Durham News: Opinion

Hannah C. Mitchell: Swing after your supper

Last Friday, my boyfriend Caleb came down to visit from New York City.

My plan for the evening of his arrival involved getting our rock step on. So I took him straight to Dame’s for fried chicken and spicy greens.

Because you can’t swing on an empty stomach.

We ordered the sweet potato waffles, and then popped over to Fullsteam for the Carver. All the ways you could possibly prepare the official state vegetable for Caleb, do those, please and thank you.

Then we hit the dance floor.

Triangle Swing Dance Society was hosting their last gig of the year at The Murphey School on the Hillsborough side of town, and the Swang Brothers were the appropriated live band.

We could hear the music from outside when we pulled up in the December dark. Good sign.

In the second week of December five years ago, Caleb took me to our undergraduate Christmas ball where we both first realized the romantic possibilities between us. It seemed appropriate, as we reconnected after separate ways and wanderings to take a swing at dating, that we shake a leg for old time’s sake. Or, maybe, to pick up where we left off.

We didn’t realize how much we’d forgotten.

By which I mean I’ve always been a terrible dance partner, and I make remarks like “how much I have forgotten!” to make it seem like I did at some point actually know what I was doing, which has never been true.

Of course, the redeeming quality of swing is that you don’t have to be good at it to enjoy yourself.

You can start off on the incorrect foot, and put five steps into a turn where three steps are supposed to go, and you can fall the wrong direction into the dip, and still feel like Ginger Rogers.

It helps if you have a forgiving partner who is amused by all this.

And a good live rockabilly boogie band to convince you both of your rhythmic abilities.

Caleb, who is the better dancer, scouted the crowded wood floor for experts to imitate.

There was an old couple executing a fancy combination as smooth as butter.

There was a guy in a turquoise plaid shirt and a girl who had the ends of her hair dyed the same shade of blue throwing in a little side kick.

We tried some of their moves.

We made note of all the pretty wall flowers and willed all the “NC State Engineering” T shirt guys to work up the gumption to cross the room and extend a hand.

Perhaps best of all the people watching subjects though, was the gloves lady.

She wore a purple skirt, socks with frills, and Grace Kelly gloves.

She didn’t miss a beat.

She leapt around the entire perimeter of the room then twirled through the crowd.

She just did her own thing. With spirit hands.

She held her chin up sometimes with her eyes.

Caleb and I watched her with delight.

At the stroke of 11 p.m., when the band packed up and the crowd reclaimed their jackets from the backs of metal folding chairs, we wished for just one more song.

Because seriously, no matter how long it’s been since all the petals fell out of your boutonniere when you hopped the double step just a little too vigorously, swing, we rediscovered, is for everyone, all the time.

The next dance is slated for Saturday, Feb. 20 at the Carrboro Century Center. Look it up at www.triangleswingdance.org/. Bring your gloves. Eat sweet potatoes in every form beforehand.

Take a swing with us.

You can reach Hannah C. Mitchell at remarksbymitchell@gmail.com.