“You didn’t say anything about an audience,” my dance partner said.
Tables and chairs had been moved aside to form a dance floor in Rhizome Café. There was no discerning who was here because of an appetite or happy feet.
I was inspired to try Not So Strictly Ballroom by two movies I saw at this year’s Queer Film Festival. In one, people’s arms rippled like water at a wedding; in another, a male couple bantered while they tangoed. It seemed so civilized compared to the 136 beats per minute I’m used to dancing to.
“Let’s begin,” said Murray, our instructor. “Who’s leading?”
My friend and I are both tops; we flipped for it. I won.
“Ready Ginger?” I asked.
“Stop calling me Ginger.”
Murray held his arms around an imaginary partner and took us through the Argentine tango. It seemed simple enough. I ran into problems as soon as Murray instructed us to put our hands on our partner’s shoulder blade.
“That’s his waist,” Murray said.
All my steps were giant steps like I was walking on the moon. I kept screwing up steps six and seven, jumping to eight to catch up. Murray patiently corrected the error of my ways.
For several brief seconds Ginger and I tangoed around Rhizome with the other dancers. My feet glided across the wood floor like a head of state dancing at the White House — until I tripped over steps six and seven again causing the other dancers to crash into us.
Ginger led us in the waltz where we fared a bit better.
“You know, this is the first time I’ve gone dancing where I can actually hear what my partner is saying,” I mused aloud.
“Shut up,” Ginger said, “I can’t hear myself count.”
By the time we got to the cha-cha we realized the secret to ballroom dancing is not to look at your feet but into your partner’s eyes — which is probably why so few gay men do it.
We cha-cha-ed six or seven times before Ginger started cracking up.
“Stop making faces!” he complained. “You look constipated.”
“I can’t help it! I’m concentrating.”
The evening ended with a demonstration by the instructors. They smiled as they twirled and dipped their way across the floor like they were in an MGM musical and the Rhizome a giant soundstage. And for one hour it was.
Cycling towards the skyline I knew how Audrey Hepburn felt when she sang, “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Were it not for steps six and seven.