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TRANSLATION: MEMPHIS: No Piece of Cake

TRANSLATION: MEMPHIS

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Somehow it never occurred to me that the word “cakewalk” was anything other than a figure of speech.

It’s odd how words can do that sometimes. Though every phrase obviously has an origin, it never passed my mind to delve into the meaning of this one in particular.

Part of it is, perhaps, geographic.

If I were asked, growing up, to wager a guess as to the meaning of “cakewalk,” my mind would inevitably have wandered toward something involving chocolate cake, icing, and my naked toes.

Until about two weeks ago, I’ll admit, my deductive reasoning would have led much in the same direction. But then, unsuspectingly, I found myself attending one.

My first thought: Oh God, I hate my feet.

My second: Do I have to?

From what I have gleaned after doing a bit of research, my first cakewalk was a somewhat amended version of the traditional.

As I learned, the cakewalk plays a part in American history as being one of the first dancing traditions passed from Black society into the American cultural landscape. It is said to have originated with the slave population in Florida, who developed the dance as a mockery of the more staid white dancing style of the mid to late 1800’s.

To exacerbate my reluctance, which I somehow managed to overcome, I’m not very schooled in the art of the dance. Perhaps running through a pile of sheet cakes didn’t sound so bad.

Go ahead, laugh. You’d laugh more if you saw me.

Let me explain. When I took ballet lessons in Kindergarten, my attendance was blatantly connected more to the penny toys we were rewarded with at the end of each session than to the acquisition of skill or grace on the dance floor. That acquisition, perhaps for the above-stated reason, never happened.

So what of these two left feet? The stress…

We began our cakewalk, part of a symbolic morale-boosting effort for Artbrew, with some warm-ups. Oh, and a few glasses of wine, necessary to alleviate my anxiety at the prospect of coming out as a challenged dancer.

A few “oms,” some stretches, and then on to the dancing, which was a cakewalk, I’ll admit--all nervousness aside.

Plus, there were prizes! Duh, you’re thinking, but remember I’m new to this. To make things more fair, or less competitive as I’ve read the original cakewalks could be, the allocation of prizes was left to chance. Meaning that I wasn’t eliminated for lack of coordination.

As I struggled to groove my way around in a circle, loose enough from the wine to be able to ignore my embarrassment, I watched the numbers that had been placed on the floor, one through twelve.

With each round, I grew nervous, half hoping that my number wouldn’t be called, as the winner of a given round was given the duty of leading the dance in the next one.

Though I didn’t take the cake, as it were, I did manage to make off with some killer bath soaps when my number was called, which I promptly used to wash the imagined confection off of my toes. In case you were wondering, which I’m certain you were…

Nobody eliminated me when my leadership skills in the circle were less than stellar, either.

And so, my understanding of a phrase or two, namely “cakewalk” and “that takes the cake,” has had the veil of linguistic ignorance lifted. They somehow, now, sound so much sweeter to the ear

Yes, I know, I’m cheesy. Oh well.

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