Sunday, October 11, 2009

Part III—One Magic Step for a Man

Unfortunately, my effort to reinvent myself to become more social and active campus life took its toll on my grade point. You might say I was too successful, but another way to look at it was that I didn’t have a good concept of moderation.

I got involved with Liz, a girl in the dance club during rehearsals for the Bolero number. She was a very good dancer and dancing and necking formed the basis of our relationship. She lived in Ames and had access to her mother’s car and would stop by and pick me up when I should have been studying. At the end of the first quarter of my Junior year, the university politely told me I was suspended and could not enroll for the winter quarter. There was nothing left to do, but to come home.

I managed to get a job at Union Pacific headquarters in Omaha with the title of clerk-filer. I worked in the accounting department probably based on the test they gave me requiring me to add a long list of numbers. I can not describe how much I hated working there. I don’t even want to describe the despair and boredom I felt. I was 21 years old and faced what to do with the rest of my life but I knew that doing menial tasks all day long and trying to look like I was busy, that was the worst part, was not for me.

I began to scour the ads in the Omaha World Herald, and I saw something I had not even thought about. “Wanted-Arthur Murray dance instructors.”
Soon I was taking Arthur Murray instructor training classes every night after work. They went from 7 to10. I was January. After class I would take a street car to Council Bluffs, hoping I would be able to catch the last bus for the night to my neighborhood. Many a time I missed it and had to walk 2 miles to reach my home. After 5-6 weeks of this, I had saved enough money to make a down payment on a 1950 straight shift Mercury dark green sedan with radio. It was my first car.

As I recall, there were 3 others in my training class when I arrived. The all had been there a week or two before I arrived. For the first two weeks, our dance trainer-instructor would be with us for the first hour and then leave us to practice on our own, dropping in occasionally to see how we were doing then a review for the last half hour. For my first two weeks, I did not learn a dance step. We practiced constantly how to move forward and back, called walking steps.

The basic steps in Fox Trot or Waltz require a big forward movement straight ahead for the man’s part, always beginning on the left foot. Leading with the toe, the left leg is extended until the toe is about to hit the floor, then the ball of the right foot pushes enough that the left foot slides about 3-4 inches when it hits the floor. At the end of the step forward, the upper body should be directly above the foot. Dance shoes always should have a rubber heel and leather sole, the leather being important because it allows the slide. And the best dance floor is always wood and is not sticky.

So we would practice walking steps constantly during the first 2 weeks. Arms extended in dance position and without partners, we would move counter-clockwise around the dance floor, the way dancers are suppose to go, moving to fox trot music. Good dancers always have precise footwork and correct dance posture.

After two weeks of basic training, we started to learn dance steps and how to teach them. To complete the training class we had to learn 10 steps in six dances, Fox Trot, Waltz, Swing, Rumba, Samba, and Tango and we had to be able to teach both men and women’s parts.

Then something happen that thrust me into becoming a full time dance instructor before I had completed everything. Two of the men dance instructors decided to join the Coast Guard at the same time. The studio was suddenly in need of male teachers and the dance director pulled me aside and told me I was needed and she was confident I could do the job.
I quit my job at Union Pacific and started full time at Arthur Murray’s.


GETkristiLOVE said...

Wow, I never knew that's how you got started. Was it good pay?

Dad E said...

I got a lot of students given to me because of the other guys leaving so my teaching hours were high to begin with instead of having to start by getting new students assigned to me and having to build up a clientele. Later I made good money when s student would sign up for additional lessons. I sold the 3rd highest number of lessons by a teacher in the owner's 4 studios and I only worked there 9 months.

vikkitikkitavi said...

I didn't know you were suspended from Iowa State. I bet Gran was not pleased. Obvs. they let you back in - is that the next installment?

Dad E said...

Yeah, I learned that mother was really good at denial. She made up some story about why I was out of college to tell her friends. I was never ashamed though and soon I was riding high being a professional dancer.