A Tale of Two Dances

I went out dancing the other evening.

This is not rare for me, anymore; what was rare was the shift from one kind of dancing, at one type of place, to another.

We went to El Parador first; by day, it is a Mexican restaurant, but on weekend evenings it turns, partly, into a club. There is a permanent wood dance floor, and something about the dusk in corners and the abundance of tropical plants makes it feel like some sort of secret, cave-like hideway. A very large hideaway. There are a few lights, but they mostly only light the dance floor.

The band there is decent; they play salsa and merengue, and when they go on break the DJ plays cumbia and bachata as well. I danced and talked and hung out with people from all over the world: Sweden, the Netherlands, Puerto Rico, Russia, Mexico, India . . . and there's something I love very much about that, of people who may not even speak the same language, but who can communicate through movement and enjoy themselves.

Halfway through the evening, my friend decided she wanted to go to the Maverick. Her friend picked her up, and I followed about an hour later.

The Maverick is a country bar on the eastern side of town. It's more brightly lit, with bars that line a full two sides of the large room, the decor being mostly red and wood-toned. I was given a rather fake-tasting margarita and dragged onto the floor to dance with a tall boy with a wide-eyed grin and a repertoire of two dance steps. He seemed very certain that if he smiled at me enough, I just might decide to go home with him.

The music being played was, without exception, country: a three chord progression of twang and lyrics that sound so similar they could be interchanged with anything from the last twenty years and one would hardly notice. There was something almost comforting about that observation, about the repetition of the two step and the simplicity of jeans and boots and button down shirts.

I realized suddenly, too, that there was not a single person in the room that wasn't Caucasian and very clearly American. I was the most exotic of everyone, in my pale skin and near-black hair and character shoes. I imagined the hostile stares a Mexican or Puerto Rican might have gotten had they chosen to enter, recalled the near-fight I witnessed when the boy I was dancing with thought it was funny to slap his male friend on the ass as he passed (and the paranoia in his voice when people seriously questioned his sexuality afterward).

I wonder about people who self-select into a homogeneous group, who distrust anything outside the boundaries of that group. I relish feeling international, of talking to people with experiences vastly different than my own. This sort of open-mindedness is the very foundation of my classroom teaching.

And yet, part of me still enjoyed the Mavrick, liked the simplicity, the homogeny--despite the ignorance and prejudice that I knew lurk in the corners of that wood-lined room.

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