Terpsichore, Not by Michael Praetorius

Sweat evaporated, she headed back into the airconditioned hall.

“Care to dance?” said Dan Vannet from the shadows.


Funny that he wasn’t out on the floor, but hey.  Back onto the dance floor into the pulsing lights and billowing smoke. Egad, a really good dancer and he’d asked her to dance.  How formal.  Jim was pretty good but they were friends, too; you could even say she was Jim’s mentor in a certain sense although he was pretty quick on the uptake, just as she had been when she was his age.  She’d known Dan a few years longer but not half so well, mainly to say hello to.  What if he tried to lead her into some kind of elaborate dance step and she tripped or fell over?  Genius as a tribal hypnotic sex goddess dancer doesn’t always translate into skill at traditional dances where you have to mind where and when you put your feet.  Being a strong individual doing her own thing had always been easy; following another person’s subtleties was another matter.

Slowly, slowly, they synchronized their movements.  Slowly because she was nervous, slowly because they were dancing slowly. They were rock-and-roll dancing to start with, not touching, just facing, watching each other’s moves and not doing anything sudden. Not jumping into the fray, not hustling, not writhing, just paying close mind to see where the other’s moves were going.  She didn’t normally dance like this; usually she flung herself right in and then checked to see what her partner was doing, to decide whether to keep on keeping on or tone things down and be dull or, rarely, get really wild together and make up a whole dance of their own. She hadn’t found that many really imaginative dancers, just as she hadn’t found that many easy-to-follow traditional leaders.  But if Dan Vannet was so good, she wanted to follow his lead and find out where that led.

So slowly, a little painfully, she followed his first easy cues and thought “This is really dull, this is totally constrained, we’ll quit dancing together when this song ends and I’ll never learn a thing from him.”  But she kept focusing her attention, putting everything and everyone else out of her mind. Focus, and synchronicity will come.

Then he reached out to her and they moved into a calmer, more languid version of the way she and Jim had danced.  She and Jim had been fast and athletic, sweat winging every which way; she and Dan were smooth and steady, light and lithe.  This wasn’t breathless dancing; this was dancing where each breath had its place and was not denied.  This wasn’t a dance of sweat droplets and drenched duds, this was a dance of deep sudor permeating all, of intimately mingling fluids softly encompassing skin.

The DJ segued one song into the next, another into more; she and Dan Vannet were starting to melt into one another’s motion, leading and following, making a circuit around the floor, breathing in unity, totally focused.

And then there was a lapse between songs and they separated to gaze puzzled at each other and around the room.  A pause!  A pause long enough to break off from, a pause long enough to form words as they looked irritably about wondering what the next move was.

“This is really great,” she said, intentionally talking them back before the pause; “I could do this all night.”

Then the DJ made up his mind or pressed the right button on the console or just quit lollygagging and playing with the crowd, and the uncertain pause ended and neither she nor Dan abandoned the dance floor in search of beer or water or warm moonlight. They were back into their slow rock-and-roll dancing, but more fluidly than before; then she was back in his arms, one hand each low between the shoulder blades, one hand each out to the side, palms meeting.  This play of palms was vital, yet subtle: even dancing at a distance, their palms reached up, reached out, reached sideways in a mime mirror-game, never touching yet always attuned.  And now their palms met, lightly yet solidly, out in the space between their bodies and those of the other dancers, those shadowy characters who wiggled and jumped and raised arms around them.

Now, as one body, they stepped inches closer; no longer just politely near, their torsos pressed together as right legs went between thighs, thighs closed in right legs, and hands moved down to mid-backs to press firmly yet sweetly.

Firmly yet sweetly: yes, that intense unspoken intimacy devoid of groping hands and panting breaths, devoid of kisses, caresses, and soft words; that intimate quietness in the midst of a pulsating dance floor, that deep surrender of boundaries while adhering to conventions of style; that perfection of breath and closeness; that scandalous lambada-like propinquity of leg and thigh as they moved up and down and back and forth in slow tiny incremental steps.

Yes, that firm sweet pressure between her thighs; that mutual pressure on mid-back; her head on his shoulder, close enough to lick his neck or whisper in his ear should she so choose, though she refrained; his other hand leading hers down to press gently yet fervently on the curve of her right hip (no vulgar ass-fondling here); yes, it was like making love for hours without becoming tired, bored, impatient, or sated; it was utterly smooth, utterly artistic, utterly well-paced; and she knew her boyfriend would be upset to see her dancing like this with someone else, but so long as he couldn’t see it she didn’t care; and she knew that out there among the tables and even on the dance floor all the others were taking note and beginning to gossip, especially the ones who knew her boyfriend but who would never, ever mention this to him because she had never, ever mentioned any of their lapses from propriety to their wives, girlfriends, husbands, or boyfriends... she didn’t care:  let them all imagine whatever they liked; let them imagine the kind of wild sex she had had with one or two of them before meeting her boyfriend; let them imagine the kind of wild sex they would have liked to have had with her; let them imagine the kind of wild sex they wanted to have or were afraid to have with one another, she didn’t care...

She existed in the moment on her bare feet on the dance floor in Dan Vannet’s arms, and she existed in a protracted perfect moment of sensory pleasure and awareness, her tactile and kinetic senses so acute that it would only have taken the faintest encouragement for her to have gone on to a level of intense arousal that she had almost forgotten she was capable of feeling.

Yes--why, she wanted to know, had she lost her desire for lovemaking for so long; why was she so unmoved by tender attentions at home yet so alive and attuned and embracing here?

She could not lay blame upon her boyfriend; he was loving.

Was it the tedium of the familiar?  The loss of surprise?  The disappearance of rapture?  The boredom of reliability?

Or was it the poor wisdom of allying with him on the rebound from someone else?

Yet in most respects they were extremely compatible.  They respected one another’s wishes; they helped one another on projects and with family problems; they had long conversations; they had similar hobbies; they fought not.

All the same, here she was on her bare feet on the dance floor in Dan Vannet’s arms, not merely dancing as she did every year but floating in this endless perfect sensual moment in which she could not say she was strictly aroused, yet she recognized that despite her largely monogamous nature and despite the fact that over the past five years she and Dan Vannet had scarcely said more to each other than “Hello,” if Dan followed up this dance with any hint of seduction, she would follow him.  She would not make any advance, but she recognized her inability to deny him.

And thus they danced on, close for one song and backing off for the next, Dan blowing gently into the damp hollow between her breasts as they pulled apart, then close again, do the bump, side by side, then back to back, back to front - her back to his front and somehow now she completely lost her head for a wild moment and reverted to the bold atavistic sex goddess of earlier in the evening, only now she was dancing inches from Dan and with a wriggle of abandon ground her voluptuous ass into his groin and oh! suddenly regained consciousness at the reality of his erection--if he hadn’t had one before, well he certainly did now--yes it felt good, it felt splendid, but this wasn’t what they were trying to do; no, everything they had done up to now had been a schooling in restraint. What the hell was she doing, this one move might spoil everything!

Quick, stop lap-dancing with him, what if he’s offended at this lapse into direct sex amidst a hundred people?

So with difficulty she withdrew the wayward part and directed her attention back to the intimate but precisely defined matter of dancing in complete unity.




Karla Huebner

Karla Huebner has appeared in such literary and genre venues as Northwest Review, Colorado State Review, Magic Realism, Fantasy Macabre, Ceilidh, Weave, and Opossum. She teaches at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio (where they went on a very long faculty strike last year) and her book Magnetic Woman: Toyen and the Surrealist Erotic is now available for pre-order from University of Pittsburgh Press; her novel In Search of the Magic Theater is forthcoming from Regal House and her collection Heartwood was a finalist for the 2020 Raz-Shumaker award. Karla recommends the House Rabbit Society, Doctors Without Borders, and the Nature Conservancy.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Monday, October 5, 2020 - 22:54