In the Habsburg monarchy, society life was important and strictly regulated. In the better circles, ballroom dancing was part of the education and had to be learned.
In 1918 the monarchy was split in the individual national states. However ballroom dancing as part of the education in the middle class survived the monarchy. And thus in my youth the entire class went to dancing school, just like everyone in Prague back then. Apart from ballroom dancing, also conduct and good manners were part of the curriculum. I found this entire thing horrible.One has to imagine – a huge hall, on the podium are a small band and a dancing instructor with his partner. In the hall two rows of people stand opposite of each other – on the one side the ladies, on the other side the gentlemen, like on a battlefield. Then the dancing instructor says “men’s choice” and the endless long mass of men in black starts moving towards the ladies. “May I have the next dance?” they ask and the ladies don’t really have a choice but it was expected that they say yes. To wait for being asked, did not feel good, even though the dancing instructor always took care that there were the same number of men and women. What a shame, if one would be left alone and as the only one not wanted or being left waiting for too long. In puberty, this does not exactly help strengthening one’s self-consciousness. And I was never everybody’s darling.
This was not the only reason why I did not like this lesson. I always mixed up right and left. The dancing instructor said that the ladies should start with the left leg – „now“ – and I started with the wrong right leg. This was also mortifying. On top of that someone else stepped on that wrong foot. With the time I found a practical solution for that problem and bound a thin red thread around the right leg. If I am stupid, practical solutions must help.
With the time I enjoyed dancing more and more. It was fun and like with most things, the better one gets, the more fun it is. In principle, dancing is a rather demanding sport, which requires very good fitness. After two years, I decided to participate in a competition. In the first local round we just made it on the third place, in the second supra-regional round we also just made it to the third place, which was sufficient both times, since the first three couples were qualified for the next higher round. My grandmother was very happy and suggested that she would sew me a new dress for the national finals. Until then all my dancing dresses had been light, conservative and closed until the neck. For the national finals my grandmother sewed me a bright red dress with straps, with a wide skirt, which almost rose above my head when turning. The dress was very eye-catching, I had never before owned such dress. But I think that my grandmother knew very well why she had made it the way she did, without ever telling me. In the national finals of dancers up to the age of 18 years, we made the second place in the Latin-American dances. I am convinced that my dress accounted for a big part of it.
In Switzerland ballroom dancing is rather on the fringes. Unfortunately. I hardly had the chance to practice my knowledge and with the years forgot almost all of my sophisticated steps. But the basic steps I know until today. Yesterday I was at a birthday party. My beautiful and clever 10-years old godchild was also there. He started dancing two years ago. When the music started to play, he wanted to dance with his partner. She found it embarrassing in front of all the people and declined. Then he came to me and asked me whether I knew how to dance Cha Cha Cha. Of course I know that, I affirmed. So it came that we were the only couple dancing. I was great and wonderful. At the beginning we had to find us with the steps and not to forget that the boy is more than one head smaller than me. But after a few minutes it went as if we had practiced at home for weeks. It was a great feeling to dance again!!
Bildquelle: Rainer Sturm / pixelio.de