Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Wednesday Girl Report

Not much unusual happened Monday evening in the dance classes, although Anna (one of the girls I've mentioned before) told me she cannot feel my lead. "You're not moving with your center," she whispered. Hm. Well, normally I don't put much into the feedback offered by people who have been dancing only a short time, but this time something in the back of my mind said I'd better pay attention. So when I got a chance, I took Gloria aside and said, "Anna says I don't move with my center." Gloria said, "That's because you don't."

Now, after 3-1/2 years, I figured I'd be moving with my center without having to think about it. This is something Gloria and I covered in my first year of private dance lessons on more than one occasion. So, what happened? I don't know. Ballroom Dancing is not very much like Salsa Dancing, but you have to move with your center in both styles. If I'm not doing it in Ballroom, I'm probably not doing it in Salsa.

Since we had a few extra guys than ladies Monday, I spent about 30 minutes with a couple of the other guys practicing moving with my center. One guy, Gary, who actually teaches Country Western dancing, explained that you can tell if you're moving with your center by picking one foot up. The idea is to move forward (or back or to the side) in such a way that you keep your weight over the foot you are moving. You should immediately be able to pick up the other foot without losing your balance or falling.

That is, you want to move your full body weight in the direction you're moving. I've done this exercise before. So why am I not dancing properly? All I can think of is that I have gotten so used to dancing with beginners that they just don't know when I'm doing something wrong, so I've picked up some bad habits. Occasionally one of the advanced ladies will say I'm doing something wrong, but we're usually learning new moves and techniques in the advanced Salsa classes. I have to keep up with a lot of things.

So, I'll be watching how I move in future classes. I don't want to be told "I cannot feel your lead" by someone again. That's kind of embarrassing, although I've been switching dance styles so fast I really don't expect to be continually smooth for a few more months. It just takes practice.

In other dance class news, I observed some interesting body language from Noor, the little girl who joined the Beginner Ballroom last week. I say little because she is so tiny. I hope she doesn't read this blog, but one of the other guys mentioned it while she was standing next to me. I haven't told her my last name. Anyway, Noor is -- I am pretty sure -- a teenager. I don't often see people that young in the dance classes. I think I've danced with 3 young girls since joining Gloria's dance classes.

A few weeks ago one teenage boy came in with his family. He was obviously unhappy and uncomfortable being there. I took him aside and said, "Look, I know you don't want to do this, but if you stick with it and learn how to do it, I promise you'll be glad you did in a few years."

I probably shouldn't be giving out man-to-boy advice like that in the dance classes, but boys for some reason just tend to look at dancing as something only girls do. And then we grow up to be men and we learn too late that women want their guys to dance. Dance lessons should be a mandatory part of every teenage boy's education.

Anyway, Noor came into the dance class when I wasn't looking. I was standing near Chris, one of my friends, and chatting with him when Gloria started the class and said, "Everyone grab a partner." I usually wait to see how many ladies there are. Since I'm a warm body, I cannot grab a partner. Well, Noor came running up to me. I didn't think anything of it, but in retrospect I think she wanted to dance with me rather than one of the other men whom she didn't know.

I did make an effort to help her relax and enjoy the class last week, so I became a safe known quantity. It never occurred to me that I might so quickly put a young girl at ease. I don't spend much time with teenagers any more, although I have five nieces and have always gotten on well with them. I've got lots of practice at teasing girls in a non-romantic way and just treating them like kid sisters. I don't like being the Stern Uncle with my nieces, although one of them lived with me for several years and we had more of a father-daughter relationship.

Noor doesn't make eye contact. Okay, young girls probably should not be making eye contact with older men. I've never really thought about it. But she is almost the only dance partner I've ever had who consistently looks over my right shoulder. That is a pretty good place for a woman to look when she's dancing with a man she doesn't want to be intimate with. Most women look down at their feet when they are just learning to dance, and looking down throws your balance off and really messes you up.

Noor, in fact, has a great natural gift for dance. She swears she doesn't dance in her room or with her friends, but she picks up the moves pretty quickly. She is so far only struggling with Cha Cha, and I think that is more because of anxiety than anything else. She says she doesn't like it, but I have told her if she stays with it she may come to love it. People take longer to get that syncopated cha-cha-cha step worked out than in other dances. I do my best to help her relax but Cha Cha just takes practice.

At one point during the Cha Cha phase of the lesson, Gloria separated the ladies from the men and that was when Noor started looking at her feet. From across the room I began whispering loudly, "Look up! Look up! Don't look at your feet." I must have been pretty loud because Gloria stopped talking to the class, turned to me, and said in a mildly reproachful way, "Would you please?" That was when Noor stopped looking down. Timing is everything.

I don't know what it is, but sometimes I just feel all protective towards women and girls. I don't stop to think about what people are going to think about that. A few years ago, people where I was working all thought I was in love wiht a girl I had to work with on a project. I guess she had a crush on me. I didn't pay any attention to it, although sometimes I suspected that might be the case. She was always playful and would call me up to report the least little problems. I was actually trying to date another girl in the office at the time. But people still tease me about the one I had to work with.

And then sometimes there are the misses and near-misses. I don't write about all the girls here, but Monday afternoon one of the others I've been speaking to reminded me that the universe really doesn't revolve around my blog (and me). She walked right past me without saying a word.


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