The Mexican Hat Dance, most people have probably never heard of it. It’s real and was taught to my third-grade class by our music teacher in 1950. She only came to our class a few times every year. I loved the happy music and was good at it. Unfortunately that was the beginning and end of my dancing career. A career short lived but remembered often because not being able to dance has caused me untold misery. In the ’70s, John Travolta nearly ruined my dating life with his dancing in Saturday Night Fever. Every woman I asked out wanted to go dancing and if I couldn’t do the “Hustle,” well my chances of romance were as thin as air at the top of Mt. Everest.
My bachelor-hood was dedicated to dating many women to find the “right one,” which invariably resulted in going to clubs that had music and my date saying, “Let’s dance.” At that moment all my confidence would drain out of my body and land puddle-like at my feet. I once took dance lessons at one of those big national, named for a movie star, dancing studios. I emerged after three nights totally embarrassed and more terrified than ever of dance music — oh, how I hated John Travolta. No teacher they had could translate music into words describing where my feet were supposed to be. To my ears converting musical sound into body movement is like a language of another species. Every woman I dated promised that she would be “the one” that could teach me to dance. They would try, but it never happened.
I did sing pretty well in college, was in the college choir, so I get music. There is nothing wrong with my feet, which worked very well in so many activities that require complicated foot agility. Like snow skiing at which I excelled. I get music and have better than average foot dexterity and balance, so why can’t I dance? Like many people there are short circuits in my nervous system for which I have learned to compensate. Spelling is an example and is as difficult for me as dancing; thankfully there is “spell check.” But, there is no “dance check” software.
Recently I started dancing, but not with other people, or even where others can see me. For example, cooking dinner before my spouse Connie gets home from work, I turn the music up, something with a strong beat like the Eagles “Witchy Woman” and dance away in our kitchen. It feels good to move around to music. Well actually my feet are firmly planted while the rest of me moves to the music. These clumsy moves are seen by no one so I don’t care.
And there is dancing while mowing the yard, with my ear buds in place, following that noisy machine around and around and around. The dance neutralizing the repetitive boredom of making only left turns in ever-tightening circles. There are so many kinds of dancing we must comprehend to fully participate in the human experience. It’s not all just about moving your body around a room synchronized both physically and emotionally with another person. Dancing is an art form, and all art is meant to communicate ideas and feelings which are often too complicated for words.
The communication of dancing is not limited to body movement. It also can be how we communicate empathy and compassion. The emotional dancing of caring people is executed as perfectly as a great ballet. The delicate “dance” of telling the truth to someone you care about, and knowing it’s not in sync with what they want to hear; being truthful without stepping all over their toes. Between lovers, communication can be a gentle touch or eye contact from across the room. With just a simple glance, eyes communicate volumes more than inadequate words. One partner’s dancing eyes remembering a shared intimate history, and noticing their own smile reflected on the face of their partner.
But still, just once, I’d love to gracefully waltz around a large hall, an orchestra playing Straus’s Blue Danube, with my beautiful Connie in my arms.
Rod Hunter lives in East Bend and is an avid hiker, biker, photographer and nature lover. He is the past state chairman of the Sierra Club of NC. He volunteers as a court-appointed children’s advocate for children in foster care and with Cancer Services Inc. He is a two-time cancer survivor. He has backpacked in Alaska, Arizona, California, Utah, Oregon, New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Georgia, Virginia, and of course North Carolina.