"It was innocent," insisted Gov. Mark Sanford while recollecting his first encounter with Maria Belen Chapur on a beach-side Uruguayan dance floor.
Oh really? You're in my wheelhouse now, Mark Sanford. I know a thing or two about rhythm and romance.
That sultry evening at Punta del Este was undeniably seductive. Because why? Because "to dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful," explained legendary dancer and choreographer Agnes De Mille years ago. In other words, dancing makes mighty fine foreplay.
De Mille wasn't the first person to suggest that if you're looking for a short cut to happiness, dancing might be one of them. In Goethe's wildly popular 18th century novel The Sorrows of Young Werther, this is how the book's hero described an evening of dancing:
I felt myself more than mortal, holding this loveliest of creatures in my arms, flying with her like the wind, till I lost sight of everything else; and I vowed at that moment that a girl whom I loved, or for whom I felt the slightest attachment, should never waltz with another, even if it should be my end!
Jane Austen, the widely read British novelist, loved to dance as a teenager and often used the power of dance to move her heroes and heroines through their romances. In Emma, Austen wrote:
It may be possible to do without dancing entirely. Instances have been known of young people passing many, many months successively without being at any ball of any description, and no material injury accrued either to body or mind. But when a beginning is made -- when the felicities of rapid motion have once been, though slightly, felt -- it must be a very heavy set that does not ask for more.
How timeless are the felicities of rapid motion? Socrates -- the ancient Greek philosopher -- learned to dance when he was 70, having felt he was neglecting an essential part of himself.
More recently in the film The Thomas Crown Affair, actor Pierce Brosnan posed this question to actress Rene Russo while they were dancing: "Do you want to dance? Or do you want to dance?" (In the movie they did both.) Speaking of dance as metaphor, didn't a well-known writer once say dancing is the perpendicular expression of a horizontal desire?
In Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, the 17th-century French playwright Moliere wrote:
There is nothing so necessary to mankind as dance. All the miseries of mankind, all the dreadful tragedies that history is full of, all the blunders of politicians, all the inadequacies of great captains -- they all come from not having taken dancing lessons.
I studied dance. I even taught dance for a few years. That's why at the end of the day I subscribe to this old Japenese proverb:
We're all fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.
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In Brazil, an American ex-pat has declared "the time for standing is over. It's time to dance."
In Afghanistan, dancing in public can get you killed. Here's my interview with Havana Marking.
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Update 8.18.09: Jenny Sanford will unburden her soul in the September issue of Vogue magazine. (Wait...Vogue? Why not Bitch?) In the soon-to-be-published Vogue interview, Jenny tellingly described the Sanford's courtship this way: "We weren't madly in love, but we were compatible and good friends." Holy Marriage of Convenience, Batman! No wonder Mark got swept off his feet while dancing in Argentina.
Update 8.20.09: Jenny Sanford has been diligently tending to her public image, but who is providing all the behind-the-scenes media advice? That would be longtime Sanford consultant John Lerner, who is orchestrating a media blitz to set up the first lady for something bigger. "There's more to come," according to the Palmetto Scoop. Hmmm, I wonder who turned the media on to the Sanford-Chapur affair in the first place?
UPDATE 12.11.09: Jenny Sanford filed for divorce.
UPDATE 1.27.11: The divorced ex-gov and his lady love return to Punta del Este for more fun in the sun.