Anyone who has ever taken dancing lessons will know that dancing with other people is an occupational hazard. I adore our lessons and go with my husband, but we are invariably obliged to change partners to practise the different moves. I brace myself before moving on down the line, knowing in advance which men will smell of garlic, which will have the remnants of that last nip of whisky on their breath and those who have clothes that smell like they’ve just come out of a box in the loft.
Some hold me (too) close, pulling me to them and running their hand down my back as though checking to see if I’m wearing a bra. Others will hold me at arms length with seeming distaste. As we await the music, I unintentionally judge the feeling of their skin. There are those who have unnaturally silky soft hands. Others have the rough skin of a manual worker with fingers that will exfoliate mine during a waltz.
Talent, luckily for me, is not a prerequisite to dance. I greatly admire the few men who are touched by divine intervention and glide like Gallic angels, but the majority move you across the floor with the precision of an elephant on roller skates.
There is THE one however that I dread more than all the others. Although he knows all his steps perfectly, he is as delicate as a woodcutter with a chainsaw. In his arms, any woman is a simple lump of wood to be cut into pieces and transferred from one side of the clearing to the other. During the last lesson we practised a particularly tricky move in the tango and I was awaiting my turn with trepidation. As I watched him, I was suddenly hit by the memory of myself as a little girl. I had been playing with my dolls – putting them through their paces in a make believe gymnastics competition. One sentence kept running through my mind:
“Mum! Barbie’s arm has come off, but I didn’t do it on purpose. Honest!”