"East Europe 2005-06" story # 13

Rymarov, Czech Republic           November 19, 2005

"May I have this dance?"
     "Why, yes, thank you. I'd be ever-so-charmed."
     Actually, what I said to Vert'a was, "Chces tuncit?" (Do you want to dance?) The proper thing to say would've been: "Smím prosit?" (May I ask?)
     But, Vert'a accepted anyway. She took hold of the inside of my elbow, and we joined the other couples in promenading around the floor of the undecorated ballroom.
     Twenty seconds earlier, the instructor of this dance lesson had said something. As a result, fifty boys in dark suits and dress shoes got up from their chairs and hustled across the room. I was one of them: the slowest one. All the others grabbed dance partners from the sixty-five seated girls wearing dresses or skirts and classy, white collared shirts. I looked first toward four girls wearing uninterested looks. And then, I saw unsure Verta's black-eye-shadow eyes begging up at me like sweet moons.
     Vert'a was to become my first-ever waltz partner. Man, the waltz is "krásný!" (beautiful!) And Vert'a was a "krásná" partner. Like everyone else dancing except for me, she was around fourteen or fifteen years old. She wore a short and shiny black dress, and her curly hair looked inky. She was thin and moonlight-white; perhaps she was cold, because she liked to keep her bare arms pulled in in front of her.
     A lot of my students were there. Sweet-hearted Jarda, with olive/gray skin and a small cliff of black hair, was the only guy in a misty-blue suit. His mother had loaned me my black suit, and his class was the one that invited me to this lesson. His class-mate, Michal, was a funny brown-haired "chlap" (boy) wearing a suit he'll grow into. While doing improvisational theatre in my English class, Jarda had purchased Michal - a squalking, squatting, high-knee-bouncing, hillarious monkey - at a "pet store." Michal competes internationally as an electric-boogie dancer.
     Vert'a made jokes in Czech as we promenaded around. We came to a stop, and we began to waltz. Each boy stepped right foot launching forward, left foot forward, right foot together, then left launching forward, right forward, left together ... The girls moved with us. One out of every four patterns, the boys stepped backwards. And we waltzed around the room.
     Sometimes, the music was slow, romantic. Other times, it was fast and fun. The instructor had us try some turns.
     I felt relaxed to be student and not teacher for once. The instructor once moved my right hand from Verta's back to proper position on her left shoulder blade. Another time, he pushed us together to eliminate the air between us.
     From time to time, the fifteen surplus girls were allowed to cut in. And eventually the currently-dancing girls were instructed to move around the circle three boys to the left.
     "Cao," Vert'a sadly said. (Bye.)
     "Dekuji!" I thanked her.
     My new partner wore a long, scarlet skirt and black top. "Jak se jmenujes?" I asked her name. The students' dance lessons are much better than the adults, because of the rotating partners. Everyone dances with everyone. People are open and familiar.
     We waltzed 'til intermission. I spoke outside with glasses-wearing Milán - at seventeen, a fellow senior member of the class. Milán speaks with only one side of his mouth, due to some medical reason I guess. He's my buddy.
     I saw Martin, a burly fourteen-year-old student of mine with a haircut like an army sergeant. He's a chubby-innocent-faced boy obsessed with Los Angeles and gangsters. He jokingly calls himself a "gangster" and walks our small-town streets with friends. He wants every class conversation topic to be gangsters. It was funny he was here, I didn't know gangsters ballroom-danced.
     After the "prestávka" (break), I asked a girl in a navy dress to join me. She had very happy blue eyes. And a smile like Gumby and Pokey. She's one of the best dancers in the lessons, always adding her own spins for flare. She helped me learn the cha-cha.
     Her dress had slits on the sides shaped like an animal's scratch. I took one left step forward, leaned again on my right, one left step back, my partner and I slid a diagonal "cha-cha-cha," I stepped backwards with my right, leaned on my left, forward with my right, and another "cha-cha-cha." My partner stayed with me. The music sounded like high society.
     A rotation of partners led to a miniature girl looking up at me like she was looking at a mountain. A lot of the students were visibally excited I was joining their class. But, this was the first girl to be (understandably) intimidated by me.
     "Jak se jmenujes?" I said.
     What made things worse was that we were to dance jive. Tereza wore short, blonde hair moussed in a sassy way (I would guess by her mom) that would've made a Parisian model jealous.
     I don't know that Tereza knew how to dance jive. But, I know that I certainly didn't. And I think she was a little annoyed. Rock'n'roll-type music played. I was supposed to take one step back with my left foot while she stepped back and away from me with her right. Then, we were supposed to slide together and take galloping side-steps to my left and then back again. It was tough. And Tereza kept adding turns!
     Finally, I asked Tereza for help. She showed me what I was supposed to do after her turns. She was more relaxed after that, and I danced better. I think she was pleased that she taught the teacher.
     A girl then willingly cut in to dance with me for the first time. Woohoo! She was young but confident Petra. Her hair was orange. Her red cheek blush was orangish. And her blouse was an array of varying orange shades like the sands of a beach on Mars. She was very orange.
     Our dance was a country dance. We danced not together close, but we held hands as if we were walking down the road. We marched four steps forward, spun 180 degrees switching hands, and walked backwards four more steps. We stopped, moved forward again, spun 180's, and moved backwards to start. We turned towards each other and touched the palms of our free hands together, returned to start, Petra came around me so that she was on my other side, we touched palms again, and then she came around again so we were back to start. Hillbilly music played.
     Teachers give so much, and it's nice for both sides when the students want to give back positive energy. I'll always remember happy Petra and I turning towards one another and touching the palms of our hands together. Her hand was so tiny!

- happy Modern Oddyseus.

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