Dancing in Cinderblock Shoes

A  story in The New York Times suggested that there could be cognitive advantages to learning how to dance, that it could be good for your brain and help offset some of the effects of aging.

As the story noted:

“The demands it places on the mind and body could make it unusually potent at slowing some of the changes inside our skulls that seem otherwise inevitable with aging.”

If that is the case, I say, let my brain turn to the consistency of pudding – preferably chocolate please.

Here is what I can tell you about dancing:

There are those who are naturally gifted with a sense of rhythm and a seamless gracefulness in which they move fluidly through space, their bodies natural extensions of music.

And then there are guys like me.

I move like someone frenetically trying to dodge the business end of a cattle prod.

It’s not pretty.

So about five years ago, my best beloved and I took formal ballroom dance lessons.

It was not “Dancing with the Stars” but it was damn hard work and tiring.

We had a Zen-like instructor, Bob Bader of Scranton, who took us through our paces.

Bob leading Meg through some dance lessons. I filmed so I could get a better handle on the steps.
And a twirl!

He was a sweetheart of a guy who was unflappable and always had a kind word of encouragement, even if, like me, you looked like Frankenstein moving in cinderblock shoes.

“That was beautiful,” he would say. “You got it!”

What I “got” I was never entirely sure.

All I knew was that after 90 minutes of lessons, I was beat.

I was supposed to lead but I was nervous.

I had got more flop sweat than Capt. Ahab at a Save the Whales convention.

Not only did we have to learn where to place our feet, legs, arms and hands, but — get this — we were expected to remember where to put them in the right order!

This went on for more than two months as we learned the box step, rumba and worked our way up the evolutionary dance ladder.

Meg and I enjoy dancing at parties, weddings and clubs. But I am not, um, what you would call “classically trained.”

Other couples had a knack for picking up the moves and they were a marvel to watch.

I was hesitant and clumsy, making the lessons a bit more of a contact sport than they should be.

Bob swore that when we were done learning, we would be the center of attention at our next dance appearance.

That was encouraging.

But come to think of it, he never said exactly why we would be the center of attention.