When I arrived at Manhattan Center's Grand Ballroom for Sunday’s ballroom dancing lesson, I discovered that most of the participants were teenagers. Boys stood on the right side of the room while girls stood on the left. I joined three young-at-heart ladies, like myself, at the far end of the girl’s line.
Jin Sung Park, the husband of Reverend Moon’s daughter, In Jin Moon, introduced the teacher, Neal. In Jin Moon, Senior Pastor of the Unification Church, started these ballroom dancing classes hoping to teach young people how to relate to each other with respect and honor. I am no longer a member of the Unification Church, but these lessons are open to the general public.
“Remember,” said Neal, “we are taught not to eat of the fruit, not to touch, not to think, even in dreams. “
“You don’t want your first encounter with a girl to be awkward,” he said. “You want to be able to relate freely. The dancing here is beautiful and pure.”
The first dance was a waltz box step. When I got confused, the two ladies beside me eagerly showed me how to make a box shape on the ground with my steps.
Then Neal and his dance partner demonstrated how to lead into a turn. Later, one of my dance partners gently explained to me that this was not a spin, but a smooth walk taking six full steps to get back to square one.
“Sisters,” said Neal. “Trust your brothers. They are the greatest guys in the world. Give them a good time. They have to think a lot. You girls have it easy for the most part.”
Although the average age of my dance partners was 19, every time the teacher told us to change partners, a new, charming gentleman invited me to dance. Each one of my five partners was respectful, friendly and fun to dance with.
According to Unification Church theology, “Blessed Children,” who are born to couples matched by Reverend Moon, come into the world free of original sin and therefore are purer than the rest of us. I believe that all people are born “blessed.” But the sight of so many young people relating to each other in an apparently joyful and innocent manner was refreshing.
The young men invited girls to dance, led the dance and made conversation. The girls seemed delighted. It may be challenging to satisfy oneself with relationships that draw the line at touching hands when one’s peers are experimenting with almost limitless boundaries. But perhaps exploring the subtleties of romantic interplay first might lead to something richer in the end.
After the waltz, we learned the cha cha, a faster dance involving more turns and a sideways move called “the Manhattan.”
“As guys, we like to lead, to be a knight,” said Neal. “Through ballroom dancing, I felt a renewed sense of who I was. Ballroom dancing is an expression of heart.”