Dancing in snow, Dec 1996

Text by Michael Broschat, with Melissa Meier

As those of you who saw our Christmas letter know, we were scheduled to attend a week-long “dance camp” [officially known as “Wild Week”] in northern Washington during Christmas week. I’m not sure that both of us were all that excited about it, although one of us had attended earlier such events, and assured the other that, indeed, a good [great!] time could be expected.

We returned to Seattle from California, on Christmas Day, to relatively good weather, but were told at the car park that six to twelve inches of snow were expected overnight. [One of us had been whining to her mother that it didn’t feel like Christmas in California....] Great, we thought ironically, because we were not only leaving the next day for dance camp, but had to go back to the airport to pick up a professor from Stanford who was serving as one of the instructors.

Well, the day dawned, but no snow. As the light increased, though, the snow began. Richard’s flight was first delayed three hours, then cancelled altogether. The ride coordinator told us that Richard would just camp out at the San Jose airport, and take whatever flight he could get, whenever. So, we should go up north on our own.

Probably the toughest road conditions we encountered during the next week were those that led from our house to the nearest thoroughfare. Once on the freeway, I never got over 30 mph (or second gear), and the road had become a single-lane passage containing numberless cars trying to get home while it was still possible. All the while, the snow gradually increased in intensity.

When we reached Edmonds (the site of the ferry we had to take), we decided to give up, and stay the night in a motel. For the most part, this was because we had no idea what road conditions would be like on the other side of the water, together with the fact that night was fast falling (not that it was easy to tell the difference between night and day, even at that time).

We found the motel parking lot, and eased the car next to some other orphans. Our room was clean and dry, and it certainly seemed like we’d made the right choice.

For dinner, we decided to march out upon the now white plain (Edmonds is flat, for the most part, at least in contrast with Seattle), and find a meal somewhere. That took a while. You have to find some place that is open. But, the snow had slowed considerably, and it was the magic that only a snowy evening can be. Eventually, we chanced upon a French restaurant (Melissa’s favorite culture), and entered [Cafe de Paris]. We were met, eventually, by the chef. His waiters had not been able to get in to work, so he was doing everything. As so often happens in such cases, everyone got into the spirit of the situation, and new guests found their own tables, and tolerated less than admirable service. Had anyone started singing, the whole restaurant (some 18 customers, at one time) would have joined in.

It snowed all night. The next morning, we had to dig the car out of the parking lot with the shovel I’d brought. On the roads, the snow was packed enough to allow passage (we had studs on the tires), but getting to the road took nearly an hour.

The ferry was running, but was—shall we say, not crowded. Upon getting to the other side, we set off into the Unknown, but fared well enough. The roads were packed sufficiently to allow navigation, especially with studs, and we eventually got to Port Townsend. That scene was probably the worst we saw during the entire trip, as people in the town were often having great difficulty getting up and down the hills. I think there were more cars along the side of the road than on it. But, the studded BMW worked its way around the messes, and eventually turned into Fort Worden, where we’d arrived in time for lunch at the communal cafeteria.

Turned out, most people had already arrived, including the professor who we didn’t even know had yet gotten to Seattle.

We found our room, and then went off to the first class (we’d missed the morning classes, of course).

Each day had two class periods before and after lunch. So, four in all. Melissa had been most interested in taking “vintage” (=old fashioned) classes, as well as tap. The tap dance teacher never did make it up from Las Vegas, so she had to settle for vintage. Having no particular interests, myself (I was probably the only participant who had no particular interest in dance—I just show up every now and again), I went with Melissa.

That was fortunate. The vintage teacher had, being a teacher of Young People at Stanford, developed an interest in “street” dancing. What he meant by that was dancing that did not follow any particular school—dancing that young people learned from each other. This had proved to be such fun for people at Stanford that he taught it to us, too. It was equally well received at dance camp. Its attraction is that is very simple but, like any other dance, can be extended according to your abilities and interests. Another attraction (at least, for the Young People) is that it can be danced to any music, and I mean any music. We did waltz to synthesizer polka music, and polka to TexMex music. It never seemed to matter.

There was a dance every night, and although a live band had been arranged for each, there was no assurance that they could make it to the camp. The organizer of the first two bands is a Spokane resident (directly east of the dance camp), but got there by way of Portland, Oregon (I can’t remember how). He found a musician or two in Port Townsend, and the dance went on.

That’s how it continued through New Year’s Eve—dancing in classes all day, then as long into the night as one wished (we were usually through by midnight, but younger folks—what a difference a year or two makes, evidently, would go until early morning).

One interesting exception to the routine occurred the night before the New Year’s Eve Ball. When camp starts, everyone is told that a cabaret is held before New Year’s, and that anyone can participate. Because dancers turn out to be either professional (or frustrated) entertainers, anyway, such an event has to be limited more than encouraged, and in addition to all-day dancing and all-night partying, many campers also worked up skits and routines for the cabaret. By the time it went on, the snow had begun to turn to slush, and was even more of a mess than when it was in a purely “solid” form, but everyone found their way to the fort’s theater, and this was one occasion when one was hard pressed to distinguish between the actors and the audience. Only a few of us held out for specialization, and stuck to our God-given roles as enthusiastic audience members.

Suffice to say, the evening was—as promised, very special. Not everyone is as talented as everyone else, nor is everyone as talented as each might imagine, but the overall effect was simply wonderful, and it was an experience that truly enhanced the already remarkable experience of being thrown together for such a questionable purpose as dancing. They even allowed foreigners there, and we had to put up with accents from England, Australia, and, if you can believe it—Sweden. The youngest attendees didn’t speak at all yet.

Good fun, and I even learned a thing or two (keeping your eyes closed doesn’t keep out everything)…