Shall We Dance?

Just the other day, I told one of my nieces about watching my parents learn how to do “the twist.” Chubby Checker’s version of the song by the same name, coupled with his appearance on Dick Clark’s American Bandstand in 1960, created a dance craze that became popular among young and old alike. Mom and Dad were both in their forties, Dad probably closer to fifty, when this incident occurred.

They had just finished a night of bowling for their league and were getting a couple drinks with friends at the bar. (I was only about 10-12 years old, but I was the team’s scorekeeper.) I remember the adults demonstrating “the twist” by pretending to hold a bath towel across their backsides, then pulling it to the right, then the left, back and forth, while twisting their body, pretending to dry off. Looked right to me, but maybe they were just mocking the teenagers. Nah, they would never…

My father loved to dance. He had music in his soul, just like me. When he left home in 1930-31, at the beginning of the Great Depression, he headed west with a friend. The two young men ended up in Las Vegas. They enjoyed going clubbing and dancing with the women they would meet. Maybe that’s when he learned to dance so well, and to play blackjack (but I digress). Later, as he told it, he worked as a dancer for Lawrence Welk, getting the audience “warmed up” before the show. Haven’t completely verified these tales, but I can imagine them happening.

I am not sure Mom loved to dance as much as Dad did, but she seemed happy when she danced with him. They were the perfect partners. He guided her across many a dance floor, and she followed him step by step. They were smooth dancers, gliding or bopping to the music depending on the beat, and made it look so easy. What fun it was to watch them on the dance floor! It was even more fun whenever Dad took this little daughter of his onto the floor and let me dance on his toes. I felt like a princess at the ball!

Dancing is a special part of my parents’ tale, but it is also a huge part of mine. I went to my first school dance 52 years ago, seventh grade, met my first boyfriend, and we danced almost every dance, at almost every school dance after that, for six years! (That’s a whole nother story.) Then, there were the years of dancing with my husband when we were dating and in the early years of our marriage. Later on were the years of putting on school dances as Club Live advisor for middle schoolers, or as Activities Director at our local high school, showing off some moves of my own on occasion, or chaperoning church dances. The music is still in me and finds ways to express itself–tapping a foot, the occasional dancing for exercise, or moving to the beat while cooking and cleaning.

Dancing may not be a part of your tale, but it is just another example of how we can show our tale or that of our ancestors. Do you enjoy dancing, or do you think you can’t dance? Have you or any of your family members learned a cultural dance from the land of your ancestors? What dances were popular as you grew up? Was square dancing a part of your P.E. program in school? Think about how dancing has been a part of your life, and don’t be afraid to show your tale.

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