After a lifetime of avoiding dance at weddings and social gatherings, Dan Logan finds himself trapped. His daughter, a ballet aficionado, was getting married. A father-daughter dance was inevitable. He confronts his fear of dance and finds the courage to walk in a ballroom dance studio, meets Melissa the instructor, and his life changes.
At the wedding, Dan discovers there are moments when he enjoys dancing and he decides he must face the dance dragon and make a serious effort to learn. His journey takes him into a world of dance studios and clubs, where he dances with hundreds of women, travels to rural Cuba and eventually Washington D.C for a competitive performance for his final confrontation with the dragon.
Author Bio: The Dance Dragon is Dan Logan’s first novel. He grew up in Boston, graduated with a major in American history from the University of Notre Dame, spent three years in the U.S Military and received an M.B.A. in marketing research from New York University
After 12 years working at a large global advertising firm in New York at the end of the Mad Men era, Dan moved back to Boston and started his own advertising and communication firm. Dan and his wife Eileen live on the Boston waterfront.
Key words: Dance, Ballroom, Wedding, Tango, Dragon, Cuba, Learning, Hemingway, Rhythm, Havana
|Publisher:||First Edition Design Publishing|
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.42(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Dance Dragon
One Man's [Reluctant] Journey into the World of Ballroom Dance
By Dan Logan
First Edition Design Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 2017 Dan Logan
All rights reserved.
Blame it on Caroline
Blame it on my daughter, Caroline. She decided to get married, and I needed to play the role of father of the bride. I wanted to learn just one dance for the wedding, but I had a problem. There was a Dance Dragon in my head. As a child, I had always enjoyed geography and history. When I looked at old maps of the world I often noticed fierce-looking dragons. I was told dragons were drawn on maps to represent the unknown. This meant danger, a universal "do-not-enter" sign. There were some unknowns that I feared and dance was one of them. When I was young and in a situation where I was required to move my body to music, a dragon often appeared, in my head, or in the form of a shadow.
As a boy, I thought about courageous explorers like Magellan, Columbus and Marco Polo, who had to travel past the dragons on their maps into the unknown. There were times when I, too, was required to pass dragons. I was fearful of going away to college, joining the military, and living in Asia. When I passed the dragon in those situations, I was often surprised at what I came to discover; on other occasions, such as attending a funeral or speaking up in class, the dragons were optional. Sometimes I dodged those fears by taking a different path, but eventually I decided to deal with most of them. Dance was one of the few things I had managed to avoid most of my life. The problem was, the more I stayed away, the bigger the Dance Dragon became.
With Caroline getting married, I no longer had the option to avoid the Dance Dragon. Even if it was only for one dance, I had to face it. I thought about all the weddings I had attended and the number of times I had watched fathers make fools of themselves on the dance floor. That was not going to be my fate. I wondered how many of those men also had a Dance Dragon in their head. My plan was simple. I would find an instructor to prepare myself for the encounter, focus on my one dance goal and, if necessary, face the dragon. I would surprise my daughter and my wife, Eileen, with my dancing skill at the wedding and then return to my happy, dance-free life. Little did I know that I would meet Melissa, an instructor, have a different dance experience at my daughter's wedding than expected, dance with more than 3,000 women within a few years, travel to rural Cuba in search of the feel of the dance, and rumba at a competitive ballroom dance event in front of hundreds of people in Washington D. C.
As a child, I seldom heard music playing in our house and never saw anyone dance. We were five boys, two parents and a dog. Ours was not a big house: four small bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs, a kitchen, living room, dining room and half-bath downstairs. An unfinished basement served as the laundry room. If we children were not eating, sleeping, doing homework, or sick, we were sent outdoors, along with the dog, to play. My mother liked a quiet house. Music and dancing were simply not part of our daily lives. That was fine with me. I liked sports.
My mother always said she was blessed to have five sons. I was number four. Sometimes I asked myself if she truly meant that, or whether she was simply rationalizing her fate, or "God's will," as she would describe it. As a young man, I speculated whether my social skills and comfort level with music, dance, and girls might have been different if I'd had a sister.
With neither the desire nor the skill, my mother never even attempted to be a good housekeeper. She insisted from the time we could walk that we make our own beds, clean our rooms, and be well-dressed for school, church, and extended family gatherings. We always washed our hands when we came into the house, kept our elbows off the table at dinner, and said "please" and "thank you", though little else, when adults were present. I never danced with my mother, nor do I recollect ever seeing her dance. I sensed that if I suddenly asked my mother to dance with me or started moving my body to music, she might panic and call the doctor or, even worse, the priest.
My father was a work machine, often balancing several jobs: liquor salesman, owner of a seaside snack bar and then a liquor store. When he was at home, which was rarely, he was fixing our well-traveled cars, unclogging a sink or toilet, painting a room, or working in the yard. If you were within his sight, you were recruited to help. Participation was not optional. For recreation, he would listen to the Red Sox game on the radio. I never heard him listen to music or saw him dance. Once or twice a year, he would take me to Fenway Park. Baseball was my first passion in sports, followed by Notre Dame football. I was by far the most intense sports fan of his five sons, and he and I bonded over that. We never discussed dancing, nor girls, for that matter. His most precious gift to me was teaching me that I should always help, respect, and love my mother.
The first time I encountered the Dance Dragon was in my junior year in high school. The auditorium was warm. The industrial lights were bright and hot. We had come to Newton Country Day School, an all-girl Catholic school that was the sister school to my all-boy high school. It was the third Friday in October and that meant the first obligatory dance lesson and party for the young gentlemen in my class. If we did not attend, the school would call our parents - there were no exceptions. As young gentlemen, it was assumed we would all want to know how to dance. There would be proms and cotillions in our future, or so we were told.
As I walked into the auditorium with my friends, in my tweed sports jacket, heavy wool pants, white button-down shirt, and red-and-black-striped school tie, I thought about the six pimples that I had counted on my face that morning, and the fresh two-inch-long razor cut on my chin from trying to get rid of my peach fuzz that morning. My hands were sweaty.
The boys were told to line up opposite the girls, then walk across the floor and ask a young lady to dance. We practiced asking the girl several times until we got it right. After a few dances, we paused while a humorless middle-aged woman demonstrated how the boys, and then the girls, should dance. She instructed us on the art of social conversation. My feeble attempts to follow her suggestions with my dance partners sounded phony to me. I rebelled at the idea of saying nice things to people whom I neither knew nor cared about. Beads of sweat bubbled up on my forehead each time I crossed the dance floor. The only dance I could remember was the waltz. I watched my heavy black shoes move in a square box until the music ended.
At that age, dancing was complicated and contradictory. As gentlemen, we were supposed to hold the girl's right hand with our left hand while we placed our right hand on her upper back. We would then move our feet to the music in the desired direction but never think about or have contact with any other female body part. That was forbidden. To avoid the risk of inappropriate physical contact, I kept the middle of my body as far away from my partner as possible. My friends and I referred to this as the "banana pose". My hips and butt were so far back from my partner that my body was curved like a banana. My body was so tense when I danced that my back ached. The bodies I danced with came in a variety of sizes and shapes. The bigger the body, the more difficult it was to maintain my distance. To make matters worse, my dance partners and I were often clumsy. Physical contact with my partner was an accident waiting to happen. It was merely a question of when, with whom, and how she would react. I hated everything that I was doing and kept looking at the clock on the wall. Someday, I kept telling myself, someday, I would be free.
After an hour of sweat and pain, the sequence changed. Things got worse. The instructor had the girls walk toward the boys and ask us for a dance. I saw her walking toward me. She was a big girl with a wide forehead, red hair, a very plain flat face, and a false smile. I weighed maybe 150 pounds, was five-foot-eight, and was shorter than this girl in her dance shoes. This was not the girl of my dreams. She was going to ask me to dance, and there was no escape. "May I have this dance?" she asked.
I lied and told her I would be happy to dance. I put my wet left hand out and connected with her dry hand, took a deep breath, released my peppermint-scented breath, and started to walk the waltz. Her name was Mary, and she immediately started to practice the art of conversation. "Are you having a good time?" Mary asked. I decided to be honest.
I told Mary it was too warm in the room, dancing was not my favorite activity, and I would rather be somewhere else. What I did not say to Mary was that sweat was running down my arms and legs, and my lower back was in constant pain. I did not mention my dislike of the chaperones watching us with their foolish smiles, for fear that one of them was her parent. I had the mindset of a rebellious teenager counting the days to my freedom. I assumed she wanted to grow up and be just like her parents.
Mary told me that I was not dancing correctly. I should stand straight up, close to her but be careful not to step on her feet. Wow, things were getting risky, I thought. I told Mary I would do my best, but that I didn't know how to dance. As we started dancing again, a boy bumped Mary's back and pushed her towards me. I managed to pull back just in time and no contact was made. Mary was not happy. She told me she wished boys would watch where they are going. I said nothing but gave a slight nod.
Mary asked me if I had a girlfriend. I was surprised at her question. This was not the social conversation skill we'd been taught. Again, I was honest. "Mary, I don't date. With sports, I never get home until suppertime and then I need to do homework for three hours every night. On the weekends, except in the summer, I work at my father's liquor store. At an all-boy school, there are no girls to meet." She smiled.
The music stopped and, as I lowered my left hand, the unthinkable happened. It brushed against Mary's breast. My mouth opened to apologize, but no words came out. I looked away, rolled my eyes, and waited for her reaction. I could feel my heart pumping. I caught the look of panic on her face, or was it anger? Mary said nothing as she quickly walked away. I assumed she saw me as a groper or worse, and my behavior would be reported to a dance chaperone. By the end of the evening, every girl in the dance hall would think I was a pervert.
I escaped to the men's room. I lit the first of two Lucky Strike cigarettes I'd tucked away, inhaled, and thought about what had just happened. At some point, I would have to go back out there. Would Mary and the dance police be waiting for me? Would I be reported to the priests at my school or to my parents? The whole thing was an accident, but who would trust the motives of a teenage boy? This never would have happened if I did not have to take dance lessons. I took a few deep breaths, flushed my second cigarette down the toilet, and washed my hands in the sink. I looked at my pale, sweaty face in the mirror with the red pimples and the razor cut, both of which seemed bigger than before. What a mess.
I opened the door and started walking, on shaky legs. I was trying to prepare myself for either the dance police or another dance, unsure which was worse. No one appeared to be waiting for me. I felt dizzy, there was a foul smell in the air, and then I saw him. A large dragon, maybe eight feet tall, was standing on the edge of the dance floor. He had red eyes and green scales over most of his body, and he was looking right at me. I started to back away from the dance floor. A male chaperone found me, asked me if I was okay, and then led me to a girl who needed a partner. The rest of the party was a blur.
A year later, I had my second dragon sighting. It was October, and I was a senior in high school. I was studying in my room when my mother knocked on my door and told me there was a girl on the phone asking for me. She did not mention her name. What! Who could it be? I asked myself. I only knew a few girls and they would never call me at home. This had never happened before. I felt my freckled face turn red. I went downstairs to the living room, picked up the phone and said hello. My parents appeared to be reading the evening paper, but I knew they were all ears. There was no privacy in my house. This was an awful situation. "Hi Dan, this is Karen. How are things with you?"
I knew Karen from North Scituate beach where my family rented a cottage every summer. Karen was not part of my crowd. She had blond hair, a small frame, and a pleasant smile. I was polite and told Karen that I was busy with school and filling out college applications. Karen asked if I was doing anything on December 18th, and if not, would I like to come to a cotillion dance in Boston and be one of her escorts?
I felt faint. My mind turned to mush and then memories of the Dance Dragon flashed before my eyes. I would rather visit hell for an evening than go to a cotillion. Of course, I was free on December 18, it was two months off. My parents were sitting less than twenty feet away. I could not lie with them in the room. I was desperate to be truthful and say no but I knew my mother would tell me that answer was selfish and hurtful. Plus, unlike my three older brothers, I had never officially dated a girl or brought one home to meet the family. I kept that part of my life private. Such behavior made my parents curious. I lied to Karen and said I would enjoy coming. When I hung up the phone, my mother looked at me and noticed my red face was now pale. After some explanation, she was happy that I had said yes.
The person Karen thought she had invited to her cotillion that night was a senior at St. Sebastian's Country Day School for young gentlemen. The problem was I had a split personality in those days. There was another Dan, the one who was not interested in being a young gentleman, in the academic and social standing of his high school, or in going to a dance. The first Dan had attended Catholic elementary school, served as an altar boy, and excelled in religion class. The prevalent thinking among his parents and the nuns from his school was that a strict all boys' Catholic high school, as opposed to a co-ed public school, would keep his faith strong. At the time, it was a commonly held belief that Catholic teenage boys needed strong faith to avoid the temptations of sin, which was code for "girls". To Karen's family, the first Dan appeared to be a fine young Catholic gentleman, based on his resume.
December 18th arrived. The ball was the social coming-out night of the year for Irish Catholic young ladies of Boston. I had rented a tuxedo and looked handsome, or so my mother said as I left the house. The air was cold as I walked towards the ballroom in the Park Plaza hotel but I knew inside I would be hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable. My primary goal for the evening was to do the obligatory dance with Karen, though I had no idea how to do it. My second goal was to be on my best behavior and not to make a fool of myself. If I could achieve those two goals, I told myself, my reward would be that I would never have to agree to attend a dance party again. Before walking into the ballroom, I visited some of my male friends upstairs in a hotel room and had two beers. I was very disciplined.
When I arrived at the table, the reception was cool, though I was not sure why. I had received a formal invitation in the mail but no other details or instructions. Karen was quite pleasant, but her family and friends — none of whom I knew — were aloof. Perhaps I had not lived up to the build-up or had missed an earlier activity. Perhaps my attempts at social conversation were inept or they sensed I had stopped for a beer. I didn't ask. After 15 minutes, I assumed I must have been unwittingly disrespectful of Karen's family or breached some unwritten protocol, and there was no recovery. I excused myself and went for a long walk in the cold winter air. I was not happy with myself. I decided I must return and ask Karen to dance.
I returned to the ballroom and looked for Karen, but instead I saw the Dance Dragon's shadow on the dance floor. He was bigger than the last time, particularly his head. Among his teeth were two large fangs, which I had not noticed before. My legs felt like Jell-O and I could hear my heartbeat. I stopped looking for Karen, drifted towards the back of the room, and escaped from the building. I was a coward. On the drive home, I promised myself that never again would I put myself in such a situation. I would leave Boston and the social life others had planned for me and start a fresh life, a life that did not require dancing.
Excerpted from The Dance Dragon by Dan Logan. Copyright © 2017 Dan Logan. Excerpted by permission of First Edition Design Publishing, Inc..
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