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"Everyone Can Dance"
[Monday, August 3, 2015]
They had discovered that
a fun and convenient way
to make a meal for four was
letting each person fix one dish.
This morning, Luci was cooking
red bean pancakes while Shiv
made garden scrambled eggs.
Tolli fried sausage links and bacon;
Simon toasted a whole loaf of bread
to spread with rhubarb-strawberry jam.
"Mine's done," Shiv announced.
"Mine too," Tolli said. Luci and
Simon were finishing the last of theirs.
By the time they all sat down around
the dining room table, the whole house
was filled with delicious smells.
Shiv promptly rolled his pancakes
around sausage links to make
pigs-in-a blanket. He liked
the combination of flavors,
even though it made Luci
wrinkle her nose at him.
Simon was shoveling
garden scramble on his.
Tolli took some of everything,
but like Luci, ate them separately.
Shiv just concentrated on
stuffing his face as fast as he
could. The food was so good.
He'd thrown all colors of tomatoes,
peppers, and onions into the eggs
along with fresh basil and sage leaves,
and the scramble had turned out perfect.
He listened to his family chattering
around him about the house and
the horses and whether to make
a shopping run into town.
Shiv gave a happy sigh.
It was nice to be home again --
all of his homes -- after working
in Motor City for part of the summer.
He liked Ricasso and his Spadonari,
still missed Pain's Gray in fact, but
Motor City wasn't where he belonged.
"Simon and I would like to ask you two
a favor," Tolli said, looking at Shiv and Luci.
"Whatever you need," Luci said easily.
"Uh ... what kind of favor?" Shiv said,
not about to throw caution to the wind.
"We want you to be part of our wedding,
not just as guests, but part of the activities,"
Tolli explained. "This is an offer, though,
not an obligation -- it's up to you."
"Of course we will," Luci said.
"I mean, I will. You will, too,
won't you, Shiv-ya?"
"I dunno," Shiv hedged.
"Me and social stuff ...
not the best combination."
"That was true in the past,"
Tolli said. "Is it still true now?"
"We do have other options if you
don't want to attend the event,"
Simon hastened to add. "We've
got some friends who really can't
do crowds. You could make art
for the invitations, or whatever."
"You do all right at Blues Moon,"
Luci pointed out. "Or is this different?"
"Yeah, that's right," Shiv said. "I kinda
forgot about that. Blues Moon is home,
though -- I know what I'm doing there, and
if I overload anyway, then I can tap out
and someone will cover for me. I
dunno if I could do a wedding."
"First things first," Tolli said.
"Would you like to try?"
Shiv gave it careful thought.
"Yeah, I think I would."
"Then we just need
to make sure you have
what you need," Simon said.
"We'll have a separate room for
the introvert party, of course,
and another for a quiet room."
"That'll help," Shiv said.
"That is, if you don't mind me
ducking out of the party stuff."
"We want you to have a good time,
Shiv," said Tolli. "If that means you
need a break, then take one. If it
means you spend twenty minutes
at the wedding, that's fine too."
Shivers raced down Shiv's spine.
It was still hard to remember that
these people would take care of him
instead of picking on him if he couldn't
do the same things as everyone else.
"Okay," Shiv said. "What kind
of stuff do you want me to do?"
Tolli and Simon shared a grin.
"We were hoping you'd help us
with dancing," Simon said.
"Dancing?" Shiv said. "I'm
not that good at it yet. I haven't
had much chance to learn. I like it,
though, what I've seen of it so far."
"I know you like Renaissance dances,
that's why we're including you in this offer,"
Tolli said. "Of course, Luci's a pro, so
learning something new shouldn't be
too much of a challenge for her."
"A new dance?" Luci said,
bouncing in her dining chair.
"Yes, please! What kind?"
"Wheelchair dancing for sure,"
Simon said. "Adaptive dancing
in general, if possible. We know
a lot of vets, with different disabilities,
so we want to accommodate a wide range
of needs. Everyone can dance, if they
have what they need to make it work."
"You can dance?" Shiv blurted.
"I thought your sport was racing!"
Simon laughed. "That too," he said.
"I like dancing because it's romantic."
Tolli was staring at him with a sappy look.
Just like that, Shiv wanted to help them
so that Simon could dance at his wedding,
dance with anyone he wanted to. "I'll do it."
"When can we start?" Luci said, eager
to dig into a new kind of dance.
"Soon as we put the dishes in
the sink," Tolli said, and they all
scrambled to clear the table.
"The plan is to do a sample lesson,
then individual dances, as preparation
for the wedding itself," Simon said.
"Then at the wedding, we'll offer
another lesson so guests can learn,"
Tolli said. "Dancing with someone
in a wheelchair is a bit different than
dancing with an upright partner, but
anyone can learn how to do it."
"That sounds fun!" Luci said,
hastily filling the sink with water
and soap to soak the dishes.
"So, what dances?" Shiv said.
"Like Renaissance dances?"
"Some of those too, if people
are interested, but mostly
ballroom dances," Tolli said.
"We want to include the stuff
usually done at weddings."
"We're offering a range of
levels, though," Simon said.
"Waltz is easy, jive and cha-cha
are in between, and tango is hard."
"I dunno about waltz," Shiv said.
"I know a little jive, and Dr. G says
that setbacks in therapy aren't
a disaster, they're a cha-cha."
"Exactly!" Simon said.
"I already know waltzes,
slow and fast," Luci said.
"I can cha-cha too. I have
only seen jive a few times
at Blues Moon, and I tried
tango but it's not a favorite."
"It's up to you which dances
you want to do," Tolli said.
"We just want to give people
plenty of options at the wedding."
"I'd like to learn jive," Shiv said shyly.
"I've seen it at work too. It looks fun.
I could probably figure out a waltz."
"Tolli and I can show you all of them,"
Simon said. "Then pick which ones
you want to explore in more depth."
Shiv thought about it, trying to recall
dances he had seen in the past.
"Uh ... crap," he said. "There
might be a slight problem here."
"What's that?" Tolli said as he
put the last of the dishes in the sink.
"Remember me telling you about
my new body art?" Shiv said.
"The cutwork on my shoulder
isn't even a week old yet. It's
scabbed over just fine, but
still tender if I bump it."
"So a hand on your shoulder
would hurt," Luci guessed.
"Ai-ya! We must be careful."
"Okay, first step in adaptive dance:
find out your partner's no-go moves,"
Tolli said. "Shiv, what can't you do?
What's your current range of motion?"
"Almost back to normal," Shiv said.
"It only pulls if I stretch both my arms
too far forward or up at the same time.
Mostly I just try not to bump it or
lean back on anything too hard."
"Okay, so no touching your --
where is it exactly?" Tolli said.
"Left shoulderblade," Shiv said.
"It's about palm-size. You wanna
see it? I haven't changed the bandage
this morning, it's kinda hard to reach."
"Would you like a hand with that?"
Tolli offered. "You know I have
advanced first aid training."
Shiv weighed his general dislike
of letting anyone behind him against
the hassle of doing it himself.
It had been a lot easier
when he let Dr. G do it.
"Yeah, okay," Shiv decided.
"We should do that before we
start dancing. I'll run upstairs;
I've got a kit just for this."
"I'll come with you," Tolli said.
"Might as well do it there."
Shiv jogged up the stairs
with Tolli right behind him.
He picked up the wound care kit
that Thriver had packed for him --
antiseptic soap, scar care cream,
bandages, tape, blunt scissors, and
so on all tucked into a plastic case.
This way he didn't have to dig around
in a full-size first aid kit when he needed
exactly the same stuff every time.
Shiv moved his box of toiletries
to the bathroom counter, then
put the first aid kit beside it.
He peeled off his t-shirt
and straddled the toilet,
crossing his arms over
the tank and pillowing
his head on his hands.
"Okay, I'm ready," he said.
"I'm here," Tolli said, and
Shiv heard the swish of water
as he washed his hands.
Tolli's touch was brisk and
efficient, as gentle as Dr. G's
but not as leisurely. He washed
and dried the skin, coated it with
cream, then bandaged it again.
Shiv got so lost in trying to pin down
the differences between them that
he startled when Tolli patted him.
"Steady there, we're all done,"
Tolli said as he packed up the kit.
"Thanks," Shiv said, shrugging
back into his t-shirt again.
He felt a little bit unsettled,
but it was nowhere near as
bad as it could have been.
Shiv scurried back downstairs,
rolling his shoulders to shake off
that odd, unsettled sensation.
Tolli came down behind him.
"Head to the living room," he said.
"We can move the furniture aside,
and then it makes a good dance floor."
When they got there, though, it was
all cleared away and Luci was running
a broom briskly over the boards.
"Ready when you are," Simon said,
eagerly rubbing his hands together.
"Luci, do you mind if we include
all the details for Shiv?" Tolli asked.
"Go ahead," she said. "Simon told me
you would like help teaching guests at
the wedding, so I can use a refresher."
"Teaching?" Shiv squawked. "You
didn't say anything about that!"
"I said it to Luci, because she
already teaches yoga, and teaching
adaptive dance isn't all that different,"
Simon explained. "Neither of you have
to do anything that makes you uncomfortable."
"Okay," Shiv said. "Just remember that I'm
not sure I can even handle the event!"
"Understood," Tolli said. "Ready?"
"Yeah, I guess," Shiv said. He had
liked the Renaissance dances, after all,
so this kind shouldn't suck either.
It wouldn't be like the stupid P.E.
had been before. It would not.
"In ballroom dancing, there
are two roles, lead and follow,"
Tolli said. "They used to be called
'man' and 'woman' but we know
better now. You can dance with
a man and a woman, two men, or
two women -- but you always
have a leader and a follower."
"Somebody's gotta be the boss,"
Shiv said. "Okay, I got it."
"In wheelchair dancing, there
are rollers in wheelchairs and
walkers on feet," Tolli continued.
"You can have a roller and a walker,
or two rollers, because with two walkers
it's not wheelchair dance anymore!"
"It can still be adaptive dance,
though, if someone's missing an arm
or can't see or whatever," Simon said.
"Ideally, we'd like to accommodate
whoever wants to dance."
"That's a lot of different ways
to mix partners," Shiv said.
"How do you figure it all out?"
"Focus on lead and follow,"
Tolli said. "Everything else
revolves around that. Moves
are a little different for rollers
and walkers, but we'll all be
moving to the same music."
"Watch the lapels," Luci added.
"You may have seen those, when
people pair up for jive. Lead wears
a flower or pin on the left, follow on
the right, and if you can do either role
then you put one on each side."
Shiv recalled the dance floor
at Blues Moon and how everyone
seemed to move together even if it
wasn't always a choreographed dance.
"Okay, that makes sense," he said.
"I dunno if I can do it, but I'll try."
"Shiv, this is social dancing, not
a competition," Tolli said. "It doesn't
matter if you get it perfect, it only
matters that people have fun.
Besides, I've seen you dance at
faires; I have every confidence
in your ability to learn this."
"That makes one of us,"
Shiv muttered, looking down.
"Two," Simon said instantly,
and Luci added, "Three."
"You're outvoted, Shiv,"
Tolli said cheerfully.
"Here, take one of these,"
Simon said, holding out
several enamel flowers.
"Where should I put it?"
Shiv said. He was wearing
a t-shirt, not a suitcoat, and
his shoulders hunched at
the thought of hands.
your shoulder," Tolli said.
"What's worrying you?"
"I seen people dancing
with their hands over
each other's shoulders,"
Shiv said. "Not today."
"There's one obvious way
around that," Luci said.
"Let Shiv follow."
"Good idea, if he'll
go for it -- some guys
are real opinionated on
this topic," Tolli said. "Shiv,
do you want to lead or follow?"
"I can't lead!" Shiv squeaked.
"I don't know what I'm doing!"
"Then we'll teach you the follow role,
and that should keep everyone's hands
well away from your shoulder," Tolli said.
"So you put the pin on the right side of
your shirt, below your collarbone."
Shiv fumbled it into place.
"Okay, I think I got it."
He couldn't help noticing
everyone else wore two pins.
"Great, now take a look at my chair,"
Simon said. "You can use almost any kind
of wheelchair for dancing, but some work
better than others. I like a sporty style for
everyday use, so it works great. All you
have to do is watch out for foot clearance."
He wiggled his toes for emphasis.
"No problem," Luci said.
"The main difference in
a dancing wheelchair is that
it has tiny little front wheels and
the footrest is almost straight down,"
Simon said. "Otherwise it's similar."
"We're planning to rent a set of
dancing wheelchairs for the wedding,
in case rollers want to try them or
other folks want to borrow one
just for dancing," Tolli said.
Shiv blinked. "Can you do that?"
"Yes you can," Simon said firmly.
"It's my wedding, so what I say goes."
"But not everyone agrees?"
Luci guessed. "Why not?"
"Some folks consider it erasure
for an able-bodied person to use
a wheelchair," Tolli said. "I think if
people never sit in a wheelchair until
they need one, that just makes it harder.
If they start out with a happy memory
of one, and have a chance to learn
a few moves, then it's less scary."
Shiv remembered the time when
Tolli had coaxed him to sit in one
so that he would understand why
the floor had to be kept so clean.
He'd gotten grit all over his hands,
and the realization had burst in
his mind like a road flare.
"I think you're right,"
Shiv said. "People
should have a chance
to try it if they want to."
"Okay, so the main thing
for a walker to remember when
dancing with a roller is to keep
an eye on your toes and my wheels,"
Simon said. "We don't want any injuries."
"I don't need to watch you to know
exactly where you are," Shiv said.
"I can feel the metal frame."
"That's useful," Simon said.
"Luci, what about you?"
"I already know how
to mind a partner's space,"
she said. "It's not too different."
"All right, then we can follow
the usual rule of not looking down,"
Simon said. "Shall we pair up?"
"Shiv, we're starting with a waltz,
so let me show you the basic step
while Simon shows Luci how to adapt
for a partner in a wheelchair," Tolli said.
"Okay," Shiv said. "What do I do?"
"Stand close to me, with your feet
just a little offset so we don't step
on each other," Tolli said. "I'll put
one hand on your waist, and I will not
shift position below your belt or above
the lower edge of your shoulderblade."
The touch was light, unfamiliar,
but it wasn't unbearable. "Fine."
"Now you put one hand on my shoulder,
and we join our free hands," Tolli said.
Just like that, they were standing in
a position that Shiv recognized from
old movies and pictures and stuff.
Correcting from memory, he
molded his body against Tolli's
and was rewarded with a chuckle.
"That's the spirit," Tolli said. "A waltz
goes one-two-three. Step back with
your right foot, back with your left,
close your right foot to your left foot.
Now step forward with your left,
forward with your right, then
close your left to your right.
And we're waltzing!"
They really were.
Shiv was amazed
to find himself drifting
across the floor with Tolli,
their steps perfectly mirrored.
"Go you!" Luci caroled as
she and Simon swept past in
some more complicated twirl.
"Don't worry about them,
just keep your eyes on me,"
Tolli coached. "You're doing
very well at this already."
If you counted 'well' as
not stepping on his feet.
"Ready for some music?"
Tolli asked, and Shiv nodded.
Someone must have cued
a device somehow, because
"Moon River" began playing.
"You're a musician," Tolli said.
"Just listen for the beat and then
match it. One-two-three ..."
It was so much easier than
Shiv had thought it would be.
They just floated over the floor
in graceful arcs as Tolli led him.
"Firm up your frame," Tolli murmured.
"You need to give me something
to push against when I guide you."
Shiv pushed back a little, and yeah,
it was easier to feel where Tolli
wanted them to go now.
When the song ended,
Shiv was flushed and
grinning with success.
"Simon, I have an idea,
if you don't mind my hands
on you?" Luci suggested
as she leaned over him.
"Go ahead," Simon said.
"Lock your brakes," she said,
and when he did, Luci braced
herself on his knees and then
popped a handstand.
"Woah!" Shiv exclaimed.
"How did you do that?"
Luci touched down and
let go. "Practice," she said.
"I thought it would be fun to add
a few gymnastic moves, like
they do in modern dance."
"Go for it," Simon said.
"I'm game if you are."
So she planted her hands
again and this time did
a sort of half-cartwheel
rolling over him.
"That's going to turn
some heads," Tolli said.
"I hope so!" Luci said.
"Let's switch partners,
so Shiv can start learning
the ways to work around
a wheelchair," Tolli said,
giving him a gentle push.
Shiv went with it, letting
the momentum carry him
over to Simon's place.
"Find a comfortable grip,"
Simon said. "Remember
to stay out of the way of
my wheels, and don't be
afraid to latch onto me."
It took a bit of trial and error
before they found the right grip,
but from there it turned smooth.
"My 'steps' are a little different,"
Simon said. "I'll be moving my hands
in time to the music, and that creates
the steps with the wheels. It's actually
your feet that create the 'box' shape."
"I can do that," Shiv said. "Go ahead
and put the music back on now."
The sound swelled, and instantly
Shiv recognized "Unforgettable."
"Chin down," Simon coached.
"Look your partner in the eye."
"Heh, yeah," Shiv said with
a soft chuckle. "I'm really not
used to being the taller one."
"With wheelchair dance, you
usually will be," Simon said.
"It's important to remember
eye contact for connection,
unless you or your partner
can't stand doing that."
Shiv knew what it was like
to feel invisible and hate it.
He'd gotten into a lot of
shenanigans just to make
people look at him.
"I won't forget," he said.
They danced together,
and it was so amazing to feel
the bright metal of Simon's chair
as it spun across the floor.
Shiv's steps weren't always
perfect, but he could keep up
well enough, and that was
the most important part.
"You're smiling," Simon said.
Shiv was. "It's fun," he said.
"This stuff is really fun!"
"I'm happy to hear that,"
Simon said. "We want
everyone to enjoy it."
"Yeah, me too," Shiv said.
"It's your wedding, you should
have a ball." Then he bit his lip.
"I dunno if I'll be ready by then."
"The wedding is September 23,
on the autumn equinox," Simon said.
"We have two months until then
for you and our other volunteers
to practice. I have faith in you."
"Okay," Shiv said. "I practice with
my sax, I can practice with this too."
"That's the spirit!" Simon said.
"Are you ready to try a new move?"
"Let's find out," Shiv said.
"Switch to a two-hand hold,"
Simon said, showing him how.
"See, now you can tow me."
"But you're bigger than
I am!" Shiv protested.
"So?" Simon said. "I'm
on wheels. I know you've
towed a produce wagon
at the farmer's market."
"You're not a wagon,"
Shiv said, staring.
"That just means I
can help with turning,"
Simon said. "It's easy
to tow someone in a chair,
just the opposite of pushing."
"Okay, I'll try it," Shiv said,
looking down. "Uh ... how?"
"Watch out for my feet. Start
a little to the side of me,"
Simon said. "Now just
step back and pull."
Shiv did, and Simon
rolled gracefully forward,
towed in his wake.
"Holy shit, it worked!"
Shiv was grinning again.
"Now, towing is usually a move
for a lead walker and follow roller, but
pay attention to our hands," Simon said.
"See how I'm holding both of yours?
That's lead over follow. I can tap on
the backs to tell you 'push' on the left
or 'pull' on the right. Let's try it."
It was different, because with Shiv
providing the momentum, they
couldn't just use the same push
or pull to tell -- but tapping worked.
"Yeah, I think I got it," Shiv said.
"That's great," Simon said.
"For a turn -- watch my body --
I'll lean into it, and you go that way,
pulling me right along with you."
Shiv was amazed by how Simon
could turn the wheelchair just by
swiveling his hips a certain way.
Simon made the signals big at first,
so Shiv could see them, and then
smaller so they weren't obtrusive.
It was a lot like what Shiv had done
with Gray, following along with directions,
but without the other intimate stuff.
"So if the lapel flowers only show
your dance role, how do you tell
who's into what outside that?"
Shiv wondered. "It matters."
"It does matter," Simon said. "You
can just ask, or hint. Lots of people flag
with a pocket square, though. That's
why you can find some suitcoats
that have two breast pockets."
"Suit, ack!" Shiv said.
"I don't got a wedding suit!
Only fancy clothes I got are for
work, and my boss buys those."
Boss White had put him in
a black muscle suit a few times,
and Ricasso had put him in charcoal
with a snazzy Italian cut, but Shiv
felt pretty sure that gang wear
was not right for a wedding.
"Tolli and I will get you a suit,"
Simon said. "Don't worry about it."
"Okay," Shiv said, filing it under
'boss stuff' he didn't have to do.
"Do you want to try a spin?"
Simon asked him next.
"Sure," said Shiv. "How?"
"I lift one hand, then you
twirl toward it," Simon said.
"If I were standing, you'd spin
under my hand. This way, you
may need to spin to the side."
"I'm short, and you got long arms,"
Shiv said. "I bet I can go under."
"But can you do it gracefully?"
Simon challenged him.
"I dunno," Shiv said.
"Does it matter?"
"I guess not," he said.
"We did say that it was
all about having fun."
He lifted his hand.
Shiv spun toward it.
He had to duck a little,
but he made it under.
"Do it again, I need
to practice until I find
the right way," Shiv said.
So they alternated spinning
on the right and the left
until he got the hang of it.
"That's going to make you
popular," Simon predicted.
"We'll see," Shiv said, smiling.
"Are you folks ready to switch
over to jive?" Toll called out.
"I'm game," Shiv said,
curious to learn more
about that one. "Do we
switch partners too?"
"Not yet," Tolli said.
"We want to give you
an opportunity to learn
first steps from each of us."
"Jive has two basic parts,"
Simon said. "There's a rock step
and then there's a chasse. First,
step backward with your right foot,
keeping your left foot in place, and
put your weight on your right foot.
Then rock forward onto your left,
shifting your weight onto it."
Shiv tried that a few times.
"This isn't too hard," he said.
Simon was using his hands to rock
the wheelchair rapidly back and forth,
so the two of them moved together.
"Okay, now do the chasse,"
Simon said. "Step sideways
with your right foot. Then move
your left foot to meet the right.
Step sideways with your right.
Repeat that until you've got it."
Shiv took a few practice steps.
"Yeah, show me what's next."
"Shift your weight to your left foot,"
Simon said. "Move your right foot
to meet the left. Finally, step
to the left with your left foot.
Practice that part by itself."
Shiv did several of those
until he felt comfortable.
"Now put them together?"
he guessed, looking at Simon.
"That's right," Simon said. "Jive
is one, two -- that's the rock --
and that's the chasse.
Six beats altogether."
Shiv counted under
his breath as he moved,
but it didn't take him long
to get the hang of it.
"Music now?" he asked.
"We're ready for it," Luci said.
"This one is so different from
the other dances I know!"
"Footloose" came on and
Shiv caught the beat at once.
"Now jive, you got to feel
the music," Simon said.
"Pull it through you, then
push it out your hands and feet."
"Yeah, like jazz or blues," Shiv said.
"I've seen people dance like this."
"Then try to remember the good ones,
and move like they did," Simon said.
It wasn't actually a dancer that Shiv
remembered, though. It was Dymin
pouring her heart out in song.
He tried to move the way
her voice sounded, and then
Simon said, "Yeah, you got it!"
He rocked his wheels forward
and back, then rolled along
as Shiv stepped to the side.
"We jivin' now!" Shiv crowed.
"We sure are," Simon said.
"I knew you could do it."
Shiv stopped paying
so much attention to
his feet, and just focused
on the flow of the music.
It was a lot of fun, more
than he had expected.
"Switch partners," Tolli said
at the end of that song.
Shiv found it more challenging
to keep pace with Tolli's feet
and not step on them, but
he still figured it out.
"Can we cha-cha now?"
Luci asked a few songs later.
"Yeah, okay," Shiv replied.
"You can dance cha-cha to
any 4/4 song with a lively beat,"
Tolli said. "One, two, cha-cha-cha."
"Sounds good," Shiv said.
"Where do I start?"
"For the break step,
move your right foot back
and put all your weight on it,"
Tolli said. "Then shift your weight
forward onto your left foot again."
Shiv practiced that part
until it felt right to him.
"Now cha-cha-cha," Tolli said.
"Step right with your right foot.
Close your left foot to your right.
Step right with your right foot again."
That was a little more complicated,
and faster than the break step.
"Put them together," Tolli said.
"One, two, cha-cha-cha."
Shiv tried to keep up,
but his knees kept
knocking into Tolli's.
"I can't do this," he said.
"I think you can, you just
need a little more practice,"
Tolli encouraged. "Come on,
move with me. Feel what
my body is doing."
reached out with
his superpower and
felt for the line of bones.
That actually did help, because
it told him where Tolli was going.
"See, you're getting it now,"
Tolli said with a nod. "Shall
we try it to the music?"
"Go ahead," Shiv said.
So Tolli turned on the sound,
"Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha."
It was a little easier with the music
to remind Shiv when to move, and
then he could cha-cha along with Tolli.
"Switch partners now?" Luci said.
Shiv moved back to Simon,
who showed him how to dance
back and forth without getting
run over by the wheels.
He liked the easy rocking
and gliding of the dance.
"Okay, dress it up a little,"
Simon said. "Move your hips
along with your feet. When you
pop your left foot out, sway
your left hip too, then go
back to your right again."
He demonstrated with
a shimmy that made
his wheelchair sway.
Shiv couldn't help
thinking of Gray, who
moved with boneless grace.
Maybe Gray would like to dance?
He was good at that sort of thing.
"Uh ... Simon?" said Shiv.
"You're supposed to bring
a date to a wedding, right?"
"It's customary, but not required,"
Simon said. "Anyone who doesn't
have a date can be paired up with
someone else in the wedding party
for functions that require couples.
Are you thinking of someone, or
stuck for ideas and worried about it?"
"I uh, might know someone who'd
be interested, but I'd have to ask,"
Shiv said. "Gray's up in Motor City
now, but he might come down for it."
Simon smiled. "We'd be happy
to see him. We know that Gray
is very important to you, even if
it's not a conventional relationship."
Shiv didn't really do conventional.
"Do you want to try the tango?"
Simon said. "Don't worry, I've
got the hard part. It's one of
the most difficult dances to do
in a wheelchair, but we want
to offer people options."
"I guess I can try it,"
Shiv said with a shrug.
"Okay, the tango goes
slow, slow, quick-quick, slow,"
Simon said. "Step back with
your right foot, then back with
your left foot, and back with
your right again. Then step to
the left with your left foot, and
close your right foot to your left."
Shiv tried to follow the directions,
though he couldn't keep the time --
the steps came out the same.
"Slow, slow, quick-quick, slow,"
Simon reminded him. "Again."
They kept at it, but it wasn't
as easy as the earlier dances,
and something about it just
felt sort of ... itchy to Shiv.
"I think this is as good as
it's gonna get," Shiv said.
"Nobody learns tango in a day,"
Simon said. "You can try adding
some embellishments if you want."
"What are those?" Shiv said.
"Little extra bits that aren't steps,"
Simon said. "You can tap or kick
your free foot, wrap your leg around
your partner, or caress their body."
Shiv shuddered. "So not my thing,"
he said. "No wonder I hate this dance."
"Okay," Simon said, backing off.
"You don't have to dance the tango
if it doesn't feel fun for you."
"Good," Shiv said. He went
through a few moves that he
remembered from earlier dances.
"Luci isn't big on this one either,"
Tolli said as he let go of her too.
"Would you like to see the two of us
demonstrate what we enjoy about it?"
"Yes, please," Luci said, and Shiv
didn't object as long as he didn't
have to do the clingy dance.
Watching Tolli and Simon go at it
was totally different, though.
They put on some song that
Shiv didn't even recognize,
and then they just ... danced.
They crawled all over each other!
They pushed and pulled and twirled.
They rubbed their hands around.
At one point, Tolli even slid down
Simon's front to kneel in front of him.
"Daaamn," Shiv murmured as
he stared at the couple dancing.
"They're smoking hot," Luci said.
"I don't think I could dance like that.
It's more naked than my yoga classes,
even when they keep their clothes on!"
"You are not wrong," Shiv muttered,
shaking his head. "At least it's not me."
He might, maybe, consider trying
something like this with Gray,
but only in complete privacy.
Doing it in public, someone
was bound to grab his ass, and
that would end in blood and tears --
not the goal for a wedding event.
He was amazed by what Simon
could do in a wheelchair, though.
It made Shiv wonder if he could
do any of that, and whether they'd
let him try dancing on wheels later.
For now, though, he was out of breath
and more than ready for a break.
When the song ended, Simon said,
"All right, that's a wrap. I don't know
about you, but I'm hungry again."
Breakfast was a distant memory.
Looking at his vidwatch, Shiv
was startled to realize that
over two hours had passed.
"I'm hungry too," he said.
"Sure," Tolli said. "We
have fruit in the kitchen.
Everyone towel off and
we'll cut up some of that."
Tolli and Simon had
the master bathroom,
of course. Shiv let Luci
have the powder room while
he took the common bathroom.
They regrouped in the kitchen,
where Tolli brought out a cantaloupe,
a honeydew melon, and a tiny watermelon.
Shiv used the big chef knife to slice them
all into smiles, then arranged those
on a platter in alternating colors.
The smell was mouthwatering,
musky and floral and sweet.
Shiv grabbed a slice of each
and bit into the honeydew,
juice raining down his front.
He so didn't care.
Tolli added a carton
of mozzarella balls and
some slices of Italian meat
that smelled kinda like salami
or pepperoni but weren't.
Shiv nibbled on the new stuff,
then decided, "Needs basil."
He went out back and grabbed
a few more leaves, and then
returned to the kitchen table.
Slicing the cantaloupe into
chunks, he paired each one with
a mozzarella ball, then wrapped
them in basil and sliced meat.
The combination was delicious.
When their plates were mostly clear,
Tolli asked, "So what did you think
of the dance lesson? Did you
like it enough to continue?"
"Oh yes!" Luci gushed.
"This is so much fun, I
can't wait to do it again."
"Well, no reason we can't
practice together," Shiv said.
"I liked the waltz and the jive.
I think I could manage cha-cha,
but I'm not a fan of tango."
"That's fine," Simon said.
"I'm sure we can find
someone else for that.
We were just hoping
you would find at least
one dance you like."
"I like dancing," Shiv said.
"I just don't know much yet."
"Then you can learn," Tolli said.
"We want to offer more lessons
on individual dances, and get
some other friends involved."
"You said there was more
to adaptive dance than just
the wheelchair stuff," Shiv said.
"I think ... I'd like to learn the ways
of accommodating someone with
only one arm, or no arms."
He missed Ragno, and even if
they had some painful memories
between them, they were still friends.
Of course, Shiv hadn't known that
back in prison, but it was still true.
"We can do that," Simon said.
"If you want to share lessons
with other folks, it would give you
a wider range of dance partners
to practice with and learn from."
"I think ... I'd like to try that,"
Shiv said. "That might help me
figure out how long I'm likely
to last at the wedding, too."
"Good idea," Luci said.
"I'd love a chance to dance
with more people. Maybe I can
learn things from this that will
work in my yoga classes too."
"Probably so," Simon said.
"A lot of accommodations will
work for multiple disabilities
in different situations. Mostly
it just comes down to listening
and then using your head."
"That I can do," she said.
"I'm glad you're both interested,"
Simon said. "We hoped that
you would be, but we didn't
want to pester you too much."
"It's okay," Shiv said. "I haven't had
much experience with social stuff,
but you guys are different."
"How so?" Tolli asked,
leaning toward him.
"You don't try to make
people be something that
they're not," Shiv said.
"Ugh, no," Simon said.
"I hate it when people
do that shit to me."
"I like the inclusivity,"
Luci said. "That's nice."
"Yeah," Shiv added.
"Everyone can dance."
It made him feel right at home.
* * *
Breakfast recipes include Red Bean Paste Pancakes (Luci), Garden Scrambled Eggs (Shiv), and Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam (Simon). Tolli makes sausage links and bacon.
Tolli and Simon's wedding will be on Wednesday, September 23, 2015. That's the autumn equinox.
The standard aftercare assumes open healing. Packing the fresh cuts with ash and a clotting agent creates an instant scab, and doesn't require later irritation. It still needs frequent cleaning and re-wrapping. T-America has a style of scar care cream that promotes clean healing without reducing the scar itself. This also keeps the scabs soft and flexible so they don't crack and create hash lines across the scar. Around 10-14 days the scabs usually dry up and flake off, leaving a raised purple scar.
A wound care kit packed in its own box makes it quick and easy to find everything without rummaging in a bigger kit. In T-America it's common to send one home with a client for tending fresh bodymods. Clinic staff use similar kits for injured clients. It reduces the chance of infection if people have the right supplies.
Dance has a variety of benefits, including unity. Explore some different types and venues of ballroom dance. Follow the flow of movement around the dance floor and use good dance etiquette.
Ballroom dance instructions cover waltz, jive, cha-cha, and tango (which includes embellishments). Here is a book of dance lessons.
Lead and follow (originally called man and woman) are the two roles of ballroom dance. They use their hands to communicate turns and other motions. There are instructions for cup and pin turns, spin turns, and other steps. Read about how to lead and how to follow.
Ballroom dance offers a variety of positions for a couple. Here is a look at waltzing positions. Ideally, in the closed position, the leader's right hand should go around the follower's waist. It is very rude to grope your partner's ass in most dances, although some of the steamier dances do incorporate that variation. For this reason, the hand placement has moved upward over time, sometimes as far as the shoulderblade. Keeping the hand over the waist places it properly over the center of balance. A shoulderblade placement provides more support for dips.
Towing is a standard move in adaptive dance. In this video, the lead walker provides most of the propulsion for the follow roller by using a two-hand hold to tow her gracefully across the floor. Conversely, this couple uses a wide variety of hand holds with a mix of self-propulsion and towing.
Here are some popular waltzes for weddings. Enjoy a video compilation. Moon River is a favorite. Read the lyrics or watch a video of it.
These are some jive songs, including " Footloose ."
Here are some cha-cha wedding songs, including "Everybody Loves to Cha Cha Cha." Learn the basics of cha-cha.
These are some tango songs for weddings. Watch a woman in a wheelchair twirling, a woman in a wheelchair caressing, a woman in a wheelchair pushing and pulling, and a man in a wheelchair strutting.
Adaptive dance can accommodate many variations of ability. Explore a handbook of it.
Wheelchair dance allows everyone to dance, even tango. Learn wheelchair dancing. Here are some old instructions for dances. See videos of wheelchair waltz, a walkers waltz lesson, a wheelchair jive competition, a walkers jive lesson, a wheelchair cha-cha lesson, walkers cha-cha, wheelchair tango, and a walkers tango lesson. Here is a teacher's guide for wheelchair dance lessons. Explore some featured exercises.
Note: Some materials for wheelchair dance use "roller" for dancers in wheelchairs and "walkers" for dancers on feet. I have adopted that terminology for this poem. It's a little more dignified than the wheelie/walkie that I've seen in previous discourse about wheelchair users.
Dance wheelchairs are generally more compact than regular ones. It's nice to have some available for dance students or wedding guests. Many sport wheelchairs also work for dance:
The Zephyr is an everyday/court chair that retails for $3,799. This is a popular style of sport wheelchair: lightweight, sturdy, low back without handles, slightly canted wheels, and it's still suitable for everyday use by an athletic rider. Lots of people, especially veterans, favor this kind of sporty model.
There are other kinds of adaptive dance, too. Here is a long video about a one-armed ballet dancer. This spectacular dance shows a one-legged man and a one-armed woman. If you watch closely you can see them do moves that would not work for able-bodied dancers. This dancer has one arm and one leg.
Able-bodied people can use wheelchairs too. Some people consider this erasure. Others use it as activism or recreation. If people have no positive experiences with wheelchairs, they are more likely to view wheelchairs as symbols of horror and restraint -- a valid perspective in a society hostile to disabilities. As this is for Simon's wedding, his stance prevails.
Originally, men always wore a boutonniere on the left side. In queer culture, flagging uses items such as a handkerchief or keys to indicate role preference: left for a top, right for a bottom.
When worn on the left side you were recognised as a top, and right side, bottom.
In T-America, a lead dancer wears a boutonniere or flower pin on the left lapel, a follow dancer wears it on the right, and a dancer who can do both wears one on each side. (For this reason, there are often buttonholes on both sides. Note that this is separate from any other flagging.) Following the 20-year curve, T-America is pretty flexible about dance roles; anyone can lead or follow, and many people dance with partners of diverse genders. It is neither rare nor remarkable to see women leading or men following, or same-sex couples. Anyone can ask anyone to dance, but it remains more common for a leader to ask a follower -- hence the usefulness of flagging roles. With this idea in mind, anyone can deploy it at events in L-America simply by noting it in the invitations or posting a sign by the dance floor. You might want to offer a supply of 3D pins or enamel flowers for guests to use in flagging their dance role. Veterans favor poppies.
Pocket squares may be used to signal orientation for those who wish to flirt with intent, or in the case of acespec folks, signal disinterest in such. T-America offers suitcoats with breast pockets on both sides for people who want to show top/bottom preferences. It is easy to find both silk pocket squares and cotton bandanas in a wide range of pride flag patterns.
Melons peak in mid-summer to early fall.
Italy produces many cured meats, each with its own flavor and texture. Shiv doesn't know much about them, but Tolli and Simon have picked up a taste from their Italian friends.