Friday morning at 7am I found myself in the Hyatt Regency ballroom in Columbus, OH, grabbing a seat to get my gawk on. I am there to witness the bronze and silver level heats in the biggest ballroom Pro/Am dance competition in the world, the Ohio Star Ball. My friend Julie’s daughter Haley is dancing, she’s from Portland and I don’t’ want to miss an opportunity to cheer her on. I have no idea what I am in for. Seriously how has Christopher Guest not done a ballroom movie yet?
Now keep in mind I’m only there for the amateur portion, and these are the beginning of the beginners–Haley’s still in high school. But most of these women take this stuff seriously. I say women because almost everyone in this portion of the competition is over 40…well over 40, and female. And seriously because they’re dresses run upwards of $3,000 and are covered in enough sequins to blind an eagle. Their partners are dance instructors from back home, wherever home is, and they are all very good looking and have my gaydar ringing the alarms.
One of my favorite ladies is in her late 60′s, plump, about my height, and wears a hearing aid. Her brassy-blonde hair is plastered up in a perfect Mad Men recreation. She eschews the tanning bed aesthetic employed by most of the other women and instead her pale skin blends in with her light pink sequined gown. She looks like she is having the time of her life. While other beginners either have a plastered on smile or the look of fear stricken across their face, she openly laughs as her partner spins her around the room. Her eyes are framed by deep laugh lines that have clearly been earned. She isn’t necessarily the most technical dancer on the floor but I love watching her. Her exuberance fills the room.
What a great lesson for any performer, an audience wants to watch someone on stage who looks like they’re enjoying themselves even when they screw up.
As for Haley she received all first places in each and every category of dance she competed in. I couldn’t have been more happy or proud for her.
And now I’m looking forward to being led around the dance floor by a handsome, young gay man when I’m in my 80′s. You can bet I’ll be wearing sequins, fringe, feathers and a huge smile.