Learning to Waltz


Hooked on Strauss, Tchaikovsky, et al.,
Thoughts of whirling in a Viennese ball
With a lady, refined, beautifecent,
I begin with a zeal effervescent...

I The REMAC Class

In a crowded gymnasium
In garish white Reeboks
(No black shoes allowed:
They might scuff up the floor.)
I muddle about with a rise, step, fall.
Our instructor, a dancing comedienne,
While displaying her wit with stand-up one-liners,
Declines, or fails to notice my errors.
I'm assailed from every direction at once:
Too many embellishments: arch-turns and twinkles,
Shifting hand holds, and partners
Barely patient or off-count or clueless,
And the music is awful, and yet
I must prevail
For Vienna.

II At Home

I own a "groovy" ballroom-dancing manual
Written in the 70's, during the disco craze.
While reading and stepping for hours one night after class,
I noticed something was very wrong,
And then I remembered from a class in earlier years,
Another dance class I 'd abandoned in frustration:
"Heel. Toe. Toe. Heel. Toe. Toe. Heel. Toe. Toe!"
It was like a "Eureka!" experience, and then with gusto
I proceeded to circumnavigate my futon bed!

Waltzing alone with arms outstretched is rather like
Air-guitar: a tad juvenile, kind of dopey.
It's not the same without a partner's roving feet
To step on, or without the bland cantankerousness
Of those whose sense of rhythm can be called, at best,

III Merry-Go-Rounders

Thursday nights at eight
In a gated retiree's resort in La Mesa
Rey and Sara teach beginning round-dance:
The Dynamic Duo,
Both are ex-marines,
Crucial allies in my campaign, my
Dream of Napoleonic thirst
For the City of Waltzes.
The two play off one another
As only husband and wife can,
Embarrass each other in good-natured mischief,
Yet are mindful of our progress.
We laugh and learn. I'm learning much
Of two-step and cha-cha and tango
And yes, some waltz as I struggle,
My brain, like a frantic switchboard operator,
Trying to sort out Rey's cues,
The beat of the music,
The Traveling Box from the Traveling Door,
My own confused footwork,
The Wraps and the Vines,
And I often feel like I'm
Careening out of control...
But here I am
Learning how to learn the steps and the figures,
And I'm starting to get it, that
Inner feeling, the balance and sense,
Perhaps the stirrings of grace even.
But the waltz,
That lusty prize of my seeking,
Eludes me still. (the little minx!)
Brief moments of near-perfection,
Then I reel like a drunkard off-balance,
Lose time,
And Sara holds my arms up
To steady my erratic caperings.
But yet, I'm determined,
Determined to prevail
As I think on Vienna.

IV The Future?

Ah well, for the time being,
Those plane tickets will have to wait.
(And an Austrian fraülein yet wistfully sighs:
"Ach, Leide... Mein Held ist nicht hier.")

But one day, I shall return
Like some hip Moses,
Part the Atlantic
Or box-step across the waves,
Up the Iberian peninsula,
Past hordes of amused Frenchmen,
Beer stein for a partner,
Waltzing across the Rhine,
Past German beer tents,
With an
Faust returned, emancipated,
To seek his Gretchen.
Eastward on, then! To the City of Music:
Vienna, at last,
Home of the Waltz-King,
To try the aged halls with my new, American feet,
And there she sits...
Demolishing a wienerschnitzel,
Die Überweib in sequined evening gown,
Gloves to the elbows,
Lace fan at the ready,
In her 20's, maybe? 30's? 40's?
What does it matter, provided she's suitably charming?
And if my broken German can express my wish,
We'll waltz,
Nineteenth-century spectres whirling around us,
Ghosts of departed gentlemen and grand-dames
Masked and laughing,
Flowing on the strains of a phantom orchestra,
The ancient dust of the city awakened, transported
Into bygone times before the Wars.
We'll dance...
To whatever Johann Jr. can muster,
Drink our fill from the Beautiful Blue Danube,
Pay our respects to Dr. Fledermaus
Until she's tired.
Then, she can show me the sights of the city,
And then
We may fall in love and live happily ever after.
Yeah, it'll happen just like that!
(Ya gotta believe me, Doc!)
Well, I'm told I can at least manage a decent tango.

George Chadderdon © 2000