Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ballroom Dance REVOLUTION

Mighty Fine Shindig”

On Saturday night, I had the honour of attending this year's Viennese Winter Ball as a Cavalier (the male equivalent of a Debutante). From the morning's dress rehearsal to the final performance, to the last dance just before 1AM sunday, I was on top of the World. Along with 23 other Young Dancers, I performed before a crowd of 375 people, including the US and Japanese embassadors. I danced with two of the guests there, and then took to the floor with my dance partner from the performances. The back of my head was on the front cover of the Ottawa Citizen (albeit in the background) this Sunday. I suspect that I may still be on something of a power trip. I can only imagine how the girls must feel; after all, we Cavaliers are merely frames for showcasing them.

The Viennese Winter Ball represented a number of opportunities, one of which was to compare the real story with what ended up printed in the Citizen. Members of the free press are quick to defend the individual's right to know, as informed by free and independant media; it was time to see how accurate the information supplied was. I was initially underwhelmed by the “Fairytale” angle on the story. This was going to be a dance recital, not something out of a Disney movie! Having consistently neglected the mini biography that all young dancers were to fill out, I was left in the position of having to tell a Citizen reporter just how the Ball was like a Fairy Tale. As luck had it, the truth worked perfectly. The scope of the event had yet to register fully in my mind, and so the whole affair remained somewhat unreal for me. Fast forward to the Ball itself. It honestly felt like I was living a dream, a movie...or a fairytale after all. The mixture of dress clothes, decor, and dancing at the Ball leaves the mind no other choice.

It all begins and ends with the clothes. As a Cavalier or Debutante, you arrive and depart in your street clothes. For the duration of the ball, however, your tuxedo or dress transforms you into a white-gloved prince or princess. The fairytale begins with this transformation, this metamorphosis. It feels good to look one's best, to shine as much as one possibly can. 24 people all shining at once is a powerful force, and you can't help but smile. The effect on the audience must be incredible, as most do not know us. From our appearances, they can read into us any number of stories, the fantastic, the unreal, the remembered...entire lives' worth of passion may be superimposed by the viewing mind upon our dances.

Further enhancing the storybook atmosphere was the decor in the National Gallery. The Great Hall was lit up like a great azure lighthouse flare. The walls were graced by one or two large, ornate masques, scaled-up versions of those later given to guests. The chairs were wrapped in a copper-brown, silky cloth, and the table settings were expertly arranged. The view of downtown, particularly the Library of Parliament served as a majestic backdrop for the event. In one corner was an ice sculpture comissioned by the BMO, slowly melting and dripping throughout the night (somehow staying quite whole and stable). An already larger-than-life space had been made into something palatial, and yet tastefully so.

The true storybook magic for me came in waves. Watching the proceedings from my vantage point on the second floor (staff tables) felt as though it was a scene from a movie. Dancing partner Amanda wisely decided that this being a Ball, she was going to dance. And so we took to the floor, which was a highlight of the evening. Having never attended a high school dance, my previous experiences had been of wallflower-ing at middle school dances, too paralyzed for fear of rejection. In life, you always tell yourself “THIS time will be different”, or “NEXT time will be better”. And you know what? It WAS better this time. I danced, I had fun. The misery of Grades 7 and 8 no longer weighs upon my mind.

The night was not completed by dancing alone, however. It was all the little details which really sold it. I made a sport of holding doors, offering my parter a hand or arm when walking around, helping out with gift bag duty (all couples recieved 2, if they presented ticket stubs to the young dancers on duty) when assigned, and then later when off-duty. It was so very much fun to play the Gentleman, more so than I usually do. Incidentally, I still have my pair of white gloves. I think I might pull them out every so often, and go the extra mile. Keeping people on their toes is fun.

My carriage is now a pumpkin, so to speak. Life is back to the way it was before, and it is the oddest thing, because now the Ball seems as if I dreampt it. Quoth (The Folk-Prog-Baroque-what-the-hell? Band) Jethro Tull “ It was a new day yesterday, but it's an old day now”

More Blogitation (Thank you for the assist, Cheeslike!) coming soon!

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