February 21, 2005 - 12:00am -- swingbug

Shawn and I went swing dancing on Friday night and on the second song out there I got a blister. I felt it bubble out in my little saddle shoe. I finished out the song and dug through my dance bag for a bandaid. No luck.

We've driven out to midtown Sac on a Friday night. I've got my little swing skirt on and Shawn's having a good time seeing if he can get it to flatten out with a good outside turn. The old brick YWCA building we're in has a great feel to it. The hardwood floors are full of spinning dancers. It's been a rainy day but now the windows are all open and a light breeze blows through the second floor ballrooms, carrying the jazz notes out the other side of the building and down to the curb. People passing by look up and smile as the melodies settle around them. You can see the silouettes of the dancers in the windows backlit by soft twinkle lights strung around the walls. There are two dance floors tonight and both DJs are playing great tunes. It's hard to decide what room to settle in, so we float back and forth, with the breeze.

So am I going to leave over a little blister? No. Not a chance. Not yet. This is one of my favorite songs. So we dance. The blister gets friends. We dance to Lou Rawls and Anita O'Day. We dance to Lavay Smith and Benny Goodman. I now have a two blisters on my left heel, one on my right, and another on my big toe. I deal. I limp when I walk and I dance when I dance.

About the time that "Bei Mir Bist du Schon" really picks up, I feel that first blister burst. I'm going to finish out the song though. And maybe just one more. By the time my feet are bleeding, I figure it's time to go. I can't mess them up too much after all. I've got ballet in the morning.

I have good dance shoes, by the way. I'm wearing them. The good dance shoes give me blisters. I have others that are kinder to my heels but bruise the balls of my feet. That's not acceptable, so blisters it is. You'd think I'd have callouses by now and I do, but somehow I blister anyway, right through them.

So I go to ballet. I limp into the room and then dance my best. It hurts a little, but it's okay. The situation doesn't really improve. My left heel is still pretty sore. I have another ballet class on Tuesday and here it is Monday morning and I'm thinking, "Isn't there a class tonight?"

There is. It's called "Stretch and Strength." Sounds peaceful, doesn't it? Like yoga, maybe? Don't believe it for a second. My friend Jenny and I call it Masochistist Ab and Leg workout. It's an hour of pain that will stick with you all week. Jenny and I will be laying on the floor doing unspeakable varieties of leg lifts comparing and contrasting our instructor's methods with those of the torture artists who worked for the Spanish Inquisition. And we'll waddle into class tomorrow with our legs on fire before the music even starts. We're not spectacular dancers. We don't get paid for this. We're beginners. We pay for the privledge of being pulled and stretched in ways that bodies don't naturally want to go.

I was giving my husband a hard time earlier this week about skiing of cliffs and how maybe that's not so good for him. He could get hurt. I think I was washing my blisters while we had this conversation. Jenny and I watch the point dancers warm up with a sigh. Another friend reminds us that that pretty dancer's toe nail fell off yesterday. We sigh anyway. We'd do it in a heartbeat if we could.

Why do we do this? What's the drive? It gets you in shape? So does swimming and aerobics, and generally without any other side effects, I might add. So why do I routinely beat myself up only to do it again before the sore spots heal? What biological instinct spurs this behavior? Good question. I don't know really.

I just have to. It's part of me. It's what I look forward to. Because if I manage to land a double pirouette I'll be on cloud 9 all week. Because it feels good to get lost inside a trumpet solo. Because when I hear the music my feet start moving and I just can't help it. It's just what I do.

And I think I'll go do it again in a few hours.

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