Things We Learn At Dance Lessons


The Tuesday evening West Coast Swing dance was over. We successfully completed number 4 out of 5 beginner classes. A new friend, Joanne, spoke as we put on hats and coats.”There is another Contra Dance this Saturday night up Black Diamond Road. You goin’? Asked Joanne.

“I am going. I had so much fun at the last one,” I replied. “You going?”

“Yes I am! Want to meet up at the old Fairview school house and we can carpool to black Diamond?” Asked Joanne, as we walked off the dance floor at the end of the lesson.

“Sure!” I said. “What about Bob?”

She answered as we both turned to look at him, standing a short distance away. “I’m trying to convince him but he’s not sure. There may be some others who want to go too.” She continued, “Contra is so much easier than Swing. I’ve been doing Contra for thirty years and I know both genders, so it’s easy to me. With Contra, it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake or not. It’s just a lot of fun.” I agreed with her, and took a mental note of her easy manner. I looked at Bob again. He seemed calm and shy and sweet and her relaxed vibe might just succeed convince him to go to Contra and live a little on the wild side, I thought.

She said, “I’ll work on Bob for Saturday’s Contra.” She gave me her card and I agreed to call her to confirm our plans. I glanced down and immediately liked the card. I knew Joanne owned a pet pig and that she ran a home-based business but I had no idea she was so diversified. The card read: Hole-in-the-Fence Farm. Grass Fed Lamb and Mutton, Pastured Chickens & Eggs, Icelandic & Wensleydale Fleece, Roving & Yarn. Antibiotic, Hormone & Drug Free.

Wait. I understood all of it except one thing. Roving? As in, “I’ll go a-roving no more”? As in the really old capstan sea chanty about the sailor and the Amsterdam maid whose eyes and perhaps other parts did plenty a-roving of her own? Or did it have something to do with a-roving migration patterns of Icelandic and Wensleydale sheep? Wait. Sheep don’t go a-migratin’. Right. Or, does yarn go a-roving? I was a-gettin’ close. Hmm, I resolved to look it up when I got home. When I drove out of the dark, misty parking lot, I turned on the windshield wipers so I could see better, and noticed Joanne and Bob, who stood, a-chatting in the fog. No doubt she was working on him to come to the Contra Dance Saturday night. I craned my neck and looked upward through the swipes on my windshield and saw a full moon, whose silver circle was frizzy with moisture as it began it’s roving from one blue edge of night to the other. I was at peace.

When I got home, I looked up “roving” in the dictionary. It is wool run through a carding machine, kind of like messy hair being brushed for the first time. After the carding process, the fibers mostly go the same direction, but a few go contrary to the general flow of the yarn, which produces a fuzzy and soft texture. I realized life is like that kind of yarn sometimes, and I hoped the end result would be something interesting, soft, and durable. Oh, the things I learn at dance lessons.

Dance Your Way To Womanhood



The petite Contra Dance caller, Lindsay Dono, took command of the dance floor at the Grange Hall.

“There seem to be more women than men tonight, so some women will have to be pretend men,” she said. “Please decide with your partner,” she continued, “that is, if you are a two women team, which of you will be the man. The gal who chooses to dance the guy’s role will then receive a necktie.”

Great, I thought. Thanks a lot, Lindsey Dono! It’ll be just my luck to be cast in a man’s role tonight. Please don’t make me, please!

Zoe, my new friend and dance partner turned to me and asked, “Who do you want to be, a guy or a gal?” She did not care-after all, she was a seasoned Contra Dancer.

I lied and said, “Oh, I really don’t care.” But I did care, I cared very much! Keep in mind that this was not a big deal up here at Black Diamond Grange Hall. The point of the evening was to have fun and dance the cold, winter night away. No one gave a fig what role you played, man or woman.

“OK, then you be the man and I’ll be the woman,” she said. Gulp, I gulped twice.

“Fine,” I said, but my word did not feel fine. My increased discomfort temporarily sabotaged my mind with thoughts of: I want to find out who the real me is, and, I know for sure I’m not a man, and, I have never been comfortable with role playing, and, I don’t even know how that works, and, I just got done being married to a gay guy for twenty six years and I sure as heck don’t want to be a man, and, I want to dance with a real man! What the heck?

But it was too late for that now. The die was cast. I was given the opportunity to state my preference and I did not take it. What was wrong with me that I was unable to say what I wanted? I felt like Homer Simpson. Doh!

So we danced. We switched partners and danced again and it was a blast. It did not matter one fig that I was the “guy” and after a few minutes I did not care. What mattered was, after getting the hang of the moves, there was a connection with others-eye contact, manners, freedom of movement. Freedom of movement that is, until a man asked me to dance with him.

“Sure,” I said, “but I am used to the guy role.”

“No problem,” he said.” You can switch to a woman and it will be all right.” I believed him because I am a trusting soul and, as it turned out, it was not altogether all right, due to the fact that I got a little “contra” with my “dance.”,  He was patient, as were the others on the dance floor. Luckily, they survived.

Needing a break and some water, I went to the kitchen for a drink and ran into Zoe.

“How are you doing?” She asked.

“Pretty well,” I said, “except I had to switch to a woman and I am terrible at it!”

“Aw, don’t worry,” she said. “Here’s the thing: when you find a man who is really good at being a man, he’ll teach you how to be a woman.”

Black Diamond Road


Because I do better with a plan, I studied the map of Black Diamond Road online beforehand so I wouldn’t get lost. I drove the car to a higher elevation, deep into the bowels of a dark mountain.”Hmm, let’s see,” I said to the poor visibility.There was a life lesson here and I wasn’t going to miss it.

This curvy road, like the relational roads of our various lives, was slick, unlit, misty. A little gleam would have been helpful here. I have found found that, at certain points along the way, my relational road is like the Black Diamond. Unless someone-a parent, a friend, a guide, or if they fail, a paid worker-goes to the trouble of installing a dependable light and actually switches the beam to “on”, I have great difficulty finding my way. Unless, that is, I am able to turn on my inner light…I know it’s in there. Now, if I can just find the switch…” At about that time I considered turning my paid-off car around in the dark because I thought to have missed the place,

I turned on my inner light and reasoned, “It has to be here somewhere. I’m not giving up now.”  I stopped in the middle of the wet road and peered through the rainy windshield. Was this it? Off to the right stood a sign, and on it were the words, “Black Diamond Community Hall.” I could barely make it out for all the cars.


Here in the desolate dark, outside this smallish brown building were parked-and I exaggerate, but work with me here-five thousand six hundred and ninety two vehicles. Mine was the five thousand six hundred and ninety third. I could see that I would have to get creative with the parking.

I walked in, paid my $8, and sat along the chair-lined perimeter of the room. The floors were made of wood, the grain of which led the eye to the front where the musicians stood at the ready on a small stage. The place was packed with people of all ages, shapes, and sizes, and more were still streaming into the hall.

I sat alone and felt awkward. I can do this, right? Until very recently, I was a professional musician in Michigan, a classical pianist and seasoned vocalist, a teacher, a mentor to many. I enjoyed the company of fascinating people, people I loved who loved me back. I ran a successful  music studio, performed extensively in stateside and in Europe with the Detroit Concert Choir. My opera buddy, Patricia, and I had season tickets to the Michigan Opera Theater. I was blessed with two bright, successful children. I enjoyed living inside a custom home with a landscaped yard, and an attached garage.There was one thing, though. The husband was detached.

Wait. The last sentence colored everything else that went before. In truth, those words should have been written first, but sometimes we don’t realize a thing like that until it’s been realized last. This detachment proved, over time, to darken all else that went on inside the house with the attached garage, and it is traceable from the beginning to the end. If I had only had some light then. And here I sat, all singular-like and unknown, unsure, in a new place. In reality, though, I had to admit my current sitch at the Black Diamond Grange Hall was much like the marriage-and I use the term loosely-relationship I left.

“Hi, I’m Zoe!” A young woman extended her hand. “Is this your first night?” My negative thoughts were ejected right out of the cockpit of my mind.

“Yes, why, yes, it is, Zoe.” And I introduced myself to her.

“Would you like to be my partner tonight?” This was a lucky stroke. What was I supposed to say? “Uh, no, thanks, I enjoy sitting alone on the sidelines?”

“Absolutely!” I said. “I have no clue what I’m doing.”

“No worries,” she said. “I’ll be your partner and I’ll help you. It’s easy and fun. You can do it!”

Well, shoot dang, maybe I could, with that kind of encouragement!