Anyone who has planned their own wedding has had that sinking realization that people are going to expect them and their newly-wedded spouse to dance the first dance…
accompanied by the even more sinking feeling that the two of you still do a modified version of the Junior High Sway. Enter Arthur Murray dance lessons to save the day! However, back in the 1950s you could have simply ordered one of Betty White’s many phonorecords and accompanying manuals to teach you to lithely fox trot, waltz, tango and so much more!
Sadly, the mastermind behind these dance records was not THAT Betty White, although they could most definitely have been kindergarten classmates. This Betty White was a dance teacher in New York in the fifties. I stumbled across her “How to Fox Trot” manual and desperately wanted to know more about her and her dancing dynasty. Alas, I only uncovered marketing materials for the records and books, although, as you can judge for yourself, they are quite persuasive:
“Learn how to do all the new dances—quickly and easily in the privacy of your own home.” Betty will teach you how to dance, “even if you have never danced before! Just listen to the musical instructions on the record, follow the simple drawings and diagrams in the instruction manual—and you’re dancing!”
I can’t offer any links to her Fox Trot instructions, but I can offer this soundtrack of her “How to Conga Dance” for fun.
As I started on this new piece of artwork flashbacks of my own Arthur Murray pre-wedding dance days came back…quick, quick, slow…quick, quick, slow. We were actually dancing! Oh the grace, the beauty! It’s like we floated on air…until the day of the wedding.
I hadn’t considered the unevenness of the stone dance floor at our venue. Or the fact that I might not properly hitch up my wedding dress, making it a third party in our dance endeavors. Or the fact that our band The Recliners (who I adored!) might use a different rhythm than the one our Arthur Murray teacher offered up. It wasn’t pretty, although I have been assured that our efforts were “sweet.”
That’s the feeling I wanted to capture as I created this piece…that earnest enthusiasm, that joyfully disjointed sashay of two people counting steps under their breath, that giddy “I think we’ve really got this” as their instructor cheerily says “Don’t give up! Just keep practicing.”
Happy, peppy chaos. Isn’t that just life? Whether it’s on the dance floor, the artwork on your wall or your daily planner, you might as well go about it all with joyful gusto, even if it’s a bit messy.