They Never Tried

By Lou Pechi


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The reason people are afraid to dance is that they never really tried.

Over the years many of us have danced the Arap, both the slow version and the faster one. What always fascinated me about this dance was the delightfully whimsical story of the song; "Zajko Kokorajko" or "The Popeyed Hare," who one day decides to marry the Widow Fox. Dressed in his finery he goes to court her, only to find an old hen with many little chicks. He quickly changes his mind and on the way back runs into two hunters with hunting rifles and dogs. He swiftly drops his fancy clothes, and runs into the bushes yelling, "Hey, I'm not a bridegroom!"

This song reminded me of another well known fable about the race between the turtle and the hare. What was the reason they had the race after all?

A little known fact is that the turtle and the hare were actually very close folk dance friends. The hare, with his nimble legs, was a "hot-shot" dancer and very proud of his dancing abilities while the turtle struggled even in the simplest of dances. The hare, in order to help the turtle, took it upon himself to teach the slow and clumsy turtle to dance. It was very hard for the turtle to learn the steps and move his feet to some of the faster dances. But the turtle persevered and remembered the dances. All the other dancers made a big fuss and praised him over his progress and applauded him whenever he even led some of the dances.

The hare became very jealous of all the attention that his friend the turtle was getting and decided to challenge the turtle to the now famous race. You all know the results of the race, but might be wondering why the fast and nimble hare lost the race.

The real reason was that that in each village they passed, the local villagers were celebrating with music and folk dancing. The hare could not resist in joining them and the villagers marveled at the dancing hare, who knew and could do all of the local dances. Such attention was what the hare craved and he continued dancing in each village late into the night, until the last reveler went to bed.

The hare, on the other hand, stayed focused on the race and in the end, to the applause of all the folk dancing community, crossed the finish line first.

And the real moral of the story is that if you persevere, you will not only become a great dancer, but might even get to lead the line.


As appearing in "Dancing with Two Left Feet (52)," Folk Dance Scene.
Used with permission of the author.