Orchestra just keeps waltzing along

Ellizabeth and Brian Morgenstern will dance Feb. 13

Orchestra just keeps waltzing along

Ellizabeth and Brian Morgenstern will dance Feb. 13

to music by the Strathcona Symphony Orchestra.

An Affair in the Afternoon is designed to bring out the romantic in us all — and what a treat this old-style afternoon tea dance promises to be.

In conceiving this special event, conductor Pippa Williams was inspired by a romance in her own family history.

“My parents were avid ballroom dancers in England,” she says, “In fact, that’s where they first met. I recall going to these occasions as a young child, and I loved it — hearing the music, but also experiencing the visual pleasures of ladies in beautiful gowns gliding around a dance floor in the arms of tuxedoed partners. It was always a special treat, and I wanted to bring some of that to our audiences.”

And special she’s made it. An Affair in the Afternoon will bring the SSO to the Native Sons Hall for an afternoon concert Feb. 13 as a prelude to Valentine’s Day. Tickets include desserts by Paddy.

Well-known in the Comox Valley for her fabulous dessert buffets, Paddy Oblenis has come out of retirement from “Paddios” to cater this event. Nanaimo floral designer, Monica Morosan, from Floresque, will embellish audience tables with Valentine bouquets. One of her arrangements will be a lovely raffle prize.

The afternoon will be graced by waltz and Viennese waltz demonstrations by dancers from the studio of Nelson Wong, a professionally qualified ballroom dance instructor with more than 20 years of teaching experience, a dance competition judge, and a member of the Canadian DanceSport Federation.

One pair of dancers, Elizabeth and Brian Morgenstern, is enthusiastic about the SSO’s Valentine extravaganza because, though they’ve danced in competitions and onstage, they’ve never danced to a live symphony.

“Waltzes give dancers time to interpret the music, to transition though lines or poses,” says Elizabeth. “Of course, your body never stops moving, but you can get lost in the music, which is a beautiful feeling.”

Her husband Brian agrees. “In the waltz especially, there’s lots of time to put in your own feelings. It’s sometimes like flying at low altitude — it’s exciting, gracious, and pulls at the heartstrings.”

The Morgensterns note that despite the graceful, whirling movement to the sweeping melodies, the waltz can sometimes be difficult to do well. “It takes practice to make it look effortless,” Brian says. “And when it comes to the Viennese waltz, it’s very athletic with its quick circling steps. There’s less time for interpretation and it just doesn’t stop — that’s why the Viennese waltz in competition is usually limited to a minute and a half in duration!”

In-between the professional dance demonstrations, there will be plenty of opportunity for audience members to try out their own waltz steps. Fancy dress is optional, but why not get into the spirit?

Selecting some of Johann Strauss’ best-known waltzes, Williams has put together a program that will surprise music lovers who thought they knew all about waltzes — or about Strauss. The younger Strauss wrote more than 500 pieces for dance, drawing on European and Euro-American folk and classical music traditions.

Having performed these pieces as a fundraiser for Vancouver Island College last fall, Williams and her orchestra have seized the opportunity to “bite into our Strauss repertoire a little deeper” as they return to this rousing waltz program filled with passion, memorable melodies, and deep history.

Emerging in the mid-18th-century German music scene, the waltz swept through Europe. The dance and the music inspired an old German verse: “Whosoever the dance did discover/ Had in mind each maid and lover/ With all their burning ardor.”

Derived from the Italian volver meaning to turn, or revolve, the waltz was an outgrowth of a country dance done in three-quarter time. The new dance form replaced the old heavy, hopping movements with polished and graceful gliding; it soon became the favourite of the upper classes.

Though associated with the dance of the same name, however, not all waltzes were composed as dances; many were written for concert performances.

How can we resist this prelude to Valentine’s Day? Bring your appetite for “ardor,” for fine Straussian waltzes, for lovely bonbons, for inspiring dance, and fragrant blooms. But, most of all, bring your valentine.

Tickets for An Affair in the Afternoon are $15 and are available from Long and McQuade (formerly Sound Advice), Blue Heron Books, Videos ‘n’ More or at the door.

The Native Sons Hall doors open at 1:30 p.m. and the concert is from 2 to 4. For reservations, call 250-338-1252.