Monday, March 19, 2007

things I learned in high school

Last night I found myself watching a human interest story on the news about the Chicago Barn Dance Company. I have no recollection of how I ended up watching the story...or for that matter the news. It was on the FOX network, and while I usually don't get my news from the television, I certainly never get it from FOX. It was probably happened that whatever program I was watching on my Tivo finished and the rum & coke I was drinking lulled me into a sense of complacency. The woman doing the report had chosen to wear a pair of ridiculous-looking cowboy boots. She appeared to be the only person there wearing anything resembling activity-appropriate footwear--most were wearing gym shoes. I wonder if she felt stupid once she got there. She joined in on the fun and interviewed some of the regulars. She made a point to explain the difference between barn dancing and square dancing (something to do with the number of partners, and who you get to dance with). Really, what I found most interesting about her report was that she had either expensed the purchase of those boots, or had raided the wardrobe at the studio and got "lucky".

Not that I think there's anything inherently wrong with barn dancing or square dancing and using that as a vehicle for social interaction. It's just not my bag. But it did remind me of the month or so that I spent in gym class--I believe it was my freshman year--when we were taught, en masse, to square dance. There's a bit of general "wisdom" out there that insists that a large percentage of the information we're forced to "learn" in high school is mostly irrelevant as it pertains to every day life. I've forgotten vast amounts of information on which I know I was tested--and passed...probably with a better-than-average grade. I suppose very little of the knowledge I gained in high school has come in handy. But the truth is, from time to time, I find myself having to recall some random bit of information. The nice thing about high school is that there is no alchoholic haze surrounding that area of my memory, so I can trust that information to be mostly accurate. If I can remember it, I can trust it. Facts are a little bit more suspect if they were learned during my college years. But I can say with 100% certainty that I have yet to call up on the memory of my square dancing unit for any reason whatsoever.

Even if my kids have to endure square dance instruction when they go to high school, (Are they still doing it? Was it some weird localized thing only at my high school?) there's no way I'll be able to help them with their homework.

To this day, I'm not sure why we were subjected to this particular humiliation during our high school experience. I imagine that it was one of those things that had been in the curriculum for years, and so remained. There have been movements dedicated to making the square dance the offical folk dance of the United States of America, but thus far it has not been made official. it wasn't until 1990 that the square dance was made the official dance of Illinois, ance I was out of high school by then.

Perhaps the idea began with an attempt to create a situation that would encourage social interaction between the sexes in a controlled environment. That seems to be the purpose of the Chicago Barn Dance Company. You get to meet people of the opposite sex in a completely non-sexy enviromnent...none of the pesky arousal that can sometimes be the result of ballroom dancing. As a boy developing into a man, believe me that in high school, just about everything could be construed as arousing. Square dancing was not.

The image I've included in today's blog is a drawing of an "allemande". I like this drawing. The guy looks a little creepy...the woman looks a little mannish. It's odd. The "allemande" is one of the calls in square dancing. I don't recall exactly what it involved...some sort of turn...but then, most of square dancing seemed to involve some sort of turn. The word "allemande" comes from the French for "German". Apparently this was some sort of German dance that somehow was translated into the square dance. If you spell it "a le main", it's also French that describes how the move is done. Those wacky French. Doing nothing, but describing it all with their "words". (Full disclosure forces me to admit that I am proudly 1/8 French.)

So anyhow, the one thing I remember from square dancing was that one was encouraged to "allemande left" or "walk like a german to the left". It's interesting that around this time, the Bangels were encouraging me to walk like an Egyptian.

The Egyptians won out. I remember more about that song than I do about square dancing.

Oh, and by the way, I certainly didn't get any dates out of the whole square dancing thing. Maybe if they had timed it better with my sex education classes.


Chris said...

No, we Canadians in the west were also subject to this as well. But I do recall that on Fridays, if we'd been good then they would slip in a class about the Hustle or the Electric Slide.

My thoughts on Square Dancing were once again being aware of how low on the 'cool' ladder I was as we had to get ourselves into groups of 4 and I was always left in the group of misfits (kind of like being picked last for the baseball team).

But I guess similar to the Chicago Barn dance here in Scotland there is the caile (pronounced kay-lee). Most official functions (the office Christmas party being one) involve this. But the caile is deep rooted in the Cceltic culture and everyone participates at that first chord struck by the band. It looks like an awful lot of fun.

basest said...

i would likely have been in your square dance group, had we attended school together.