My husband Mowgli (not his real name) and I just finished a beginning ballroom dance class that was mostly enjoyable, but at times seemed interminable (most notably when we were attempting the foxtrot). We learned (and I use the term loosely) cha-cha, tango, waltz, merengue, salsa, foxtrot, and an unnamed dance that our instructor assured us is very popular in the clubs right now, though after doing it for five minutes I have no idea why. It was a horrendously boring side-to-side thing, with none of the variety of the cha-cha slide.
The instructor was a thin older lady who occasionally got confused about whether she was teaching the guy’s or the girl’s part. She was very nice, and from the way she glided about I could tell she’d been doing formal dance all her life, but she also had a tendency to wave her hands and urge us to practice more if we were having trouble with something.
We took the class because one fine evening, Mowgli announced his desire to learn to tango. I think he’d been watching “Chuck Versus the Tango,” but he does often mention, in a very impressed tone of voice, that Robert Duvall is a noted tango dancer. At any rate, it was my job to find and sign us up for a class.
Naturally, being budget-conscious, I headed straight for the online St. Louis Community College course listings, found a 13-week course for $49 per person, and signed us up. At our first class, there were about 30 people in the high school gym where we met. By the end, it was down to 10 or 12.
If you ever find yourself in need of excellent people-watching, I highly recommend a ballroom dance class. We had a pair we called the “happy couple” because they were always beaming, madly enthusiastic, waving their arms and bottoms about and embellishing the steps almost as soon as they learned them. They were sweet and hilarious at the same time. There was also one guy who would sometimes show up on his own, his arms holding a ghostly partner, doing the steps by himself. I always felt a bit too shy to go over and dance with him, but a couple of other ladies did.
I’d been to enough Polish weddings to know how to do the box step and the polka, so I was somewhat ahead of the game. Poor Mowgli had never before had a dance class of any kind. Also, he needs new information broken down into tiny component parts in order to learn it. This was not that kind of class. This was a “here’s the step, here’s the step again, okay now get with your partner, here comes the music” kind of class.
Despite that disconnect, and me having a tendency to lead, and not always being able to go fast enough to keep up with the music, we were doing pretty well by the end of the class. Also, we laughed quite a bit and had many romantic moments on the floor of the U City High gym; it’s kind of hard not to when you're being held by the love of your life.