The Pan-Pacifics

Barry Fife Meme

In case my frequent references aren’t obvious enough, Strictly Ballroom is one of my favorite movies. I own it on VHS and DVD, I quote it often and I have the soundtrack memorized. Tina Sparkle’s fruit, Ken Railing’s hot tub, Federation President Barry Fife’s toupee, Pam Short’s broken legs – they’re all intertwined with my memories of the early nineties. When someone understands my, “That was unexpected!” or “Feel the rhythm,” I know I have found a true friend. Although I’m a terrible dancer and have no background in ballroom, I do know that the Rhumba is the dance of love (but it’s only pretend), the Bogo Pogo is just too tricky for the likes of Wayne and Vanessa, and if you’re going to try the Paso Doble, you’d better be prepared to bring it or get laughed off the floor.

This week I attended a dancesport competition at BYU to see if I would enjoy watching actual ballroom as much as Strictly Ballroom. I reserved a seat which turned out to be at a very official-looking table, tried to look like I belonged there, and watched ballroom dancers of varying ages and abilities for eight hours.


I was not disappointed. I mean sure, there were awkward moments, like when the dancers made their ooh-aah-ooh-aah faces. Or when siblings danced the rhumba together. Or every time I had to see a guy in one of those belted tunics or robes.

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The dresses were colorful and elaborate. There was such an abundance of feathers and glitter (and one purple dress someone near me described as “crazy-stoned”) that young girls went on a treasure hunt whenever there was a break.

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I saw a peacock,

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the Rainbow Fish,


and a Duloc Dancer.

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There were a few mishaps, including untied shoelaces and clothing getting caught on heels.


But I was amazed there weren’t more falls or collisions. I’m especially clumsy so if I were competing, there would probably be a trail of fallen dancers in my wake wherever I twirled. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that the most dangerous dance is the quickstep. Both dancers have their backs arched and are looking up at the ceiling and they have their elbows out right at the level of other dancers’ faces and the dance is filled with sudden bursts of movement seemingly without warning. I witnessed several head bumps, elbows to the cheekbone, and a few falls and many more near misses. I wonder if that’s why the dance goes from really fast footwork to sudden holds – they just zip across the floor until they run into someone, then hold a pose to make it look like they meant to skid to a stop.


I thought I might get bored watching dancing for so long but I really loved it. My favorite part by far was the Special Needs Event where they partnered BYU students with special needs adults to learn the waltz and the merengue. What started as a student’s senior project has become part of the summer dance cirriculum for the past eight years, with the special needs dancers practicing once a week with the college students all term. It was apparent that they had really put a lot of effort into learning the steps and the event was judged just like the other events. It was quite impressive.

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I really loved watching the dancesport competition but was it truly a Strictly Ballroom experience? There was no Number One Hundred, but there were plenty of shouts for other numbers, including one by a girl standing right behind me. My ears are still ringing from her “Come on Number 275!!!” So that was pretty accurate.

I saw a Doug Hastings filming the competition, also eschewing all the “video, video” and choosing to use a leopard print iPad instead.


I saw the cutest kids EVER dancing.


And I saw Fran.



I was just waiting to see Scott Hastings with his flashy, crowd-pleasing steps. I thought this guy might fit – he had a similar look and had a lot of energy to his dancing.


This guy was also pretty good. Could he be our Scott?


But then this guy appeared and in three different dances actually did the Scott move of sliding toward his partner on his knees, so he wins.


I was so excited I caught it on film but then I noticed that I’m about as good with technology as I am at dancing and hadn’t actually been filming at all. I was so disappointed. You’ll have to trust that it looked just like this:

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And as I was leaving the competition a little early, I heard them playing this song just for my exit. It was a perfect ending to a lovely day.


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