A Brief History
Dancing Role Reversal with Nancyanna on stage in Cincinnati in 1988
Images the girls and I created for our early classes
The first of three Swing dance music compilations I created, under the Roll Up The Rug label
I did all the graphics for Living Traditions. Here are two of my favorite flyers.
I grew up in Barstow, CA, a small town in the Mojave Desert. My only dance experiences were in Mr. Sweeny's 3rd grade class where we did square dancing, the Mexican Hat Dance, etc. - and a cotillion class in 7th grade where we dressed up and learned to do basic partner dances from a woman with little cymbals on her fingers. I never went to a dance in high school and only jumped around a little bit in college. Dance was not part of my reality.
My formal education was in art and industrial design at UC Berkeley, San Jose State, and CalArts. After leaving college in 1977, I moved to Port Townsend, WA. When using an extra drawing table for an art project in the architecture office of Jean Anderson, a very energetic woman in Port Townsend, she decided I needed to learn to dance. My very circuitous and drawn out evolution as a dancer began a few feet from this drawing table. I was also lucky to meet a group of wonderful women who ran an international folk dance practice in the neighborhood. They were good at every dance imaginable, including many variations of partner dance - and were very patient.
Centrum is an arts organization in Port Townsend that, at the time, sponsored a yearly International Folk Dance and Music Festival, which exposed me to many forms of dance and instructors, including Richard Powers, who has been a significant influence in my evolution as a dancer and teacher. The most influential person in my early years for teaching was Sherry Nevins, who taught Swing through the Seattle Folklore Society in 1982. She invited me to assist in class. After two sessions, her partner could not attend so she asked me to be her teaching partner. Sherry, besides being a very nice person, was a very experienced square and contra-dance caller so was very good at calling people through moves - a skill essential to teaching partner dance. She did not use a mike, so I became her "loud speaker".
Besides starting to teach in Port Townsend, I was invited to teach in Alaska, and subsequently taught 12 winters in our biggest state. Life plugged along until I met my wife-to-be, Nancyanna Lefever, at the 1987 Vintage Ballroom Dance week ran by Richard Powers in Cincinnati. A year later we were married - and soon we were invited to Seattle to fill a void of social dance instruction. We were in the right place at the right time - and had the right skill sets and passions.
In 1990, we moved to Seattle and created Living Traditions Dance. What began as a small grass roots organization steadily grew until, at its peak, it was serving over 1000 people at a time with 18 employees to manage the flow. In its 14-year history Living Traditions Dance (LT) served over 14,000 people, mainly from the greater Seattle area, with classes, dances, and workshops. Numerous dance instructors in the Northwest took their first dance classes with LT.
Roll Up The Rug: I created the Roll Up The Rug label to produce dance music compilations, Roll Up the Rug, volumes 1 & 2, and a video/music collection (now DVDs) - The Frankie Manning Collection - http://www.nwdance.net/manning_
collection.html - that are distributed worldwide.
Wild Week: One of the hallmarks of LT was a major dance event called Wild Week. For nine years, starting in 1990, 200-250 attendees and 4 sets of instructors from all over the country and world, traveled to Port Townsend's Fort Worden during the week after Christmas to be dancing fools for a week.
Sadly, Nancyanna contracted Multiple Sclerosis in the mid-90s and I soon became Mr. Mom. In 2004, I turned Living Traditions Dance into a nonprofit organization, NW Dance Network, and we returned to Port Townsend - and then to Whidbey Island.
I have taught dance classes with my daughters for a decade, starting when they were 9 & 12 (now 21 & 24). Another main partner has been Janice Eklund, who lives in Port Townsend. My partner now is Monica Uhl (pictured left), who is working with me to develop a new approach to partner dance. Stay tuned. Our focus is simply to help people move creatively and harmoniously together - not to compete or perform.
Walter 360-301-4755 firstname.lastname@example.org