On a Close Encounter of …

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I recall hearing and reading about the hub-bub between John Hurley and Kelly Monaco in Season 1 of Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) – but I didn’t watch. As a sports fan, having ESPN anchor Kenny Mayne in the Season 2 cast caught my attention – so my wife and I watched DWTS for the first time on January 5, 2006.

We watched the entire show. The next day was the results show, and my wife asked, “Don’t you want to see what happens?” I had seen the first night with Kenny, and that was good enough, but she was curious – so we watched the elimination of Kenny Mayne.

Season 22 (of the 2 seasons per year) starts later this month. Since that first episode we watched, DWTS was the first domino that led us into the world of ballroom dance. We’re still watching the show and still dancing. Who knows how much money we’ve spent on lessons, dances, and shoes – at least I can blame Kenny Mayne.

Long-time watchers may remember Season 2 as it included guests Drew Lachey (a Cincinnatian who won), Stacey Keibler, Jerry Rice, Lisa Rinna, Tia Carrere, George Hamilton, Tatum O’Neill, Giselle Fernandez, and Master P, It also introduced us to professional dancers Tony Dovolani, Maksim Chmerkovsky, Louis Van Amstel, Cheryl Burke, Anna Trebunskaya, and Edyta Śliwińska – the Polish-born dancer who easily catches the eye. Besides, many of us would love an opportunity to dance with the partner of our choice …. Just once! Did you hear that Edyta? Anna? Sharna? Peta?

To those of us old enough to remember the variety shows on television, DWTS is a blend of a reality show of today and the variety shows of yesteryear – especially on the Results Show when top artists perform – such as this appearance by Michael Bublé in Season 9.

Like any business, dance studios aim at making a profit. Every studio has their way of increasing sales, which may include providing coaching sessions. The “coach” is usually an experienced dancer/teacher from out-of-town who is part of a normal lesson – of course with an extra fee. Yes, coaches are an outside perspective providing a new set of eyes for suggestions, but it’s never interested us – after all, we are social dancers who don’t compete.

As part of one of the sales promotions are our current studio, we earned the right for a drawing – and what did my wife select? … a free coaching session. We talked with our regular instructor about the upcoming coaching possibilities, so we selected Agnes. Plus, I took a group class with her last year, so I knew she had a pleasant demeanor … as well as being an attractive woman. (At least I’m honest.) 😉

Early this past February, we had our coaching with Agnes. A wonderful lesson – and I had a few steps with her. In our chit-chat time, I discovered that she’s Polish and now lives in Los Angeles … but why I didn’t wonder if she knew Edyta is beyond me! After all, look at the connections – Polish, dancer, Los Angeles.

Two weeks later, my wife was gone on her girls’ cruise – which meant too much time on my hands – so I searched Agnes. On her website I discovered her personal story of dance and journey to the USA – her dance accomplished as a winner or finalist in the most prestigious dance competitions, and her appearances on Dancing With The Stars.

WHAT? I had in my arms and danced a few steps with someone who has been on the show! My wife and I had a coaching lesson with someone who probably knows cast members – including Edyta! … and yes … in the video above, that was Agnes and her partner dancing to Michael Bublé … and odds are, we watched that episode!

With YouTube doing what it does, I saw other videos, of Agnes and her partner Urs … including the entertaining, unique dance video below that demonstrates grace, variety, speed, strength, versatility, control, and probably more. TIP: After watching up to 2:50, save yourself time by forwarding to 4:50 … and enjoy watching the lady I think of as my Close Encounter of the Dance Kind.

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 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?