I can still remember my very first dance with the opposite sex. I was in Grade 3 and it was our Christmas party in our classroom. Our teacher told the guys to ask the girls to dance. She taught the boys to extend their right hand and say, "May I dance with you?" We giggled.
Everyone felt a little awkward. When the music started playing, Mr. Smarty Face was one of the braver ones who led the guys in asking the girls to dance, and he asked me! We danced to some fast music I can't remember. After this party, we were back to playing tag and agawan base.
I think my first introduction to a grown up party happened when I was probably 13 or 14, during the Martial Law years in the Philippines. My older siblings hosted a party with student boarders at our house. It was a stay-in party common at that time when curfew hours were from 12 midnight to 4 am. So the party went till dawn because no one could be out in the streets within those hours.
Our boarder's boyfriend, who was like family to us, was my first dance early in the night. After that, there was eating and more dancing. Not being good at staying up all night, I fell asleep part of the time. Finally, when the last music was announced after the curfew was over, my first dance asked to be my last dance.
"Yung first dance mo dapat last dance mo rin (your first dance should be your last dance, too)," he said. If that was the proper etiquette, I never witnessed it again.
Outside of high school parties, I attended quite a few dances held outdoors in my father's hometown of Naguilian, Isabela around the time of the town fiesta in the summer. I often spent many summer vacations in Naguilian and it seemed like the town fiesta was the highlight of the year.
Naguilian was a backward town. At that time, I don't think there was even electricity. Most roads were unpaved and dusty. There was really nothing there in terms of entertainment. So the fiesta and the public dances were a big deal.
Usually, dances were held in basketball courts, on the streets or empty lots. Only then would you see bright lights, powered by generator, in the dance grounds. The music was blaring. Young men and women of the town, including my own relatives and those who were vacationing from their studies or work in Manila, congregated in those events. Our helpers, who were from Naguilian, always had to go home for these celebrations.
Out-of-town guests, like me, stood out simply because people could tell who were not from the area. If you were a guest, you could expect men to ask you to dance one after the other. No chance of becoming a wallpaper! I sometimes hid behind my cousins if I just wanted to watch the program.
One summer, my two female cousins and I were asked to prepare a modern dance number. Our music was Flashback. I don't think this was popular in Manila but in the province, they seemed to have a different music preference. So we did a number a la Aldeguer dancers complete with flared pants and flying hair!
As I mentioned in my previous entry, I think I stopped going to dance parties after high school just because I found other interests and my social circle was not the partying type. The only dance I considered doing was Philippine folk dance, and even this was unintentional.
During my short stint at a government bureau right after college, I auditioned for the office choral group. After I was done singing, the conductress and another lady talked with one another in private. Then I was asked to join the Folk Dance group instead, not because I did not have the voice, but because the other lady, which turned out to be organizing a new office dance troupe, liked the way I carried myself. Why, did I sway while singing Ice Castles?? Anyway, they got me convinced and i joined the dance group. What a strange audition. For weeks I trained as one of two lead dancers until I left for another job even before our first performance. Too bad.
My last memorable dance in the Philippines was my first experience of disco, when it was already a thing of the past. As I said, I skipped the disco scene, never went to one while John Travolta was ah ah ah ahhh stayin' aliiiiive. MrB and I read about a one-night Christian disco event somewhere in Makati and we decided to attend it.
We left our two young boys, Gino and Mickey, in the care of a friend and disco'ed the night away. It was all fast Christian music, the Gary Valenciano kind, and other English ones, no smoking, no alcohol, no indecent gyrating, all wholesome. The crowd was very tame and gracious. It was pure energy but the music was eardrum-busting. You couldn't have a conversation with anyone without screaming!
These days, if I dance anything "modern", or pretend to make some dance moves, it sends my children laughing. They think it is comical if not embarrassing.
Recently, Markus challenged me to do a dance move that he invented. It looks like a cross between hip-hop and a seizure. That shouldn't be too difficult but I still need a little practice. Just wait, Markus. I will show you!