Table of Contents

Waltz etcetera

They say the heart beats in three. I didn't get that for years, even after I started Waltz etcetera. There are only two, right? Systole and disastole, lub dub. I made the beginning dancer's mistake of thinking dance was all movement, no stillness. The third beat is the rest after diastole, d'oh. The heart beats in three, just like a waltz. It sounds much better when Regina sings it. Have a listen, you'll hear it right near the beginning of this lovely waltz:

I started partner dance with swing dancing because I didn't know any better. It seemed popular, there were classes available. But when I found waltz, I connected with dancing differently. I like swing but I love waltz. There's something so sweet about waltzing. The triple beat gives it something, a lightness or lilting feeling duple music doesn't share but songs in compound meters do. The triplets make the music float; it's as if the music is infused with love. The air in the room is more generous. People connect and fall in love more easily. And waltz showed me the way to tango, what dance can be. Tango wisely incorporates waltz as one if its basic rhythms.

Conceived. With the wisdom of hindsight, I could say I should have started Waltz etcetera by myself. Why didn't I? Partly because it wasn't my idea. It was modeled after a waltz practice session a guy put on in the spring of 1998. That one lasted six weeks and was technically a class offered at the Queen Anne Community Center, but the guy just put on waltzes for us to dance to. I went to every one of those with Liv. I missed it when it was over. I was griping about the lack of opportunities to waltz and she said Why don't you start your own like he did? Waltz etcetera was conceived in that moment as the result of her comment. I felt obliged to include her as part owner as I was not the sole parent. I put a sheet of paper out at the front desk of classes and dances we went to saying we were going to do this. We asked people to put down their name and email address if they would be interested. Someone told us about a guy we didn't know who was also interested in starting up a waltz dance. So I reached out to him and the three of us met over beers. That's how Waltz etcetera was born. Now I see Leela set it all up like that. I needed to be forced to fight the two of them for what I wanted. There was no fighting at first. We all agreed about everything the first seven years of Waltz etcetera. Then in 2006 I had my come to Jesus moment and my tastes began evolving. That awakening lit a fire of refinement in me that's been burning ever since.

Growing pains. I bought a boom box at Sam's Club and we pooled all our danceable waltzes. Some were on CDs and some on cassette tapes. It was a motley little collection, and going back and forth between CD and cassette, then finding the right spot made DJing laborious and awkward. The awkwardness of cuing up songs on a boom box and the limitations of that tiny library of tunes sent me on a journey through media options that culminated in me buying my very first laptop so I could play MP3s. Waltz etcetera debuted in 1999, the same year as Napster, and sometime late that year I found my way there. We didn't have a name for our new dance at first, it was just waltz practice. But then we discovered that dancing just waltzes got tedious pretty fast. We wanted to mix in some other styles of music, like blues for dancing one-step, and swing tunes we could foxtrot to. Based on our evolving playlist I came up with a name: Waltz etcetera. Going strong 25 years now.

Venues. So far Waltz etcetera has occupied six different spaces:

I was just learning about websites in those days, and I made us one in 1999, the first site to occupy this domain. Our earliest occurrence on the Wayback Machine is from December 2000; it shows my second or third attempt at a logo:

old Waltz etcetera logo

Practice makes better: you can see the current logo here. We were hellbent for traveling dances early on. Most dances we went to didn't maintain a traveling lane, and we were incensed. The introductory paragraph:

A weekly dance focusing on Waltz and other traveling dances.
Monday evenings from 7:30 - 9:30 pm we dance to recorded waltzes and other traveling dances: fox trots, one steps, the occasional polka or schottische, and even the occasional non-traveling swing, Latin, or zydeco number. Our dance hall is the spacious Richmond Masonic Center, on N 185th at Linden, right behind Fred Meyer. We ask $4 per person to pay for the hall. We also teach classes in our favorite dances.

Polka, schottische and zydeco don't figure much in current playlists, but blues does. These days it's not one-step blues but slow blues, 12/8 blues. We had some lean times the first year. One night we had seven dancers show up, five of them guys. But I liked dancing either part, and I encouraged everyone to try the other role. Everyone was good-natured about it and it turned out to be a good night.

The library. My Waltz etcetera music library started out as a handful of CDs and cassette tapes with waltzes we were used to dancing to at Living Traditions dances. It was a small collection and it felt inadequate from the start. It didn't take long for me to become obsessed with expanding and refining my music library. At first I just collected CDs. Then I discovered music downloads, for purchase or via Napster, which started up just a few months after Waltz etcetera did. I progressed through a series of formats. Commercial CDs were replaced by homemade CDs of dance tunes. As I moved out of the boom box phase I made data CDs holding hundreds of MP3s playable on data-friendly Walkmans. I finally made it to my first DJ laptop late in the year 2000. Laptop DJing was new back then, but as soon as I tried it I knew there was no going back. I edit all my music files, extensively. I've spent thousands of hours editing my tracks. I turned DJing for partner dancers into an art form.

Teaching dance. I met Liv at a dance, and dance was a key element in our life together. At least it was until our marriage started going south. We took a lot of classes together and explored other kinds of dance, going past her zydeco and my Living Traditions dances. For a while we were even performers for a Seattle vintage troupe, the Seaside Pavilion Historic Dance Society. We'd gotten pretty good at the dances we knew: waltz, foxtrot, one-step, swing. We really didn't know that much, but we knew more than most of the dancers at Waltz etcetera. Dancers liked our moves and and started asking us to teach classes. Bugging us about it. Teaching was never part of our plan; we just wanted a dance with lots of waltzes. But they kept asking and we decided to give it a try. Classes soon became an integral part of Waltz etcetera. We started our first class, Intermediate Turning Waltz, in September 1999. That timing set the tone: summer's over, it's back to school, here's your first dance class for this school year. I taught dance classes with her and other partners from then until I finally got sick and tired of teaching in 2019. Teaching started to feel like having the flu, only instead of fever I had anxiety. In other words Leela was yelling at me to quit teaching. So I quit. I was done with it. Or so I thought.

Divergence. My wife lost interest in dancing. She would teach the class with me then leave, not even staying to dance at her own dance. Meanwhile I had a dance jones so bad I kept trying to start ill-fated add-on dances on Fridays, or Thursdays, or Sundays. I did it so I could have another chance to dance during the week because me going out dancing without her was NOT allowed in that marriage and she didn't want to go out dancing period. A sign of where she and I were headed as a couple. That left me and the guy I didn't know sharing DJ duties. At first that was OK. We liked the same kind of music at first. But in 2006 wisdom spoke and my taste in music started evolving. Wisdom has deeper and more diverse tastes than anyone's thinking. My evolving tastes led to divergence. We no longer liked the same stuff. The folksy waltzes that once dominated our playlist began to sound dreary to me. I started dreading Monday nights because I couldn't bear the music he DJed anymore. It got so bad I was at my wit's end. I tried selling my share of Waltz etcetera to him. I seriously considered giving it to him, just walking away. Instead I ended up buying him out.

Death and rebirth. At the end of February 2020, when the news about Covid-19 was pretty clear but partner dancing was still going on, I closed up shop, shutting Waltz etcetera down on Leap Day. As the early months of the pandemic dragged on, it became clear I was losing my venue at Salmon Bay Eagles. I wouldn't be able to go back there even when it became OK to dance again. Seeing that on top of all the sadness and isolation I was feeling early on in the pandemic led me to write Waltz etcetera's obituary quite prematurely, on July 22. It was a sad moment. But 2019 had been a real struggle, both for me personally and for the dance, with poor attendance getting poorer. I had lost my juju with Waltz etcetera. I didn't see how I could get it back. In 2021, as the possibility for partner dancing gradually emerged, I got a surprise invitation from an old friend to come DJ one of the first openly advertised vax-only dances in the area. After some waffling I agreed to do the gig, and it turned out to be an absolute blast. I got to talking with the friend about Waltz etcetera, and he offered to help me get it started. On July 26 my dance reopened in a new location, and as of this writing is going strong. I've even started teaching dance again, a drop-in cross-step waltz class every week. I didn't realize just how important the dance is to me. It's my job, the thing I have to offer that local dancers are very happy to support. It's my contribution to partner dancing in Seattle. Putting it on gives me a sense of place and belonging.