Trial Balloon

Do the Pawlenty

Posted at 5:45 AM on June 3, 2009 by Dale Connelly (21 Comments)

Today we feature a Q & A session with political dance instructor Chester Card, who is an expert at unraveling complicated steps.

Q: Minnesota's Governor announced yesterday that he won't run for re-election in 2010. What step is he doing?

A: The thing about political dance is that you can never truly be sure what step you're watching until the routine is almost over, but what I see unfolding is The Presidential Dip. It's a wonderful, ritualistic, national dance, both subtle and bold at the same time.

Q: How is it done?

A: First, you pick a direction. Right or Left, it doesn't matter.

Q: Let's say right.

A: Then you start with the right foot forward. The body turns sharply right. Motion, energy, intent ... everything about you is rightward. Then you go right heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe like that. With vigor.

Q: And then reverse?

A: No! Never. You must move in your chosen direction consistently, or else you will be doing The Waffle, which is a dance for losers.

Q: Won't you run out of dance floor?

A: If you are no good at The Presidential Dip, then yes, you will run out of dance floor. But the experienced dipper can circle back towards the center while continuing to lead with the right, facing right, and moving right.
Or left, if that's your preference.
This consistent motion enables you to extend your leading hand with a long, graceful sweep, open fingered, in the direction of the audience, who, following the time-honored tradition, will press coins into your palm if they like what you're doing.

Q: And with your trailing hand?

A: Whatever you please. Chopping motions. Nose thumbing. Busy finger work.
This is where the individual expression comes in.

Q: And then you do The Presidential Dip?

A: No. You don't ever do a dip.

Q: I thought you were describing The Presidential Dip. Isn't it a 'toe in the water' dance?

A: Yes, but the Presidential Dip does not involve an actual dip. In fact, when you are doing The Presidential Dip, you indicate with all your movements and your posture that you are not doing any dance at all.
Instead, your body says "I am about to sit down."

Q: That doesn't make any sense.

A: This is the way it's done.

Q: So there's no special signature move in The Presidential Dip?

A: The coin collecting part is special. Very.

Q: But nothing that says ... 'I'm doing this dance'?

A: That move comes near the end and it takes the form of wrist flick, as if one is tossing something.

Q: Like a hat, say?

A: It could be a hat.

Q: Into a ring?

A: No, that's Jarts.

Q: So that's it? A wrist flick?

A: Yes, that's it. But you have to do it at just the right moment. Too early and your dance looks like The Hustle. Too late and it resembles The Jive.

Q: So ... a proper wrist flick at just the right moment is all there is to it?

A: Yes. That's when the observers can say ... "Look. A Presidential Dip!"

Q: Chester Card, political dance instructor, thanks for the lesson.

A: Another thing - if you're doing the P.D., don't do anything at all with your pelvis. Very important.

Personally, I find dance of all kinds to be frightening and stressful. Is anyone here good at dancing? Between us, what steps do we know?

Comments (21)

Brilliant, Dale...simply brilliant. Worthy of a SLN skit!

I jsut posted this reference to "get your goat" on yesterday's blog, but I thought this is worthy of posting here today in case folks don't go back to the earlier blogs...and, in a way, there might be a way to fit it into the Political Dip dance...a step where someone gets the dancer's "goat"

2. There is an old French phrase "prendre la chèvre" which also means approximately "to get your goat" or "to take away the goat". Various places suggest this is because in old times a person's goat would be their only source of milk, so they'd be understandably miffed if someone took it!

First source cited is the race horse story...from website

I don't know where TGITH's story fits in...

Posted by cynthia in mahtowa | June 3, 2009 6:06 AM

I would like to know some dance steps, but haven't gotten very far when I tried to learn some. Pawlenty and our other elected leaders or would be elected leaders have done such strange dances, so we can't look to them for help with dancing. My wife and I have invented our own dance steps, but we don't think any one wants to see them and we only dance privately in our own home.

Posted by Jim | June 3, 2009 6:33 AM

good morning, all!

i don't have an avid dance partner in a spouse, so though i'd like to cha cha cha to my heart's content, i don't.

watching the politicians' moves is a bit unbearable for me, i must confess. i did enjoy the chuckle from today's presidential dip though!

Posted by elinor | June 3, 2009 7:02 AM

I can't drive past the Degree of Honor builiding in downtown St. Paul without recalling dance classes there in 7th grade, when most girls towered over most boys and all boys had sweaty hands so all girls wore white gloves! I guess it's no mystery that I still don't know how to dance!

If all it takes to be president is a nice dance, I nominate John Travolta!

Posted by Kim in Saint Paul | June 3, 2009 7:02 AM

I am sure that Chester has a full dance Card, but I fear he missed a few details re: The Presidential Dip. The PD is obviously a dollar dance with the politician expecting even bigger checks than those brides and grooms get. I think (especially with T-Paw's version) that the dance is most likely to be a two-step reflective of the two-faced nature of politics. It's also a very limited dance party that excludes folks on GMAC, those with disabilities, and same sex couples.

Heartlanders, kick up your heels and dance to your favorite RH tune today. Remember dance like nobody's watching!

Posted by Beth-Ann | June 3, 2009 7:03 AM

On a completely different subject......There's a new answer to the question "Where's Eric?" Eric Ringham is coming to work at MPR. With any luck we can welcome him with a rousing game of "Where's Eric?" at the State Fair.

Posted by Beth-Ann | June 3, 2009 7:18 AM

Like Elinor, I'm a fan of the cha cha - but did not marry a ballroom dance enabled husband (he's good a lots of other things, though). I also like a good polka and a graceful waltz (when I can find a willing partner). I didn't get dance lessons until college, and then more than half the class was taking lessons because they were in a wedding within months. My pals and I were in the minority in that class - there because we thought it a bit of a lark during spring semester senior year.

And Beth-Ann, I agree, I think T-Paw's dance is a dollar dance two-step.

Posted by Anna | June 3, 2009 7:29 AM

Oh boy, I get to show off. I teach int'l folk dancing at Tapestry in S. Mpls. sometimes, so there are two-steps and grapevines and yemenites and pas-de-bas and polkas and horas...
Or if you're doing square/contra dancing: balance-and-swing, pass through, and do-si-do.

I wish I knew swing dancing and more cajun and... For anyone interested: ( there is always some teaching beginning each evening. You don't need a partner, and the music is intoxicating. When Dale plays folk music from Bulgaria or Romania, I sometimes know a dance to that!

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | June 3, 2009 7:36 AM

Hey Dale -

In the great expanse of the MPR music collection, do you have anything by The Wallets (a MN band from the 80s)? The played something one might describe as "punk polka" or perhaps "new wave polka" - a lot of fun to dance to, even if you're making up the steps...


Posted by Anna | June 3, 2009 7:36 AM

no time to dally today - just wanted to say, Dale, that you are truly so witty, insightful, and funny - and so early in the morning! you can do satire without being cruel - a true gift! thanks, and i'm outta here.....
good morning to All

Posted by barb in Blackhoof | June 3, 2009 7:43 AM

Anna, you're lucky he'll waltz at all. :-) Dancing is something my husband does not feel comfortable doing at all, even though he is a skilled blues and jazz musisican! Like you, I like a good polka! Growing up in South Dakota, we used to go to the outdoor dances in the rural areas where the polka reigned!

Just thought of Madeline Peyroux's lovely recording of Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love", of Tom Waits "Russian Dance", and Leon Redbone's "Dancin' on Daddy's Shoes"... as I was listening to the other dance related tunes this morning.

Posted by elinor | June 3, 2009 7:48 AM

Polka! Hoo, Hoo, Hooo!

My dad always found a polka station on the radio when we were milking cows... Cows like music but I'm not sure they liked polka's... made it hard to milk them with all that swaying!

For my parents 50th Wedding anniversary about 10 years ago the entire family had gone to a resort 'up North' and I had Dale and Jim Ed play a polka for them on the Morning show! Mom and Dad polka-ed around the living room much to our amusement.


Posted by Ben | June 3, 2009 8:22 AM

My hubby and his baby brother took tap for awhile during high school- because they wanted to!- and he is a much better dancer than I am. We frequently fake it at home on the kitchen "dance floor". I was part of a Swedish Folk Group in college (Gustavus, of course!) and a can fake the samba pretty well!

Posted by Amy in St Paul | June 3, 2009 8:24 AM

Dale: You're playing Jerry Jeff right now. I can't think of a better "Dance" song than Mr. Bojangles. I don't know if you have it. I've never heard you ever play it.

But not only is it Jerry Jeff's best song fits really well into your dance theme.

If you have, and if you play it, I'll listen!

Posted by Mike | June 3, 2009 8:32 AM

Got Leo Sayer's "I can dance?"

Posted by Mike in Albert Lea | June 3, 2009 8:44 AM

Early practioners of the PD would indeed run out of dance floor. In fact, they would be so intent on their steps that they would commonly walk out of the dance hall and into the road, where they would be run over. This brought about several 'dips in the road' which resulted in negative attention because of the rather public mess and need for clean up. It didn't take long (only a few decades) for modern PD'ers to learn from their forebears' (i.e. roadkill) mistakes.

Just as interesting are the other tried and failed dance steps related to the Waffle. The above referenced move toward forces that would squash you became known as the Poltical Pancake move. There was also the Gubernatorial Crepe (Americanized pronounciation, of course), the Flip-Flop-Flapjack, and the Senatorial Blintz.

Posted by That Guy in the Hat | June 3, 2009 8:52 AM

Barb in R -- when and where do you teach? Sounds fun! I have the basic ballroom steps in my repetoire (actually got college credit for ballroom dancing -- gosh the 70s were fun) and learned a little clogging from a friend some years back. But no way would I ever consider the political dance. I don't have the stamina for it!

Posted by sherrilee | June 3, 2009 8:56 AM

I suspect it's not in the library, but I am reminded that Leo Sayer's song noted above is actually titled "Long Tall Glasses." But it's fun throwing out suggestions.

Posted by Mike in Albert Lea | June 3, 2009 9:00 AM

Thanks for the ideas, everyone.
Mike, there's nothing by Leo Sayer in our library.
Sorry. I guess he was too popular. But I am dismayed by the absence of "Mr. Bojangles". We'll have to fix that.
And TGITH, I'd like to see the Flip Flop Flapjack sometimes. Thanks for all the funny ideas!

Posted by Dale Connelly | June 3, 2009 9:02 AM

Sherilee -- Sounds like you've had some varied experience! Even with some college classes, I still thought I was clumsy till I found int'l dancing with a U of Mn group in the 70s.

I've been teaching at Tapestry Folkdance Center (3748 Minnehaha Ave. South, Mpls.) for the last 3 Friday eves, including tonight at 7:30. It's a rotating teaching crew, so my next gig will probably be in the fall.

There is also a more low key group I belong to that meets 2nd Sunday monthly, where every dance is taught: Sacred Circle Dance

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | June 3, 2009 9:20 AM

Sherilee -- woops, I meant this Friday eve at 7:30.

Posted by Barbara in Robbinsdale | June 3, 2009 1:21 PM

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