Step, step, rock step. Step, step, rock step.
These are the moves of the basic jitterbug dance.
Pretty simple, right? Even the most novice dancer can master this easy combo.
I’m sure that’s what the instructor at the Arthur Murray Dance Studio in Wexford thought when my husband and I stepped onto the dance floor for a private lesson.
He had no idea what was in store for him.
I’ve been a fan of the ABC show "Dancing with the Stars" for years. Though I don’t usually watch much TV, this is one show I rarely miss. There’s just something that fascinates me about seeing the celebrities metamorphose from actors, singers and athletes into nimble, fleet-footed dancers.
I always think to myself, “I could do that!”
My husband recognizes that I have unfulfilled dreams of dancing greatness. He’s also lived with me long enough to realize that he is not exempt when it comes to the fulfillment of my dreams. I like to share my enthusiasm, and he sometimes gets caught in the crossfire.
This was the case a few years ago when he bought me a gift certificate for dance lessons at Arthur Murray. The package included three private lessons and two group lessons and could be used for a couple.
Hello, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
When we entered the studio for our first lesson, the instructor asked us what we were interested in learning. I didn’t hesitate to tell him that we wanted to learn to dance the jitterbug to the song "In the Mood" as recorded by Glenn Miller and his orchestra. I love that song, and I love that dance. Plus, they always play it at weddings, and we had a reception to go to in a few weeks.
The instructor seemed a bit surprised that this was the only thing we were interested in learning, but I knew something he didn’t. One of us is just a bit rhythmically-challenged, and it’s not the one who participates in weekly dance classes. Learning just one dance would be a major accomplishment for us.
So we began.
Step right, step left, rock step back on the right foot. The instructions were the opposite for my husband, with him beginning on his left. The plan was to first try it without music and then add accompaniment after we’d mastered the steps.
Glenn Miller was silent that first class.
At the second class, the instructor showed his optimism by reviewing what we’d learned the week before and then bravely turning on the music. We tried our best to keep to the beat and actually succeeded once or twice in completing a perfect eight-count combination during our hour of instruction. Delusions of dancing grandeur once again reared their ugly head, and I began fantasizing about how everyone would clear the dance floor at the reception to watch us as we tripped the light fantastic.
By the third class, the instructor was restless. Our friend’s wedding reception was that evening and he was determined that we would add a turn to our routine. This involved my husband twirling me in a circle while rocking back on his left foot. His size 14 feet had another idea. They wanted to do what I was doing and kept landing directly on mine each time we attempted the turn.
The disc jockey played "In the Mood" that night at the wedding reception, and I dragged my husband out to the dance floor to give it the old college try. Why waste three hours of private dance instruction?
Alas, Fred and Ginger never made an appearance. Barney and Oscar the Grouch came in their place.
I learned several things from taking dance lessons with my husband. The first is that you can’t force your love of dance on someone. The second is that there are advantages to wearing steel-toed shoes. Lastly, I learned that my husband is an excellent gift giver, even when the gift drags him so far out of his comfort zone that he needs a plane ticket to get back.
We never went back for our group lessons. We didn’t want to make the other students jealous of our dancing prowess.