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My Life as a Dancer Part 3: 3 Women or Ending with the Beginning

Nearly a year ago I started a series of blog posts entitled, My Life as a Dancer.  Somewhere between parts 2 & 3 my blogging got derailed by my living.  And while I’m not living any less now than then, it seems the changing of the seasons are giving me wider room to write…and hopefully, dance. 

The 3 Women with whom I danced or Ending with the Beginning


I’m almost certain Tatiana was my first real crush.  I was 12 years old, in the 6th grade at S.S. Conner Elementary when my mom informed me we were going to Atlanta.  My cousin Yvette was getting married, it was a big occasion and so we all packed up the sedan, scooped up grandma & grandpa and made the 14-hour drive from Dallas to Atlanta. 

The wedding was quite the cultural exchange.  My uncle was a tried and true North Louisiana man.  He carried himself with a southern dignity that befits a son of the South.  A graduate of Louisiana’s finest colleges during a time when you could say “Louisiana’s finest colleges” with a straight face.  LSU, then Tulane medical school.  My uncle John is class.  He married a woman who matched his dignity with an eloquence of her own.  My aunt Cecilia is from a proud, well heeled family from Costa Rica.  When she spoke, she had a Spanish accent that would melt you.

The wedding reception was to take place in my uncle’s back yard.  Tables in delicate decor peppered the back yard.  And in the front middle of them all was the parquet dance floor. 

At the reception I sat with mom and the grandparents.  Two tables over was Tatiana. 

Tatiana and I had met a few days earlier at my uncle’s house.  She was 4 years older than me and had come from Costa Rica to attend the wedding.  We hung out some and she laughed at my jokes.  I laughed with her too, but tried to make sure not to smile too much lest the light reflect off my blazing shiny braces and blind her. 

The band played, people danced and finally I mustered all the courage a 12 year old boy can muster in order to ask a 16 year old Costa Rican goddess to dance to whatever nonsense was being played by the oldies cover band. 

Interrupting the conversation she was having with some less-than-smooth-talking guy in the wedding party I asked, “Tatiana, would you like to dance?”.  And to the dance floor we strode. 

We were into our 3rd dance when it happened.  Words that would alter the trajectory of my life.  Tatiana looked at me with her big latin eyes and said, “Matthew, you have to move your feet more.  Like this.” 

Subtle I know.  But in the ears and heart of a 12 year old, this was tragedy.  She was giving me dance lessons.  Which translated to me, “She thinks I’m a horrible dancer.  Oh No!  This is terrible!”  Here I was trying to impress the 16-year-old beauty queen and she was none to impressed with the way I danced to Bob Segar’s ‘Old Time Rock & Roll’. 

Something had to change. 



Beverly and I grew up in the neighborhood together.  We went to the same elementary school and then on to the same Jr. High School.  We didn’t hang out much and we moved in different circles, but we had a comfort and familiarity with one another that happens when you grow up with someone, see them nearly every day of your life even if its only across the school yard. 

Immediately following the ‘Atlanta Dance Floor Tragedy’ I resolved to be a better dancer.  So that next time Tatiana, or any girl really, danced with me, she would be duly impressed. 

I danced in my bedroom.  All the time.  In the mirror.  Different kinds of dances even.  And when I was over at friends’ houses that had cable I would watch music videos.  I even snuck cardboard through my bedroom window so I could work on my break-dance skills under the watchful eyes of my friends, Kevin & Reggie.  Both of whom were good dancers; for being 6th graders. 

Then, nearly 2 and a half years after Atlanta, the night of vindication came.  This time it wasn’t at a backyard reception that looked like a page out of Southern Living it was in the cafeteria of a Dallas public Jr. High School.  No parquet dance floor at this shindig as linoleum would have to do. 

The Cafeteria @ Gaston Jr. High School8th Grade Dance at Gaston Jr. High.  After years of practice, I put on my dancing shoes.  With confidence I danced with anyone who came near me on the dance floor; and oh did the girls come near me.  Towards the end of the evening, Beverly and I danced.  A girl that knew me when I was 12 but was unaware of the dance skeletons in my closet.  And then it happened.  Beverly, pushing her blonde locks aside, looks at me and says, “wow Matthew, you’re a really good dancer”. 

Boom goes the dynamite. 


Lisa Raquel

Fast-forward a decade.  Most of my dance exploits and accomplishments are in the rear view at this point, though the crowning dance achievement would lay in front of me, catching me altogether unaware. 

I’m California’s newest resident along with a few dozen other seminary students who’ve recently moved to San Francisco’s Bay Area.  Ironically enough, one of our first acts as Southern Baptist Seminary students is to host an impromptu cookout and dance.  Both of which are firmly entrenched in my wheelhouse. 

That night, with the other single seminarians, once again, I showed my moves, but not too much or too many so as to not come across as a braggart.  Then someone from the back requests Salsa.  Not one of my fortes, I’m more of a Cumbia & Meringue man myself.  So, I know I need a good partner.  Word in the seminary bubble was that Lisa was Cuban and from Miami.  “She’ll do”, I thought to myself. 

“What makes you think I know how to Salsa?!” the ice queen snarls. 

Hmmm.  Not the reaction I often get on the dance floor.  “Cuba + Miami = Salsa right?  I mean just like Texan + Country Music = Two Step”.  My answer sufficed enough to get her on the dance floor, albeit reluctantly.  Her guard remained up the entire dance and the entire night.  So much so, I think she even led on the first dance…just to show me she could.  Nevertheless, in the asphalt covered parking lot converted into party central we danced. 

Two years later, we danced again.  At a wedding reception.  On a parquet floor. 

But this time it was our wedding.  Our reception.  Our song.  Our dance.  And we have been dancing ever since. 



Last Thursday, marked day # 4,237 of my marriage to Lisa.  That night, we walked the streets of Washington, D.C.  and made our way to the Hill Country BBQ on 7th St. We wandered into the basement where a Texas Honky Tonk band played.  We pushed the tables aside and on a concrete floor beneath the streets of our nation’s capital we danced some more.  



Reader Comments (2)

Very smooth, Matthew. Very smooth.

December 7, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRozey

Keep dancing.

February 27, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDelaine Zody

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