December 2008

O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we tell the dancer from the dance?

William Butler Yeats, "Among School Children"

Greetings from Waltz Time! This newsletter offers a calendar of upcoming waltz dances and workshops, dance community news and informative articles. We encourage your articles to our newsletter. What would you like to know? Please send your story or suggestions for topics to staff@waltztimedances.org.

Waltz Time is an all-volunteer committee that produces the twice monthly Sunday afternoon waltz dances at Glen Echo Park's Spanish Ballroom. The December and January waltzes are listed below or view the entire year's calendar at our web site.

We hope you enjoy our newsletter. At the end of this page there are additional links that you can use to forward this newsletter to a friend or to unsubscribe.


A Veteran Waltzer's Story

Al Rubinstein, a veteran dancer who can be found at most Waltz Time dances, had his first dance lesson in 1937. His older sister taught him "by ear" – if he didn't execute the steps correctly, she'd pull his ear. His repertoire included jitterbug (East Coast swing), waltz, lindy hop and other social dances.

In 1938, he won a dance contest, taking home a large cup and earning the title "Dance King of Washington Heights." The event was supposed to be a jitterbug or swing competition, but he and his partner (the girlfriend of a medical student) won doing the "Duchen" – an ephemeral version of swing, lindy hop and other dances from the 1930s.

While in high school, he danced several nights a week at the YMCA and danced to many of the "big bands" – Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, Gene Krupa and others – when they played at a popular ballroom in Washington Heights.

When the family moved back to Philadelphia (the city from which he'd escaped when he was three months old), Al danced at several venues and became head of the famous Yom Kippur Night Dance, which was the annual event that followed the Yom Kippur fast.

His induction in the U.S. army in 1943 did not interrupt his dancing, since he danced at USOs, American Legion Halls and other locations in North and South Carolina, Pennsylvania and Georgia, before and after he shipped out to Europe with the combat infantry, fighting across Europe, including the Battle of the Bulge.

The five months in combat did slow his dancing career a bit, though; yet despite a number of injuries and illnesses (frozen feet, loss of hearing, a pulled ligament in his shoulder, a hand-grenade wound to his hand, long-term damage to his spine from sleeping in slit trenches on rocks and roots, and other insults to his body and spirit), he managed to squeeze in a few memorable dance events.

He recalls two of them in his memoir, "Five Months in Combat – Memoir of an Infantryman in World War II." The first occurred when his division was flung into the Battle of the Bulge from its position in the southern part of the lines near Strasbourg, after a harrowing 24-hour trip along ice-covered roads that brought them to the railroad yards in Luxemburg. From there, they walked and rode in to close a trap on the German Panzer units at the head of the bulge and to relieve Bastogne, which was then surrounded, and became surrounded themselves for a week.

Meanwhile, back at the railroad station or freight yards, as they dragged themselves through the snow, Al heard what sounded like dance music. It was! It came from a café, where an old juke box was playing and several disreputable ladies and their companions were dancing up a drunken storm. Of course he joined them, complete with combat boots, weapons, steel helmet, lots of other junk on his back and belt, and a ferocious case of body odor (no shower or bath for two months – later extended to five months) and jitterbugged and waltzed for half an hour, until he had to run to catch up with his squad.

The other incident occurred a few days after the war in Europe ended (see accompanying photo, taken on the Czech border a few days later) and his outfit was on the way to the "other war" in Japan (just before the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima). It was in the French city of Rheims in the town square, where a celebration of the war's end was going on. The great thing about that was that one of his buddies, who had been wounded in one of their early battles several months before, was there and also heard the music. He said, "If Al is still alive, he will be here dancing" – and Al was!

His dancing career continued through college and his professional career as a Professor of Engineering at MIT, Berkeley and Northwestern University, interrupted only by several hospitalizations and assorted other impediments.

His Terpsichorean adventures took a new direction in the 1960s, when Al became involved in folk dancing and performed for 10 years with the International Dancers in Chicago.

During the 45 years Al and his family lived in Evanston, Illinois, he made almost monthly trips to Washington, where he became part of the local folk dance community and danced at the Spanish Ballroom before it was renovated. Since moving to Rockville in 2004, he has been a regular at Glen Echo for the waltzes and for Cajun and zydeco dancing (which he took up about 10 years ago in San Diego and Portland, Oregon).

Al's academic and consulting work took him to several U.S. cities and 30 foreign countries over 50 years (another memoir is called "Adventures of a Jet Set Academic – 50 Years of Flying Around the World"). Wherever he happened to be, he took every opportunity to dance.

Al and his wife met at a dance and have been social dancing ever since. Their daughter, Lisa, started folk dancing when she was a pre-teen. Their son, Mike, met his wife at an English country dance in Portland, Oregon, and they continue with English country and contra dancing, with an occasional fling at Cajun when all the Rubinsteins go to the Seattle folk dance festival.

Waltz Time's dances at Glen Echo have become Al's favorite, except when the weather's very cold or very hot. But at least, he says, the Ballroom is a bit better than the Bumper Car Pavilion in terms of temperature!

The 2009 Annual Viennese Strauss Ball

Save this date on your 2009 calendar: Waltz Time will present the 26th Annual Viennese Strauss Ball on Saturday, May 2. This benefit event is always a highlight of the spring season, giving dancers a chance to strut their stuff in elegant attire – while supporting Glen Echo Park.

As always, there will be an introductory Viennese Waltz lesson at 8 p.m., followed by dancing until midnight in the Spanish Ballroom. Check Waltz Time for more details as we get closer to the date.

Holiday Waltz on December 21

If you're in town, please join us on December 21, when we'll celebrate the winter solstice with some special dances and refreshments (warm drinks in the likely cold Ballroom). Consider wearing something festive!

Many Thanks to Lisa and Dan!

On Sunday, November 2, Lisa Brooks and Dan Kahn presented a fabulous hambo workshop just prior to our regular Sunday Waltz that day. The workshop was attended by over 50 people, who learned to execute a dance that was created "for people with three legs." Expert demonstrations, clear instructions and lots of attention to the dancers helped everyone learn to pivot, turn, glide and NOT hop in this traditional Swedish folk dance – even though all the attendees were distinctly two-legged.

We thank Lisa and Dan for their expertise and enthusiasm. Dancers had a chance to practice what they learned when Rose by the Door, the excellent band that afternoon, played hambos for their enjoyment.

Upcoming Sunday Afternoon Waltzes

Sunday Afternoon Waltzes begin with an introductory waltz lesson from 3 - 3:30 pm,
followed by dancing to live music until 6 pm. Cost is $8, including the lesson.


December 7: BLUE BAMBOO with Barbara Heitz, Elke Baker, Marc Glickman, John Devine, Charlie Pilzer

December 21: SOME ASSEMBLY with Paul Miller, Donna Boylan, Mary Corletta Flora, Joe Klausner


January 4: GREEN LIGHT KARMA with David Knight, Andrew Marcus, Dave Wiesler

January 18: NIGHT WATCH with Naomi Morse, Owen Morrison, Elvie Miller

All events are held at the Spanish Ballroom, Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo, MD and
sponsored in cooperation with the Glen Echo Park Partnership for Arts and Culture, Inc.,
the National Park Service and Montgomery County, Maryland.