A long time ago a friend of mine told me I just didn’t have the groove. It was the summer I backpacked through Europe, and my traveling buddy, Mugsy, and I decided to go out dancing in Nice, France. We ended up in a beachfront club where a reggae band was jamming. I recall swirling lights and colors, smiling faces, and a sea breeze that blew in right off the Mediterranean.
But most of all, I remember Mugsy telling me I didn’t have the groove. Funny thing was, I thought I had been doing passably well on the dance floor. But I suspected she was right. While not as bad as Elaine on Seinfeld, I was nevertheless a little clunky and quirky in my movements.
As a young girl, I took dance lessons: ballet and tap. Ballet was hard. I liked the pretty tutus, but I never felt very graceful. Instead, my body seemed to have its own agenda, one I couldn’t quite follow. Tap appealed to me more. I liked the noisiness of tap dancing, and my movements didn’t have to be so elegant and precise. Long about adolescence I told my parents I didn’t want to take dancing lessons anymore. It wasn’t cool, according to my friends. Boys, on the other hand, were.
Somehow I stumbled through the obligatory dances with stiff lanky boyfriends at my ring dance and prom, never really knowing which foot to put where when. I remember stepping on toes and grinning with embarrassment at my awkward endeavors, glad that dance floors tended to be dark places where few could view my shortcomings.
After high school, I attended Radford in the Blue Ridge Mountains, where I met Deadheads and learned a whole new kind of dancing, if you can call it that. As Jerry Garcia wailed from the stereo, my friends and I invented new ways of expressing ourselves, finding rapture as we spun around under the stars.
At college I also tuned in to bluegrass and learned to clog. On Sunday nights I headed to Tech for an evening of circle dancing in the gym. Simple melodies on the fiddle and guitar cued the group to start kicking up our heels. We whooped and hollered, knees and elbows flailing. I liked the rustic appeal of clogging—it’s a dance with heart.
When I met my husband, Peter, we tried dancing a few times. He always bragged that he’d taken lessons in South Africa, where he spent his childhood. But somehow I could never follow his lead. Every once in a while we give it a go again, when we’re at a party with a DJ and freestyle dancing ensues. I do my best to melt into the crowd, but sometimes I feel the spirit of Elaine coming over me, and I’m thankful no one has a video camera.
Whenever I see professional dancers twirl across a dance floor, their movements fluid, their steps in sync, I sigh and wonder what it must be like. I think back to when Mugsy told me I didn’t have the groove and wonder if there’s any hope at all for me to reconnect with my inner dancer.
I aim to try—one of these days. Now it’s your turn. What creative impulse stirs your soul? Make a point to try something creative in the coming weeks, something that’s entirely for your pleasure and benefit. You deserve some “you” time, don’t you?