Harry Potter and the Country Western Dance Craze

Harry Potter dancing with Parvati PatilCan you imagine Harry Potter doing the Two Step? I cannot. I have no idea of what kind of dance the kids do in the fourth Harry Potter movie, but it looks vigorous. I wonder, every time I watch it, how many girls went flying across the room as their partners hoisted them high in the air and lost control.

The first time I ever took a dance class, so far as I can recall, was in the fourth grade. I was madly in love with a cute girl named Cathy Hutto. I had watched her shyly for months and never once could think of a thing to say to her. 9-year-old boys aren’t supposed to be infatuated with girls, but I was infatuated with Cathy.

Well, one day our class was introduced to Square Dancing. Through machinations I no longer recall, Cathy turned out to be my partner. I was in hog heaven, sitting on cloud nine, flying high, and soaring free. Had I only known then what I know now, I probably could have made her my girlfriend. I think, as I recall those memories, that she actually liked me.

Can’t imagine why.

But we danced together. Yes, Cathy was my first dancing partner. I’ll always remember her short brown hair, her deep dark eyes, and her skinny arms. She was also my first Girl Scout dream girl. Up until that year, I had only been infatuated with the occasional Brownie Scout (which may not make sense for people outside the United States — I don’t know what the equivalent scouting ranks are called elsewhere in the world).

Except for the fact that I got to hold hands with the girl I had been drooling over for months, not much else stayed with me from that Square Dancing lesson. If you’re a teacher thinking about giving the kids a Square Dancing (or any kind of dancing) lesson next year, here’s a hint: Give them a weekly dance period. Sounds like a lot of work, but my romance died before I could needlessly connive my way into the girl’s heart.

Not that 9-year-olds need to be serious about that sort of thing, but I was crushed not to have had more time to spend with a girl who usually sat on the far side of the room from me. We want what we cannot have.

The next time I took a Square Dancing class, I was in college. For reasons I don’t recall, I was avoiding a real physical education class. I had taken a First Aid class, a bowling class, and managed to drop out of a Volley Ball class. So I needed one more P.E. class to get my P.E. credits lined up and one quarter despite all my best attempts to arrange a decent schedule, I ended up taking … Square Dancing.

It’s hard to be the only man in a class with 30 women who don’t want to dance with each other. The first day of class, as the teacher was laying out the rules, she neglected to mention how I would be partitioned, shared, or otherwise circulated among the ladies. So she said, “Ladies, grab a partner!”

Next thing I know, a gorgeous girl named Paige came running across the room to grab me (she was taken, but by the end of the quarter, so was I — by a girl not in the class). The teacher immediately sensed the drawing of claws as shrieks of anger and disappointment rang out. “Everyone will have to share the only male partner in the class,” she cried out. “And Michael, please make sure you dance with each of the ladies.”

BTW — that class was a major workout. Did I say I was avoiding a “real” P.E. class? Hah!

I did, actually, have a favorite girl in that class. Her name was Joanna, and if I had had sense, I would have found a reason to talk to her a little more often. I could have dated her. I should have dated her.

Alas! It was not meant to be.

Now, Square Dancing is a bit more formal than what most people think of as Country Western Dancing. Around Houston, people usually associate C W Dancing with Two Step or maybe some line dances. We did learn line dances in that class. I wish I could remember them, as I’m terrible at line dances. But they have probably long since gone out of fashion.

Oddly enough, when I go to the Chinese Cultural Center with my friend Maggie, there is an inevitable line dance or two. Why? I have no idea. Those people just love to dance and they don’t care what the style is. So one minute you’ll see people sweeping across the floor in a graceful Viennese Waltz and the next they’re lining up with their thumbs in their belts, yellin’ “Yeehaw! Git along leetle dogies!”

Imagine Jackie Chan in a western movie — a serious western movie — and you’ll get an idea of what I mean.

It’s all about having fun, of course. And if you can enjoy being rigid and plastic while doing a tango with a complete stranger, you can enjoy a relaxed spin around the room for a Two Step.

My friend Geno asked me tonight if I thought he could learn Two Step. I think he knows enough basic dance moves that he could pick it up pretty quickly. I don’t often dance Two Step myself but I learned the basics a couple of years ago to get ready for a sort of test date. I say “test date” because at the time I wasn’t sure I wanted to be seeing the person I’d agreed to meet at a local C W dance bar. She reminded me too much of someone from my past.

But agree I did, and I popped into Gloria’s dance schedule in panic, asking if she could give me a primer on basic Two Step. I had seen Gloria do some fancy dancing with another teacher, so I knew she could handle the request. Gloria had, by that time, been teaching me for about a year (I think) and I guess she knew I wasn’t quite ready for (Two Step) prime time.

The planned-for evening went off about as well as it should. I soon after decided not to pursue the lady, but I didn’t completely write off Two Step. It’s a pretty dance when done right and can be downright vigorous.

I’ve stood in on a couple of Two Step classes in Houston that Gloria has arranged for students. By “stand in”, I mean I know just enough to follow a good backlead from a teacher who needs someone to demonstrate basic moves. I was able to lead a beginner about as well as any other beginning man in the room.

So while I may write mostly about Salsa dancing and occasionally about Ballroom Dancing, I don’t think poorly of C W Dancing. I just don’t fit that into my schedule. I’ve made my choices and that’s that, but you never know. I might end up with another country girl who wants a man who can whirl her around the room. Next time, I’ll be a little better prepared than when I was in the fourth.

Happy dreams, Cathy, wherever you are.