The Miss Jean Brodie of the cha cha set, Miss Abigail Deermont stands five three in stacked heels and bouffant do. Four new trainees, including me, sit before her on a Monday morning, day one of our classes in bronze dance steps and tarnished sales techniques.
“The Cinncinati Six,” she announces, “is a strategy designed to help you sell Lifetime Memberships at the Deermont Academy of Ballroom Dance. “Who can tell me where the technique was developed?”
The guy to my left, an ex insurance salesman wearing a powder blue polyester suit, furiously flips through his Academy manual while the young lady to my right (who has chosen the dance instructress alias of Miss Toy) picks at her nail polish. Miss Deermont’s crème de la crème.
“Cincinnati?” I volunteer.
“Correct!” Miss D swirls her arms before us. “You will all become Cincinnati Sixers!” She turns on her heels and carves an arabesque in the air. “Anyone over 18 who puts a ballot in the box at the mall wins six lessons.
“And it will be your job to teach basic bronze steps while also pumping those lucky winners for information.” Her nostrils flare like a flamenco dancer’s. “You have five classes to find out all about your charges’ personal lives, then on the sixth…” she pauses, her face tango-serious, “You move in for the kill.” Miss Toy looks abruptly up from her nails as the guy in the baby blue suit starts biting his.
“You will sell Lifetime Memberships to lonely abject souls who long for the flight of terpsichore!” Miss D swoops her arms as if for take off. “It costs just five thousand dollars for a lifetime of dance lessons and Friday night socials at the Academy.” Her wings flutter and settle at her side. “And you get 5%.”
And the reality of my new job hits me like a ton of rhumba shoes.
Fred Astaire glides into the studio in top hat, white tie and tails. Guests are arriving for the Friday night social. But Fred is not quite himself: his pants are too short and his socks are mismatched – one blue, one argyle. Also the smooth black surface of his topper is interrupted by a glassy ebony orb. An almost imperceptible jewel in his crown, it looks like something out of a sci-fi movie, a transmitter to the Mothership or the cyclopean eye of Big Brother. It’s noticed by few, and only known in its true nature to its wearer and me. The wearer is, of course, not Fred Astaire at all but the remarkable Walter Kist in his grandfather’s best formal attire topped with his own madcap hatcam.
“Beam me up, Scottie,” I say, as Kist sashays past, shooting on the sly.
“There’s no intelligent life down here,” he counters, then aims his chapeau in my direction. I stick my tongue out at him as maracas and marimbas guide the tentative Lifers on the floor. He smiles and moves on, a soft shoe man dancing on crushed diamonds and rose petals whom no one pays much heed to despite his odd postures and wallflower poses.
But more than a few jaws drop at night’s end when Kist doffs his cap to dance a mad-hatter tango with me. Ignoring all proper bronze, silver or gold steps, we don’t moon like Brando, but our twists and turns and leaps comprise my last tango at Deermont’s. The next day I hand in my resignation.
Vancouver born Marie Wilson, was one of the first aamora.com members. Marie is a writer, photographer, artist, actor, mother & muse living in Toronto. View her work on her website, on JPG Magazine or on aamora.com.