50 years ago yesterday a deranged individual assassinated President Kennedy. The media is making the anniversary into what Mona Charen (a columnist with whose reactionary views I normally disagree) terms “assassination porn”. I agree. Yes, it is a tragedy when anyone is killed. Yes, he was the President. He was also a womanizing, manipulating politician with human failings. He was not a saint by any stretch of the imagination. He wasn’t even the most brilliant president we have ever had; better than some, worse than a lot.
The media insist on canonizing and glorifying this oh-so-human man. From my very cynical point of view, he was fortunate to be struck down at the height of his glory – and before he could be held accountable for many of the social and political and military upheavals that originated with him. His predecessors and successors took much of the blame and burden for his ideas.
Don’t get me wrong: it is truly a tragedy when anyone is killed. I have no quarrel with that. I merely object to making a matinee idol out of a very human being.
Warning: I go to movies for entertainment, not for deep philosophical inspiration.
On the (very) long flight to Hawaii, I watched two recent films. First was Man of Steel. Skip it. It’s a re-make of Superman II (complete with plot-lines) and it just doesn’t measure up. Way too much fisticuffs, not enough beefcake. This is what Superman should look like:
The star of the new one looked like Clark Kent in tights and a cape. No thanks.
Second film: The Lone Ranger with Johnny Depp. This one had its moments. The opening sequences are cute and a bit silly, but interesting concept. The rest of the film is deep-fried Twinkie (way too much). HOWEVER, the chase scene in the last half hour is worth the price of admission. Slapstick and very definitely does not take itself seriously. As a matter of fact, the girl in the seat next to me thought I might be having convulsions I was laughing so hard.
Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels they weren’t, but the last chase scene was worth it. I would have liked to take Silver to a couple of three-day events!
I’m very glad I didn’t pay theatre prices for either of these, but the Lone Ranger is worth Netflix or a rental.
After trying to explain the difference between hunters and Saddlebreds (no, they are not Saddle Horses because they wear a saddle) to my non-horse dance friends, it occurred to me that I ought to explain the different styles of competition ballroom dance to my non-dance horse friends!
There are four distinct styles of dance in the US. American Smooth, American Rhythm, International Standard and International Latin. Pots and kettles you say? No.
The International styles are danced all over the world. International Standard (also called Modern Ballroom) consists of five dances: waltz, tango, Viennese Waltz, foxtrot and quickstep. Waltz is a 3-beat, three-quarter time dance, slow and dreamy (when done correctly). Tango is march tempo, very staccato. Foxtrot is four-beat, campy and linear. Quickstep is foxtrot on amphetamines, and Viennese waltz (my favorite) is rotary, fancy footwork and very, very fast six-eight tempo.
In International Standard (or just Standard) the couple never separates. They remain in dance hold the entire length of the dance. There is a set syllabus (federation-approved steps) and most people at the upper levels do modest variations on the syllabus steps.
Latin is exactly that. There are five dances in this category: cha cha, rumba, samba, paso doble and jive. Cha cha is a show-off dance, lots of spins and turns and opportunity for the lady to strut her stuff. Rumba is called the courtship dance. It’s slow, sensual, and if done well is lovely to watch. Samba originated in Brazil (watch Mardi Gras in Rio and you’ll see samba). Paso doble is the man’s display dance. The theory is that the woman is the cape, and the man is the matador. In reality, women may choose to dance either as the cape or as the bull. In fact, the current world champion in Latin can do a very graceful and impressive bull, rather than a cape. But it’s the man’s turn to display his machismo to the world. Well done, it leaves you panting. And jive is a cross between the Charleston and the Lindy Hop, fast and furious. A dance for the young.
The two American styles evolved out of the film industry. American Smooth is essentially what Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire did in their series of films. There are lots of tricks, lifts, and separate work, it’s flashy, and there are four dances in the program: waltz, tango, foxtrot and American Viennese Waltz (don’t worry – that sounds as silly to me as it does to you). American Viennese is basically running in circles (you may have guessed it’s not my favorite). It loses a lot of the grace and graciousness shown in the true Viennese waltz.
American style rhythm, cha cha, rumba, swing, bolero and mambo, are Carribean-influenced, except for swing. The timing is a bit different than Latin, and bolero and mambo are unique to the Americas. Bolero is a sort of a cross between rumba and waltz; it covers more ground than the rumba (which is a spot-dance), and is a bit more floaty. Mambo is mambo … relative of salsa, only salsa holds on the last beat, mambo on the first. Wanna get confused?
Anyway, that’s my attempt at a definitive essay. If you’re interested, come to a comp and I’ll talk you through it. Or better yet, give it a try yourself!
Occurs to me that I never did a follow-up on the National Academy Finals results! Photos not yet available: the photographer takes forever to send, but will post when I get them!
Anyway, Alvin and I had a blast. All of the exhibitors were student-drivers, so we were all going for broke. Fortunately, all of the others hugged the rail, so Alvin and I had the inside track all to ourselves, and we lapped several people. I don’t think that was quite the right move, but we had a wonderful time and finished fourth in the preliminary round.
Then I took off down the road to Nashville, where I met my dancing team and did a complete re-set of the mindset! It’s not that easy! When I drive, it’s my duty to pay attention to where we’re going, at what speed we’re going, and ringcraft is my job. When I dance, I have no say in where we’re going, what we’re going to do when we get there, or how we get there. My job is to follow, to be supple, have self-carriage, not hang on my partner, and move off promptly when he calls for a move – but not to anticipate or offer movements not required. And smile and look gorgeous while I’m doing it.
So we did that part and did quite reasonably. Our team motto is: when teacher is happy, everyone is happy. Teacher was happy. BUT….
About the time I was finishing up dancing, I got a text from my friend at the Academy Nationals letting me know that they’d already run the driving championship. Apparently the organizer felt that she could not move the one class (in fact the least-populated class of the day, and the one with the most gear-changes) to first thing in the evening just to convenience one trainer (although we had two entries in the class), without first clearing it with all the other trainers. And one of them dug in heels and refused to cooperate. Ah well. Fortunately, Stepping Stone Farm’s Rachel Wamble won the championship! If it couldn’t be me winning that huge fluffy ribbon, it came to our barn! So there!
And next year, I fully intend to be there – and be there at the top!
Photos when I get them.
Globe-trotting doesn’t stop me from dancing! When I got talked into re-starting the American Smooth style of dancing (another time for explanations) – first time since 2009! – I decided I needed a new dress. Here it is!
And of course my incredible partner/teacher/friend, Jari Muller!
Wish us luck – we dance Smooooooooth at the Ohio Star Ball (essentially our National finals) tomorrow morning!