December 4, 2013

Slices of Life: After meeting on dance floor, Harrises waltzing through life

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Mitch and Frances Harris join another couple during contra dancing at Phillips Recreation Center in Urbana, Ill on Friday, May 16, 2008.

Heather Coit/The News-Gazette

Mitch and Frances Harris join another couple during contra dancing at Phillips Recreation Center in Urbana, Ill on Friday, May 16, 2008.

By Richard Anderson — Frances and Mitch Harris treasure these five minutes. They have plodded through the evening, trading partners and sharing laughs, surrendering to the spirit of community dance. Now they get to dance alone, together.

Frances and Mitch follow this routine every other Friday at the contra dances they have attended together for 11 years. This is where and how they met – at a contra dance in the Phillips Recreation Center in Urbana – same building, same room. He was a bachelor. She was divorced. A decade later, they are married – and still in love.

“I always really liked dancing with him,” Frances says. “And I still do.”

Frances and Mitch are happy. Their home is clean and comfortable, handsome and dignified. They go to temple and volunteer around town. They have made it as a married couple.

Frances and Mitch are older and busier than when they started dancing together. On Friday nights now they are tired and usually leave the dance early. But that’s OK. Contra dance will always be the melody that keeps the time of their romance.

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This story was written by a University of Illinois journalism student in Professor Walt Harrington’s Literary Feature Writing class taught in collaboration with The News-Gazette. Funding for the class, which was taught at the newspaper’s headquarters in downtown Champaign, came from the Marajen Stevick Foundation. The story was part of an occasional series titled “Slices of Life” that ran in the newspaper’s Sunday Living section. All the stories in the series are also collected in the book “Slices of Life.”