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The Rhythm Cookie

By Libby Ryan

Now, before you ask what a Rhythm Cookie is, let me tell you how exciting this moment was. Call me a drama queen; call me a crazy fangirl—you might be right. But unless you were in the ballroom at the Saturday evening show of the Twin Cities Open, you’ll have to take my word for the utmost importance of this little, plastic-bagged treat.

So the Rhythm Cookie … was a slightly chewy snickerdoodle. It was dry and leaning towards stale, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter an ounce because it was Andre’s gift bag cookie. He gave it to us.

After drooling over the dancing of Andre and Natalie Paramonov whenever they stepped onto the floor, Karen Maldonado and I stood in front of them while Theresa Kimler complimented them on their performance.

“Luscious,” she said. “It was just luscious.”

It was true. During their showpiece, you could have heard a pin drop. The entire audience was captivated by the Paramonovs’ performance to an acoustic cover of “Hallelujah.” Mesmerized, I wished the song wouldn’t end, but when it did, the silence in the ballroom was broken by thunderous applause.

Karen and I had easily agreed that Natalie’s red dress was our favorite rhythm dress of the night. We’d giggled at the couple’s mambo during the freestyle round and couldn’t help ourselves from pointing and screeching in laughter at Andre’s hilarious flourishes. Everything they danced, they took and elevated into something entirely unique—a playful mambo, a clever cha cha, a heart-stopping bolero.

Once the show ended, Theresa took advantage of the fact I always have my camera basically glued to my face at ballroom competitions and asked me to take a picture of her with the newly awarded TCO rhythm champions, Natalie and Andre. Karen and I timidly followed her onto the floor, Karen holding onto my arm in a death grip.

If you know Karen Maldonado, you know she’s selectively shy. She’s not shy around her friends, and she’s not shy when she’s dancing, but put her in front of a pair of nationally ranked professional dancers and she hides.

Theresa introduced me and explained I was taking photographs for the local dance magazine. Andre grinned before handing me something so he could pose with an arm around Natalie.

I reached out with one hand, still balancing my camera in the other, and took the plastic-bagged cookie he handed me.

Laughing, I said, “I’ll just hold onto that while I take the picture.”

“No, keep it. Keep it,” Andre said, nodding for emphasis. I just laughed and handed the cookie to Karen; we’d pass it back after I got a nice shot.

We chatted for another moment while I took their picture before letting them relax away from the dance floor. Karen and I tried to give Andre back his cookie, but he refused, telling us we should have it.

Spellbound and still cutting off circulation in my arm, Karen let me pull her out of the ballroom so we could go congratulate other competitors of the night—not that she managed to say much to them.

“They gave us their cookie,” Karen told most anyone who would listen, as she cradled it in her hands. We gushed about the dancing we’d seen that night until Karen dropped me off at my apartment, where we split the cookie in half.

And that is the story of the Rhythm Cookie.