“Are you ready?” He asks.
I hesitate. There are so many people watching us. So many eyes—some belonging to my friends, others to acquaintances, and few(I can’t reckon how many) to those who don’t like me (some unbeknownst to me, others apparent—their faces indicate as much). “A little nervous,” I say, “but I’m ready.”
1. Closed Position. Face your partner. If you are the leader, put your right hand on your partner’s waist. To maximize body contact, fix your right hand to your partner’s back. Clasp your partner’s left hand with your own and extend your arm, gracefully, away from your body.
“I don’t know what I’m doing,” I say. My last foray onto the dance floor ended in embarrassment.
He laughs. “It’s okay,” he says. “I don’t either, really.” He takes the leader’s position. He places his hand on my back.
2. First Beat. As leader, step forward on the first beat—delicately—with your left foot. Your partner will mirror your movement.
My heart beats in my head. My palm is in his, and our hands are sticky with sweat. It’s the nerves, partially; infatuation, possibly; passion, definitely. There are a few others dancing in the ballroom tonight, some more gracefully than others. The other duos note our entry to the dance floor, and the veterans smile at us as they glide by, ever so elegantly, with their partners. They nod in welcome. I smile back at them, nervously.
I focus on the audience occupying the perimeter of the dance floor more than on my partner; they watch our movements and quietly judge our form. They whisper to one another and sometimes giggle. I can’t tell whether they’re laughing because they’re happy to see us dancing, or because they think we shouldn’t be.
He steps on my foot on the first beat. It’s my fault. “I’m sorry,” I say.
3. An Upside-Down “L.” With the very next beat, move one step forward and to the right with your right foot. Think of this as an upside-down “L.” You’ll trace the letter in the air, gracefully, and not too high, before touching the floor once again.
It’s hot here. Don’t they have air conditioning? Can people see me sweating? Why aren’t we dancing as well as the others?
“You’re distracted,” he says and holds me tighter. “Don’t worry about everybody else.”
“We didn’t practice much before we came,” I offer.
“No, we didn’t,” he responds, moving me through other motions. I stumble on a few beats, he does so on others. “But we’re here,” he says.
“I’m afraid I’m messing this up. Many people are better at this than I am.”
“I’d rather dance with nobody else.”
4. Final Beat. On the final beat, slide your right foot to your left foot until your feet are together. Now you’re ready to start over with your left foot.
We’ve somehow glided—stumbled, rather—into the middle of the floor, the ballroom veterans still smiling in silent encouragement, the audience still judging, but now more lost in conversations about other newcomers’ performances on the floor.
There are duos that have come onto the floor—and left—since we arrived. There are a couple of tries at a trio, but such a waltz cannot exist, and their attempts end quickly. They’ll take their style to another hall.
“I hope this doesn’t jinx us, but I do believe we’re improving,” he whispers as we enter the second movement.
It occurs to me when he says this that all the smiling couples around us, those who dance the best, are perhaps smiling at us not only because they hope we’ll get the hang of it, but because, for them, it’s nostalgic. The most graceful dancers, I posit, are those with the most practice, of course, but those who have also stumbled the most.
I notice, too, that some of the premature departures from the dance floor danced perfectly well through one or two movements, and then abruptly left—sometimes in pursuit of a new partner, other times due plainly to a loss of interest.
We pay no mind, and my partner and I move now through the second movements, haphazardly, awkwardly, brilliantly…
Our very own Waltz for a Honeymoon.