It’s Thursday night and I’m half an hour late to the Beginning Ballroom and Swing class at Magnuson Park. Walking from the dark parking lot into the bright spacious room at The Brig, class is already in full swing and the room’s full of nine couples practicing the waltz. Celia Boarman, the instructor is saying, “dance is a participatory sport,” and glances at me to join in, but the room is crowded and everyone is already paired up so I take a seat and watch from the sidelines. Celia is a tall, elegantly dressed woman with the poise and carriage of a dancer. “Everyone looks really good!” she comments, smiling and nodding. Some couples look totally at ease and appear to be lost turning in their own private dream as the next incarnation of Fred and Ginger. Others look to be struggling with scrunched up foreheads and ramrod tight posture. One man stares down at his feet, ignoring his partner who is desperately trying to read his cues.
Meanwhile Celia circulates keeping up a steady stream of instruction and encouragement, stopping to adjust the placement of an arm on a shoulder or to nudge partners closer together. Or stepping into a student’s place to demonstrate some steps. Or modeling how to properly maintain one’s frame. “Keep resistance in the elbow, keep lightness in the arm and wrist.” She seems to be everywhere at once, counting out the beats, “Down, Up Up, Heel Toe Toe, Down, Up Up.” Cues up the music on the boombox. “Okay, Go!...Now Leads: lift your elbow on 4. Follows: go under and slowly turn on 5.” Celia obviously loves to dance and loves teaching just as much. She is reassuring and generous with her compliments, casually offering up tips on posture, frame, and placement of feet. “Keep resistance in the elbow, your elbow is connected to your hip. Remember, you’re not a Mac truck, just be firm. Keep lightness in your arm and wrist, and firmly hold the frame for your partner....notice I’m not shoving or pushing or pulling hard against my partner.”
I am sitting in someone’s chair; she comes over to retrieve her sweater and introduces me to her husband. They have taken this class many times. “It’s a blast! We just love it. And Celia, she’s a pro, a really, really good instructor. The best one we’ve had.” Her partner is clearly having a ball, bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, grinning. Swing is his favorite dance and he’s dying to get back out there. “It’s not easy teaching people how to dance, you know.” Celia seems to have worked her magic with these two.
Celia grabs a volunteer to demonstrate the lead’s steps to the class. “When in doubt, keep changing your weight from foot to foot. You can’t go wrong.” Her effervescent enthusiasm and love of dance is contagious. By the time I leave, a romantic old-timey ballad begins to play on the boombox. Couples are taking their positions on the floor and counting out the beats together, then start to dance. And the mood is happy and light. More smiles, laughter. The looks of intent concentration still there on many faces, but now too the look of triumph and pride: “Hey, look! I’m dancing, I’m really dancing!”
For the next Beginning Ballroom and Swing visit the CE website.