Scottish Dancing in Prague (or not)
As I may have noted earlier, Štěpanka had developed a longing to attend the 10th anniversary gala ball put on by her son Michael’s school, and prevailed upon me to go with her. Tickets were much more expensive than the ball in Brno, but we were attracted by the fact that there would be lessons in Scottish dance (the school being the English International School). Štěpanka had wonderful memories of a previous experience with Scottish dance, and I had never done anything like it, so we thought that a dance for an international group of parents ought to be a suitable opportunity, in that doubtless there would be plenty of potential partners and we would be taught the steps.
The said ball was held at the Corinthia Towers Hotel next to the Vyšehrad station, a glamorous sort of place which I remembered from Communist times as the Hotel Forum (not that I had actually ever gone there then). We arrived somewhat early in order to have a chance to look around, which enabled us to find out that the hotel plays Norah Jones in the restrooms. Štěpanka, who is quite fond of Norah Jones, was miffed that one of her favorite singers should be used as a kind of muzak. Personally, I thought that the placement of mirrors in the stalls was somewhat peculiar.
Once we ascended to the top floor, we were photographed and greeted with champagne and hors d’oeuvres. In fact, there were so many hors d’oeuvres that we really did not need any supper afterwards, despite our having turned down quite a few offers of more hors d’oeuvres. (This is better than not enough of them, however.) We spent awhile looking out at the city and pondering whether it was more likely that we would see someone commit suicide off the Nusle bridge or that a terrorist plane would fly into the hotel. While I am sure that the former was vastly more likely even on a cold January night, we were spared the sight. As for the latter, I pointed out that there was not much reason to expect anyone to target the Corinthia Towers, even if they did know that they could thus kill off the staff and parents of the English International School.
Our table proved to be mildly unusual, in that the seating chart suggested it would get nearly all the Czech parents, while in practice half of its population was missing. Our companions were a Czech-Indian couple and a Russian, all of whom were pleasant enough. As far as I know, our table had the only guests who spoke Czech to the waiters.
The food was pretty good, as large catered dinners go, and there were auctions of various goods and services, none of which we chose to bid on since the entrance tickets were as much as we could handle financially. Other guests, however, gleefully bid up startling sums.
The band came on, in kilts and all, and began to play extremely lively music that made us immediately want to dance. No one, however, made any move to dance until several numbers had been performed and the dance instructors came forward. At that point, several couples went up.
While the level of skill shown by the learners did not match the smooth and unproblematic style shown by the dancers at the Brno ball, and there were a good many stumbles and wrong moves, all the same the parent group did an impressive job. The Scottish dances were more complex than your basic waltz or polka (some of them incorporated a polka in the middle), and it was clear that overall this was a group with considerable experience dancing. They were quite nimble on their feet, danced with a lively air and great good cheer, and picked up the steps with astonishing rapidity. (There were lessons in a good many different dances during the evening.)
Unfortunately, all of the dances were for male-female couples and it did not seem to occur to any of the males that there were unaccompanied women waiting to dance. While the dancers clearly enjoyed themselves, we were surprised and dismayed to find that no one danced unless there had just been a lesson, no one danced anything other than the dance just taught, and no one danced as anything but a male-female couple. This meant that Štěpanka, I, and our Russian tablemate sat watching for a good while hoping to dance, until finally we concluded that no one was going to ask us, we were not bold enough to go on as a trio, and it was just too tantalizing to listen to such good music while everyone else cavorted about.
So, we gave up and departed.
There’s a folkloric ball in Brno next week. Perhaps there will be a sizable Fulbright contingent in attendance.