People frequently ask me how I got started in this business. Actually, there is a lot that lead up to it.
I folk danced in grade school and square danced in high school, but I really didn’t start to dance socially until I was in college. Singularly unpopular in high school, I never went to dances or danced socially with my peers.
I square danced outside of my school where the other dancers didn’t know they weren’t supposed to talk to me. I even went to my junior prom with a square dance partner with whom I had never had much of a conversation before our disastrous date.
Not only did I find out he couldn’t social dance at all, but we also discovered that he was a right wing fundamentalist Christian and I was a left wing Unitarian. We couldn’t get away from each other fast enough and that was the extent of my social dance experience before college.
In college, there was only freestyle and “slow dance” if you were popular enough for the boys to want to hold, which I was not. I didn’t dance much until I was out of college and working as a crisis counselor at a battered women’s shelter. There, I found a coworker who was also interested in partner dance but was saddled with a non-dancing boyfriend. We decided to learn together, which is why I started learning both lead and follow right from the start. We practiced together and traded off leading and following.
Unfortunately, in the early seventies in the bay area there was no social dance scene like there is today. There was one remaining ballroom dance venue, Ali Baba’s, and disco clubs. Ali Baba’s did not allow women to dance together (this was the 70’s remember?) so there really was no place for us to practice in public. We tried our best. Lori was tall and flat chested, so she tried dressing up in drag and accompanying me in a ball gown. I did the talking, but the keeper of the door took one look at Lori’s pretty face and refused to sell us a ticket.
That left disco. It would have made sense for us to just have learned disco partner dance, which would have solved the problem and would have been fun, but we wanted to be Ginger Rogers, so it never occurred to us. We took what little ballroom dance we knew, adjusted it so it wouldn’t have to travel, styled it to fit a disco beat, and went to the clubs to practice.
To be continued…
by LaurieAnn Lepoff
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