Swept off her feet: Vanguard writer shares challenges of ballroom dancing workshop
February 21, 2011 —
At 4 p.m. Monday, Feb. 14, I cautiously walked into the Thompson Student Activities Room for a free ballroom dance lesson, taught by former SVSU faculty member, Angela Markle.
I didn’t have a partner, so I wasn’t positive I would actually be able to learn the dances. I had fully prepared my, “Oh, I’m just writing a story on this for the Vanguard, that’s why I don’t have a partner,” speech in my head, in case I got any funny looks.
Luckily, though, I was not the only one brave enough to come alone, and there was an even number of guys and gals. Markle started the lesson by clapping her hands and saying, “All right, leaders form a line to my right, followers to my left.”
Caught up in my nerves, I momentarily forgot that in ballroom dances, leaders are always male, and almost joined the wrong group. Thankfully, I avoided this mistake and lined up among the other ladies in attendance.
Markle then taught us the beginning steps to the Rumba and told the men to ask a lady to dance. I was suddenly transported back to middle school, and I was terrified I would be the only girl left without a partner. Luckily, Michael Gubody, an electrical engineering junior, picked me as his partner.
Gubody and I introduced ourselves as Markle flitted around the room, making sure everyone was holding their partner correctly. After she was satisfied with our progress, our instructor began counting out the steps for the dance.
“Slow, quick quick, slow, quick quick,” she called out as I fumbled around and stepped on my partner’s feet. Gubody was blessedly patient with me; I must have looked like a newborn deer trying to find my footing.
After a few minutes, Markle asked if we’d like to continue learning the rumba or move on to the waltz. We all agreed that more practice on the rumba would be incredibly helpful.
Markle then split us up into our previous lines of leaders and followers. To my amazement, she added even more steps to our dance!
“When you add everything together, the dance should look like this,” I heard her say, and suddenly I felt my instructor grab my hand and pull me into the middle of the group.
I took a deep breath, not wanting to further embarrass myself. Markle counted off the beginning steps, and began to move towards me. Confused and nervous, I stayed planted firmly where I was, only picking up my foot to, unfortunately, step on hers.
My teacher, after teaching ballroom dance lessons for more than 20 years, did not seem perturbed by this mistake, and I soon caught onto her moves. We whirled around the dance floor, and momentarily, I could dance.
We continued with the rumba for 15 more minutes before we switched to the foxtrot. We also switched partners, and I felt bad for my new partner as I continuously stepped on his toes.
Despite the fact that my dance moves were lacking, I realized how much fun I was having. Soon, I stopped worrying about counting my steps or dancing to the beat of the music, and simultaneously my dancing improved.
Markle told us to switch partners again, and I was paired with Scott Umberfield, a third-year student at Saginaw Valley.
“I’d like to apologize in advance for how much your feet may hurt after dancing with me,” I warned him.
However, once we started dancing, I realized immediately that this was not Umberfield’s first encounter with ballroom dancing. This was an especially good thing, because we’d added more steps to the foxtrot, and I had promptly forgotten all of them.
As we whirled around the room, I counted seven other pairs dancing around us. Everyone seemed to be having a good time, even if we weren’t familiar with the footwork.
I was thinking about how much fun I’d been having when I notice that my partner was smiling. Thinking I’d messed up my footwork while considering taking one of Markle’s $10 dance classes on Thursday afternoons, I asked Umberfield if I’d stepped on him.
He laughed. “Oh no, you’re doing great,” he told me. “I just thought it was funny how you didn’t seem to realize that you’ve been successfully doing the foxtrot for five minutes.”
I looked at my feet. He was right.