From the Oval Office

Ode to Marco

March 1st, 2006. Posted by David Lim

Marco Widharta finally left the United States last month. I say “finally” not because I’m glad he’s gone. Actually, I feel quite the opposite. Marco told me he was moving to Australia back in July 2005. Now, in February 2006, he has gone to pursue his career. I’m happy that he is continuing in his life and I wish him the best for his future endeavors. Saying goodbye to Marco got me thinking back to my college days when we’d hang out, and how he’s impacted my dancing.

I had known of Marco for a while as I learned to dance ballroom at Oregon State University. It was hard not to notice him. His exuberant dance style would catch anyone’s eye. He spun a lot, spun his follows a lot, and made a lot of movements throughout his whole body. We became friends after getting to know each other, ironically, in Portland at the Viscount during the summer.

My last year at OSU, Marco and I were on the OSU’s Cool Shoes ballroom dance performance team together. We hung out during dance practices and at our leisure. We talked a lot about dance. I was still pretty new to the west coast swing world, so he was very kind in sharing. I attribute much of my dance growth to his knowledge and resources.

The biggest resource he shared with me were dance videos. I’m a visual learner, so I get engrossed into dance videos; obsessed sometimes. I loved watching pros like Jordan Frisbee, Tatiana Mollmann, Kyle Redd, Sarah Vann Drake, Sharlot Bott, Mary Ann Nunez, and many others. I would study more of the social dancing aspects. While I enjoyed watching practiced routines, when I load a dance DVD up, I go straight for Jack and Jill competitions or the strictly swings because they showcase more improvisational dance skills.

I distinctly remember key videos that changed my dancing. They inspired me so much that I would have a “growth spurt,” if that’s possible. One video that sticks out in my mind is the Boston Tea Party 2003 strictly swing with Jordan Frisbee and Mary Ann Nunez. Their dance to the Chilly Night remix of Randy Crawford’s “Give Me the Night” gave me insights as to how simple nuances can be more effective and more impressive. Instead of huge body rolls or huge splashes of arms waving, their movements were concise, sharp, and simple. At one climax of the music, both Jordan and Mary Ann stop at a break. Then at the two recurring hits to the upbeat, Jordan does a small, subtle shuffle of his feet in parallel to emphasize the two recurring hits.

I’m sure that description doesn’t do justice to the video. I thought I’d share how I learned a lot of my dance style through dance videos in hopes of others recognizing this as a valuable resource. I’m very thankful that Marco had a collection for me to learn from as they can get costly.

Marco’s music library was another resource he shared with me. It helped me get familiar with the songs I danced to by knowing their names. Part of what helped me learn song titles is deejaying for a short while. The other part is that it gave me a tremendous boost at competing and social dancing. Part of my musicality is knowing the songs I dance to.

For my favorite west coast swing songs, I download them online for $0.88 at Walmart Music Downloads or for $0.99 at the iTunes music store. Whenever Chris Jones or Bob Smith plays a song I like, I go up and ask them after dancing to the song. I purchase the song, then proceed to listen to it heavily for a week or so (perhaps I am obsessive). By the next time I hear it on a social dance floor, I’ve got a pretty good “feel” of where each of the breaks is.

There is a downside to knowing the songs too well and watching too many dance videos, though. I’ve had to fight the urge to try the moves the pros do at a particular moment in a song. Still, those side effects are negligible. And if you have a friend like Marco to watch videos with, they’ll see you fight that urge and understand where the inner struggle comes from. I hope that Marco will visit the States and dance with us in the future. He’s been a great friend to many. Marco and Trina really brought up the level of west coast swing in Corvallis, inspiring many of them to come up to Portland to dance. I’ll always remember the crazy trips to Portland to get my west coast swing fix with my copilot, Marco, keeping me awake for the late night drive back from the dance.

Portland Swing Dance Club BridgeTown Swing National FastDance Association Through the National FastDancde Assn., this event is licensed by ASCAP, BMI, and SESAC