zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle)
[subject line is from "Shady Grove," which The Ripples meld with "Water Under the Bridge," and which they played Sunday afternoon]

[Here's a clip of them and some of the other dancers in action. I danced most of the dances, but I don't see my turquoise tail twirling in this segment, so I'm guessing I'd gone for water or leftover waffles and bacon, having skipped the scheduled part of brunch in favor of some writing that didn't want to wait.]

Three nights in two cheap hotels = exactly the right length of time away from home. I needed the break from housework and paperwork and work-work, but I am so very glad to be reunited with my own sheets and towels and kitchen.

I wasn't expecting the tub in the second hotel, but was immensely grateful for it after the four hours of waltzing on Saturday and twelve hours of contra on Sunday, at Contrathon XXI. There really are people who make a point of dancing every dance (I danced the final contra with one of them, Jay, an older gentleman who has accomplished that feat several times and this year was determined to do so because it would confirm for him that he had fully recovered from surgery), but that was never within my sights. I mainly went because I want to waltz more and to waltz better. This was the second Scott Baxla workshop I'd attended; it was great to watch Jan Luquire in action this time, and to dance the first open waltz with her. Another goal of mine is to become confident dancing both roles, so the next workshop I attend, I'll probably make a point of practicing lead.

Saturday's festivities included a wedding -- Bethany and Ben. The bride's father was the officiant, and there were mountain flowers and roses in her hair and her hands and around the cake, which had been baked and decorated by a fellow dancer, and another dancer played fiddle. It was short and sweet and I sat through it next to another Nashville dancer who had officiated at her sister's East Tennessee wedding the day before.

There may well have been the highest concentration of Asian American dancers I've seen in some time -- my guess is that three of the guys I danced with were Indian, one was likely Japanese, and I chatted with one who was half-Korean. At least two gentlemen of Middle Eastern descent as well.

As with other gatherings of advanced dancers, there were quite a few men in skirts, and little overlap between that subset and that of men choosing to dance the follower's role with other men or women, and zero fuss about any of it within my sight or hearing, other than the occasional query to mixed couples to verify that they were role-switching on purpose. (I've learned not to assume, but given the presence of newer dancers, collective sleep deprivation -- many of the dancers had camped overnight on the farm, and there had been a heck of a frog-strangling thunderstorm the night before -- and complex figures, I can't blame anyone for double-checking.)

I got to practice lead during a couple of dances, including one where my partner and I deliberately switched roles several times during the dance. There were several no-walkthrough dances, including a medley with four or five different callers taking the mike. One dance had same-sex balance-and-swings in the choreography, which amplified the chain-yanking between some of the dancers who go way way way way back. (It occurs to me that contra has been a good fit for me lately because it calls to (so to speak) both halves of my wiring: my left brain grooves to the precision required to end up in the right spot at the right time, and my right brain lights up at all the room for improv and clowning and sass.)

During the evening's last band/caller change, both Clinton and Charlotte stood at mics, with four sets -- Clinton calling for the two at stage right, and Charlotte the two at stage left. The method behind their madness became clear several phrases in -- the two halves of the room were dancing different figures to the same tune, and Clinton and Charlotte synced their calls so that when the instructions happened to be identical, they spoke together.

Charlotte cheerfully told terrible jokes, including one about what Star Wars and church have in common, and two about equines walking into bars.

I learned a bunch of new-to-me holds and spins from more experienced partners, and my heart damn near melted all over the floor during poussets with a young man named Michael. Clinton tried to teach a hands-eight dance that didn't survive the walkthrough, even with demos. Some other dances were ... messy. Fun as hell anyway, and it's satisfying to have learned a dance quickly enough to recognize exactly when the trains will veer off the rails and to allemande them back on. My reward for attending dances more frequently is manifesting itself in more partners on the floor (from both TN and NC) and more conversations on the side.

The intersection of dance and progressive interests was visible on some buttons and shirts (one of my partners wore a beautiful "Water Is Life" tee), and I introduced two environmental scientists to each other (having met both just the day before, and liking each enormously). While I packed my favorite dance dress, I ended up wearing an orange yoga bra and long shorts under a beach dress and long shorts, which handled the hot day and night than the dress would have.

A Johnson City Kroger had a sale on heirloom cherry tomatoes, which were accepted with alacrity when I offered them to various picnic-table companions. An economist shared his sugar snap peas, and there were crackers and cheese from I think a Virginian, and another brought to me a slice of the wedding cake.

I recognized some pop hooks within some bridges and medleys, and the next-to-last contra was to Prince's "When Doves Cry." One of the medleys included a tune named "_____'s Chaturanga," in honor of the composer's wife. And there was a waltz that I eventually identified as Jonathan Jensen's "Candles in the Dark."
zirconium: Photo of cat snoozing on motorcycle on a sunny day in Jersualem's Old City. (cat on moto)
An unexpected milestone tonight: I called "Cat in the Window" during tonight's English lesson, after learning and dancing it one time through the recording. We were a small group tonight, and me calling the second pass [with one other dancer wanting to rest] allowed two other people to join the set.

It was not a flawless call -- for some inexplicable reason, my default was set to saying "right-hand turn" instead of "two-hand turn," and mixing up waltz vs. single steps here and there, but I'd noticed that the cues the dancers most needed were the middle-couple casts over left/right shoulders, and those I did have down. I also now realize that I'll want to know other dances cold before attempting to call them, because trying to read the instructions -- to a dance I'd just danced! -- resulted in brain cramps.

That said, I was looking up some possibilities later (specifically "The Pharmacist's Pleasure") and came across a piece called "P.S. Nobody Likes You," which includes a figure described as "Partners gypsy meltdown." I might be giggling.
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (tulip)
[Today's subject line comes from Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind."]

Earlier this evening, my department head and I stood at my office window, watching a strong wind bend the trees and menace the panels of the Gala tent. It appeared to peel a sheet of metal from its moorings, knocked over stanchions in the parking lot and, at home, flipped open all the lids of the giant roller-bins. But the rain also eventually lightened up enough for me to don a wide-brimmed hat and scrape at some of the weeds attempting to strangle my mint patch.

Last Saturday I danced for seven hours -- two two-hour workshops, plus the Playford Ball, of which there are videos, including this one. I am thinking of splurging on a blue + green +/- dark gray tartan sash for next year, which is the sort of thing that happens when I try to figure out what should happen during a Dunant House Waltz and somehow end up studying Viking's Sheepskin moves. (The Duthies are part of Clan Ross, but I'll likely go with one of the universal patterns, like Highland Granit, or maybe wear Montgomerie in honor of Alexander, seeing how "What Mightie Motion" haunted me on first hearing for the better part of several years (to the point that I wrote to the Scottish Poetry Library to obtain the full set of verses).

Speaking of poetry, it is April, and thus there are goings-on. At Vary the Line, Mary, Joanne, and I have written and/or collected responses to the question "What is a poem?", with my friend Lisa Dordal starting the series. Over at Pretty Terrible, Natalie Luhrs analyzes and links to some of my poems as part of her own monthlong poetry project.

It is still too soon to put out plants that cannot withstand frost. I am edgy and eager to get them resettled, even though there is plenty of prep that still needs to be done. I can hear and see my impatience reflected among my colleagues and acquaintances: Whennnnnnnnnn? one whimpered. Whennnnnnnnnn indeed.
zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)


Gladys Knight and the Pips (1969)


The Pips had just come up from Atlanta, so they didn't know about Coles and Atkins and they weren't familiar with my choreography for the groups. None of them had seen the Cadillacs, for example. But, Marghuerite [Mays, their promoter] really talked me up; told them how their act lacked class and how I was gonna take care of that. Then she brought them by the studio where I was rehearsing. Bubba said he saw me over there in the corner sweating and dancing and carrying on, and he said, "This is the guy who's gonna give us class?"

... Marghuerite rented a little studio for us to rehearse in each day and when our time ran out there, we would pack up and head on over to my place, move the rugs, push all the furniture back, and keep working.Man, we had scuff marks all over the floor. When it was time for Maye [Atkinson, Cholly's wife] to come home from work, we'd be throwing the windows up and running around trying to put everything back in plac. When she came in, the Pips were sitting there covered with sweat. The place smelled like a locker room.

    -- Cholly Atkins (born Atkinson) and Jacqui Malone, Class Act: The Jazz Life of Choreographer Cholly Atkins


zirconium: of blue bicycle in front of Blue Bicycle Books, Charleston (blue bicycle rear)
...everyone has some. But now, looking out there,
she felt easy, at home in the world -- maybe like
a casual snowflake. And some people loved her.
She would remember that. And remember this place.

As you will, wherever you go after this day,
just a stop by the road, and a glimpse of someone's life,
and your own, too, how you can look out any time,
just being a part of things, getting used to being a person,
taking it easy, you know.

-- William Stafford, "Emily, This Place, and You," in The Way It Is


Snapshots of the audience at a Charanga Carolina concert one year ago:
Read more... ) Charanga Carolina concert
zirconium: photo of pumpkin on wire chair (pumpkin on chair)
Today's subject line comes to you from a picture book, Ian Falconer's Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. During a recent Q&A in the NYT, Falconer advised other authors "not to underestimate your audience. Children will figure things out; it's what they do best -- sorting out the world."

The man means it. The dedication of the book reads, "With deepest apologies to Martha Graham," and there's a two-page spread in the middle of the book of Miss Olivia in eighteen poses à La Graham. I cannot even.

(And, later in the book, the phrase "corporate malfeasance" shows up. Talk about not talking down!)

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