/ Neighbors / Highlands Dancing / Schiz Center
I have Who’s-pk? modules and pk-the-Dancer modules and blah-blah-pk modules all over the place. pk-the-Dancer modules I’ll import from a couple of dance blogs. Meantime, here’s one written yesterday for right here. I’ll trim, combine, smooth transplanted prose later.
Something very important happened though. By week two of frustrated pk attending the Senior Dance I’d vowed to myself that I would resume ballroom dancing. I would dance with some of these old gals. pk, the Best Dancer of South Side High School, 1956 (actually, the best dancer in Rockville Centre since 1950, when I first learned) would shelve his having quit ballroom dancing while still in junior high school, for reasons I’ll quick list in a moment, would use his rhythm, his athleticism, his flexible joints to wow some old gals until I found the right one. Meantime, I’d make up for Catherine’s death, and jail, by sleeping with every widow in Highlands County.
pk the Dancer
I should take a moment to tell about my dancing history. In the sixth grade my school offered a dance class. A dozen and a half of us gathered in the grammar school gym. Some guy set up a player on a table, showed us a basic box step, and played Tea for Two, over and over while we drilled the box step. The fox trot came first. He also showed us the basic waltz step, a lindy, maybe there was a rhumba in there, and we were all getting it OK, the boys and the girls precisely paired … I was not one whit better than anybody else, neither was I worse. Until:
I can’t say whether it was a first week or a second week, at some point the Tea for Two guy showed us a basic Charleston step: forward, back; back, forward. We got it. We all got it. He put on the Charleston, and drilled us.
OK, he said. Now, add a little style!
And he began angling his ankles, showing us how it could swing.
pk imitated. Within seconds I discovered that my ankles could pretend they were rubber. I had no joints, but didn’t fall down.
The dance teacher went berserk. “You’ve got it!” he said, fixed on me alone. “You’ve really got it!”
The next thing I know we’re sent to a dance at another grammar school. We’re fed into a gym, gigantic, like a high school gym, not at all like the little constricted space where our lessons had been held at the Morris School. All the boys gathered against one wall, sub-clumped by which of several grade schools we were from. The girls distributed themselves similarly against the opposite wall. Some teachers had set up a player. They played a fox trot. All the boys stayed one one side, all the girls on the other. I remember distinctly how we boys turned our backs on the record player. No way would anyone ever dance at this dance.
The teachers continued to strike out. Until someone put on a Charleston!
The energy in the room changed. Some of my Morris school guys suddenly ran off toward another boy-clump. Some kid was extracted from that group. That kid was shoved toward the girls’ side. A “guard” grabbed a little girl, and dragged her across the hall, shoved her in front of me. “This is Doralee, she can charleston.”
Standing in front of me, cute as could be, was this little girl. I’d soon learn, she wasn’t even in the sixth grade, but she was a dancer, specially recruited from the fifth grade of our host school.
Doraess smiled at me: trained: the guy leads. I was the guy.
I launched my charleston. Dorelee matched me, swivel for swivel.
My crown of guys attacked the teachers at the record player. Start it over again, they begged. The teachers complied.
Doralee and I also started over again, but we allowed ourselves to be manoevered toward the center of the gym. Other kids formed couples. There were a half a dozen brave couples doing the charleston. But then they all stopped. They saw Paul and Doraless. They formed a big circle around us. The circle clapped, in rhythm.
Doralee was already famous at this other school. But as of that first chareston, Doralee and Paul were famous. She and I had been drafted for each other. Sure enough, we continued to dance as a couple, all the dances.
Our Morris School Tea for Two teacher had told us to “style it”: I styled everything thereafter. And Doralee showed perfect pitch for my brain waves. I started to think something, she did it, with me, in perfect synch.
Doralee had already been trained for years. Her fame had spread beyond Rockville Centre. Doralee would be invited to dance at dances all around the New York metropolitan area. She was developing a solo repertoire. She’d be invited to a dance as a pro, the entertainment. They’d pause the dance, introduce her, she’d appear in some little costume, with a little set, a couple of props. Part of Doralee’s payment was that she could bring an escort. That was me. I dance as Doralee’s ballroom partner at a series of other town’s highschool dances. That contined for years.
Meantime: I was already a jazz nut. Maybe that’s why I was able to charleston so. Or maybe that’s why I’d been destined to be a jazz nut in the first place. The rhythm was wired into me, I heard the sixteenth notes in my marrow.
(This past New Years I was dancing with a new friend, a dance fiend, probably in her early sixties. Shirley has assured Jan that she’s harmless, she just wants to be allowed to dance a couple of dances with me. So: we’re dancing. Shirley says she loves to feel someone feel the rhythm, and “No one feels the rhythm like me!”)
OK. There’s two elements: I can dance, I love jazz.
But: this is 1950, 1951 … I graduate from dixieland to swing, from swing to modern jazz. I’m just a kid, I pick up the culture. And the modern jazz culture is to be intellectual: jazz Puritans. We don’t dance, we listen, we concentrate, sucking in cigarette smoke: we worship the nuances in our minds: like Quakers foregoing all the pomp and ritual, gold and lace, of the Church of England. So:
I dance, and expressed the rhythm, everywhere, with my whole body, mind, spirit; I was embarrassed to. I resisted. Schiz culture, the Puritan was at war with the sensualist.
The kicker came with puberty.
Before Elvis Presley astonished the world over TV, pk was already rubber-ankles and wiggle-hips to an embarrassing extent on the dance floor. When Elvis did appear, kids came up to me to make sure that I knew that the world was providing me with competition.
Understand, back home, around 1955, Elvis got a lot of flack. His performances bordered on obscene. They transgressed. Girls liked it, their parents put them under house arrest.
When I first danced, people were drawn to me. But by 1953, 1954 people with drawing back. There was a backlash. We were all part of it. I too drew back.
Meantime, Dorelee became fourteen years old. Now she was getting invited to dance in Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra wanted her. Doralee went off into the big world. I danced with other girls …
But: I found that I couldn’t!
Other girls repelled me. On the dance floor. And off! No other girls was half as cute as Doralee!
I have yet to mention what was worst. Dancing with other girls showed me that I didn’t know how to lead!
Doraless knew what I was going to do before I did. My “lead” was mental, unconscious: psycho-kinetic: stuff for the X Files.
Long before I was named Best Dancer in my year book I had stopped dancing. I was everyone’s memory of a best-dancer.
So: it’s 2008. I attend the Senior Dance. I’m now seventy years old! I’m broke, broken. “80%” of the old folks at the Senior Dance want me back in jail, buried. Don’t tell them who I really am, they absolutely won’t allow it. Persecutors’ persecutions being “wrong” only serve to goad the persecutors to persecute harder. “20%” don’t want to torture me, but they don’t want to buck the tide either. And they’re certainly not going to listen to any testimonies about kleptocracy. (Crazy Horse wasn’t listened to, neither was Sutter! How many Americans will sit still to hear that we stole from a white man: not just injuns and blacks (and chinks and wops) …)