It was quite hilarious and led to broken glass, but yesterday evening some of my friends and I began a Scottish country dance. Although we often meet for a meal after Mass on Sundays, we do not usually break into dancing. I do seem to recall spontaneous waltz some months ago, when someone began to play a waltz medley on the parlour piano, but usually no. This time I found a reel on Youtube, and my husband began to shout instructions, and almost before we knew what going on, all had joined hands and were jumping about in a circle.
Country dancing is great fun, and in its way it is like Gregorian chant: it doesn't need a lot of training and anyone can learn it. And I know anyone can learn it because I can learn it, and I am the biggest dunderhead at choreography ever. I was the bane of my ballet mistresses and their carefully planned year's end performances. Eurgh! My youngest sister is lucky to have been spared ballet; she was sent straight into Highland Dance.
So I must admit up front I have a terrible bias against partner dancing, including the waltz. I realize that in partner dancing the lady (or "follower") is supposed to just do whatever the gentleman (or "lead") wishes, but I resist such notions. Only my husband has the right to give me orders, thank you very much.
And in the case of gentlemen dancers so talented that they make the lucky ladies in their arms feel like they are floating, I am much too wicked for such temptations. My head might float away, and then where would I be, eh? So I leave the waltz, the tango, the salsa, and all other modern dances to the pure. That said, the easiest way to get over a crush on a Celtic, Anglo-Saxon or differently Germanic guy is dance a salsa with him. Total anaphrodesiac.
I hate partner dancing so much I wonder why I have taken so many classes in it. I think, though, that it is usually because of peer pressure. The words "Come on it will be fun" ring a bell, as do the words "I don't want to go by myself." It is the sort of thing my Single friends would do, and then not do again once they were married. The great majority of husbands are allergic to going out in the evening, to say nothing of going out swing- or salsa-dancing.
However, ethnic country dancing of the kind all generations can and often do at ethnic weddings is a different story entirely. For me, that means reels, jigs and dances named after such mysterious individuals as Gay Gordon and the Dashing White Sergeant. The happiest "real" dances I have done have been group affairs with callers and fiddles and occasionally pipes.
What is the difference? Not to sound like a member of the Anti-Sex League, but one big difference is that the emphasis upon Boy-Girl is almost entirely removed. It is never about Him and Me or Her and Him but upon All Of Us. In country dancing, men and women and men and men and women and women hold hands and link arms with zero sexual significance. Partners are switched with dizzying speed; all that is constant is the group.
In a world that acts as though sexual partnership is the be-all and end-all of post-pubescent existence, it is wonderful that there is an ancient social activity for men and women that celebrates them not as couples but as all together, married, single, widowed, clergy, teen.
Update: Okay, I realize that this is a total old lady question, but...ummmm...is there grinding in all the dance clubs now? I ask because I am plotting to go outdoors really late for an old person to check out a dance club downtown soon, and I have heard weird stories about women in it.