I love to dance. I remember that long before I could read my Father and I would dance across the house to Madonna and Michael Jackson. Sometimes I think that my first steps were to a dance and walking was just a necessary requirement for me to accomplish a more important goal. Dancing with my Father is one of my favorite childhood memories. My brothers and I used to chase each other around the house to Bobby Goldsboro, The Beach Boys, and the Beatles. Yes, my childhood was a culmination of the classics, and I was almost out of elementary school when I realized that "Classical" didn't mean Barbara Streisand or the Monkees.
When I was in second grade my Mother put me in a ballet and tap class. I wasn't terribly talented at ballet; it was too slow for my taste and I was constantly fighting to put beats in the music that were just not there. Tap shoes were my friend and when I had them on I felt like Fred Astaire or Gene Kelly... not that I knew who they were back then. Then my brothers started taking tap class with me, for occupational purposes, and, well, things changed. Suddenly my dance class wasn't about dancing but more about avoiding the gargantuan steps of the Giant and Jip. I don't know if they ever forgave my Mother for dressing them in sequins and after I danced with them it is a wonder that I have any toes left at all. After a few years Mother gave up on us ever being real dancers and we were granted a temporary reprieve. I think we were all excited to leave behind the world of sequins, tap shoes, and rouge.
And that might have been the end of my dancing career except for one fateful day when I was working in the kitchen when I was about twelve. I had the radio running and I was dancing as I had when I was a baby, but what had look adorable and innocent on a chubby toddler with dark curls looked very different on a girl becoming a woman. What my parents had both missed was that the majority of my dancing was not the Grace Kelly of my tap classes but rather, resembled a pint size Jennifer Lopez. And then suddenly my parents began to worry.
Any good parent who has a daughter and abruptly realizes after they have become a teenager that perhaps the rest of the world does not see as a child can relate to their shock. They worried if other people had seen me dance that way- and if they had what would they think. Would people judge me on the way I danced?
In my slight defense I don't know why it surprised them really. After all, wasn't this how I had been taught since infancy? Sure Bobby Goldsboro and Dan Fogelberg had been replaced over time with Christina Aguilera and Ricky Martin, or the Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls (Daddy's choice, not mine) but is that really a reason to place blame? After all, half my genetic material comes from a country where people can dance. So they put us all in dance class- and this time we weren't classified as geeks to do so.
I remember on the very first day of our Cotillion, walking in with my brothers, who wore freshly ironed suits and shined shoes while I galumphed along in an itchy dress, sticky panty-hoes, and loud shoes. To look at our expressions you might have imagined that we were being led to prison or physical labor. Sarcasm dripped from every word as no one could pronounce our last name or remember any of our first names, or even tell us apart. You'll remember that although there are three biological brothers there is a seven year age difference between my sister and I, and I was thirteen so... one might expect that we looked different.
Swing dancing opened the door to Ballroom dancing and I've learned so many different kinds since then that I've lost count. I've met some of my best friends through swing dancing and it always gives me something to talk about. One of the greatest joys of my life is sharing dancing with others, and when I show the marks on my feet and legs (battle scars) left from swing dancing I have no regrets. After all, if you injure yourself doing something you love, it's worth it- and then you have something to think about and look forward to while it is healing. I guess what I'm trying to say is dancing is like riding a bike- you may stop practicing for a while, but is is something that never really leaves you, and if nothing else holds true, I will always be grateful for that first dance.