I’ve been taking Lindy hop lessons each week since the beginning of September. Last month I was in the Level 1 8-count class. There were close to 50 people in it with me, but you couldn’t miss Owen.
He towered at 6 feet and 8 inches. A true gentleman in collared shirts and pressed dress pants. He had dancing shoes when everyone else was in fashion ballet flats or New Balance running shoes. Part of learning to dance socially is getting used to dancing with all different types of leaders. Tall ones, short ones, demanding ones, passive ones. And then there was Owen.
He took very small steps, but I always knew where I should go when I danced with him. When he wanted me next to him, I knew to dance next to him. When he wanted to promenade, I knew it. I wondered why he was stuck in Level 1.
The last Wednesday of the month, we took a class field trip to Lee’s Liquor Lounge in downtown Minneapolis. There was social dancing and live music happening there. Before the band began to play, they gave an announcement.
Owen had died. A heart attack at 55. He was an avid dancer, a fixture in the community. I guess he had a custom made suit in mustard yellow. And he had never been suck in Level 1. He chose to come early and dance with the new people, to give them experience with a good lead. To encourage them to keep on dancing. And he died.
All I could do was quietly raise my glass as a few tears welled up in my eyes.
I hope it was enough.