Dance Of A Lifetime

We entered the studio, dimly lit with strands of white lights draped across large mirrors. Wine glasses and candles set the mood as semi-romantic. Dainty finger sandwiches and desserts adorn the back table. We all wait with our partners, some more anxious than others. Dancers mill and chatter among familiar faces. A few come over to greet us. The hardwood dance floor is beautiful and polished, ready for the next class. Tonight’s theme is ballroom dance. We all look the part. A man enters the room in white shirt and black pants, the mark of an instructor serious about his lessons. We line up, guys on one side, gals on the other.

We’re learning Samba. I’ve never danced before, unless you count a little swing in college or a slow dance or two at prom. Nothing like this. I’m a ball of emotion wound tight: excited, nervous, cautious, adventurous. Mostly, I’m hoping to have a good time with my dance partner. We wanted to try something new. So here we are, standing across from one another, following the instructor. It’s time to dance a little, and to our surprise, the women rotate through the group of available partners.

With each exchange, I learn a little more, refine my roughness into something more kin to grace. I feel confident when I reach my partner again, happy to be in his arms, even for a few brief moments. He has improved to. I smile and try to watch him, to feel the music, but he’s still watching his feet. For an hour it goes on like this—a few moves, a little dancing. Then the lesson ends and we are free to practice, dance with anyone we wish, enjoy the succulent appetizers, desserts, and drinks. Taste of the conversation and music.

We mingle for a bit, and then find a bench where we perch to talk and observe more experienced dancers. It doesn’t take long for us to see that most of these people know all the dances to the various music played. A few of my favorites: the Viennese Waltz, the Bachata, Samba, and the country two step. A few brave men came over and asked me to dance. I don’t know whether they just liked that I was too busy laughing to notice their mistakes or whether it was the fact that I apologized profusely for my own, that made them feel so brave. Either way, I left the comfort of the bench a few times to learn new basics and laughed my way through a few songs. Near the end, I really was enjoying myself, too caught up in the music to care about who was watching me or how I must have looked like a drunk cardinal flapping injured wings.

My favorite participant was an old gentleman with a curved spine. He looked to be about eighty, and I wondered if he and his wife had visited this place often. He knew most of the dances and really enjoyed teaching me what he knew. He was kind, not rude, not proud, just sweet. He brought to mind Train’s Charlie, it’s how I imagined he might look. His brown loafers glided across the floor with the ease of a well trained dancer, almost as if his age fell away when he stepped on the floor. I smiled and made eye contact. He didn’t treat me as a bumbling fool: I was a partner. It felt good. I watched him whirl several women around the floor, even the studio owner, and I commented to my own partner how I wondered if he and his wife had come here before. “It makes me sad to think about” I remarked. “Because it makes me wonder where she is now. Why does he still come?”

I let my imagination fill in the blanks for me as I crawl into bed after an amazing evening. They were married over fifty years and loved dancing together. He and his wife never missed a lesson until she fell sick. After she passed away, he felt drawn to the dance floor, to the memories of floating along the hardwoods with his lifelong partner in his arms. He ached for her to be there, and he pretended she was, as he made his way around the room with many beautiful dancers. He never really saw any of them, only saw her. Dancing eases the ache in his heart; it brings back memories of his true love. So on Friday nights, you’ll find him dressed and ready for whatever the lesson may be. I suspect I’ll see him again next week, and just maybe I’ll gather the courage to ask his name.


Dance Of A Lifetime © 2011 Sarah Scott. Look for more Sarah’s stories and observations in upcoming posts—click on her profile.

2 Responses to “Dance Of A Lifetime”
  1. Gaboo says:

    “drunk cardinal flapping injured wings.” Hey! That’s my move! Do you know the “Wallflower Sway”?

  2. Sarah says:

    Not only do I know the wallflower sway, but I have mastered the dance. Thanks for reading!

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