Thursday, November 6, 2008

I Hope You Dance

This past weekend we were able to attend a wedding reception.

Yes, we did actually plan on attending the wedding itself as well, but that involves driving on the road that goes to the wedding, and not on the ones that don't. By the time we had realized the error in our collective navigation and were able to reroute ourselves to the appropriate location, we were just in time for the reception and had completely missed the wedding. I would have said we were lost, but we were able to turn around and retrace our route...

And truly, other than enduring many more renditions of "when are we going to get there?" it was a wonderful scenic drive through the Alabama country side - watching the landscape roll by in an endless tapestry of rustic autumn colors.

In addition to enjoyable conversations with friends and the generally fun atmosphere of a wedding reception (which in this case also included the first fireworks and fire-engine sendoff for a bride and groom I have ever seen) there was dancing at the reception.

I grew up not knowing the first thing about dancing. When my schools had dances I would just not go. And if I did happen to be at one, I would spend my time wishing I'd actually ask someone to dance. But I almost never did. Standing on the side of a dance floor, watching other people dance, and kicking yourself for not having the courage to ask is an absolutely miserable way to spend a couple hours of your life.

Later on, during my time at the Colorado School of Mines (in Golden), the Campus Crusade for Christ group at the University of Colorado in Boulder would host an annual "50's" dance at CU's huge Glenn Miller ballroom. It was a lavishly done "big deal." Hundreds upon hundreds of students would flock to the ballroom decked in their poodle skirts, black rimmed glasses and other 50's garb and swing dance into the night.

A contingent from "Mines" would drive the 20 or so miles up the road to join in the festivities as well. My housemates at the time then asked "The Question" - would I go with them to the dance?

"Why not?"
"I can't dance"
"Oh, come on you'll love it"
"No, I'll hate it"
"I can't dance"

And then came the kicker: "What if we teach you to dance, will you come then?"

"What? You can't teach me to dance"

"That's not the question, If we teach you to dance, will you come?"
"But you can't"
"That's not the question"
"If we teach you, will you come?"
"There's no way you can teach me to dance"
"Stop dodging the question: if we teach you to dance, will you come?"
"If you can teach me to dance you'll have done a miracle, it can't be done"
"So, you'll come?"
"IF, you can teach me, and I don't think you can"

Thus began Rob's Inaugural Dance lessons. We pushed back the couches in the living area of the house we were in, and a couple of the girls from our "Mines" Campus Crusade group came up to provide "partners" for the swing dance class. My housemates then worked to teach me "Swing Dancing 101." It was actually remedial swing dancing because I was truly terrible. I stepped (hard) on my partners feet, randomly went the wrong way, had zero sense of timing and was just flat bad. The ultimate was when I planted an awkwardly flailed elbow on my partners chin hard enough to bring tears to her eyes.

Everything stopped for several minutes with me and my housemates wondering if she'd still be willing to continue on as a partner to the swing dance crash test dummy...

Amazingly, in spite of the bumps and bruises, she persevered through a few more nights of dance training. And wonders of wonders it sank in! The whole swing thing actually began to make sense. I certainly wasn't a dancing wonder, but I was able to follow the beat and lead correctly through various swing steps/moves and could chain enough moves together to make swing dancing a very enjoyable activity.

And we went up to the 50's dance and had a great time. I even asked a few people to dance and they did (actually shocking to me.) A most enjoyable part was watching what other people were doing and then trying to copy them or to ask them to teach that particular step or move. Once I had the basic skills, adding to my repertoire wasn't hard, it was in fact really fun.

And now, because of those friend's encouragement, and my - however grudging - willingness to branch out and learn something new and awkward and uncomfortable. I was able to (I got to!) request some swing music at a wedding reception and could dance with my wife and one of my daughters. I was able to dance with my wife at our own wedding reception. And I was able to take her dancing when we were dating - some of our most enjoyable memories.

It brought to mind the words of a semi country/pop song of a few years ago sung by Lee Ann Womack called "I Hope You Dance." A stanza in that song goes something like this:

I hope you still feel small When you stand by the ocean
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens
Promise me you'll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

If you are given an opportunity that you aren't comfortable with, but the discomfort isn't due to the morality of the situation (God says "No"), some innate danger, or other obvious problem (my parents said "No"): Give the opportunity a chance.

To not try things merely because of timidity, embarrassment, awkwardness and so on, will drastically suction the enjoyment out of life. Are there calls for prudence and discernment? Absolutely. Live your life with wisdom. But step out of fear. Perfect love casts out fear. Try something and you might fail. But don't try, and you've failed by default.

And who knows, you may even learn to dance.

I hope you dance.


Anna Naomi said...

I went to the swing dance club last night, which was fun! We learned a basic side-step-side and rocking step that I forget the name of, and the "Lindy Hop." I now see why a lot of people enjoy swing dancing - it's fun! I've always enjoyed watching you and Mrs. Trisha dance it.

Great post as well. It's always a good reminder to step out of your comfort zone. It's hard, but usually well worth it.

Rob said...

I actually know what none of the swing steps or moves are called! I definately agree that swing dancing is a "fun" dance. It's also highly aerobic (i.e. it's a workout in and of itself)
Thank you for your comment on the post. I grew up taking great care to stay in my comfort zone - and it is a very lonely, very "vanilla" place to be.

Lydia said...

I really like the encouragement to step out and try things, even if you they are out of your comfort zone. You are right, many times timidity and fear keep us from the enjoyment of life. Yes, we should exercise wisdom but don't let timidity make you loose great opportunities.

Mrs. Hart said...

Quite thought-provoking, Rob. Quite true. I so appreciate your transparency. Would that all of us could overcome the "fear of man" and "dance".

Another favorite song of mine is called How You Live / Turn Up the Music.
Check it out at:

There used to be another really wonderful video/slide show with this song but it's not on youtube anymore. The above link will let you hear the song and read the lyrics, though.

Mrs. Hart said...

Ah, here it is! Watch this:

Rob said...

My transparency is usually covered in mud. I had never heard the song you referenced before, and it does (beautifully) hit the heart of the matter. Thanks for sharing the link and also taking the time to comment.

I agree that great opportunities are there for the taking. And if they don't come out exactly as planned - there's usually a great story you can share as a result. (And I am all for a good story.)

Which reminds me that we haven't done "Stew & Story" for a couple years...

Victoria said...

Rob, I had meant to comment sooner, but might have missed reading the other comments ! Blogging is such a good way to keep up with all of y'all "family members" !
JP & I have wanted to learn to dance together for a long time. It was fun to actually try a little at Joel's wedding. You and Trisha and the others as well were an encouragement. Loved the song, how about a dance for "Turn Up the Music", Anna? :) Love, Victoria L.

Rick said...


I can totally picture you & Pat & Dave & the other Dave in Golden. Wasn't Trisha one of the volunteers?

Rick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob said...

I think Trisha might have come up one time. But the person I clocked in the chin was Michelle.