On a Spot for the Bucket

Blackpool may not mean anything to most – but it holds significance to some. Eight years ago, it was unknown to me – very insignificant. Today, it’s on my Bucket List.

Blackpool is on England’s western coast – in Lancashire county – north of Liverpool and northwest of Manchester – and one of England’s most popular seaside resorts.

Today, Blackpool offers its infamous tower, a giant ferris wheel, an amusement park, a seaside promenade, gardens, a water park, Madame Tussauds,, and other attractions. Actually, this doesn’t seem like a place for me, let alone my Bucket List.

For me, Blackpool is about it’s famed dancehall. The original Blackpool Tower Ballroom dates back to 1894. During the dance craze of the 1920s-1930s, dancers filled Blackpool’s ballroom floor.

The ballroom still hosts one of the world’s most famous and long-running ballroom dance competitions (Blackpool Dance Festival) with dancers from across the globe coming to compete. The ballroom has also hosted other dance competitions and BBC shows Come Dancing and Strictly Come Dancing.

I’ve stated (several times) that my wife and I don’t compete – we dance for fun and being with friends … and to be honest, attending the famed festival isn’t the reason for its Bucket List status. Unless reserved as a rental space for an event, the ballroom has regular hours for open dancing.

Given the floor, the historic significance, and the ornate surrounding – absolutely Bucket List for us. Better yet, the ballroom also hosts an afternoon tea with dance to the sounds from the mighty Wurlitzer organ – which sounds quite delightful.

On the Floor: Reprise and Challenge

The story below is the revised version of my first attempt at fiction. I issued a challenge to develop a new ending: a) after “The music ends” and b) in 75 words or less.

New endings will either be posted as comments on this post or as the whole story with the new ending the reader’s blog with links to this post. See the Challenge page for more information as long as it remains published.

I  encourage others to read all the endings. Do you have a favorite ending? Thanks for participating.

aFaShortStoryChallengeThe music starts – its tempo and rhythms define the dance. He approaches her table, and extends an inviting hand. She accepts. They take to the floor. He offers a hand and a frame. Again, she accepts, but looks away while in hold as if to say, “I’ll dance – but I’m not interested.”

They move to the music’s sharp, fiery rhythms that are intertwined with sensuality. Their eyes continue gazing in opposite directions to avoid a visual connection – yet, their bodies touch.

They dance – they move – sometimes slow – sometimes fast – but always sharp and to rhythm.

He rolls her out – they flick in unison. He tugs to roll her back into his arms. She shrugs him off by returning to hold with her head turned away. Their steps continue.

He steps back – a lunge – a corté. She steps forward and raises her leg against his, and slowly moves it downward as a caress. He notices – she’s got his attention. As he returns her to upright, their eyes connect through a glimpse – yet each looks away.

The pace seeming hastens. The musical beat remains steady. Their moves remain sharp. Their eyes are starting to communicate to the other through glances.

She leans her body into him and her head is no longer facing away. They lock their eyes for the first time, and her eyes and face speak to him when. She places her head on his chest.

The normally sharp fans are now slow and smooth – yet still to the music’s rhythm. As she turns, his right hand slides naturally along her sleek frame. He notices the curvature of her hips. His head is not as high as he looks toward her with hopes of connecting again.

To him, her face displays desire. Her eyes are closed, but only she knows why. They are now in another place. To him, they are in the midst of passion. To her, she is the seductress who has succumbed to his fantasy.

He responds to the music’s fire with 8 fast steps down the floor. He rolls out as before, but on her return, she is close – and her right hand slowly caresses his face. The music ends.

They pause – each smiles to the other. She says, “Great dance”. He responds, “Absolutely” as they high-five.

Sounds of the different tempo and rhythms of the next song now filling the hall as they walk off the floor without knowing the thoughts of the other. One looks at the other saying, “Now that’s a tango.”

On the Floor

(This is my first attempt at fiction, so this is for the fiction writers have encouraged me through the years to try it. It was fun and I tried, but I don’t think writing fiction is me. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t try again. Thanks for the encouragement; and I’ll accept positive and negative feedback.)

The music starts. Although some DJs announce the dance, the music’s tempo and rhythms define the dance. He approaches her table, and then extends a hand as an invitation. She accepts, so they take to the floor. He offers a hand and a frame. Again, she accepts, but looks away while in hold as if to say, “I’ll dance – but I’m not interested.”

They begin to move to the music’s sharp, fiery rhythms that are intertwined with sensuality. Their eyes gaze in opposite directions to avoid a visual connection, yet their bodies touch. They dance – they move – sometimes slow – sometimes fast – but always sharp and to the music.

He rolls her out – they flick in unison. He tugs to rolls her back into his arms, but she shrugs him off by returning to hold with her head turned away … yet, the steps continue.

He steps back as a lunge – a corté – she comes forward and raises leg against his, then slowly moves it downward as a caress. He notices – she got his attention. As he returns them upright, their eyes connect through a glimpse – yet they each look away.

The pace seeming hastens, but the musical beat remains steady. Their moves remain sharp, yet their eyes are starting to communicate to the other through glances.

Her body now has more of a lean, and she no longer faces away – thus her eyes and face speak to him when they lock their eyes for the first time. She places her head on his chest. The normally sharp fans are now slow and smooth – yet still to the music’s rhythm. As she turns, his right hand naturally slides along her sleek frame, thus noticing the curvature of her hips. His head is not as high – but starting to look down in hopes of connecting again.

Her eyes are closed, but only she knows why – yet to him, her face displays desire. They are now in another place. To him, they are in the midst of passion. To her, she is the seductress who has succumbed to his desires.

He responds to the music’s fire with 8 fast steps down the floor. He rolls out as before, but on her return, she is close – and her right hand slowly caresses his face.

The music ends. They pause, and then smile to each other. She says, “Great dance”. He responds, “Absolutely” as they high five.

They giddily walk off the floor to sounds of the different tempo and rhythms of the next song now filling the hall – yet they walk without knowing the thoughts of the other – and then one looks at the other saying, “Now that’s a tango.”

On Quickstep

Quickstep – not the passion of Tango, not the aristocracy of Viennese Waltz, not the sexyness of Bolero – but Quickstep’s characteristics are quick, joyful, energetic, light-hearted, smooth, glamorous, flowing, cheerful, graceful, exuberant, playful, weightless, spontaneous, and carefree

The History
Music of the 1920s played the slow-Foxtrot too fast – thus Quickstep became the faster version

Roots lie in the strides of Foxtrot and the quickness of Charleston, but without the kicks

Quickstep is also influenced by dances Shag, Peabody, & One-Step, plus ragtime music

Quickstep called “the QuickTime Foxtrot and Charleston” at a 1927 dance competition

Performed in Ziegfeld Follies (Running Wild) in 1923

The Dance
Quickstep – the fastest tempo of all the ballroom dances

Appears dancers’ feet are barely touching the ground

Quickstep is danced in 4/4 time

Dancers stay in hold (no breaks)

The movement of the dance is fast and powerfully flowing and sprinkled with syncopation

Quickstep moves across the floor with quick steps, quarter turns, chasses, hops, runs, pivots, tipples, fish tails, swivels

Quickstep and it’s music are both happy and lively

The Basics
Quickstep involves fast movement, but the basic pattern is easy to learn

The basic pattern progresses down the floor in a zigzag pattern

The basic rhythm is slow-quick-quick-slow or slow-slow-quick-quick

Repeating pattern: slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, slow, quick quick, slow, slow, quick, quick, slow, etc

Quick is one beat, slow is two beats

Heel leads on forward steps important

Both the leader and follower should maintain an upright posture throughout the dance

The basic, but with a spin-turn for corners

Closing
Quickstep is not for everyone because it’s not an easy dance. However, there’s no doubt that the audience loves watching Quickstep at its finest.

On Grace and Elegance

Ballroom dance has taught me many things. It’s not easy, it can be graceful, but leads must be subtle.  We’ve also met many wonderful people, thus have our dance friends.

Ballroom dance is a niche, thus there is a ballroom community. Although we know only a small portion, we recognize many faces because we attend the same functions. Dancers are at all levels, yet we note differences. Many know numerous steps, but the don’t look good doing them because they’ve primarily (or only) learned from group classes – but they enjoy themselves, which is important. Others look better, but don’t know as many steps – those are the ones who take private lessons.

Their timid and stiff nature identifies the beginners, but hey – all of us were there once. A handful have danced for more than 20 years, and let’s just say that some of them are very good .. the few that stand out. Even on a large floor with two hundred people, those that are trained, experienced, and/or competed at a high level are easy to identify – after all, they probably practiced, too! Reality is that most of us are between those two extremes.

It didn’t take long for us to identify Madam M. As she danced down and around the floor with her competitive partner, her movements defined elegance and grace as her smile beamed joy. Madam M is a relatively tall, attractive woman, and her firmly anchored partner knew how to display her. While watching them dance, I would think – Someday – maybe someday – I will join her for a smooth dance – a foxtrot or a waltz. Keep in mind, this is 4-5 years ago, which was early in our dance experience.

Over time, we’ve had several encounters with Madam M, and most importantly, she’s very pleasant. Maybe a year or so ago we were talking and she suggested we dance. Although it was a west coast swing – not my best dance – of course I accepted, … but that didn’t count as that dream dance. Later, there would be times when I would step toward her direction, but only to be intercepted by another invitation.

Image from Microsoft Office

Image from Microsoft Office

At a recent small ballroom gathering, there was Madam M sitting alone at a table. The DJ played a Foxtrot, so I asked her to dance. We went to the floor where I offered my left hand as a starting position, she took her place then arched back into my right hand after I lightly placed it on her back. I straightened my frame, and in no time, long strides were gracefully gliding us around the floor (at least to me).

I kept the patterns simple because my Foxtrot timing has gone in the toilet the past few months. The dance was wonderful, and afterwards, I told her how I just accomplished one of my goals. Her laugh and words conveyed both, That’s silly and Thank you … but my soul was beaming.

A short time later, it was a waltz, thus I couldn’t resist. Again, we glided and I followed various shaping that she led with subtle precision. We were both casually dressed and in a less-than elegant venue, but it was easy for me to envision my tux with tails and her flowing gown in a grand ballroom. At the end she told me that I dance well, which I found reassuring as I checked the box on my personal bucket list … even better, I checked it twice.

On an Unexpected Connection

Saturday is Dance Day and Down Syndrome Day – thus the perfect opportunity for a post about special people. After all, I imagine many may not see a link between ballroom dance and Down Syndrome.

I volunteer at a weekly dance event that is not only fun, but one with ample opportunities for smiles because it is for adults with Down Syndrome. Some of the attendees are functional enough to have a job, but others aren’t. Some a more coordinated and able to move better freely, but others physically struggle. Toss in a wide range of speaking abilities, it’s quite a gathering of about 30 attendees and numerous volunteers.

My smiles come from an action or something said. From a person running up to me for a dance to receiving a smile given by someone who has difficulty speaking. Simply put, the 45-minute session is a weekly delight in my life.

However, these events are not about the volunteers, but about the attendees. First of all, it’s a social event. They arrive with smiles and race to greet their friends they haven’t seen in a week. That is followed by the power of music and dance as it speaks to them just as it does to the rest of us.

Each week is the same. The 45-minute session starts and ends with the same song – the group’s theme song – a version of Over the Rainbow to which everyone dance a group routine. After a line dance or two, the instructor reviews the dance, and then a song plays for dancing. Another song for the same dance is the sign to change partners. The pattern stays the same through Rumba, Salsa, Waltz, Foxtrot, Cha Cha, Tango, and Merengue – with the latter quickly morphing into a predictable conga line. After another line dance or two, the session ends with the same theme song that started it all.

I want to toast several of the attendees for the joys they give me.

  • To T, one of the better dancers, and one with an infectious smile and positive attitude
  • To K, whose quiet nature always answers question and giggles
  • To S, who is always smiling and laughing as she thinks I’m a bit crazy
  • To C, who best communicates to me through her eyes and smiles that make me melt on the spot
  • To J, who runs to me with a smile for a salsa or cha cha
  • To R, who insists on being a lady
  • To Teddy, one that I’ve written about here before, whose positive attitude about life is a role model for anyone
  • To the parents and caregivers for being supportive
  • To Mary, our leader (the blonde in the opening video), and the one who has made this happen

I close with a collection of clips for the competition held last October for these wonderful people. (Because you want to know, I’m in Foxtrot, Swing & Tango sections with contestants 35 & 54 – but I think that’s me in the center of the still)

Other Related Past Posts

On Foxtrot

My favorite dance is the Foxtrot. It’s a proper dance with proper music. It has class. (Anton du Beke)

Danced to the music of crooners, Foxtrot is a long, smooth, continuous dance designed to move down the floor and around clockwise (unless a pair has the floor to themselves as above). It’s easy, flowing manner displays face, style, and elegance … just imagine Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.

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Origins
Foxtrot’s origins are debatable, some have it beginning in the 1890s. Whoever is right, there is no doubt that the dance became popular.

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There no question that early Foxtrot was faster than today as it was originally danced to ragtime. By the time of this film, the tempo had slowed down.

Style
Danced in 4-4 (4/4) time, Foxtrot is smooth and graceful … not jerky … not bouncy.

Its easy walking style helped make Foxtrot the most popular dance of the 1920s and 1930s.

Overtime, Foxtrot morphed into slow and fast versions, thus today Foxtrot is slower and Quickstep is fast. Each have similar steps, but done at different tempos. Even today, American and International versions differences include tempo. (To me, this is International style, which is slower.)

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Steps
Foxtrot is a combination of slows and quicks …. slow walking steps (each using two beats of music) followed by quick steps (each using one beat).

Because of the footwork, instructors often say “slow, slow, quick, quick” or “slow, quick, quick” in a repeated pattern

In some “slow, quick, quick” styles, the first quick is lengthened into an almost “slow, slow, quick”.

Foxtrot is a combination of walks, chasses, and turns with a rise-and-fall action from heel leads on the slows, but toe leads on the quicks. Partners commonly remain in hold most of the time … and at least in contact.

Although the timing of the music is different, many Foxtrot steps are usable in Waltz, and vice versa.

Arthur Murray started his road to fame and fortune by printing the basic step of the Foxtrot and selling them for 10 cents each through the mail. It was the first time anyone had printed dance steps and sold them mail-order.

Quickstep, Peabody, and Slow Fox are variations – thus in a group of social dancers, styles are (in my opinion) the most wide-ranging of all the ballroom dances

To close, enjoy this collection of Dancing with the Stars clips that have been brilliantly compiled, then placed into the same song.

Ready to dance?