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Chuck Thurston column: Dancing all the way

Drawn by the music and thumps on the floor below, my brothers and I would sneak downstairs from our bedrooms to watch the grownups square dance to “Buffalo Gals” in the living room of our old farmhouse.
That’s when dancing first sashayed into my consciousness ó I was around 8 years old ó and it has hung around there ever since.I was one of five boys and my social graces were meager. Going through high school with no sister to teach me a few steps made for miserable times at most of the few school dances I attended.
My interest and awareness of my deficiency ratcheted up a notch or two in the military. At one duty station, I watched as Filipino seamen, stationed in the States for some time, taught new transfers from their country how to dance ó fox-trotting and swinging to a record player, in one wing of the barracks at night. Let loose on New York City, these young men must have been a hit with the girls.
The base had an Enlisted Men’s Club with dances every Saturday night. Local girls were bussed in from the city, and I did what I thought was a passable “bop” to the fast music and practiced my romantic moves to the slow stuff, which at least got me a chance to hold a girl close while shuffling around in some semblance of a dance.
At evening’s end, these lovely angels were bussed back to the city. With luck, one might have exchanged phone numbers and a promise of further contact ó the very best a lonesome sailor could hope for.I was able to hide my dancing shortcoming from my wife-to-be. She had learned to dance in her native Denmark. It was part of the school curriculum there, for heaven’s sake. After we were married, she made a few attempts to teach me some steps, but I never advanced much beyond my rudimentary shuffle.
But then, a daughter ó and later, granddaughters ó joined the family. There were endless recitals with young people in tights and flounces. Mostly girls, to be sure, but a few daring boys also strutted. We began a regular Christmas outing with granddaughters to see “The Nutcracker.” This panorama of swirling bodies floating to immortal music was mesmerizing.
At our first week-long trip to a mountain folk school, my wife and I learned that every Tuesday night was “contra dance night.” This, I discovered, was something I could get into: energy, enthusiasm and mountain music! It also required just enough finesse to convince me that I could, in fact, move to a beat. When we returned, I suggested that we take ballroom dancing lessons. My wife didn’t faint, but was speechless for a time.
I discovered the rumba. Had I known this seductive rhythm in my military days, I would have collected more phone numbers than I could get time on the barracks pay phone to dial up.
Our oldest granddaughter moved beyond recital days to stunning accomplishment. She organized, and choreographed for, a college dance troupe and we went to games, not for the basketball but to see her halftime show. She warned us beforehand: “Uh, Nana, Grandpa … you might find it a little … um … suggestive.”
Well sure, but “Dancing with the Stars,” had acclimated us to a whole new level of … um … suggestiveness, and besides it was our darling granddaughter. What could be anything more than a little naughty about that? And what was really naughty about celebrating your own body anyway?
I have made my own journey through life a little more expressive ó nothing flamboyant, you understand. Just a little more bounce in the kitchen, on the patio, in my Tai Chi classes. What took me so long?
Chuck Thurston is retired and lives in Kannapolis. His e-mail address is cthurston@ctc.net

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