Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dolly's Back! And the Band's "Playing One of My Old Favorite Songs from Way Back When"

My return to Appleton always feels a little bit like the scene from Hello Dolly! when Barbra Streisand enters the hotel restaurant in New York, and all the men come rallying to greet her and give her a warm welcome, singing out, "It's so nice to have you back where you belong!"

The Friday night dance at the Crystal Ballroom was packed as usual. The nostalgic and enchanting, Victorian ballroom, set in the midst of Wisconsin's rural countryside, has become a hotspot for both older couples and young adults. All ages mix up and my familiar dance partners came bounding over to ask me to dance. You're likely to meet someone new, too, and be asked to dance by different partners all night long. Three hours goes by fast when there is such a variety as foxtrot, swing, waltz, cha cha, samba, rumba, tango, Viennese waltz, hustle, line dancing and polka.

Men still escort their ladies on and off the floor by holding out their hand or offering an arm like a gentleman. Etiquette is very important in the ballroom world - and half the fun! I am always happy to see it preserved here. It was here that I took my first ballroom dance lessons as a teenager; it was here that I learned not only how to dance, but how to be a lady and how to recognize a gentleman.

Years later, when I came back to Appleton, my passion for dancing grew through the friendships, teacher's college, and faculty at Valley Social in Appleton. In a large way, I owe it to them this joy I've found in dancing, as I owe it to Milwaukee for helping me become a better follower. Dancing with some extremely talented dancers in Milwaukee at various venues really fine-tuned my ability to "listen and follow" different leads. 

After the dance, I stayed overnight at a friend’s house and slept as sound as a cat on the bedroom floor. The next morning after breakfast, we still had the itch to dance more! So we cleared away the kitchen table and chairs to the edge of the room to open up a large dancing space. We turned on the fans and cranked up the music, and my friend's twin brothers took turns swinging me.

I started with one, while the other waited for a chance to grab my free hand and spin me out with him, and then the other one watched for an opportunity to steal me back, and this went on until eventually my girlfriend got in the mix, too, and both guys kept trading us back and forth – all the while keeping up with the music and not letting us girls miss a step! The rest of the family gathered around to enjoy watching us.

What made this scene doubly comical for me was the fact the brothers were identical twins, wearing identical t-shirts and shorts. Since I’d only just met them briefly the night before, I was still trying to figure out who was who! We all had so much fun that we started choreographing a pattern for these handovers and practiced it over and over again, until we were all sweating with perspiration,and smiles were etched on our faces.

But alas, it was time to go, and it's always so hard to stop when you're having so much fun. Unlike Dolly, I couldn't sing that I'm here to stay and never going away again, for soon I am moving away from the Midwest and the homeland that I love in order to embrace a new adventure. As one priest told us, however (perhaps alluding to Christ's ascension), there are never goodbyes only "laters!" 

So know that Dolly will come back again someday, and during the interlude between, she'll be flying the colors of this wonderful dance community in the wind. 

Later, friends!

Every time I come back, it is a sort of "finding myself" again. Do you have spaces and places like that too?