I met my wife when we were both 17 years old. That was more than 30 years ago. The only regret I have from our dating years is that I didn’t take her to the senior prom. I didn’t dance. None of the guys I grew up with danced. I knew she wanted to go, but like I said, I didn’t dance. What a moron I was. What a chance in a lifetime I passed up, and what a life long regret. And make no mistake, she reminded me of it for years, for 17 years as a matter of fact. Then one day we were at a festival in Ohio. There were these crazy people dressed like circus cowboys and cowgirls on steroids. They were square dancers. I would have known them anywhere. I started to make fun of them, but my wife silenced me with an elbow to the ribs. After their performance I noticed one of these crazy ladies in square dance regalia walking our way. I grabbed my wife’s hand and quickly made a getaway. But this persistent old bird followed. Just when I thought we were clear she appeared from around a corner saying, “There you are. I thought I lost you.” I wanted her to loose us, but I was’t that lucky. She handed my wife a coupon for a free square dance lesson and I about died.
The date for the lesson was a week away. I made sure not to mention it at all, but one week later my wife told me that we were going to our free square dance lesson. I flat out refused, but she pulled that card that she had been saving for 17 years. She said, “Look, you didn’t take me to the prom, and I have never said a thing, but we are going to this dance tonight.” I tried to argue, but she had me. I did manage to get her to agree that if, after 20 minutes, I didn’t like it we could go home. Heck, I can handle anything for 20 minutes. So we drove to an old Masonic Lodge filled with old people and I prepared to be miserable. We were the youngest people there by at least 20 years. At least I wasn’t intimidated. What could these old folks do that I couldn’t? Well, for one thing, they could dance.
We started out in a circle. They had us hold hands. That was kind of strange. I had never really spent much time holding other people’s hands, especially men’s hands. But here I was holding hands with strangers, men and women alike. It was disgusting. Then the music started. Sickening. It was silly old cowboy music. I thought I was going to die of embarrassment. After about 20 minutes my wife came up to me during a break and asked if I wanted to go home. Much to my surprise I said, no. I was talking to my new friends. She asked again if I was bored and wanted to leave. I actually told her that I was never going to leave. And we square danced several nights a week for the next 15 years.
I loved it. Swing your partner and do-si-do, spin change the gears, and allemande thar. We quickly learned all the terminology and moves. One thing led to another, and within a year we were taking ballroom lessons. Then Round Dance lessons. Rounds are the same as ballroom, only choreographed. Then one day, someone invited us to folk dance. Soon after that we were dancing six nights a week. After a few years of that, we decided to start our own non-profit dance group. We call ourselves the Heritage Dance Association. We do everything from American Square Dance to English Country Dancing, Ballroom to German Folk Dance. Yes, I own lederhosen, several pair, lamb skin instead of leather, because lambskin is more flexible, and for some of the these dances that extra freedom is necessary. Now we mostly do traditional historical dances from America’s past. We do the dances from America’s romantic periods. We have an American Revolution Dance troupe, a Civil War group, a Regency group, we swing dance, we do German Folk Dance and we even have been known to do the hustle. Yes, I mean disco. You name it, we do it.
You can see us dance any time of the year. We dance every year at Fort Henry Days. We cover the Elizabethtown Festival in Moundsville. We also make it a point to dance for the local multi-cultural events held by Wheeling Jesuit University and the Weirton Cultural Society. We were the featured dancers at the West Virginia Statehood Ball. This ball has only been held three times since West Virginia was established. It is held once every 50 years, and we were fortunate to have been asked to represent the State at this ball. There are also many other small events that we dance for every year. We get together every Thursday evening. In the winter, we dance at the Ohio County Public Library and the Wheeling YWCA. In the summer, we dance on our own dance floor here on the farm. There is nothing quite like dancing under a full moon in the fall.
It may have taken me a long time to start dancing, but once I did, I couldn’t stop. I like to tell boys and young men that chicks dig a man that can dance and it’s true. Learn to dance and you will always have partner. There is always a need for single men at any dance. Learn to dance and you will never be alone. There is also a magic, a mathematical language that no one in the world understands like a dancer. You don’t have to be athletic. If you can walk you can dance. And don’t let yourself believe that you don’t have rhythm. If you have a heartbeat you have rhythm. Jonny Cash will never sound the same once you learn to two-step. The music of the Monkeys (1960 group) will make you wild. You can swing dance, rumba or cha-cha to most of their songs. Girls love to waltz, and there is at least one polka at every wedding. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and dance. (Insert a Men At Work song here) “You can dance if you want to…”