I grew up in West Texas. I was born in 1976 and my teen years were the late 80’s and early 90’s. Do you know what everyone was doing in West Texas in the 80s and 90s? We were dancing.
It wasn’t often you would encounter someone not being willing to dance. It wasn’t often but it happened. But being willing is quite different from being unable. I only have two memories of someone stating they didn’t know how to dance. Two. Two that encompasses my first 20 years of my life.
People joke about pre-teens and teenagers attending dances and everyone lining up against the walls in pubescent fear as they stare at an empty dance floor. That’s not the experience I had. Even in junior high we had several dances a year and I don’t remember the dance floor ever being empty. If you weren’t dancing, it was because no one wanted to dance with you specifically.
dance2I’m not sure how anyone else learned to dance, but I took country dancing lessons at the local bar in the hours before the bar opened. You paid your fee and for 3-4 days you showed up and learned how to dance with a group full of strangers. The classes were packed. I was roughly 15 years old. I learned to two step, waltz, the cotton eyed joe, the cowboy cha cha, and once I got the basics down I was able to add a little swing if I had a partner that knew what he was doing.
As far as I can tell, the only skill you need to learn how to dance is to be able to hear the beat.
I grew up dancing in my home, at my friends houses, at weddings, Quinceaneras, receptions, banquets, birthday parties, at the lake with the radio tuned in, and I always enjoyed teen night at the local bar. We couldn’t drink, but we could dance. As a parent, I can’t imagine letting my underage daughter go dancing at a bar but at the time, and in West Texas, it was the norm. Tuesday night in high school meant we could end up dancing with guys from other schools at Santa Fe Junction.
I think it helped that my father was a cop. He would call the off duty officer moonlighting as a bouncer that night and tell him to keep an eye out.
I hope you danceThe first time in my life I walked into a bar without a dance floor I was already out of high school. Blake was living in upstate NY attending a nuclear power school and he flew me up to visit. I remember having an in-depth conversation where he told me all about these weird yankees going to bars where the only thing they did was drink and talk. No dancing. They didn’t even have a single bar in town for it to be an option. It was Footloose without the raging preacher suppressing the entire town. People had stopped dancing on purpose.
I wasn’t impressed.
Years have gone by and I’ve lived in quite a few places. It’s harder and harder to find a place to country dance. I used to believe that it was simply because I was no longer living in Texas. That’s not the case as when I go back home, Santa Fe is closed down and my hometown has no place to dance. It’s just a lot of bars where people drink and talk. People have stopped dancing on purpose. I’ve gone from unimpressed to a sadness deep down to my soul.
Oh, I’m sure we still have plenty of clubs where you can find other types of dancing. But that doesn’t restore my faith in humanity and how we connect with each other. Country dancing is such an innocent, light flirtation. It can be fast or slow and it’s a short yet intense connection while you get to know each other. You can dance one dance or many. You can dance with your family, with friends, or with a romantic partner. It is pretty amazing when you can dance the same dance with your grandfather and the boy you like and it mean two different things and yet it’s joyous and fun with both.
Grinding your privates on a stranger to hip-hop doesn’t have quite the same results. You take all the subtly, respect, romance, and joy out of dancing and go straight to thoughts and motions of sex. I like that type of dancing as much as anyone, I’m no prude, I just don’t think that needs to be the first and only option you have for dancing. Where the heck is the mystery?
Why did we throw out the fun of the journey and the dance and tell ourselves we have to go straight for the goodies?
Last of the MohicansCountry dancing seems to be the last frontier in the world of romance or light hearted fun. Joy for the sake of joy. A prayer in motion thanking God for our lives. It’s the last frontier and we are giving it up on purpose. ON PURPOSE! I feel like my husband and I are some of the last men standing. We are the Last of the Mohicans on the dancing frontier.
Last night we celebrated my husbands birthday and we drove to the country bar alone. No big groups of friends excited to dance came with us. Nothing but comments of not knowing how to dance and not being willing or even vaguely interested to dance echoing after dinner. We arrived and no one was on the dance floor. The people at the bar weren’t even talking. They were mostly on their cell phones.
Dancing with my husband still thrills me deep down to my tippy toes. 20 years as his dance partner hasn’t lessened the experience one bit. As we danced I looked out at all the lonely people focused on their cell phones, unable to dance, I just wanted to scream out. Scream out in defense of the entire act of country dancing, “You stay alive, no matter what occurs! I will find you. No matter how long it takes, no matter how far, I will find you! ”
When you dance, the purpose isn’t to get to a single place on the dance floor. It’s to enjoy all the steps along the way. To stop the dance is to stop the joy. Don’t give up the joy. Don’t give up the joy on purpose. Never on purpose. Don’t give up the dance.
Sincerely, one of the last of the Mohicans on the dancing frontier.