It was at a party at the newly co-ed Williams College where I slipped on a beer-soaked dance floor.
I came down hard, twisting my right knee, while dancing to the song “Sympathy for the Devil” (raise your hands in the air, woo, woo! woo, woo!). A slightly torn meniscus that has always bothered me.
But that has never stopped me from dancing.
It may come as a surprise to those who remember me as the winner of “the most uncoordinated person we have ever had in the 8th grade” gym class prize, but I like to dance. No ballet or ballroom, just your old-fashioned, bar mitzvah, wedding, party-style dancing to rock music. The music comes on and I am one of the first leading my husband by the hand onto the dance floor.
Not that anyone has ever called me a good dancer. When I was in high school, I spent a summer living with a family in Mexico as an exchange student. We went to a quinceañera party where a boy I danced with told me I danced “como un arbol”, like a tree. Not a compliment. But I like to say that what I lack in elegance on the dance floor, I make up for in enthusiasm.
This is where my husband’s eyes will roll when he reads this.
JP is the better dancer in our family, I admit. He can follow choreographed steps, I cannot. Probably because of his family traditions in the Macedonian region of Northern Greece where they do circle dances called “oro”. These are similar to but more complex than the Jewish hora of my heritage. And by the time my husband became officially Jewish some 15 years after we married (what can I say? sometimes he is a s-l-o-w learner), he had long since picked up the steps to the hora with ease.
Last summer my husband was asked by his best friend to lead the traditional Macedonian wedding bread dance at his daughter’s wedding held on a family farm. This was one of the most lovely weddings I have ever attended.
We spent the night dancing to a terrific rock dance band imported from Chicago playing inside a huge tent next to the lit-up red barn and the corn fields.
Late in the evening, the father of the bride grabbed the mike and announced that we would be doing the bread dance in honor of the bride’s 91-year-old grandfather and his elderly aunts who sat beaming from the side of the very crowded dance floor. So to a taped recording of a Macedonian folk song, my husband, holding a white napkin aloft in his right hand, led the dancers, all holding hands, while someone else held the circular-shaped bread in the air over the heads of the happy couple.
(Note: The bread they used that night looked suspiciously like a Jewish challah. Perhaps it was one. Sometimes I think the Macedonians copied pretty much everything from us?)
I joined in the dance, trying to keep up, but my feet only knew how to do the hora. Dancing next to me was the bride’s aunt who actually knew how to do the oro. My right foot was obviously in the wrong place when her left foot came down on mine. Big bruise the next day, I’m fine now. No apology needed, Karen; it was my fault.
When you get older, said a recent article in the Washington Post, you may have to modify your prior physical activities. If you could run a marathon when you were in you twenties, then as you age, perhaps you can only do a half-marathon. Not a concern for me; no marathons in my past or future. But my knee still bothered me, so I went to see an orthopedist who asked me if I knew that my knee problem was aggravated by the limited range of motion I had in my right hip? News to me.
A physical therapist then gave me a set of exercises. Which I am mostly doing. She told me not to take up running (phew) and then reassured me that neither my knee injury nor my inflexible hip will prevent me from lighting up the dance floor at all the future weddings and parties I plan to attend.
Which is good. Because I don’t intend to give up dancing.
My husband’s office is having its’ annual New Year’s dinner and dance in late January. I will be the one moving awkwardly but with great enthusiasm, dancing the night away like the mature tree I now am. Think of dancing as a metaphor for aging. I don’t dance gracefully. I don’t plan to age gracefully either.