That's my story, and I'm a stick in the mud

Column by Craig Marshall Smith


My therapist and I have been talking about dancing. Just not with each other. We're trying to figure out why I have no interest in dancing or dance.

I won't do “The Loco-Motion” or “The Mashed Potato.”

I don't watch dancing, either. Ballet, ballroom, belly, pole, line, none of it. Torture would be watching “Dancing with the Stars.” Extreme torture would be watching “Lord of the Dance.” I don't even like the Soupy Shuffle.

A friend of mine sent me a YouTube of some fellow who had spliced together snippets of him doing the same appalling jig in locations around the world. She wasn't happy when I said it was absolutely dreadful

So far, all my therapist and I have been able to come up with is that I may have had a profoundly adverse reaction to glimpsing Arthur Murray when I was a boy. He always had a disturbing smile on his face, like a carousel horse.

I don't imagine there is anyone else anywhere who feels the same way about dancing as I do.

I prefer to be largely inert. Keep the foxtrot away from me. No Native American dances, please. Hulas? No, no, no.

Even the Ice Capades gives me the willies.

Everyone else either loves to dance, watch dancing, or both. I don't know what happened with me. My guess is that Boo Radley didn't dance either, and that's how I saw myself when I was in high school and college. That perception has changed, but I am still very reclusive, and I think I always will be.

My drinking years didn't loosen me up either. Well. They loosened me up to other things, but not moving and grooving.

I don't listen to dance music. Maybe that's a part of it. I listen to Beethoven and Mozart. There may have been some dancing going on in “Amadeus.” I can't remember. But dancing to Sinfonia Concertante would never cross my mind. Painting to it would.

Perhaps painting is how I dance. The canvas is my partner? Maybe that's a stretch and maybe not. I have done a lot of painting demonstrations, and they're about as publicly overt as I get.

I might feel very differently if I were musical. I am not. Or if I had been encouraged at an early age to dance around the house or around the school. I wasn't.

I have no regrets. I admire Fred and Ginger and Baryshnikov, but if I had to choose between being a very good painter and being a very good dancer, it would be a very good painter. My dancing abstinence has not made me very attractive to many people (women!), so when I find one (I have) for whom it is A-OK, I value them.

I am sure that most — or all — modern dance performances are choreographed, but the few I have seen pieces of look improvised. That would be the end of me. I was roped into seeing one some years ago, and my friend spent most of her segment, backlighted, under a lavender, translucent gauzy tent, so all I could see was her silhouette, kind of flailing around for 15 minutes. It didn't do much for me. I know it was supposed to be meaningful, but I would much rather have seen her across the table from me in a diner.

Sooner or later we all have to figure out what we are and what we are not. I think I have. I know it's not too late to change. Maybe I will have some kind of revelation in my final years. But maybe these are my final years, so give me painting and writing, but don't save the last dance for me.

I think I am just going to tell my therapist that it is all Arthur Murray's fault.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at


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