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Stokin' the Contra Fires 1998 Sheridan Hill       "Celebrate" Art by Carol Thompson

Art by Carol Thompson

It’s the second set, an Irish jig, and the mandolin player is on fire with sparks spraying all over us, skirts and shirts aflame. My head is spinning -- or is it the room? Nothing in sight but my partner’s eyes on mine, lights circling behind his head in a halo and our centrifugal force pulsing as the frenetic mandolin lures our bodies ever faster. From the other side of the room Carol yelps in utter delight, "Ye -haw!"

"Ladies chain," the caller says,  and I take the hand of the woman opposite me. Her Cheshire smile pulls by and my feet are nothing but twinkletoes behind my partner --Hey! Watch the rotator cuff!

Face down the set and here’s a new partner. Aaah, here is a dancer. His touch is light, he is never forceful but leads with a gentle touch of his fingers, signals "I’m going to turn you," oh yes, spin me now. On the dance floor in the arms of an experienced dancer, I will follow anywhere, unthinking, without question. (It is the only place this has ever happened: Ask my ex-husband.)

"Gyprightsy and melt into a swing," coos the caller. It’s a daring move, and I couldn’t do it at first: Each partner circles the other, eyes locked but no touching, like a pair of wildcats, and if you find your partner the least bit interesting, it’s a thrill. Closing the gypsy into a swing, I continue circling until the last moment, feel the tension, let him make the first move.

My new partner moves like bridesmaid satin. His eyes lock mine, his hands are firm and gentle, and this rhythm we found...my thoughts begin to stray.... Stop! This is your conscience, remember me? Hell-oooooo! Just because a guy can dance doesn’t mean he is a great lover.... Okay, maybe they are connected. But keep your mind on the dance. Honestly!

We dance on hardwood floors across the country. There are Volvos, Toyotas, Dodge Caravans and a few old Pontiacs in the parking lot, sporting bumper stickers that read, "Enjoy Life. This is Not a Dress Rehearsal" and "Love Your Mother Earth." We are real estate brokers, computer tekkies, office workers, teachers, insurance executives and carpenters. A few are Lindbaugh-listeners, and probably a quarter of us have never seen the inside of a voting booth.

Politics aside, we're here for the dance. Where else can a woman freely and fiercely engage in the arms of 30 different men in the course of an evening--and go home, completely satisfied, to sleep with the cat? As Nancy put it, "You can dance with your partner and think, ‘This is just the loveliest person!' And then move on to the next partner."

Notorious George in his trademark yellow suspenders dips me so deeply my head touches the floor and both feet go into the air. In his arms, a contra dance becomes a tango; the driving look in his eyes and the sensuous way he moves me, as if I were the last female on earth. In the next dance, he treats the next woman exactly the same way.

In the final waltz Don turns me, leads me arm-in-arm across the floor in a graceful roll-away. The soulful violin laments the end of this glorious night.

See you next week.

This essay was inspired by Feet Retreat 98.  Thanks to Dan Houston and Fiddle and Bow Contra Dancers for putting it on.



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