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Tuscaloosa Needs a Stepper’s Club

Thinking back to my 21 birthday…. I took a trip to Chicago the following weekend.  My best friend, who is 4 days older than I am and lives 2 doors down from my grandmother, thought we should go to a club to celebrate. So, at the age of 21, I stepped foot into my first nightclub EVER! 

When I tell you that I had a ball, trust and believe that I had a ball.  Here I am at my first home with lifelong friends and a bunch of other people who I did not know.  Perfect opportunity for me to let my hair down and just enjoy myself. Well, I’m on the dance floor, and I’m just getting it!  I’m dancing with just about every man that did not come out with his lady.  I’m on the floor for at least 45 minutes straight. And then, IT happens: All of a sudden, here’s James Brown “The Payback.” 

I’m about to resume my regular dancing, but the gentleman with whom I was on the floor says to me, “Oh, noooo. This is a stepper’s song right here.” 

I grew up in Chicago and was accustomerd to seeing people “step,” but I’d never learned to do so myself.  So, I disappointedly eased off to the side and watched everyone dance.  I continued to watch through a few more songs until the Chicago-house music started.  Then, I was right back on the dance floor.

I’ve never forgotten that night, obviously. I’ve often wondered what happened to African Americans dancing in ways that excluded gyration.  It didn’t stop me from dancing, but there was always a lingering curiosity.

In addition, my mom has been a dancer since before I was born.  If there’s a new line dance, she either knows it or she’s learning it. She taught my siblings and I to “bop,” which we do at family gatherings; but since we’ve moved to Alabama, we’ve never really gotten the chance to learn to step.  Well, a few years ago, R. Kelly exposed stepping to areas where it may have been unfamiliar and reignited my mom’s desire to learn.  She started traveling to steppers’ classes in Birmingham; and last night, I was her guest.

My intention was to go, watch, and learn in my own time.  That is FAR from what actually happened.  When we got there, we were given name tags and sent to the dance floor.  At first, it was a little hard for me.  I had to learn to move like fluid instead of bouncy-dancing.  The more I learned the steps and counts, the more I enjoyed it and actually hated to leave. 

Once the class was over, I sat and watched skilled dancers enjoy themselves. As I prepared to leave, a gentleman approached me and said, “I’ve seen you doing the basic steps all night, but I don’t remember seeing you dance with a brother. Have you danced with a man tonight?”  I told him that I hadn’t, but that it was okay because I was heading home and didn’t know what I was doing anyway. He wasn’t having it.

That man led me to the dance floor, and I was trying to do everything I’d just learned in the class; but I totally lost it…. I mean, every step.  However, what I DID learn is how to let the man lead.  He spun me around, pushed me away, and pulled me towards him.  It was nothing seductive but very sensual.

It’s funny how dancing can show you an inadequacy in your life.  Until last night, I was completely unaware that I’m not very good at following.  Now, that I know, I’ll definitely work on it.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next stepping class.  I just hate having to go to Birmingham to get it.

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