I met my husband at a dance club on New Year’s Eve many years ago (out of kindness to myself I won’t recount how many years ago). I was there to have a beer and enjoy the music. He was there to dance. He doesn’t just love to dance. He is a dance addict. It is like a drug to him. How do I know this? I have seen him become another person due to the effects of this “drug”. If I have really made him mad, where kindness, beer or chicken fail, dance will always save my bacon. He’s always willing to make up by dance night. I have also seen him make out of character decisions because of this “drug”. Such as taking me again and again to a club I have made it very clear I HATE because the floor is so crowded and I get run over. I even got my foot broken by some fool who smashed into me (not even an apology!). But, caught up in the power of his addiction, and the lure of an absolutely awesome musical group he adores, he forgets my terror fueled hatred and pulls into that parking lot time after time. In his frenzy to get his fix, his eyes glaze over so that, unable to focus, he is oblivious to the “you’re gonna pay for this” look on my face as he helps me out of the car. Yes, he is an addict. So, if I was gonna be his gringa, I had to learn to dance. Which, in my case, is much easier than it sounds.
I grew up in a conservative little town that was firmly in the grip of the Southern Baptists. At our school, it was against the rules for boys and girls to have any physical contact. If brushing a pinkie against some sweetie’s elbow was a crime, you can be darned sure there were no school dances. I take that back. I remember one. Yes, just one. If you wanted to get your groove on you had to be old enough to drive to the next town. You also had to be popular enough to be in on the location and time of the current party. If you were lucky enough to get to one of these shin-digs, it was all Two-Step with maybe a splash of Rock-n-Roll once or twice. So, when I met the caveman of my dreams, I knew nothing about Salsa, Merengue, or Cumbia. But, hey, I was in love. I was ready to learn.
Not only was I hindered by my lack of personal dance experience, I also had a medical condition that could make certain things about dancing very tricky. Strobe lights were definitely out. They put me in la-la land in about three minutes flat. My poor little brain also gets a little freaky when expected to process visual information in any type of hurried fashion.
Take my college ballet fiasco for example. My instructor was very serious about his art. The whole eye/hand/feet coordination effort of mirroring his movements had my epilepsy zapping my brain like crazy. It was like dancing with lightning. During rehearsals one day, I finally gave up and improvised my own silly dance. If you watched a lot of ‘I Love Lucy’ episodes, you can imagine, then, my style. When my instructor noticed me in the mirror he stopped the class. He slowly and deliberately walks over to me and stands silently before me, near enough that I can feel his breath blowing my 1980’s big-bangs. Finally, after mulling over what to say in order to shame me in front of the whole class, he says, “You need to take a more serious approach to your performance. That would include your facial expressions.” I politely ask, “You’ve seen me dance, right?” He takes a breath to speak, then clamps his lips together, twitches his head, cocking it to the side, and replies, “I think maybe you’re not a dancer.” I laughed and said, “You would be right. But I need a P.E. grade.” Reaching his limit and raising his voice just a wee bit he tells me, “You should try the water aerobics.” So, you see, my Twinkle-Toe Delight for a new lover had no idea what he was getting himself into when he met me that night so long ago.
The first few weeks of dating were quite interesting. Several nights during the week I would go over to his house and he would teach me my steps. Now, one thing I did learn from that college class was how to count steps. I picked up the eight count of salsa rather quickly. However, my new instructor did not count HIS steps. He would be holding me close, guiding me through each movement, then, all of a sudden, he would release me and bust a move. He was fantastic. However, when he wanted to resume dancing together, I had been steadily doing my one, and a two, and a three, and a, “Hey, what the heck! What am I supposed to do now?! I don’t know where you’re at! Don’t you count your steps?” Juan would smile and say, “No. I just feel the music.” Oh great. He’s one of THOSE people. So, now I’ve learned to be a psychic dancer. We are great dancers, together. I can’t dance with anyone else. I’ve tried. It’s a disaster. So, it’s just us, Gringa and the Caveman, dancing with lightning for life.