On Endings

Although the weather stubbornly refuses to warm up here in Central NY, so ends another academic year teaching Ballroom at SU. Already the campus is turning into a ghost town–though it will pick back up in a few weeks once summer classes begin. Graduation is this weekend, and the cycle starts anew.

This year has been good in a variety of ways, most notably as it’s the first year I’ve really felt confident teaching both the social class and my choreography. We gained several new dedicated members, had good turnout at the two competitions we attended, and performed three distinct pieces over a dozen times. This semester we achieved something I’ve yearned after for a while–we performed two pieces at the same event.

That’s big, because it not only means we have enough people and collective knowledge to perform multiple pieces–but it sets the stage for the production of our own Showcase, something I really desperately want to do before I leave Syracuse. It’s an idea I floated at the beginning of this calendar year, but it quickly became clear that I didn’t have the bandwidth to pull it off this semester. Assuming the ballroom enthusiasm survives the summer, right now I’m thinking of shooting for March 2017….we shall see.

But really what I want to do today is talk about the second piece I created this year.


In the Spring semester I set out to make something different, something uneven, something with a story. I was thinking Tango, I was thinking a serious drama–what I ended up with has a comic ending and some delicious insight into gender and relationships. Check out this impromptu show we did last week at one of Mr. Steve Ryan’s dances:

We performed this piece at least 5 times that I can recall, and every performance was different. Yes, obviously different people danced it, but what I’m getting at is the difference in audience responses. The Tango has a variety of emotional moments, from the initial rejection of Lady #2 to the fight scene and the subsequent friendship of the Ladies that underscores the piece. (I just want to say that I love that ending. It’s important to me to deconstruct the idea of women seeing each other as enemies.)

Over the span of the shows, I’ve noticed a difference in applause levels drawn on demographic lines. The older audiences chuckle and appreciate the ending, but seem more interested in the sexy beginning. The younger audiences, particularly the one at our Relay for Life show in the Carrier Dome, are SUPER into the ending, whooping in anticipation of the fight and cheering raucously when the women Viennese-Crossed off-stage. I’m not sure I know exactly what that all means, but it’s definitely interesting.

And to finish, here I present a couple complications. At our last practice of the semester, we re-tooled the piece to have two men and one woman, changing the choreography just a bit. Have a look:

What do you think? What does the change in dancers say about gender and expectations? I found it interesting that it didn’t seem right to keep the choreography identical, what with the corté-shove that happens in the original version and so on.

Oh, yeah, and then this happened:

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