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Monday, May 16, 2005

Emphasis on "Trip"

H-haste96.jpgASTE THEE NYMPH, and bring with thee
Jest and youthful Jollity,
Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,
Nods, and becks, and wreathed smiles,
Such as hang on Hebe's cheek,
And love to live in dimple sleek;
Sport that wrinkled Care derides,
And Laughter holding both his sides.
Come, and trip it as ye go
On the light fantastic toe,
And in thy right hand lead with thee,
The mountain-nymph, sweet Liberty


- Milton, L'Allegro
How strange it is to read Outer Life or Small Victory, or one or two other sites whose names, forgive me, escape me for the moment; How strange it is these writers lives - all unknown to me - so often seem to coincide with, indeed to echo, my own? Outer Life in particular has been scaring the bejumption out of me recently. This post, which I read today, is an example - even though I didn't know what "cotillion" meant:

"Cotillion?"

"Cotillion teaches manners, how to dance with a girl, how to get her punch, how to act like an adult. Now get dressed, we're almost there."

"There" was a frigid cold dance studio, mirrored walls and wooden floor, a long table with punch bowl and cookies, and maybe twenty of us milling about, uneasily eyeing each other. The girls wore party dresses with hose and shiny patent leather shoes, evoking Jackie O and 1963, while the boys wore polyester jackets and ties, slacks flared out over their platform shoes, evoking The Love Boat and Saturday Night Fever. A real time clash.

I shiver at such memories - they occupy the same terror zone as "walk with your hands behind your back, like Prince Philip!", which, dammit, I still do.

That dance-floor clumsiness and awkwardness learned in school gym lessons has stayed with me over the years - worsened, even, by dodgy knees and ankles from rugby days - but despite that, and in open disclosure of it, I wanted desperately to learn to tango with my wife. Only she, mind: I have no desire whatsoever to dance such an intimate and charged dance as the Calumpher Tango with anyone but my Goddess - even though, don't you know, the Tango was originally a male-only dance down there in the Buenos Aries docks? The chances of me being able to remember the steps, let along elegantly tread them, were slim from the outset; but I wanted to give it a go.

We discovered a restaurant on Ventura Blvd, argentinian, which promised dinner and free tango lessons. Perfect. The food turned out to be awful, but we weren't really there to eat - though we did and were starving - we were there to learn to dance together. Lessons began midway though the main course; we were not too upset to leave our seats.

The lessons began well: our teacher and his partner would demonstrate, which we tyros would attempt to copy; clumsy, sure, but fun. But with barely one tune behind us the lesson ended, and onto the floor crowded "the Club": a gang of earnest devotees and regular attendees. Not to worry, we hoped, we can still dance together at the side?

No. We were instructed to change partners - this would happen every three tunes or so in strict rotation. The women were to move on.

Awful.

My shame and embarassment were thrice rewarded by older lady partners, none of whom I would have chosen, who each brought with them a penchant for bright dresses and heavy eye-liner and piercing stiletto heels; and also that traditional, visceral contempt of Servants of the Dance for those who step babywise? At scottish weddings, where nobody is supposed to know the steps, this class of dancer always give themselves away by their footwear, which will be plymsols or proper "ballet boots", as we call them? They tut, they snigger, they huff and puff and try, with feigned cameraderie, to enlighten the others on the floor - who all know and understand that the whole point of scottish country dancing is that it be danced furiously and ignorantly while drunk.

My tango partners - witches three - they hated me. And I hated them. No other words for it. Their hatred showed in muttered oaths laced with spit, while Mine was manifest in an indelicate foot and a very awkward knee.

We laughed, my wife and I, all the way home that night at how awful an event that was. And pledged there and then that we'd never be back.


2 Comments:

Blogger DarkoV said...

Sounds like your partners had revenge on their mind. Argentian restaurant? They must have caught your accent and proceeded to impale you with stilletos and haughty looks for that battle cruiser you folks sank during the Falklands War. They probably double-charged you for the bar bill as well.

12:37 PM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

That was one of the solutions we came up with on the ride home in the car. But hey - they sank four of our ships too, don't forget? And I personally saw one extremely lucky escape when a ship returned to our yard. And then - THEN - there was the "Hand of God" incident when England played Argentina in the soccer World Cup, but we scots just laughed our patooties off at that one.

6:52 PM  

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