Saturday, February 23, 2008

Dancing at Wintergrass

The Wintergrass festival is going on this weekend in downtown Tacoma. Michael and Jacob flew to Seattle specifically to attend this concert. Jacob got sick, so Michael and I headed down on Friday night to catch some bluegrass bands that I'd never heard of, even though I consider myself a bluegrass aficionado (I've seen O Brother Where Art Thou? twice). The first venue was disappointing. It was held in the same convention hall where marketing execs give slideshow presentations, so I had a difficult time getting into the mood. That all changed when we headed down to eat at The Grill, where the upper story of the pub was designed for live music. In front of a stage was a dance floor, and a bunch of people sat in seats and tables behind the dance floor or mingled by the bar off to the side that served alcoholic beverages to degenerates. Andy and Minette met us there with a couple of other friends. Now this was the right atmosphere for bluegrass! The band was jamming, people were dancing, everyone was having fun.

At times I wish I could dance like an ordinary person -- just go out on the dance floor and move to the music along with everyone else. It never turns out that way. I start dancing, people slow down to watch me, and as they move backwards, I can't resist the urge to dance in the vacated space. Within a couple of minutes, other dancers align themselves along the edge of the dance floor and clap in rhythm as they watch me in awe.

I was thinking last night would be different. My knee was hurting from tennis and I was a little tipsy from having drunk a bottle and a half of tequila. All it took was a modified rumba box followed by a cross shuffle slide, and there I was again with the dance floor to myself. As I said, I felt uncomfortable with everyone focusing on me, but even the band seemed to enjoy my moves. Besides, I figured I'd dance only one or two reels, sit down, and everything would return to normal.

That's when Michael Flatley showed up.

That's right. The erstwhile Lord of the Dance was ready to compete again. Before I go on, I want to get one thing straight. Neither of us currently hold the Lord of the Dance title. I took the title away from the self-proclaimed Feet of Flames eight years ago, defended the title several times, and then lost it fair and square to Lopsang Jambu, a Tibetan Sherpa. I retired at that point to focus more intently on my charity work. If I'm not mistaken, Phang Nguyen of Thailand currently holds the rights and responsibilities of the Lord of the Dance title.

I heard several members of the audience murmuring, "Dance off!" The atmosphere was electric. Maybe it was the fact that I was feeling loose from the small portion of alcohol, or maybe I simply underestimate my dancing abilities. Whatever the reason, the dance-off wasn't even close. The best analogy I can think of would be George Foreman knocking out Mike Tyson with the first punch. Flatley did an uninspired lindy twirl, I did a coaster step flair, and that was that. It was as if the Feet of Flames was trying to dance in two buckets of ice. He lamely hopped in place for a few seconds, and stopped. I threw down a three-quarter chassis, and Flatley simply walked off the stage.

Anyway, the Wintergrass festival has been fun.