There was a segment on the news the other night about what dance moves men do that are attractive to women. Somebody actually did a study about this. They attached electrodes to various guys, had them dance and then computerized it. I think they had women watch the computer images and then rate the moves. My attention may have wandered during that part of the story. I’ve watched, and most guys look stupid when they dance, at least most white guys and the older they are the stupider they look. There are of course exceptions to this and one of them was a guy named Skeeter who was in the 8th grade when I was in the 7th.
In Junior High we had mandatory dances. We also had mandatory ballroom dance classes. I remember learning the box step, the fox trot and the jitterbug. At the actual dances most guys knew better than to do the box step. Even John Travolta would look dumb doing the box step. Variations on the fox trot and jitterbug were how we mostly danced. When practicing the jitterbug, we learned how to twirl our partner. Holding opposite hands, we stepped up and back and to the side and back, over and over until the teacher called out, “Ok gentlemen, twirl your partner”, and all the guys would lift their arms and under the girls would twirl.
It would be a good two years before I got my adolescent growth spurt. I was probably 4’ 9” weighing 70-80 pounds. Many of the girls’ bodies had filled out, especially the eighth graders and they seemed like giants, alluring yet intimidating. When I twirled these women/girls, they had to bend their knees and duck walk under my arm. At the real dance there would be no teacher telling us when to twirl the girl, and I was anxious about how and when to initiate it. Also, I was confused about how many twirls were appropriate for each dance. To reduce my anxiety, I decided I would do absolutely no twirling and of course no box step either.
At the dances, the boys wore coats and ties and the girls, pretty dresses. These occasions were torture for me. If I could have sat out every dance, I would have. I enjoyed listening to the music and watching the others dance. In fact that’s what I’ve done for the rest of my life, to the dismay of various girlfriends over the years. That was not an option at these dances, however. Slow dances were easy, especially when I had a partner my own size. We just hung on to each other and shuffled our feet around. It was embarrassing to slow dance with one of the women/girls though. I knew they were disappointed being stuck with the little guy and besides my eyes were right at chest level causing me some internal struggle. A few of them agreed to sit these dances out.
Watching the others dance, I noticed the girls moved their whole bodies, harmonized their movements with the music. The guys mechanically went through the dance steps, sometimes in time with the music and sometimes not. Most looked rather wooden, like dancing toy soldiers. A few did the box step and some were twirling their partners far too much.
Skeeter had dark hair and looked older, like a High Schooler. He already needed to shave. His girlfriend Cathy was blond, very sweet and one of the woman/girls. Skeeter wasn’t doing any of the steps we’d been taught in dance class. He moved his feet around in time with the music in a subtle but dramatic way, like he was kicking small rocks. He didn’t look smiley and goofy like the other guys, but had a sneer on his face like he knew the punch line of the joke. Every once in a while, he would look up at his partner and she would smile back at him in a way that made me want to figure out how to give a look like that. I never did.
There was a girl named Libby with whom I actually enjoyed dancing. She was slightly taller, but hadn’t filled out yet. Every time we danced, she seemed as happy to be with me as I was with her. She was a good talker and told me I was a pretty good dancer. I think she lied about that. We talked about how awkward we both felt at the dances and about some of our school classes. She appeared interested when I told her something about a particular song or singer. Once when it was girls’ choice, Libby walked right over and chose me. The song was Mister Blue by the Fleetwoods. This two and a half minute dance almost made up for the hours of torture.
It was during this time period that “The Twist” by Chubby Checker became popular. The ballroom dance steps and holding your partners hand was over. I noticed the guys didn’t look any better doing the twist than the other dances. At least there was no twirling to worry about. I was pleased to see that Skeeter didn’t succumb to the twist craze. He continued to stomp his feet around and give those looks to his partners.
I told Libby what I thought about Chubby Checker. His name said it all, a not very talented commercial version of the great Fats Domino. I went to a few dances in high school, but when they became optional, I opted out. I wouldn’t have minded a few more dances with Libby though. I wonder if Skeeter still dances. He probably doesn’t look as cool dancing in his sixties as he did back then.