Like Rare Birds

Posted by on Apr 26, 2018

Entering the Grand Ballroom today feels like entering a secret world, a riot of beads and color, a world I’d never spent any time thinking about before now but so suddenly seductive that I’ve been mesmerized, watching dance after dance, before I remember to find a seat.

The women are brightly plumed and preening. They are like rare birds, flashing jewel tones. I didn’t expect to be this entranced. I feel as though I can’t stop watching the short bursts of dance, the couples sweeping around one another under the chandeliers. Here, all intend to dazzle with whatever they can: a flicked wrist, a swooping arm, a tanned leg snaking around a waist, a bare back flecked with crystal. All is spangled and sprays of rhinestones. These women are a feast of beauty of the least subtle kind. They are opulent parrots, flashy mermaids, twirling chandeliers. When they turn their heads, their eyelashes dictate their profiles. Their earrings and hair pieces are explosions of sparkle, and every dress grapples for more attention than the last.

When they are waiting along the sidelines, the women shimmy into silk kimonos with bedazzled backs. They sip water with red lips pursed, bird-like. They pose for photos with their partners, perfectly angled like queens. Their ages span generations, and they are stunning.

The men are less entrancing but obviously necessary; they are the guides giving the movement form and boundaries, and in ballroom dancing form and boundaries are the parameters of beauty. All of them wear versions of velvety black. A man who was the king of Samoa in a former life moves like a weightless butterfly. The men are sultry during the tango, regal during the waltz, sprightly during the fox trot. They touch their partners lightly on the arm to guide them into the next number. The men are ever-aware of not only their partners but the other pairs flowing around them on the floor, shadows mingling.

Couples dance simultaneously, at times up to nine couples on the floor at a time. They demonstrate each type of dance for just a minute or two, and they have no idea what music to expect. I’m intrigued by the few seconds between when the music starts and when each pair begins dancing. What transpires between their bodies; what is conveyed to a partner in the flex of a hand or the turn of a foot? What decision and discipline and intuition flow out of that moment?

I watch like I’m eating slice after slice of cake, like I’m seeing flowers blooming in altered time. I watch like someone caught off guard, transfixed.


The Pfister will host the Wisconsin State Dancesport Championships 2018 thru Sunday, April 29. 

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