Dance of Presidents


If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing (D&C 136:28).

“Attention, please!” Miss Taylor blew a shrill blast on her whistle as the class gathered in the gymnasium. “The Presidents’ Day program is coming up, and we have been chosen to perform the minuet. That means we’ll be practicing it for the next several weeks.”

Lisa smiled as a moan of protest rose from most of the boys and even some of the girls. Not everyone liked to dance as well as she did.

“What’s the minuet?” whispered Meredith.

“A dance from George Washington’s time,” answered Lisa.

“Sounds boring.”

“Oh, no,” said Lisa. “I play minuets on the piano. It’ll be fun. You’ll see.”

“Well, maybe—as long as I don’t get old Two-Left-Feet George for a partner again. I want Zane to be my partner.”

“Every girl in our class wants Zane,” Lisa giggled.

“Boys on my left, girls on my right,” called Miss Taylor. “Line up according to height, beginning with the tallest.”

“Well, that’s that—neither of us will get Zane,” Lisa lamented as she and Meredith lined themselves up with the taller girls near the front. Zane was not one of the tallest boys in the class, but he was the one all the girls liked best because he was fun to talk to and didn’t get all flustered.

Miss Taylor checked the girls’ line and was satisfied with it. Then she walked down the line of boys, moving some of them forward and some back. Oh, no! thought Lisa. I think that puts George right across from me.

She was right. When the boys and girls met and paired off in the center of the gym, George was her partner.

“Too bad,” whispered Meredith, sailing off with David to the spot Miss Taylor had indicated.

Lisa looked after her friend with envy. David’s no Zane, she thought, but at least he can dance, while George … Well, I know he’s going to do his best, but …

The music began. Lisa recognized her favorite minuet, and she almost groaned aloud. She just knew George was going to spoil it for her, and he did. Time after time he made the wrong moves. I might as well be dancing with a dinosaur, she thought. How can anyone be so awkward?

“Sorry,” murmured George.

Lisa started, embarrassed. Had he read her mind? Then she realized that he was apologizing for bumping into her on the last turn. Her relief was so great that it spilled over into a warm smile. George returned it with such pleasure that she couldn’t help encouraging him a little more. “You’re going to learn this dance, George.”

Now, why did I say that? she scolded herself. He’ll never learn this dance … or any dance!

“Why the grumpy look?” asked Stephanie, catching up with Lisa on the playground after school. “Did you flunk a test or something?” The two girls were in different classes, but they were good friends and always walked home together.

“No,” said Lisa with a sigh. “It’s just that I have to dance with George in the Presidents’ Day program, and he has two left feet.”

Stephanie hooted with laughter.

“You wouldn’t think it was funny if you had to dance with him,” said Lisa in a cross voice.

“I’m sorry, Lisa,” said Stephanie, smothering one last chuckle, “but I couldn’t help laughing because there was a time when I thought you had two left feet. Remember when we were learning to clog after third grade a couple of years ago?”

“Oh, yes,” said Lisa, thinking back. “Was I really that bad?” She thought some more, then admitted, “I guess I was before Tammy took over. She walked me through every step of that dance until I had it just right.”

“And now old Two-Left-Feet Lisa can dance,” said Stephanie with a friendly grin.

“As well as you can,” retorted Lisa with her own friendly grin.

“Well, I wouldn’t go that far,” Stephanie teased, still grinning. “But you certainly can dance well enough for the Presidents’ Day program—even if you don’t have a president to dance with.”

Both girls laughed. “Not every president could have been a great dancer, though,” Lisa remarked.

“Maybe Abraham Lincoln was just as awkward as George, and girls didn’t want to dance with him, either.” Stephanie mused. “Think how embarrassing it would be to remember later that you hadn’t wanted to dance with the president!”

By the beginning of the next dance practice, Lisa was determined to help George. “Try to think small, George,” she said. “You won’t bump into me if you keep your steps small. That’s it—slow, stately, dignified.”

“You’re right,” said George, a trace of wonder in his voice as he came full circle without mishap and made his bow.

Minuet comes from the French word menu, which means small,” Lisa explained. “I guess that’s why small is the secret to a graceful minuet.”

“You’re a great teacher, Lisa,” George told her. “Now you’re even teaching me French.”

“Maybe I’ll grow up to be a teacher,” said Lisa. “Have you ever thought you might grow up to be president? Two of our presidents have been named George, you know.”

George’s smile seemed to fill the gymnasium. “Maybe you’ll grow up to be president, Lisa,” he said. “I’d vote for you any day.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Shauna Mooney Kawasaki