{April 20, 2007}   First Dance Friday


I received another entry for today’s segment. In the form of an article. Enjoy! Gary Lehmann of Penfield, NY writes:

Mrs. Botsford’s School of Dauuunce


Gary Lehmann

When I was deemed old enough to need taming in the social graces, my mother signed me up for Mrs. Bodsford’s School of the Dauuunce.   That’s how everyone associated with this dubious adventure pronounced it.  There were, I believe, actual students who studied ballet and ballroom dancing.   Our class was the beginning ballroom dance class, more like rodeo than dressage, but very important, at least to Mrs. Bodsford’s economy.  

It took place every Saturday night and was all the rage amongst a certain class of mothers.  It was not so popular with the children involved, because it took place exactly at the same time as Gunsmoke a highly educational western adventure tale which appeared weekly on television.  A boy my age was virtually crippled socially if he could not expound on the newest episode during the forthcoming week at school.  Looking back on the dauuunce class, I’m pretty sure Mrs. Bodsford looked forward to these events as much as I did.

  The school was called Mrs. Bodsford’s School of Dauuunce , but it was run by her side-kick, Miss Leonard, a severe middle-aged person who wore round, horn-rimmed glasses and dresses which could be described as funereal and festive at the same time.  Hers was a totally unique fashion.   While Mrs. Bodsford appeared in the doorway in her lace gown, begloved hands demurely crossed at the waist, Mrs. Leonard strode in like the Marshall of Tombstone.  Anyone who had survived the first grade knew immediately what that meant.

  “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” she would say in a voice that strongly implied that we would repeat the return verse – if we knew anything of what was good for us. 

   “Good evening, Miss Leonard.” Our unharmonious responses straggled in like cows on the end of a long range run.

   “Children!  You can see that Mrs. Bodsford is present.  You should greet her first, expressing proper deference for her age and authority.”  All eyes moved to the corpse of Mrs. Botsford, which could not have looked more life-like in her coffin than she looked right now in the doorway.

    “Good evening Mrs. Botsford,” we droned.

    “Very good, children!”  Then a cloud came over the already granite face of Miss Leonard, simulating a cold winter day in Vermont .  “What is that I see?  Can I believe my eyes?  I see some of you with GUM in your mouths.”  Hands on hips.  Eyes scan the mob seeking out the felons.  “Should any of you have any foreign object in your mouths at this time, please deposit them in the trash receptacle by the stage.   Mrs. Botsford did not move a muscle but appeared to be trembling with appropriate rage as we scrambled to the basket and back in surprising numbers. 

   “Now,” said Miss Leonard, “it’s time to dance.”  She lined the boys and the girls up each in a separate line and, in a system of pairing still used in China and frequently used in Europe until the discovery of romance, she paired us off by height.  The girls were always at pains to express without words their utter disgust at having been paired with the ugliest, most awkward and uncouth male creature in the room.  It did not matter with whom she was paired.  The routine was mandatory as far as I could tell.  The girls did not need instruction in this portion of the ritual.

   Miss Leonard then grasp some poor male victim by the scruff of his neck and dragged him into the center of the dance floor to illustrate the proper way for a gentleman to hold a lady while dancing.  This grapple was explained in some detail, not failing to mention that no groping would be tolerated. Then the music began, a ponderous sort of dirge calculated to put anyone asleep — in waltz time.  These festive trots were punctuated by Miss Leonard’s occasional outbursts, “NO GUM!”   She would march over to the miscreant with the trashcan in hand, and he would spit the foreign object out with a satisfying clunk.

   At last, when the torture was over, Mrs. Botsford would pivot on her heels and Miss Leonard would line up for a reception line.

“Thank you for having me to your party,” we each said spontaneously expressing our infinite creativity in the same exact words.  Taking the hand, we gave a little bow, turned slowly, and ran like hell back home where, if we were lucky, we could just catch the tail end of The Twilight Zone.

This is every boy’s nightmare come true. Can you imagine being a young boy and having to learn how to ballroom dance?! Gah, the injustice of it all. While I like watching the competitions, especially the junior categories, young boys probably learn by watching MTV videos now, right? Thanks for the great article, Gary.

When was your first dance? How old were you? Did you go by yourself or with a group of friends? Send your stories to mattie_bhawk[at]yahoo[dot]com.


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