Tuesday, April 19, 2016



The man at the head of the hall speaks, in laid back unison the 3 lines of people act out the motions he proscribes. Smiles on faces, the group tries to figure out how this dancing puzzle will fit together, bringing them back to their partner in sixty-four beats

A spin with the girl across from you, eyes locked in flirtatious mad robin pose with your partner, as you circle the other couple. Your group of for forming the world for this repetition of the dance. 

There is another man here. Partnered with the other girl. The voice from the head of the hall tells you to "give weight" and alamand with him. You grasp right hands and lean back, both of you rotating relying on the other to lean with a effort matching your own. Too weak and the experience is like eating cold floppy pasta. Too strong and you struggle to keep your body from falling into the girls waiting for you to rejoin them. But this man--this lean young man with a buzz cut and worn boots, attacks this dance step as he has all others, with exuberant joy and precision. For 8 long counts, you spin, connected only by the hand grip. The caller ends the move. You must return to your partner. You draw the spin out for a half count longer, but react appropriately as you each give the other a push off, spinning back into a swing with your partner. 

For me, that is the highlight of the contradance. The brief physical interactions with some guy I've seen weaving in and out of the dance lines all night long. I enjoy the entire process. The live band, infectious beat, the happy faces, and even the proscribed flirtatious looks as I gypsy around my partner. But those all to short moments when I interact with another man, I see how the others live. I see what it's like to have the music move you in tandem with another you seek connection with. I see why dances are found in every society and time around the planet. The music feeds a connection.

It takes two to tango they say. Life, relationships are about give and take. Moving sometimes together, sometimes separate from your partner. I think Contradancing as a gay Mormon, is a pretty good shadow to romantic life.

I am expected to find a partner. While Contradance does allow you to dance whichever role you would like, the majority of couples are male-female. And that fear of asking a man to dance is present. Will he think I'm coming on to him? Will he turn me down? Will I commit some grave sin by doing so? 

So dance with the lady-folk. And its' fun. The dancing is fun regardless of whom it's with. Like in life, I usually let the ladies approach me. Why not? I don't do it out of nerves as much as lack of interest. I have fun, I do the moves with my partner, but my enjoyment isn't because of them. It's the interaction with the entire hall. Maybe I should feel bad. But contradancing isn't about them coupling anyway. It's about mixing with everyone. In a dance you repeat the same moves probably 15-20 times, each time moving with your partner to dance it with another couple. The ways the moves are strung together to accomplish that are masterful.

So I dance with this woman. Who is nice. We have fun. We make small talk, but there is no spark of attraction. No tension in that manner. I am more excited to see which men are coming down the line. Will I get to interact with one of the ones I think is attractive. Invariably I do. And that is the interaction that I find myself thinking back on as my mind drifts back to the memorable evening. That connection with men, so fleeting, so intense. And so foreign in my life. An individual dance will at most have 8 beats of the 64 that involve that direct connection. Kinda like my life. I move around men and women, do what I am instructed to do. It's not bad. But it' salsa not the spice. THe fire comes in that 1/8th of life. When I connect with a man. In a way yearn for. But alas...it isn't to be had for a gay Mormon.

As I leave the dance, the man with the buzz cut says, "hey, good dancing!" I reply "you too". And we go our ways. Until the next month, when the magic of contradance pulls us back to the out of the way gymnasium on a hill overlooking Salt Lake Valley. Each month, I wonder if I'll go back. I always do.

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