Essays IndexHenry's Home Page

The Pleasure of Getting it Wrong

Character is destiny. To some extent, one cannot change character. I am not here to berate those who take dance seriously. For them, if a dance goes wrong, they frown. They are angry, frustrated. They are where they are not supposed to be -- and they are not happy.

But for me, some of the most side splitting moments of my life occur when a dance goes wrong.

Don’t get me wrong. I love to get a dance right. I don’t mean that I want a dance to go wrong -- but what I see when a dance does go wrong makes me laugh uncontrollably. I hold my sides -- I am convulsed with laughter, I am literally paralyzed, rooted to the spot as I watch the bewildered faces around me.

Exactly what is it that I see? I see people befuddled, looking utterly lost. These are people who love to dance. They are, for the most part & in most situations, good dancers, but at this moment, in this dance, they are wandering around aimlessly, or rooted to the spot like a deer caught in headlights.

This just happened in a dance -- and the foremost image in my mind is of this tall man, moving slowly, cautiously, with a bemused look on his face, bewildered. He was not angry, not unhappy, just utterly bewildered.

I also see the well meaning, funny little woman, scurrying to the place she thinks she ought to be.

I hardly ever laugh uncontrollably. No joke makes me laugh uncontrollably. Yes, I may guffaw, I may laugh -- but uncontrollable laughter, deep purging, healing laughter, happens seldom, very-very seldom in my life.

But it happened in three dances in the last hour. The dances were fiendishly difficult.

There were line inversions where bottom man & top lady must invert the line of three -- and then immediately four people change places on the diagonal, and then the middles cross while the ends change places, and then a different foursome change places on a different diagonal -- and it is always different people in different positions crossing, changing, inverting.

You can see how this is almost guaranteed to go wrong: you need to remember whether you are one of the four that this time through the dance must cross on the diagonal, or cross straight across, or, since you are at the top (or is it bottom?) of the line, it is you who must lead the inversion.

So people were heading for the middle when they should have been crossing at the ends -- or crossing at the ends when they should have… Sometimes five people were doing what four people should have been doing & one person was left all alone at one end, frozen, gazing at the scrum in the middle, not knowing where he or she should be.

I was convulsed with laughter -- convulsed is the only correct word. How often, in life, are you convulsed in laughter? -- and of course, being convulsed, I was clogging up the middle, causing further confusion.

Laughter is the best medicine. Countless studies have shown that endorphins course through your system, heal all parts of your body, when you laugh hard. But how can I make myself laugh hard?

When a dance goes wrong and bewildered people are wandering around trying to do the right thing, their faces blank, or registering utter confusion -- if you take it the right way -- you laugh, you laugh hard, you hold your sides because your entire body is convulsed.

I love that -- I can’t create that -- but I love it when it happens -- and in the past ten years of my life I can’t think of any situation, other than a dance gone wrong, when that has happened.

Copyright 2006   Henry Morgenstein

Essays IndexHenry's Home Page