FolkFire Articles

July / August 1995

  • A Moment on the Floor

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  • A Moment on the Floor
    A Daniel Klarmann

    "Why do I feel like this?" my new dance partner asked me, "I'm almost trembling."

    Sarah (maybe) from Cleveland (I think) was panting a little, and had beads of sweat on her forehead. It was about 1:00 am and her eyes had that distinctive warm glow that, except with my lover, I only see in my contra-partners after several hours of dancing. I looked into her eyes, smiled knowingly, perhaps a little smugly, and said, "This is your first contradance weekend, isn't it?"

    "Yes! How did you know?"

    As we held hands in a circle of four with another couple in one of the long lines forming from such groups, I explained that she was experiencing the dance weekend high. That endorphin rush we all feel from extended dancing with a roomfull of people who dance for the love of the dance, to music played by musicians who play for the love of playing, and to choreographies conducted by callers who call for the joy of seeing their scribbled notes on 3 x 5 cards transformed into a roomful of coordinated swirling motion. The musicians and callers at this weekend are volunteers, and we, the dancers, gratefully pay for the privilege.

    As the figures we were about to dance were being walked through, I thought about my addiction to these dance weekends. The nights of dancing and the days of camaraderie and gemütlichkeit (intense coziness) usually leave me with a smile that lasts a week or two. The minor inconveniences of driving potluck contributions 6 hours cross country, staying in dormitories with sagging bunks (who sleeps, anyway?), and dancing in a hall subject to the vagaries of weather simply add to the community spirit inherent in such events.

    Then the dance begins, and in a familiar zen transformation, I become the dance. The calls move me through the figures. I strive to connect precisely on the beat, yet always adding a little flourish, or flirtation, depending on the person or people the figure of the moment connects me to. I flirt cautiously with those I haven't met, and shamelessly with my favorites; flirtation is part of the dance. It is the art of selecting those I would like to have as partners for the next few hours of dancing. I twirl and spin and caper as much as the music and figures allow. I suck in my elbows for, at a bit past 1:00 am, the large floor is still crowded.

    A brief, yet somehow eternal, quarter hour later, the music stops. My partner and I hug. We say "thanks for the dance," and mean it. Then Sarah (perhaps) from Cleveland (I believe) floats away to find her next partner.