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A night of dancing helps people connect

While listening to the woman sobbing on television about how the man she met on the Internet had fleeced her, I realized that the ways men and women meet have changed drastically. When I was young, it took me just one evening to find out a lot about a man.

The getting-to-know-you began when he asked, "May I have this dance?"

This was in the 1960s, when my big joy was having a hot time in the Crystal Ballroom in Dublin, where my aim was to dance every dance and be one of the first girls up on the floor. While dancing with a good partner, my senses bubbled; that was the hopeful return for the 10 shillings I paid at the door.

It was the era when American music was all the rage, and musicians wearing white tuxedos with red bow-ties gyrated around the stage while playing the big band sounds mixed with the new beat of rock and roll. And when a female vocalist in a sleek, shimmering dress with matching high-heel shoes and bright red lipstick sang "A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," our feet pounded in rhythm. During those minutes, we had what people yearn for -- connection.

Each set had three songs, during which time I found out a lot about the stranger who had asked me to dance. Not much was said during the first song, but holding his hand, I knew if he had an office job, or if he worked outdoors.

His suit might smell of tobacco, and his cologne, soap or lack thereof told me more. His way of guiding me around the floor was a measure of his confidence. And his accent when he asked, "Do you come here often?" told me what part of Ireland he was from.

By the third song, I knew what kind of work he did, and where he lived in Dublin. When the drum signaled an end to the set, we thanked each other and I knew if it was time to disappear into the crowd, or remain in plain sight, hoping he would ask me for a second dance.

If he asked a third time, chances were we danced for the night. While displaying our creative moves to "Let's Twist Again," I noticed whether he was good-humored or quick-tempered when we were bumped by the crowd, or he stepped on my stiletto heels.

For the last dance, the band always played "When the Saints Go Marchin' In," and we had a hot time thundering to the beat. Then we stood at attention like soldiers, sweating, our hearts hammering, while the band played the Irish national anthem. If he sang it in Irish or English, I had a good clue about his politics.

Later, we ate fish 'n' chips wrapped in newspaper, while sauntering along the windy streets of Dublin.

Some nights were not so hot. Value for the admission fee was an up-and-down thing because many of the men did not know how to lead, held me too close or shouted "volare" in my ear. With them, there was no more eye contact and I'd disappear into the crowd. Other nights there would be three women to every man, or groups of handsome sailors from the foreign ships, who could neither speak English nor dance. Those nights, I left and took the early bus home.

That was long before people connected by computer. How would it be if we got off the Internet and went dancing again? What else offers the real connection people yearn for? Makes our senses bubble? How else can a woman find out a lot about a man in just one night?

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