Well, that was different. And fun.
Doing Tai Chi to an African'ish drum beat. Learning a few Zambian dance steps from Mary, a visitor to our class who is finishing up a Ph.D. in fisheries science from Penn State.
Mary's education has been supported by the Elizabeth Bowers Zambia Education Fund. Gerry, a fellow Tai Chi student, and his wife started the Fund in memory of their daughter.
It's a great cause that Laurel and I contribute to each year. A little $$$ goes a long way, when its helping Zambian girls get an education.
Mary gamely followed along with unfamiliar Tai Chi moves for the first part of the class. Then Warren, our instructor, asked her to show us some African movement. Mary said she needed music to dance.
I was kind of glad she had her back to me. This old Oregon white man doesn't move like a youthful Zambian black girl.
But really, who cares? That's a big part of what I've learned from the dance lessons Laurel and I have been taking the past few years.
You've got to dance as if no one is watching you.
Which, usually, nobody is -- though you may feel like a spotlight is focused on your unsteady steps. Dancing is largely about letting go...of ego, tension, anxiety, tentativeness.
I enjoyed thinking, "Wow, is there any other place in the world where Tai Chi is being practiced to an African rhythm right now?"
Almost surely not. Salem had a moment of uniqueness tonight.
After the class was over Connie, one of the most experienced Tai Chi'ers, showed me a story that was in the East Salem edition of the Statesman Journal.
Glancing at the photo that accompanied it, I recognized a good friend: me! Plus, the back of Laurel's head.
Someone had told us about the photo when the story came out on December 17. But since we don't get the East Salem version of the newspaper I'd given up hope on seeing what we looked like.
This was taken during our RJ Dance Studio basic swing class. I didn't expect to make it into the paper after I exhibited an excessive degree of enthusiasm for having my picture taken.
Lora, our dance instructor, began the class by introducing the photographer and saying, "If anyone doesn't want to be in a photo, just let him know."
I couldn't stop myself from blurting out, "Oh, no -- I love to be photographed, please, me, me, me."
When the class started I noticed that the guy seemed to be taking pictures of everybody but me and Laurel. I figured that my me, me, me had blown our chances for appearing in the newspaper.
Yet there we are (in the background, but hey, that still counts).
We're eager to take more dance lessons in 2009. So far we're the first to sign up for a beginning Salsa class.
Come on Salemites...get out and learn to dance! You'll be better prepared next time a Zambian girl shows you some moves in your Tai Chi class.