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Consider This

By LC Van Savage

Dancing With Miss Tate

I watch kids dancing and they’re so free and I’m so jealous. It seems on dance floors today, anything goes, even with geezoids, and no one has to follow the rigid rules of the waltz, foxtrot, rumba and samba we were forced to learn as proper young ladies and gentlemen way, way back when. If we had performed the sexy, suggestive and bouncy good fun of today’s adolescent and teenage dancers, we’d still be in our rooms, grounded for eternity, if we hadn’t been quickly rushed to reform school.

I was “taught” by one Miss Tate back when we were all 12, because for us, it was time. You see, one simply could not grow to adulthood unless one learned proper dancing, and to play Bridge. I remain untalented at both.

Older than God’s mother, white haired, stooped, and clothed in a black dress with a stiffly starched lace color, Miss Tate was frail but mighty in her way. She could herd us all to opposite sides of the big ballroom, by sex of course, because everyone knew that mingling where there was music, invited youthful veniality.

The poor awkward boys in itchy suits stumbled across the room to the poor awkward girls in itchy, starched dresses, all hoping we’d be accepted by each other. We’d assume the embarrassing, awful position—girl with her gloved hand lightly on the boy’s hunched right shoulder, boys nervously (and just barely) touching the girl’s waist with his right hand, each grasping sweaty opposite hands, holding them high in the air. Then and only then would come the teaching of those brutal steps, after Miss Tate signaled to her male clone, the old duffer at the piano hammering out the dances, stopping when Miss Tate would nod at him, beginning again at a curt, new nod. And woe unto him if he missed a nod.

To keep us in rhythm and in control Miss Tate carried a clicker, a hideous little gadget no one ever got a clear look at because she never let it go and when it clicked, it was the sound of a snapped steel rod. CLICK! CLICK! It always made us jump, always kept us in line. It was black metal, about the size of a halved avocado.

I remember the pain of my toes and arches being stomped on, and the look of pain on my partner’s face when I stomped back, sometimes even accidentally. I remember the muscles in my right arm burning, aching as I tried to hold it in the air in that boy’s grasp as he became fatigued and disinterested, letting his arm drag down like a great dead thing. I remember his face, strained, sweating, as he counted aloud, his tongue sticking out, and I knew he hated his parents as much as I hated mine.

One night all the girls decided to not wash their hair but to try out a new dry shampoo, to brush in and brush out, guaranteeing sparkling shiny hair. No. It left our hair grey, flattened and thickly repulsive, and each time we sneezed, coughed or turned our heads suddenly, up would fly an assortment of small grey mushroom clouds of sickly sweet powder which settled on the shoulders of our beautiful dancing-class dresses and into the noses of our dance-partners. The attending mothers frowned and then snickered behind handkerchiefs and finally laughed thunderingly, while a slowly angering Miss Tate pranced about, crackling out her ONE-two-threes, ONE-two-threes, furiously, frantically clicking on her piercingly loud clicker while we stumbled about, the girls shooting repeated spurts of dry shampoo from their heads to the rhythm of the dance, while the boys, fairly stinking of their own prodigious hair applications (Vitalis,) wished they were anywhere else, or better yet, dead.

With all due respect to the clicking, desperate Miss Tate, I never nailed that dancing thing much, and Bridge? Fuggedaboudit.

Click on author's byline for bio.

Hear LC on "Senior Moment" with Dave Wilkinson,
WBOR, 91.1 FM
Weds. 1-1:30 PM
or on


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Reader Comments

Name: John I. Blair Email:
Comment: LC#comma# What a funny reminiscence! I laughed repeatedly while reading it#comma# and remembered my own painful dancing classes#comma# at an older age (17). Our teacher#comma# in her basement studio#comma# labored mightily to teach us the two-step#comma# waltz#comma# rhumba and tango (it was the late 50s). All I learned was that girls#apos# backs were hard and ridgy (corset stays) and their fronts at close range were very interesting#comma# which I already knew.



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