Last weekend, the annual Newport International Boat Show came to town, in Newport, Rhode Island, and the weather was brilliant. That alone was a pretty good change of pace for the often weather-beset show in southern New England, but this year something else happened that had never taken place before. On the adjacent Bowen's Wharf, where several boats were displayed on trailers, the local dance company, the Island Moving Company, put a new twist on its annual effort to bring dance out of the studio and into the open.
The Classic Boat Shop, of Bernard, Maine, was one of the "yachtie" back-drops to the six-minute outburst of music and accompanying kinetic energy, and proprietor Jean Beaulieu was thrilled. "I loved it," he said. "Anything to create extra excitement."
The dance, choreographed and led by local dance legend, Jackie Henderson, along with three or four dozen enthusiastic amateurs, took place at 3, 4, and 5 p.m. "We started to figure out that something was going to happen about 10 minutes before it took place," said Jean. Someone had earlier tested the P.A. system from an upstairs deck, he said, and suddenly there were a lot of women around "dressed in tights."
"I thought somebody was going to get an award," he added.
Against the backdrop of a Herreshoff-style 21-foot classic, which Beaulieu will build either of fiberglass or cold-mold-wooded, the dance medley started with Beat It, in honor of Michael Jackson, then worked its way through several genres with segments of songs including Chain of Fools, Build Me Up Buttercup, and Jump, Jive and Wail. Jackie had recorded a YouTube video to teach the dance steps, and then IMC's Dominique Alfandre had spread the word via e-mail.
I asked one of the instigators of the event, Rachel Balaban, how it worked out (full disclosure...she's my wife), and she said, "The third dance was the best. Everyone was totally relaxed, the crowd was the biggest, and everyone was giving it their all. Word had gotten around and the crowd was the biggest and most festive.
Judge for yourself from the video. That's Jackie in the red jacket.