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Two Steps Away From Heaven on Dance Floor

June 24, 1993|ZAN DUBIN | Zan Dubin covers the arts for The Times Orange County Edition.

About three months ago, on a lark, I went country dancing with four office friends. Country music was not my thing. In fact, I hated it. Cowboy boots and hats? Gimme a break. But what the hell, I thought, I'm game to try something new.

Little did I know this was the beginning of the end of life as I knew it.

Since that first night, there hasn't been a week in which I've hit the country dance clubs fewer than three or four times. By last Tuesday, I'd been out nine evenings in a row. Yikes.

What happened? I'm not sure. But I've always loved to dance, and that's got a whole lot to do with it.

Early memories include prancing around to Bobby Vinton's 1963 hit "Blue Velvet" when I was about 5, and later practicing the Pony in front of my bedroom mirror. Then, from about 12 to 20, I studied ballet with the serious but star-crossed intent of becoming a professional.

In my 20s, I often went out dancing--sometimes up to twice a week, whether to do disco or whatever it was we were doing in the '80s.

I've even made two fruitless attempts to learn the kind of so-called touch-dancing with a partner that's at the heart of my current fixation. (Country line dancing, where you go it alone, is an infectious romp, but it's the two-step, swing and waltz that have me mesmerized.)

First, I took disco classes when the movie "Saturday Night Fever" came out. And just a few years ago, I did some ballroom at an Arthur Murray studio in Buena Park. I was writing about swing dance in Orange County, and watching those people suavely swivel around the floor made me light-headed with envy.

Each time, however, I felt I would have to put too much time and effort into it before I could have any fun.

Country is entirely different. My second night out, I kind of stumbled onto the floor alone, trying to imitate the two-steppers progressing arm in arm. Before I knew it, Marty, now a friend, started to show me the ropes. By the end of the night, I had the basics and a few embellishments down flat.

Two-stepping can be likened to the fox trot. It's the staple of country dancing and has a simple four-part pattern. But adding complicated turns and tricky arm maneuvers is what makes it challenging and such a hoot.

I've got other theories too.

With this kind of dancing, the man leads and the woman follows. He indicates what comes next by a slight touch of the hand or pressure against her back and she must pay close attention. Talk about body language. The two of you have an involved conversation without saying a word, speaking in a secret code that nobody else can understand.

And the outcome looks masterfully sublime--except for when you mess up.

All of this would be impossible without teamwork. To me, few things are as satisfying as pulling something off by pulling together, especially when you've got an admiring audience to watch as the two of you speed past or glide this way and that, seemingly without effort.

Sometimes when I'm waltzing or spinning continuously across the floor (all that ballet paid off), I feel like I should be trailing the sort of billowy chiffon skirt that made Fred swoon over Ginger. And all those oh-my-broken-heart, Tammy Wynette-type songs? Man, that's romantic with a capital R.

Who knows, maybe in a few weeks or months I'll give all this up, or at least cut back. The extra sleep would be nice.

But what would I do with my new cowboy boots? Or those earrings with the little cowboy hats and rhinestones? I'd probably have to reprogram those three country stations preset on my car radio too.

Hmmm, think I'll burn that bridge when I get there.

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