Last month I bought myself a birthday present: front row center seats for Champions of the Dance, which we saw last night at the Hult Center in Eugene.
Excellent ticket-buying decision.
There's a time to be at least a few rows back in a large auditorium, so you can get the stage's big picture. But not for a professional ballroom dancing show which mostly featured one couple onstage at once.
We hugely enjoyed Champions of the Dance. The quality of the performers didn't seem quite up to the level of the finalists in The American Ballroom Challenge, which we've watched on PBS the past few years.
But they were darn good.
Maria Damalas was my favorite, for reasons that would be even more readily apparent than you can judge by this photo of her if you picture her dressed in a skin-tight body stocking rather than a dress.
Near the end of the show (thankfully, because it prevented my blood pressure from continuing to rise into a danger zone) Maria turned her back to the audience and performed a booty-shaking shimmy that was a marvel to behold.
You can get a flavor of what this level of ballroom dancing is like via a video of some American Ballroom Challenge competition. I've got some of these performances copied on DVD. (The Latin action that starts at about the 56 second mark is way cool.)
The moments when Maria -- to offer an example that comes readily, really readily, to mind -- danced near the edge of the stage and projected one of her intense sultry, sensual looks taught me a lot about professional dancing that isn't apparent from TV watching.
These dancers are into it. 100%. They don't hold anything back. When they move, everything moves. Every part of their body. Along with their mind, personality, emotions.
This morning I came across a passage in a Zen book.
Whatever you do
if you do it wholeheartedly,
it is perfect.
Guess that helps explain why the dancers we watched last night looked so perfect. Their perfection wasn't just a lack of missteps, but also was reflected in how they committed themselves so completely to each and every movement.
Laurel and I were surprised by how expressive the dancers' mouths were. Lots of opening and closing, which at first seemed a bit fakey to me.
But then I saw their ever-moving faces as part and parcel of their ever-moving legs, arms, torsos, and other body parts. Most of us preserve a "poker face" pretty much as we go through our day, not allowing our feelings to be openly apparent.
With these dancers, though, the music meshed with their mood, which meshed with their movements, which meshed with the entire atmosphere in the auditorium.
As was the rest of our Eugene experience, a town we don't visit as often as we should. Started at Vero Expresso House: great lattes and scones. Then had an enjoyable vegetarian dinner at Ratatouille, a few blocks away.