Oct 172012

Envision a debonair gentleman in a suave tuxedo gently extending a hand to an elegant lady draped in a gown fit for a princess. Next imagine them embracing in a waltz and gracefully moving effortlessly around a gleaming dance floor lit by crystal chandeliers. You are probably thinking of Cinderella, which is close but it is actually a more realistic fairy tale… and a more competitive one.

Ballroom dancing is alive and well in Louisville and anyone in the Galt House on September 29th or 30th can attest to that. Some might have thought a fairy godmother was nearby with all the regal couples about but they were just participants in the U.S. Pro/Am Ballroom Dance Championship.  Dressed like royalty other than the white patches displaying double digits in black on their back, competitors ages 11 to 89 danced the night away to an assortment of Frank Sinatra and classical compositions. There might have even been a few pairs of glass slippers, but rest assured no pumpkin carriages were waiting in the parking garage.

Ballroom dancing is not just for royalty anymore as everyone is encouraged to participate. Once you witness the fun and fantasy behind the event, you might be compelled to step on the dance floor yourself. The U.S. Pro/Am Ballroom Dance Championship has been celebrated since 1973 and takes place in over 35 states and 25 countries worldwide.

The interesting thing about Ballroom dancing is that it is NOT boring. These couples do not just two step across the floor in mundane patterns. The competition is made up of a variety of types of dance including, but not limited to the Foxtrot, Waltz, Cha Cha, Rumba and the passionate Salsa and Tango dances. Each type and style of dance is more passionate than the next. Since it is a competition, the dancers themselves vary in age, style and performance with each couple offering viewers a unique perspective of individuality.

Ballroom Dance with Tango

Ballroom Dance at Galt House

Ballroom dancing is a regal style of dance, but it is also filled with very formal passion. The noble roots bring an air to the dance floor that other styles of dance often lack. Modern ballroom competitions have melded a variety of cultural dances into the original programming to create a more diverse and entertaining atmosphere for dancers and viewers alike.

Ballroom dancing takes us back to a different era when glamor and elegance was at its height in the world. Those looking to step back in time might enjoy checking out the Louisville Ballroom Club for an introduction and instruction to Ballroom Dancing. They actually have monthly events at the Kosair Shrine Temple at 812 South 2nd Street. Dance enthusiasts can acquire information on the dance studios and clubs around town that provide an outlet for the ever expanding ballroom dance community.

What lady doesn’t like to dress up like a princess and be twirled around the dance floor by her prince? Cinderella might have missed the Ball, but thanks to the growing participants locally, there will be plenty more Ballroom dances coming in the future.

Aug 142012

If you ask most modern Americans about dance, their initial thoughts probably come in the form of the television show ‘Dancing with the Stars” or the local club scene. However, if you ask a Native American the same question, their thoughts will flow towards the rich history of dance in the tradition of the people, their people.

The American Indian culture is rich in rhythmic, soul enriching dance. The indigenous culture of North American spent thousands of years dancing and enacting the vitality of life itself. They utilize dance as a tool for storytelling, prayer and celebration with each generation passing down the history of the last through tribal dance.

The Native Americans share a special harmonious connection with mother earth. They also shared the ancient belief that everything and everyone were connected, thus their dances usually incorporated a circle formation. The thunderous pounding of handmade drums was the heartbeat of the dance and melodic flutes accompanied their beating. Young warriors once returned from battle or a hunt and acted out their accomplishments and experiences for the tribe with detailed dances. The more warriors that participated, the more their stories unfolded for their tribe.

One of the most known Native dances is The Sun Dance, which was once outlawed in the United States because our government saw it as self-mutilation. However, the Sun Dance is a traditional religious ceremony for the tribal people that signifies a youth becoming a warrior and was originally restricted to the males of the tribe. In some tribal circles the dance also paid homage to the buffalo that supported every aspect of native survival including food, shelter and clothing. The young warriors celebrate this dance by undergoing painful, ritual piercings using eagle talons to gain strength and endurance. The dance entailed traditional drums, the sacred pipe, tobacco offerings, praying and fasting. The Great Mystery receives the sacrifice of flesh while prayers are given to the Tree of Life in direct connection to the Grandfather, aka the Creator.

The Hoop Dance is a beautiful Native dance where shapes are formed like the butterfly, the eagle, the snake and the coyote with the hoops symbolizing the never ending circle of life. The dance itself involves swift gestures and the movement and construction of hoops around the body. The hoops are made to interlock so they extend from the bodies of the dancers to form appendages representing the animals like wings and tails. The hoops themselves are handmade and decorated with colorful tapes and ribbons.

The Hoop Dance

Hoop Dance 2

There are many other beautiful dances done by the Native American people. The dancers also design their own costumes for these ceremonies often involving elaborate head dresses and feathered apparel. Each tribe has their own version of the traditional dances like the Feather Dance, Rain Dance, Ghost Dance etc.

The Feather Dance

The Lakota, Sioux, Cherokee, Cheyenne, and other tribes keep their traditions alive in song and dance. Today these celebrations still happen on reservations and at gatherings like tribal Pow Wow’s. There are several events in Kentucky yearly where one can witness firsthand the incredible energy and traditional dance of the Original Americans. If an opportunity arrives for you to witness one of the amazing Native dances, you should definitely check it out.

Upcoming Events:

Sept. 1st thru 2nd The Native American Heritage Museum Pow Wow at Phillips Farm located at 4116 Cumberland Falls Highway in Corbin KY

Sept. 8th Visceral at Lisa’s Oak Street Lounge

Sept. 29th the BBQ Afterpary with Gatsby ft. Them Bumping Betties and Freaking Freak Machine at Shandies located at 202 Broadway in Paducah.

Oct. 20th and 21st The Native Dawn Pow Wow at 123 Township Square in Lawrenceburg KY