Column: Save The Last Dance For Me (Actually, Maybe Not)
“You can always tell how good someone is in bed by how they dance,” she said, taking a long drag of her cigarette and looking into the middle distance. I'm forgetting who this “she” was, but I do remember her words, delivery and enunciation all posed for effect. It was the early noughties and I was feeling my way along in Bombay, a city I had newly arrived into as a young immigrant.
As young immigrants are wont to do, I made several, instantly close friends, most of them in the same boat as I was. Unmoored from family—for some of us for the first time in our lives—learning to be both independent and anonymous—we also dealt in truisms, usually very late at night, gathered around in someone's impossibly small flat, ignoring the kitchen sink filled with dishes in the background because it took away from the glamour of our lives.
I recalled this as I watched Todd (name and identity changed) sprint across the dance floor, arms raised in the air, fingers forming crab-like claws which he waved about, also crab-like. We were at a very trendy nightclub, and he was older than me. I was trying him on for size, like a new look, to see how we were suited, but even before I saw him dancing (galumphing) I knew the romance was doomed.
Oh yes, he was older, and he made me feel sophisticated and a bit like I was in a foreign language film, but at twenty-five, I was far more conventional than I liked to admit to myself, and he—well—he didn't match up to the image I had of my Ideal Romance in my head.
This is ironic, because I've never been the world's most elegant dancer either. I'm saved because, as Holden Caulfield put it in The Catcher In The Rye, it's easy for girls to look good when they dance. I'm more comfortable standing still, and if I must dance, I like to sit in my chair, and move my head along to the music. I even took dance lessons—one of those big “You Can Dance!” academies that popped up every summer, and I sucked, mostly because I kept forgetting whether my right leg moved first or my left.
At dance parties, I protest and object, and finally go out and shake myself about, feet firmly on the ground for about one song, before I sit down again. If everyone listened to the theory that your intimate language is revealed by your dancing, I'd be in trouble.
There used to be a time, right before I moved to Bombay, in fact, that we'd all go to this bar in Delhi called Turquoise Cottage. It still exists, but not as it did then. Drinks were cheap, the music was loud, and we'd be in the basement, a brick-walled, film-poster-lined space with sticky floors and one plus one drinks on Wednesdays. There the DJ played the same set every week, all retro, starting with some twirly upbeat numbers and usually the lights came on with Pink Floyd's Coming Back To Life.
Inevitably, some man would lead some woman to an empty-ish space in front of the bar and start twirling her around to an elaborate partner dance. When I was asked to jive, or salsa, depending on who was asking me, I always said yes. This was a dance that required nothing from me, just move when someone asked me to move, just let my body be a dead weight as he dipped me to the floor.
I wonder if that's revealing.
Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan is the author of five books, most recently a YA novel about divorce called Split and a collection of short stories about love called Before, And Then After. The views expressed here are her own.