The Waltz King

April 8, 2008

In my continuing effort to be the best 19th century man that I can be, I went waltzing on Sunday at Glen Echo Park. If you've never been to the park, it's like a super community center converted from an old abandoned art-deco amusement park, so the overall effect is that you're in an episode of Scooby-Doo but with more arts and crafts. I'm not saying that I plan on serial killing any time in the near future, but if I were, Glen Echo Park would be on the short list for my possible base of operations.

We were in the Spanish Ballroom, but the dancing wasn't strictly ballroom -- no box steps, no Strauss. Nor was it swing kids, in that I did not use any dance moves to fight Nazis. Think more "old people in beadazzled shirts." And a really good live band. REALLY good.

It was a lot of fun, and it's something you can do at home. Here are the basics, which I gleaned in the 30-minute lesson before the fury:

The man is in charge. The man determines where to dance, what moves to do, what the woman should wear, who the woman can look at, whether the woman can work or must be a stay-at-home mother, and whether the woman must stand to the side and watch while he dance with numerous younger women just to teach her a lesson. If any collisions occur on the dance floor, it is the man's imperative to defend the woman's honor, or, alternatively, he can simply blame the collision on the woman and straighten her out later, back at home.

Posture counts. The man puts his right arm under the woman's left arm, with his palm resting just below her shoulder blades and his fingers on the other side of her spine, also known as the "one-handed bra-unhooking position." The woman puts her left hand on the man's right shoulder. The free hands are clasped, or, if so desired, can be used to grope your partner, depending on whether it's a cool waltzing club or not. There should be some space between the bodies, to allow for movement, but not so much space that a better looking man could pick his spot, slot in and start grinding with your lady. If you are concerned about this happening, you can also use your free hand to hold a switchblade.

Keep moving. With every beat you should be moving generally forward, and at no point should you skip a beat with your feet. This is because most waltzers are very old, and if you stop moving forward, the Reaper will catch you.

Women are backward. The woman almost always moves backward, leaning into the man's palm, which is much harder than moving forward. The woman also should not be paid more than 60 percent of what the man is making, even if she has a better job. If this is the case then you need to be shunning that woman.

Lead! The man indicates where he wants the woman to move with pressure from his right hand, and also by subtle glances, kicking the woman's instep repeatedly, and verbal hints such as "turn, god dam you, why won't your turn, it's a simple dance, can't you do anything right, this is why the kids treat us like s**t and is it too much to ask to have a four-course meal waiting on the table when I get home from banging my mistress each night?"

I really recommend waltzing, if only for the humility that comes from watching an 80-year-old man in shorts, pulled-up tube socks and two knee braces move more quickly, gracefully and in rhythym than you can.

Sweatin' to the Oldies

Some people were dressed up for waltzing. Some people were not. In the not category was a heavy-set middle-aged man (and an excellent waltzer) wearing shorts, a tight T-shirt tucked into those shorts, and a Clyde Drexler-style red headband. After about 20 minutes of sweaty dancing (everyone was sweating, you're moving constantly), he went to the side of the room, TOOK OFF HIS SHIRT in front of all kinds of genteel ladies and gentlemen (revealing a thick carpet of hair on both his stomach and back), went into his bag, produced another T-shirt, put it on, tucked it in, and resumed dancing. In the 90 minutes we were there, we saw this man go through at least five shirts. So he's definitely done this before.

There has GOT to be a better way, right? Someone please back me up on this.

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One man's quest to be the humblest person alive
Copyright 2013, Chris White