Age, walking cane ended the fun dancing days

Age carries lots of burdens with it. Among them is “blame” for ending fun things you did as a young person. So, I have no compunction about hanging the blame turkey of “no dancing” around the neck of age and maybe lack of opportunity.

As a teenager, I got the yen to learn about dancing when I got the news of the high school junior-senior prom during my junior year. Now, I’d never danced, well except maybe a short victory jig after a ball game.

Somehow, a music teacher in town got the idea of teaching ballroom dancing classes. For you young whippersnappers, “ballroom dancing” means holding your date close and doing steps to the rhythm of the music. So, several of us signed up for the classes and learned the two-step, the waltz and something Teacher referred to as “the Frisco,” which I quickly figured out was the jitterbug.

Now, I’d seen that in the movies (no TV at our house yet) and thought it all looked like fun. Plus, I love music and the sounds of that day (early rock and roll, think Bill Haley and the Comets as well as Elvis Presley) that lent itself to the jitterbug steps and moves. So, two-stepping and jitterbugging seemed really cool. The waltz reminded me of those snooty royalty movies where the decked-out couples looked like stiff boards bothered slightly by wind gusts.

However, I learned to waltz and found it filled out the dance card nicely on many occasions. It can be the most elegant of dance steps. And, later in life during a stint publishing in Czech-German-Polish communities, you’d better be a dancer and know the waltz in addition to the polka.

Just as we’re all getting into the dancing lessons with visions of “coolness” swirling in our heads, a fundamentalist preacher at one of the town’s larger churches announced that dancing was a sin and he expected all the teens in that church to boycott the prom because it put evil thoughts in young minds as little boys held little girls closely. Ol’ Preach even had his congregants sign a pledge. Yeah, it was ridiculous.

Obviously, he’d never danced, or if he had, he didn’t concentrate on the music and the proper dance steps which doesn’t lend itself to thinking about anything else but not messing up and stepping on your date’s pretty, dainty feet. Plus, Preach obviously didn’t know about Lover’s Lane where the necking, hugging and smooching went on. There was plenty of time for that after the prom. The prom just took the place of one movie night, which regularly led to the same trip down that well-known lane. Actually, I never heard the preacher rail against movies, at least not the vanilla ones of that day and time. Think: Doris Day or Roy Rogers. Shucks, Roy wouldn’t even kiss his horse Trigger much less dance with Dale Evans. Not even a dos-e-doh.

But, I became a real dancing fan. Especially the jitterbug. All that twirling and such.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time on a dance floor. I think if you really love music, dancing is a natural follow.

In my young and single days, there were two schoolmates, Judi & Martha who I learned could dance really well, so we spent lots of time on dance floors. That preacher would be shocked to know that cutting the fancy rug with either of those talented ladies was so much fun, we didn’t even think about Lover’s Lane, just dancing to good music.


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