June 5, 2013–Everyone should dance.
I’m not in the habit of handing out advice to my children. First, I don’t have any advice. Second, if I did, they wouldn’t take it. I never did.
But when my oldest son set off for college, I felt I should say something profound. So I told him this: Take a ballroom dance class.
He simply raised an eyebrow.
In spite of providing him material he could have a good laugh over when he told his future children stupid things his dad said, there was logic to my statement.
I believe everyone should dance. As a musician, writer, and observer of people, I have noticed few things make people stand out in the real world of business and personal life like the ability to dance.
If you are a man, especially.
At formal social occasions, the man who is light on his feet is a sought after partner. A man who is comfortable doing the foxtrot is comfortable making a sales call or speaking in front of groups. And I believe that how a couple moves together on the dance floor is a screening process for finding possible mates.
My parents were both good dancers. Thank God. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t be here. My mom recently told me the story of the night she met my dad.
It was in 1942, and there was a community dance in the small Iowa town of Keota. My then teenaged mom (Maxine) was sent to the dance hall to pick up her younger sister. When she walked into the dance, something magical happened.
“There stood a sailor,” she told me. Now, Keota, Iowa, is pretty landlocked, if you don’t count the North Fork of the Skunk River. Having a sailor in town caused quite a ripple among the marriageable girls. Maxine remembers the moment distinctly, even what she was wearing–a brown jumper with a sweater. Not that it mattered. “He was staring at me. I felt like I didn’t have any clothes on.”
She learned later that he was looking to see if she had on a wedding ring. At least that’s what he told her. Dad, you scoundrel.
That sailor (Bob, and by now you know he was also my future father), asked Maxine to dance. She finally gave in. That’s how she told it, anyway.
Maxine was in heaven. “The other girls came up to me and said, ‘How do you rate?’ There was only one sailor there, and he asked me to dance.”
And dad could dance. They did the jitterbug, the lindy hop, the foxtrot, swing, and all the hot dances of the 40s. Something clicked, because they danced a lot more, married, had nine kids, and stayed married.
Even growing up, I remember them going out dancing every Saturday night. They belonged to a square dance club, and sometimes they took us kids with them. Dad taught the jitterbug to my sisters. There was always music, and always movement. He would even invite the neighbors over for old-fashioned barn dances with a live caller.
So perhaps it is no surprise that I was fascinated by dancing. While in high school and college, I discretely took every dance class I could, from ballroom and folk dancing to jazz and ballet. I talked my younger brother Mike into taking tap lessons in someone’s basement. I convinced a group of my college classmates to join the local square dance club. This was in the 1970s, and I’m still not sure which group was more surprised–the long-haired college kids or the blue-haired square dancers. But it worked; we made friends and had fun.
When I eventually joined a band and passed through the Texas town of Fredericksburg, I was that rarity in the music world–a drummer that could dance. At Pat’s Hall one night I spied a little red-haired girl, whose parents had apparently taught her to dance, too. After protracted staring, I didn’t find any wedding ring either. So I asked her to dance. That two-step led to four kids and 30-plus years of marriage so far.
A few weeks into my son’s first semester at college, he called and was going over his schedule. Then he lowered his voice and almost whispered into the phone, “I got into a ballroom dance class.”
Ah, the circle of life. Who knows if it will affect his future as drastically as it did for my parents and for me. If nothing else, it will make parties more interesting.
And give him an excuse to stare at that cute girl waiting by the edge of the dance floor.