September 21, 2017

John Eddie reluctantly put his sweaty, fifth-grade hand on the area that would one day be my waist and I nervously put my sweaty, fifth-grade hand on his jacketed shoulder. At the insistence of the dancing school instructor, we clasped our free hands together and started grimly chanting as we shuffled our feet.

“Forward, side-together, BACK… side-together, forward… side-together, BACK… side-together forward…”

This is the basic box step, beginning of all kinds of only-at-a-wedding dances, and I want to make note that when I was saying “forward, side-together, BACK,” I was actually stepping back, side-together, forward because I am a female and unlike a male am capable of saying the step the way the man dances it while actually dancing the way the woman dances it.

I digress.

Fifth-grade dancing school included the box step (for a sprightly fox trot), the cha-cha, and – could this memory really be true? – the bunny hop. I actually remember John Eddy because he was the only one in the class who could both chant the steps through gritted teeth AND turn us in a slow, ungainly circle. I was very impressed.

There is something extraordinarily hard about learning a dance step; it simply isn’t instinctive in me. I require a LOT of repetition. I’ll bet even Fred Astaire once chanted “forward, side-together, BACK…” When he was three, or something. The point is, everyone starts somewhere and it takes a bit of time to become easy in your skin and discover that you can do the steps AND turn in a slow circle.

Last night I attended Devin’s Zoomba class at Body Dynamics in Falls Church and was damned glad John Eddy wasn’t there to see just how far I’d regressed.

Spicy Latin music (which I love) and lots of slinky hip movements (which I envy from afar) and Devin’s fluorescent yellow laces on her black sneakers flying with joy reassured me that the class really could become an addiction… but it was going to take a few more classes and a lot more repetition before I could even think about the sinuous, athletic hand and arm gestures; as it was, I pretty much did a plodding sort of jog while trying to figure out what the hell they were all doing.

(I was the only one who hadn’t done zoomba before and I’m fully comfortable in the Least Capable role, so I didn’t feel particularly embarrassed. Devin is a sweetheart. A salsa-hipped, flying-footed sweetheart.)

It was sweaty work, and I got fooled a few times (like – Devin said “this is a quick little song we’re doing next” and I thought – good. A short song. No… she meant quick as in lordy, mama, I can’t quite see your sneakers when they move that fast). And my best belly laugh was when I’d studied one step with Class Valedictorian focus; I finally got it and Devin immediately said “Now – double-time!” and went off pirouetting and flash-dancing into a glistening cloud of energy and I found myself planted solidly on my two oversized feet, a tree trunk amid a flock of swirling pixies, just braying honks of panting laughter.

But my fellow students were very kind and I would definitely go back if I wasn’t already spending most of my days at Body Dynamics anyway. Something’s gotta give before I make time for another class…

…but when I do, stand back. I know how to do the box step in a circle, so. Watch out!

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