We Could Have Danced All Night!

by Suzanne Calvin
David and Tami Conner

Imagine being transported to the late 19th century Vienna, a place where art, music, and dance reached into every Austrian home. Gustav Klimt envisioned his stunning work, The Kiss. Anton Bruckner and Johannes Brahms composed breathtaking masterpieces to be heard for years to come. And an elegance and beauty proudly presented itself in the Viennese waltz.

This was the feeling yesterday at Dallas’ Sammons Cultural Center when a group of curious Metroplex residents took the dance floor in an introductory ballroom dance lesson led by dance gurus David and Tami Conner. At first, the class began with laughter and awkwardness with people staring at their own feet and occasionally stepping on each others toes. But these brave souls pressed on, determined to relive the magic of the 19th century Viennese bourgeoisie.

By the time Johann Strauss premiered Die Fledermaus in 1874, he was already well known as the “King of the Waltz,” having great success with orchestral pieces such as Blue Danube. In Die Fledermaus, however, Strauss was able to portray characters in the opera through the music of the waltz. For example, at one point, Alfred attempts to ply Rosalinda with alcohol in order to seduce her. One can hear the “seduction” he uses in the waltz accompanying that scene. Another example involves the maid Adele, who has disguised herself as a guest at the ball. She sings the playful waltz “Mein Herr Marquis,” in order to emphasize her deception. The beautiful waltz, “Brüderline,” occurs during the peak of the second act, where Faulke toasts to brotherhood and love. All the characters sing together in an ensemble that has been known to be one the most beautiful pieces of music in Viennese history. Strauss magnificently showed that the waltz can be more than just a dance, but can also encompass wit, trickery, and romance, and joy.

It seemed like a long road ahead for those inexperienced dancers that afternoon, though. After a session of reviewing basic steps and exploring moves such as “quarter-turns,” “underarm-turns,” and “progressive walks,” complete with laughs, smiles, and a few amusing one-liners from the instructor, a certain magic began to flow throughout the room. Couples began to think beyond the dance floor and listen to the music. They let their emotions take over. And suddenly a group of north Texans was whisked away to 19th century Austria, dancing for the Hapsburg Court of Vienna.

By the end of the night, an exhibition was performed by David and Tami that took what we had learned that day and elevated it to new heights. They electrified the dance floor with their award winning routine. A truly awesome end to an already excellent night.

This was an evening filled with friends and laughter. And certainly, each person there was touched by the magic of the Viennese Waltz.

Jonathan D. Morales, The Dallas Opera

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