Friday, July 1, 2011

Dancing In Dallas: Arthur Murray (Ft. Worth)

Since I was a little girl, I've always loved ballroom dancing. I blame the movie Strictly Ballroom for starting it all.

If you haven't seen it, rush right out tonight and watch it. Great dancing, gorgeous costumes, and so off beat you can't help but love it. I only have a VHS copy of it, it's on my to-do to find the DVD. That's besides the point. 


Ballroom is form of social dancing basically created and popularized in the early 1900's by Vernon and Irene Castle. Never heard of them? Yeah, me neither up until a few years ago (Thank you Dance History.). Vernon and Irene have a pretty neat history, but I'll give you a basic sum-up of their work.

Vernon and Irene were both performers and after an accidental meeting, they fell in love and got married. Thus the dynamic duo was formed (Keep in mind this is a pretty brief history report and that I'm leaving out their lives prior to their partnership.). They traveled to Paris to perform as a dancing act. Unfortunately their show closed, luckily they were hired at a Parisian Cafe, the Cafe de Paris, as a dance act and they're success exploded. They became an overnight sensation and news of their success traveled to the US.

When they returned, Irene and Vernon Castle were all the rage. Everyone wanted to dance like them, dress like them, style their hair like them, and more. They were a very big deal for that time. They opened up a studio in New York, the Castle House, and taught people all the latest dances including The Bunny Hug, The Fox Trot, The Castle Waltz (hmmm, wonder where they got that name from...?), The Turkey Trot, and The Tango.

Sadly their time together did not last long. Vernon returned to his homeland in England to be a pilot for the Royal army during WWI. He was asked to train pilots for the US Air Force in Ft. Worth, TX. While at Benbrook Field, there was a accident with a student that killed Vernon. Tragic ending.

So now you know where ballroom dancing came from. There's your short history lesson for today. There's actually a wonderful movie about the Castles starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. If you're like me, a sentimental gal, you'll cry at the end.
I say Strictly Ballroom sparked my interest in the dance style and yet I'd be lying if I didn't mention Fred and Ginger. Old time classics my friends, they are saturated with incredible duets between amazing dancers like Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Vera-Ellen, and Donald O'Connor. There are many more I could go on about.

OK, enough history. Ballroom dancing, it's dreamy and I've only had a few opportunities to try my hand at it. When I was in middle school, I had the opportunity to attend cotillon at our local country club. Basically you learn how to be ladies and gentlemen, dress up, wear the white gloves, and learn about social dances. It's every eleven year old's dream, right? Well, for me I thought it was great.

When I went to Broadway Theater Project many moons ago, the documentary Mad Hot Ballroom came out, another great movie. Ann Reinking took the entire student body of BTP to see the documentary and then we all had a couple of classes with Pierre Dulaine. Heaven. I was in heaven...it was splendid! While I was Oklahoma City I found a ballroom studio that I took a few lessons with and I really enjoyed learning these timeless dances all over again.

Finally, to tell you about my latest Dancing in Dallas experience! I'm getting married next spring and one of the most anticipated parts of the reception is the first dance between husband and wife. Clearly for me, this part is a big deal. I love to dance and I refuse to stand there swaying side to side when we've got a whole floor he can twirl me around for the night.

Ladies, I'm going to have to brag on my man for a minute. He WANTS to learn how to dance. Do you realize how big of a deal this is?! I don't have to bribe/fuss/cry/beat/drag him to take a class. Pyro Man wants to learn how to dance and he's been on my case for the past few months about how we need learn!

Gosh, I love that man.

Earlier this week I got a wild hair. I called an Arthur Murray location that's just down the street from Pyro Man (Score!) and set up an appointment for us to try out a class. It. Was. Fabulous. We had a great instructor named Jeremy who made us laugh and feel incredibly comfortable. My main concern was for Pyro Man to feel relaxed during the lesson. Even though he wants to learn doesn't mean that he wasn't a bit nervous, dancing can be hard for a lot of people who aren't used to it.

We learned a lot about connection, really working with our partner. I learned that I can't lead, dang it. That's a hard habit to break. Jeremy got us started on the Fox Trot which will work wonderfully for our first dance (Can't tell you what the song is...yet!). We even got to try the Two-Step which is exactly like the Fox Trot only it has a different rhythm. Last, we learned the Merengue! It's fairly simple and lots of fun. Now we need to work on our timing.

The manager was really nice and the whole place was very friendly. He had us fill out forms that gave them a chance to find out more about us, what we're wanting to get out of the program, and what we're like as a couple. I greatly appreciated the time spent on getting to know us because hey, ballroom dancing is an intimate affair. You're connected the entire time, dancing in sync, and I've got to follow my partner no matter where he goes--I'd better be comfortable with him! The better they know how we want to spend these lessons, the easier it is for them to help us get what we need.

It's a large studio floor with lots of lessons going on. That always floors me. This one studio is used for multiple lessons, not just one couple. It helps dancers get used to moving around each other in (hello) a social setting. The studio also hosts several group classes where other couples come in and dance, trade partners, practice different dances, and have fun.

Arthur Murray is an international franchise with 280 locations. Chances are, you can find a class somewhere near you.

Class Cost: $25 with an online coupon or $50 for an introductory class
Class Time: 30-40 minutes
Schedule: Check with your local studio. Click here for your state. They also have studios in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, and South America. Since this is Dancing in Dallas, here are the Texas locations.

They offer several packages if you decide you want to continue with lessons. They usually include private sessions and group classes. Pyro Man and I have crazy schedules right now so we're not sure what we'd like to do. It might just be a matter of private lessons for a while.

Pyro Man and I had a fabulous time. There's something special about getting to dance with the one you love, starring into each other's eyes and twirling around the floor like you're on a cloud. I know, a little mushy, but it's so true. He makes me laugh and I feel ever so comfortable with him. He is actually pretty light on his feet and get's got some rhythm, despite his protests. I'm just so happy that hee really enjoyed the experience!

I'm excited to have this new activity with him--it's neat watching him learn a little about my world. We've got lots of time to enjoy this experience, too. There's no pressure and that takes a good deal of stress off.  We both can't wait for the next lesson! It won't be too long before we're real pros at this! He is the Fred to my Ginger. And now, I leave you with one of my all time favorite quotes:

"Remember, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, but backwards and in high heels!" - Bob Thaves


Heck yes! Happy Friday and have a Happy Fourth of July!

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