Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A Tasteful Tuesday Guest Blog with Annie Burrows!

Oh, I think ballroom dancing is very Tasteful, and historical novels are all about what's Tasteful, so many thanks to Annie Burrows for bringing both to the Playground for today's Tasteful Tuesday!

Hi! I’m Annie Burrows, and I’ve never blogged on this site before. Just to introduce myself, I write Historicals for Harlequin, mainly set in the Regency era. And, for “Tasteful Tuesday”, I’m going to be talking about ballroom dancing, in particular, the waltz.

Fans of shows like “Strictly Come Dancing” or the US equivalent, “Dancing with the Stars” will not need to be told that the waltz is danced in 3 / 4 time with a strong accent on the first beat, and a basic pattern of step-step-close. The lady performing the waltz in these kind of shows usually wears something long and floaty that swirls as she twirls, and the man quite often adopts white tie and tails. It looks so tasteful, and romantic, doesn’t it, when you see couples such as Jade and Ian waltzing round the set of Strictly Come Dancing? And I have often set key scenes between my heroes and heroines during balls, describing the romance which sparks as they waltz in each others arms.

And yet, at the back of my mind, I always wondered how it could be possible to decide on a potential spouse during the course of one or two waltzes. And totally dismissed the old-fashioned notion that there was anything the least bit indecent about the waltz. Because, as I’m sure many of you know, at the time most of my stories are set, many people thought it was quite a shocking dance!

"We remarked with pain that the indecent foreign dance called the Waltz was introduced (we believe for the first time) at the English court on Friday last (reads an article from the Times of 1816)... it is quite sufficient to cast one's eyes on the voluptuous intertwining of the limbs and close compressure on the bodies in their dance, to see that it is indeed far removed from the modest reserve which has hitherto been considered distinctive of English females. So long as this obscene display was confined to prostitutes and adulteresses, we did not think it deserving of notice; but now…we feel it a duty to warn every parent against exposing his daughter to so fatal a contagion."

What? Voluptuous intertwining of limbs? A fatal contagion? Is that the same dance we’re talking about? Surely not!

Yet another group of people who strenuously opposed the introduction of waltzing to polite society were, strangely enough, dancing masters. They claimed that the basic steps were so simple, they could be learned in a relatively short time. Which might have posed a threat to their profession.

Simple! Hah! It might be simple for some people. Those who know their left foot from their right, for instance. But once I began to take ballroom dance lessons myself, I soon learned that doing the waltz is a vastly different experience from watching the waltz. For a start, you would not believe how much all that rising and falling makes your calf muscles ache. And then, once you master that basic step, there are reverse turns, spin turns, contra checks and hovers. Not to mention hesitations, and reverse spin turns.

But then, all of a sudden, something clicks, and…you’re dancing! And – wow! I could not believe how sexy it is, having my partner twirling me round, whilst holding me almost as closely as he would if he was just about to kiss me. It is, quite simply, one of the most erotic experiences you can have in a public place with all your clothes on! (The flip side is that there is no easy way to overcome the shock of being held, face on, by a man who is a virtual stranger to you. When he plants his feet between your legs, to push you into a reverse turn…yeeurgh!)

Ok, you get the picture. It is a very intimate experience, waltzing. Wasn’t it Oscar Wilde who described ballroom dancing as a vertical expression of a horizontal desire? How right he was! Now that I’ve done some waltzing myself, I can completely understand why it is that so many of the celebrities involved in “Strictly” embark on affaires with their dancing teachers. And why a girl could decide, during the course of one waltz, if she could marry her partner. Or not.

So, if you want to inject some romance back into your relationship, I can thoroughly recommend going along to your nearest dance school, and booking a course of lessons.

There is absolutely no guarantee you are going to end up looking like an Alesha Dixon, or a Tom Chambers (recent winners of Strictly…) My partner and I certainly don’t have “The Look”. For one thing, we are getting on a bit. And one of us (I won’t specify which) might possibly have two left feet. As one teacher remarked to my husband, whilst learning the tango, (which is supposed to be one of the sexiest dances) “You look about as romantic as if you’re pushing a trolley round a supermarket!”

But we are not going to give up our lessons. Spending the evening in each other’s arms, giggling as we blunder into the furniture, yelping as we tread on each other’s toes, and occasionally, gloriously, experiencing the triumph of mastering a complicated step, is always an utter delight.

And we can’t wait to get home!


Visit Annie at www.annie-burrows.co.uk. Annie's November book, Devilish Lord, Mysterious Miss, is available now. Click below to read the first chapter!


Playground Monitor said...

I love watching the ballroom dancing shows and "Strictly Ballroom" is a favorite movie of mine as is "Shall We Dance." What's that line Jennifer Lopez has about dancing being the vertical expression of a horizontal action?

And yes, it's so difficult to imagine anything sexy about it while you're concentrating so hard on one-two-three, one-two-three, promenade-two-three, pause-two-three, etc. But once it clicks, oh my!

Do you have sparkly ballroom shoes? Don't tell, but I do and I feel like a princess when I wear them.

Welcome to the Playground, Annie!

annie said...

Thanks for the welcome, Monitor!

Yes, I do have some shiny gold ballroom shoes. It's silly, but what I love best about them is... the suede soles you have to brush before you go onto the dance floor! It makes me feel like a Real Dancer...for about five minutes!

Smarty Pants said...

Welcome, Annie!

DB refuses to take dancing lessons. Perhaps if I sold it as being all the scandalous things it was described as here...

annie said...

Yes, Smarty Pants...remind him of those voluptuous twining limbs...

Seriously, it's good excercise too. All the celebrities taking part in the show lose weight, don't they!

Problem Child said...

Hi Annie! Welcome!

I really want to take ballroom dance lessons. Alas, my Geek makes Al Gore look like the funkiest chicken on the block. (I love him, but he ain't got rhythm.)

And anything that I can wear lovely sparkly shoes while doing is okay by me.

Annie said...

Funnily enough, I only managed to persuade my hubby to take lessons because jiving was on the list of dances we might learn, and he thought that would be cool.

Sadly, we have since learned that our little legs will just not go quite fast enough...

But, turns out he ADORES the waltz...makes him feel all masterful...sigh

Angel said...

How totally cool!!! I've, of course, read about waltzes in books and watched them on television, but hearing you describe it gave me such a clearer picture of why it is considered an intimate dance.

I'd love to take dancing lessons, of any kind. I doubt the hubby would ever consider it. Maybe the playfriends should just descend on a studio together...


Annie said...

Why not!
there's always a few ladies without partners in dance classes...and some ladies who go as a couple!
Though I always wonder how they decide which one should take the male part.

Instigator said...

I'd love to take ballroom lessons...can anyone see Zilla doing that? Yeah. Me neither. But the man does so many other things that I can't fault him for refusing to do this. We should to a Playfriend ballroom night.


Sherry Werth said...

Hi Annie and welcome! I love watching ballroom dancing. As a matter of fact, our vet teaches ballroom dancing at our local college. He's great and won a few competitions a few years back. I asked hubby if we could sign up for lessons. You should have seen the look on his face. It was a definite no. Oh well. : )

I love historicals and Devilish Lord, Mysterious Miss sounds great.

Annie said...

Oh, what a shame, Instigator and Sherry.
I bet your hubby's would change their minds if the teacher looked like Jennifer Lopez, in "Shall We Dance". Ooh, that tango!

catslady said...

Add my husband to the group that would rather walk on hot coals than dance (darn it all).

Kathy said...

Thanks for coming to play, Annie, and for this wonderful topic! I write historical romance and everything you mentioned about the waltz is exactly how I pictured it. Oh, to be dressed in an evening gown, train in hand, spinning round the floor with a handsome stranger, whilst other young misses pine to be in my shoes.

There is so much of history that we glamorize. But so much that is missed. Dirty dancing aside, crumping just doesn't quite satisfy. :)

Kathy said...

Annie, what inspired you to write historical Regencies?

Also, where do you get your ideas and your research?

Thanks! :)

Annie said...

Catslady - lots of men out there like your hubby. Think it somehow isn't masculine, I guess. You could try telling him skin tight trousers and sequinned shirts aren't compulsory!!

Yes, Kathy, the waltz is fabulously romantic. Only problem is, now I've learned how difficult it is, I have trouble writing hero and heroine holding conversations while they dance (the stock method of getting h/h interaction in an age where they were so very rarely alone to speak of anything deep) Because, whenever I stop paying attention to the steps, I go completely wrong. Nothing romantic about stepping on your partners toes.
I spose those girls who manage witty repartee whilst dancing have been taking lessons a lot longer than me!

Annie said...

Kathy, you write historical romance too? What period?

Inspiration - I have devoured books by Jane Austen, and later Georgette Heyer for years. And I read history books, too. Lives of the aristocracy, and histories of stately homes I visit. Walking through such places, gazing at portraits of generations of titled families, and seeing the everyday objects they use...then going down the back stairs to see how their servants lived...

But mostly, I just daydream. Can't seem to help it!

Kathy said...

Hey Annie! I write Regency Historicals now. I've written a Native American romance too. I submitted to HQN Mills & Boon in March and got a very detailed rejection a little over a week ago.

I'm eager to read Devilish Lord, Mysterious Miss! :)

Sounds like you find inspiration the same ways I do. There is nothing like walking where your characters would have walked, doing things your characters would have done. Eating the same things. I get so invigorated by doing that too.

Are you more motivated by historical events or by the characters themselves when you write? Thanks!

Annie said...

Kathy, sorry not to reply before now, but due to time difference, your last comment was way past my bedtime!
I am more inspired by characters than by historical events, which makes me a romance writer, rather than a historical writer.
Devilish Lord, for instance sprang from me thinking about a character who first appeared briefly in "The Earl's Untouched Bride". Lord Matthison was a ruthless gambler, reputed never to lose, with sinister eyes and a world weary manner. Well, I just had to have him as a hero eventually!
Good luck with your submissions to Harlequin. I love Native American stories - we don't get very many released over here in the UK!

Laurie said...

My favorite TV show is So You Think You Can Dance. They make the moves of all the various styles of dance look so easy!
I agree that waltzes are so romantic!! I love reading historical romance, the glitter, glamour and elegance of the Ton's balls... the scandals too!

I have two left feet and no sense of rhythm. i love music too but I'm tone deaf. I'm so in awe of all the talented performers!