Friday, November 8, 2013

Guess Who -- "Dancin' Fool" (1975)

I had my best duds on
It was a chance worth taking . . .
Now I’m a dancin’ fool

I like to think of myself as a man who faces life's challenges head on.

As the publisher of Dare magazine (my favorite publication when I was a teenager) was fond of saying, "Sicut equites aggrediuntur hominem vivere oportet!" -- that is, "Life should be led like a cavalry charge!"

The first thought I had when my son announced earlier this year that he was going to get married was "Grandchildren!"

The second thought I had was "Oh sh*t!  I'm going to have to dance at the reception!"

My mother made me take ballroom dancing lessons back in the sixties, when I was 13 or 14.  Most of the other kids in the class were schoolmates of mine, and the woman who owned the dance studio where the lessons were taught was a classmate's mother.

I don't recall resisting dance lessons as strenuously as you might expect.  I don't think I exactly enjoyed them, but I tolerated them without kicking up too much of a fuss.

I occasionally danced at parties in college or law school, but only with the help of lots of alcohol.  

One of the best things about my own wedding (which took place a shocking 32 years ago) was that there was no dancing at the reception -- and I've managed to avoid dancing ever since

But I knew that there would be dancing at my son's wedding reception, and that I would likely be expected to dance with my wife, my son's bride, my daughters, my mother . . . OMG, this was turning into a nightmare!

After several months of procrastinating, I manned up and suggested to my wife that we take a few dancing lessons.

My daughters had gone to high school with a girl whose father was a dance instructor, and we scheduled a lesson at his house, which was equipped with a large ballroom.

I actually remembered how to do a basic foxtrot, which is an all-purpose dance you can do to 4/4 music with slow-to-moderate tempos.  We worked on the foxtrot and eventually learned some simple swing steps (for faster music) and a basic cha-cha (which was good for music that was even vaguely Latin-sounding).

I must say that I picked up this stuff pretty quickly.  I was a pretty good amateur musician back in the day, and I've always had a strong sense of rhythm.  I found it easy to adapt the moves I had learned to whatever record the instructor chose, and also felt like I was matching the pattern of my steps to the musical phrases of the song.

My experience reminded me of what happened when I picked up a golf club a few years ago after going decades without hitting a ball.  I had taken golf lessons about the same time I took ballroom dancing lessons, but I still had a clear mental picture of what a fundamentally sound golf swing looked like.

When I went to the driving range one day with my daughter Caroline's clubs -- she was a four-year golf letter-winner at her college -- I immediately was able to hit the ball high and straight with her short and medium irons.  It was an amazing feeling to follow the soaring arc of the ball as I hit one good shot after another.

The same thing happened at our dance lessons.  I'm not saying that I was a particularly graceful or imaginative dancer.  But I was feeling it, boys and girls -- it all came back to me.

By contrast, I have to say that my wife didn't show much aptitude for dancing.  Like me, she had taken ballroom dancing lessons when she was a young teenager.  (She took her lessons at a fancy-schmancy dancing school attended by the sons and daughters of Washington's elite.)  But she's not a musician and not that big a fan of music, and I think she would admit that she doesn't have much of a feel for rhythm.

But the real problem was her absolute lack of enthusiasm for the whole idea.  I tried to get her to practice between our weekly lessons, but could barely talk her into spending five or ten minutes once or twice a week.  

I tried to teach the basic steps to each of our daughters as well.  I thought it would be nice to be able to dance at least somewhat competently with each of them at the reception, and both of them are getting married next year -- it's never too early to start preparing for the father-daughter dance that is de rigueur at such affairs.  But neither one of them was any more enthusiastic than her mother.

We managed to fit in three lessons before the wedding.  As it turned out, the reception was a bit of an anticlimax.  Yes, I danced with my wife a couple of times.  (I would have danced more with her if she had wanted to.)  I danced a little with my daughters, and even danced with my mother once.

Speaking of having my "best duds" on, here's my favorite picture from the wedding:

That's yours truly with my daughters -- both of whom were bridesmaids, and both of whom will be brides in 2014.

Fortunately, there is no official or unofficial video of me dancing at my son's wedding.  (I'm afraid there will be video of me dancing with my daughters at their weddings.)

I remember dancing with my mother on the rare occasions when I was invited to join my parents and our next-door neighbors on one of their Saturday-night excursions to a local supper club.  My mother was a pretty good dancer, and seemed to greatly enjoy dancing with me once I had taken enough ballroom dancing lessons to be reasonably competent on the dance floor.  (I was six feet tall by the time I was in the 8th grade, so we didn't look too ridiculous dancing together.)  

I thought she would enjoy dancing with me at the wedding reception.  After some hesitation on her part -- she has two artificial knees, and was still recovering from shoulder replacement surgery this past summer -- I persuaded her to join me for one dance.  It wasn't pretty, but I'm glad we did it.

"Dancin' Fool" was the initial track on the Guess Who's 1975 album, Flavours.  It was the group's 14th and final top-40 single.  They broke up later that year.  (I always had a soft spot for the Guess Who.)

Here's "Dancin' Fool":

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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