I’m not a dancer.
I can hop around and rave at concerts, or mingle at some seedy club—but let’s be clear: I don’t know actual steps, and while occasionally I have rhythm, the lack of knowledge about professional dancing leaves me rigid and confused when I’m reluctantly pulled onto any dance floor.
(You’d think after 22 weddings and middle school cotillion, I could handle myself more gracefully. Alas…)
So please imagine my insecurity as I walked toward a swing dancing club in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen. The weather was moderate, but an angry wind made the air feel more like impending winter than spring. Still, I sat outside wrapped in my red coat for a lingering moment, looking the swanky joint up and down.
“Urgh.” A small twinge of discomfort floated around my stomach.
But as soon as those butterflies appeared, I knew not dancing was no longer an option. I’ve learned over the years how to read that unsettling feeling; certain anxieties must simply become the next challenge or adventure.
Besides, who doesn’t grow tired of the same bars and repetitive evenings? With this thought, I walked inside.
Ten or 12 friends were already circled up, learning how to “rock step” in time to a big band beat. The room was full of nervous faces, excited feet, and tiny tables illuminated with tea candles. Wine colored walls and a wooden dance floor gave the club an antique touch. The band was tuning on stage as our teacher counted out movements…
Whoops. What did he say? I should've been paying better attention, but my mind was taking in details. Thank goodness Kristin, an avid swing dancer and friend, could give me a private lesson.
“Always rock step with your right foot. It’s like the period of a sentence; it’s always the same,” she said, moving back on her heel with ease. I appreciated the grammar metaphor.
After mastering this very simple step, I rewarded myself with a glass of wine. But standing on the sidelines is dangerous at a swing club: Well-practiced dancers are always looking for partners.
“May I dance with you?” a man asked, offering his hand.
“Oh. Um, yes…” I heard myself mutter.
Simultaneously, my mind was whispering something along the lines of, “Bad [bleeping] move Brit.”
“But I actually can’t dance!” I exclaimed with true fear. He turned me in a perfectly executed twirl, and then another. “Sure you can,” he replied.
“No, really,” I said, suddenly unable to remember anything about the dumb “rock step.” But my partner just smiled. He twirled me again, and I wondered if my dress might be revealing a bit too much?
“Okay, well… uh, I’m just following you then,” I said with a little shrug.
“That’s what you’re supposed to do,” he smiled, effectively ending my anxious inner dialogue.
And may I just say… I think it was the best dance of my life. Spin, spin, rock, dip; this guy could truly dance! I became something like to a pile of spaghetti wearing a dress, and stuck closely to his every move. When we ended in a dip so low my hair touched the floor, I laughed in relief.
After both feet were back on the ground, I promptly hugged Best Dancer Ever (which may or may not be kosher) and made him promise to dance with all my friends. He gladly accepted the challenge, whisking away one girl after another.
As I sat there in the dim lighting, watching the room twist to and fro, I remembered something important: How wonderful it does, in fact, feel to let New York City take lead, and occasionally choreograph life.
Just for us.
The lucky 8.5 million.