Dance like no one’s watching except Jack

July 5, 2013

By Pat Detmer

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I love to dance, but I’m only proficient on my own. I was the eldest of three sisters and took the male lead when we taught ourselves how to Jitterbug or Waltz as kids, thus ruining it for The Sainted One and anyone else who has tried to move me about the floor without resistance. When I was in high school, stand-alones were the rage — the Twist, the Frug, the Jerk — and when a slow song came on, it was sufficient to drape your arms around your date’s neck and shuffle side-to-side. So my enthusiasm for dance is a solo thing. I find solace in The Electric Slide.

To feed my love of movement, I take Zumba at the Y twice a week. I take the daytime “Gold” version, tamer than the nighttime sessions but still a challenge: Sixty minutes of nonstop movement, steps, pivots, arm waving, dipping and twirling. One thing I’ve noticed after years of attending is that young children are mesmerized by our sessions. It’s difficult for parents to pull their charges down the hallway once they’ve heard the music and spotted us through the wide gym doors. Their little bodies begin to sway and their feet and arms move as they attempt to mimic our choreography.

As toddlers, boys are as fascinated as their sisters are, but once they reach 5 or 6 they observe us with a studied detachment, and when they hit their pre-teens, they lope past the doors as if they’re terrified that they might inadvertently be sucked in against their will.

I believe that American boys are culturally encouraged to not dance, to consider it an activity for wimps, girls, children and old people. I stood in enough gyms in my youth watching boys pretend to lean casually against the opposite wall while the girls danced in giggling groups to know that this is a fact.

That’s why I dance in front of Jack, my Newcastle grandnephew, all the time. When he was a mere 6 weeks old, I danced backward down the sidewalks in Olympus while my niece pushed him toward me in a stroller, which got me a “Cool!” from an unnoticed meter reader. When the family is over for dinner, I play Lady Gaga and perform for him (and any other unfortunate family members who happen to be there) and when I finish, I make sure that I say to him, “Dancing is good, Jack, and if you dance, you’ll never have to worry about getting a date.”

He’ll be 2 in November. Obviously, I’ll be dancing at his birthday party.


You can reach Pat Detmer, who’s appearing twice a week at a gym near you, at Read previous columns at


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