A truism: Songs with the word “cry” in the title are dreary; songs with the word “dance” are always good.
Somewhere around the turn of the century (thanks, John, for pointing out my century-straddling status) I was casting about for some physical endeavor. My dog Reprieve was in her autumn and I just wasn’t getting much exercise.
One of my young co-workers had signed up for three different dance classes. That sounded interesting; I decided to try hip hop. It did not take long for me to learn that even way back then, I was too darned old to be rolling around on the floor like that. My friend Julia was offering a summer introduction to tap, so I decided to give that a go. I invested in a pair of shoes with more bling on the underside than the tops, and I never looked back.
I love tap! When we were little, my sister Tia took lots of dance classes, and she would try to teach me “step shuffle ball change,” which I never got the hang of, but somehow, as an adult, it finally clicked (kind of like the shoes themselves).
After the introduction from Julia, I spent many years under the nurturing tutelage of the incomparable Leslie Channell. The dance schedule at the arts center has been a lot more haphazard since Leslie left town, but the very busy and versatile Karen Immerso gets us to dust off our shoes every now and then. We just finished an eight-week class last night, which of course was the first class of the term that I managed to put all the steps together somewhat competently.
Dance is about so much more than moving my feet (which sometimes move the way they’re supposed to). I can still remember the nervous camaraderie of that first semester with Leslie. Many of the folks from that class, where we ranged in age from high school to retirement, have moved on from Gunnison, but I remember them all fondly as I got to know them through dance.
Dance shows are often part of the curriculum, and that first class was so nervous that we wore sunglasses on stage so that we didn’t have to see the audience (and they couldn’t see the fear in our eyes). What were we so worried about? The audiences in Gunnison are always very kind.
Last week my current class discussed the possibility of a performance next spring, and most of us (another group I enjoy greatly) are reluctant. I nearly had a complete breakdown before that first hop-hop public performance, and got talked through it only by Mary Beth Odom, who likely has no idea how much assistance her pep talk offered.
Now a veteran of many dance showcases, I figure it’s part of the package, and I also have taken great heart from the people who have come up to me in the aftermath of a show (either that evening or a couple of weeks later) and tell me how much fun we have made dance look. Sometimes it even inspires those in the audience to sign up for classes.
Dance opened up a an entire world of possibility that I never knew existed. I don’t think it would have taken any better than my tennis lessons did as a kid, but as an adult, I tried something I had never before contemplated. The first form I tried didn’t speak to me, but the next one did, and the one after that [future post alert: the joys of ballroom dancing].
I’ve made friends I wouldn’t have otherwise met, and gotten to know people I already knew on a different level. I’ve stretched myself (never much of a performer), I’ve tripped over my own feet, and sometimes I even surprise myself by managing to execute the flap-heel-toe-shuffle-back-side-step combination on tempo.
And speaking of executing, I think I managed what I couldn’t yesterday: embedding a video in my post. I’m sure it’s overkill, but let me try another (the ebullient Karen and Julia and then me — I’m the stiff one in the middle):