‘Tis the season of memories. The year 2022 has come and gone, and 2023 is upon us. But what does it mean? Another year older? Another year wiser? This time of year brings back many memories, including dance memories.
I remember the first time I really tried to dance. I was in fifth grade and my friend, Charmae, asked me to stay after school with her. Some of the eighth-grade girls were going to show us how to dance for the sock hops. One-by-one we each got up, picked a song, and started dancing. I picked Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May” and proceeded to dizzily hop all over the floor like a whirling dervish. The whole room went silent and then erupted into laughter. The older girls stopped me, explained the importance of being “cool”, and told me to just shake a little. I swore I would never do that again and did my “little bit of shaking” from that point forward.
The next opportunity came a few years later. We were going to a family wedding. I was 14 and my mother, Irma, decided that my sister and I needed to know how to dance. She had worked as an Arthur Murray dance instructor for a couple of years, so she was up to the task. I remember standing breast-to-breast with her, as she slapped my back and told me to stand up straight. I learned how to follow Waltz box step, something that resembles Foxtrot, and basic Rumba. I made it through the wedding and even danced with my very cute cousin…BONUS!
In 1980, I graduated from high school and left for the Naval Academy. It was basically an all-boys school, so no dancing was required. But an interesting thing came up in my second year…cotillion. Some Naval Academy Mids (Naval Academy students are Midshipmen or Mids) were supposed to escort local college girls, and none of them knew how to dance. An announcement went out — Does anyone know how to Waltz? Well, I knew how to do the Waltz basic, so I volunteered to help and was named the instructor. When I think back on that now, I want to laugh out loud. Then to make matters worse, it wasn’t Waltz that they wanted…it was Viennese Waltz. Hey, how different could it be? The first class included about 10 guys, but by the last class, we were down to one…I remember his name was Nathan. He was shorter than the others, but so sweet and really wanted to learn. The other Mids had decided that they would charm the girls with their good looks instead of dancing. After all, who can resist a man in uniform? Well, the cotillion came and went, and the next day Nathan brought me flowers. He was the only one who could dance the Viennese Waltz at the cotillion, and all the girls wanted to dance with him! So much for charming the girls with good looks.
So now I was a great dancer! No, I was still doing my “little bit of shaking”. After graduation, I was commissioned into the Marine Corps. Again, there was no reason to dance there, but I did find a wonderful reservist named Colonel Pat, who dragged me onto the floor and taught me how to Cha Cha; I loved it!
Fast forward to my husband Mike and I wanting to be comfortable at the 2004 Marine Corps Ball. That led to lessons at Strictly Ballroom Dance Studio in Fredericksburg, where Professional Michael Scott patiently taught us Tango at our first social dance. Wow! Along with Waltz, Foxtrot, and Cha Cha, there were even more dances…Swing, Mambo, Bolero — I loved Bolero. And guess what! The Viennese Waltz was quite different than the one I taught poor Nathan; it could also turn the other way…who knew?
Now let me fast forward again. Our first dance competition was in 2005, and Mike and I were the only couple dancing the Newcomer Bronze Waltz…Heat #1. We didn’t know what a dance competition looked like, but we were the opening act. Later, Judge Dan Messenger handed us our ribbons and said, “You two make me smile.”
Fast forward to a competition in 2008. We were once again on the floor by ourselves when the videographer said, “Hey, you need to try USA Dance.” That sounded interesting. So, we went to the Manhattan Amateur Classic – “The MAC” – 2009 and fell in love with USA Dance. There were finals, semi-finals, quarterfinals, and first rounds. It wasn’t just an opportunity to play dress up. It was a competition for the dancers – wall-to-wall talented kids and serious competitors, all dancing their hearts out. It was an Amateur dancer’s dream. We loved it!!
Since then, there have been so many dances, so many dance steps, so many great friends, so many fabulous competitions, so many tremendous coaches, so many changes to choreography – yes, I went there, so many beautiful dresses, hairstyles, bling, ribbons, trophies, pictures, rollouts, and opportunities. I’m smiling just thinking about it all.
So where am I going with this? Memories! As I think back, I remember the happy and funny memories. We all have them. Every dancer has a story to tell about the dance floor. Everyone has watched that talented couple who inspired them. We all have met those special couples who are now forever friends. This all came from dancing and USA Dance.
2022 had its challenges, but it also gave us more dance memories. But some people from our past are missing from these memories, and our USA Dance family is still smaller than it was 10 years ago. What’s the answer? More young people…yes! More professionals…yes! More competitors…yes! More volunteers…yes! But the real answer is YOU!
In 2023, be the person who encourages the young person who looks like a whirling dervish; be the parent who teaches a daughter or son to dance; be Colonel Pat who drags a newbie onto the dance floor; be the patient professional who welcomes the new dancers into his studio; be the adjudicator who encourages the competitors; be the competitor who says, “Hey, have you ever tried USA Dance?” And, be the friend who says, “We’ve missed you. Come dance with us!” After all, ’tis the season of memories.
American Dancer wishes all members — past, present, and future — a very Happy and Healthy New Year. See you on the Dance Floor!!!!
“And by the way. When no one is watching, I still dance like a whirling dervish to ‘Maggie May!’”