For all the girls who ever dreamed of dancing … which is most of the girls, really.
I’m not that familiar with Peter Bogdanovich’s classic film “The Last Picture Show” or the novel on which it was based. But the title has all kinds of evocative resonance — the end of innocence, the end of creativity, the end of escape from the real world.
“The Last Dancing Class” — or even just “Last Dancing Class,” my grandpa’s phrase — carries some of the same feeling.
Dancing is a pretty decent metaphor for the way we try to navigate through daily life with some modicum of grace and poise. The “last dancing class,” then, represents the last lessons of grown-up life we learn before we strike out on our own and try to manage for ourselves in this crazy, complicated world.
(Or, if you accept Mick Jagger’s oft-quoted assertion that “all dancing is a replacement for sex,” the last dancing class metaphorically becomes a preparation for an entirely different rite of passage.)
Dancing classes have a certain historical resonance in the Blumenau family. My grandfather, the guy who kept the calendars, met my grandma at a dancing class in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the mid-1930s.
For them, the “last dancing class” might have been the time when they swapped phone numbers or agreed to keep seeing each other — setting into motion any number of things, including this blog.
No matter what the phrase “last dancing class” evokes for you, there is always a certain bittersweet power in those times when the people who teach you have nothing left to pass along.
You’ve been through the lessons and learned the rules, the skills, the steps and the transitions. It’s up to you to make something of your own out of them — something more than the people who taught you accomplished with the same raw materials.
But you’ve only got so much time to do so before the years catch up with you. Soon enough, you’re the one sitting in the chair, passing the steps on to another generation, secretly hoping they don’t leave you in the dust with the brilliance and imagination you struggled to find for yourself.
The dance goes on, but one by one, we step out of it. And we learn that the last dancing class meant more all along to the teacher than it did to the students.
In real life this week’s calendar entry means nothing so dramatic.
My aunt studied dancing for many years growing up. May 16, 1965, must have been the last of a series — perhaps the last lesson with a particular teacher, or the last of a particular style of classes. I do not imagine it was the last dance class she ever took, anywhere.
And anyway, in dancing and in life, it is not always what we learn from formal lessons that sustains and improves us. There are lessons about grace and rhythm and poise to be learned everywhere we go.
Shall we dance, then?