I’ve been told I have control issues. They always say it like it’s a bad thing, but I know from personal experience that you can make being a control freak work for you a lot of the time. For example, it takes a bona fide CF like me, who refuses to do drugs in the U.S. because a) it’s illegal and b) I hate the idea of supporting a supply chain that somewhere upstream undoubtedly includes pimps and killers, to insist on going all the way to Amsterdam to get high - legally - one first and last time before trying to get pregnant and start a family. Resulting in one fantastically epic New Year’s Eve with our best friends smoking Amsterdam Skunk and watching crazy Dutch men rollerblade through the snow in nothing but a thong.
In the studio it’s essential to success as a producer when facing a room full of master musicians, where the only currency that matters is the power of conviction, to exert the unflappable certainty that Someone Has The Wheel. They might gripe about it all over town, but the more you abuse them with your anal obsession over the tone of the E string in that last power chord, the more they appreciate it. Just ask Mutt Lange. All the way to the bank, baby.
These are the tools I’ve honed my entire life, the ability to rationally assess and efficiently assert my will over the task at hand, and this is the well-tuned skill set I take in to Dance World for my first Dancing With The Stars rehearsal with my professional dance partner Michael. Unfortunately, the merits of Control Freakishness don’t get a lot of traction in my new mission: Entering the Cha Cha.
No one is more surprised than me to discover that the Cha Cha is my dance. I don’t actually know anything about Cha Cha, but the syllables inevitably trigger images of busty Latin women with bananas on their heads and the cheesy sound of that organ on the Lawrence Welk show. It’s our “getting to know you” rehearsal, so first Michael and I chat, listen to some songs, talk through some ideas, then he walks me through a few different dance steps to see if there’s one my body instinctively falls into. East Coast Swing, Rhumba, Salsa, West Coast Swing. I do the counting part REALLY well - too bad it’s not a math problem. If I could lead I’m sure it would be better – can’t we switch? The whole following thing is just so…icky. Unnatural, really, the way he applies pressure to my right hand to communicate the next move, and I’m supposed to just go along, no say in the matter. It’s crazy-making. How could I not be anxious and awkward? I have a steel rod up my spine and three left feet. I’m certain I will never be able to face an audience as a dancer without a bag over my head.
Then Michael shows me the Cha Cha.
Suavamente, Mao Mao Pao Pao, one-and-one-two-three…and suddenly I realize I’m happy. Rock-up-one-two-three. I’ve stopped thinking. Rock-back-one-two-three. I’m just watching that little light sparking in Michael’s eyes and floating on a cloud of clave and cuica. This is no rational clockwork universe, it’s a twilight zone of intuition and grace, rhythm and flow.
And then of course I trip. But at least I’m laughing.