I’m probably the best private dancer I know. Wait, not the kind you’re thinking of. I mean dancing alone in my own company. You see, I have a lot of Tina Turner in me. Ok maybe I’m being facetious but with music blaring and all obstacles out of the way, I can really ‘do my thing’. If nothing else, I’m good enough to at least be one of her backup dancers.
My earliest memories of dance (other than the painful ballet and tap debacles) are visions of my mother jiving in the crowded kitchen of our small home to ‘In the Mood’ echoing from the radio. And look out if my dad was around because she relished in having a partner. I was often her default. She was particularly good at the ‘bent-over-swinging-knee-action’, whatever that was called.
I learned the mash potatoes at the Marrone house; the twist from my older cousin Marilyn; and the tarantella from watching older relatives at weddings. But the practising of all the steps only ever took place in the privacy of my own room with my pink plastic flip up 45 player blaring.
As I got older I wore down the basement carpet perfecting dances with names like shingaling, bugaloo, the jerk, watusi and every other orchestrated routine that was ‘all the go’ at the time. I spent hours studying shows like ‘Shindig’ and ‘Hullabaloo’ to learn each sequence of steps. I was particularly good at ‘the Freddy’ with my long arms and the ‘shuffle’ with my long legs. If a partner was needed there was always my sister, a friend, aunt or cousin more than willing shake it up with me. And as the tallest among them I was the one who ‘lead’ (a designation Joe still struggles with).
But all that practising really didn’t matter because I knew chances were slim I’d ever be called upon to display my prowess. Sock hops at our all girl’s school demanded a partner … of the opposite sex. It was torture to stand on the sidelines twitchin’ to the tunes, having to wait to be asked. (It didn’t aid my cause that most boys had not yet grown to their mature height.) And unfortunately it most often didn’t happen until the last song of the night … Stairway to Heaven, Let it Be or Hey Jude. And besides it didn’t matter what kind of a ‘groove’ you were in, that’s when the nuns came to life with their bells and their warnings to “make room for the Holy Ghost.”
I still do my best moves when on my own with the music dialed loud enough to feel the pounding in my chest. And once I get the beat, I quickly synch it with my finger snaps … loud enough to awaken my snoring husband.
But beyond that, at least I’m now confident enough to jump up at any opportunity to dance whether I have a partner or not. Truthfully the way I cover the floor, I’m better off on own … even though it is way more fun when my dancing queen friends join me.
If one of my friends shouts out a ‘dance name’, within seconds we’d all be on our feet showing off our version of the moves. We wouldn’t even need the music. Unlike my kids, who claim they dance all night with moves that have no names. When I ask about what their particular sequence of steps is called, the typical answer is “I dunno. It’s just dancing.” So boring.
Although I hold a deep rooted belief that I am a great dancer, my kid’s argue otherwise … at least judging by how they mock me. They mostly imitate my shoulder lift moves (easily done from even a seated position while driving) and how I drop my opened mouth. And apparently I’m “so forty years ago when I dance.”
I won’t let their criticism deter me. But now that I think about it and my self professed similarity to Tina, perhaps I do have some work to do … a bit more leg work in the gym and I’m certain we’ll be cloned.