{April 20, 2007}   First Dance Friday


I received another entry for today’s segment. In the form of an article. Enjoy! Gary Lehmann of Penfield, NY writes:

Mrs. Botsford’s School of Dauuunce


Gary Lehmann

When I was deemed old enough to need taming in the social graces, my mother signed me up for Mrs. Bodsford’s School of the Dauuunce.   That’s how everyone associated with this dubious adventure pronounced it.  There were, I believe, actual students who studied ballet and ballroom dancing.   Our class was the beginning ballroom dance class, more like rodeo than dressage, but very important, at least to Mrs. Bodsford’s economy.  

It took place every Saturday night and was all the rage amongst a certain class of mothers.  It was not so popular with the children involved, because it took place exactly at the same time as Gunsmoke a highly educational western adventure tale which appeared weekly on television.  A boy my age was virtually crippled socially if he could not expound on the newest episode during the forthcoming week at school.  Looking back on the dauuunce class, I’m pretty sure Mrs. Bodsford looked forward to these events as much as I did.

  The school was called Mrs. Bodsford’s School of Dauuunce , but it was run by her side-kick, Miss Leonard, a severe middle-aged person who wore round, horn-rimmed glasses and dresses which could be described as funereal and festive at the same time.  Hers was a totally unique fashion.   While Mrs. Bodsford appeared in the doorway in her lace gown, begloved hands demurely crossed at the waist, Mrs. Leonard strode in like the Marshall of Tombstone.  Anyone who had survived the first grade knew immediately what that meant.

  “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen,” she would say in a voice that strongly implied that we would repeat the return verse – if we knew anything of what was good for us. 

   “Good evening, Miss Leonard.” Our unharmonious responses straggled in like cows on the end of a long range run.

   “Children!  You can see that Mrs. Bodsford is present.  You should greet her first, expressing proper deference for her age and authority.”  All eyes moved to the corpse of Mrs. Botsford, which could not have looked more life-like in her coffin than she looked right now in the doorway.

    “Good evening Mrs. Botsford,” we droned.

    “Very good, children!”  Then a cloud came over the already granite face of Miss Leonard, simulating a cold winter day in Vermont .  “What is that I see?  Can I believe my eyes?  I see some of you with GUM in your mouths.”  Hands on hips.  Eyes scan the mob seeking out the felons.  “Should any of you have any foreign object in your mouths at this time, please deposit them in the trash receptacle by the stage.   Mrs. Botsford did not move a muscle but appeared to be trembling with appropriate rage as we scrambled to the basket and back in surprising numbers. 

   “Now,” said Miss Leonard, “it’s time to dance.”  She lined the boys and the girls up each in a separate line and, in a system of pairing still used in China and frequently used in Europe until the discovery of romance, she paired us off by height.  The girls were always at pains to express without words their utter disgust at having been paired with the ugliest, most awkward and uncouth male creature in the room.  It did not matter with whom she was paired.  The routine was mandatory as far as I could tell.  The girls did not need instruction in this portion of the ritual.

   Miss Leonard then grasp some poor male victim by the scruff of his neck and dragged him into the center of the dance floor to illustrate the proper way for a gentleman to hold a lady while dancing.  This grapple was explained in some detail, not failing to mention that no groping would be tolerated. Then the music began, a ponderous sort of dirge calculated to put anyone asleep — in waltz time.  These festive trots were punctuated by Miss Leonard’s occasional outbursts, “NO GUM!”   She would march over to the miscreant with the trashcan in hand, and he would spit the foreign object out with a satisfying clunk.

   At last, when the torture was over, Mrs. Botsford would pivot on her heels and Miss Leonard would line up for a reception line.

“Thank you for having me to your party,” we each said spontaneously expressing our infinite creativity in the same exact words.  Taking the hand, we gave a little bow, turned slowly, and ran like hell back home where, if we were lucky, we could just catch the tail end of The Twilight Zone.

This is every boy’s nightmare come true. Can you imagine being a young boy and having to learn how to ballroom dance?! Gah, the injustice of it all. While I like watching the competitions, especially the junior categories, young boys probably learn by watching MTV videos now, right? Thanks for the great article, Gary.

When was your first dance? How old were you? Did you go by yourself or with a group of friends? Send your stories to mattie_bhawk[at]yahoo[dot]com.


Dance has been a major part of my life since I was a child, but it’s all about the movement. The native Hawaiian dances I was taught as a child tell a story; every hip roll, every hand position, every arm sweep. Even the more vigorous steps the males had to learn tells a story about the ancestors from my island home.

One of the many things I love about dancing is the choreography. For some, it’s movement before music. Meaning, you learn the steps first and then put them to music. This was how it was taught in my dance classes. This is how My Boy works. It was harder for me to learn this method because I wanted to know what the steps meant. LOL. In actuality, they were meaningless. It was just a step, or a sequence of steps, and we looked cool doing them. Period.

My own method is music first, then the steps. Depending on my mood, I pick a song and close my eyes while listening to it. And then the steps just…come. A week or so ago, during some much needed down time, I was watching BET. They were counting down the “25 most hottest dancers” or something like that. Basically, they were acknowledging certain musical artists with superb dance moves. Of course, they mentioned The Gloved One, but they also gave props to people like Cab Calloway, The Nicholas Brothers (waaaaaaaaay before my time), and Gene Kelly.

They also mentioned Ciara. Have you seen the video for her song Promise? Feel free to check it out now if you’d like.

Really. No, go ahead. I’ll wait.

I’m just gonna get some iced tea while you do that. Can I get you anything? No? Ok. I’ll be right back.

I chose this video of hers for one clip in particular: the one where she’s wrapped around the microphone stand as it nearly touches the floor.


I can just imagine how much fun she had doing that. I can also imagine how many takes they had to do because she kept saying “That was fun. Can I do it again?” Her choreography totally rocks, even though you can’t see much of it in her “Get Up” video. She should’ve worn white pants instead. Just sayin’.  I don’t know anything about her dancing background. If she does her own choreography, what’s her method? Maybe she has a professional come in.

I’m curious. To all you dancers out there, what’s your dance routine method?


Who can forget the most popular dance movie–of the 80’s–of all time? Celise told me she had “the time of her life” seeing this movie 10 times! Sad to say, this movie came out two years before I was born (1987), so I never got a chance to see it on the big screen. However, The Girls (Ren and Mici) and I had frequent Girls Night In parties and rented it.

So, you all remember the plot, right? Frances “Baby” Houseman spends the summer at a holiday camp with her family and ends up falling for hunky Johnny Castle, the camp’s dance instructor. Personally, I’ve never considered Patrick Swayze a hottie, but I really loved him in this movie. I remember the scene where she was learning the dance steps for that dance demonstration. It was the three of them, Johnny, Baby and Johnny’s partner, Penny. Baby was sandwiched between the two of them as they danced around the room. Mici, Ren and I were foolish enough to “try that at home” and nearly crashed to the floor. LOL. Apparently, we weren’t coordinated enough for that type of dancing. But we had fun trying.

Like last week’s movie, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, this movie also promotes dancing with a partner, which is why it’s become another favorite. I liked “Girls” because it’s so close to what Jarek and I did for Dance Jam Productions. I love this one even more because the dance style was different and you saw Baby struggle to learn something new. Not to mention the other stuff he taught her after hours. Yow!

Favorite scenes:

~ Baby practicing her moves across the bridge and how she kept messing up before she finally got it.

~ I call it The Water Scene, where they’re practicing the overhead lift in the lake.

~ The end dance scene–OF COURSE–right before he says that corny line,”Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

From what I’ve been hearing, it’s the 20th Anniversary of this movie week and they’re re-issuing the movie again. Celise told me they’re showing it in the theaters again, too, but only for one day; including never-before-seen footage. Never-before-seen footage that’s probably on the original DVD. Or if you buy this 20th Anniversary edition you see here=> dd2.jpg

Next week, I’ll talk about the other Dirty Dancing movie.

So, what’s your favorite dance movie?

{April 13, 2007}   First Dance Friday

Welcome to the first edition of First Dance Friday. I hope more of you will write in with your stories. Dee M. of Jacksonville, IL writes:

I remember my first dance(s), if not the first actual
dance.  I grew up dancing.  My mother has told me that as a
little girl, I danced around the room when I wasn’t feeling
well; to make myself feel better. 
But what I truly remember on my own, are my mother and
father, turning on the music of the record player or radio
and dancing in our livingroom.  We had a linoleum floor,
and they could truly jitterbug and waltz, and boy could
they move!  I loved watching them, but after a time I’d run
up and grab hold of their legs and try to dance with them.

Instead of asking me to wait, my parents would let me dance
with them.  So there we were… me on my Dad’s feet,
holding on to his legs, sandwiched in between my Dad and my
Mom, and we would waltz!

What I wouldn’t give for a picture of that today for my
scrapbook.  Alas, I will just have to settle for it in my
“memory” book I suppose.  Those times dancing as a family,
made of me a lover of dancing for life.

Thanks for sharing, Dee. What a great memory! I imagine that was the “first dance” for all of us young’uns out there. Maybe I’ll share my story some time.

When was your first dance? How old were you? Did you go by yourself or with friends?

Send your stories to me at mattie_bhawk[at]yahoo[dot]com. Please be sure to include name, city and state.


Okay everyone, quiet down please. Quiet….quiet.


Ahem. Thank you.

Now, if you would please open your books to the chapter about the History of Jazz Dance, we can begin:

The root of jazz dance comes from the African American Vernacular Dance from the late 1800s up until the mid 1900s. During the jazz era, popular forms of jazz dance were Cakewalk, Black Bottom, Charleston, Jitterbug, Boogie Woogie, Lindy Hop (a.k.a. Swing), all forms of dance commonly danced to jazz music.

After the 1950s, pioneers such as Kathrine Dunham took the essence of caribbean traditional dance and made it into a performing art.

Since the fifties, with the growing domination of other forms of entertainment music, jazz dance evolved with broadway choregrapher into a new, smooth, modern Broadway style that is taught today and known as Modern Jazz, while tap dance continued to evolve on its own. An early popular “jazz dancer” was vaudeville star Joe Frisco in the 1910s. He danced in a loose-limbed style close to the ground, with eccentric steps, and juggled his derby and cigar.

Jazz dance is a form of dance commonly used in Broadway shows and movies. Jazz is more a contemporary kind of dance as compared to ballet, for instance. Even though jazz dancing might look easy and fun when the dancers do it, the dancers have to be in really good shape, and practice sometimes six hours a day. Some traditional musical jazz numbers are All That Jazz and Chicago.

To excel in jazz dance, the dancer must master ballet techniques. In jazz dancing the movements are big and exaggerated and there is usually an attitude the dancer conveys to the audience. The attitude would depend on the dance. For example in a number like Livin’ La Vida Loca, the dancer would probably be happy, and look like they were at a party having a really rockin’ time. Jazz dancing is also used in modern dancing as on MTV. Las Vegas showgirls are also jazz dancers.

Just about every dance school teaches jazz, as it is the most popular dance form for amateur dancers. The essence of jazz dance is entertainment to the people, a form of dancing which is easy to understand for anyone seeing it. As the famous modern choreographer and pioneer Alvin Ailey said “The dance came from the people, and should always be given back to the people”.

Famous jazz directors and choreographers include Bob Fosse, Gus Giordano, Gwen Verdon, Jack Cole, and Eugene Louis Faccuito (also known as Luigi).

Well known Jazz dances include All That Jazz, Can-can, Damn Yankees, The Red Mill.

~ From

The dance routine that Jarek and I came up with for DJP’s Dance-Off segment would probably fall into this category. Possibly even Modern Dance, which we’ll discuss another day.

HOMEWORK QUESTION: Have you seen a Broadway show that uses Jazz dance moves? If so, which ones?


Plot: Janey (Sarah Jessica Parker) is new in town, and soon meets Lynne (Helen Hunt), who shares her passion for dancing in general, and “Dance TV” in particular. When a competition is announced to find a new Dance TV regular couple, Janey and Lynne are determined to audition. The only problem is that Janey’s father doesn’t approve of that kind of thing.

Does this sound familiar? It should. Celise got the idea for my story, Dance Jam Productions, from this movie. It came out in 1985, so I was too young to see it. However, during a Girls Night In at my house one Friday night, me, Ren and Mici decided to rent it. We were rooting for Janey the whole time and wished her father would get the stick out of his you-know-what. It’s not like she was going to be dancing at a topless bar or something! I mean, c’mon.

Even though Celise liked the idea of a dance show hosting a contest to look for a regular couple, she added different elements to the story. Like, what if the show had two co-hosts instead of one? What if the show was involved in something shady? What if there wasn’t a disgruntled father, but a long buried secret? What if the show offered more than just couples doing dance routines? Besides “Dance TV”, there were elements of MTV’s “The Grind” (dance lessons) and a 80’s show called “Dance Party U.S.A.”–where incidentally, Kelly Ripa of “Live with Regis and Kelly”used to appear–(movie reviews and lip synch routines); My history, as well the history with Ty (my legal guardian at the time), came from a reoccurring dream.

So, what’s your favorite dance movie?

{April 5, 2007}   YOUR STORIES ARE NEEDED!!!


I run a special place here on the Big Island, so I won’t be able to post as often as Celise would like me to. So I’m asking for your help in supplying content for two specific days of the week:

Dance Lesson Wednesday – If you’re a dance instructor/choreographer or dance studio owner, I’d like to interview you.

First Dance Fridays – Do you remember your first dance? How old were you? Where was it at? Who did you go with? Do you remember the music that was played?

What you need to do:

~ For interview requests, please put Dance Lesson Wednesday in the Subject line and I will send you a questionnaire.

~ For the stories, please put First Dance Fridays in the Subject line and supply your name, city and state (unless you want to post anonymously).

~ Send your entries to me by clicking on the Email Me link in the Sidebar.

Please contact me if you have any questions.

 Thanks for all your help!

This day is going to be dedicated to movies where the main focus is, well, dance. Sbreakin.jpgome of these might’ve been before my time, but there’s this wonderful invention called cable (yes, we even get it all the way out here on the island of Kahului). At some point in time, I have seen these movies.

So we’re going to kick it off with the movie, Breakin’. Did you guys ever see this one? Released in 1984, the basic premise is that a struggling young jazz dancer meets up with two break-dancers and together they become the sensation of the street crowds. It features ICE-T in his film debut as a club MC.  It even received a nomination for the Young Artist Award in the category of Best Family Motion Picture-Musical and Comedy in 1985.

It’s about the meshing of two different genres of dance: break dancing and jazz . It’s been a long time since I’ve seen this movie, but it reminds me that we don’t see break dancing much anymore. It’s been reduced to the “cheese” factor. People do the Robot, the Wave, the lockin’ and poppin’ motions and we all think “Gah, that’s so 80’s.” It’s laughable, a genre of dance that’s pretty much made fun of now.

Every once in a while, I’ll see the progression of this type of dancing in videos or movies. And it’s good! The moves are more innovative, more dangerous. And so not 80’s.

So, I gotta question for you: WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE DANCE MOVIE?

et cetera