unexpected waltz book coverPlease welcome Kim Wright, author of The Unexpected Waltz!

by Kim Wright

I tell people I stumbled into a ballroom by accident. It makes a good story… In fact, it makes such a good story that it’s the opening scene of my novel, The Unexpected Waltz. My heroine, Kelly Wilder, is rich, bored, beautiful and widowed and she finds her way into the world of dance almost by magic.

In real life, my own waltz wasn’t quite so unexpected. (Nor am I rich, beautiful or widowed, although I do get bored on occasion!) I signed up for an introductory ballroom lesson when I spotted the studio out of the corner of my eye one day as I was leaving a Trader Joe’s. The sign-up may have been impulsive, but I had always wanted to dance. As a child I’d been obsessed with the classic MGM musicals and as an adult, I was a passionate fan of Dancing With the Stars.

Because here’s the thing. Dancing is romantic. And most of life isn’t.

My instructor, Max, was Russian and ridiculously young.  As in younger-than-my-kids young. At first I began taking private lessons once a week. But dance is a drug and pretty soon you find yourself upping the dosage just to get the same rush.  I started competing, to the astonishment of my friends. I am ordinarily not a false eyelashes and rhinestones sort of girl, but there I was, in the icy cold “ballroom” of an airport Hyatt, dressed like a hooker at six in the morning. (In competition, the beginners go first, which means an early wake up call to get your hair and makeup done. This is not a sport for sissies, as anyone who’s been spray tanned in the bathroom of a Hyatt at 4 am can attest.)

As I’ve progressed along the route, there have been setbacks and disappointments, times when the learning doesn’t come so easily. I remember one day I was so frustrated over my wobbly spins that I sat in my Prius in the studio parking lot and cried. Max saw me there but left me to sob and the next time we had a lesson I said to him, rather shamefacedly, “I’m sorry I lost it over these stupid turns.”

And he said to me. “That’s all right. All cry. Some cry and come back.”

Some cry and come back. That’s the beauty of dancing. It’s romantic, sure, but it’s also a discipline and those who stick with it seem to find it a metaphor for all the wobbles of life. Dance has taught me that balance is easier to maintain while in motion – a lesson no amount of therapy or meditation had been able to drum through my thick skull. And that following another person’s lead doesn’t make a woman weak, but instead can be a sign of responsiveness and confidence.

Dancers are an interesting crew, all drawn to the sport for their own reasons. I dance with surgical nurses and airline pilots, people who are pregnant and those who have had hip replacements. Shy men and wounded women, people of every nationality and age group. Pieces of their personalities populate The Unexpected Waltz, which is not only the story of how dance saves Kelly but how dance can save a whole community. Non-dancers sometimes ask me if I took up the hobby to meet a man, but the truth is I’ve met any number of interesting men… and fascinating women too. People who have the courage to pursue their dreams, even if their dreams may look foolish to others – no, better to say especially if their dreams seem foolish to others – are inspiring to be around.

So I like to say that ballroom dance has given me the inspiration for a novel and also a whole new lease on life.