Dance–Creativity in Another Direction

My good guy and I have worked hard most of our lives.  He has taken care of software clients for decades, and I’ve been right there to support those efforts with marketing, bookkeeping, and even a little human resource work along the way.  We also raised a family and continue to support our daughter’s efforts to succeed as a dentist.  We’ve done a little low-pay or no-pay work in support of our communities, and have generally followed the recipe for “That Good Life.”

But now, we’re indulging a bit.  We play a little golf and have steeped ourselves in ballroom dance for the past six or seven years.  There have been a lot of practices, a few competitions, and all sorts of forays into movements and costumes completely foreign to us.  In short, it’s been a blast.

Now we’re prepping for our annual “showcase.”  This is nothing more than a dance recital for family and friends, but for any student at Colorado DanceSport, this is the event of the year.  People are signing up for extra lessons, spending even more time at the studio, ordering “costumes” on-line and more.  Me?  I’m into props.

Not quite sure how this got started, but last year I danced to the theme from “The Godfather” and constructed a car that blew up.  Amazing what foam board and an over-sized rubber band can do.

This year, my instructor, Mitch, said, “You know, Liesa, people are going to look for how you top yourself.”  Ahh, the gauntlet thrown.

I don’t know if it’s my ADD or my stubbornness and pride, but when I’m met with this kind of challenge, my eyes light up.  I LOVE CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING!  I also love trips to Home Depot with Prophet (he always gets treated like a movie star), playing with electric drills, Dremel saws, glue, glitter, paint and all the things we used as kids–only with the grown up twist of real danger if we’re not careful.  I started sketching.

My dance with my teacher this year is “Bare Necessities.”  It fits into the studio’s 2015 theme of Dancing with Disney.  Now, you may be thinking I would play with the idea of “bare” for this, but just like my character, Daisy, I like to lead a G-rated lifestyle. We decided to stick with the youtube version and see what we could do.

I’m trying to make my props cartoon-like, so I’m using brilliant greens, grey, and simple looking designs.  However, I am also adding in coconuts that fall from a tree, a snake named Kaa, and palm trees that Mitch, studio owner Robert, and I can uproot and use as scratching tools.  The challenge is three-fold.

  • All props have to fit in my car for getting to and from Cleo Parker Robinson Hall.
  • All props will be used a second time, so I can’t have “throw aways.”
  • I have to do most the “heavy lifting,” so nothing can weigh too much (I’m the proverbial 90-pound weakling, only I weigh quite a bit more than 90)

STEP ONE: PLANNING

photo of Treasures from the bookstore

Treasures from the bookstore

First stop in this adventure was–you guessed it–the bookstore.  I don’t know anything about engineering except that my dad was one.  I picked up what I could on simple machines and probably played for a week in those books.  Life is good when you start with a book.  Using some of the concepts there, I was able to think up a few ways to get the job done.  My sweet man told me I am an inventor, and this thought has kept me going throughout my building process.

STEP TWO: FIELD TRIP!

photo of Constructing ants from tubes

They will be ants, they really will.

Yippee! On to Home Depot.  I picked the brains of several HD experts over several weeks.  I bought “stuff” that might come in handy–insulation tubes from plumbing, dryer vent tubes, and wood dowels, pvc pipe, and I even did the “dumpster dive” into their scrap bins.

photo of Pulley released trap door

Coconuts will fall from this? You betcha!

On to the cloth store where I bought tons of felt, a little glue and more.  The young girls there got into my project and helped me with coupons and bolt remainders. How cool is that?

STEP THREE: CONSTRUCTION IN AND OF THE JUNGLE

Did I tell you that I planned to clean the storage room in our basement as my January house project? Oops!  I managed to haul out a ton of stuff, and make mountains of things to give away, throw away and put away, but my deadline for dance was looming, so my basement is a disaster area right now.  Did I ever tell you how patient my sweet guy is when I get into creative projects?  We once had a time machine that ate up my kitchen . . . but that’s a story for another time.

photo of Palm tree jungle props

Hard to see the trees for the jungle, but they really work!

Anyway, several attempts and lots of words your mother shouldn’t hear later (forgot about that G-rated thing), I have three palm trees and a snake complete.  I have the mechanics of the dropping coconuts complete, just waiting for a major palm make-over, and the skeleton for a rock that Baloo will pick up, only to find ants running underneath.

photo of snake sock-puppet

Kaa-ha-ha

There are only about two weeks left to finishing all this work, but I’m very excited. I’ve learned my steps, built some fun toys, and am looking forward to making it all come together in a three or four minute dance.

Creativity, whether in dance steps, construction of silly props, or jotted down in story, is a good, fun, thing.  How do you let loose?  What’s your creative outlet?

The Last Dance

Last Dance at Colorado DanceSport

Small but enthusiastic group for the final Friday night dance at 5151 Federal Blvd.

Gosh with a title like “The Last Dance” you’d expect me to be writing a short story for you today.  Sorry, no such luck.

You see, life in Littleton, like so many growing places around the country, is in a state of change.  When we moved to the Denver area more than 15 years ago, I read how the population here was supposed to grow by as much as four times its one million residents by 2020.  Everything in and around Denver seems to be doing just that.  Please don’t let me get started on traffic issues!

Meanwhile, for the past five years, my good guy and I have been ballroom dancing at Colorado DanceSport on the corner of Federal and Bellview.  We’ve gone from clumping through boxed movements on flat feet to rolling through toes, heels, hips and any number of muscles and joints we didn’t know we had.  Our young teachers have grown from practically being babies to gracious adults who would never tell a student “you have two left feet,” as other studio instructors have been known to do.

Graffiti of well-wishes for Colorado DanceSport

Farewell to Colorado DanceSport

For five years my precious and I have gone to the Friday night parties at the studio, and learned to stop quaking at the thoughts of trying to guess what dance went with what music, or (heaven forbid) dance with others than ourselves.  We’re even brave enough now to dance with total strangers in–you guessed it–CLOSED POSITION!

Dance has opened a new world of skill for us, and a new community of people who come together to be happy and healthy.  If you ever have the chance to ballroom dance, do try it.  It takes just a little while to understand the basic movements and forever to master them.  All the while you learn so much about yourself, it’s amazing.

But the corner where we dance has been determined to be some sort of “blight” on the landscape of Littleton.  And the population around here is not exactly shrinking. Time for a Littleton update. So it’s good-bye to the charter school, the trophy shop, the insurance storefront.  Good-bye to the dentist, the pet groomers, and the bar with those unsavory looking people.  The entire corner will be razed to make room for a new–wait for it–apartment complex.  Yippee!  Make room for more people with their cars, their kids, and their overcrowding of our streets.  Make room for more tax dollars into the city.  Make room to blur the lines between Denver and the suburb even more.

So Colorado DanceSport held its last Friday night party last week.  Surprisingly, there was little sentimentality going on.  For most, it was just one more party.  The owners were off to a performance in California.  The instructors who weren’t required to be there went off to other Friday night entertainments.  The crowd was thin.

But I had a good time.  I made a point of dancing with all the gentlemen I’d learned steps with in the past (yes, women are allowed and encouraged to ask men to dance as much as the other way around).  And we scribbled final thoughts on the walls.  Things like “I met my husband here!” and, “Thanks for the memories.”  You can imagine what we wrote on the pole that was forever in the way of dance.

And then it was done.

They’re going to tear down the building to make way for the new apartments.  But the studio owners are doing what they can to bring the wood floor with them.

Yes, the studio is still open.  We’re not the victims of change.  We simply moved with the flow, and only a few blocks to the west.  We’re officially “sprawling” out to the next not-quite-a-major thoroughfare place. Yet.  And the floor will come with us.  The spirit will come with us.  We’ll even have a newer, bigger, brighter mirror ball.  How cool is that?

In fact, there’s really only one precious soul that may not make it to the new studio.  Maceo. Maceo is the owner’s dog.  He has stage-four cancer.  I can’t do justice to his story, and am tearing up just writing these few simple words. Next week, I think. Next week I’ll have words and pictures of the little guy who is so good at showing his affection.

For now, I must focus on the future.  The old studio is closing.  But we’re part of the lucky few who are flexible enough to move with the times.  The trophy shop owners are selling everything and closing completely.  The bar doesn’t look like it will make it either.  Who knows about the bank?  It’s part of a chain, so even if that branch doesn’t find a new home, there will be something to replace it somewhere else.

Moving from Colorado DanceSportIt’s funny.  There is a real feeling of closure here, of life moving on.  Things won’t be the same, but, depending on one’s own attitude, they can be great.  The new studio is bigger, brighter, and even beautiful.  The new studio is full of hope and professionalism.  I know ’cause I helped move it this past weekend.

We are, after all, a community.

 

Ballroom Dance Anyone?

Life in Littleton is good.  I have the first draft of my second book done, had a successful writer’s workshop last Saturday, and am ready for a short break–with ballroom dance.

Colorado Star Ball

Oh, the glitter and shine!

You heard me right.  I love to ballroom dance.  I love the music, the movement, the people and the bigness of it all.  Ballroom dance is also a great exercise for people of all ages and skill sets.  I like that “all skill sets” part because I’m not normally what you’d call dance “gifted.” Not like my friend, Uni, who has moves you wouldn’t believe, and the attitude to go with them.

But I’ll be dancing with Uni and nine other friends in a Ladies Performance routine Saturday afternoon.  Good luck to Melissa, Sandy, Barb, Debbie, Benedetta, Beth, Carol, and Stephanie.  Thank you, Lindsey, for another great routine.  And Diane in Houston, we’ll be missing you!

I’m not gifted in dance like my teachers at Colorado DanceSport. They dance for about 12 hours a day, six days a week.  These young people start their routines by working out at a gym. Then they have staff meetings, warm-ups, and stretches.  By the time the first students enter the dance studio, my teachers have already put in a few hours of uncompensated time to improve their physical well-being and professional skill sets.  When other professional dancers come into town, my teachers take lessons individually as well as with the students who invest in extra coaching.  This is an impressive group of people who maintain up-to-date dance moves, make dance fun, and help you keep in shape at the same time.

I’m not gifted either, like my husband, who takes lessons five days a week and goes to several competitions each year.  Did I mention that ballroom dance has a lot of opportunity to make the most of your vacation time?

BUT…

I am very excited to be heading off to the one competition I enjoy each year–Colorado Star Ball.  This event, held in Westminster, Colorado (smack in between Boulder and Denver), is amazing, with dancers from all over the world and of every level of skill.  Do you know Jonathon Roberts and Anna Treybunskaya (hint: think Dancing With The Stars)?  Yep. They’ll be at Star Ball this year.

And, rumor has it that TLC will be filming for a new television show at the event.

Ballroom Dance Supplies

The stuff of dreams

But more important than all that is the DAZZLE!  You should see the dresses, the make-up, the hairdos, the spray-on suntans!  Everything is over-the-top and breath-taking.  For a few days you get to play dress-up to your heart’s content in Swarovski crystals, feathers and every color combo to catch the eye. Who cares if you know the steps?  “Winners” only get stickers, or glasses, sometimes a trophy you could buy for yourself at any trophy shop.  No, winning isn’t determined by the things you get at one of these events.

Winning is hearing your friends shout out your name or dance number in wild abandon as the music swirls around you.  Winning is taking yourself out of your comfort zone and flying across the floor with all of your heart–remembering to keep the shoulders down and the head up.  Winning is the smile that forms somewhere deep inside you and doesn’t stop  the entire length of the competition.  Winning is watching the pros inspire awe and admiration throughout the Saturday evening competition.  They dance so close you could reach out and touch them, but you don’t.  But sometimes, because they’re pros, they see you and wink at you with a smile that says “come join the fun.” And, of course, you get all mushy inside and promise yourself to practice harder in the year ahead.

Ballroom dance.  It’s another world.  But it’s well worth exploring.

No time or energy for this exercise?  No problem!  Check out Ella Barrick’s Ballroom Dance Mysteries.  Great fun with a little more blood than you’d usually find at a dance studio–no matter how “cutthroat” the competition.  I’ll be bringing my copy of Dead Man Waltzing with me to Westminster this weekend.

I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.  Please cross your fingers for my success with  terrific dance partners–Mitch and Jay– at Colorado Star Ball.