WEST COAST SWINGNoblesse Oblige


One Woman's Dance Story
As told to Louise Bretz

I’ve always thought it was real important to dance with Beginners. Anyway, I’ve thought that ever since I became an Advanced dancer, which, since I’ve been dancing over a year now, has been for about the last six months. It’s just a nice thing to do, and of course we all remember what it was like to be a Beginner---SCARY.

Some people call them "charity dances." I prefer to think of it as "noblesse oblige." Those of us on the upper end of the hierarchy need to do what we can to nurture the lower end for the benefit of the dance kingdom ... er ... community. I’ve felt strongly this way, as I mentioned, for the last six months at least, but never really recognized the power of this concept until I attended my first dance convention.

Now, I’m a small town girl, dance-wise, and the prospect of mixing it up for a weekend with a few hundred dancers was exciting, and a little bit intimidating (even for someone of my caliber). So it was with adrenaline pumping that I entered the convention ballroom.

Wow, look at the clothes! And so many great dancers! It looks like heaven on earth.

It didn’t take me long to find the courage to ask for some dances. At first I was a bit intimidated by the dancing, but hey, with my year of experience I ain’t exactly chopped liver! Besides, I can follow anything, as long as the guy has a strong lead!

It was later that first day when I noticed a fellow sitting off to the side looking a bit out of place. Based on his simple outfit of white T-shirt and faded blue jeans he was obviously a newbie. His height, muscular frame, and crew cut made him look painfully awkward. My heart went out to him. So, brimming with goodwill I thought, "Noblesse oblige ..." and magnanimously asked him for a dance.

He told me his name was Mark, and he was in the Navy or something military involving water. He began the dance with simple moves----underarms, side passes, a few whips--- and really didn’t do too badly. I gave him my best encouraging smile and did a syncopation. This gave him the courage to syncopate as well. "Wow," I thought, "He sure is a quick learner!" After our dance I noticed other Advanced dancers following my lead by asking him to the floor. He just got better with each one! I was so proud.

Later that day, a middle-aged Asian gentleman approached me and asked, "Would you dance with a Beginner?" He seemed so apologetic and sincere that I didn’t have the heart to turn him down. He didn’t even have proper dance shoes, just an old pair of slippers. "Noblesse oblige ..."

On our way to the floor he begged me to be gentle and I reassured him, "Oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine. Don’t be so down on yourself. And don’t be intimidated by any of my footwork. Just keep counting and we’ll be fine." I smiled my patronage. Again, my partner blossomed in my care. He was smiling and having more fun than ever within moments, and he really wasn’t as bad as he thought he was. Carlito (that was his name) and I had quite a nice dance, really.

As the weekend wore on, I saw more and more of Mark the marine-guy and Carlito the slipper-man, and they just got better and better. I was like a proud mother hen when Mark got up his nerve to enter the Jack and Jill, and then won it to boot! Carlito learned so fast that the Event Director asked him to judge some contests, and everyone started calling him "Mr. Smooth." And to think I started it all by just trying to be nice!

I guess you never know what kind of diamond in the rough you might find when you extend that welcoming hand to a Beginner. And you can never tell where a little encouragement might lead. Noblesse oblige ... I think this is an idea worth keeping.

HGH