Notes from the Ballroom

by Jessica

Ballroom Dancing

“There was a moment of total silence… One of the other students turned to me and said, “You killed our teacher.” This was an exaggeration. Ms. Wilhelmina was not dead. She was moving one of her arms in a very healthy way when Jasper carried her out.”

Dear Readers,

Spring is here! Not technically, but nearly. The streets of Portland are lined with clouds of white blossoms from flowering trees, and I’ve made friends with a very fat squirrel who lives in the tree outside my writing room. In celebration (and to make up for last week’s somewhat dismal post) I’m posting a more cheerful piece today. This was written in my post college days, as I explored various extracurricular activities. There is more to this piece, so if you like it, let me know and I’ll post the rest. Or if you prefer more serious writing (or something in between) I have plenty of that too.

Have a wonderful Monday,


Notes from the Ballroom

First day of Ballroom Dancing Class. To kick off the class, our teacher gave us a speech on the importance of being graceful in a consumer culture. She called me up to the front of the room to help her demonstrate the first dance we’ll be learning, which is the Charleston. As I was going up the steps, I somehow tripped over the microphone cord, tangled a loop of it around my neck, and fell off the stage. It was an accident; I am not sure how it happened. Fortunately, I was not killed. I could have been killed if the stage was higher. I could very easily have been caught by the cord around my neck and choked to death. I felt that the class was less than concerned about my personal safety. One end of the wire I tripped over was attached to our dancing teacher’s headset, which was attached to her head, and when I tripped, she went flying through the air, fell off the stage, and landed motionless on the ground.

There was a moment of total silence, the kind of silence you hear when you’ve hiked to the top of a hill in the middle of the countryside somewhere, and you cannot even hear the sound of traffic, or birds singing. Then the teaching assistant (whose name is Jasper) hurried off the stage and carried the teacher (whose name is Ms. Wilhelmina) out of the room.

One of the other students turned to me and said, “You killed our teacher.”

This was an exaggeration. Ms. Wilhelmina was not dead. She was moving one of her arms in a very healthy way when Jasper carried her out. However, she did not return, and eventually our dance class fragmented into small, whispering clusters. I stood by myself. No one wanted to be in my cluster. Finally, Jasper came back and told us that Ms. Wilhelmina is okay. She will be back in class tomorrow. Hopefully, that class will go better.


Tuesday. I am not sure that my nerves can take much more of this ballroom dancing. I only signed up for this class because I needed two more units for the semester, to fill out my schedule at the junior college. There were not many two unit classes available. In the end it was either Ballroom Dancing, or Auto Shop for the Mechanically Challenged. The first option sounded like the more exciting of the two. But as the semester progresses, I question whether I might not be more cut out to become a challenged auto mechanic than a ballroom dancer. It is not as glamorous-sounding, but not all of us were cut out for lives of glamour. Some people were intended to skim through life in a silk dress and a fur coat, being hounded by the media, whereas others of us were really meant to spend most of our lives lying on our backs all day, being mostly covered up by a truck.  I may belong to the second category. I am not sure yet.

One immediate problem with this class became apparent as soon as we walked in the door: there is a gender imbalance. In a class of approximately seventy-five students, only nine are male. No one put it into words, but there was a lot of tension in the female-heavy area of the room. Sixty-six women of all ages eyed the men like predators choosing prey. Still not clear which of us will get partners. You might think that the younger girls would have the advantage, but I looked the older women over today and some of them look like they could knock those younger girls senseless. I wouldn’t place any bets. The woman standing next to me, who seemed to be in her late fifties, wore a wife beater showing off shoulder muscles that have clearly bench pressed many, many thousands of pounds over the course of many, many years. After saying her name (which was Elsie) at role call, she narrowed her eyes at the men and cracked her knuckles. The men (who based on appearance only could never justifiably have expected to see sixty-six women fighting over them) looked frightened.

“Line up for the Viennese Waltz,” said our dancing teacher, and a woman in an cutoff T-shirt began to sock one fist rhythmically into her other hand, with a sound like Thwack! Thwack! She had abdominal muscles like you wouldn’t believe. This is an extremely butch ballroom dancing class. 

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