Ballroom Dancing (Our First Class)

Last Sunday night, Mr. Huntington and I attended our first class of a six week Beginners Ballroom Dance Course. And this is why we keep going to our jobs that leave us too tired and worn out at night to do our writing and keep up with our blog (a royal “we”. Mr Huntington doesn’t have a blog). We go because, when you hear some swing music playing and ask your boyfriend if he knows how to dance, and when he responds that he would like to learn but never has, it feels great to say, “Do you want to take a class together?” and to know that you can afford it, that it won’t break the bank, and that you won’t even have to eat rice and beans for the next week.

So we signed up for a class. We’ve paid ahead for six weeks of lessons at Maine Ballroom Dance, a large studio right on Congress Street in Portland, ME. In the past, we’ve seen the African Dance class through the studio windows while stuffing our faces at the Congress St. Bar and Grille. I remember feeling vaguely envious and dissatisfied when I compared my own inactivity to the people moving and jumping and making use of their bodies for something other than mindless intake. Last Sunday, the studio was bright and empty when we drove by in search of parking. By the time we parked and came back to the studio, another couple had arrived, and we all introduced ourselves and wrote out our checks to the instructor. It turned out that only the four of us had registered for the class, which is nice because we get a lot of personal instruction. The other couple is friendly and cool. They’re also younger than us, which is a new feeling for me, at nearly 25, to look at another adult couple and think, “they’re a younger couple.” We were all excited and a little nervous as we waited for the class to begin.

We learned two steps each of the foxtrot and swing at the first class. We’re going to be learning four dances total, including the waltz. I’m excited that swing is included on the docket, because swing dance is my favorite and I was disappointed that the Beginner Swing lessons didn’t fit into our schedule. I was the only one who raised my hand, sheepishly, when the instructor asked if we had any previous dance experience, but I don’t remember too much from the ballroom dance club I attended briefly in college, and in some cases I remember just enough to get in the way. I may learn the steps without too much repetition because I have been foxtrotted around a room before, but, because I remembered a previous partner telling me I was too limp in the stance, I overcompensated and my teacher told me I needed to relax into the position. And in swing, though I know the swing beat and I can rock-step with the best of them, I had forgotten (or never realized) that there’s a difference between open and closed position (in open you step straight back, and in closed you step behind your other foot), and I was doing the closed position step in open position and had to be corrected.

It felt really good to be dancing again. Mr Huntington enjoyed it too. You know how you feel responsible for the other person’s enjoyment when a group activity is your idea, like when you feel guilty for bringing someone to see a movie that turns out to be not very good, even if they said they wanted to go? I felt really gratified when my boyfriend got involved in the class, stopping us in the foxtrot for an earnest discussion of our stance and watching the instructor attentively as she introduced each new concept. We spent the first twenty minutes of dinner at the noodle bar down the street discussing how the class went, and where we need to improve as a team. We both had a lot of fun, and as Mr Huntington pointed out (“Not to be all mushy and cliché,” he said) it’s really good for us as a couple, for learning how to work together and for building our communication skills. We still need to do some practicing before six o’clock tomorrow, but I’m really looking forward to our next class.

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  1. You have a boyfriend who will take dance lessons with you? What a treasure! Your cousin Emily was very into swing dancing when there was a scene here in town (and before marriage and a child complicated her life). I believe your Uncle Asa was a swing dancer as well. Apparently, it’s a time-honored family tradition. It’s good to see you blogging again. I’m not going to ask what happened to your December sketching challenge; it kept me drawing in December and for that I’m grateful.

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