Wednesday, 20 February 2008


My dance lessons were probably compulsory. Mom and her brother, a choreographer, did demonstration ballroom dancing as teenagers in the 1930's. Uncle Bernard was a fantastically patient teacher and where he left off Mom's best friend, Jewell, took over. I made my stage debut at the age of 3 and continued weekly classes, annual conferences and recitals up to the age of 16. We took tap, ballet and modern dance classes, all crammed into one evening a week. Classes were grouped by age and each had a precious name: Rubies, Sapphires, Pearls, etc. Jewell's mother, Jean, sewed the recital costumes for mom's who couldn't make them. Mom and Daddy took the recital photographs.

I never was particularly good, mind; short, pear-shaped girls with more baby fat than muscle aren't magically transformed in a couple of hours a week. I always knew I was pretty lousy and just enjoyed the classes and the clothes.

The other great thing about Jewell's classes was that a bunch of us, though we lived all over Oklahoma City, took turns hosting dancing parties at the weekends. We danced for hours to the popular psychedelic music of the 1970's. A sort of initiation for new people was to dance wildly -- with the rest of us -- to the full length of the
Iron Butterfly's In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida, something like 17 minutes long. We had long hair, wore ragged and embroidered bell bottoms, painted flowers on our faces and decorated our rooms with black light paint and strobe candles, but we were all straight, as in not into drugs. I guess dance classes were my first 'health kick'.

I still tap Uncle Bernard's routine if alone in an elevator or whilst waiting for the kettle to boil. I still have my instruments of torture (toe shoes). I rarely listen to my old albums, but when I do, I still love dancing just like I did 30 (ouch!) years ago.

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