Saturday, April 7, 2012

They Say It Skips a Generation

You can fill in the “it” blank with any number of things. Let’s use—oh, say—dancing.
My mother, I’m told, was a heck of a jitterbug dancer as a teenager. My younger daughter took every kind of dance class she could find and excelled in all of them. Guess where that leaves me?

Yep. Middle generation. Two left feet.

Back in the dark ages when I was in middle school (they called it junior high back then) ballroom dancing was part of the PE curriculum. The only requirement was that I learn to move my feet according to pages the teacher handed out. On the pages were pictures of feet connected by dotted lines with numbers showing position one, position two, etc. I can close my eyes and still see those patterns. What I had trouble with were the numbers. This led to some interesting moves on my part and some very unhappy, wounded partners.

There was also this thing about leading that I just didn’t get. If we both memorized those pictures, why would one person have to lead? And why did they call it leading when the “leader” usually was actually pushing. And, by the way, what’s with the leader being the guy, anyway? Why didn’t we at least take turns? That seemed fair, though I knew without a doubt we’d both do much better if girls led. Eventually I learned, though, and developed enough grace to earn a firm C on my report card.

I justified my clumsiness by telling myself I just took after my dad, who had never danced a day in his life. Then, as he and my mother neared retirement age, she finally talked him into taking ballroom dance lessons. My memory of my father from my childhood was of him in khakis and ankle-high work boots, resisting dance classes with every bone in his body. Now in his 50s, he bought dress shoes with leather soles to slide over wood and brightly colored dress clothes to go dancing. He got so good, in fact, that other couples would stand aside to watch him and my ex-jitterbugging mother sweep over the floor to the tune of “Dance Across Texas,” which became “their” song.  I was orphaned, left-feet-wise.

Still, I wasn’t really bothered. I hadn’t needed to dance so far and probably never would. Then, as I approached middle age and had given birth to two kids, I started putting on weight. I knew it was time to put aside my distaste for sweat and find that life-long exercise program I had so carefully ignored to this point. And the studio where my daughter took dance was offering belly dancing…oops…make that “Middle Eastern tribal dance” lessons. Sounded like fun, and at least nobody had to lead.

We learned hip movements first: vertical figure 8, horizontal figure 8, around the world… No problem. I could even roll my stomach and shimmy. I’d finally found a form of dance I could do! Then we learned arm movements. Nothing too complicated: arms in kind of a hula position, arms in front, click those little finger cymbals. Cool!

Ok, now move the hips and arms at the same time... Say what? The lessons ended and I still could dance with my hips or dance with my arms, but I could not dance with both at the same time. For years I looked back at that experience with some bemusement. An anomaly, surely. After all, I can pat my head and rub my stomach at the same time—even rub my head and pat my stomach. Although—that is just hands…

Then, a year or two ago, I tried my hand at tai-chi….

Yeah, it definitely skips a generation.


  1. Replies
    1. I'm sure I'd kill myself trying to do Zumba. And, see? That's just more proof that the gene skipped a generation, because you took to Zumba like a boss, right?

  2. This was a fun post Angela. You proved two things, one that any one can dance, two that you have to want to do something before you can learn it ;-)

    I love to dance, always have, but I never mastered the West Coast Swing (and I would LOVE to) it is one of the most visually smooth and sultry dances I know of.

    Nice to have you posting again!

    1. Thank you, good to be back. Will likely have another absence when my line edits come through, but for now I can blog.