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When It Matters Most, Put Your Best Foot Forward



Whether live music or recorded, this happened at your first dance and every baby boomer saw it:

Either a friend, classmate, or friend of a friend’s classmate, saw the first dance as the place to make their mark.

Lights dimmed, music started, and one guy, the cool one, stepped out on his own and danced.

No American Bandstand moves for him, no Soul Train steps. No ballroom lessons.

Instead, he unleashes his Joe Cocker Dance School moves.

Chaperones move toward the emergency. Kids move away.

Once they’re sure it’s a dance, not a convulsion, the lights dim and the music rises.

You look at that kid in a new light afterward. You admire his bravery for breaking the ice for the whole school.

Everyone knew they could dance at least as good as him, so they step out and try.

They still step out and give it a swing. There’s hand holding dancing, look away dancing, no-touch dancing.

For the couples, every dance was a slow dance and a chance for the chaperones to whip out the ruler and remind, “Not so close, Bobby. She’s got to breath.”

After a few songs one thing becomes apparent. The guys who had mothers teach them to dance were smooth. They weren’t afraid to ask a girl to dance because they knew it was only a dance, not a commitment ceremony.

Girls liked dancing with them because they didn’t step on toes, kept their breath fresh and minty, and didn’t sweat like the rest with two left feet who smelled like yesterday’s meatloaf.

Today’s Portland baby boomers still dance. says, “Dancing Boomers are Forever Young!”

What’s a dancing boomer look like when photographed unexpectedly? Tony Soprano with a finger pointed at the photographer as if the next dance is The Stomp.

Go to any dance and you’ll see young and old shaking it. Some move like Neil Young fronting Crazy Horse where he shakes his head up and down and prances one foot over his guitar effects like he’s pawing the ground. Forty years on stage and he’s still keeping as real as the first.

How fun is dancing?

This boomer took lessons from a Brooklyn cowboy teaching the Texas Two Step in Sherwood. After a few weeks of confidence building my wife and I double dated with another couple at a big dance floor.

I panicked and reverted to Joe Cocker, stepping in all the wrong places until my partner quit on me. Back at the table she poured what I thought was a glass of beer on my head.

There we were, country dancing in the country and pouring beer. After I poured one on her head the other couple decided it was time to go.

On the drive home from Yamhill we started laughing in the back seat. My wife had poured water on my head, so I apologized for escalating with a beer shower and we got the giggles.

Our friends thought we were lighting a fuse to a big blow up. I explained what I thought was a normal night of Texas Two Step. Beer shower? Why not?

We’ve taken dance lessons since, but haven’t hit the floor to try them out yet. How about you? Any dance disasters to share?

Do it for Joe.

About David Gillaspie
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