I and my female companion, Caton Gauthier, are in the Park Place Dome in Traverse City. A jazz band begins playing a toe tapping tune. We are both dancers -- in fact that's how we met, why we are together. She clearly wants to get up and dance. I, just as clearly, do not. Everything depends upon how you see a situation.
She is a spontaneous human being. She heard toe tapping music, we two know how to do a swing dance, and both she and I feel it is stupid to sit still when our bodies clearly want to get up and sway and move with the music. She said if we got up and danced we would be paying a clear tribute to the band. We are telling them we can't sit still -- what they are playing moves us to get up and move. I knew she was right, but because of the way I saw the situation we never got up and danced.
How did I see the situation? Many of the people who were there knew me. They would think I was just getting up to show off -- after all, no one else was out there dancing. Absolutely everyone sat immobile in chairs. True, Caton said if we got up to dance others might get up too. But I was afraid others would see it as me showing off.
What is wrong with me? Why do I see it that way? Why couldn't I see it the way Caton saw it? Dancing is fun. It is stupid to sit still when clearly your body would rather move to the beat of the music. Why, Henry, are you constantly thinking about what other other people will think. Why don't you just do what you want to do? Some of these thoughts raced through my mind as I just sat there.
Are there other reasons why I did not get up and dance? There always are other reasons. I'm a good dancer, Caton is a very, very, good dancer. I was afraid I did not know enough swing moves to satisfy her, but I knew she did not care about that and that was not primarily why I did not dance. Why didn't I dance?
We are who we have become over time -- I am a repressed person who has always been too conscious of what others might think. I almost never act spontaneously -- I think too much. And that is good in its way. Caton has learned to give freer vent to her desires -- and not in a destructive way, but in a constructive way: if it feels good to dance, why not get up and dance?
She was so right: we should have gotten up and danced. The evening, in our opinion, was a subdued, low key evening. The performers at first tried hard, but the audience just sat there, and that put a damper on the performers. Performers received almost no feedback except perfunctory clapping at the end of a number.
I now know that if we two, and perhaps some others, had gotten up and danced, it might have energized the crowd just a little bit. The crowd wasn't into it -- and the performers couldn't quite get into it either. Am I sure that I am right? No, but I am sure that I was a fool for not getting up and dancing -- and that the band would definitely have seen our dancing as a tribute to their playing.
Copyright © 2001 Henry Morgenstein