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  • I found myself face to face with a riot cop. He was not the dance partner I would have chosen. For one thing, eye contact is essential and his were covered by a shielded helmet. Trust, that other important element, was certainly lacking. So I broke what is probably the oldest dance rule: having been paired with too strong a partner, I chose to lead.

    I struggled to keep my voice steady and loud enough so the others could hear. I had to protect myself in case of missteps.

    "I'm going to step back," I said. To clarify: "I'm going to follow your orders." He inclined his head slightly. "I'll step back when you tell me to step back, but there are people behind me and we're going backwards down the stairs. I'm not going to step on anyone else's toes." I'm a ballerina.

    "One step forward," the dance master shouted.

    "Step back!" the line ordered.

    I stepped back. And back and back and back, always keeping my head level, my eyes locked to where his should have been. When we came to the stairs the line behind me hesitated in a last effort of defiance.

    "Step back!"

    And I couldn't. Not without trampling the feet of the man behind me.

    "I can't move," I said.

    The others even with me in line were held up too. The agonizing second dragged on for minutes. "I can't move. They're pushing against us and I will not step on the people behind me," I said. My partner nodded. The officers on either side of him paused, too, as if realizing that pushing press and protesters down the Supreme Court steps might not end well for any of us.
    "Step back!"

    There was a scuffle and someone next to us was arrested. Finally the people behind me yielded and I stepped back. These boots were a poor decision. I slipped a little as I stepped down on the first step.

    My partner reached out, steadied me by the elbow, and gently guided me backwards down, down, down the rest of the stairs.

    Other officers rushed to reset the barricades, and the riot police turned to leave. "It was a pleasure dancing with you," I called after him. It might have been my imagination, but I think he cracked a smile.
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