Saturday, June 16, 2007

Just Dancing . . . the story

And so we start. Staggering into the future by writing about the past. It seems that was just yesterday I started this career, this life thing that I’ve been doing for lo these many years. Just yesterday, I was a child who spent my life in an internal dialogue. I learned early that I would have to figure things out for myself. I’ve been constantly amazed at how things turned out as a result of my decisions. Now as my life’s flight is looking to land, I realize the enormity of what is coming. The finality.

Ah well, the topic is just dancing, not me, so lets get on with it.

Tunes play. The day gray and cool. Order is my play. I think if I try and put things into some semblance of order that I’ll calm down and be in control. But actually what happens is that by getting myself to work, I actually get to work.

So here we are and where to go from here is the question?

One summer night in El Cajon dance spot called Park Place, I discovered the difference between a dancer and a person seeking social solace from dancing. It was contest night and the buzz was on. I had been walking from my place on 2nd street up to the bowling alley where Park Place was for several months, at least, once a weekend. It was great. No one at home to report to, Jace had moved to Santa Barbara and Karen was history. And finally, I could go dancing any time I wanted to.

Rock and roll. Although the bar was small, the band made up for it by playing tight and just right for free style to the max. I’d forgotten how good it felt. Rum and coke, a little smoke and wham bam thank you mam.

I can never get enough of the movement, the slip and slide of the rhythms and our bodies in superglide.

So I’m hyped, ready to go and happy to just be there. And that’s when it happens. A couple are standing out towards the center of the dance floor waiting for the band to start. They’re talking and looking around. So I saunter over. “You two going to enter the contest?” I ask.

She looks at me, her smile fading into a mild look of concern as she realizes that I’m actually talking to them. “No, . . . I don’t know.” she says as she looks at her companion. He turns his back towards me and says, “Hey, there’s Sid.”

And they both walk away.

Meanwhile, and earlier at a different bar, a lady named Susan had pointed out to me that she appreciated my willingness to dance but she really liked the way that guy over there was moving to the music. Broke my dancer’s heart. Same as when I got embarrassed by two of my students seeming to make fun of the way I used my hands as part of the dance. My way of using a frame, hippy that I was.

And then there was that chat in class with Teresa where she pointed out that if I didn’t move my shoulders when I danced the cha cha, I wasn’t really dancing cha cha.

So, on the outside looking in has always been the way it’s been.

In the other room, I can hear the tv. Terri watching last night’s tape of the Dallas game. And I am here trying to find the direction I need to go to get something done that is worthwhile. It is hard to pinpoint what that might be. And then I have to develop a belief that once I've gotten somewhere I’ll actually have gotten somewhere.


I can fix sad roses . . ., she says

And her smile confirms
Like rain on the earth
That indeed sad roses
Is familiar turf.

But it’s not so easy
This task in my mind
The world with its roses
Is definitely blind.

They’re scentless you see
And sad for a reason
These roses I give
No matter the season.

So it isn’t the wilt from
Stem to the hilt
Nor the mad range of
Colors that drives me so sad.

But the lack of a scent
And the image it recalls
That hammers at my heart and
Raises all my walls.

I can fix sad roses her smile supposes . . .

As she arrays them in a vase
Then turns and pauses
At the frown she can see
Is still on my face.

So she takes my hand and
Pulls me in a way
That suggests dancing
As we begin to sway.

And it’s then that my senses
Pick up the scent
Of timeless embraces
And memories well spent.

I can fix sad roses.
I can her voice murmur . . .

And her smile is my smile as we waltz down the aisle
And the laughter we hear
Is from children at play or a family gathered
‘Round the tree on Christmas day.

And the roses are real
Red, white, and yellow
And the music is moving
And her touch smooth and mellow.

And its night on our porch swing
In a light breeze
And the roses are shadows . . .
With a backdrop of trees.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Jack and Jill O'rama

Jack and jill contests in dancing have a long and some say down and dirty history. I know at least two guys named Jack who claim that they invented them. And I know quite a few jills who learned that the best way to win one of these storied events was to follow her jack anywhere. But, of course, that's not what I'm writing about today. Today everything is all squeaky clean, and held in a very expensive modern hotel ballroom. The dancers all take lessons (or teach them) and stress the importance of honoring the rules. Oh yeah, one of those Jack's who claims to have started it all, he's still around judging today's contests.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Swing it slow

is the whole idea behind West Coast swing, a dance style that has evolved, influenced, and educated us about how to dance ever since its inception in the early 50's. I like to think and sometimes teach that the incubator for this style was the meeting of the minds and bodies of guys and girls at USO's and big band dance halls up and down the west coast during WWII. It was here that swing styles from all over the country began to mix and mesh. Dancers swung hard and fast, and slow and close. They learned that they had to watch each other, copy each other's steps, cover each other's moves. Still, I'd bet the dance had no real name except swing or jitterbug, or sometimes lindy. But in the 50's that changed as people no longer came to the west coast to prepare for war but to vacation or move here to live permanently. It was then that the dance that Arthur Murray was calling Western Swing began to acquire a new name that was more specific to the region where it was danced - the West Coast - and more descriptive of how it was danced, laid back and casual. One distinctive difference that began to develop in these formative years was the use of a slotted floor pattern as opposed to the circling one that characterizes all other swings. Latin Hustle, Lindy, and even Cha Cha may have suggested this option since the syncopations and triple rhythms of those dances were definitely being used in the West Coast. Eventually, and by this I mean some 45 years later, this slot and the way the follower is led to replace the rock step of swing with walking steps forward, means you can recognize the West Coast Swing immediately as what is being danced. Yes, the dance was born, evolved into it's own style and most importantly, has kept growing through all the styles that have tried to effect it. It is its strength and its weakness. West Coast prides itself on being able to absorb other dance styles, dance fads, and dance influences and still, because of its unique floor pattern and obvious foot pattern differences, remain the West Coast. The only place where I see this unique quality being lost is where the tempo of the swing being danced is closer to the BPM of East Coast. At this tempo it is too easy to rock back in the closed position and swing out your partner in a circular pattern lead. And on these dance floors it's quite likely you'll see more than one style swing danced to the same song. You'll see puzzled looks on the face of the followers, and consternation in the grimace of the leader. This is where the dance dies. Unless, the leader recognizes the responsibility that comes from setting up the slot and consistently refusing to use a rock step in any pattern. Until this happens, the dance will continue to confuse its practitioners and frustrate those who really like to dance the slow and sexy West Coast Swing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Another Night

It's late when I get back home. My body is still sticky with sweat, my breath reminiscent of rum and coke, my shoulder just beginning to ache. I keep thinking that if I could somehow just go back and redo, just jump in my time machine and slip back to 1995, I could use what I know to create a whole different ending for this story. But that's just nostalgic whining, right?

Things have changed for me in this dance world. So many opportunities missed that I can't count them. Anyway that's not what I want to write about anyway. All of my recent dance experiences have had the same tone. I feel like there should be more. I should have more students to teach. I should have more comradeship with other teachers. I should be able to connect better with the network of dancers that my world provides. But I can't figure it out. Yet.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

It's been awhile since I donned this guise, pt.2

So without even looking at what I said back then, I'm going to tell you these days my dancing has taken on a curious and intellectual glaze. I dance but I feel once removed like I'm watching myself in a mirror or like a ghost would watch its former self while waiting for the great next door to open. It isn't as though I'm not enjoying myself, I am. But something is missing or coming and I haven't figured out what it is. So there.