Me: I think we should take dance lessons.
Husband: Really? *long silence* Are we going to a wedding or something?
Me: *pointed look*
Husband: *put-upon sigh* Fine. But I am not doing anything to set this up.
That was four years ago. Our dance instructor teaches in a semester format, and by December of our first semester, my husband was already asking what kind of dance would be offered the following January and where we could buy dance shoes. He went from feeling like he was suffering through something on my behalf to loving a new activity. That is the first reason we dance – it is something totally different than anything else we do, and we love it.
Our second reason is for the dates. Not just the few times we have scheduled someone else to watch the kids so we can go to a bar or dance hall, but the lessons themselves. This is dedicated time together with other adults. No kids allowed. I love my children, but with my two chatterboxes around it is hard to get a word in edgewise – especially if my husband and I want to talk to each other. For one hour every week during classes, we are together. And you have to touch. It can be just holding hands for a swing class, or sultry looks for cha-cha, or a lot more for tango, but there is an intimacy in dance that we often forget. Or, more likely, simply do not make time for in our daily lives. Between work, laundry, homework, more laundry, making dinner, and a million other little things, I often get to the end of the week and wonder how much time I spent actually being with my husband. (If one of us is snoring, it does not count.) When we dance, we don’t necessarily even talk much to each other – especially if we are learning something new. It turns out I cannot use motor skills and my motor mouth at the same time. That is okay too. We have time to talk on the drive to and from lessons, and now that the kids are a little older we sometimes have drinks with friends after class. In the middle, we have an entire hour of just being together. Marriage is hard. It is nice to remind myself that I actually like to be with him.
Number three is the exercise. Some dances are more intense than others. An East Coast Swing for three and a half minutes leaves me winded. (Although that might have more to do with my tendency to dust off a bottle of wine more often than my running shoes.) I could tango for twenty minutes without a problem. Usually exercise, at least for me, feels like a chore. Dancing is fun. There are other couples there – a sort of accountability system, because they always ask after us if we miss a class. We laugh. We make funny, and sometimes really terrible, jokes. We, or rather I, typically make a fool of myself at least once. And that is okay. We are learning together. There is at least one new couple in every beginner class I have taken, and some couples that have been dancing for twenty years or more. We all make mistakes. We all have the opportunity to learn, to teach, and to try something new.
For me, there is also a mental component. I have written before about my concern that I may develop Alzheimer’s one day. Dance is also exercise for the mind. There are steps to remember and forms and holds. Studies by the Department of Neurobiology at Harvard and Columbia University have shown that dance increases brain activity, improves memory, and strengthens connections between neurons in the brain.* When I dance, it makes me more physically and mentally healthy. Preventative care for my thighs and my thoughts.
Of course, there are also the clothes. Who doesn’t want excuse to wear fishnets and a feather boa – and still be the most underdressed woman in the room? There are sequins and fringe and even ridiculous costumes. Because, when dancing, flamboyant is never ridiculous.
It isn’t for everyone. There are plenty of couples and singles who have come for a few lessons and then do not return. But the majority stay. Basic East Coast Swing one semester. Country two-step the next. Then maybe take time off as life gets busy before picking up another class again. There is always the opportunity to find a new passion in your life, and maybe remember the passion in your marriage too.
As my instructor often says, “It doesn’t get any better than this.”
If you are interested in dance Central Nebraska, there are classes offered in Lexington, Kearney, Grand Island, Holdrege, and many other communities. Structured dances are held all year long across the state, from Miller to Grand Island, and there are plenty of places with good dance floors – or even really wide aisles – where you can try out your moves.
For dance information in Kearney – check out Kearney Park and Rec