of music, along with their instructors. There were tales of love lost, tales of love found, and tales of love lost and found at the lost and found. There were full costumes: Snow White, Pocahontas, a harem girl, a Spanish senorita- you can dance to just about any fantasy. The professional instructors took it all in sweeping stride, and they didn’t seem to mind lifting a student or two that had been off the keto diet for a couple of weeks.
Ballroom dancing has become a lost art, because there just aren’t a lot of balls to go to these days. Back in Cinderella’s day, they had a lot of balls, and they had big, long balls. If I had the balls that Cinderella’s evil stepmother had I’d never get anything done. To me, the weirdest part of that story is not that you could train mice to pull a pumpkin that turns into a carriage, all of that seems plausible. But who the hell would design footwear made of glass? If they play the “Mexican Hat Dance” there’s going to be carnage and bloodshed, many hats ruined, and the handsome prince is going to think you’re an idiot.
Dance lessons are never a bad idea, because I see a lot of couples trying complicated moves on a crowded dance floor, and they’re swinging each other around, testing out the laws of physics, and eventually the laws of physics win. These people who think they can just waltz right in and take over the place are in for a rude awakening. So it pays to know what you’re doing. Once I saw two fully imbibed lasses trying to tango, and in 30 seconds they had each other in a clove hitch. It takes two to tango, three if neither of them knows how to untie a clove hitch.
Remember back when I was in the seventh grade? Neither do I, but I do remember that my Mom signed me up for dancing class, thinking that it would make me more poised around adults or something. What it did do was activate my hormones, and all of a sudden my entire endocrine system, which had been sitting around playing cards, finally had something to do. They made the girls wear white gloves, probably to see if us guys had been recently dusted. They should have made them wear full haz-mat suits, because who knows what we were up to right before class? I was probably out working on my mini-bike. I always made a bee-line for Cathy Kummings, who was as tall as I was and I didn’t have to bend down to hear her if she said anything when I stepped on her foot. “You smell nice,” I offered. Even then I had the gift of human interaction. She replied, “You smell like carburetor parts, but at least ones that have been recently flushed.”
The teacher, Mr. Richard would cascade around the room, one hand in the air holding his imaginary partner’s hand, the other on his stomach. He looked like a little teapot, short and stout, there was his handle, there was his spout. When it came time for us to mimic the moves, I couldn’t get it right because I was trying to do a cha cha cha cha instead of a cha cha cha. There is a moment when I finish dancing with someone when, flushed with relief, they say, “Wow, that could have been way worse.”
Anyway, the exhibition was really fun, and there were some participants who could really dance. There was one guy with a bunch of tattoos that picked up his instructor and held her aloft like he was about to throw her 20 yards downfield in a perfect spiral. Another guy looked as if he might keel right over if his instructor left him alone for more than three seconds. You could feel the joy some of them felt doing things others thought they were too old to do. There was a group of young students doing a group routine, and some of them obviously had a lifelong passion ahead of them. My friend Diana danced with her partner to “Circle of Life” from The Lion King. It was a pretty complicated routine, and she performed it beautifully.
We met with some of the contestants after the show. One had false eyelashes and couldn’t wait to get them off. “These things are like windshield wipers,” she said. Her real eyelashes were a little upset, and if they had known she wanted windshield wipers, they could have handled the job. Diana was dressed in kind of a feline costume, and I didn’t want to get too close because I’m allergic.
The moral of the story is that it doesn’t matter what age you are, what shape you are, what size you are or whether you have two left feet, you can probably dance better than I can. If I could meet up with Cinderella after the ball I have a few questions for her. Like, can you really become princess if a glass slipper happens to fit your foot? If so, that’s interesting, because Kate Middleton and I both wear the same shoe size.
Join Rick and the Trillium vocal group for some love and harmony at 12 Peekskill Lounge Friday evening, June 21, 8:30 p.m. at 12 North Division Street, performing with Sun Solo
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