Dancing With My Father: A woman’s recollection of the tenderness between her parents

As the owner of Fred Astaire Dance Studios in Michigan, I often hear stories from women students about the first time they danced with their fathers. Each one a unique tale. A special moment. A forever memory they fondly recall. This is the story of one such memory, shared with me during a recent marketing meeting with our PR team. It’s written by Christina Weaver.

Dave and Christina Stansell Weaver

I’ll never forget where I was when I discovered my dad could dance. We were at a family wedding in southern California. A wedding filled with love and laughter, relatives from near and far, and plenty of stories that made my older aunts and uncles shake with delight.

Underneath the bright and twinkling lights of the dance floor, my dad took my hands and offered me one of my fondest memories.

At age 19, slow dances for me consisted of shuffling around the dance floor. Unsure movements. Awkward moments. Boys my age would gingerly sway back and forth. Eager to steal a kiss, or perhaps too scared to try.

Harry and Lucia Stansell dancing in the living room where they had New Year’s Eve parties

The dance on this evening was different. My dad moved with grace, rhythm, and expertise.

It was fun.

It was effortless.

He commanded the dance and in one fell swoop, I understood the why.

The why behind my parent’s ballroom dance lessons.

I remember scoffing at my mom and dad when they would go to their weekly lessons. “Why on earth would anyone want to ballroom dance,” I thought. Growing up in the age of the Roger Rabbit, Running Man, and Hammer Time, I never understood my parents’ love of Frank Sinatra. Of Moon River. Of music from the King and I.

I never understood the look that passed between them when they had the opportunity to dance. The twinkle in my dad’s eye. The look of easy happiness on my mom’s face.

Harry and Lucia Stansell

I rolled my eyes at the memories they would recall of New Year’s Eves past when the furniture was pushed out of the way to make room for their makeshift dance floor. Vinyl scattered across the record player. Men and women in suits and gowns, sipping whisky and wine. Enjoying each song, each moment.

Looking back now, as a woman in my 40s, I understand.

I understand that for my parents of five children, dance gave them an escape. For my mom, fearlessly battling cancer, it was an opportunity to momentarily forget. And for my dad, it was a way of leading the show, of remaining in control of a life that must have seemed to spiral out of his reach so often.

Dance gave them something to have fun with, something to replace the mundane, the monthly treatments, the stress.

One of my favorite songs is I Hope You Dance by Lee Ann Womack. Its lyrics include:

Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance
I hope you dance

I’d like to think this was my parents’ wish for us. And this is my wish for my two children.

Now in his 80s, my dad moves around with a walker for assistance. His dancing days are over, but I continue to hold onto the memories of him dancing. With my mom. With me. It is forever a memory I will cherish.

Harry and Lucia Stansell on their wedding day 10/23/1965

My mom passed away early in the year I discovered my dad could dance. I now recognize the importance of that moment.

It was the first time my dad danced after her passing. And it was the first time I really and truly danced.

Under the twinkling lights that evening, we moved around the dance floor with purpose. With rhythm. With grace.

And it was brilliant.