This morning in a paved courtyard at a church acting as part of local food bank network, people of all ages were seated on benches, steps, and planters scattered about the edges. They talked quietly with one another while a small band of 3 musicians played live music in one corner. Having danced for as long as I have, I can often spot fellow dancers in any situation with live music. Sure enough, the elderly man who always sits on the same bench every week with a frown on his face and a WWII veteran’s ball-cap on his head gave the telltale signs of a dancer listening to the rhythm. I walked over.
“Do you dance?”
“What’s that?” he said, sounding grumpy.
“I said, do you dance?”
“Yes, what of it?” he asked defensively.
“Would you like to dance with me?”
“No,” he said, quite firmly. I nodded and walked away.
I spotted another probable dancer in the crowd, and went to ask for a dance. This time I got an enthusiastic yes. I hoped that watching us dance would change the veteran’s mind about dancing. I wanted to give a smile to that frowning face.
For the dancers reading this, this dance was one of those dances where the first 20-30 seconds is spent finding a way to match rhythms and differing skill sets. It would have happened much quicker if I had let go of my preconceived direction for the dance sooner. Our connection was mediocre. We had a lot of fun, but dancing together a few more times would probably turn our connection into something much smoother.
The crowd cheered. We traded off leading and following. Every time one of us spun the other, there was laughter. Whenever I took the lead, I could hear folks mentioning it to each other. My partner was having a blast, and so was I. Our dance finally began to respond to the music. A grin slowly spread across my face and stayed there. When the music stopped, we hugged and went our separate ways, as it was time to line up to get our numbers. Each person I passed looked at me with smiling eyes and said that had been a lovely dance to watch. I thanked them each. I was trying to give one elderly person a smile, but instead my partner and I gave smiles to an entire crowd. I was not expecting that with my rusty dance skills.
After I got my number, I wandered across the courtyard to where the veteran was sitting. His friends had arrived and were talking with him.
“You don’t dance all that great,” he said, teasing. We all laughed. “I could show you a thing or two,” he said.
“Show me!” I said, pointing towards the open space in front of the band. “I’d love to learn. Dance with me?”
His eyebrows shot up in surprise and he turned me down again, but this time he was smiling. Mission accomplished.