The lyrics from a song written in 1935 by Irving Berlin eloquently declare “and I seem to find the happiness I seek when we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek.” It was famously performed by the dynamic dancing duo of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
I recently watched a performance of that same song from the unlikely pairing of Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. It’s an indication of just how enduring those words are.
Is it the music that’s producing a resurgence in ballroom dancing? Not exactly.
Truth be told, it’s the popularity of TV shows that introduce us to dances like the foxtrot, mambo, waltz and tango. There are entire generations of us that can twist and shout, but aren’t altogether sure which hand to hold when asking a partner to slow dance.
And dancing cheek to cheek might have an altogether different meaning to those familiar with twerking.
That’s why I was intrigued on a recent Sunday afternoon to see so many cars in a nondescript West Ashley strip mall. After pulling in to investigate, I found these cars were parked outside a dance studio. Inside, people were ballroom dancing.
Who knew so many folks were looking for reasons to rhumba?
Rachele Shearme, 64, lives by a credo: “You are never too old to live happily ever after.” In the past five years she’s undergone hip and knee replacements. That’s both hips and both knees. She now takes dance lessons at least once a week at Ballroom Dancing Charleston, which is located in West Ashley’s Pierpont area.
Shearme says her fellow students range from teenagers to retired. Two months ago, she was a total beginner, just hoping not to embarrass herself. Now, besides learning to foxtrot, she’s added a swing class to her schedule.
Samantha Hunzinger, 25, is an oncology nurse at MUSC. She works three 12-hour shifts at the hospital each week and teaches dance when she’s not attending to patients.
Some of her students are merely wedding couples hoping to survive the first dance. Others simply want to look like they know what they’re doing.
Hunzinger teaches ballroom dancing to 4-year-olds who want to compete as well as to 90-year-olds who want to be active.
The entire notion of stepping out on the dance floor for a waltz can be intimidating. Nobody wants to embarrass themselves or their partner. We all want to glide gracefully, both on the dance floor and through life.
Here’s the thing, though. It can’t happen if you don’t take the first step.
Remember the Bette Midler song? “It’s the heart afraid of breaking, that never learns to dance. It’s the dream afraid of waking that never takes a chance.”
We all probably care too much about what people think. Dancing shouldn’t carry that extra baggage. It’s that moment that allows freedom of expression while enjoying our lives and the people in it.
Perhaps the greater message here is not to run to the nearest dance studio for a lesson, but rather just to take a moment to enjoy each other’s company. And more than that: Don’t be so worried about what people will think if you do try something that’s a little out of your comfort zone.
Here’s an Irish toast that seems to best sum it all up:
May you work like you don’t need the money,
Love like you’ve never been hurt,
And dance like no one is watching.
Reach Warren Peper at firstname.lastname@example.org