Having a rather protrudent belly is like having an extra appendage, albeit one over which you have no muscular control. It will, more often than not, move in opposition to any grand gesture you make, and will do its darnedest to become the center of attention—if it is larger still, its gravitational pull will ensure that it is. If you have the increasingly common opportunity of growing into adulthood with such a conjoined twin, then you will surely have stricken sports from your repertoire—save for Cheeto curls—and dancing, for certain, has never been on your radar.
Okay, so there are some exceptions to the rule.
I am not such an exception.
My curse, then, is that I love to watch people dance. Lindy hop, waltz, tango—they’re all gorgeous to watch, and I envy the people who have mastered them. But I would just as soon avoid a situation where there was going to be dancing, as accept a million dollars just for breathing. If I did find myself in a situation where there was dancing, I would no doubt become the Gollum of the dance floor: the graceless punk watching on with jealousy.
The thought of asking someone to dance would, no doubt, cause anxiety all it’s own. Fortunately, I suppose, it doesn’t get to that point. The thought of looking like a jackass on the dance floor did plenty to allay any fears that would require me to actually get on the dance floor to begin with.
Once in every couple of blue moons or so, however, along comes a woman who will take a man’s ineptitude and, if not make him look good, at least not make him feel bad. (Sorry, ladies, I don’t know if there’s an equivalent amongst the males of the species, or if you would even have any use for him.) Twice I’ve had the opportunity to dance with such women. And perhaps I should be concerned about them being in abusive relationships, with the way they smile as I stomp on their feet. Or perhaps I should be wary of their disposition toward manipulation, with the way they lead men at leading. But I won’t. I’ll just thank them for telling me what to do with my hands, and feet, and hips.
The problem with finding someone(s) with whom you feel comfortable failing is that you will soon want to move past failure and on to success. For sure, find a safe place to fail first. If you don’t feel safe to fail, you won’t make the attempt. But you still have to move on to success at some point.
And that brings us to New Orleans, November 7th, 2011, at approximately 5pm. Location: DBA. Purpose: free swing lessons with drink purchase.
New Orleans is one of the best and worst places to be for a non-dancer. Everyone dances here. Dancing is probably the number one export of New Orleans. As a non-dancer you can easily not dance, but you will inevitably be surrounded by others who are dancing. As a non-dancer who wishes to learn, however, there are definitely plenty of possibilities.
What I like about learning to dance in New Orleans (for the non-New Orleanian):
- As a tourist, you will never see any of these people ever again
- With NOLA being a tourist destination, (almost) everyone at the lessons will be tourists
- Everyone is obscenely friendly in New Orleans
Laid back, fun, and helpful instructors. Laid back, fun, and equally horrible dance partners. The relief of knowing that if you screw up, you’ll never see any of these people again. And an atmosphere which is conducive to first time dancers. All in all, a recipe for success.
“There are still swing lessons, right?” The problem with having dance lessons in a bar is that, until the actual dancing starts, it isn’t really clear what you’re looking for. You just sit and wait for someone loud to show up and start telling people what to do.
Loud and long-haired, it would turn out, and tell us what to do, he did.
Walking side-to-side, heel-to-toe, and hopping all over the place, he soon had us lined up and rock-stepping like pros. He even had us doing kicks without anyone suffering a single shin or groin injury.
And while it unfortunately has to be at the expense of someone else, it’s nice to know I wasn’t the worst dancer there. As much of a confidence boost as that may be, it is also worth noting that it was far more informative to dance with someone more experienced. It’s hard to lead someone who won’t follow.
Most importantly of all, however, is dancing with someone who smiles. That’s how you know you’re doing something right.
Did anything really change as a result of this lesson? Did I get over my fear of dancing?
Well, I didn’t step on anyone’s feet. I did have fun and enjoy the company of others. And I do know all of the basics of this particular style of swing dancing.
But, as the lessons winded down and the band came out to get the night of dancing started in earnest, I relinquished the dance floor to those more experienced dancers, and enjoyed my one drink minimum off to the side. My fear had been tempered, but still lacking experience, it was not altogether vanquished.
I am excited to seek out lessons at home, however, so I’ve at least taken a triple-step in the right direction. For the time being, that’s good enough.
What about you? Do you enjoy dancing? Are you terrified of the prospect? Do you have someone who makes you feel okay with failing?
UPDATE: I found the website for the group that puts on the free swing lessons in New Orleans. They’re awesome. If you’re in the area, you should definitely check them out.
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