Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

Jan. 30, 2015 — In a crowded room

The live music was coming from the converted church chancel.

It was music from the American songbook, sung by a friend with her new jazz and swing combo.

The place was at capacity, meaning that there was a crowd spilling out onto the sidewalk. But that also meant that the crowd inside the place was the universe of potential dance partners; time to see who some of these new folks were and gauge their level of aptitude.

I happened upon a young woman wearing a vintage dress, hair pulled back, and dance sneakers. She stood with her feet shoulder-width apart with a slight lilt in her stance as the music played. Someone who’s been here before, I thought.

Then, I saw something about her: her right arm only came to a point just above where her elbow would be. For a dance with a lead-follow connection, that’s a problem, since the main connection between two dancers is between the leader’s left hand and the follower’s right.

For a fleeting moment, I thought, “This is a problem.” Then, motivational instinct kicked in: obstacle or opportunity?

I have danced with thousands of different people over the years. Almost none of them, however, had a physical condition which would fit the legal definition of “handicapped” or “disabled.”

There have been exceptions, but they have been rare. Their rarity has made these dances most memorable. I remember dancing with a woman with an enormous cast on her right arm years ago in an agricultural hall in central New Jersey. It required some adjustment on my part; a modified “ballroom lead” which involved using the circumference of the cast, but we got through without incident.

I had to summon up the muscle memory from that encounter from last century to make the necessary adjustment in mindset for dancing with this new person. Actually it wasn’t much of an adjustment. A lot of my dance partners know me for my strong connection with my right side — aligning my feet slightly off my partner’s stance, making a V between my palm and thumb, and putting it right under her shoulder blade.

And with that, we danced.


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