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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Farewell to graceful era of foxtrot

By Christie Wilson
Advertiser Columnist


The couple alone on the dance floor were probably our age, maybe even a little younger. As the jazz combo moved seamlessly from one number to another, the dancers didn't miss a beat in their well-rehearsed steps.

Seated at a table nearby, my husband and I looked at each other. Yeah, right.

We had managed to bluff our way through the disco era and had been known to do a modest cha-cha back in the day. Now we're just an embarrassment to the children.

I envied that dancing couple, and grew a little sad when I realized the graceful display of rhythm and romance we were observing was likely headed for extinction, disappearing from its natural habitat, available for future study only at community center dance clubs or on those gaudy competitions that appear occasionally on the tube.

What a shame.

While a large segment of my generation may not actually be able to do the foxtrot or the bossa nova, we've seen plenty of it in movies, learned it during P.E. class, and watched our parents and their friends glide around the dance floor at cocktail parties or on other social occasions. It seemed as if everyone of that generation knew how to dance in close quarters with a partner.

My kids, on the other hand, have had virtually no exposure to such civilized cultural practices. Our lifestyle and circumstances don't leave a lot of room for cocktail parties, charity events and other affairs where ballroom dancing is likely to break out.

Besides, I could never get the hang of being pulled around the dance floor, despite my mother's instructions to simply let the guy lead. I felt awkward and off-balance. Instead of tripping the light fantastic, I was just tripping.

Blame it on bad timing. I came of age during the Flower Power revolution, when free-form movement reigned on the dance floor or the mudhole or wherever you happened to find yourself twirling with your arms snaking in the air.

Order was restored with disco, which begat the Hustle, which begat the Electric Slide and later the Macarena. But you didn't need a partner for those impersonal group maneuvers, which I'm happy to say have gone largely extinct, except at high school reunions and senior citizen socials.

Nowadays, dancing cheek-to-cheek doesn't require anything more than grabbing your partner by the seat of their pants and imperceptibly swaying back and forth. You don't even have to move your feet.

While that style of dancing is more befitting of my talents, "May I have this freak?" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Reach Christie Wilson at cwilson@honoluluadvertiser.com.