Friday, Sept. 27, 2019 @ 1:41 pm
Dance Lesson No. 1
“I have news to share,” I announce. “I signed up for lessons. I want to be able to dance with you better.”
He hugs me in response.
Weeks later, I walk up towards the old church hall. The night is cool and crisp, and dry leaves blow around in a blustery wind. I hear music coming from the hall when I am still a half-block away. Jazzy clarinets and trumpets. My heart lurches and my stomach heaves. I’ve never done something like this before: partnered dancing lessons.
I sign in at the front table and then stand at the side of the room, my arms crossed against my chest. I look at the other students who range from college students to retired folks. Tall, short, skinny, fat, white, Asian, couples, singles, men, women, and someone who presents as a non-specific gender. Welcome to East Van.
The instructor has us do a warm up. I try to relax and near the end I am feeling more loose and have managed a smile. The instructor asks leads to raise their hands and tells the follows to join up with a lead. A lot of people have arrived in couples and are already partnered. I look around the room and begin to panic. Who’s left? The taller guys are all snapped up. The gender-neutral person is standing there with their arm up, a similar panic rising on their face. I run across the circle and slide to a stop beside them and introduce myself.
The class lasts an hour. By the end, we are moving around on the polished wooden dance floor in something that resembles the Lindy Hop. The class is ending, and other dancers are arriving for the social dance that begins next. I am dancing with an older man when I see Russell enter the gym. He watches me from the side of the room and smiles.
The band starts to play a new song. He walks over and asks me to dance. He looks so great - a smart plaid dress shirt in various blues, his navy heavy-framed glasses, his dark jeans cuffed, Converse shoes, and his hair messy yet groomed. That smile.
He leads our dance, and I now understand the pressure of his hand on my back, the tug of his hand on my right arm. I feel the beat more clearly and improvise when he does a novel move. He leads me around the other dancers, and the photographer snaps a photo of us just as Russell swings me out. Flash. I know that I have a big smile on my face and that the way we dance together is compelling.
After having travelled home separately, I meet him back at his apartment. We stand on his deck and listen to the waves crashing on the beach, the wind stirring up a storm. My skin tightens against the cold. He hugs me from behind. I lean back into his body.
I consider bringing it up, my mistake, but decide to wait another day to gain more clarity.
He holds onto me all night. His arm around me. His skin against mine. My body relaxes and softens, and I know that everything is going to be alright.