is a first-person account by a reader from Toronto responding to a column
I did some time back. Lynne Hurry is not West Indian, but is infused with
our spirit and a special life-affirming courage you find in women
article “I Still Haven’t Learnt to Wine” was of special interest to
me as I “wine” very well (I’m 56).
was a surprise to my West Indian friends as I have a disability. I suffer
the “slings and arrows” (which is a great description if you know the
disease) of Peripheral Neuropathy (PN), a neurological disorder that
ultimately results in numb hands and feet accompanied by sharp, shooting
pains and feelings of extreme heat (hands) and cold (feet).
shocked my friends last fall with my ability to “wine.” I come from a
family of dancers, so rhythm is part of my heritage.
mother won all the dance competitions in the ’30s in the West End of
London. My father’s secret desire was to become a professional tap
dancer, but WWII robbed him of his left leg, so that didn’t materialise.
We all loved dancing.
I was young, in the ’60s, the “dirty boogie” or “bump and grind”
was a popular dance. I was adept at it and thought that others who
weren’t, simply felt it was obscene. I was a virgin then, but loved this
dance, since it had no sexual connotations for me.
men don’t wear plaid (maybe you’ve seen or heard of that movie), and
white men generally don’t dance, except when courting, I discovered.
There would be the odd fellow who was a good dancer. I dated one for two
years, despite his bad breath, because we danced so well together. My
husband’s idea of dance always ended up being a fast or slow polka, of
sorts (Ukrainian background).
I was married, there were one or two men I enjoyed dancing with, and we
sought each other out at parties. My husband would be off in a corner
discussing politics or sports, grateful he didn’t have to dance.
Once my marriage ended, I taught several fellows how to dance, but rarely
found a partner who was really any good. So eventually, I gave it up.
Then PN became my partner, and eventually I couldn’t even maintain
balance, let alone dance.
I wined. It was the most liberating experience for me.
is a chronic pain condition that often results in the victim gaining
weight, and I was no exception. After a decade of no interest in men, I
began to think again about men, but felt no one would be interested in me
due to my girth. I was wrong. I met West Indians.
only do they fail to notice, but some even prefer some “meat” on their
partners. What a revelation!
things happened. First, I discovered a great wining partner and one who
took me to Grenadian and Trinidadian clubs in Toronto. I was accepted as a
dancer and not a freak as I would have been in a White club. I could dance
without moving my feet, which was really important to someone who has
difficulty with balance and apparently I looked good while doing it. It
was a great experience and had the added bonus of me getting back some
feeling in my feet.
I met a wonderful Trinidadian at a party. After a decade of no
relationships, this man really appealed to me. I liked him a lot and we
saw each other a good deal. Then one day he accused me of having had an
affair with my wining partner. Someone had seen us “wining” at a
Sunday lime and told him “you don’t dance like that unless you’ve
been having sex.”
So while wining is a thing I love, it also has lost me a love.
least the good weather is around the corner and I can expect to wine
again. It is the only dance I can do and, while it is sexy, it doesn’t
mean sex to me. I find it is a way of dancing that provides a real sense
of freedom (as you mentioned in your article) and let me tell you, it
brings joy to a woman with mobility problems.
is a poem I wrote just after my first wine. I was overjoyed at the
experience, and my wining friend wept when I read the poem to him.
One day I met a man from Grenada:
Deep voice, wide smile, sex appeal.
It was my first visit to their
And I felt privileged to be invited to
share a meal.
This man I noticed right away,
Although there were many in the room.
He delighted those around him that day,
With his wit, charm and warmth,
And then I saw him dance.
He danced a Soca dance,
With his friend, Angela.
They had rhythm to spare,
And I watched them both,
Imagining myself there.
I looked down at my feet,
Securely strapped into leather sandals.
I, who had danced so often, so well,
Before the accident.
My life was dance then:
The Monkey, The Twist, The Jerk, Jive,
Dirty Boogie, The Bump and Grind, Disco
Any kind of couple-dance.
The guys led, I followed,
Perfectly and with movement.
Bands asked me to dance for them,
Touring on the road. I’d blush and
“No thanks,” but loved the
In a family of dancers I was raised,
Mother, father, sister, brother,
And me, the baby, could dance just as
But suffered like my father.
The war blew away his leg.
In time he learned to dance again.
A strange disease called PN
Blew away my feet.
This man from the south showed me,
I could dance with him.
He danced me in a chair one time.
I laughed and told him, “I can’t
Then, last night I was standing and he
He moved in deliberately and close,
His body and a wall erasing my awkward
He held me, my back against the wall.
I could move and sway like many years
It felt good. I felt secure. I felt
We moved away from the wall,
Then back again. I knew I belonged
In the dancing world with the man.
After all these years, I felt movements
Rushing into my belly, thighs and
The sheer joy I felt at being able to
But there was more.
In that dance you get lost,
And are pulled into the sensual
That is part of it all.
A sizzle, a burn I’d ignored for so
Age no factor. Movement is all.
Pleasure, appreciation, stimulation.
Response is all.
The following morning I wakened,
And pulled on slippers,
Warm, sheepskin-lined slippers for numb
And felt, as I walked across my
Just the slightest
In my toes,
And other small areas of my feet.
Wonder. What wonder.
This man made me feel like a dancer
And, more importantly, a woman.
An appealing woman.
Nice change. Been a long time. I’d
More dancing I hope,
More movements like that,
Will help my feet remember,
The glide on hardwood of leather shoes.
The slide of feet as the body moves.
The rhythm that gets inside your soul,
That makes two become one
And makes you whole.
I think in time my toes and heels and
Will remember to feel and I will know
I am healed.
And that’s the story of a woman touched by the
West Indian spirit.