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The answer of a happy, dancing fool
Kids dance naturally, teens rebelliously, lovers zealously...or do they anymore?
My husband and I were invited to a Mardi Gras-themed fundraiser for a women’s shelter by his boss. There was food, a silent auction, a cash bar, and a rocking New Orleans band. The singer and the drummer were animated, winking and addressing the crowd. The bassist, pianist, and horn player were in their own worlds – eyes closed, fingers flying, not caring what was happening around them.
People were eating or sitting or walking to the bar. The dance floor was criminally empty.
I grew up dancing. There were formal teachers and performances, but also informal teachers and performances. My mother liked to cut a rug while housecleaning. My father boogied to Beatle LPs on weekends. Family weddings were marked by polkas with our grandparents, electric slides with our aunties, and conga-lines through tables cluttered with forgotten drinks and discarded shoes. This is why I’ve never been afraid to make a fool of myself on the dance floor.
At least, I never used to be. Now I sensed that invisible wall, the one keeping everyone in their seats, the one keeping me in mine. We were all too cool, too old, or too scared to bust a move.
The music throbbed with life. The singer called us out, her invitation to dance met only with nervous smiles, averted eyes, and more trips to the bar. Everyone looked so beautiful but so self-conscious. When does this happen? Kids dance naturally, teens rebelliously, lovers zealously...or do they anymore?
I could feel the vibrations of someone’s phone on the table. There are always phones.
I was wearing a full skirt meant to be twirled. On my feet were cute blue shoes. On my arm was a barrage of bracelets. I had dressed to dance, and yet I sat. I kept taking the temperature of my tablemates, unable to hear their banter or stop my toes from tapping.
An elderly couple took the floor first, their steps schooled but blunted, a shadow of what they must have been in their prime, which made them all the braver to me. Soon, a feather-decorated umbrella popped opened, held by a waltzing woman in white. She weaved onto the floor alone, pumping the umbrella to the beat. A man emerged from the bar, arms wide, fingers snapping, eyes closed, sliding and stepping onto the floor, partnerless.
My table was quiet, nibbling food that was nearly gone, sipping drinks that were nearly empty, and nodding at conversation they couldn’t hear. I twisted my hands in my lap. My husband leaned close.
Do you want to dance?
Our steps were small and guarded. He bumped into my hip. I stepped on his foot. A blush, a chuckle, an echo of his question – do you want to dance?
I closed my eyes, kicked up my blue heels, twirled my full skirt, and jingled my jangle of bracelets. I followed the umbrella woman as she led a conga line through the tables, collecting more dancers. The song ended, and another began. Some people left, but we remained. Soon sweat was running down our faces, and the world around us was just sound and movement, and it didn’t matter how old I was or who was there or the state of my hair.
I was happy, a dancing fool.