Thursday
Jan162014

Ethno-frantic

 

Many years ago, Mrs. G. and her friend Ann signed up for an ethnocentric dance class at a small studio in Seattle. They had no dancing history together so agreeing to participate in this activity was near heroic in Mrs. G's mind. The last person who had seen her dance was Mr. G. -- 14 years earlier, both of them loose limbed from lust love and Tanqueray martinis. When it comes Mrs. G's dancing, Mr. G's fresh devotion undoubtedly blinded him to the spectacle. Unlike the suggestion of inspirational posters in every therapist's office in America, Mrs. G. wishes she could dance like nobody is watching. But people watch. They can't help it. Mrs. G's style is the whitest white bread with an unpredictable break in to the Swim. It's well intentioned but stilted and, honestly, distressing.  

So she was nervous when she picked up Ann to drive to class. Mrs. G. felt vulnerable but determined to shift their friendship to a deeper level -- the level of affirmed affection and lifelong loyalty known as potential humiliation. Ann, a good dancer (Mrs. G. had admired her several times from the edge of the dance floor), was cool, even. No sweat, Mrs. G. thought, no sweat

But sweating commenced when she and Ann walked into the class in jogging pants, ratty t-shirts and running shoes only to be faced with a somewhat threatening number of women in leotards and dainty little, Mrs. G. isn't sure what they're called, so she'll call them dancing skirts for small asses, the short flowy kind usually paired with ballet slippers and messy chignons. It looked like two northwestern hillbillies had crashed the Bolshoi. Both clearly nervous and avoiding direct eye contact with anyone, including each other, slipped off their shoes and took their place in one of the four long lines of lithe women. She can't speak for Ann, but Mrs. G. knew she was up a creek. No paddle.

Within seconds of the stretch warm-up, the pounding of bong drums heated up and the teacher began swinging her hips and waving her arms like this...

It only got worse from there. Mrs. G. and Ann were frantically running and jumping and twirling diagonally across the dance floor. Mrs. G. is reluctant to say this for obvious reasons, but Ann looked as stupid as she did. They stood out in the crowd, which isn't always the desired outcome when you are uncontrollably shaking your butt against your will.

When the class finally ended, she and Ann put their running shoes back on (again avoiding eye contact, even with each other) and headed out the door to a bakery a block down the street. They didn't say a word until they sat down at a table with their chocolate croissants and decaf. They were at a friendship standstill -- unsure if the other liked the class, not wanting to torpedo her joy or acknowledge that the relationship would have to end if she did because come on.

"Whew," said Mrs. G, "that was an interesting class."

"It was," said Amy. The benovolent standstill continued.

"I'm not really sure what to say," Mrs. G. said, inching closer toward the truth.

"Please don't make me ever come back," said Ann.

And with that, the friendship was cemented.

 

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Reader Comments (19)

Love. This. Post. A couple of my most enduring and treasured relationships grew in similar circumstances...

January 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLeah

Heh. I am wondering if you got caught up in the 1980s/1990s Seattle marimba empire of our old friend Dumi Mairare, father (both figuratively and literally) of the many marimba troupes in Seattle. He surely did raise the consciousness of many a Seattle housewife (and other women professionals).

Editing note - check names in last passages for consistency.

January 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAunt Snow

Haha, oh boy...united in common misery! Given the choice, I would be the one playing the BONGOS and letting other fools dance!

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentergary Rith

You had me at, "northwestern hillbillies had crashed the Bolshoi". Hysterical. Glad I hadn't made my first cuppa this morning. I'd be replacing my keyboard. You're a jewel.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter1Les

I also tried this ....once. But I didn't have friend back up. I thought because I grew up dancing at powwows, one kind of ethnic dancing lends itself to another? Not so much. I think I walked with my ass hunched in for a week, trying to pretend it hadn't been all kinds of out there.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermolly

Funny! And I love the diagram for the dance moves.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterknittergran

I give you so much credit for even trying! I must have a really strong core because I look like a 2 x 4 trying to dance. It's very sad and disturbing for me so I can't even imagine what it must look like. I do dance, but it takes 4 drinks to get me out there.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLizzie

"Mrs. G. isn't sure what they're called, so she'll call them dancing skirts for small asses"

Hahaha! That and your dance diagram. There is no other like you!

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLanna

I can picture it!
And the moment you two glued together your friendship, too.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGreen Girl in Wisconsin

Ethnocentric? New one on me (or old now, I suppose). Humiliation creates the best friendships.

And writing of small asses, thought ya'll would find it funny that my model niece had to put in butt pads for a job this week. Are times changing?

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered Commenternaomi d

Somewhere I still have the card from my husband for our second anniversary promising dance classes. Too busy or too chicken? Hmmm...

My BFF has a very dominant personality......and that's fine by me. Usually, she has an idea and we're off.

Once, I had an idea of a aerobics class that incorporated SOME dance moves that we could take. So we did.....well, this was more like training for Broadway....we were the heaviest people there, the least coordinated people there and the two left footed people there. After about five classes, I told her this was such a mistake, but because we paid for it, she wanted to continue.

It was like surgery every week to go and never got better. Never again

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTrudy

This truly made me kind of uncomfortable to read this...I was getting all sweaty just thinking of having to do this! I too tried to be someone who could dance like no one was watching. My girls dubbed it "the mom dance".....and they still, to this day, (lovingly) mock me with "woo-hoo's" and clapping over their heads. Butt-heads.....

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiane Carol

Count me in as another northwestern hillbilly! Woman, you surely do know how to describe a scene -- and I got dizzy just looking at the diagrams, since I can't even follow a simple aerobics class. I wish I was the kind of person who could dance like no one is watching, but I'm pretty sure most people wish they didn't have to watch me and they politely look away.
Thanking my lucky stars that the one time I signed up for belly dancing class, it was changed to a night that I couldn't attend.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKaren (formerly kcinnova)

In the dancing department I have two big strikes against me: 1) I was raised by an arhythmic Southern Baptist mother (and shy Catholic father) whose own childhood forbade dancing and 2) I am too German to do anything that doesn't have specified steps that don't change or make one look stupid. I'm doomed. Totally.

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRainbow Motel

I have no dancing class experience to share, but I really loved reading this. You tell a great story!

January 16, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCassi

Many years ago, I went to Jazzersize classes held at one of the school gyms, with a bunch of girlfriends. That was our "girl's night out" from small kids and husbands. The instructor would often keep her gaze focused on me, sure I was going to stroke out at any moment. After class, we'd go to one of the neighborhood bars to eat chicken wings, loaded potato skins and drink.

January 17, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter~ Galiena

great post. yay for this sturdy friendship. I feel this way about Zumba. just not for me. they can keep their sparkly jingly hip wraps and weird mix of music. and my very good neighbor across the street teaches it. it has not so far broken the good neighborly-ness.

January 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAngAk

Thank you for finally giving me the verbiage to describe my own Caucasian Rhythmic Disorder dancing style.

January 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJenn @ Juggling Life

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