It’s Saturday night and Peter is accompanying me to The Boston Tea Party. We depart for Danvers after dinner at Antonia’s in Davis Square. Grilled shrimp, pasta and wine compete for my attention with the streetlit snow floating past the Somerville Theater’s marquee. Then he gets a crepe at the new place across the street and I have more coffee, and he drives expertly through the weather up Route 95 while I bounce and sing along with the radio.
I dance with Peter early, and I try to go check on him every now and then. He sits at a long table, where ice water dwindles from clear plastic pitchers as little cups proliferate on the dark blue cloth. I ask him how he is doing and pick up a cup to rehydrate, bewildered by the lack of permanent markers. Lindy hoppers like me are accustomed to labeling our plastic cups, but at a hotel-hosted event like Tea Party, single-use is the norm.
Peter nods at me and says that he is fine.
“OK. Would you dance with me again at some point?” I sip the water; it’s harshly cold, not good for my moist and chilling constitution.
“Yeah, yeah.” He nods again, this time effortfully, drawing together his brows, before he returns his gaze to the hordes pounding an acre of portable wood floor.
The Lindy Living Room, as it’s called, occupies a large sunken space just off the hotel reception area. At one end, a real fireplace splashes light onto the smooth sprung floor, installed specifically for this dance weekend. At the back - past several couches edging the floor - a few more stairs lead down to additional conference rooms, also fitted with temporary dance floors. In Tea Parties past, these back rooms were designated for hustle dancing, but this year, one of the lindy hop rock stars hosts a Motown room, where people can fit lindy hop or West Coast Swing or blues dance or anything they want to the easy, soulful, familiar tunes.
Up above the Lindy Living Room, near the reception area, I comment to Peter, “Jeez, Tea Party didn’t even used to have lindy hop. This used to be one of those West Coast Swing events. About eight years ago Paul and all those people who run shin-digs like this figured out that they could make more money if they added a lindy hop competitions, workshops, and social dancing, even if it did mean they had to let in a bunch of crazy geeky kids who dress like slobs.”
Unlike the sloppy youngsters, Peter looks neat and proper in a light brown suit jacket, blue button down and khakis. I draw nearer to where he is seated, bend slightly to put my arm around his shoulders and kiss the place on his forehead above and between his green eyes, below the classy messy fringe of dishwater hair. “How come you’re so handsome?” I cry, as I stand up and smooth his hair.
“Are you having fun?” he asks me.
“Yeah. Lots of really good dancers from out of town. It’s a good opportunity for me to learn.” I pause, taking in the jangly Django Rheinhardt tune Chester is playing right now. “You probably don’t want to dance to this one because it’s too fast, Mr. Boston Marathon. But let’s dance soon, OK?”
“I could balboa to it.”
“Yeah, but my balboa sucks, and I always just want you to swing me out, so let’s dance a blues or something slow later.” I squeeze his hand on top of the chair’s metal arm rest and scamper down the four or five steps which lead to the shining blond floor.
I decide to look past the young gals who take my classes and focus on the out-of-town guys, so I can practice more following. I use my mantras, focusing on each leader in turn, thinking, simply, “you.” Occasionally I also use “me,” or “us.” I send energy up and down the sides of my forearms, a trick I discovered while practicing with Kendall a couple of weeks ago.
“Where’s Kendall?” I ask casually of Teresa. She smells of vanilla and jasmine, and she looks gorgeous from the brown-and-white Rocket Dogs to the tightly-sprung single curl over her perfect forehead.
“Oh, he’s probably up in the room, getting drunk.”
“What room are you guys in?”
“444. It’s me and Kendall and Jacques, and Deanna.”
“444. Huh. That’s easy to remember. Deanna - the gal from New York, the one Kendall taught with at the Hartford weekend?”
“He taught with her there?” says Teresa.
“Yeah - you don’t remember that whole drama? Oh well - it isn’t important now.”
To distract myself from the temptation of knocking on 444 at that moment, I consider getting Peter to dance with me, but Chester has put on a standard-fast song, about 210 beats per minute. Dancers form a clapping circle around one couple. Hollers and cheers seem to heighten rather than drown out the song’s brassy and woodwinded noise. The gal’s fringy, green miniskirt flies through swingouts that snap as well as they stretch. The guy swinging her out wears a sweaty white T-shirt, and jeans and a baseball cap, but he dances with an understated grace. After the requisite eight bars the two shimmy from the circle’s center, where another couple goes in and throws an admirable knickerbocker. These must be folks from out of town, possibly Montreal.
I’m antsy and annoyed. Kendall and I have stuff we can throw in a jam, but he’s upstairs.
After the end of the song, I call to my husband, “Hey Peter, I’m going to go see what’s up with Kendall,” I run up the short flight of stairs. “Do you want to come? I’m sure he’d love to chat with you about basketball.” Peter follows me as I skip to the elevator.