Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dancing, the First Two Generations

I don't know how far back the love of dancing goes in my family line but I know there are many of us who love to cut a rug. My maternal grandmother was a dancer. I remember my mom telling me that her mother enjoyed dancing at any and all celebrations. The only advice she got from her mother regarding choosing a husband was, "Don't marry a man who doesn't dance, otherwise you'll be sitting on the side lines all your life!". This was sage advice given that her husband, my grandfather, didn't dance.

My grandparents sponsored my grandmother's two sisters so they could immigrate here to the USA. No sooner did they get here (1920) but my grandparents set out to introduce them to eligible men. How did they do that? They invited them over for house parties. They rolled up the rugs, pushed the tables and chairs aside, and cranked up the old Victrola! Dancing was a great way to "break the ice"!

When my mom and her sister were in their grade school years (1920s), their mother signed them up for dancing lessons. These would have been Polish dances they were learning. At first they took lessons at the Dom Polski Hall and later they had private dance lessons at the bakery the family owned. The dance instructor came to the bakery each week and they used the second floor for their lessons because it had a large open area with a nice wood floor.

My mom had a "Sweet Sixteen" birthday party, that would have been July 1934. She invited about 50 friends over and they had a drinking and dancing party (That was just after prohibition ended. My grandmother made her own beer and wine and they served it to the kids at the party ;-). My grandmother hired an accordion player for the occasion and they danced all night!

When I asked my mom about what she did for fun when she was growing up and where she went on dates, I always got the same answer... "we went dancing!". My mom and her best friend, Helen Wojciechowski, used to get all dolled up on Friday or Saturday nights and go to various different dance halls around Detroit. Sometimes they went on evening cruises on the Detroit River to Tashmoo, a favorite dance pavilion on Harsen's Island aboard the ship Tashmoo. There's a great write up about the cruise ship and the dancing and leisure activities at Tashmoo on the Detroit News web site. Reading that article, I can just picture my mom and her girlfriend going dancing!

Unfortunately, my mom didn't take her mother's advice. She married a man who didn't dance and she regretted it all her life. Mom still danced at family weddings but that was about all the dancing she did until after my dad died. I remember going to weddings and having men (cousins, brothers, neighbors, etc.) coming up to her to ask her to dance... one after another. She was very light on her feet and was a very popular dance partner. But then my dad would get to drinking and, well, she would have to sit out the rest of the dancing for the evening.

After my dad died, my mom got into dancing again. She took senior's aerobics classes and country line dance lessons. She really looked forward to those classes and took them for several years. She didn't care what kind of dancing she did, she liked it all. And if Polka music came on the radio or TV her toe would start tapping immediately. While she liked all kinds of dancing, the Polka was her favorite.
My mom and her brother dancing at a family wedding.
So you'd think given how much my mom and her mom enjoyed dancing it would have been a no-brainer for me to take dance lessons. But that was definitely not the case...

Dancing, the Third Generation
Dancing, the Fourth Generation