You know what bothers me about ballroom dancing?
Nuthin’. Absolutely nuthin’.
There are two things that you can count on during April in Milwaukee, and that is hot and cold. The cold refers to how you will feel when you read the daily weather report. The hot takes into account that come the third weekend of April the Pfister catches ballroom dance fever.
All the glitz, glamor, and glitz again of competitive ballroom dance is on display as men and women outfitted in a dazzling collection of brightly colored dresses and velvety black shirts make the Pfister home base for the Wisconsin State Dancesport Championships. This competition is so showy, so eye-popping, so over the top that it would be impossible to do color commentary in real time because there are too few words available to describe the hip swivels, turned ankles and bodies moist with fresh dance sweat.
Have you ever been in a room of ballroom dancers who have a lust for the gold medal? It’s unlike anything you’ll ever see, but then again my head might simply be clouded by the haze of hairspray that fills the air. I spent some time watching the dancers strut their stuff, summoned to the Pfister’s 7th Floor Ballrooms by the sounds of rhumba and cha cha. Watching ballroom dance competition is just like watching a great baseball game, except, you know, it’s not boring and there’s a greater amount of sequence and eyeliner on the competitors. Otherwise, just the same, though.
Before entering the ballroom to see bodies in motion, you must walk through a forest of neon clothing and accessories. It’s a heart stopping shopping opportunity for all the dancers doing their dance thing and possibly your dad for his secret “boys only” fishing weekend (dad is sure to catch a big one in his new fishnets and low cut electric blue gown).
In the center of the floor, dancers perform short routines as a panel of judges mark scorecards. That’s where most eyes are trained, but if you have it in you to look away from the bumping, grinding and gliding, you’ll see that the sidelines are really their own main attraction. It’s there where you’ll see upcoming dancers reapplying makeup and keeping warm in silky robes that are a mixture of “come here, you sexy kitties” and “where’s the spit bucket, I took too many upper cuts in Round Six.” Make no mistake about it, though, ballroom dancing requires great physical agility. And reliable false eyelashes.
On the sidelines you’ll also see cheerleaders, members of dance teams who have come to show some spirit for their pals. I had noticed a particularly energetic red head during the morning dance sessions loudly egging on her team, so I was delighted to run into her later in the day for a little chat.
“This is like prom of steroids!” squealed Gloria, a member of the Celebrity Dance Studio from Downers Grove, IL. She and her teammates had come to the Lobby Lounge to kick back with a few glasses of cheer after a morning of competition.
“I’m done for this competition,” explained Connie as her white wine arrived. “Yesterday I danced 18 entries.” I might add that Connie chatted with me as she leaned on her cane, proving without a shadow of a doubt that dancers are badass.
I asked Gloria and Connie about the extraordinary outfits that each dancer wears.
“I just have three outfits,” said Connie. “In my age bracket, I’m running out of competition. I want more competition, you know,” Connie said, tapping her cane to emphasize her point and just remind me that nobody puts Connie in a corner.
“Those outfits costs thousands of dollars,” said Gloria. “The whole package…that’s what you need to win medals.”
Gloria wasn’t competing at this tournament due to some minor ailments, but couldn’t help herself from being the main cheerleader for her team.
“I’m going a little crazy not being able to dance,” she said. “But you know what? That doesn’t mean I can’t be the loudest one in the room!”
Gloria doesn’t need to raise her voice to convince me to turn my head and give ballroom dance a gander. I am in, hook, line and sinker. But I promise you this readers, I’ll stay on the sidelines. You can thank me later for sparing you the site of me in a navel-cut black velour blouse and tight slacks. I’ll leave to the pros for that sort of stuff.
Because you’re good, and read all this way, here’s a like peek at what I got to see today. I have the greatest job in the world, if you weren’t aware.
Follow me on Twitter @jonathantwest for more smart remarks and snappy retorts.