January/February 2010

I've heard of waltzing. My mother says it is a most indecent thing.

Miss Bell from "Return to Cranford"

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 and the Annual Strauss Ball at Glen Echo Park's Spanish Ballroom. The February and March 2010 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.


Waltz Time Origins

Once upon a time, social dancing at Glen Echo meant contra dancing. Period. Waltz, swing, blues, Cajun, zydeco, salsa, tango, tea dances - the rich variety we now enjoy in the Spanish Ballroom and Bumper Car Pavilion - were "off campus," if available at all. You may be surprised to learn that the Sunday waltzes actually evolved from the Friday night contra dances - not because the steps, music or rhythms are similar, but because the contra dances always incorporated some waltzes. In fact, each contra dance started and ended with a waltz, and the band would insert another waltz mid-way through the evening. In time, more and more waltzes found their way into the contra lineup.

When dancers Donna Barker and Ken Haltenhoff, who had been teaching dance since the 80s, detected an increased interest in waltzing among the Friday night attendees, they proposed to the National Park Service that a Sunday afternoon waltz dance be added to the schedule. The NPS may have been skeptical about the prospects for success of such a venture, but eventually the proposal was accepted and the first waltz, under the auspices of the Friday Night Dancers, took place on March 19, 1995. Donna and Ken taught the class, Donna handled band booking and logistics, her daughter assumed "door duty" and Ken managed sound.

Initially, waltzes were held only once a month, but proved so popular that the schedule was revised to feature twice-monthly waltzes, a schedule that continues to this day. Many of the musicians who played for the early dances are still playing for us. Since our records are incomplete, we're not sure who played for the initial waltz, but we know that stalwarts - and favorites! - Elke Baker, Liz Donaldson and Ralph Gordon played for the second, on April 16, 1995.

The Sunday afternoon waltzes have always been sponsored by a committee of volunteers. All proceeds, after expenses, are donated to Glen Echo for the continuation and support of park programs. To date, tens of thousands of dollars have been contributed.

In 1999, the newly formed - and unnamed - waltz committee assumed sponsorship of the Evening with Strauss Ball, a fundraiser that takes place at the end of April or beginning of May each year and has been fixture on the calendar for almost three decades. This annual event draws hundreds of well-dressed dancers and results in a sizeable contribution to Glen Echo. You may recall dancing in the cold and somewhat moist Bumper Car Pavilion in 2002 and in 2003, while the ballroom was under renovation.

The waltz committee officially became Waltz Time in 2004. In 2005, we celebrated our 10th anniversary with a special dance, featuring Notorious, on November 20. Refreshments were served and each attendee received a commemorative shoe bag and a compilation waltz CD, composed of selections from bands that have graced the Ballroom (or BCP) stage. We also distributed 10th anniversary fans.

In addition to waltzes of various types and tempos, the Sunday dances typically feature an "other" dance - swing, tango, hambo, svievacher, polka, schottische, for example - after every three waltzes. This pattern was established at the beginning of the waltz program in '95. The type of "other" dance is always chosen by the band.

In the past few years, Waltz Time has offered free workshops or sponsored special classes in cross-step waltz, hambo, country two-step, tango vals and more. We've offered country waltzes with the Oklahoma Twisters and Cajun waltzes with Squeeze Bayou, two popular local bands.

As we celebrate our 15th year, Waltz Time's goals are the same as they're always been: to maintain and extend the joy of waltzing, to ensure that an important part of our cultural heritage endures and to provide our gifted musicians with an outlet for their talents.

This is a happy anniversary for all of us!

Classic Waltzing on Masterpiece

If you weren't planted in front of your TV on January 10, watching the final episode of Return to Cranford on MASTERPIECE CLASSIC on PBS, you missed an unusual re-creation of a mid-19th-century waltz. Instead of the usual closed position, the follower placed one hand over the other on her partner's left shoulder. His right arm encircled her waist, as usual, but his left hand was placed behind his back. A brief research on this unusual ballroom hold prompted us to check a historical dance book entitled Let's Dance by Peter Buckman. Although this hold is not described, it does show a drawing of the man's arm behind his back and reports this position as "vulgar."

To watch a waltz rehearsal and hear the choreographer talk about teaching the actors to perform this "scandalous" dance, go to waltz rehearsal. You can watch the entire program on pbs.org/video.

Poetry Corner

One of our readers, Marilyn Wood, sent us this poem by Helmut Licht, composer, painter, poet, philosopher and conductor of the Helmut Licht Big Band from Baltimore, Maryland. Be sure to check out Helmut's website (see below) for more of his thoughts about music and dance.


"Dancing! Dancing!" My spirit starts to fly
My arms get light as feathers, my heart exudes a sigh!

I hear the music playing, my soul swings to its beat
As the melody and rhythm descend into my feet.

I'm engulfed in this vibration, and like a brush in Van Gogh's hand
I paint the parquet canvas to songs from foreign land.

My partner echoes all my moves in perfect harmony, -
A silent conversation for everyone to see.

The joy's beyond explaining - no other sport comes close.
If every art's a flower, then dancing is the rose.

The tedious hours of practice, frustration and despair
Are all belied by graceful moves of two that float on air.

A sense of utmost confidence, a feeling so sublime
As music sings a wondrous phrase and dancing paints the rhyme.

A hidden hand, baton unseen, music and dance unites,
And makes a joyful symphony to rival starry nights.

Of all the things I've ever done in life's exciting quest
Except for loving whom I love, dancing has been the best.

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.


February 7: TAYLOR AMONG THE DEVILS with Marty Taylor, Steve Hickman, Alexander Mitchell, Jonathan Jensen

February 21: WAVERLEY STATION with Liz Donaldson, Ralph Gordon, Barbara Heitz

MARCH 2010

March 7: CONTRATOPIA with Patrice Pakiz, Pat O'Loughlin, John Goodin, Erik Sessions

March 21: LAURA AND THE LAVA LAMPS with Laura Lengnick, David Wiesler, Ralph Gordon

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.