August 10, 2010
An Open Letter To CVD Members
This past year I have had the pleasure of attending many dance events:
The Queen Mary Dance Week, Richard
Powers dance weekends in Lexington, Berea, and Cincinnati, and the Stanford Historic Dance Week and its concurrent weekends in Palo
Alto. Comparisons, therefore, come easily.
Although many challenging steps and choreographies are taught at the other venues, they lack a coherence only found at Newport. Not
simply classes and a ball or two added as in other venues, but an atmosphere occurs in Newport unequaled anywhere.
The combination of classes, living together, dining together, balls, and afterparties in a campus setting has promoted a
continuing camaraderie that keeps building over the years. This, along with the atmosphere created by the ball sites fosters the
magic that is Newport.
It doesnít stop there. I am simply in awe of the amazing transformation of the dancers. Through their designs, fabrics, color, and
accoutrements, the dancers metamorphose from their ordinary everyday selves into inspired beauty. And as the participants
envision themselves anew each evening with continually exquisite choices, beauty is created anew at each event! (The whole so much
greater than the sum of its parts!)
Therefore, I would like to extend a great, big thank you to all the CVD members whose time, energy, and vision have continued to make The Newport Dance Week possible. Thank you for all your planning, foresight, hard work and love. I have participated in the NVDW many times over the years but the full import of what I have been part of has, only now, become wholly apparent. Perhaps this appreciation and new lens has become clearer because of Bill Cunninghamís admiring eyes.
(I canít wait to see the encomiums heaped upon NDW in this Sundayís Times.)
If someone sat down with me over a cup of tea, and asked me to
describe the perfect, most heavenly holiday I could possibly imagine,
there wouldn't be a single detail that wouldn't match Newport 1996,
moment by moment. The balls were almost heartbreakingly beautiful.
The food, the accommodations, the dance classes, all exceeded my
expectations by an exponential factor. The teachers were superb. I
feel as though my dancing has come up to a whole new level.
The participants were friendly, welcoming, hilariously funny,
pleasant, and delightfully eccentric. I laughed myself into a stomach
ache on many separate occasions. (I would not recommend this in an
Edwardian corset, however).
What I would say, as a first time visitor, is that the event was
MUCH less scary and MUCH less intimidating than I expected it to be.
I was a little afraid that I would be judged on my dancing and my
costuming. That wasn't at all the case (except maybe by Judge Roy
Ben.) It was all much more relaxed and laid-back than I'd been
expecting. I walked into the welcoming dance feeling a little nervous
and intimidated, but I learned quickly that the Newport veterans are
a very warm-hearted, hail-fellow-well-met kind of bunch. It helped to
stay in Narragansett which was the location of several impromptu
house parties. It was also nice to be living in Jane's Emporium,
which gave me a chance to watch several handsome gents change into
their tails, so to speak.
I did find that once people knew I was a first-time visitor they
more or less took me under their wing and explained things to me. I
found it helpful to be involved in some of the events on a volunteer
basis, and it also helped to do a little table-hopping during
mealtimes, to become acquainted with folks from other states.
One thing I would suggest to people who are thinking of coming for
the first time would be to get in touch with the organizers and try
to get a list of possible outfits that might be needed (maybe someone
at CVD could compile
some alternative lists and suggestions for things that might work?) I
don't mean vintage clothes or reproductions, but possible modern
substitutes. I also would have liked a round-robin at the welcoming
dance or some other kind of ice-breaker that would get me introduced
to people I don't know. I was fortunate that I knew the CVD crowd,
but even so I felt a bit nervous at that event.
All in all, though, it was the most perfect, enjoyable, delightful
holiday I have ever spent. There wasn't one single activity or event
that I would skip. My only complaint is that it was all over so
quickly--the week just flew by. Long may she wave!
I was very pleased with how well-treated I was by everyone at
Newport, new though I was. Many gentlemen were very generous in
asking me to dance, and I didn't have to sit out an inordinate number
of dances. I noticed, however, that I got asked to dance less at
the Western ball than at any other, and I am formulating a theory
about that. The Western ball is when I was dressed in the least
interesting and dowdiest style-- I think a girl stands a better
chance of getting asked to dance more if she wears a flashy eye-
catching outfit. (Certainly at the 1860's ball I got many compliments
on my dress from men, when generally I only expect to hear that sort
of thing from other women.) Everywhere else I dance men & women
both do the asking, and the whole atmosphere & culture are very
different from Newport, so I can't do any more experimentation on
this theory till next year, but it's an interesting theory...
Here is an interesting theory regarding the Western Ball that Joan
> P.S. -
> Another thought to add to your theory about the Western theme ball. Often
> during the week, many old-timers and CVD members are on their best
> behavior, and they especially try to take care of people who are sitting
> out a lot of dances, or who are newcomers, or just people who they haven't
> danced with for a while. By the last ball, however, they throw caution to
> the wind and dance with their best friends. (This is just theory also,
> BTW.) Also, may people leave on Saturday afternoon if they have a 2 day
> drive. I don't know what that does to the gender balance, but it could
> have an effect.
By the way, don't take this talk of my dancing less at the Western
Ball as a complaint. Overall I was treated most generously by
everyone, and not every ball can be a Cinderella experience!
Speaking of the Western Ball, there were several amusing occasions
caused by several pieces the orchestra played having 3 or 4
"endings." I saw this frustrate Andy several times, as he dipped me
or someone else for a grand finish, only to have the music continue.
The funniest time it happened was when I was dancing with Patri, and
the third time the piece "finished" only to continue, he let go of me
and started fumbling through that heavy coat trying to unsnap his
holster so he could draw his gun on the varmints!
It was Andy's first time at Newport, but he has been a regular at
Cincinnati's dance week for 10 years now. He computed the cost for
each, and discovered that they are almost exactly alike in price when
you take into account room, food, dance tuition, and tolls. (The
exact difference could vary, depending on where you eat in
Cincinnati-- McDonald's or Chez Louis. But Andy came up with Newport
costing $15 more.) I have never been to Cincinnati, but I have many
friends who have, and I think I know enough about it to confidently
say I prefer Newport. (I would come out of Cincinnati crippled and
stressed out!) In reply to this discovery, I replied to him:
> I'll take Newport any day. Fifteen dollars extra got me a combination of
> events much better suited to my tastes, a wider variety of things one can do
> outside of dance week events, e-mail sending ability, fancier locations in
> which to dance, a slightly cooler (temperature wise) location, and two very
> luxurious meals among the more commonplace ones. Plus all the commonplace
> meals were all-you-can-eat, convenient, and yummy.
Thanks so much to everyone at CVD for what I can honestly say is
the best vacation I've ever had -- and I've been to Disney World and
England twice each!!!