I love to social dance, but you can hardly call me adept. I dance because I enjoy it. It gets me out of my office and, more importantly, out of my head till I'm transported to a place I find hard to name, but not to yield to as I fall into step with the world around me.
This month I'm taking a tango class. Not because the instructor is a gor-geous Argentinian with a muscular build of fine propor-tion, or that the swarthiness of his hair dissolves into the swarthiness of his eyes, oh no, but because I bask in any endeavor that requires a new dress.
Somewhere in my consciousness, I've always desired a clingy, black satin gown with a peekaboo slit clear up my silky thigh, preferring it tenfold over the cotton frock I bought for swing dance class where I never quite took to hop-skipping around while fixed from the waist up. Which goes to show, sometimes you have to make a mistake just to be free of it.
Oh. My. I'm wearing nylon stockings for the first time since, like, senior prom. Living in Seattle, legs encased in thick, 100-percent cotton tights, can cause one to forget just how sleek synthetic fibers can be. One minute my legs are sandpaper, every hair follicle a scratchy flaw; the next I'm running my hands up and down the smooth surface of me, fingers meeting nothing but pleasure. Really, if satisfaction has a physicality, it is surely this.
OK, I admit stiletto heels are a bit of a problem. But only if I try to walk in them. Which I do, wobbling to the No. 8 bus that whisks me from downtown to Capitol Hill. Upon boarding, all eyes fix on my heels as if they are a danger to myself and others, or some kinky secret is stuck to the soles of my feet. Even a confident woman such as myself can only take so many strangers staring at her style-sense through the corner of their eyes.
But the most uncomfortable thing, the very worst thing of all happens during class (the very first class), when I fall flat on my behind. Which is all right - Martha Graham said a fall proves a dancer is willing to risk. Still, drowning in spasms of embarrassment, I laugh and blame my shoes. Easy. No one questions this in Seattle, home to soles flat as the sidewalks they cruise.
We're not trying to win a contest here, there's only me to please, but, still, these dips and leans make me terribly self-conscious. And it doesn't help that my partner has a shell around him, thick as a clam's, with no smile of greeting as he grabs my hips and pulls me to him. Right now I want him to release me and choose another partner! And ... I half mean it.
Let me get this straight, does he honestly believe his scrappy commands will help me unwind? Honestly, with all the testosterone surrounding him it's a miracle my voice doesn't crack. Listen, I say, I'm no tango dancer. Tango-hearted, but hardly the real McCoy. He rolls his eyes.
So much for the tender duet I'd hoped for. It seems even on the dance floor there is always the matter of power. Some nights there isn't enough space, even in the Century Ballroom, for the size of the ego.
On my way home, I walk in stocking feet, heels swinging in hand, a faded dancing girl.
I will say this: I long for a dance that can move me round the floor with a lighthearted mind. And in that respect, tango class sort of failed me, but not the tango. Because tonight, alone in my boudoir (translation: Murphy bed pulled down from my wall), I am ze most beeyuuteeful tango dancer in ze world. Just ask my cat.
And when I call a friend to share the details of my evening, blow-by-blow, she tells me about a belly-dance class where live Middle Eastern music instantly relieves you from the weight of yourself. Before you know it, she says, you're moving without a care in the world. No partner to maneuver.
I aim my imagination at the thought of a class like that.
I figure a dancer must seize every opportunity to dance, right? It's not that I believe I'll get the hang of how to shimmy my pelvis at hummingbird speed. What propels me into calling the instructor is a familiar yen spreading through me, the chutzpah it will take to try. Because I like a good challenge. I have the stomach for it. And in this particular style of dance, I believe that's an added bonus.