I've always wanted to learn how to dance...correctly. And by correctly I mean technically, gracefully and what other adverbs or adjectives can be used to describe this art form. I think it was quite unfortunate that I grew up at a time when New Wave and Punk dominated the airwaves. Dancing then was, can I say, free form. Not really like what freestyle was for swimming but free in the sense that you can basically just sway around and maybe flail your arms in a wave like motion to simulate the style of those days.
That was high school for me. But don't get me wrong, I now look back at those days and could still vividly picture in my mind how we were during our version of the good old days. Honestly, I wasn't even among those whom I remember "dancing" in those times of soirees and interactions with our counterparts in exclusive girls schools. I remember joining only two - an informal one with St. Paul Pasig and a formal (read: school sanctioned) one with Stella Maris. While I wasn't mostly among the walls, we (yes there a few of us) were pretty much close to the concrete.
My exposure to dancing as it should be mainly comes from my being in attendance at high school homecomings of my father's. I would watch as oldtimers and newly grads all went to the floor to perform - throwing caution to the wind when it was unnecessary because they did know their stuff. They would dance the whole night until early in the morning - swing, boogie, tango, disco, cha-cha (not the political kind), and yes...new wave. My cousins would always pull me to join them and I would always shake off my shyness, taking comfort by the sheer number of people I was with (I had many relatives) and knowing that people wont care if I had two left feet (or right). And I was always happy to see my father and his classmates dance the night away. I can see their joy and Tatay was a good dancer so I guess he can really enjoy reminiscing old times with his barkada in the Class of 1955.
Recently, I was reacquainted with the Ilonggo's love for dance. We were in Iloilo City for a seminar and happened to have dinner in a popular restaurant. We were a bit early so we thought that the band was just setting up. There were similar places in Cebu and Davao where the live band would even accept song requests from diners or even invite people to sing with the band. Then we saw people coming to the restaurant somewhat dressed for some occasion. We tried to disguise our laughs as some matrons arrived looking like they were going dancing, escorted by DI (dance instructor) types. A few minutes later they confirmed our suspicions when the band started playing...they were there to dance!
And dance they did as more people arrived including politicians, who surprisingly arrived with minimal bodyguards; instead opting to be surrounded by family and friends. Everyone seemed to know each other and I felt something I had not felt since the last time I attended my father's high school homecomings. I could see couples - young and young at heart - dancing together, the elder ones slowly but surely as you can see they knew how to dance, knew the steps and tried what their bodies allowed them to. Later in the night, the younger crowd joined in the dance floor, dancing in three and foursomes, just like what my cousins and I did while simultaneously exchanging stories and renewing ties. I understood then as I understood before but had seemed to forget, the Ilonggo way of having fun. It was already evident in their language - they can be angry or sad but the language was always malambing - and it was very evident by how they socialized, using dance as an instrument to disarm those with inhibitions and, regardless of who you were, let you in the circle to make you feel connected.
I miss those homecomings though they were not mine. I always felt I belonged as relatives from almost all high school batches where there making it appear from my perspective that they were actually our family's homecomings. I particularly miss dancing and wouldn't mind if I could relive those times and remember those few steps I picked up, and maybe, even learn a few...