Tuesday, January 22, 2008

It All Comes Out in the Waltz

After a hectic day with some unexpected events, I was almost too tired to go to our local for the Scottish dancing lessons, but I had promised my friend that I would be there and I am eager to get back the rhythms of this life here, so I took a quick nap and then tried to borrow some energy by listening to the lively upbeat music of my old band, Dog Talk.

The mini nap and the music gave me enough energy to get out the door into the cold and dark for the 6 miles to Halladale Inn. The gracefully winding road has to be traveled especially slowly now because the deer are frequent visitors and they have decided that at night they own the road. A Volvo is no match for a deer, so I accede to their territorial rights and move slowly, watchfully through the night.

The dancing is already in motion when I arrive, but only a few people are there, including my friend. Both she and the dance instructor are happy to welcome me back. The first dance is Bernard's waltz. I vaguely remember the name, but I have never been good at remembering steps, so it is starting all over again. Because I am tired, the connection from feet to brain works even more slowly than usual. The man who is my partner is an experienced dancer and a very graceful teacher: "Take small steps" "When you step forward put your foot here..." and other advice help me into a semblance of the dance but a little two-beat interlude of rising on your toes and dropping your heels eludes me. I am either going up when others are on their way down or missing it altogether and then fretting so that I miss the step to the side. Very quickly all his good advice about small steps and where to put my feet has been lost somewhere between feet and brain.

The next dance is a progressive Gay Gordon, which is bascially a circle dance that allows each person to get a new partner. The steps to that one are relatively simple and it has the virtue that if you mess it up, you can move on before your partner is too exasperated with you.

The third dance is remarkably like square dancing although more fun than it ever was in grade school gym class. I know my do si do's. The next dance, however, Erin's Pride (or is it Ireland's Pride or???) is more complicated and my success with the do si dos is quickly done in by the step first on your outside leg and then swing your inside leg and step back. And then some lovely cross stepping and tapping one time and clapping the next and then back to back turns and then more inside leg kicking. When it is done right, it is quite lovely. On the odd occasion when I got it right, it also feels good.

Somewhere between Erin's Pride and the other dances, I discovered the key to a kind of equanimity. Nearly every one of the segments in these dances is defined by a waltz turn (or two or three). So, worst case, I could simply stand still, arms up like a toddler asking to be carried and eventually, I would join all the others in the right time at least for as long as the turns lasted.

Having discovered this marvelous bit of wisdom, I retired from the dance floor to sit by the fire with the old pub dog, Floyd, until it was time to head home again. Next week I'll dance more and worry less.


At 9:39 PM, Anonymous ampiggy said...

Good for you to brave the night and your fatigue and go there! I have a photo of the Halladale and I remember our lunch there and what it's like. This post makes me want to get back into dancing. Sometimes it's best NOT to think (if you can make yourself do that) and you can then do the steps better. I found that when I began to do liturgical dance.

At 5:13 AM, Blogger Gabriel Harley said...

Ah, Dog Talk. Just the name awakens memories of good times in Broad Ripple... :-)

For someone who's been a professional musician since age 13, dancing has always come a little more difficult for me. It's like trying to pick up Spanish once you already know French--just enough crossed cognates and cranial wires to keep you second-guessing yourself.

Still, it's nice to hear news from a land where people still dance. Too many Hoosiers are too content to just sit and watch/listen no matter how moved they may feel. I've never understood that. Probably something to do with our inordinate amount of Baptist churches...

At 10:18 PM, Blogger Christina said...

Oh, what fun! It sounds magical! We swing dance sometimes in downtown Indy but what you describe sounds like so much fun. Wish I was there to join in. Next week give the pub dog a scratch behind the ears for me!

At 9:46 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Oh, ampiggy, you know me and dancing. Almost always enough enrgy for at least a little bit of whirl.

At 9:49 PM, Blogger landgirl said...

Gabe, why can't musicians dance? It just seems as if the two go hand in hand or hand and foot. I didn't believe the first time a guy in a band told me that he couldn't dance.
Dancing is very important up here tho the younger generation seems to be getting away from it a bit. A ceilidh almost always includes dancing. We hope to find a Burns supper (a big event up here as you could well imagine) that also has a ceilidh. Not all of them do.

At 4:26 AM, Blogger Hayden said...

what a lovely tradition! good on you for taking the classes!


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