Posted on Jan 16, 2014 in All Blog Posts, Entertainment, Sports

“To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful. This is power, it is glory on earth and it is yours for the taking.”

Agnes De Mille

Whether a Viennese Waltz, Irish Quadrille, Greek Horos, or Argentine Tango, most countries have a national dance.  When dignitaries visit, the welcome ceremony often includes a dance presentation as a gesture of hospitality.  Dance, along with music, is one of the purest expressions of joy and energy, and one of the easiest to share.  With language barriers removed, one can instantly fuse with the life force which fills the room.

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“A good dancer knows that the dance and the music comes from same place – the heart!”

Paul Bamikole

Because dancing requires no language, for centuries it has also been the favored romantic ploy for many a bashful beau.  When words fail, a tasteful two-step can lead a lady into a gentleman’s arms.  (as we learned with lipstick hankies.)

“I liked the way he danced.  And then I liked the way we danced together.”

Anita Diamant, Good Harbor

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“He had convinced her to dance with him, and she said she had been in love by the end of the song. He told her he had been in love before the beginning.”

Cassandra Clare, Saving Raphael Santiago

Back in the heyday of handkerchiefs, before the fox trot and flirting were trounced by texting and tweeting, a gal who was a good dancer was never at a loss for a date. (This tidbit came from my mother, who loved to dance.)  Literally a century before Dancing with the Stars, Hungarian dance instructor Arthur Murray (aka: Moishe Teichman) was plying his trade.  Like many a shy young man, he learned to dance to help his chances with the ladies.  Long before Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson were Wedding Crashers, Arthur Murray inveigled his way into neighborhood weddings to practice his perambulations with ladies of all ages.

Having studied under the famous dance duo of Irene and Vernon Castle, Murray began to teach dancing on his own in 1912 at the tender age of 17. Ever the entrepreneur, Murray sold dance lessons by mail, complete with footstep diagrams, and within a few years he had sold 500,000 lessons.  Yowsa!

This fanciful hankie is bordered by a ballroom filled with couples learning the Rumba.  A lady could excuse herself to powder her nose, and sneak a peek at her rosy cheat sheet.  If her companion was cursed with two left feet, she could casually drop her hankie, allowing him to furtively study the crib sheet, so he could literally rise to the occasion when he stood to return her wayward envoy.

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“You’re not allowed to have legs and not use them. Dance.”

Dianna Hardy, Heart of the Wolf 

Murray’s radical advertising spoke to the wallflower and/or nerd lurking in all of us.  He became famous for the headline: “How I Became Popular Overnight.”

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When a hotel manager requested Arthur Murray instructors for the Statler hotel chain, Murray became inspired to open his own chain of studios, and by 1946, he had 72 establishments.  Through the years, students include Eleanor Roosevelt, the Duke of Windsor, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Barbara Hutton, Elizabeth Arden and boxer Jack Dempsey.  (Ah-ha.  So that’s where he learned his fancy footwork!)   Murray’s television show, where he danced with his wife Kathryn, dominated the airwaves for a decade.  Below, a trio of hankies cavort with delight. Note the skirts for the Waltz are flowing and formal, while the rumba petticoats flounce and flirt.

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“Dancing is a vertical expression of a horizontal desire.”

Robert Frost

Quick!  When I say romantic dance partners, who comes to mind?

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If you didn’t envision Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, you’ve missed some terrific movies and spectacular dancing.  Here they partner for the 1935 movie Top Hat, featuring Irving Berlin hits Cheek to Cheek and Top Hat, White Tie and Tails.  Oooooohhhhh. The Piccolino.  Don’t you want to learn it?  Here Fred and Ginger draw us in, dancing cheek to cheek.

“The Argentine tango isn’t here to play nicely with other children.  The Argentine tango is here to seduce your women, spill things on your rug, and sneak out your bedroom window in the middle of the night.”

Seanan McGuire, Discount Armageddon

Happy couples swing and sway, jive and bop, or kick up the Charleston as colorful musical notes  envelope them.  Their expressions confirm you can’t help but smile when you dance.

 

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“Nobody cares if you can’t dance well.  Just get up and dance.

Great dancers are great because of their passion.”

Martha Graham

 dance024 High spirits and high steps abound in this fanciful swirl of beating hearts .   It’s a burst of buoyant ebuillence as lovers swirl and twirl in joyful abandon.  What a perfect invitation to “Be My Valentine.”dance026

“It’s the heart afraid of breaking that never learns to dance.”

Amanda McBroom, The Rose

 

Alas, for some, dancing may stir up sad memories – whether you were never invited to prom, or perhaps you caught your beloved in the arms of another, as this next hankie records.

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After the Ball was a waltz written in 1891. The lyrics recount the musing of an aged uncle telling his niece why he never married.  He saw his sweetheart kissing another man at a ball.  In his anger, he never allowed his true love to explain.  Only years later, when the lady had died, did he discover his folly.  The gentleman he spied kissing his true love was her brother.  A tragic lesson learned  for both jumping to conclusions and lack of forgiveness.  As Dr. Phil reminds us “Would you rather be right, or be happy?”  Apparently the message resonated with many, as two million copies of the sheet music sold in 1892, with sales eventually reaching five million, making it the best-selling tune in Tin Pan Alley history.

So, if you missed the prom, or ever made a fool of yourself on the dance floor and haven’t danced since,  now’s your chance to celebrate a New Year and a new you.

“Get your dance on today…move some energy around…visualize everything as you want it to be…Fullness, Completeness…You!”

Sereda Aleta Dailey, The Oracle of Poetic Wisdom 

Even children’s handkerchiefs contained images of dancing, from the minuet to swing.

 

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“Kids: they dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.”

William Edgar Stafford

 

“Hey Corny, Let’s Pop!” “Hi Worm, Let’s Squirm!”  Bobby soxers burn up the linoleum as they spin those golden platters.  A decade later, the Cool Cats admonish us to “Go Man Go!”

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 “Dance, dance, dance ‘til you drop.”

W. H. Auden

 

 

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These kids spell it out perfectly. (Oh to have a spine so supple…)

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These ultra thin beat generation dancers bring to mind a video you first saw in our exercise blog.  There, Audrey Hepburn dances for Fred Astaire in the 1954 movie Funny Face.

A swirl and twirl of Whirling Dervishes

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“In a society that worships love, freedom and beauty, dance is sacred.  It is a prayer for the future, a remembrance of the past and a joyful exclamation of thanks for the present.”

Amelia Atwater-Rhodes, The Shapeshifters: The Kiesha’ra of the Den of Shadows

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My knowledge of Dervishes is miniscule, but I find them fascinating.  From what I’ve read, a dervish is a Sufi ascetic, a mystic poised between the material and cosmic worlds, and his dance is part of a ceremony undertaken to reach religious ecstasy.   My friend George McLaird, a retired minister, and his wife Linda were allowed to witness a Dervish ceremony while visiting Turkey.  George said the ceremony took about five hours and the twirling men held one hand up to heaven and the other hand down to the earth.  In his words “We were told these men were receiving healing energy from heaven and distributing it to every being on earth.  This then was not a dance, but a channeling of sorts undertaken for the good of humankind.”

In case you think your dancing is diminished by comparison, listen to what the great Gene Kelly has to say about his craft, when referring to his role in Singing in the Rain:

“You dance love, and you dance joy, and you dance dreams. And I know if I can make you smile by jumping over a couple of couches or running through a rainstorm, then I’ll be very glad to be a song and dance man.”

Gene Kelly

It’s all about the joy.  So Dance!  Don’t wait.  We all have a dancer somewhere in our soul.

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“We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.”

Frederich Nietzsche

 Just for Fun 

Songs about dancing number in the thousands, but just for fun, we’ll include Abba’s Dancing Queen for your enjoyment.

 

 

My favorite Boogie Woogie

Note how still his upper torso is. The guy is a pro.

 

Yul Brynner and Deobrah Kerr perform a lively waltz to Shall We Dance from the 1956 movie the King and I.  By the time he finally puts his hand around her waist, you can almost see the sparks fly.

 

The great Bojangles Robinson and Shirley Temple take it to the stairs in The Little Colonel, 1935

 

There are a gazillion more, like watching blind Lt. Col. Frank Slade (Al Pacino) dance the tango with Gabrielle Anwar in Scent of A Woman (1992).  Or Kevin Bacon in the original Flashdance, or…

Share with us one of your favorites…..

5 Comments

  1. 2-24-2014

    WOW! These are incredible. As a (swing) dancer and vintage collector I NEVER thought of having a handkerchief collection. They are amazing and the detail is outstanding. Thank you for sharing these. I’m inspired to write short stories based on these little gems. What a great writing prompt. Thanks for the inspiration.

    ~ Tam Francis ~
    http://www.girlinthejitterbugdress.com

  2. 3-1-2014

    Hey ann! This is Madeline, Selby’s niece. My mom showed me this post because I dance, and I really liked it! One of my favorite dances is here:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vSgKHQVqL2c
    (skip to 1:43 for the beginning of the dance:)
    I think this waltz is so pretty. Have a great day!
    Madeline

    • 3-15-2014

      Ok Maddie Grace, you’re on. Next time I’m in Oklahoma, I want to see you dance!

  3. 3-6-2014

    You’ve done it again! Another bright, lovely and entertaining blog about dance and handkerchiefs. Many thanks! The old movie clips bring back fun memories.

    • 3-15-2014

      Aren’t they fun? One lady told me her grandmother told her, that her grandmother told her (still following?) when asked to dance, if a lady had soiled or lost a glove, she had to put her handkerchief in the palm of her hand before accepting the hand of a gentleman, so as the two “bare skins” would not touch. After watching Yul Brynner’s eyes bore into Deborah Kerr, perhaps grandma was right. Note how she quickly guards her hands behind her back when it looks as though he’s about to grab them again.

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