VOX POPULI: A ‘Zen’ in Ballroom Dancing Zeal

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By Jun Kawasaki
(First published in The Rafu Shimpo on August 4, 2011.)

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The biannual entertainment program “Dancing with the Stars” is slated to begin a new fall season on Sept. 19. It has attained top Nielsen ratings since its inception six years ago on the ABC television network. Featured is Western European and American ballroom (social) dancing performed by couples. Its repertory includes the standard dances such as cha cha, fox trot, waltz, rumba, polka and tango as well as various fad dances from the Charleston through the jitterbug, hustle and disco dancing.

Ballroom dance contests, both amateur and professional, are organized on a national and international scale in Europe, America and Japan. Here in the Los Angeles regional scene, regular ballroom dance classes and social events are held at various ethnic churches and community centers as well as private studios.

A “Zen” tenet, an aspect of Mahayana Buddha-dharma, avers, “A deed is worth doing only if it’s done well.” While one’s deed may fall short of the maxim, it still may be enjoyable — it would be even more satisfying had one taken a “Zen” reflective look inward of one’s own intent. Ballroom dancing embraces intricate choreographic discipline that requires each to learn a combination of foot and body movements constituting a unit or a repeated pattern of strides attuned to the selected dance (music) repertory — with a matched male partner leading in an engaging social performance.

Looking back at 20-plus (off and on) years of ballroom dance classes with my wife, I recall interludes of enduring moments. A common situation with all couples is the constant challenge in choreography, plus the pressing burden a man has to lead. In this regard, sensible teachers who have resorted to a “change of partners” procedure have served to relieve a couple from possible marital discord. The give-and-take beneficent aspect of ballroom dancing in general and for married couples in particular is exactly in accord with purported merits of an engaging social zeal that is assured in the Buddha-dharma tenets.

Marking 60 years of marriage this year, the wife and I, with our personal and social friends for many years, continue to enjoy ballroom dancing; especially with timely opportunities of recurring anniversaries, birthdays, private/social parties and on tours of land and cruises. Aside from being able to tolerate the lesser dance floor repertory strains, so to speak, the incidental musical interludes aired by the media such as Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” a fox trot repertory, simply lures us to the dance floor — evoking a “Zen” in ballroom dancing zeal. Anjali.

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Jun Kawasaki writes from Monterey Park. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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