It is not the kind of column one usually pursues. There was no edge to it, no compelling plot, no dynamic of change. It’s about a lot of dance lovers with bundles of accelerated energies, whirling, stomping and laughing, doing it right, doing it wrong, and doing it again. They flung themselves about with a guilt-free exuberance that was contagious on any given night. Couples travel to West LA, Sherman Oaks, Glendale, even San Fernando Valley to find a dance floor and share their passion for dancing. They glide across the dance floors where intermittent stroke lights flash, in a technological novelty that makes the dancers appear to hover magically in the air.
Guided only by the hypnotic and sometimes intensely raucous rhythm of cha cha or salsa, hip swaying mambo, the electrical vivacity of swing and the once disreputable dance called tango. Tango is a century old, originated in Argentina brothels meant to be the apotheosis of Seduction — basically sex with your clothes on: when dancers tore up the floor in “Jealousy” or “Orchids Bloom in the Moonlight” replete with a power struggle that saw couples wipe the stage with each other, ending in a spectacular frieze of yearning.
It may take two to tango but it also takes magical foot work: slender legs darting in and around each other seemingly faster than the eye can behold, daring dips and precision. All of this and more make a night blurry of beauty in deft motion. To sit in the flickering hall, watching the dancers lose themselves in music that transcends cultural orientation, color or creed as they share their passion for dancing.
The dance floor becomes a Cupid’s lair with its universally understood gesture. A man and woman meet on the dance floor, a silent romance begins, mysterious and suggestive, with no words spoken but replaced by the harmony of two souls simply seeking the dance of love.
It brings everyone together from home — painters, chefs, plain housewives, working mothers young or old. Once you connect to the other person, it brings you to another world in a dance studio. There is neither room nor time for intrigues or gossip. Just wonderful music, dancing and fun.
The unbridled happiness was in contrast to the outside world, where violence burned like that hunger. When elderly folks live in fear, even hunger who knows that life is not all sweetness for some of the energetic dancers in the twilight of their years. Opulence was never an assurance to happiness, loneliness is a curse whether you’re young or old. But the total involvement of dancing momentarily frees them from all that. The dream dances from realities that imprison them. Dancers threw themselves in the dance with unrestricted steps of enchanted creatures whirling in the wind, almost like magical fun that doesn’t attempt to encourage discipline, nor the pursuit of excellence through dancing, but self-expressions of even simply jumping up and down the rhythm.
Dancing can be intense, joyful, a redemption as well as escape. It is just like the ballet classes I once had with the famed Ricardo Cassell. I was 10 years old and unhappy — that point when total and utter bliss was a rare condition limited to moments in childhood and began to fade. The world beyond dancing opened up to growing up, fraught with peril.
Ballroom dancers have flourished here. It afforded fantasies that took them where no one hurts, just everyone dancing, weaving their way through and around a cramped dance floor where even the heart dances, grabbing any available space to maneuver where you’re free to crash into anyone. You can humiliate yourself further, with eccentric senescence (fortified by red wine) and acrobatics, greeted with laughters until you fall face down.
But I feel my circle of friends would diminish sharply, if I did that!
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