Every month, The Folklore Society of Greater Washington hosts an evening of American square dancing in St. Stephen’s Episcopalian Church near Columbia Heights. This is some good ol’ fashioned foot-stomping, rollicking, barn-shaking dancing, complete with a live band and caller. The caller was, after the fiddler, the most appreciated person in the room as everyone would otherwise have gotten completely lost between the many turns, lefts and rights and general hopping around in squares and circles.
Jolly dancers sitting down to receive instructions. Lovely blurry photo.
As a novice I quickly realised that the dancing experience became exponentially better better the older my partner was. So I made it a rule to only dance with men over 50. Then at least one of us would know what was happening and where we were going. My best partner was without a doubt a man in his early seventies. I think his name was Bill. Dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt with a red handkerchief in his back pocket, this old fox learned barn dancing at school in his native Maryland. And boy, did the man know what he was doing!
Our improvised barn reached boiling point and I stepped outside for some fresh air with Bill. This was on the 22nd of June, the night of the super moon and warm, gentle evening. Bill suddenly looked me square in the eyes and asked :”Can I take you for a spin?” nodding towards his motorcycle parked next to the church. High on dance-endorphins and moonlight I almost hopped on his bike, but, alas, reason stepped in and I kindly declined. I am not the kind of girl to go on moonlit bike rides with strange men. At least not when they’re in their seventies.
Some liquid courage for the shy stomper, served in a mason jar.
Boots that are made for dancing:
I carried on home solo and very very sweaty after the last dance and met two marines on the metro. We were going to the same pizza place so we chatted and compared our evenings. They had been to the cinema and seen the awful Man of Steel and were jealous of my dancing escapades. They were from Maryland and Virginia respectively and used to square dance back home. It turned out that they were both body bearers, meaning that when a soldier falls, they carry the casket to the funeral, wraps the flag, hands it over to the family and then shoots in salut. Thinking that this was a rather somber business to be in I quickly asked how long they were required to do that, as it in my mind seemed like something perhaps every marine has to go through to understand the importance of life, or something. They looked at me in chock and simply said: “Ma’am, it’s an honour”, i.e. this is their full-time chosen occupation. We chatted for a while whilst waiting for our pizzas and then I bid them good night.
The evening was far too beautiful to stay indoors so I called Brian to come and join me downstairs for some pizza on the moonlit benches. Reluctantly he dragged his ass downstairs and kept me company. The local DC cockroach population were of similar outdoor mood, and Brian did some improvised tap dancing on the aforementioned cockroaches during our evening stroll. Ah! Sweet, sweet summer memories!