I grew up dancing. My dad had more rhythm than he could handle and the country dances we attended as a family were one long aerobic activity until we girls fell asleep on the pile of coats in the corner. Mom was a wonderful dancer too, but waltzes and polkas were always reserved for my dad with one or the other of us girls. I only did either of those special dances with someone else when it was Blink’s turn to dance with Dad, and she the same. That was a given. Of course, we also often had a fling at the Schottische, Varsuviana, Seven Step, Circle Two-Step, and even sometimes the Flying Dutchman, but those weren’t as sacred as the waltz and polka.
The only drinks available were water and lemonade inside, and whiskey in a bottle protected by a brown paper bag outside. (So they told me…) The food was a sack lunch at midnight; usually a cheese or beef sandwich with homemade bread, a slice of pie or chocolate cake, and occasionally an apple. A haze of cigarette smoke, floor wax and dust stomped up from the aged hardwood floor dimmed the room, while the combined essence of perspiration, Evening in Paris, and Old Spice completed the ambiance of the all purpose dance hall; meeting place, voting venue, make-shift church, funeral overflow---post office and bar in the back.
When I was a seventh grader, my aunt gave me her mandolin, and I spend hours experimenting with it until I was proficient enough to add its unique sound to our family entertainment in the evenings. Dad played the violin, Blinkie and I played the piano, Sam strummed guitar, and I played Mandy Lynn. (See? Naming things again!) It was a great way to spend an evening, Mom did the dishes while we played and sang until time to read ourselves to sleep. Too a fault. We were soon—so we thought---good enough to go on the road. So the Grand River Hillbilly Band was launched, and we began playing at dances around the country. Bad idea. Both my sister and I hated it. It was fun to play at home, but at a dance? We had to watch other people having fun? The night gets really long when you have to be a spectator instead of a participant.
In addition to country dances, Dad used to whirl us up and down the aisles in the country school where Mom taught on the Standing Rock Reservation. (La Frambois School, she had 16 kids, all grades, and she cooked lunch for everybody. I remember it as a great time….wonder if she did?) Then when Dad would ride in from the ranch, we would dance up and down the aisles in a cloud of sweeping compound…that mixture of sawdust and oil used to subdue the dust after 36 muddy feet had tracked in from recess three times a day. He would also treat us to a quick Irish jig, Russian Cossack Kick Dance, or tap dance so fast we couldn’t see his feet move. No wonder he never gained any weight. He taught us all but the Russian Kick; no way we could keep our arms folded over our chests, squat down and kick straight out…too many skills all at one time.
So dancing became—and still is---one of my favorite aerobic pastimes. It is fun, easy, strenuous, and never, never boring. If you have any inclination at all, schedule dancing into your fitness regimen. It can be square, round, tap, line, ballet, ballroom, hula, interpretive, or just performing alone in front of the TV; know that it is a terrific conditioner.
Milli says even if you have tires for twinkle toes…just do it.