Shall We Dance?

Jackie taking dance lessonsWouldn’t we all love to dance like the Stars? Well, the good ones, at least.

My friend Dawn must have had stars in her eyes when she asked (ordered) me to enroll in a ballroom dance class with her.

She cajoled (threatened) her husband into taking dance lessons last year and when he declined (refused) to take part this time around, she requested (demanded) I join her – no doubt relying on my sense of noblesse oblige – and considering her indispensible support on my Bloody Mary expedition earlier this year, how could I say no?

We signed up for a six week session at Walk In, Dance Out with Lou Schreiber. Dawn and I hosted a combined birthday party last year and those in attendance will attest to our gyrating proficiency on the dance floor to the hottest top forty tunes. Regrettably, I can’t remember the last time I Waltzed or Cha-Cha-ed and whatever ability I may have possessed at one time was surely nonexistent by now. Who knows what skill set Dawn would bring to the table, er, dance floor? Admittedly, I was a little anxious (terrified).

As first timers, we were placed in a beginner class with other neophytes. We arrived early for our first lesson and while meeting Lou and his lovely assistant Mila, I kept one eye on the door, ostensibly checking out our classmates but in reality assessing a quick exit in case of, you know, some emergency (disaster).

Our beginner session focused on Salsa, Rumba and Hustle. Being an experienced (old) Hustle queen from back in the day, I felt confident (tentative) about that ability….Salsa and Rumba, not so much.

During our first lesson, Lou skillfully demonstrated the basic steps of each dance as we formed a line behind him mimicking his movements. We practiced for about twenty minutes on each dance – first on our own, then with a partner – and before we knew it, our hour lesson was over…. but Lou had a little surprise for us. While we were focusing on our feet, the advanced students had arrived for the next class. The beginners were asked to step back and observe while the experienced dancers took the floor. We watched entranced as they danced to a lively Swing tune for a minute or two and then randomly changed partners and glided into a graceful Waltz. I leaned over and whispered to Dawn, “We are so coming back next week.”

Four weeks into it, we were hooked – hooked enough to buy genuine dance shoes. Dancing, like any other sport (and it is a full contact sport) requires proper equipment….moreover, we aimed to look good. Suddenly, I found myself putting more thought into my attire, dabbing on make-up and popping breath mints. Each week several of the advanced students would attend our class and with their much needed expertise, help guide us along. Having a skilled (patient) partner makes all the difference and before long we were dancing with confidence (caution).

Upon completion of our first session we immediately signed up for the next six weeks which would feature the Waltz, Swing and Salsa. I’ve always found the Waltz a bit (extremely)intimidating but it’s really just a basic box step and soon I was gliding (teetering) along, channeling the spirit of Ginger Rogers, contemplating my choices in formal wear. Swing is fun and exhilarating and dancing with the advanced students could be breathtaking and I mean that literally – I barely had time to catch my breath before the next dance. Our Salsa, well….our Salsa grew spicier and after an hour of non-stop, energetic dancing, we were flushed (crimson) and glistening (clammy) from the effort and I’m pretty sure Dawn will think twice before wearing that sweater dress again anytime soon.

At the end of our second beginner session, Lou believed (hoped) we were ready to proceed to the next level and our confidence skyrocketed. Clearly (perhaps) we had the right stuff.

Advancement to the intermediate level entails continued attendance in the beginner class thereby increasing the lesson time to two hours. During the first hour, the intermediate students are occasionally paired with new students to help them along. This is incredibly effective since it allows the novice to focus on themselves since – in theory – you know what you’re doing. The intermediate class begins immediately afterward with advanced students in attendance to provide assistance and encouragement. There are six intermediate sessions with the first session focusing on the dances we’d learned thus far and expanding on them. This involved more elaborate (challenging) footwork, quicker tempos and turns…..lots and lots of turns. Left turns, right turns, single turns, double turns, one partner turning, both partners turning, turning with one hand, turning with two hands, you get the idea. After burning up the dance floor for two hours, my head was invariably spinning and save for Dawn bumping (whacking) a few of her partners in the head with her bangle collection, we were executing turns without spiraling out of control.

This was all really too much fun but make no mistake, it required some (considerable) exertion. Dancing involves more than just footwork. Good posture makes for a noticeable difference and arms and hands should be maneuvering as well. Dawn and I work out at the gym every morning – twice a week with a personal trainer – and are (were) under the impression we’re in pretty good shape. Hah! Try dancing for two hours at a stretch – in heels! At the conclusion of each lesson, my legs were beyond fatigued and the mornings after involved cataloging an array of mysterious new muscles of unknown origin.

During the course of each class, Lou will give the students a short break and demonstrate a more complex dance with one of the advanced ladies. It’s evident they’ve been at this for some time as they make it appear utterly effortless and it is truly a pleasure to behold. Dawn and I can only hope (fantasize) that someday we’ll be able to perform with such grace and ease. As it stands, we’re still at that anxious stage, treading (stomping) on a few toes, bumping (crashing) into partners, apologizing (groveling) early and often.

Are we discouraged? No. In fact, we couldn’t be any more motivated. While we harbor no secret desire to dance competitively and on no account will we ever (never,never,never) wear costumes, that doesn’t mean we don’t want to put our best foot forward (pun intended) the next time a gentleman requests a spin on the dance floor. Having the knowledge and skill to dance well with a partner is indispensable and instills confidence and the more poised you become the more fun you will have. Dawn and I are continuing with our lessons and are currently learning the Foxtrot – which means we can now dance to every Frank Sinatra song ever recorded – and I imagine we’ll be in high demand at weddings and bar mitzvahs. Someday, in the not too distant future, we’ll take on (attempt) the Tango. The Tango! How cool is that?

Walk In, Dance Out with Lou Schreiber is the South Bay’s best bet for those with no dance experience, two left feet or anyone wishing to hone their skills. There are classes several days each week throughout the Beach Cities and Lou will actually have you doing a recognizable dance by the end of the first session. At the end of each month there is a pot luck dance at the Eagles Hall in Redondo Beach and they host a Swing n’ Sway Dance once a month at the Josyln Community Center in Manhattan Beach so you’ll have plenty of opportunity to show off your moves.

Visit the website at http://www.walkindanceout.com to learn more.

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