The Pranksters

from “Dancing with Really Real Stars,” April 26, 2008

We went dancing last night. Couples drew complex sentences on the floor, a way of thinking we were unable to follow. We enjoyed the live and lively sound of the Pranksters, an 18-piece swing band that filled the stage with horns, rhythm, and vocalists. We had arrived an hour early to take advantage of a dancing class, learning just enough about triple-step swing to watch the dancers with increased interest. Our favorite couple, a lanky fellow and his sparse partner, flitted and flirted about the floor like two mosquitoes bouncing against the ceiling on a sultry night in August; by the end of the evening, a tie of sweat dripped down his shirt. We took a few notes, thinking of a post, thinking about the difficulties of both dancing and writing.

Summer Notes: 2 – Fireworks

“Raise high” red & orange sun umbrellas
blow out the blue balloon ballroom
ceiling for the doff dance

“Pick up order here!
…olives, pepperochini!
pale ale from Hop House!”

Ten knuckle blues
cats breaking the rules
notes bent brittle thin cast iron

fat slides & tempting trombones Pop
go the contradictions contraindications
spinning bombos bouncing in the street.

El Porto Waltz

We found ourselves last night dancing at the ballroom again. We lost interest in the lesson quickly though, and chose to sit down, though our partner danced on, promenading around the dance floor, celebrating the dance community’s values. We thought of E. B. White’s dictum “Omit needless words.” Adapted for dance, it reads “Omit needless steps.” The lesson last night featured the waltz. We liked the country-western waltzes best: “The Tennessee Waltz,” “Waltz across Texas,” “Zydeco Waltz.”

We had used too many steps to express our personal El Porto Waltz, and sat at a corner table, nursing a cup of coffee, thinking of a post, writing notes on our handy pocket card with ball point pen, our favorite, the BIC Ultra, blue, glides like Danny Kaye (in our hand) across the worn tongue and groove, waxed maple floor of our imagination. But alas, without a reader for a partner, we are a single on that dance floor, a sometimes-discouraging feeling.

How is dancing like writing? Consider the forms, or styles. Dancing and writing both employ basic steps necessary for the partner-reader to recognize the form. The writer must learn to lead the reader, and not step on the reader’s toes, and, ultimately, discover the right combination of moves that allows grace to descend. One can improvise, but one improvises on the theme; drift too far, and the improvisation loosens anarchy upon the dance floor. The reader-partner must at least have some encouragement to follow the writer’s lead. Without that encouragement, one dances across paper solo.

Dancing with really real stars

We went dancing last night, the star we danced with was really real, and we are happy to reply to Joan Acocella that we do have a ballroom in our neighborhood.

How well we danced is another question. Had there been a contest, we certainly would have been among the first dancers cast out. Couples drew complex sentences on the floor, a way of thinking we were unable to follow. Still, we danced some, and enjoyed the live and lively sound of the Pranksters, an 18-piece swing band that filled the stage with horns, rhythm, and vocalists. We had arrived an hour early to take advantage of a dancing class, learning just enough about triple-step swing to watch the dancers with increased interest. Our favorite couple, a lanky fellow and his sparse partner, flitted and flirted about the floor like two mosquitoes bouncing against the ceiling on a sultry night in August; by the end of the evening, a tie of sweat dripped down his shirt.

The crowd was diverse, and though the event was open to all ages, mostly probably older folks, the women with their malmy hair measured, the best men dancers wearing cowboy boots. A few couples entertained with period costume, but no Vegas-wear. A few young couples hopped about unceremoniously, the try-anything-once spirit alive and well. The evening seemed a come as you are and dance how you will affair. We took a few notes, thinking of a post, thinking about the difficulties of both dancing and writing.