I have my yellow African Daisies but of course that is not enough, nothing is ever enough for the hungry heart! And so I decided to parade in my red velvet boots with the silver embroidery and the zipper up the backs, bought at the encouragement of a friend at that great caravanserai of appetite, the annual Santa Fe International Folk Market, last summer (silently speculating whether I would ever wear them).
Well, I have, I do, and I will, even to the Lent service Wednesday night, that mighty dip into reflection and self-analysis, when all color has been stripped from the church and black seems the appropriate color for us penitents. I am a penitent—that word from a medieval lexicon—and have been one since I was twelve or so and felt I shouldn’t take communion because I hadn’t confessed the sins I knew I’d committed, although I couldn’t tell what they were.
This reminds me of my pious Roman Catholic friend, a woman of great virtue and abstinence, who confessed to me that she suffered, always, from an intense sense of guilt. She, too, couldn’t have said what she was guilty of; perhaps of being alive, and a female? Our tendency to feel unnamed guilt may be the reason the Christian doctrine of Original Sin has such a long and enduring history.
So where will I wear my red velvet boots? Certainly on Saturday night to my beloved dance studio here, Dance Station, whose slogan is “We Teach Santa Fe to Dance.” I’ve been taking lessons and performing there for twenty years, favoring the old-time ballroom dances performed to glorious 1940’s musical scores—”Shall We Dance? On a bright cloud of music shall we fly? Shall we then say goodnight and mean goodbye…”
The band that will play on Saturday night is called The Rifters, three cowboy musicians, engagingly a little the worse for wear, who perform on the small raised stage at the end of the dancing room. Water and sometimes cookies are provided; dancers don’t drink liquor, which is why most of the dance places in town have closed. They simply can’t make enough money. Our modest entry fees to the dances at Dance Station make the parties barely feasible, but the aim is not financial. It is, indeed, to show Santa Fe dancing.
And what a crowd assembles there! Also engagingly slightly the worse for wear, we women in the dresses we might have worn as teenagers (short skirts guarantee partners, a queasy notion) and the delicious specially-constructed high-heeled dance shoes that are more comfortable than sneakers. I wonder why the expensive designers of dress shoes have never figured out the secret of making them comfortable.
Everybody dances with everybody, although there are usually more women than men which means some of us sit solemnly along the wall, like the teenaged wallflowers we once were. But the atmosphere is so friendly, and the music is so lively, that it’s nearly impossible to feel, as we may have years ago, gloomy and neglected. There is always some gent casting around the room for a partner.
It works so well because nobody has to talk. Generally, we don’t even give our names. And before 10 pm, it is over, and we put our dance shoes in their little silk bags and go home, happily, alone.