Slow Dance
Home Up


Mastering the
Art of Slow Dance

Written by Rick Archer
November 2015



Rick, Beyoncé and the BBC

So what exactly do Rick and Beyoncé have in common?  We are both famous artists who have recorded at Houston's Wire Road Sound Studio.  Well, at least one of us is famous.

And what do Rick and the BBC have in common? 

-----Original Message-----
From: Sara Conkey-Bristol
Sent: Monday, February 1, 2016 3:13 AM
Subject: BBC Radio 4

Dear Mr. Archer,

I am a producer on the BBC Radio 4 series 'Soul Music' which takes a much-loved piece of music and talks to people who have memories or associations with it.

For the next series, I'm making a programme on 'The Way You Look Tonight' and I read your very interesting story on your blog.

Would it be possible to have a brief chat about that - I'd be so grateful if you could get in touch, and we could arrange a time to speak.   Many thanks and best wishes

Sara Conkey
Producer, BBC Radio

Soul Music, a BBC Radio program, picks a famous song and finds someone to tell a story about it.  In my case, they wanted to build a story around The Way You Look Tonight, a song that played a key role in the article below.  They apparently found this four-month old story using a Google search. 

I was very flattered to be asked and more than happy to help.   On Wednesday, February 24, Ms. Conkey sent me to the Wire Road Sound Studio to be recorded for the interview.  Considering it was 8 pm in London, I felt sorry that Ms. Conkey had to work so late.  However, too my surprise, she interviewed me from the comfort of her home over the phone.  Such a clever lady.

Sitting in the sound studio, there was no script and nothing to look at. I just stared into blank space and yakked away in response to her questions.  Considering how much I rambled and wandered, I will be very curious to see how the edited product turns out.  The program should air in late April 2016. 

The blog that Ms. Conkey referred to is the story below.

Beyoncé began her recording career here in Houston. 

I don't know why I had my glasses on.  All I did was stare at a wall. Maybe I should have practiced my singing while I was there.


How to find love?   Dancing... Even if one's partner is barely tolerable...


Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice

Darcy:  "So what do you recommend to encourage affection?"

Lizzy:  "Dancing... Even if one's partner is barely tolerable."


This Magic Moment
The Drifters

This Magic Moment
So different and so new
Was like any other
Until I kissed you

And then it happened
It took me by surprise
I knew that you felt it too
By the look in your eyes

As a word to the wise, there are Magic Moments in every man's life when the ability to dance gracefully to romantic music is mighty important.  You could be on a cruise, you could be on a date, you could be at a party, or the moment could come as a complete surprise.  Will you be ready? 

The smart ones learn how to Dance AHEAD OF TIME.  Be prepared. You never know when you will need to know how to Dance.  There are moments in life when the ability to Dance gracefully becomes the most important skill in the world.

If you don't have that skill, then you are out of luck.

I can attest that this Dance Magic is powerful stuff.  Perhaps this story will make my point.  I was on a dance cruise.  There was a woman on that trip whom I was very interested in.  To my chagrin, despite my efforts, this lady had not paid a bit of attention to me for for seven months.   I had penciled in this trip as my last chance to make a play for her. 

At the Stroke of Midnight on the first night of the trip, I walked into the Disco.  I was divorced, depressed and lonely. 

There in the doorway on the opposite side of the room, I saw the woman of my dreams.  I raced across the floor and caught her just as she was leaving.  I asked her to dance... she said yes.  This was my Magic Moment.   We have never been apart since.  Three years later I married that lady.  For you romantics, this 2001 tale of how I met Marla is quite a love story...
Stroke of Midnight

Someday, somewhere, quite possibly at a time no one can predict, a man will have the opportunity to dance with a woman he either already loves or would like to get to know better. 

Jane Austen's Elizabeth Bennett had it right. "Dancing... Even if one's partner is barely tolerable."

If there is music involved, then the most powerful and direct way to the lady's heart is through dance. 

In Jane Austen's day, Dance was a preeminent invitation to Romance.  Back then, Dance played a major role in courtship rituals.  Currently some people assume the importance of Dance has taken a backseat to the Internet here in our modern age.

Things may have changed in the last hundred years, but as far as I am concerned, Dance is still just as powerful. 

For example, in the final 11 years I ran SSQQ, my dance studio, I recorded 274 marriages and engagements.  And those are just the people I know about.  There were even more more.  I am not exaggerating... every one of those names is still listed.  Visit SSQQ Slow and Romance if you don't believe me.

Today with the Internet, perhaps people have forgotten how useful Dance can be to generate Romance.  Well, I have news for you.  Many people use the Internet to find someone, then turn around and use Dance to nurture the romance. 

Although we no longer have the strong European Ballroom traditions of the 18th and 19th century, Dancing remains a direct path to a lady's heart even today. The Art of Romantic Dancing is a skill that could come in very handy for some lucky guy.

In this day and age, very few men take the time to learn to dance gracefully with a woman in their arms.  Consequently few men understand just how intimately Slow Dance and Romance are linked in the minds of the women they care about. 

Let me explain.  Women like to be held.  They enjoy having a man's arms guide them around the dance floor, especially if it is a guy who is gentle, smiles, and shows respect.  They love the floating feeling of the dance, especially if by some stroke of fortune the man can capture the rhythm of the music.

Ultimately it is the music that opens a woman's heart.  Music evokes memories and emotions.  Music softens a woman and makes her receptive.  It also makes her feel a little vulnerable.  If a man can make a woman feel safe on the dance floor, then she can let go and open herself to the music.

Ladies can literally be swept off their feet by a man who can dance.  It is no accident that Dance is more effective than chocolate, flowers, and poetry as a way to make a lady smile.  The ability to dance indicates to a woman that this particular man has taken the time to develop a talent specifically designed to please her.  Trust me, the lady will appreciate his effort.

As I said, Dance and Romance are connected in a woman's mind more closely than most men realize.  I cannot begin to explain the sway that stories like Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast hold over a woman's imagination. 

Don't laugh.  Fairy tales abound about how a girl can fall in love with a gentleman on the dance floor.  These stories make a huge impression on a young girl's mind.  Any man who can take a lady through a graceful Waltz to a beautiful song will step right into the Prince's role in the back of her mind. 

Due in large part to my experiences, I modestly suggest I am well qualified to discuss the importance of Slow Dancing.  I imagine there are quite a few unenlightened men out there who could use the tip.

When it comes to Dancing, some dances reach a lady's heart better than others.  The fast dances like Salsa, Twostep, East Coast and West Coast Swing all have value, but the dances that work to the Romantic music are the 'Closers' if you know what I mean.  The problem with Slow Dance - be it Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, Nightclub - is that it does require some time and effort to master this largely forgotten Art. 

Furthermore the payoff may not be immediate. 

Let me suggest that Slow Dancing and Spare Tires have a lot in common.  Spare Tires are largely ignored until that critical moment when a Spare Tire becomes the single most important object in the world.  You better have that tire ready or else...

The same can be said for Slow Dancing.

The problem with dancing cheek to cheek to a song like Sinatra's The Way You Look Tonight is that modern life doesn't offer frequent chances to employ this secret weapon.  Therefore some patience and optimism may be required.

In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, opportunities to dance come infrequently and unpredictably.  However, when that special opportunity does occur, the ability to sweep a lady off her feet might just lead to one of the finest memories of a man's life... and her life too.  She will remember you.

So let me repeat myself... will you be ready?  If so, you might have a Magic Moment of your own.  If not... 

With this in mind, I would like to tell the story of another dramatic moment when Dance played a major role in my life.  This incident took place in November 2015 on a Mediterranean island known Malta.  First I need to tell a background story.

Malta 2010 (Egypt 2010)

For the story of my 2015 adventure to make any sense, let me first share the story of my own personal Poseidon Adventure.

In December 2010, Marla and I had been hired as the Ballroom instructors on a cruise trip to Egypt.  When Marla's brother Neil heard we were going to visit the Great Pyramid of Egypt on this trip, he immediately asked Marla if he and his wife Ellen could join us.  Well, of course!

One of the happiest moments on the trip was having Neil and Ellen in our dance classes.  Like many men, this was the first time Neil had danced with Ellen in years.  Neil ended up having so much fun that he said he needed to give this dancing idea a try when he headed back home to San Diego.

Believe it or not, none of us made it to Egypt.  A terrible storm developed that included hurricane winds and huge waves.  When our ship reached Alexandria, Egypt, the waves were so high that our ship could not possibly dock.  In addition, there was a nasty surprise.  At the last moment, the captain discovered there were a dozen or so unanchored ships in the harbor unable to dock because they too were being tossed around in the waves. 

In these conditions, the captain realized it was nearly impossible for his giant cruise ship to negotiate a safe path through all these random obstacles.  So he ordered an instant turnabout.  In so doing, our ship nearly capsized while making the sudden U-turn.  It was a terrible moment that I will never forget.  In the process Marla and I were both flung from our bed onto the cabin floor.  Then we heard a huge crash; it was the sound of the 30-foot high Christmas tree falling to the floor.  (full story)

A valuable chandelier came crashing down.  A beautiful piano broke through a thick glass window.  All the ship's glass plates were destroyed.  One woman was killed by a flying television that struck her head.  The ship sustained a million dollars in damages.  The ship lost most of its power.

From this point, our ship limped from Egypt over to Malta to lick its wounds.  Malta is located in the Mediterranean Sea about 50 miles south of Sicily and 200 miles north of Libya. 

When our ship landed in Malta, we were given two days to explore the place.  As one might gather, the mood on the ship was very depressed.  The trip was completely ruined for everyone.   Trying to cheer up, Marla, Neil, Ellen and I embarked on a long walk through the downtown part of Valletta, the island's capital.

About an hour into our walk, we stumbled onto a very impressive hotel overlooking the harbor.  I soon learned this was a British hotel known as Hotel Phoenicia Neil insisted we go in.  Neil said that he loved British architecture and that this vintage war-era building was right up his alley.

Inside the building, there was a large Foyer.  To the right and to the left, the Foyer led to wide hallways.  Directly ahead was a luxurious Main Lounge.  Considering we were very tired, Neil suggested we go inside and relax, maybe cheer up a little. 

The Main Lounge was spectacular.  In the middle of this circular room was a bar.  Dominating the room was a lovely sculpture of a swan-like woman.  The floors were marble with a lovely design in the center.  The room itself had giant support columns surrounded by comfortable antique furniture.  The spacious room was well lit and very cozy.

Neil ordered the ladies some coffee.  Then Neil and I ordered two beers.  Once Ellen and Marla got involved in conversation, Neil swapped seats with Marla and sat next to me. 

The next thing I knew, Neil was giving me the military history of Malta during World War II.  Neil explained that Malta had been the key to winning the campaign for North Africa during World War II.  Without Malta, a British colony at the time, the nearest British port to Cairo would have been Gibraltar, 2,000 miles away.  Due to its unique position, the British were able to use Malta to resupply their troops in Egypt and North Africa.

This vital service came at a great cost.  General Erwin Rommel, German commander of Axis forces in North Africa, recognized Malta's importance. In 1941, Rommel warned that "Unless we subdue Malta, the Axis will lose control of North Africa". 

Malta underwent a brutal bombing campaign by the Axis.  The tonnage dropped by the combined Italian and German air force was actually greater than the bombing of London.  In a manner very similar to the Battle of Britain, the Royal Air Force put up quite a fight and helped Malta survive the intense bombing.  Finally after two years of bombing, the Axis gave up the siege of Malta the end of 1942. 

As Neil related this story to me, I was astounded by the breadth of his knowledge.  I knew Neil had served in Naval Intelligence, but his grasp of details was ridiculous.  Finally I said something.

"Good grief, Neil, I knew you were smart and that you studied military history, but how do you remember so much about Malta? Most people have never even heard of this place."

Neil laughed.  "Oh, it isn't that difficult.  I am reading a book about Malta.  In fact, I have it with me."  Neil showed me his book then began to chuckle.  I frowned at him in mock protest.  He really got me on that one.

The next thing I knew, Neil and I were talking about Winston Churchill, the invasion of Normandy and William the Conqueror.  Neil loved English history and I loved listening to him.  That was the best talk Neil and I had on the entire trip.

I wish this story had a happy ending, but it didn't.  One year later Neil was diagnosed with cancer.  Six months later Neil passed away.  You never know. 

In my opinion, Neil was an American hero.  Neil' career in Naval Intelligence was important to our countryNeil was assigned to coordinate the AWACS air surveillance system that proved instrumental in winning the first Gulf War back in 1991.  Neil was later awarded a medal for his service by President Clinton. 

The sad thing is that Neil's cancer was likely caused by his service to America.  Neil served several tours of duty on some of our first atomic submarines in the early Sixties.  Due to ignorance about the dangers of radiation, the men were poorly protected.  Repeated exposure to radiation leaks caused every man in Neil's unit to die of cancer.  Neil was the last to go. 

Neil was a heck of a guy.  Marla still cries about Neil all the time.  As for me, I admired Neil.  The man was decent, gentle, intelligent, and loyal.  Neil was a great husband, a great father, and a great brother.  What a shame it was to lose him.

Malta 2015  (Istanbul 2015)

In 2015, Marla and I took our 34th cruise trip together.  This trip stretched from Istanbul to Rome with stops in Greece and Malta.  We stopped in Valletta, Malta, on a Sunday morning. 

Marla and I tried to see more of the island with a morning tour.  Unfortunately our tour did not go well at all.  About halfway in, our tour was ruined by torrential rains.  At one point we got caught out in the open under the rains.  The strong wind blew the rain sideways and got us soaking wet despite our umbrellas.  Shivering and miserable, we spent the remainder of our time in wet clothes driving around the island.  As we stared blankly through the rain-covered bus windows, we kept wishing they would just take us back to the ship and get it over with.  

By the time we finally returned to our cabin, Marla was beyond disgusted and grouchy.  After changing to dry clothes, we went upstairs to eat lunch.  To my surprise, during lunch the weather cleared.  Now the sun came out. 

Now that I was back here in Malta, Neil was on my mind.  Noting that our ship wasn't going to leave until 9 pm, I wanted to return to Hotel Phoenicia That hotel was the location of the happiest moment I had shared with Neil back in 2010.  I wanted to return to that hotel in Neil's memory.   

Considering her terrible mood, Marla looked at me like I was nuts.  However Marla changed her mind when I told her my reason.  I reminded Marla of how special our visit had been to Hotel Phoenicia five years earlier and how taken Neil had been with this fabulous old-time British hotel.  So off we went. 

I knew quite a bit about the hotel based on our previous visit.  I had picked up a brochure that explained its history.

The Hotel Phoenicia is a five star hotel known for its elegance and World War II-style architecture.  Built in 1939 by Lord and Lady Strickland, the aim of the project was to erect Malta’s premier luxury hotel near Valletta’s main port.  

Back in those days, Malta was still a British colony.  Malta would stay that way until 1964.  Malta officially became a republic in 1974.  The last British troops left peacefully in 1979. 

When World War II broke out, the Hotel Phoenicia was still not officially opened.  No matter.  It was almost finished and that was good enough for the British.  The accommodations were top-flight and the location near the harbor was perfect.  The hotel was quickly annexed by the top brass as their command post.  The hotel proved to be perfect spot for running the Malta resistance campaign against the Germans and Italians

The Germans were determined to subdue Malta.  Due to its strategic position in the center of the Mediterranean, the island suffered worse bombing than London itself.  Nor was the hotel spared.  Indeed, the left wing of the hotel was destroyed by bombs.  But fortunately the center of the hotel remained intact and continued to serve as headquarters

After the war, the damage was repaired.  Now it was time.  The Hotel Phoenicia was officially opened in 1947 by Lady Margaret Strickland.  The Hotel quickly became the center of Maltese society.  This is where the British elite who lived on Malta went to mingle in style.  They were joined by many British citizens desperate to escape the fog-bound, bone-chilling British Isles. 

A visit to Hotel Phoenicia was the perfect remedy.  The hotel provided its cosmopolitan clientele a standard of comfort and service equal to the finest hotels in any European capital.  Even better, the sunny Maltese beaches offered the same warm Mediterranean climate as the French Riviera.  Malta became the vacation preference of many British citizens following the war.

During our 2010 visit, Neil had been very impressed by the Hotel Phoenicia.  To him, it was like being transported back in time to the World War II era.  I agreed with him.  This was the coolest old-time hotel I had ever visited.

So now as Marla and I trudged back to the hotel in 2015, I felt an odd combination of joy and regret.  My regret was that Neil was no longer with us.  My joy was that I could re-capture the memories of our fond moment from 2010.

It took us about an hour to finally find our way back to the Hotel Phoenicia.   We were pretty tired from our long walk, but pleased nonetheless to reach our destination.

At the front entrance to the Hotel Phoenicia, Marla and I took a photo selfie and dedicated it to Neil.  Marla immediately began to cry.  Bless her heart, Neil was always so special to her.  It broke Marla's heart to think about Neil's passing.

Once Marla was able to compose herself, I was ready to leave.  But just as we took a step, we heard dance music coming from inside the hotel.  It sounded like Greensleeves, one of my favorite Waltzes.  "Come on, Marla, let's go check it out!"

Marla immediately paled.  She exclaimed, "Rick, we can't go in there looking like this!"

Marla had a point.  She was dressed in brown Capri's along with her favorite beat-up corduroy jacket.  Marla used this jacket for walking in the woods.  Her outfit was good enough for squirrels and turtles, but it was hardly the attire for British high society. 

And what about me?  I looked even worse.  I had on hiking boots, blue jeans, plus a tee-shirt covered by my beloved red and black Houston Rockets pullover complete with hood.  

Since all I had underneath the pullover was a tee-shirt, I could not remove it.  I looked like a cross between a Jimmy Buffet Parrothead and an aging drug dealer.  I was certainly not dressed properly.  Then Marla added further embarrassment.  "Oh my gosh, Rick, look at your hair.  It's sticking out in a dozen different directions.  Did you bring a comb perchance??" 

I frowned.  No.  I didn't think of that.  "So what, Marla?  I want to go inside and see the lounge again and think of Neil."

However, Marla raised more objections.  Thanks to the problems of the rainy morning, she was still feeling very tense.  Looking like we did, Marla had serious reservations about the wisdom of barging into this bastion of British propriety.  No doubt each and every high society member in attendance would reflexively turn up his or her nose in contempt at our bedraggled appearance.

As we stood outside the hotel, I was definitely losing this argument.  Then suddenly we were both distracted by the start of the classic song As Time Goes By from Casablanca.

I noticed Marla was intrigued by the music.  She loves this song.  So I suggested we hurry inside and perhaps catch the second half of the song.  Marla was tempted, but she still had trouble with our appearance.  I persisted.  

"Marla, will you please come inside and dance with me? How many times in life do we get a chance like this?"

That worked.  Marla began to soften.  Finally she agreed to check it out.  Curious, the two of us moved closer to the unguarded front door and peered into the FoyerOn the other side of the Foyer was the Main Lounge 20 feet away.  From the Front Door, we could see a three-man band inside the Main Lounge playing the music. 

We were just about to enter when Marla and I noticed a man, 75, sitting in a booth in the Foyer nearby the lounge.  I assumed this man was a guard of some sort. 

Unfortunately, the guard was frowning mightily at us.  I knew what that look meant... 'Don't you dare come in!'

This guy was clearly astonished to see two homeless people standing at the threshold of his exquisite hotelSad to say, I think he concluded we were looking for a free meal.  There was definitely the aroma of warm food coming from the Lounge.

Practically crinkling his nose in disgust at us, the man gave us the dirtiest look imaginable.  He had a lot of confidence in his mean look. The guard seemed convinced he could run off with his stare alone.  However, he misjudged his power over me. 

If you have read A Simple Act of Kindness, my childhood memoir, you will know I carry considerable defiance towards the Upper Class.  Thanks to my years of growing up poor while attending an expensive prep school on scholarship, I turned into a rebel.  My nine years at school had taught me contempt for certain social graces I had little respect for.  It was during these years that I learned it was better to act and ask forgiveness than ask for permission.

Therefore, once I heard that music, I was determined to ignore the guard and go inside to dance Could I get away with it? 

Probably.  For one thing, the man's watch post did not block the entrance to the Main Lounge.  Nor did this elderly man appear especially mobilePlus he was sitting down and he would be slow to react.  In fact, we were closer to the entrance to the Main Lounge than he was. Realizing it was impossible for the guard to stop us, those tempting words flashed across my mind's eye... Better to act and ask forgiveness later...

From experience, I assumed it would be much tougher to refuse admission once we were inside the bar.  So I took Marla's hand and walked straight into the Main LoungeRolling her eyes, Marla reluctantly came along.  If memory serves, I overcame her reservations by dragging her somewhat against her will.  That way, if something went wrong, she could always blame me. 

The guard was too astonished to say a word.  I think our boldness surprised him.  He simply gaped in dismay as we blew by.  Of all the nerve!  Americans no doubt.  Who else?  The guard was appalled at our boorish behavior.  Those Yanks are the worst. 

Now that we were in the Main Lounge, I gambled it wouldn't be easy for this elderly man to come inside and confront us.  I believed it would risky for him to make a scene.   If he wanted to enforce the dress code, that was his business, but I intended to make him work up his courage and come get me. 

Marla was very uncomfortable.  Because she was raised better than I was, Marla isn't used to breaking social prohibitions.  However, I am afraid I have been a bad influence on her.  Marla seems to be getting better at breaking the rules thanks to meI have noticed that stuffy, upturned noses don't have nearly the same effect on Marla as they once did.  

I looked around.  Seated at the giant bar in the center were several well-dressed people sipping their martinisTo my relief, they didn't sniff when they saw us.  Otherwise I think Marla might have lost her courage.  Instead they seemed amused at our impertinence.  Obviously their blue blood was tainted with some red blood cells.  No doubt somewhere in their family tree lurked an ill-advised intermarriage with the Middle Class.

The room wasn't crowded.  The assortment of comfortable couches and chairs were about 33% fullAbout forty people were spread out in every direction.  I saw a huge steaming buffet complete with all sorts of trays and chafer kits used to keep the food warm.  I assumed the guard would hurt me if I went anywhere near, so I did not investigate.  Instead I led Marla to the same couch and chairs we had shared with Neil and Ellen five years earlier. 

Then I went to the bar to order us both a drink.  I figured the faster we invested in the economy of this place, the more chance the grouchy guard could be persuaded to look the other way.  As I stood there, I watched the trio of three men playing the music.  There was a drummer, a pianist, and a saxophone player. Like the guard, the three men were also in their seventies. 

To my delight, I realized we had stumbled upon a wonderful English tradition... High TeaWhat a pleasant surprise!  This was a Sunday afternoon High Tea Reception at the hotel.  I had read about these events in books, but had never seen one.

Now the men began to play The Way You Look Tonight, a Foxtrot standard made famous by Frank Sinatra among others. 

The Way You Look Tonight was written by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields.  The song was featured in the 1936 film Swing Time.  The song was performed in the movie with considerable charm by Fred Astaire.  Not only could Astaire dance, he played the piano and could sing too!  Incredibly talented man.

The Way You Look Tonight became an immediate hit.  It went on to win the 1937 Academy Award for Best Original Song.

Although I enjoyed the Astaire version, to me no one has ever performed The Way You Look Tonight better than Frank Sinatra.  Let's face, the guy could really sing!! 

I guess I should confess something.  When it comes to reaching a girl's heart, the ability to sing works as well if not better than dancing.  But how many guys can sing well?  Not many, but those who do have a real advantage.  One word of caution to all men... learn not to be jealous on the dance floor. 

When a gifted singer like Frank Sinatra begins to hum those lullabies, there will be times when your lady's mind is more on Frank than on you.  However, if you are patient, she'll return to you eventually and be grateful for keeping an open mind.

The Way You Look Tonight has always been one of Marla's favorite songs.  Seeing that look in her eyes, I immediately put down my camera and asked Marla to dance, barbarian attire be damned.  Marla had a great line.  Under her breath, she muttered, "Just my luck... The Way I Look Tonight is terrible!"

Sensing we might be tossed out on our ears at any moment, I decided to confuse the spectators a little.  It was time to establish our credentials.  If we could get in at least a couple dance moves, people might conclude we weren't complete riffraff.  If we impressed someone, perhaps we could stay.  After all, how many homeless people can dance a Foxtrot?? 

So right there on the elegant marble floor, I rolled out my Box Step followed in quick order by Diva Walk, Inside Turn, Twinkle and Crossover Instantly all eyes were drawn to us.  And why not?  After all, we were clearly the best dancers in the room.  Maybe I should add we were the only dancers in the room, a fact that no doubt enhanced our superiority

I noticed the three band members were casually dressedNo, they weren't wearing gang-style hoodies like me, but they weren't wearing tuxes or ties either.  Instead they were dressed like regular middle class guys.  Once I saw that they didn't seem to mind our disheveled appearance, I was very relieved.

In fact, they liked us.  In particular, the saxophone player thought we were great.  When he finished his part of the song, this gentleman put down his instrument and began to watch us dance with undisguised appreciation.   At the end of the song, the man beckoned for me to come over.  The sax player smiled and said, "I want to say you are a very good dancer!  We don't get dancers like you very often."

I smiled and said, "Well, sir, you are a very good musician.  Thank you for playing for us.  My wife and I love your music."

The other two musicians appreciated the compliment as well.  My show of respect cemented an instant bond.  Now I had some allies.  I knew if that frowning guard came in for me, I might be able to appeal to the sax player and his friends to intercede. 

Speak of the devil, there he was.  The guard was standing in the doorway right behind the band watching us with a disapproving frown.  We weren't out of the woods yet.  This arbiter of social grace was oblivious to our beautiful display of dance.  All he cared about was that we looked like a pair of starving homeless people desperate to eat the food at the complimentary buffet. 

No doubt if I took just one step towards the crumpets, he would beat me with his cane and deliver a lecture informing me this fine food was reserved for proper guests.  Or perhaps he was more worried I might steal one of the precious silver trays and stick it under my pullover.  We were definitely not welcome.  

Sensing his disapproval, I turned my back to the guard and walked in the other direction to fetch our drinks at the bar.    The guard watched every step I took.  Obviously the guard was dedicated to preserving the integrity of the Tea Dance. 

Now unfortunately Marla had to use the restroom.  This took her outside the Lounge back into the same hallway patrolled by the guard.  Upon her return to the lounge, the grouchy guard stopped Marla and demanded to know why she was here.  From what Marla told me, he was pretty rude about it. 

Marla replied that she and her husband had heard the music from outside as we passed by and came inside to check.  She added how wonderful the band was.  Then she added that she had just purchased a coffee.  Would he kindly permit her to reenter? 

Marla stared at the man to study his reaction.  Marla had just informed him she was a paying customer.  Would he have the nerve to deny her reentry??

The Grouch got the message.  It would be risky to evict a paying customer.  Rolling his eyes, he stepped aside.  But he wasn't happy about it.  After Marla told me what had happened, I concluded he wasn't finished with us yet.  

Sure enough, as Marla and I danced Rumba to Besame Mucho, I saw the Grouch reappear in the doorway.  This time he had company.  He was accompanied by a woman wearing a business suit and a matching, no-nonsense business dress.  Judging by her heels, pulled back hair, and crossed arms, the guard had fetched the hotel manager. 

The guard had a very smug 'gotcha' look on his face.  I assumed that since we were paying customers, he didn't have the courage to bounce us on his own authority.  So instead he did the next best thing... he sent the decision up the line. 

This was a matter for the manager! 

Whatever the guard had told the woman was effective.  At first, this lady was not pleased.  As she stood there watching with frown and folded arms, I could see our fate hung in the balance.

So I played my trump card... I dipped Marla.  Holding her delicately in prone position, I looked up and smiled in the lady's direction.  My conspicuous display of charm did the trick.  I think the manager liked what she saw.  Not only did she uncross her arms, I noticed she was trying hard not to smile.

After I brought Marla back to her feet, I smiled at the manager again.  Then I quietly mouthed the word 'Please?'  That did the trick... the manager smiled back. 

I imagined what she was thinking... Hmm, pretty good dancers for a couple of tourists.  Americans no less.  I didn't realize Americans even knew how to dance...

Now with a flip of her hand, the manager told the Grouch to go back to his watch post.  Then she walked away.  Aha!  We were in the clear.  Isn't it amazing what being polite can do?

With the manager's departure, Marla was finally able to relax a bit.  Still nervous after the hallway encounter, she was pleased to know there would be no public spectacle.  Now we began to dance in peace.  They say the pen is mightier than the sword.  Well, let's just say our Rumba overcame their dress code.  Marla's dancing helped immeasurably.  Never underestimate the persuasive force of a woman who moves her hips gracefully. 

The band stuck to American Songbook standards.  We danced a Swing to Mack the Knife.  Then came a Waltz to Moon River.  

After that the band played Unforgettable, a classic slow dance tune made famous by Nat King Cole.  The song would have been perfect, but the piano player decided to sing.  Not a good idea. 

Fortunately the Piano Man didn't have a microphone, so the instruments drowned out most of his singing.  No such luck for Marla.  She has better hearing than meMarla groaned noticeably and tried her best not to listen.  Pulling Marla closer, I distracted her with some tricky slow dance moves.  She grinned and thanked me for redirecting her concentration.

At that moment, to my surprise, we were joined on the dance floor by another couple.  Curious, I watched them dance.  The man definitely lacked polish, but made up for his shortcomings with enthusiasm.  Bouncing the woman from side to side, he was clearly under the influence of several cocktails. 

The lady held him tight.  I wasn't sure if it was love or simply an attempt to hold on for dear life.  Although she managed to remain erect, I noticed her feet were barely touching the floor.  Good grief, this guy was practically carrying her.  Therefore it was no surprise that the man tired quickly.  To the obvious relief of the woman, they both sat back down.

This couple did not dance well, but you know what?  The lady was smiling.  This man was hardly light on his feet, but he made her happy by trying anyway.  I say that counts for something.  I grinned as a funny thought crossed my mind.  I was reminded of Elizabeth Bennett's immortal comment...

"Dancing... even if one's partner is barely tolerable..."

Now we had the floor to ourselves again.  I could see our dancing clearly pleased our audience.  I saw many smiles. Tonight had become a very special moment for us.

I take Romantic Dancing seriously.  I learned a long time ago that Slow Dance and Romance go hand in hand.  After all, I began my courtship of Marla by asking her to dance.  Ever since, I have constantly polished my Slow Dance skills just in case an occasion like tonight might arise.  

As for Marla, she was a good sport.  Between the off-key singing, my thick pullover and my messy hair, the moment wasn't completely romantic by any means.  Nor was she comfortable with her appearance.  Where are my heels and pretty dress?  However, wonderful wife that she is, Marla preserved the ambiance with a bemused smile.

Tonight's Tea Dance wasn't perfect.  However, Marla was gracious enough to overlook the flaws of the occasion.  When all was said and done, Marla showed genuine appreciation for my attempts to please her.  Her bad mood was gone.  The dancing had cheered her up immensely.  I received a warm hug and a smooch at the end of our Slow Dance.  Life is good.

After Unforgettable, we could see it had turned dark.  So we were ready to go.  As I paid the bill, I asked for a favor.  Would the bartender mind taking our picturePlacing Marla in our signature dip, we smiled for the camera. 

Just as we were about to leave, two ladies seated near the door summoned us over.  As we approached, these ladies grinned broadly.  One of the ladies thanked us for performing for them. 

"I have been coming to these Sunday brunches for years now and I have never seen anyone dance like you two.  Please come back!"

I explained that we were on the cruise ship, so we would be gone soon.  Then I added to look for us again in five years.  Perhaps Fate would bring us back here again someday.

The lady smiled and said, "Well, I certainly hope so.  You and your wife make the music come to life."   

And with that nice compliment, we waved goodbye.  

No doubt Marla prefers her slow dances dressed in evening gown complete with heels, necklace and earrings.  Nevertheless Marla still managed to thoroughly enjoy our unexpected evening of dancing.  I think the elegant setting of the hotel helped considerably.  This had been a special moment for both of us.

Returning to the ship in darkness, I could see that Marla was in a much better mood.  Our Magic Moment at Hotel Phoenicia had definitely cheered her up, grouchy guard notwithstanding.

Now a word of advice to you guys.  When it comes to dancing, Country Western, Salsa and East Coast Swing are your everyday staples.  Every man needs to learn Twostep and Swing.  If you are single, partner dancing is still the fastest way on Earth to get a pretty lady in your arms at first sight... especially if you happen to be near a dance floor.

However, Twostep and Swing will not help when the romantic music starts.  There comes a time when the ability to dance gracefully to slow, romantic classics becomes the most charming thing in the world.  Women form impressions about a man by the way he dances.  If he is gentle and can keep the beat, Slow Dance is magic.  As I have made clear, Slow Dance can change a lady's mood considerably, especially to a beautiful song.  Women have told me for years how much a dance with a man she cares about makes the song even more wonderful. 

The moment becomes an instant memory.  From that point on, whenever the woman hears that song, she thinks of you.  As Jane Austen put it, "To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love..."

The problem is that these moments are difficult to anticipate.  Sometimes the opportunity to Slow Dance appears out of the blue.  When this chance happens, you need to be ready.

My adventure with Marla at Hotel Phoenicia was not an isolated event.  This sort of thing happens wherever we go.  When we were on Bourbon Street at Mardi Gras in 2004, we heard some blues music coming from a bar as we passed by.  On the spur of the moment, we danced the Whip right there on the sidewalk.  The next thing we knew, a crowd of 50 were cheering and applauding.  One guy handed me a dollar; he thought we were street entertainers.  In a way, I guess we were.  

When we were at the Magic Fountain in Barcelona back in 2009, we danced a Viennese Waltz to Blue Danube.  A huge crowd back away to give us room.  It was fabulous moment.

During the Holiday Season 2014, we danced East Coast Swing on the street to Christmas music during Houston's Lights in the Heights.  This chance came out of the blue. 

In 2014 in Taormina, Sicily, we waltzed on the sidewalk to That's Amore played by a two-man band collecting tips.

Early in 2015, Marla and I were on a river cruise along Germany's legendary Rhine River.  One night we found ourselves walking alone in a little German village called Rudesheim.  As we passed a small pub, we could hear a band playing music, so we went in.  To our surprise, The Last Waltz by Englebert Humperdinck was the very next song.  Marla and I raced to the floor and delighted everyone in the club with the prettiest Waltz.  It was unexpected and it was beautiful.

From that point on, whenever I mention Rudesheim to Marla, I always get a smile.  Rudesheim, Taormina, Mardi Gras, Barcelona... these special moments all have something in common with our dance opportunity at Hotel Phoenicia.

Each opportunity took us by surprise and each dance put a huge smile on Marla's face.  Take it from me.  Slow Dance and Romance go hand in hand.  If a guy can dance, then a smile from the woman he loves becomes the best reward in the world. 

However, if the guy can't dance, the moment is lost.  The man either knows how to Slow Dance or he doesn't. 

The key is to prepare ahead of time.

Every one of you guys might get a chance to Slow Dance at some point.  You might never know when some occasion might present an opportunity to dance.  Maybe it will be an office Christmas party.  Or maybe a church will have a get-together and music will magically appear.  Perhaps a New Years Eve dinner will feature a small combo.  Or you are sharing a drink in a bar in some far-off place and pretty background music begins to play. 

Someday, somewhere, sometime when you least expect it, you will get your chance.  Will you be ready or will you drop the ball? 

No man can fake Slow Dancing.  A word to the wise... take a dance class ahead of time.  Learning to dance is worth every moment you dedicate to the project.  There is no finer way known to man to keep a romance alive than the ability to dance to beautiful music. 

Another powerful doorway to romance is an ocean cruise or river cruise.  Water is the universal symbol for emotion.  I have discovered a woman becomes very receptive to romance at sea.

If you go on a cruise, learn to dance ahead of time.  A cruise is a high-probability opportunity to employ those dance skills.  As you stroll across the ship with your loved one, you might just hear the most beautiful song. 

That exact thing happened on my wedding day to Marla.  Seeing Marla dressed in her wedding dress, a ship member winked at her and said we could skip the life boat drill. 

As we sat alone in the Lounge, a pretty song began to play.  Was it The Way You Were?  Or was it As Time Goes By?  Or was it Unforgettable?  It doesn't matter.  The name of the song escapes me, but my memory of this moment will never die.  This quiet dance on our Wedding Day was yet another Magic Moment for the two of us because it led to many more similar moments.

Our trip to the Hotel Phoenicia has become a memory Marla and I will always cherish.  Frank Sinatra, marble floor, three man band, beautiful lounge, and The Way You Look Tonight... can anyone imagine a more surefire recipe for a Magic Moment?  

I say add Dance to your Life.  It is a skill that will repay the time invested many, many times over.  

Every girl dreams of her Prince Charming.

Rick and Marla's Wedding Dance aboard the Rhapsody, 2004

"Dancing... Even if one's partner is barely tolerable"

Our culture is filled with mythology about the power of dance to enchant a lovely young lady.

Rick teaching dance on the Egypt 2010 cruise trip

Neil had so much fun in class he considered taking more lessons.

Behold the fallen Christmas tree following the disaster.

The beautiful Main Lounge with the sculpture atop the bar

Neil, Ellen, and Marla in the Main Lounge, Hotel Phoenicia.
Take note of Neil's book on Malta.  Neil thought he was so clever!

Neil and Ellen in dance class in Malta 2010 

Itinerary for the Istanbul 2015 cruise.

Malta 2010: Neil, Ellen, Marla, Rick in Malta

The magnificent Hotel Phoenicia

Marla and I took a selfie in honor of Neil outside the hotel.

This was our 2015 Malta attire.  Not very impressive.

The Three Man Band.  Behind them is the Foyer and Front Door.

The Forbidden Buffet which we avoided for fear of losing a hand

Hotel guests enjoying the buffet.

Ladies love gowns, elegance and men who will dance with them

This unusual sculpture is the centerpiece of the Main Lounge

The back side of the hotel.  Many weddings are held here.

Romance is very powerful at sea.  Dancing makes it even better

 The intrepid slow dancers join us on the floor.

I asked the bartender to snap this picture. 

Street dancing the Whip, Mardi Gras 2004

This picture was taken in 2001 on trip where I met Marla.  As I wrote, Marla and I met on the dance floor of a cruise ship at the Stroke of Midnight.   We have been inseparable ever since.

This picture was taken an hour after our 2004 wedding. 
Marla and I thought we were alone.  Guess not. 

Dance has rewarded me many times over.  I highly recommend that everyone learn to dance.  If so, you too will have Magic Moments.

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