Jessie Veeder, Published March 01 2014
Coming Home: These North Dakota hips don't lie
I know, I know. I’m way behind on this fitness phenomenon that gets us all together in a big room to cha-cha, salsa, and drop it like it’s hot in the name of Latin music and exercise.
But if you saw me shake my hips, you would understand that my hips, indeed, don’t lie. No. They tell the honest truth about many things once they’re let loose – the first truth being that they can’t be let loose.
The second is I’m a soulless nerd.
The third revelation? I shouldn’t have dropped out of dance class in kindergarten.
But surprisingly, Tuesday’s Zumba class wasn’t my first attempt at salsa dancing in my life. No. When I was a senior, I played Rosie in Watford City High School’s rendition of the musical “Bye, Bye Birdie.”
Rosie is a fiery Latina who wants to be an English teacher’s wife. In a moment of rebellion, she goes to a bar in her tightest-frilliest-most-salsa-ey dress, and proceeds to work through her troubles by singing and cha-cha-cha-ing all over the stage, jumping, twirling and high-kicking her way through to a big finish.
Needless to say, Rosie and I didn’t exactly deal with stress in the same way.
So here’s where I mention that my mom was a dancer. A ballerina actually. A ballerina that introduced “arabesques” to the farm kids of Watford City when she arrived in the early ’80s. She taught aerobics to their mothers, schooled the local gymnasts in something called “ballerina arms,” helped the ice skaters extend their lines and coached her daughter, Rosie, through a salsa-dancing solo she would perform in high heels, under a spotlight, while singing in front of the entire town.
Looking back at these moments I give thanks to the technology gods that YouTube was invented after I was out of high school.
Regardless of the fact that my level of grace is a 2 on a scale of 10, and that I opted out of tutus when I was 5 years old, dancing has always been a part of my life.
Yes, I’ve been known to make serious interpretive dances to Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” and perform it with my cousins while wearing one of my grandma’s old mint green polyester bridesmaid dresses in my grandparents’ tiny ranch living room.
As kids trying to entertain ourselves all those miles from town, I was charged with slicking my hair back, drawing on a fake mustache and dressing up in suspenders to act as my big sister’s dance partner. She was the petite, ballerina-esque one who actually inherited by mother’s genes, and made jitter-bug, swing and waltz routines on the linoleum of our kitchen floor look easy.
Needless to say, my tiny dancing sister ruined me. Turns out men don’t appreciate being led in a two-step on the dance floor. Same goes with being spun and dipped. Who knew?
It’s just one of the reasons I stick to singing.
These were the memories running through my head as I attempted to roll my hips, shake my butt and find my inner J.Lo somewhere under my baggy sweats and T-shirt.
“We should’ve dressed in costumes,” I suggested to my little sister in basketball shorts who was rolling her shoulders and flipping her hair next to me, busy being the reason I stepped foot in this little exercise phenomenon in the first place.
“If I had something in fringe and spandex, I know I’d be better.”
She laughed and told me to stop distracting her, and I went back to working on something that was supposed to look like a shimmy.
Meanwhile, my mind returned to leaps, twirls and moving couches out of the way to make room for the full Paula Abdul routine my sisters, cousins and I were about to perform for our entire family in leftover polyester wedding outfits scrounged up from the depths of the basement closets.
I wonder where that mint-green bridesmaid’s dress ended up.
If I can find it, I’m wearing it next week.
See ya in Zumba.
Cha cha cha.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.