When You Taught Me How to Dance

Last week, I had the pleasure of watching Miss Potter, the movie about beloved childrens’ author Beatrix Potter’s climb to fame on the tale of Peter Rabbit. I mention it now because a week after the initial viewing, two memorable scenes have infiltrated my daydreams. The movie left me with a mushy disposition, which is inconvenient since I’ve sworn to be saucy forevermore. The first scene was a dance–a simple, clumsy, impromptu dance between Beatrix Potter (Renée Zellweger) and her publisher Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor). Norman serenades her with a tune (“When you taught me how to dance”) from her music box as he takes her hand and waltzes her around her secluded attic room. They are already in love, but too shy for eye contact; they twirl around like life-size replicas of the miniature dancing couple in her music box. The dance is so simple in execution, so pure in concept, and yet its simplicity is what makes it one of the most enduring love scenes I’ve seen on the big screen in a long time. I suppose I have a weakness for dancing couples and movie characters who sing these sad, idealistically hopeful songs. I’m reminded of Audrey Hepburn singing “Moon River” in Breakfast at Tiffany’s or to some extent, Paul Newman’s mournful rendition of “Plastic Jesus” in Cool Hand Luke.

The second scene is a kiss at a train station. I’ve seen the “train station farewell” played out countless times in movies before, but this one was special: I really believed they were in love. Beatrix Potter and Norman Warne were so shy, so Edwardianly proper that they reminded me of two shrinking wallflowers finally finding each other and engaging in a bashful courtship. Their first kiss was stolen, veiled in steam and London fog so that when it was over, their propriety was still intact. It was one of those grand, old fashion movie kisses that induces a lightness of being; you feel as if you are as light as air and the world around you is filled with possibility.

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6 thoughts on “When You Taught Me How to Dance”

  1. I saw Miss Potter on a flight to L.A. and loved it even on that tiny screen. Renee shows such vulnerability and strength in playing that character, and I found myself crying when she lost her fiancee. Wonderfully touching movie.

    We seem to have the same tastes in literature and popular culture. Cool.

  2. I know! I didn’t even know Norman was sick. He died so suddenly….oh, how could fate be so cruel to Beatrix Potter!

  3. Teresa, this blog is amazing. I love it so much. Thank you for finding me, and for bringing me here. I am learning how to navigate this world, and it blows me away to see what is possible…and to read what you are thinking about is a real treat.

    It took me two weeks to realize you posted a comment. The blogosphere is something I want to figure out — yes, I am busy in the school year, but two weeks before I notice a comment? Perhaps it is as simple as setting the blog to send a little email notice. Stay in touch…

  4. Just saw Miss Potter and have to write a review on it. I’m glad somebody else has appreciated the moving scenes in this film and has so eloquently written about them. Love the topics you cover in your blog. Guess we have similar interests.

  5. Loved the movie and music Box playing When You Taught Me How to Dance. Does anyone know how I can get a music box with that song on it?

  6. I also would like to know if there are any companies out there making a music box that plays “When You Taught Me How To Dance”? If there isn’t, there should be. Someone could be getting rich. I mean, anyone who loved the movie would want to buy one, right? Anyone know if there are any out there for sale?
    alicety@comcast.net

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