Dancing Tid-bits, Issue #49, Thursday, May 3, 2001
Remembering Michael Houseman
How little I knew about dancing in 60's and 70's. Even though I took some
ballroom lessons in my early student days in India, it was not till 1992,
that I seriously started to dance. In 1995, I bought the book "The World of
Phyllis Haylor." As I started to read, I saw the picture of Michael Houseman
and Valerie Waite, "The Sixties Look-1963." And those were the days of
dynamic, handsome, young, talented English dancer Michael Houseman as the
World Class Champion of Modern Ballroom Dancing.
Low and Behold, did I know that I will get a chance to be friends with this Jewel of ballroom dancing. As I was attending a USABDA convention somewhere in Florida about 5-6 years ago, I checked the schedule and was thrilled to see that Michael Houseman will run some clinics on Modern. I was filled with excitement and anxiously waited by the entrance where he was supposed to arrive for the lesson. I expected to see some sort of superhumanly or godly figure surrounded with crowds of dancers zip by, but to my amazement I saw this tall, lanky Briton with thick glasses, looking and asking where the room 201 was. He was carrying a Boom Box in his arms and I immediately recognized that this was Michael H (even after 30 years of his picture in the book). I went and greeted him and asked if I could carry the Boom Box for him. Initially he resisted but then yielded on my insistence. I lead him to the room where the crowd had gathered and we had a wonderful lesson. My heart was throbbing with Joy, I was in class with this great Dancer who was part of Dancing History around the World. I wasn't going to let this go by so quietly and I certainly had planned a "Trick or Treat."
The lesson was marvelous and the crowd was becoming increasingly involved as he was expanding our horizons on the Basics of Hold and Frame etc. I had taken my Phyllis Haylor Book with me and bookmarked the pages where he had his picture. As the lesson was coming to and end, my chance to ask the questions. I approached him with open book and asked if he recognized the person on page 80. He looked at me and for a moment there was pin drop silence, he did not know how to respond. He kept gazing at me but really he was kind of speechless for a moment and then everybody gathered around. This was an exciting moment. Everybody started asking me if all that was true...and of course it was, the book, the picture and all. He was gracious and signed his name on the picture. Everybody was curious about the book. They all looked in awe and what glamour in those pages. Everyone took notes, who published the book and on and on. I am sure this was an eye opening experience for most who were there.
The crowds thinned out little by little and we walked out of the room together. He obviously had taken a liking for me. He was impressed by my awareness of Dance in general and we conversed more and more. We talked about the Ballroom Technique books, the ISTD and Guy Howard. I confronted him with some questions as to which one he liked better. We must have talked for an hour. This was Michael Houseman, Carefree, Casual and down to Earth. He will not look at the watch, and there was no mention of money. It was pure Love and Joy of Dance.
Of course I did not expect that he would remember me or recognize me when I met him again at Dance Avenue in Dearborn, but he would say right away "I know you, we met in Florida"..and then he started to remember my name as well as my profession (proctologist).
Just to mention a few points of technique from his class:
1. While competing "Enter like you are the Greatest," He will quote Muhammad Ali.
2. Chin and Head up and Long Neck; He will constantly pull on my Hair from the back and I never will forget this Head Positioning.
3. Sway, we were just doing a simple whisk and he emphasized the Left Sway on 2 and 3 with stretched sides and braced bodies in PP.
A couple years later I met Valerie and took her autograph on the same picture where Michael had signed his. And then, below that there is my handwritten note which I have transcribed below word to word:
"Feb 28, 2000: Pam at Dance Avenue told me that Michael Houseman had passed away on Friday Feb 26 in Florida. He had Lung cancer and weighed 140 lbs when he died. Valerie called and told Pam. Sad news. Will surely miss him."
Let this issue of "Dancing Tid-bits" be a tribute to Michael Houseman the great Dancer and Dance Teacher, for all what he did for the world of Dancing. Valerie! we will always share your grief and fully understand how you must feel when you are out there judging, but no, doesn't it feel like "He is right there, you can see him and talk to him." God Bless"..Best Wishes Max
PS: This letter was due a couple of months ago for which I apologize....
Questions and comments to Dancemax@aol.com, thank you.