So y’all are probably wondering how the dancing lessons are going. In case someone missed it, one of the things I gave Joyce for Valentine’s Day was a gift certificate for 12 ballroom dancing lessons. She loves those Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers movies, and she’s taken ballroom lessons before. But not with a regular partner. They were group lessons where people got paired off after they got there. The lessons I got us were designed for couples.
Y’all probably remember that I have no sense of rhythm. That’s why I stopped dancing in high school: it’s just not pretty to see me trying to move in time to the music. I can’t do it. I get the idea, but my body doesn’t do what my mind wants it to. See…I can let things happen naturally with a baseball bat because my brain sends out the right signals to my body. I know how to hit and my body gets the message and that’s how I ended up with a .285 batting average my year in the pros.
It’s all different when it comes to dancing. My brain doesn’t understand the idea of rhythm. That’s why I can’t play basketball: you need some inner sense of rhythm to dribble…and it just ain’t there. So I dance like a klutz. Actually, no, klutzass is too good a word for my dancing. It’s just embarrassing. So I don’t do it. I even lied about being a Baptist (Baptists don’t dance) to get out of dancing with some chick in college.
And, so, here I am, taking ballroom dancing lessons with my girlfriend. I had no idea how it was going to turn out, although the couple that owns the studio where we were taking the lessons (they dance professionally as Rico & Carla) said they could make a ballroom dancer out of me, and that, if necessary, I could rely on my partner’s sense of rhythm.
That was an interesting idea, and, if they hadn’t said it, I wouldn’t have bought the lessons. I just hoped that Joyce had enough of a sense of rhythm for the both of us.
Rico and Carla have a studio on the 2nd floor of a building on Colorado Boulevard, a little closer to where I live than to Old Town, so it’s easy for me to get to. It’s a little farther for Joyce, and, since I need to go home to change for dancing lessons, we usually meet there. It’s kinda awkward having two cars, but it’d be silly for me to drive all the way up into Altadena to get Joyce and then drive more than half the way back to my house to get to the studio.
The studio is a big room with a polished wood floor that takes up almost the whole floor of the building. (They made space in a corner for a small office, but, basically, their workspace is the studio.) It’s got a big mirror along one wall and adjustable track lighting in the ceiling, so they can turn the lights up when they’re teaching you, and then turn them down towards the end of the lesson so you can get some ambience while you’re dancing with your partner.
Rico and Carla are definitely built like dancers. Rico’s 6’1” and 170 with very long legs. I think he’s latino, but he might be Italian. He’s definitely dark with very dark almost black eyes (Joyce thinks they’re ‘fascinating’), and he always wears his long hair super slicked back with product. It’s a very ‘theatrical’ look, but, then, he’s a performer. He’s almost always dressed in black pants and a black shirt, which he always has unbuttoned far enough so that it looks gay. You’d assume that a professional ballroom dancer and teacher would be gay, but, believe me, he isn’t. Joyce thinks he’s very sexy and she’s a sure as I am that he’s straight.
You can also tell he’s straight by looking at his wife. If Joyce thinks Rico is hot, I think Carla’s just as hot. She’s tall – 5’6”, I’d say, with legs that go on forever. She always wears super high heels when she’s teaching and dancing, and don’t ask me how she doesn’t fall off of them. I guess you get used to it. (For starting out, Carla told Joyce to bring shoes with 1½ “ heels, which is kinda like height of the heels on cowboy boots.) If Rico is dark, Carla is fair, with beautiful pale skin and wonderful bright green eyes. Her most obvious feature is her hair, which is red and super full. I’d say it’s long enough to go down most of her back, but she wears it curly so it frames her face. And y’all wouldn’t believe how it moves when she dances – or how she makes it part of her dancing. Y’all know Rita Hayworth and how she dances in her movies? Carla knows her too, although she doesn’t copy what Rita Hayworth does. But she understands some of what makes Rita Hayworth so dang hot and knows how to use it in her own way.
They’re a pretty cool couple (in addition to being individually hot lol.)
There are three other couples taking lessons with us. I’m the youngest person there, although there’s one pair of newlyweds in their early 30s who got the dancing lessons as a wedding present. The other 2 couples seem to be more like Joyce’s age, although I reckon that makes sense. People my age aren’t interested in ballroom dancing usually. I’m not even sure how many people my age know it exists…or that you can take lessons for it.
I gotta say that Rico and Carla make it…maybe not easy, but doable. They started us out very slow, with what they called a ‘box step’. That’s kinda got a good name, because you do look like you’re making a box with your feet. It took me a while to get the hang of that…and that was before they started telling us to put our bodies ‘into it’. Joyce got that way before I did. So did most of the other people in the class. But it slowly began to dawn on me what I was supposed to do. Well…kinda.
There wasn’t a whole lot of music to go with the ‘box step’ class, since Carla and Rico wanted us to make sure we got the basics before getting fancy. The way they teach is by demonstrating together, then they break up and fix what we’re doing wrong individually. Sometimes that means dancing with us, and let me say that dancing with Carla is pretty dang cool. She makes you feel like you’re dancing…which is probably the feeling you’re supposed to have when you’re dancing lol.
Since there wasn’t much music in that first class, my nonexistent sense of rhythm wasn’t tested until the very end, when they put something on and just told us to do what we could to it. For me and Joyce, that meant a lot of the ‘box step’, although we got something together with our arms and torsos as well. I think I was moving my feet right, but I’ll admit that, even though I know it’s the dude who’s supposed to ‘lead’, Joyce was doing the leading at that first lesson. When I asked Rico about that, he said I’d learn to lead, just give it time. For the moment, I should just get used to moving my feet and holding my partner.
Maybe I should have told you a while ago that Joyce is average height, meaning 5’4”, which makes her 5’5½” in the heels Carla told her to wear. That means I’m a little less than 6 inches taller, which seems a good height differential for two dance partners. If Joyce were much shorter, I’d have trouble getting my arm around her waist.
So much for week 1.
Week 2 they taught us an actual dance, the waltz. Y’all know – the one that goes ‘1 2 3, 1 2 3’ and so on. That’s as much as I knew about it when we got started. It’s not as simple as that, since you gotta take a big step on 1 and then small steps on 2 and 3…and do that while you’re turning. This was the first time I had to ‘lead’ on my own, and it took me a while to figure it out. Yeah…I’m ashamed to admit it…but I stepped on Joyce quite a few times. She laughed at it, though, as did everyone else, since there was a lot of stepping on partners’ toes that night…and Rico made us guys feel a little better by pointing out that, just as we needed to learn to lead, the women needed to learn how to follow a lead. It’s usually when you’re both trying to steer the car at the same time that the accidents happen.
The good news is that I was able to find the pulse in the music. Well…at least sometimes. Although there are classic country songs that have the word ‘waltz’ in the title (like ‘Tennessee Waltz”), the kind of music Carla put on sounded like classical to me, and I don’t have a whole lot of experience listening to that kind of music, let alone finding the count and then getting my body to follow it. It took a while for me to get used to it, but then I did kinda get the hang of it, and, by the end of the lesson, I looked in the mirror and thought, hey, that’s me and Joyce and we’re kinda dancing.
I’m not Astaire yet, but I’m surprised how well I’m taking to it. So maybe I have a future as a ballroom dancer. We’ll find out. We’ve still got 10 lessons left to go.