Lessons from the Dance Floor: The Compliment and the Complement

***This series of stories, “Lessons from the Dance Floor” is only partly true. True parts have been overly dramatized by my own hyperactive imagination to make them, well, fiction***

It was all Lydia could do to pull herself out of her mid-Sunday afternoon flop and contemplate an early dinner. Do I really want to go to another tango lesson tonight?  Her body was telling her to stay home, in a warm bed, eat soup while her mind was justifying the need v. want of another dance lesson.

Maybe this will be the lesson where you have that breakthrough, she thought in her antihistamine induced dull haze. Her body replied, “nah, doubt it.”

The previous wPicture1eek it had stormed, causing rain for nearly 9 days straight which lead to an explosion of mold and mildew. That combined with the falling, decomposing leaves and the ragweed in bloom, left Lydia with red eyes, with a persistent runny nose and  scratchy throat. She felt as if she were always on the verge of a head cold, run down and generally miserable.

“If I lay here, what will I have accomplished?” she wheezed. Another minute passed and she found herself in front of the mirror, brushing her hair up into a ponytail, selecting a lipstick.

Few more minutes later, she’d managed to get her out the door, slamming down a few more allergy pills, all the time wondering why bother. There hasn’t been any real headway in months, as a matter of fact, feeling like I am standing still while everyone else is getting better. “Every lesson I fix one thing only to make another mistake,” she shook her head while starting up the car.

“Better than watching reruns of ‘Sanford and Sons’ all night.” True.

Even her outfit that night said I’d rather be in bed, cream-colored, skinny jeans with an Indian tunic thrown over top hiding her ever-increasing waist line and flip flops. It was only barely passable for the lesson.

Lydia pulled up to the building and grabbing her ballroom shoes, she mustered up the last bit of gumption and trudged inside. Only the teacher and another student were there. Boian, a retired teacher from Romania sat on the bench putting on his shoes. He stood about 5’2″ and next to Lydia in heels almost 6′ 2,” it was almost comical.

Lydia knew this made Boian very perturbed. He danced better with women closer to his own height. While Lydia also preferred a dancer that came higher than her breasts, a nagging question came to mind- Would there be close embrace dancing tonight? she hoped not.

While mentally laughing off the difference in height, Lydia couldn’t hep but notice that Boian appeared more sallow than normal under the fluorescent lights. He had made a off-hand remark to another man a few months back that he was not well and she was hoping that it was something inconsequential. But his startling complexion changed her diagnosis. This looked more like a liver or kidney problem to her. She softened her knees a bit and leaned slightly forward to him.

As the lesson went on, the teacher danced with Lydia, then Boian with Lydia, then the teacher with Lydia again, twice. She felt like she was being given three times the lesson.  Instead of thinking about on where Boian’s eyes were gazing, she concentrated on her own form, soft knees, straight leg back, energy, pushing off of the front leg, try not to step away from your partner even though your legs extend further than his step. The better she moved, the better it made him look, the better he lead.

The steps were easy enough for a follower, but the tango, is a study in turns and circles. Her medicated head started to spin. She collected herself during one of Boian’s long debates with the teacher over proper footing and variations.

Before she knew it the 45 minutes was almost up, and a small group of people had started to form for the milonga. “Great, an audience, just what I needed. The experts analyzing all my flaws.” another mental ugh. Past Boian’s shoulder she saw all the people who had been dancing for years, all best dancers in the group. Lydia admired them during one of her many bench riding sessions.

The lesson ended, the lights dimmed to start the milonga. Her undershirt was feeling damp and clingy. Lydia wondered if it was from actual work or the drugs/allergies she was combating. Still, her head didn’t feel that bad, her body felt more rested and maybe she could stay for at least part of the milonga.

Lydia walked over to the kitchenette’s water cooler and poured herself a cup. Manna, the instructor’s wife was there, sitting on a tall bar stool, her long, brown legs stretched outwards. “You were looking very good out there,” she said with a strong latin accent. “I would not tell you that if you weren’t. But I can see great improvement.’

Lydia was flustered, smiling, “really? thanks that means a lot to me.” and sat on a stool opposite of Manna.

“I see lots of people come in and maybe it is easier for the followers, but I see you have more confidence in your dancing.”

Maybe that’s what I needed, a short partner, pondered Lydia. After mulling it over in her head for a while, all those times people were saying concentrate on your own form made sense. It was that or the drugs.

Lydia, newly energized, acknowledged and headed to the dance floor with the first person to ask her to dance. This was a mistake. He was brutal, stepped on her toes and too fast for the music. She’d forgotten about his reputation as a lead and all the other women were boycotting his cabaceo. She lost her poise that she’d just discovered in previous hour.

After the tanda was over she thanked him and then quickly ran for a tissue to blot her makeup. The box sat by the gentleman who was DJ’ing for the night. “You deserve a free tanda for that one” giving a knowing wink.

“Actually, I should get combat pay.”


4 thoughts on “Lessons from the Dance Floor: The Compliment and the Complement

  1. Not going to say what parts are real. Why write about it?

    You should always write from experience. I’ve been listening to other dancers, both beginning and experienced, about their observations, found them fascinating.

    Taking dance lessons is something many people think about doing but never do. Little insights might encourage others. I find it reminds a few of cotillion growing up or their mother trying to teach them a few basic steps before the big dance. Fond memories, usually, lol.

    Just me being retrospective, always find humor, passion, love and sometimes tragedy in whatever I find.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fortunately, the Argentine social tango does not require all the crazy hip and arm movement that samba does. If you can walk, you can tango- it is elegant.

      Even if I never get to the level I want to be, the journey is worth the time.

      Liked by 1 person

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