They say the heart beats in three. I didn't get that for years, even after I started Waltz etcetera. There's only two, right? Systole and disastole, lub dub. I made the beginner'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, it's 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.
Making Waltz etcetera. There were lots of dances that featured swing but none that featured waltz, so I created one. But did I do it myself and keep it simple? No, I had to involve two other people: my wife and some guy I didn't even know who got to be part owner because he was also interested in waltz. There was some justification for involving my wife, but not the other guy. The impulse to include him came from the misbegotten notion that shared ownership was somehow virtuous; the magic word was community. Barf. You'd think I'd've learned better in Boulder but no, I was pretty stupid about that kind of thing back then. Still a goddam hippie at heart. Pathetic. At first we didn't have a name, it was just waltz practice. But then we discovered that dancing just waltzes got tedious. We wanted to mix in some other dances. Based on our evolving playlist I came up with a name: Waltz etcetera.
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:
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. We had some lean times the first year. One night we had seven dancers show up, five of them leads. 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 liberry. My Waltz etcetera music library started out as a handful of CDs that had waltzes we were used to dancing to at Living Traditions dances, mostly folk waltzes that got played between sets at contra dances. Richard Powers regularly visited to teach weekend workshops and he brought interesting waltzes, vintage and contemporary tunes that he and his Stanford students discovered. I soon became obssessed with the music liberry as I called it, in mocking tribute to my southern roots. At first I collected CDs, then I twigged to 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, from commercial CDs to homemade CDs of dance tunes to minidiscs (Richard's preferred format) to data CDs holding hundreds of MP3s playable on data-friendly Walkmans to my first DJ laptop. The first of many. Computer DJing was a fairly new thing in the y2k, and as soon as I tried it I knew there was no going back. Even my clunky late 90s laptop made the other formats seem laughably awkward and limited. Computerized DJing opened up the world of tagging. I'm an enthusiast, and this could get very boring very quickly. I'll just say that all my music files are extensively edited. Custom tags to make my music searchable using Winamp's tag search and smart views, and judicious edits to the music itself using Audacity. Oh, and I've spent thousands upon thousands of hours editing my tracks. Years of my productive work life, time well spent. Nuff said.
Teaching dance. My wife and I met at a zydeco dance, and dance was a key element in our life together. At least it was until everything 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 the Seaside Pavilion Historic Dance Society, now long gone. 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 dancers at Waltz etcetera. They 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 were insistent and we decided to give it a try. Classes and workshops 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 dreadful to me. I started dreading Monday nights because I couldn't bear his music 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 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.