One step, two step, three step. In about an hour, four dance couples learned the three dance styles from two new instructors at the 41st Scott Joplin International Ragtime Festival in Sedalia.
Tim Lamm and Paula Harrison, both of Kentucky, teamed up Thursday afternoon for dance instruction in the Cake Walk Hall at the Fox Theater Events Center on Fifth Street.
“This is our first year at the festival. We’ve been interested in historical dance and couple’s dancing for years,” Lamm said. “We really enjoy teaching others ragtime-style dancing.”
In the past, the formal dance cost $30 and was scheduled at the same time as a ragtime concert, typically on the last day of the festival. Linda Hoffman, a festival volunteer for the past 10 years who is from Sedalia, said this year the Silver Swan Tea Dance will replace the formal dance and is scheduled for 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Cake Walk Hall.
“I like to dance, and I like to see all the people I see once a year,” Hoffman said. “I have been known as the ‘Cake Walk Queen.’ When we had the Cake Walk dance competition, I would win it so often I couldn’t participate anymore, so they made me a judge.”
Hoffman said it’s called the Cake Walk dance because you have to overemphasize your dance moves to win the biggest cake as first prize.
“When you cake walk, you’re so flamboyant and you really get into it and you just really over animate it and you kick up your heels,” she said. “So you were judged and there are three cakes, and the best couple gets the biggest cake, the next couple gets the medium cake, and the third place gets the smallest cake. That’s why they call it the Cake Walk.”
While most of the Tea Dance instruction participants were out on the dance floor, one older couple, Don and Beverly Huff, from Michigan, quietly observed on the sidelines.
“Are we going to be dancing? Probably not, because we never perfected it, even though we’ve been coming here for years,” Don said. “We’ve been coming here since the late ’80s. We love the many dances they’ve had there. They used to bring in orchestras from all over the country, from the West Coast, from New Orleans, and they brought in some just remarkable orchestras that did this type of music and had a big dance. They had it out at the fairgrounds for several years and had a big, big dance floor, and it was wonderful.”
The Huffs make the nearly nine-hour drive from their hometown Kalamazoo every year for the festival, without much disappointment except the small turnout.
“I’m just sorry to see the numbers down this year,” Don said. “That’s disappointing. I don’t know what you’d do about it. You can look at the age of the people who are here, and you don’t see a lot of kids here.”
While watching the Tea Dance instruction, Beverly pointed out one older couple: a tall gentleman in slacks and a lady in a blue dress. Beverly said she has seen the couple dance for many years at the festival.
“They are excellent dancers,” she said. “They don’t need instruction. They like to do it.”
The couple, Roger and Kay Berger from Ames, Iowa, have attended the festival every year since 1998. Kay even won the costume contest a couple times.
“We met on the dance floor 59 years ago,” Kay said. “And we do take ballroom dancing. Every year we’ve gone to the dance since it started.”
Roger said he and Kay enjoy coming to the festival every year because they get to see old friends and enjoy wonderful music.
“We have a wonderful time,” Roger said. “We love to dance new styles like (Tim Lamm) taught me, things I’ve never learned before, and we’ve been dancing together for all these years.”