So last night I went to my first 'real' dance.
By that I mean my first everybody-on-the-dancefloor thing.
See, some friends of mine got married -- it was inevitable; we all saw it coming years ago -- and after the ceremony and everything I joined most of the wedding party at the dance.
I hadn't been to a wedding since I was five years old. And at that wedding I was one of the flowergirls and pretty much stole everybody's attention. Even my aunt, the bride, had to share the spotlight with her flowergirl nieces. (And believe me, I soaked it up. I was a total princess back then.) Here I wasn't even in the family, I was just a friend from church.
Anyway, after a gorgeous ceremony, there was the dance.
I half-considered not coming, since I'm hopelessly single and wasn't sure I would be able to find anything else to do aside from sit there awkwardly.
But then I realised I knew most of the people that would probably be there, so I went -- if only because some of them I hadn't seen in a long long while and I hoped to do some catching up with them.
One of them was Kristin. She'd been in England at school for nearly a year now and had finally come back for the summer. Upon arriving at the hall, I made my way over to her and her sister Annika. And within the first three songs, they had teamed up and dragged me out onto the dance floor.
It was weird. Sure I've been dancing 'officially' since I was six years old, but that's classical ballet -- completely different from a roomful of random people bopping around to the Black Eyed Peas. I think I had a harder time of it than the people who have no dance training. I had the rhythm, but I didn't have the freedom. The first few dances were incredibly awkward, but it was even more awkward to sit and kind of look around the room, so I joined Kristin and/or Annika (whichever one was on the dance floor at the time) in dancing to the songs that interested me.
Eventually I grew more comfortable. (Watching a few old friends reveal sides of themselves I'd never seen before helped -- I had no idea my fellow church PowerPoint person could dance!)
And then came a rarity -- a song I actually knew. Cotton Eyed Joe.
Kristin and I had been on the dance floor anyway, so we started on that.
Apparently the version of the song I knew was about a quarter of the length of the actual song -- just when I thought it was wrapping up, it would go back and start all over again. And again. And again.
However, dancer pride does not give up easily. I was nearly spent, but kept going. Kristin had long been reduced to swaying side to side with an extra little 'bop' on each side.
But I had raised the bar too high at the beginning to let myself back off now. I fell into a rather tap-like rhythm -- 1 2 3 4... 1 2 3 4... step side ball change hop, step side ball change hop, step side ball change hop, step side ball change hop, clap, quickly improvise another four-count sequence in time for the next barrage of counts...
About halfway through, I really began to enjoy it. I let myself experiment with the rhythm a little -- three measures the same, the fourth different, or one completely different sequence right in the middle of somewhere, snapping fingers, the odd clap as the guy got to Joe in Where did you come from, Cotton Eyed Joe?
I've never really improvised before -- and most definitely not in public. It was different. It was interesting. And it was actually kind of fun. Even though my sister was probably watching, and so was the guy who told me I was worthless and would never amount to anything, and so was the former youth pastor who probably only knew me as a frowning, nit-picky, selfish shrew, and so were Kristin and Annika's parents...
I probably didn't look like I was having fun. Several times over the course of the song I caught myself counting (out loud, but thankfully not louder than the thumping speakers) "1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4, 1 2 3 4...." and when I'm counting like that I'm usually frowning in concentration. I noticed I was staring through the ceiling as I focused on keeping up with the song. But despite my efforts to tell my face I really was rather enjoying myself, the quick pace of the song demanded way more attention than my facial expression.
But now that I've improvised in public, I'm itching to do it again. It gave my choreographic mind a totally new angle to work from for a few minutes, an angle it had never seen before. Something radically different from the heavily technical, formation-based, every-finger-placed stage numbers I've been demanding of it lately.
So now I need to hang out with more people with upcoming weddings.