Whirling and twirling around the dance floor will leave you breathless at this fun class.
WHEN I THINK of the polka, I think of jolly brass bands playing cheerful music. For Viennese waltzing, my mind moves to a smooth three-count Strauss piece, this time with strings.
I know you can dance to both, but I had never thought of doing so.
When I heard about Broadway Waltz, sold to me as “music, romance, cardio,” I wanted to know more. Once I was spiraling with a partner at a breathless pace around the dance studio at Seattle Central College, I realized I had underestimated these ballroom dances.
“I do kickboxing to stay in shape for polka,” Broadway Waltz co-founder Chloe Lewis said. She was serious.
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Lewis and her husband, Myles Conley, fell in love with traveling social dance in San Francisco, which has a vibrant scene for social dances from the 19th century. While social dancing is popular in Seattle, with Lindy hop and salsa among many styles available, the ballroom social dances require, well, space. Think giant ballrooms with people sweeping and spinning across the floor in ballgowns and tails. (Formal attire not required at Broadway Waltz.)
Lewis teaches a beginner class before the monthly dance, and I showed up to learn how to polka and waltz. She started with the polka, giving us a primer on how to move with a partner, and also on the flow of the floor — the fast dancers travel on the outside. You always can walk in a stately fashion with a partner inside, moving at your own pace. But soon enough, she showed us how to spin 180 degrees with a partner, traveling across the floor.
It was fast. I got warm right away as I spun, and I was dizzy, too. It also was silly and fun to spin. When we stopped, I had to take a moment so I didn’t fall over.
We moved on to waltz, which in my head is a stately, slow dance. I was not wrong, but I quickly found out there are plenty of fast waltzes. We practiced the three-count step first.
After waltzing around the room, we added turns. With one less step, the spin goes even faster than the polka. Lewis told me to take small steps and keep my feet under me, which helped me from breaking out into a trot to keep up with my partners. Conley sometimes threw in additional flair, and taught me to lean back into his hand so we could spin faster.
While Lewis encourages dancers to learn to lead and follow, I was content to follow.
Soon, more experienced dancers showed up. I danced with a gentleman named Gerry, who told me waltz is like a language: “Learn enough, and you float in your partner’s arms,” he said. It becomes a meditation.
We also learned the rag, which is simple — you take one step at a time. This one I could do.
It was fun to watch more experienced dancers. You can dance at any age, and many here had been dancing for years. If you need a break, you go slowly. If you want to ramp it up, you go faster, traveling across the floor and adding your own style and footwork.
While the dance was not crowded, I can imagine how fun and sweaty it would be when packed with folks twirling around the floor.