A Semester of Swing
Back during the golden age of classes VIII-X, dancing was either something a Tam-Bram girl did under the tutelage of Smt. So and So to the tune of ''Thaa thaiii thatha thaiii", or some sort of ghastly aerobic excercise to be carried out as part of ''[School] Day", "Annual Day", "Sports Day" and any such number of days, carefully choreographed by Vanita and Padmaja Mams. Proper free style dancing was something a lot of us bookish types had no idea about. We were told we'd eventually have to do it during the Class X farewell party. And with a girl. Our combined hormones and awkwardness led to a range of responses, the standard being "Teeheeheee" with a foot shuffle. [Mine was a constipated "Haehh!!'']
My immediate seniors (the class of 1998) were possibly the coolest people ever. They pulled off a co-ed dance to the tune of Cecilia, on Teacher's Day no less, with the girls dressed like hotties out of a Salma Hayek movie and the guys... ah, who notices guys at such times? There were raised eyebrows amongst the faculty, and other raised things amongst juniors when it was over. But we wretches, admire them as we might, were unable to emulate when we were in X. And when the farewell party did come, we didn't run up to that girl of our dreams and pull off something befitting "All I Have to Give", "As Long as You Love Me" or similar tracks of the time. No sir. What did we do? First we shuffled awkwardly. Then we looked around to see who'd be foolhardy enough to get on the dance floor first. Then when the girls shrugged, collectively giving us [all of us] up as a lost cause, huddled together on the floor. Boys here, girls there. Proper interaction of the sexes. Padmaja, Vanita and Srilata Mams could not be happier.
The dancing scenario remained pretty dismal for years to come. Most of us huddled during the class XII farewell again, save a very very few. And coming to IITG, for starters there were like 7-10 girls to go round for 400+ guys, so huddling wasn't really a matter of choice. And for another this was Guwahati with the 95% humidity - we got to know our collective BO in like 5 minues flat.
Coming to US therefore, I was extremely out of place anywhere near a dance floor. My standard routine at this point was to act as idiotic or stoned as possible, so as to evoke a "Gosh, you're silly (giggle)" or a "Ok, you need to sit down for a bit". Either saved me the embarassment of showing people precisely how I moved to the beat.
It wasn't till this fall that I decided to correct this situation. I joined the Swing dance club at Purdue - think slow music from the 40's and 50's and you get the idea. Swinging has taught me a lot. Broadly, how to move to a beat. How to develop a rhythm. And how to improvise on a routine without looking idiotic - Ok, that's an ongoing process. It also helped bring about an amazing sensation - moving with a girl (who isn't a relation of any sort) in your arms.
Ok, that is a rotten ending. But that's only to make way for a follow-up post. What precisely did I learn during Swing dancing?