Benson Learns to Dance

Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a warm, tidy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.

Benson was invited to his friend Alejandro’s birthday party.

He didn’t want to go.

His mother said, “Why don’t you want to go? Alejandro is a good friend, and lots of your friends will be there.”

“It says ‘dance party’ on the invitation,” Benson said. “I can’t dance.”

Alejandro loved to dance. He was learning ballet and tap-dancing, but he was especially good at ballet. He practised all the time, in his bedroom, at the playground, whenever he was at his friends’ places, no matter where he was. He loved to dance.

“Dancing isn’t hard,” Aunt Moss said. “It’s just moving to music. Everyone can dance.”

“No, they can’t,” Benson said. “I can’t.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “You’re giving up before you’ve even tried.” She stood in front of Benson. “Put your feet like this,” she said, putting her heels together and pointing her toes out.

Benson put his heels together and fell over onto his bottom.

“No, no, not like that,” Aunt Lillibet said. “Put your arms out to help you balance, heels together, head up, keep trying, that’s it!”

Benson put his arms out, his heels together and his head up.

“Now stretch out your right foot,” Lillibet said.

Benson stretched, wobbled, teetered and fell over again.

“See?” he said. “I can’t dance.”

His mother said, “Not everyone is built for ballet. What about tap-dancing?”

“Alejandro tried to show me how to tap-dance, but it didn’t work,” Benson said. “Alejandro says I tap-dance like a rhinoceros stampeding.”

Aunt Lillibet said, “What about belly-dancing? It’s very graceful, and it suits every body shape.” Aunt Lillibet was in charge of the belly-dancing group. “Stand up straight,” she said. “Now put your hips forward and your shoulders back.”

Benson put his shoulders forward and his hips back and toppled over onto his tummy.

“You’re not trying!” Aunt Lillibet said. “I know.” She went into her room and came back with a thing like a scarf with lots and lots of tiny tinkling coins sewn onto it.

“Here, put this on,” she said. “It will put you in the right mental space.”

“Where do I put it?” Benson said.

“You tie it around your waist,” Aunt Lillibet said, “and then you jiggle, like this.” She jiggled. Benson wobbled. The shiny scarf split down the middle and tiny coins went everywhere. Aunt Lillibet sighed.

Benson said, “I don’t think I’m built for belly-dancing either. I’ll just stay home.”

Aunt Moss said, “Benson, you’re giving up too easily. Lillibet is right. You need to find the right mental space. Come with me.”

Benson sighed. “Not folk-dancing?” he said. Aunt Moss’s folk-dancing group did lots of traily scarf-waving. Benson could see himself tripping over scarves and falling flat on his face.

“No, not folk-dancing,” Aunt Moss said.

“Not aerobics?” said Benson. He really didn’t want to wear a leotard like Aunt Moss’s.

“Just come with me,” Aunt Moss said.

They went to see Aunt Moss’s friend, Malcolm, and asked him to help. Malcolm called his friends JJ and Tom. They all gathered under a tree outside Malcolm’s place. Tom had a didgeridoo, and JJ brought clap sticks.

JJ started singing and hitting the clap sticks together, and Aunt Moss clapped her hands against her lap. Then the didgeridoo started its long, heavy drone. As soon as the didgeridoo started playing, Benson felt a weird feeling all through his body. Malcolm stamped in time with the clap sticks, and before long Benson found he was stamping too, big heavy stamps that left dents in the ground. They danced around and around, sometimes slow and sometimes fast, stepping and jumping together.

Tom made the didgeridoo make sounds like a kookaburra, and Benson flapped and laughed like a kookaburra. Malcolm used his hands to make himself look like an emu poking its beak into the air, and Benson made himself into an emu too.

The didgeridoo made a different sound, and Malcolm suddenly started moving just like a wallaby, hopping slowly and bending down as if he was eating grass off the ground. Benson started hopping along like a wallaby too, using his hands to make twitching wallaby ears and scratching his tummy like a wallaby. When the didgeridoo stopped, Benson was having so much fun he didn’t want to stop.

“You’re a good dancer,” Malcolm said.

“Is this dancing?” Benson asked Aunt Moss.

“Yes, of course it is,” she said.

“I can dance!” said Benson.

“Of course you can,” she said. “Everyone can dance.”

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