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Filed Under , , on April 11th, 2015

Stumbling Into Dancing

By Seth Kabala

I cannot dance. I look like a mannequin, strung up like a marionette and attached with a chain to a rusty, unreliable lawnmower, which determines my movements and is always rolling over bumpy ground.

I can write entertainment columns, academic articles, and even sketch comedy with a degree of acumen. I can put on my aristocratic operatic hat and deliver a flawless rendition of The Lord’s Prayer or a weirdly pious version of Livin’ on a Prayer. Also at a professional level, I can play piano, arrange music, and wax a floor (college job). At a hobby level, I can golf (shot an eagle once in 20 years of play, so the dream is alive!), juggle, and serve as a Lemming. Let me explain.

I met my wife, Amy, while I was a piano-vocal performance major participating in Black Hawk College’s show-choir. This sounds glamorous. It sounds as though we had to endure a rigorous audition process, overcome our nerves and outperform our rivals, backstabbing and/or literally stabbing the competition, slandering the competition, libeling the competition, all in an effort to come out on top and be a star. Allow me to disabuse you of the glamorous notion.

The reality was simple. You showed up. You got in. Boom. Small town proponents of their communities’ impact on the larger world say, “What?!”

Through some shenanigans between my then-only-acquaintance Amy and her choreographer friend, Marlissa, Amy and I ended up as partners, and we danced together, and we got married. (And I’m just now realizing I was suckered into the whole thing. … Meh.) But before all that, I learned the steps. I didn’t feel a creative groove; I simply learned the steps and performed them on the day of the show, thus achieving the status of a Lemming.

I love musicals–mainly the singing, but also the choreography. When planned and performed well, it produces a magical feeling that enters my heart and inspires my soul–to do something other than dancing, because I suck at it. Amy has, over the years, suggested we take ballroom dancing lessons. I’ve come up with several excuses–we’re too busy, costs too much–but the truth is: I’m mortified that, outside the confines of carefully choreographed steps, I’ll morph into the marionette I mentioned and either hilariously entertain or terrify all those in attendance.

Also in truth, if I spend a good amount of time (say, hours a day for weeks on end) studying a particular activity, I tend to acquire at least passing amateur skills sufficient to receive a polite nod instead of a facial contortion of revulsion. So I know I stand a good chance of moving past Elaine’s jutting thumbs, but I’ve never felt a strong pull to learn.

Until recently.

I lift weights in our basement. Whenever I do, Ella, our three-year-old daughter, often follows me down and plays with stuffed animals while I’m doing my best to pretend I’m still 21 and pop my head off while pushing the bar. I listen to music while I lift, and Ella often dances to the music. On this occasion, though, she’d had enough of going solo.

She marched up to me and said, “I’m a girl and you’re a boy, so we can dance together.” And we danced. I managed to recall some of the show choir moves and showed her the rotating step-left, step-right, twirl, and dip. I’d often wondered where the expression grinning ear-to-ear came from.

Now I know.

And lessons are mandatory.



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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, and musician. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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