The Producers’ Essays: 2011      

Hollywood Heroes, Movieland Myths

Dancing with The Batman

by Dean Paton

Movies dare us.

They dare us into fantasies, dare us to face fears and villains and phobias (think Jaws or the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho), and they also dare us to hope.

So does Masquerade. If you want.

In truth, movies are multi-million-dollar masquerades. Great characters, timeless characters, but actors masquerading and parading our hopes and fears nevertheless. We’d like to think this third annual Century Ballroom Masquerade is a price-conscious cousin. Less expensive, but likely more fun.

If Hollywood knows anything, it’s persona. If the Masquerade is about any one thing (other than music, dance, theatre and fun), it’s persona – or maybe personas.

We mean your various personas, of course; how many lurk within you?

The Masquerade is your chance to play with parts of you your friends might never have seen. It gets ever more fun when you mix your personas up with movie-land myths. You might attend as Marilyn Monroe (with Jack Kennedy on your arm). You could be Humphrey Bogart? But which Bogey is most like the persona you’ve always wanted to percolate forth? Gat-toting Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon? Or the leech-covered captain of The African Queen? (I’m sure plenty of Leads would love dancing blues with Jane Fonda’s character in Barbarella. Go ahead; google that one.)

We have always seen the Masquerade as a chance to bring forward those parts of ourselves we wish were more public. Masquerade, of course, is the perfect place for this.

Traditionally, going back centuries to Venice and Carnival, Masquerade has been an opportunity for revelers to use the mystique of the mask to inspire a touch of the outrageous. They quickly discovered that slipping a mask over their eyes changed they way they behaved – as well as how their partners behaved.

Even when both dancers knew each other.

Remember, you don’t have to devise an elaborate costume to come and enjoy one of the best dances of the year. A dime-store mask is all we ever require. But if you want to play more deeply with who’s inside you, as well as with others, what better place to find inspiration than Hollywood?

Do you think Batman knows how to jitterbug?

Dare enough to find out?

Hollywood Heroes

by Susan Balshor

I have some. Hollywood heroes that is. And my first hero was a small child. Raised in a less-than-creative family of curmudgeons, I fell in love with Shirley Temple. Watching this dimpled darling sing and dance her way into the lives of so-to-speak grown-ups, lifted me into a realm of music and character that still lives within me today. This child pushed against the rules, risked outrageous behavior, solved problems too big for the cast of narrow-sighted adults and melted the ice in every

stone-hearted villain.

I wanted to be her. I still do.

Many actors and characters have moved into my panopy of I-wish-I-were-them since Shirley won my admiration and each encourages a best, risk taking part of me as I engage the world around me. Watching oldies after school, I found great lessons about behavior (and stylish clothing) with Betty Davis and Kathryn Hepburn. Doris Day sometimes made me think of Shirley all grown up, especially when  I saw her dance with Clark Gable.

It is the active memory of several character parts in Dean and me, that we bring to our work with Valse Cafe Orchestra, teaching dance and our annual Masquerade Waltz. Is it Life or is it Theatre? You decide. Either way, we each act out characters above or below our own radar. Dig in, find that special character in you, inspired by the efforts of those who’s job in life is to act out for us, the myriad possibilities of drama, love, mystery and danger.

Who are you, really?