Long before “Dancing with the Stars” became a hit, I dreamed of waltzing around a room effortlessly with an elegant partner. Endless cajoling of boyfriends to Tango, Foxtrot and Waltz was attempted for years, all in vain. Flowing skirts purchased to show off privately practiced “spin turns” at weddings and other social events went virtually unnoticed. Fast forward 18 years. My good sport of a husband and I can be seen promenading at our favorite social dance spots. We’re not Fred and Ginger yet (or Karina and Maks), but we can at least weave our way around the dance floor to the surprise of friends (and the horror of our teenaged daughter).
Although it may look effortless, bazinga dancing as a couple does not come easy. It takes many lessons and lots of practice to look smooth and not argue over who’s in charge on the dance floor. Like all great relationships, dancing takes time and patience. You must be kind, show tact, have a sense of humor and be and willing to relinquish control. Interestingly, in the dance world, the man always leads, but the woman’s first step is always on her right foot. (That’s what I call art imitating life!)
My husband, who is usually open to new things, is not enthusiastic about my hobby. When I first proposed my idea to go dancing as a “fun and athletic couple’s activity,” he reluctantly agreed, since he is a soccer player. Little did he know that this new spell of athletic activity would become fancy, dress up dates! Our Friday evening lessons are preceded by days of preparation. Babysitters are lined up and dinner reservations are made. I visit stores in search of the perfect skirt that will flow elegantly as we “feather step,” “twinkle” and “double chasse” around the floor. I furtively practice in store aisles to the piped in music. When date night comes, I enthusiastically break out the hot rollers, makeup, stockings and swingy skirt. Dolled up beyond recognition, I greet my husband at the door and give him a big kiss. “And your name is?” he asks.
Boris, our dance teacher, says, “You have to look good, you have to smell good” when you dance. And bickering is not allowed. A strict, Ukrainian pro, he threatens to dismiss couples who argue on his watch. His first bit of advice about looking good is not lost on me! Dressing the part really makes you a better dancer, I tell my husband. I become Grace Kelly or Chita Rivera, depending on the lesson. After all these years of togetherness, I find this quite titillating. So on Latin dance night, I resurrect an old flapper dress, complete with red fringe and polish my high-heeled, official Tango shoes from Argentina. I wear false eyelashes and a hair piece, accented with the perfect fake flower. On the conservative streets of Boston, outfits like these can elicit quizzical stares and even laughter. But no one bats a fake eyelash at the studio, because dressing the part is de rigueur in the exciting world of ballroom dance – it’s like being a Baz Luhrmann production.
On Waltz night, I ask my husband to dress up like Jean DuJardin in the opening scene of “The Artist.” No dice. But I will dress for the lesson’s theme: a flowy, chiffon skirt is topped by a demure lacy blouse. And you have to wear the right shoes. On my feet are “standard, closed” two inch pumps for “smooth” dancing. My husband will sport a jacket and tie, gel his hair and gargle. (The advice we got about smelling good is not lost on me. Who wants to “cheek to cheek” with someone who just ate shrimp scampi?) He will wear cologne, which makes me swoon as we “twinkle” and glide through a sweepy, orchestral, “Moon River.” My face hurts from smiling. I tell him, “Going out dancing is like attending a costume party. It’s more fun than Halloween!”
My husband does not share my enthusiasm. He would rather vacuum the house, I’m sure. But we both agree that spending time together is essential to remaining close -whether it’s dancing or doing something else. Like ships passing in the night, couples are increasingly harried with the demands of work, family obligations, children and an endless array of distractions. (After all, you can’t check your iPhone while locked in the proper dance frame!) What could be more sensual and romantic than dancing hand-in-hand, looking into each other’s eyes and swaying to beautiful music? Our dance sessions lay the groundwork beautifully for part two of our Friday night dates (and for the rest of the weekend). Over dinner, we talk about class and whether the music at the restaurant is a Rumba or a Cha-Cha-Cha. We marvel at how much better we are getting and whose wedding we can crash in order to practice. Any opportunity to dance is a golden one that pays dividends. It’s aerobic, social and enjoyable for music lovers. It’s a great escape for couples of all ages. Most importantly, the relationship benefits of ballroom top any activity or bonding exercise we have ever done. So even if your husband won’t don a tux and tails like Monsieur DuJardin, if he goes dancing with you, he’s a great partner. Your relationship will thrive.