Monday, May 21, 2007

you just can't square dance on the beach

A recent conversation with H revealed that an integral part of my physical education--the Square Dance--was not a part of the curriculum where he went to school in California. I was appalled to hear that fourth-graders out there weren't forced to devise methods of partner dancing without actually touching their cootie-infested counterparts. How else do kids learn the complex techniques that make for the stilted, awkward interactions they call *relationships* in junior high? Maybe that's why people in California are so very laid back; they don't know how to Do-si-do.

Secretly, I've always sort of enjoyed the Square Dance. There's a comfort in knowing what's supposed to come next, even if it's being coming at you from an LP of a livestock auctioneer. When you go to a nightclub, you're pretty much feeling the music and trying to move your body in such a way that other people won't feel the need to gather around you in mockery. You're constantly evaluating your own ridiculousness, holding back your real rhythmic impulses to make room for safe practices like the step-together, step-together. And you're covertly evaluating everyone else, too. That's a lot of work. Which is probably why it doesn't usually happen without professional training. Or alcohol.

But with Elementary School Square Dancing, the pressure is off. Five-hand Star? I think I remember the gym teacher explaining that one. Swing Your Partner 'Round and 'Round? His hand on my back? No way. Promenade Around the Square? Ok, I just have to get through holding his hand for exactly 3.5 seconds, and it'll be over until tomorrow.

Gym Class Square Dance isn't completely for the faint of heart. When I was in fifth grade I was partnered with this kid named Mike McCoy, who interpreted "Swing your partner" as "Fling your partner." I found it necessary to wear pants during that entire segment because the kid would spin me around so my body was parallel to the floor and I didn't want the entire class to see my Day Of the Week undies. Because attire is very important in the Square Dance. If you aspire to participate outside of class, you have to dress the part. I once barely gained entrance to the Girl Scouts' Father/Daughter Square Dance only because my navy-blue satin skirt with lace trim had more than three ruffles on it-- my dad must have used his boyish good looks to get in, because he has never owned anything remotely suitable for that kind of jamboree.

Don't get me wrong, I have all kinds of respect for actual Square Dancers. Once you get out of gym class, I understand the configurations can get quite complex and the announcer isn't just on some record the teacher slowed down so we could keep up. I saw a television segment on some serious Square Dancers once, and they meant some serious Square Dance business.

We were forced to learn it for at least one segment every year, from fourth grade until freshman year of high school, right when the idea of holding some boy's hand entirely stops being life-threatening, but long enough to teach you about keeping up appearances, hand-eye-foot--musical beat coordination and working with The Enemy. Looking back, I can't help but feel bad for H because he never got the chance to fling anyone around in the name of Physical Education. I've been asking around, and it seems they didn't teach kids Square Dance in Florida, either. What gives? Coastal people, what did you learn instead? Surfing? Because then I'd have to trade my feeling of superiority for jealousy, because a wet suit seems much cooler than bandannas and leather fringe.

10 comments:

Becky said...

well, it was required in texas, and as a "child actor" in a pioneer variety show (tongue firmly in cheek), i did it every summer for a month from second to eighth grade. my favorite moves were the dip & dive, and the rip & snort. the first one was pretty self-explanatory, with each couple dipping under the arched arms of the next couple and then making an arch of their own for the pattern to continue in a weaving sort of way. but i don't have any idea how they came up with the name for the other one - in fact, i don't even think the move was that great - i just liked the name because it sounded like the hickest, most country thing i had ever heard.

Alexandra said...

yeah...not NY either.. during PE we did normal stuff like pushups... situps.. ? :)

but hey, isn't it lucky H got you to teach him!!?

omar said...

Not all of NY, Alexandra. Upstate, we had to square dance. Though I've blocked out most of the memories.

ML said...

Yeah, I'm with you on respecting square dancers. We had to do that in Elementary school and we were all so grossed out because the girls didn't want to touch the boys and visa versa.

Beenzzz said...

I remember doing square dancing in elementary school. I used to dance with this one kid all the time and I did not like him at all. We became friends the following year though. Anyway, I would stomp on his feet when we were doing the square dance moves. He would just laugh. Ah, the memories.....

naechstehaltestelle said...

They made us learn country line dancing at my school during PE. I'm groaning inside just thinking about it.

Syar said...

I was in the american schooling system for all of 8 months in 2nd grade. We played with stilts and did weird aerobic-interpretive-dance thingy with scarves but not one do-si-do was uttered. Maybe I had to stick around till middle school to experience that.

Jon said...

So I'm curious, when high school rolled around, did everyone revert back to their training at the organized dances? Was your prom full of square dancing?

Alexandra said...

omar - "NY" means: NYC- everything outside of it is just "up state" :)

Lia said...

I'm a coastal person, and I learned square dancing. I'm not sure about gym class, but definitely in summer day camp. We would still our mothers' eyeliners to make freckle patterns on our cheeks.