THE LONG VIEW: A little rhumba to your love life can be a step forward

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The setting was a large, well-lit space — three classrooms merged into one big room, I’d reckon – in a former elementary school now serving as a recreation center near a downtown district. Shortly before noon, my sweetheart and I strode through the doorway for our first line-dancing lesson.

The setting was a large, well-lit space — three classrooms merged into one big room, I’d reckon – in a former elementary school now serving as a recreation center near a downtown district. Shortly before noon, my sweetheart and I strode through the doorway for our first line-dancing lesson.

I have attempted this form of communal movement at wedding receptions. My attitude is, if Aunt Matilda and Uncle Herbert can get up from their table and shake it un-self-consciously on the dance floor, there’s no reason I should think twice about doing the same. The bar for acceptable dancing grace at such gatherings is mercifully low.

Visiting some 600 miles from my home, I readily agreed to this outing my dear one found in the local community listings. Truth be told, I’d probably been more keen on attending a chili cook-off or a “Bikinis of the World” contest. However, wishing to be a great boyfriend, I uttered the “as long as I’m with you, it’ll be fun” motto and off we went.

The other attendees were two dozen women and one man, most of whom looked 10 years my senior. The instructor was a petite blond who may have been 70. Despite my unfamiliarity with the genre, then, I was reasonably confident. Considering the demographic in this class, how hard could this stuff be to learn?

The answer came swiftly. With our first dance I was directed to string together movements such as the rhumba box, K-step, the back right, left coaster, and right lock step, the walk right, chase turn, and walk left. Each of these actions was, of course, demonstrated slowly and repeatedly, and only after numerous walk-throughs at a snail’s pace did the music start and we were invited to do the routine a tempo.

I was comically bad. My unfamiliarity with these specific maneuvers, as well as the rarity of asking my body to engage in such an activity, rendered my kinetic expression rather inelegant. What is more, the mostly much-older crowd seemed to master the routine with ease.

Needless to say, the next two dances, incorporating advanced steps like the kick ball change, grape vine (with or without a turn), cross shuffle, and jazz box, also saw me lurching awkwardly and apologizing for literally stumbling into other students’ personal space.

Had I not been in the right frame of mind, I might have been mortified in my public ineptitude. But, girlfriend by my side, I was able to relax, laugh at the situation, and enjoy myself (even though she proved a far better line dancer than I).

Fact is, this class pushed me out of my comfort zone to try something I wasn’t familiar with or good at. It offered exercise (I was sweating by the end of the first routine) and some fun. Plus, it put me in the running for Boyfriend of the Year, all my chaotic flailing notwithstanding.
Clearly, it is healthy to get out of one’s rut. To reinforce this maxim, maybe my girlfriend will reward my efforts with tickets to the bikini contest next time I’m in town.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com

THE LONG VIEW:  A little rhumba to your love life can be a step forward