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Dancing cheek to cheek.

Dancing, as far as I am concerned, has come full cycle. I mean, the terpsichorean convulsions now known as "break dancing" are anything but new. (I refer to those spasms in which the afflicted suddenly drops to the floor and begins spinning around on various parts of his anatomy.) I can't really say how long it's been since I suffered the misfortune of launching break dancing. My wife knows. She was the one crazy enough to sign us up for the dance-craze lessons in the first place.

I'm strictly an ah-one and ah-two man myself. What's-her-name, on the other hand, views the waltz as a sign of early senility. Thus this woman I married stopped talking one night long enough to say, "I don't care what you think about modern dancing--it's good exercise and people of our vintage should get with it." As a result, I was "out of it" altogether for the next two weeks.

Even in my most resilient days my wildest maneuver was the dip. But I quit even that. Not that I couldn't still dip. It was dipping back up that became a bother. The last time I tried it, my wife had to recruit a delegation to assist me to the sidelines.

Now here was this woman beating on my eardrums with the insane proposal that we sign up for a course of six lessons in modern dancing.

In my closing argument, I refreshed her memory about the occasion the music had suddenly switched tempo from three-quarter time to about 30 miles an hour and we had been caught out on the floor. In an attempt to keep up with the whirling dervishes, I took complete leave of my senses and tried to execute a simple twirl, wherein the woman ducks gracefully under the man's arm, skirts swirling coquettishly to the knee, and he suavely turns to retrieve her after the pass. I never did learn if etiquette called for me to announce my intentions ahead of time. But by catching my dear wife off guard, I not only succeeded in throwing her into a most unladylike squat and ripping her skirt to the waist, but more important, I also dislocated my right shoulder. So my argument was: While the good old reliable waltz may not compare with that disco stuff for working up a sweat, it sure beats having your arm in a cast for two weeks. I rested my case.

When my wife gets an idea in her head, however, it might as well be set in concrete. That is why I still am unable to get my socks on without using the fireplace tongs. And why i'll probably walk funny for the rest of my life.

The six lessons we signed up for were to cover (note the future--or apprehensive-tense) the Jitterbug, Samba, Twist, Hustle, Rumba and Bump. Contributing to my own personal tense, upon being led into the arena that first night, was the army of volunteer instructors. This bunch, if I was any judge of woman flesh, consisted of two high-school cheerleaders, two gymnasts, a judo expert and two double-jointed acrobats, all under the direction of sadist in black tights who would turn out to be a high hurdler from our 1980 woman's Olympic team.

To make this No. 1 lesson do double duty, it was to serve as the main entertainment at the club's Saturday-night dinner dance. Normally, it would be a juggler, a clown, a comedian or a team of wrestlers from Butler University. But the clever entertainment committee had seen this first dance lesson as a way of getting them all on the floor at one time.

With an uncanny knack for singling out the man most desirous of being home watching Monday Night Football on the tube (I know it was Saturday night, but I could have waited), the instructor paired me up with this sweet little judo expert as the main attraction. My wife cut me off at the pass to the men's room and escorted me back to the floor.

Before we go any further, I feel I should level with you. I've tried to make out that I'm a complete stranger to these demonic styles of dancing. But actually, I had a brief encounter with one of the more savage numbers while on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The ship was plying the Bermuda Triangle at the time and I figured what the heck. The ship may disappear anyway, and even if it doesn't the way it's pitching and rolling, who's going to notice a little faux pas or two. Right?

Wrong. In the final throes of the Lindy Hop, I had hopped backward off the stage, hopped into the stereo supplying the music, got my foot caught in the cord, pulled the plug and blown a fuse. While the maintenance man was trying to locate the proper fuse box, we played Bingo. I didn't win at that, either.

Now here I was, faced off with another short-skirted, black-belt partner, the instructor all set to begin chanting the death knell. She had already polled our little group of stumblebums to see which of the six dances we'd prefer for openers, the vote going 19 for the Bump, one for the Waltz. I had even supported my choice with a short discourse on the merits of the waltz for exercise and the building of the leg muscles as opposed to running the risk of a pulled hamstring. Thus, for popularity, I might better have been in Mexico trying to sell Ex-Lax to a bunch of American tourists.

"Okay, here we go," chanted the instructor, turning up the music. "Now, the whole idea of this dance is to bump against your partner. Then swing away from him, or her, on the downbeat." (Perhaps not knowing a downbeat from a pizzicato, whatever that is, accounted for some of what happened. At least I'll give my opponent the benefit of the doubt.) "There are no steps, per se. So, hae your feet separated and keep them fairly stationary, except when you need to move them to turn or keep your balance. Audrey, will you please demonstrate?"

Unbeknownst to me, Audrey was my partner. What my defense would have been had I knownst, I'm not sure. As it was, I was still engaged in getting my feet "comfortably separated" when she suddenly threw her rear end out of joint and sent me plunging across the floor. Had it not been for the dessert section at the end of the buffet table, no telling where I'd have ended up. As it was, my dinner jacket now being 20 percent wool, 10 percent polyester and 70 percent lemon meringue, at least I would be permitted, if not invited, to retire for the evening.

No way. Nailed just short of the sanctuary of the men's room, my wife and my partner, amid much uncalled-for jocularity, proceeded to clean me up and, between them, muscle me back to my station.

"are we all ready now?" queried the high hurdle, restarting the music. "Knees should be bent. Let's see you bend those knees. Audrey, would you help your partner to bend just his knees?" I was afraid it might be my old back condition flaring up. But after Audrey had rammed her knee into my sacroiliac and pulled back on my shoulders, we discovered that getting me reassembled from the dessert table, I had got the large end of my tie stuffed under my belt.

Audrey waited while I cautiously pulled it out, then signaled the chief. "O.K," she said. "Now, when you bump, the parts of your body not touching should swing in the opposite direction from the part that is bumping. In hip bumping, where we'll begin, with your knees bent slightly, bump hips, swinging your arms and torso away from your partner. And here we go...."

My partner having already demonstrated the dexterity of her hips, I was prepared. As a result, we came together with a force that would have cracked hickory nuts. I was sure I would never walk again, to say nothing of "swinging my torso." It was my dear wife who spared me the embarassment of fainting by handling me a drink, then giving me a pat of encouragement on my shattered hip that nearly caused me to faint.

"Are these your car keys?" she asked gaily, picking them up off the floor. Another woman brought me some loose change that had rolled under her table. Audrey handed me my tie clip, which had landed in her hair, and then, playfully pawing the floor with her foot, came charging at me for another bump.

In spite of the pain, I managed to sidestep just in time. And while she was ricocheting off another couple, I headed for the door. TRying to move so as to keep the shards of my shattered hip bone from wearing a hole in my shorts, however, made it pretty slow going.

Audrey retrieved me just as the head sadist called out: "Another variation is back-to-back." Audrey spun me around. I grabbed for the nearest table and was lucky enough to catch hold of a drink and hang on. "Stick your derriere out toward your partner and throw your arms out in front of you. If you don't feel foolish you aren't doing it right," she barked. (I was doing it right.) "Now Bump your shoulders, elbows and knees."

A sixth sense--the other five by now being pretty well out of it--told me that Audrey would go for shoulders. I braced for the onslaught. Instead she chose elbows and caught me flush in the kidneys.

"Spin completely around on the offbeat and bump whatever is handy," I heard the executioner call. "Surprise your partner...."

At least I finally got something right. Not only did I surprise my parner by being gone when she spun completely around, I surprised myself by making it all the way out to the car unassisted. And on the way I bumped whatever was handy. This included a table that had just been served a fresh round of drinks, two women who were climbing the stairs, a lamppost in front of the club and my head while I got into the car.

I also surprised my dear wife by giving her my blessing if she wanted to finish the dance lessons without me. I said I would rather try out for the city's soccer team, and if the team became good enough we might challenge her dance group to a game of terpsichorean hysteria. Basically our soccer team would try to score a certain number of goals before her bunch disabled our entire squad. Or perhaps the game would be decided on goals for our side versus broken hips by her bunch; hospital costs to be split down the middle.

If it comes offf, I hope the surgeon general can make it to the game. It's a cinch he'll declare dancing, except for the good old reliable waltz, dangerous to the health. He can even O.K. the dip. What the heck, you only go around once.
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Title Annotation:satire
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Sep 1, 1984
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