Over the last few years, an old hobby has retaken ahold of me, dancing.
I attended my first dance in eighth grade. I’d never danced, but I’d seen “American Bandstand” and “Soul Train,” so I knew the basics of shaking my body parts around. I was as nervous as a squirrel on a busy country road when I asked Debbie S. to go with me. Once I got her on the dance floor, potential social embarrassments were no longer a concern, though; I may not have known how to dance, but I knew more than most of the guys there. Debbie was laughing and giggling and “-Holy Moly, did she just touch my arm?!” My self-esteem jumped up past the point typically reserved for manly heroes like James Bond. I learned an important life-lesson then: Girls like guys who can dance. I may not have been popular in school, but I was never without a date to the dances. If Debbie had not had such an enjoyable time, I’m not sure I’d be dancing today.
When I was 19, I was stationed in Orlando, Florida. The one place I enjoyed myself the most was a country and western dance palace on Orange Blossom Trail. I don’t remember its name, but that’s where I learned how to do more than just shake my body parts around. There were a couple of “older” ladies (probably much younger by my current standards), who wanted someone to dance with. I guess they weren’t getting enough floor time because one night they made me an offer; if I danced with them more often, they’d teach me how to do the Two-Step, the Waltz, and the East Coast Swing (though then they called it the Texas Swing).
Flash forward to college. A sweet young thing named Angela called me up one night and asked me to go dancing with her because she knew I knew how to dance. Now we’re married. See? That dancing stuff does work! She tells our friends that I came pre-trained on the dance floor. I get compliments occasionally on how strong of a lead I am. I wish I could take the credit, but I’ve got to thank all the ladies I’ve danced with over the years for not putting up with a weak lead.
We didn’t get to dance as much as we wanted over the next twenty-odd years as we were raising a family. But once the kids left the house, we decided to get back into it. We found a new dance called West Coast Swing. It’s one of the most sensual dances I’ve ever seen. Think “Dirty Dancing” without all the grinding. We did that for a couple of years, but eventually, I got burned out (I’ll pick it up again, I promise). I went back to Country and Western, specifically my first love, the Two-Step.
Wow! The dance had changed so much since my twenties. It was cleaner. It was sharper. It had…rules! No longer was it a honky-tonk trash dance. That may seem like it’s taking the fun out of it, but it’s really not. What it does do is make sure everyone is on the same page…as long as they’ve had some basic training. I fell even further in love with it. So, while West Coast Swing and Tango consumed all my wife’s time, Two-Step consumed all mine. Enter Barb Stone.
Barb and I spent quite a bit of time practicing the Two-Step before and after class. We went to some of the more familiar country bars with our friends, but sometimes alone, and danced there to different music. Our dance got better and better. We weren’t busting moves on each other; we were there for the dance, nothing else. One night I asked her where our dance was going and what we wanted out of it. We both agreed it might be fun to try a competition. We talked to our instructors Greg and Laura Thrash. They were all over the idea. We started private lessons that week. They said we were an interesting couple; Barb had natural talent and good technique while I had the showmanship (Indeed, they worked hard to knock all the rough edges off my dance). We complemented each other.
Two months later, Barb was getting the first-time performance jitters. I’ll admit I had some, too, but she’d never performed in front of anyone, ever. We needed to “break the ice” so to speak, so we decided to perform at Studio 22’s Margarita Madness Showcase. The night of our performance, her husband and kids, my wife, and all of our friends were there. It was probably one of our smartest decisions.
A month later in August, we finally competed in the Lonestar Invitational in Austin, Texas in the Newcomer Division (Newcomer because we’d never competed before). We had a much better showing in the West Coast Swing than we thought we would, but we won First Place in the Couples Two-Step.
Now our instructors want us to compete in more than the Two-Step, so we’re learning other routines. We’ve got the Cha Cha and the West Coast Swing under our belts, but after the November Nationals, we’ll be learning the Night Club Two-Step, Waltz, Polka, East Coast Swing, Triple-Two, and others. Busy times.
Some people worry that my wife’s and my marriage may be in trouble because Barb and I dance so much. It’s not. Angela and I still dance socially; we just don’t compete together. There are few husband/wife competition dance teams; try telling your spouse he or she needs to fix something about themselves, and you’ll understand why. In fact, Barb and Angela have become friends. Sadly (for me), they both work hard to keep me in line.