Night before last, My Darling B and I practiced our Viennese waltz steps to Billy Joel’s Only A Woman and Journey’s Open Arms. How have I lived almost thirty years with those songs without realizing they were waltzes?
I sure do love to waltz. Swing dance is almost as much fun, but the waltz is by far my favorite dance, as I suspected it would be from the first time I heard The Blue Danube in full-blown stereophonic sound. That would have been when I heard it used as background music while the moon shuttle Orion made its translunar crossing in the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course. How many people, I wonder, get their classical cues from pop culture? Is Wagner’s Ritt der Walkuren the music you play when you’re rocketing the shit out of a Vietnamese village or, and here I feel as if I’m dating myself, do you remember it as the tune behind the chant, “Kill the wabbit, kill the wabbit …”?
We’ve been waltzing for almost nine months now. In fact, we were waltzing the very first night we started going to group dance lessons, if you can call the stomping around we were doing that night “waltzing.” I call it that, but I’m more than a bit of a philistine, as you will have no trouble getting people to swear in court. And I thought we were doing pretty well, but we were not doing steps we could dance to The Blue Danube and that’s because we did not know how to dance a Viennese waltz, until the week before last.
Mr Park was considering new steps to teach us, and though we’d just finished practicing a few new waltz steps I blurted out some dumb shit like, “We’ve never tried the Viennese waltz yet.” He gave me a look that was as good as saying, “You’ve got to be kidding,” but something made him reconsider and he showed us how to do a hesitation step, and then how to turn it to the left. We could do the hesitation, but we were not quite up to turning to the left just then. The beat is wicked fast and we kept tripping over each other. We had a lot of fun, but it just wasn’t doable yet.
We were supposed to practice our right box turn for homework. We didn’t. We’re total pikers when it comes to doing our homework. Moving all the furniture out of the way is a huge project, and it’s a lot more satisfying to just sit on our asses after a long day working in an office where we mostly sit on our asses all day. I’m not saying it makes sense, I’m only saying that’s how we feel.
The next week, he showed us how to do a basic left traveling box turn. It’s very simple; all you have to do is dance a basic waltz step, walking a line down one side of the dance floor while simultaneously revolving and stepping around your partner as quickly – no, much more quickly than you possibly can. Then, just before you get to the end of the floor, you have to change step, make a right box that turns you completely around and keep doing that until you’re in the opposite corner, when you start doing the traveling, twirling, spinning left box again. It’s a nightmare. I don’t know how we made it through that lesson without breaking an ankle.
Tuesday night, though, it somehow all made sense. I had my doubts, especially when he put Only A Woman on the stereo for us to dance to. That’s a waltz? I kept asking myself, and was sure I’d be too distracted to keep my mind on my feet, but it all turned out all right, even later when he played Open Arms. I’ve never liked Journey until we waltzed to that tune. It’s got a nice, steady beat that’s just the right speed for beginners trying not to trip over each other while they’re in the early stages of trying to dance a Viennese waltz.
Waltzing is as close to flying as a two-legged mammal that doesn’t squeak and eat bugs on the fly can get, and Viennese waltz is even more so. I don’t know why. There’s plenty of twirling in swing dance or doing the cha-cha, and the tango is just as animated, but when I’m waltzing I truly get the sensation of floating through space. B said the same last night, so maybe we’re doing it right, or coming close. Anyway, after we made it around the floor several times without muffing it too often, we were starting to feel as if we might be able to make this Viennese thing work. My dream of dancing to the strains of The Blue Danube might even happen … some day.