The First Waltz

He saved his best moves for last

By Norris Burkes
June 2021

Seven years ago, I planned a special cruise ship dinner during which I’d tell my wife I was retiring from the Air Force.

I enlisted a photographer to record her tears of joy when I surprised her with my retirement orders. I wrote about that touching moment in 2014, but I left out the sweetest part—when I asked Becky onto the dance floor.

Before I say what happened next, let’s get something straight: I cannot dance.

I’m rhythmically challenged. I hear the music in my ears, but it never finds my feet. It’s not that I won’t shimmy.

It’s that I can’t.

I don’t hip or hop. My boots don’t scoot or boogie. I only skip and trip.

My cadence deficit can be traced to Kenny Loggins’ observation: Your mama don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock ’n’ roll.

They sent me to a Baptist college where dancing was banned. Back then, Baylor University didn’t use the D word, so fraternities hosted off-campus “foot functions.”

School President Robert Sloan rescinded the ban in 1996, but cautioned students against being “obscene or provocative.” Perhaps he believed the old joke that Baptists don’t make love standing up because it might lead to dancing.

By the time I graduated in 1979, the die was cast. I would never learn to dance.

Nevertheless, 300 miles into the Labrador Sea on my retirement cruise, I felt the Holy Spirit bestow upon me the gift of dancing. I said to the DJ in my best Dobie Gray impression:

Give me the beat boys and free my soul.

I wanna get lost in your rock ’n’ roll and drift away.

Don’t worry, no one actually heard me say that, least of all Becky.

But when the music started, I adjusted the cummerbund of my military dress tuxedo and slid onto the dance floor like the Energizer Bunny, hips swinging, arms flinging.

I remember the moment as “sweet.” However, Becky stood frozen on the sideline, her mortification amplified by the stares of onlookers. She saw my arms and feet moving as if possessed by a disco demon.

Pleading, she whisper-yelled: “Please stop!” No one heard her, least of all me.

Her shock reminded me of when King David danced naked before the Lord in 2 Samuel 6. (Actually, Dave was only “half-naked” in his skivvies.)

Still, his actions brought out the dance critics who complained David was “exposing himself to the eyes of the servants.”

David replied, “In God’s presence I’ll dance all I want! … Oh yes, I’ll dance to God’s glory—more recklessly even than this. And as far as I’m concerned…. I’ll gladly look like a fool.”

These days, when I hear music, this old Baptist bod still wants to move. I don’t care if it’s country, rock ‘n’ roll or hymns—music that “just soothes the soul,” as Bob Seger says.

Yes, I may drift too far or miss the beat, but I’ve discovered that music isn’t born of the feet, hips or arms. It’s born of the soul. It’s born of the heart. It’s truly spiritual.

That’s why I leave you today with spiritual advice from Lee Ann Womack’s 2000 hit “I Hope You Dance,” by Tia Sillers and Mark D. Sanders (if you know it, sing along and sway those hips):

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean.
Whenever one door closes, I hope one more opens.
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.

Norris Burkes can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento. Burkes is available for public speaking at civic organizations, places of worship, veterans groups and more. For details and fees, visit

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