Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Year of Gratitude - Day Thirty-five

Day 35 - Dance Like No One Is Watching
I haven’t been two-stepping in years!  I don’t count the one time I went in Pennsylvania where the only person in the place who could actually dance was a guy I didn’t know and danced with only once.  “Country-Western” doesn’t seem to belong in the tiny artsy/tourist town of New Hope, even when it’s played in a gay club connected to a gay motel.  Nope.  That didn’t count.
I think the last time I was seriously C/W dancing was back in the early 2000’s at Oil Can Harry’s in North Hollywood.  I love that place - lots of cowboys (most of them of the “urban” variety, but some real ones, too) - and great DJ’s who keep us all moving.  The classes at the Rawhide (RIP) were just as good, but the dance floor at Oil Can’s was the largest, and the best.  It’s one of the places in Southern California I miss.
I’ll never forget when I first heard about two-stepping back in 1993; it was during a pivotal time for me as my marriage was coming to and end, and I was having a serious heart-to-heart with my friend Steve Grey.  When it came up, he said two-stepping was almost better than sex.  “Almost!”  So I went to a little bar called the Trapp in Salt Lake City’s warehouse district shortly thereafter.  The dance floor was tiny - probably no bigger than an average residential living room - but it was packed with a whirling buzz of cowboys dancing in a tornado of joyful testosterone.
For those who haven’t tried it, the Two-step is a partner dance with a simple basic step - slow, slow, quick-quick - and a lot of fancier moves that, as long as you keep that basic rhythm going underneath, are easier than they appear... when you can practice them a lot and often, and have lots of room.  Many C/W bars and dance halls offered classes to help you learn some of the more advanced moves, and you could always find a partner if you showed up by yourself.
I was glad I had ballroom dance experience in college - it made learning the dance that much easier.  In the “straight” ballroom world, the man always leads, so I was a strong lead already.  Since I’m tall, I rarely have a chance to follow, and in the years I would go dancing regularly, I would watch for the taller men who were strong leads - dancers I knew who could lead me without allowing (requiring?) me to back-lead (the problem that comes up when you know more about your partner’s role in the dance than he does).  I remember a regular at the C/W clubs - a practicing Catholic priest - who would take me out onto the dance floor that had me spinning like a top.  ...No pun or irony intended.
When I’m two-stepping, I can’t stop smiling.  It’s among the most sublime experiences, especially when I’m following.  To let go and read the other person’s body language, relinquishing control, communicating without words, is an amazing experience I never tire of.  And when the lead is someone I find attractive... well, it makes for a great time.
Hal took me two-stepping last night, and I had a blast.  He's my height and was happy to lead.  I had other men ask me to dance, and most of them led as well (I'm surprised by how many tall men there are in Portland).  And I led a couple times myself.  (My only surprise of the evening was to see how the gay men and lesbians picked opposite sides of the room to sit and chat, and barely spoke to one another - is that a Portland thing, too?)  I had a fantastic time, and was delighted to learn there will be more of these events through August.  (I was disappointed when my left knee had had enough before the rest of me wanted to stop - I will have to wear a brace or Ace bandage next time to see if the support will help.)  I can’t wait to go to the next Hoedown in three weeks.

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