Note: Formal Ballroom Dance competition involves five specific dance forms. This sonnet cycle attempts to introduce and describe them. I have also composed and attached audio recordings of a Waltz and Tango as accompaniment.

Foxtrot

The Foxtrot is an easy dance to learn.
__Just hold your partner in a close embrace
__And walk in step with elegance and grace
__Until you pause and make a gliding turn.
In competition, tempos are quite slow,
__A basic two step without twirls or dips.
__In national and world championships
__The Foxtrot’s one of five that all must know.
For fun, a one-step Foxtrot adds a flare,
__With variations called the Baltimore,
__The Charleston, the Black Bottom, and more—
__With added kicks and flips for those who dare.
The Foxtrot, as with every ballroom dance,
Is a great way to celebrate romance.

 

Quickstep

The Quickstep is a fast-paced, ballroom dance
__Derived from Foxtrot and the Charleston.
__Although it seems spontaneously fun
__There’s not a single step that’s left to chance.
For everyone who does the Quickstep knows
__That with their partner they will have to learn
__To do a fishtail, lock, and quarter turn
__While skipping, pausing, gliding on their toes.
The music starts, the signal to begin,
__And then they dance. Somewhere along the way
__The better dancers add a cross chassé,
__A zig-zag, and a double reverse spin,
A tipsy to the right, a six-quick run,
A tipsy to the left, and then it’s done.

 

Waltz*

A Waltz danced in iambic meter? No way!
__For sonnets are duple, the waltz triple beat,
__Which creates a conflict as they each compete
__Like Zeus and Demeter to each win the day.
With simple and mincing steps dancers rotate
__While twirling and swirling around the dance floor.
__The slow, steady music inspires them to soar
__In ways that are both elegant and ornate.
With one-two-three, one-two-three onward they fly,
__Their feet seemingly never touching the ground,
__While spinning and twirling around and around
__Until the dance ends with a whisper and sigh.
The dancers all bow before saying “Good-night!”
And hand in hand travel home in the moonlight.

*Note: This poem has the form of an iambic pentameter sonnet (with feminine endings throughout—11 syllable lines) but the beat of the words is in triple meter as in a waltz (see line 9 for the explicit triple beat written out). The effect is both jarring and strangely amusing. If someone has a name for this rhythm, I’d love to know what it is.

 

Viennese Waltz

A second waltz is called the Viennese,
__A high-speed, lilting, dizzy, spinning, reel
__Once thought a scandal for its sex appeal,
__Condemned by prim and proper folks as “sleaze.”
For ne’er before had couples stood so close
__And, face-to-face, danced by themselves alone.
__The scandal was, of course, quite overblown,
__And waltzing soon had Europe on its toes.
The dance allows no sudden stops or dips,
__The dancers simply spin to left or right
__Transcircuiting the dancefloor with delight
__With hands on back and shoulder, not on hips!
Beginning waltzers find themselves hard put
To keep from stepping on their partner’s foot.

 

Tango

“To Tango,” as the saying goes, “takes two,”
__A truth which ought to be self-evident.
__For three—perhaps two women and one gent—
__Would get all tango-tangled and askew.
And Tango solos would, of course, be bleak,
__For Tango, as with every ballroom dance,
__Is all about the passion of romance,
__And, by yourself, you can’t dance cheek-to-cheek!
So, grab a partner, Tango if you dare,
__Enfolding one another in embrace
__While acting out together, face-to-face,
__A torrid, heart-felt, dance-floor love affair.
When Tango-ing it never is remiss
To end the dance with an impassioned kiss.

 

 

 

James A. Tweedie is a recently retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He likes to walk on the beach with his wife. He has written and self-published four novels and a collection of short stories. He has several hundred unpublished poems tucked away in drawers.


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7 Responses

  1. Sally Cook

    Dear Mr.Tweedie,

    Your dance poems are delightfulexcursions into the art of dance — descriptive and full of fun. Only one seems somewhat awkward to me — that is “Waltz”. Perhaps it is only that you tried to pack so much into it in terms of meter and form, and it got away from you. In any case, I enjoyed the entire idea immensely..

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, Sally. Did you read the explanatory note for the waltz poem? If not, please do.

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Oh, yes – I did read it and it was very clear. It was very ambitions, but I just don’t think it worked. It could be you were trying to do too much in one short poem. I find that sometimes I end by re-writing several times; in my opinion, this may be one of those times for you.. I would like to see all sections of this unusual poem be on a level playing ground.
        Shall we dance?

  2. Amy Foreman

    Delightful, James! Your “Waltz” reminded me of a humorous song by Mason Williams, which, years ago, our children learned and performed for a local music club. In the song, Jonathan W. Aster, the master dancing man, finds a three-legged woman at the ball, and they enjoy a triple/duple/triple/duple “waltz.” You might get a smile out of William’s take on this juxtaposition: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbyeZhF1_cY.

    Reply
  3. C.B. Anderson

    I guess I’m just not in an ekphrastic mood, for I thought the whole sequence was a monumental waste of talent.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      Thank you, C.B., for acknowledging the talent—wasted or no!

      Reply
  4. Monty

    I don’t see how one commenter above could deem these poems to be “a waste of talent”; to me, they’re a realisation of talent, and they undeniably display talent.

    And as for another commenter’s groundless appraisal that ‘Waltz’ is “awkward”, and “it got away from you”; I’m perplexed that one can utter such words without a hint of explanation as to how/why they feel that to be the case. What’s more, even after reading the poem’s explanatory Note (11 syllables, etc) she still maintained her initial stance . . again with no explanation offered.

    I feel these to be an admirable sequence of poems: written by one for whom the subject-matter is obviously dearly held.

    Reply

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