I hated dancing. I’d always hated dancing. Events like wedding receptions made me nervous, because I knew that at some point I would have to dance. When forced to take the floor, I’d always pick a slow song where I could fumble around without anyone really noticing.

Now, when I hear a good beat, I love to grab the hand of my wife, my favorite partner, and twirl her out on to the dance floor.

So, what changed? How did I become a dancer?

Dancing

It started with a movie. My wife and I subscribe to Netflix, and she choses all of the movies for us. One night about four years ago, we watched Shall We Dance. The story revolves around a lawyer, John Clark (played by Richard Gere), who has a successful practice, but is bored with his life. He realizes that something is missing. The character is about 50 (my age at the time) with a teenage daughter and a busy, professional wife.

John’s train ride home takes him by a dance studio where night after night he notices a pretty girl looking out the window. He eventually summons the courage to get off his train and go up to the dance studio to meet her. Before he knows what’s happened, John is signed up for introductory ballroom lessons. From this point the story twists and turns, as most do, but one thing remains: John discovers that he loves to dance. He didn’t know that he loved dancing, because he’d never really known how to dance. Now, the more he learns, the more he likes it.

While not a four-star movie, I liked Shall We Dance. Later I learned it is an American re-make of a Japanese film. So, we got on Netflix and ordered that version, too. As is almost always the case, the original is better. The story’s the same, but in the Japanese version the protagonist is an accountant.

I’m an accountant. I connected with the character. When we finished the movie I said to my wife, “We ought to take some ballroom dance lessons.”

I didn’t mean it. In the passion of the moment, I just blurted it out and soon forgot about it. Then, about two months later, my wife told me that she’d signed us up for beginner ballroom lessons. As soon as I opened my mouth, she reminded me that I was the one that said we should do it. I was trapped.

I still vividly remember my first dance lesson: Tuesday night, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m., a grade school gym, basketball hoops and white linoleum floors. I ate six Rolaids on the car ride there. But, the lesson wasn’t as bad as I had feared. These were community education lessons and everything was pretty relaxed. I survived my first dance lesson without too much damage to my ego. We progressed through the four lessons, but I didn’t improve much. It was clear to me that I was not having a Richard Gere experience—life is never like the movies. When the class was over, my wife suggested we immediately do the same set of lessons over again. Since now I knew what to expect, I agreed. My second time through was like magic. I began to dance without fear. I got better at it. And I began to like it.

Since those early dance lessons, we have graduated to more advanced ballroom lessons with a very good local dance instructor. I continue to enjoy the lessons. I sometimes ask myself, “Would I rather be home watching TV on a Tuesday night or would I rather be taking a tango lesson with my wife?” For me, it’s an easy choice: the tango lesson. My wife and I have joined the local ballroom club, which has a dinner dance once a month, and we try to go dancing whenever we can.

We also do country dancing, waltz, two-step, and polka. We’ve worked our way through most Aggie Wrangler lessons. Invariably, we are the oldest people in the class by about 30 years, but it doesn’t matter. No one is watching. We go country western dancing every Thursday night at a local dance hall, and like ballroom dance, I’ve grown to love it, too.

In the end, the same thing that happened to Richard Gere’s character in Shall We Dance happened to me. Once I stepped out of my comfort zone, I discovered I have a passion—and a talent—for dancing.