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The Dance of the Dunce

By Jerry Zezima

If I were in a dancing competition, I would never experience the thrill of victory, but I sure would know the agony of the feet.

Unless, of course, the judge took pity on me.

That’s exactly what happened when I found myself in a dance-off with my granddaughters Chloe and Lilly.

The girls, who are 8 and 5, respectively, are veritable pros compared to me, a geezer with the smooth moves and fancy footwork of a drunken platypus. Forget hip-hop. My specialty would be hip-replacement-hop.

This was sadly evident when Chloe and Lilly challenged me to a dance-off in which I almost needed CPR (Clumsy Poppie Resuscitation).

The judge was my wife, Sue, who wisely sat this one out.

It was the culmination of a wonderful day that began when the girls were in a recital sponsored by Inspire Dance Centre, where they take lessons.

Last summer, they were in an outdoor show at a vineyard, where Sue and I toasted the dancing stars with glasses of vintage grapes. This time, the “Winter Showcase” was held in a roller skating rink.

And the girls were, indeed, on a roll, even though they wore dancing shoes instead of skates. They were each in only one routine in the 20-dance program, but they performed so well, in my humble and totally unbiased opinion, that if they were on “Dancing With the Stars,” hard-marking judge Len Goodman would have given them perfect scores.

I certainly did when Lilly stole the show in a dance from “Cinderella” and Chloe did the same in a routine performed to the Meghan Trainor song “Better When I’m Dancin’.”

When Lilly came out with the other girls in her group, she stood in the front row, stage right, though to me it looked like stage left, which is one of the many reasons, chief of which is a complete lack of performing talent, why I am not on Broadway.

As the music played, Lilly moved her arms in a wavy motion, then swayed to the beat, raised her hands above her head, sang a line of the song, did a pirouette, moved to the back, spun clockwise and exited with the others. She was the last one off and got a huge ovation.

“That was adorable!” Sue exclaimed.

Naturally, I agreed.

We had the same reaction for the next number, which featured Chloe. It was an upbeat performance in which she and the other girls in her group danced, pranced and clapped. Chloe had perfect timing. At the song’s conclusion, she and her fellow dancers knelt at the front of the stage and got a big round of applause. The loudest ovation was, of course, for Chloe.

When the show was over, our daughter Lauren and son-in-law Guillaume, the girls’ parents, beamed with pride through the face masks everyone was required to wear.

Sue and I presented Chloe and Lilly with flowers.

“They smell!” Lilly said.

“That may not prevent her from eating them,” remarked Lauren, noting that Lilly has a big appetite for such a little girl. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” could have been written about her.

When we got back to Lauren and Guillaume’s house, Chloe and Lilly challenged me to a dance-off.

“Nini,” Chloe said to Sue, “you can be the judge.”

Lilly got her FreeTime and started playing “Gold Digger,” a Billboard hit from Ye, the artist formerly known as Kayne West.

We all started jumping around. Chloe and Lilly did handstands. I waved my hands, stamped my feet and almost keeled over.

“Freeze!” Lilly shouted as she turned off the song.

Sue deliberated for a moment and announced, “Lilly wins.”

When the song began again, the girls went into even greater gyrations. I gasped for air as I tried to emulate their moves.

“Freeze!” Lilly shouted.

The song stopped and Sue said, “Chloe wins.”

But the third time was the charm. I danced up a storm, putting my right index finger on the top of my head and spinning like a top.

It was, literally, a dizzying performance that not only impressed the judge but had her in stitches.

“Poppie wins,” Sue declared.

I could tell she took pity on me, but for a man with two left feet, which makes shoe shopping difficult, it made a great day even better.

I didn’t get flowers, like Chloe and Lilly, but I felt like a dancing star.

“Thanks,” I said to Sue. “You’re a much better judge than Len Goodman.”

— Jerry Zezima

Jerry Zezima writes a humor column for Tribune News Service, which distributes it to newspapers nationwide and abroad. He is also the author of five books, Leave It to Boomer, The Empty Nest Chronicles, Grandfather Knows BestNini and Poppie’s Excellent Adventures and Every Day Is Saturday, all of which are “crimes against literature.” He has won seven awards from the National Society of Newspaper Columnists for his humorous writing.

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