To this day, I'm not really sure how I ended up on the dance floor with my Aunt Eileen, who was now four, five or even six sheets to the wind. Suddenly inspired to dance, she grabbed my wrist and coaxed me onto the crowded dance floor at my cousin Eddie's wedding -- I was 6, and she was, well, inebriated. At first I dug in the heels of my patent Mary Janes, but, at this point, nothing could really stop my aunt's booze-induced attraction to that dance floor. And me? Well I was her new dance partner, whether I liked it or not. But I obediently agreed and started to do some uncoordinated, jerky form of the Twist and the Roger Rabbit as my smiling aunt relived her days of sock hops and nightclubs. We danced -- and it was there, as I dodged her sloshing wine glass and looked around me, that I realized that dancing just came naturally to everyone -- regardless of whether they could do it well or not.
But just because everyone can dance doesn't exactly mean they're all good. Some people just move. Then again, some people move so well that others will pay to watch them. While the spectrum of dance companies and dancers in Spokane and the Inland Northwest may be slimmer than in other cities, dance is still an important and fundamental part of our arts scene.
Dance season kicks off this Sunday (Sept. 19) with CenterStage's Ballroom Dancing Showcase Premiere. Watch a series of demonstrations by people who actually know how to dance, then give it a shot yourself. Planned as a tribute to formal dance, instructors from Simply Dance and the Dancing Place will be on hand to demonstrate steps and offer tips. And the folks at CenterStage will keep the bar open that night -- just in case you're one of those people who require a little courage juice to dance.
One thing about so many dancers -- whether they're ballerinas or tango queens -- is that they make dancing look so easy. But when it comes to Michael Flatley and the Riverdance spectacle that he put together a few years back, dancing looks just plain hard. The 41 dancers of the Boyne Company do work hard -- each of them goes through at least 10 pairs of shoes per season, tapping and stomping their way through an estimated 10,000 steps per show. Riverdance hits the Spokane Opera House on Oct. 26-31.
For those looking for more traditional dancing styles, Ballet Spokane plans to kick off its season with a performance of Bram Stoker's classic horror story, Dracula. The full-length production will be choreographed by artistic direct Janet Wilder and set to a score by Phillip Feeney. As Spokane's only professional dance company, Ballet Spokane strives to make top-notch dance a priority for the growing arts scene. We're just wondering if the old Count wears pink slippers in this version of the bloody tale.
And for those who can't get enough of tutus and leotards, Theatre Ballet of Spokane will present a production of King Arthur on Oct. 15 at the Met, the Halloween Extravaganza on Oct. 30 and the Spokane favorite, Ballet and Bubbly, on New Year's Eve.
On Oct. 14, the legendary Paul Taylor Dance Company will grace the stage of the Beasley Coliseum. Once led by a man revered for his avant-garde and experimental dance styles, the 17-person company now sets the bar for modern dance.
At the beginning of November, step out of your comfort zone and check out some of the more multicultural forms of dancing leaping through the Inland Northwest. Try starting with the South Asia Cultural Association's presentation of Gajamukha Temple Ballet Dance of India on Nov. 12 at the Met. The Indian dance theater production revolves around the elephant-faced deity (Gajamukha), and exhibits folk, contemporary and classical Indian dance styles.
Some call it dance; others call it contortionism. No matter what label you use for the Chinese Acrobats, admit that their feats are amazing. The troupe that can fit dozens of people on one bicycle will bring its show to Sandpoint's Panida Theater on Nov. 4.
What's a holiday season without The Nutcracker? Well, I just don't want to think about it. If you want to beat the holiday rush to the Opera House, Ballet Idaho will perform the classic story on Nov. 23 at the Panida Theater. The Alberta Ballet will bring the production to the Spokane Opera House this year, performing alongside members of the Spokane Symphony, on Dec. 3-5.
Got an itch to dance after all this? Well, you can. Take a crack at salsa dancing with a lesson from Cuban instructor Felipe Lores this fall at A Time to Dance Studio. Lores, of SalsaSpokane, offers beginner and intermediate classes. Check out salsaspokane.com for more details. Or, if you're more interested in tribal dancing -- say belly dance or Afro-Cuban styles -- give a call to Michael Moon Bear and the folks at Malidoma!, a new world drum and dance group. If you're quick, you can still grab a spot at their Sept. 17-19 dance camp.
With all the events, classes and budding troupes around town, take a few steps and see if dancing is for you. Take a cue from my aunt and me: You don't have to have rhythm or even coordination to dance -- just maybe a glass of wine.