Sunday, February 12, 2012

Shall We Dance?

During one of our first walks after we arrived in Arezzo, we noticed a sign at a local community center that advertised dancing twice a week.  We’ve been meaning to go ever since.  After 3 months, Henry finally got up the gumption to go… by himself.  He arrived shortly after the dance had begun and he found about 30-40 people there.  He, at 59, was by far the youngest among them.  The music was provided by a guy who sang and played an accordion with an electric piano for percussion and accompaniment.  He mostly played Italian pop songs and Henry was surprised by how many of the people there knew the words and sang along.  Henry sat and watched for a long time before he got up the courage to ask someone to dance.  He got turned down three times!  Nobody wanted to dance with some strange guy!  Completely dispirited after the third try, he left.

When he got home he reported his “failed” attempt to Gabriella who promptly pointed out: #1 he went to a dance BY HIMSELF in an unfamiliar setting in a FOREIGN COUNTY where the language is still difficult to navigate; #2 he actually ASKED SOMEONE TO DANCE!; #3 after getting turned down he ASKED AGAIN!  Overall that makes three winning points and a tremendous achievement!!

But Henry really wanted to dance so Gabriella agreed to go with him the next time.
 What a difference arriving as a couple makes!  The woman running the place greeted us warmly and everyone was very friendly.  We danced and had a great time.  There were two couples sitting near us and we chatted with them a bit.  When Henry left to find a bathroom one of the men there, a bold, gracious, grandfatherly type, immediately asked Gabriella to dance.  We felt very welcomed!

At the end of the afternoon a local city councilman who was there came and talked to us. Apparently he wanted more than just the chance to say hello.  He was eager to invite us to a special presentation the following weekend.  He explained that having more people in attendance meant a larger “contribution” to the community center.  We weren’t entirely sure what the presentation was going to be about, or why the community center would be getting a contribution from it, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to go (it’s all part of the adventure!), so we agreed.  

The following weekend we arrived for the mysterious presentation.  There was a woman in charge of checking off everyone on her guest list, and, since they didn’t have our names, we had been included as “two Americans.”  They were expecting us!  We recognized everyone in attendance from the dance the previous weekend and they once again greeted us warmly.  As we suspected, the presentation was designed to try to sell a product, in this case, an orthopedic bed.  We sat through the 1.5 hour presentation and marveled at how much we actually understood (including many of the jokes).  In fact we were almost convinced to actually buy one of the beds!   

After the presentation everyone was rewarded with a buffet of food and drink (including bruschette, crostate and vin santo), and a raffle.  When the two winning numbers were called, Gabriella had one of the winning tickets.  She was presented with an electric massage device that looked perversely similar to a vibrator!  For someone who prefers not to be the center of attention, this was not a high point in her day!

Afterwards we spent some time chatting with the other people there and sampling the buffet.  It didn’t take us long, however, to realize that we were being befriended primarily by the rather more odd members of the group, and so we quickly made our polite escape. 

We’ll probably skip the next sales presentation but there’s another dance on Thursday nights that we’ve been told draws a “younger crowd”.  That’s next on our calendar. 

Our dance hall

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