Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Marriage and the art of dance

I was shocked when Rob told me to call the telemarketer back.

I always thought he didn't like dancing, so when I got the call from a local ballroom dance studio offering a free trial lesson I just chuckled wistfully and hung up.

Turns out it's not that Rob doesn't like dancing, it's that he doesn't like not dancing well. He spent a good part of his early adulthood working throughout the Caribbean where dancing is an art form and people seem born with a beautiful sense of rhythm. His travels left him a little ashamed of his typically, rhythmically-challenged, white, northern-European background and loathe to take to the dance floor.

But lucky for both of us he was ready to learn.

I was five months pregnant when we showed up for our first lesson. We bickered bitterly over his imperative to lead and my apparent inability to let him, but were nonetheless hooked. Before we left we signed up for several more classes.

Dance class became our date night and all that summer and fall my stomach grew as did our competence at the Foxtrot, the Cha-Cha and the Waltz.

We deliberately chose to learn older dances - those choreographed odes to compromise and propriety - because we discovered that we both felt they were classic, old-fashioned arts in danger of being forgotten or passed over for the sweaty, sexy gyrating that dominates dance floors today.

One of my earliest and happiest memories involves dancing with my father. I was about six years old and wearing black, patent-leather shoes which caused me to slip and slide most ungracefully as he expertly lead me through the Jitter-Bug, the Cha-Cha and the Waltz.

I remember feeling simultaneously like a glamorous grown-up and an incompetent little girl as he twirled me about and I tried, and mostly failed, to keep pace. I remember feeling exhilarated and happy and proud, aware that people were watching and smiling at the spectacle.

And then I remember retiring to my seat and watching my dad take my mother's hand and lead her through the same steps. It was as if they had been dancing together forever. One day, I thought, I want to dance with somebody like that.

Rob and I have learned that dancing, real dancing, is about so much more than moving to the music.

Before you learn to dance you must learn to respect your partner's space. For women, that means you have to relax and to trust, to be open enough to accept just slightest movement from your partner as your cue to follow them wherever they may lead.

Real dancing is about compromise, about anticipating your partner's needs and intentions. It demands the ability to work together for mutual ease and enjoyment: I can't think of a better time for a couple to learn these skills than as they await the birth of their first baby.

We continued our weekly dance lessons right up until six days before Graham's birth and were back at the studio just three weeks later. Graham slept peacefully in his carrier as we polished a Foxtrot routine to Roger Miller's King of the Road.

Rob and I haven't been back the dance studio for about two years now, thanks to a lack of money and time, those two age-old buzz-killers. We talk all the time about starting lessons again, about adding Swing and the Rumba to our repertoire, but luckily we have already picked up enough steps to be mildly impressive on the dance floor at bars and parties.

And that makes me proud.

Because one day I hope my children, or perhaps my grandchildren, will watch us dance with the same wide-eyed wonder with which I watched my parents.

Look at Mom and Dad, they will say, it's as if they've been dancing together forever.

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43 comments:

Kathryn said...

Perfect. Perfect post.

My husband and I just signed up for a six week dance course. I'm so excited now. :)

sky girl said...

I am envious! I've always wanted to learn to dance properly.

Hopefully it's in my future. :)

Tracey said...

Shoot. I am SO signing up for a dance class with my hubby now. We've always meant to, but never got around to it!

Lisa said...

That made me teary. What a beautiful post, and a beautiful thing to do as a couple. Love it!

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I love your story. I wish that I could do that with my husband. Sadly - he really does hate dancing. We did go to lessons before our wedding (my idea of course) and I discovered that I was meant to live back when dancing was as important as small talk at any social event. I LOVED it - I was good at it - I was often asked to help demonstrate....and then there was...Chris. He just hated it. Couldn't pick up the steps and didn't even think it was fun. So it was a short lived fantasy for me.

Of course I can't complain since I'm sure he'd LOVE for me to get excited about baseball games and talk politics with him (I grew up in DC and you'd think I'd love political debate - not so much). So I guess we all make our compromises.

How did this become all about my marriage...back to the point - great story! I loved it!

Aunt Becky said...

Lovely story, my friend.

Immoral Matriarch said...

Aww! That's so sweet!

Kathleen said...

Fabulous tale! I love that you guys took lessons during your pregnancy...brilliant.

Jaina said...

Aww. That's wonderful. On that note, have you seen/do you like Shall We Dance with Richard Gere, Jennifer Lopez and Susan Sarandon? Your post reminded me of that movie a little bit. Great film.

chelle said...

How sweet! My husband tried and failed miserably to learn to dance before our wedding. We gleefully took it as a sign that we were truly destined to be together.

womaninawindow said...

Lovely.

And a little painful 'cause we don't do social events (by choice) but the one thing I wish my kids could see is us dancing together. Aside from the comfort of our own living room, that is.

Kimmylyn said...

What a beautiful post.. it really will be great memories for you both..to share something that really is so timeless but yet almost so forgotten now..

Kelly said...

What a beautiful story!!!!! I wish that I could convince hubby to do a dance class, but there is not a chance of that ever happening :( LOL

RiverPoet said...

What a beautiful post! You two look wonderful together, and I'm sure you always will.

Maybe I'll sign us up for some dance lessons, now that we're going to be empty nesters...Peace - D

Heather said...

Oh I wish my hubby would consent to take lessons with me. I think he's severely underestimating the erotic power of dancing.

kittenpie said...

I haven't been able to induce Misterpie to do this yet, but learning with a friend some while ago, I agree, I found it difficult to learn to follow. As the teacher noted, women these days don't expect to have to be followers anymore, and it's a difficult thing to give over control like that. Works way better once you do, though.

Damselfly said...

Ooh! This post is crying out for a dancing video! :)

Beautiful sentiment about dancing -- and carrying on a tradition your parents started.

Angella said...

Matthew and I took a ballroom dancing lesson before we had kids. Never again. Dude has NO rhythm.

Kudos to you for keeping it up!

flutter said...

this is so delicious and so loving and just so totally wonderful

~Jobthingy~ said...

so sweet. that is definitely something i would like to do with a male partner.

with my height, i tried to find a male that would be willing and not scared a few years back and i couldnt. so my good girl friend at the time said she would go with me. it was a blast. but it would be nice to dance with a male, that is not the instructor.

Stomper Girl said...

I'm too busy teaching dance to others to get a night free to go dancing with my man, and I think it's a big, fat shame.

You and Rob look great together in the picture. Hope you get to go on dancing date nights again soon.

Nowheymama said...

Aw... I like thinking about your grandchildren watching you dance years from now.

Chantal said...

My hubby and I have been talking about taking dancing lessons for years. I think we need to get going. Beautiful post!

Bryan said...

awwww. it's actually pretty fun learning and ballroom dance comes in handy for us rythemically challenged guys (possibly spelling challenged as well))

I hope you get there again!

petite gourmand said...

I love this post and now I reallly want to take dance lessons.
in the mean time I must say I'm a sucker for So You Think You Can Dance on t.v.
(I even scored tickets to see the live show in October..lame I know, but I can't wait)

not exactly the same thing as shakin it on the dance floor but for now it helps fill the dance void.

Jen said...

How fun! Paul and I have talked about maybe doing this together someday.

painted maypole said...

oh, I wish so much my hubby would dance with me. i've tried and tried. maybe I'll ask him to read this lovely post.

John-Michael said...

Your "choreographed odes to compromise and propriety" perfectly portrays something of inestimable beauty. I am grateful for this message, beyond my feeble ability to express. I still will waltz about my tiny cottage as as outlet to emotions and desires that can be spoken in no better way. I humbly thank you for this artfully expressed statement of endearing Soul.

Lovingly ...

Leanne said...

Lovely. I can dance, just not in heels. What does that say about me?

Great post.

Tulipsanticipation said...

My grandparents had the brilliant idea to buy dance lessons for my husband and I before we got married. I too struggled to let him lead, bc he wouldn't.

Turns out though the lessons didn't do much good bc all was lost when he couldn't see my feet which were covered by my gown.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

At every community concert my neighbors dance and dance and dance. They've been married over 40 years. It's truly beautiful to watch.

BusyDad said...

Hmm never thought of it that way. I took swing lessons for a while and I was surprised at how much easier it was if you didn't stop and think about it. Another metaphor for life there.

Jyl @ MommyGossip said...

What a beautiful post! T-Daddy and I should totally try this out. I love the metaphor to marriage.

Helen E.M. Wright said...

We took dancing lessons when we were going out. I always had a problem with giving up the lead! I think it was a metaphor for our marriage.

Mighty Morphin' Mama said...

So beautiful, I think that all couples should dance together. I totally need to learn to let my hubby lead too.

Thanks for the congrats, baby and I are doing really well.
Take care,
Kristen

Vered - MomGrind said...

Ido and I took dancing lessons before our wedding. We enjoyed them so much that we continued after we got married.

We haven't danced together in a very long time.

That photo is beautiful. You look like a princess and a prince. Seriously.

E said...

Lovely storytelling Diva

I have always thought dancing was a euphemism for sex. When you think about it that way well then, of course you guys are good at it....

Elaine A. said...

Posts like this are why I always come back to your blog. So beautifully written and such a wonderful message.

P.S. Love your shoes in the pic! ; )

C said...

What a fantastic post, Kelly! I have to echo what Elaine A wrote! You always write so beautifully and you leave us wanting more.

Zip n Tizzy said...

My husband and I took a salsa class when we were first together. It all ended when our apartment burnt down.
He didn't yet know how to lead, and I couldn't/wouldn't follow. I wonder if now, 13 years later we'd be more comfortable in our roles. We should really give it a try because I have also always dreamed of gracefully dancing around the dance floor, being watched by my children or grandchildren. If he won't do it, I'm signing up when my boys are old enough.
It's a lost art, and that much more beautiful for it.
And I agree, a wonderful aid to marriage.

Karen MEG said...

We've always said we would take dance lessons together and still have not gotten around to it. I think we should start thinking about it again ... sounds just wonderful.

And I too, have wonderful memories of watching my parents dance together - they used to take classes when I was younger (now I know it was their date night ;). To see them kicking it up on the dance floor with all those amazing moves together, and how they worked the floor. I agree with the others... it is a lost art.

I LOVE that photo of you two dancing together. Just beautiful!

auds at barking mad said...

What a beautiful post on such a beautiful and often-times lost art form.

These words, and that photo are certainly going to be things Graham will cherish in the years to come.

caramama said...

We used to take dance classes, and it was a wonderful date night for us. Everything you said about it is sooooo true!

We haven't been back since I was pregnant. I hope that we can resume classes soon, but somehow I think it's just another thing that will have to wait until the kid(s) are older.