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Exploring the West Coast

Portland Dance Classic

By Taylor Wall

After looking for an amateur competition to attend during the winter season, my partner, Michael Kasinkas, and I decided to try out a new competition on the west coast: the Portland Dance Classic. We like to treat our competition outings like vacations, including seeing the city and trying local foods, and this trip was no different. We arrived two days before the competition to explore the city before hitting the dance floor.

Because the competition was in a suburb, we rented a car, and because we're super adventurous people who like to live on the edge, we agreed to pay a reduced rental rate in exchange for whatever car they had available that day. For weeks before the trip, we hoped for a sleek, fast car while joking with friends that we would get a minivan. Well, the higher powers of car rental must enjoy playing tricks on people, because that's exactly what we got: a massive Toyota Sienna with fold-down seats, power side doors, dual climate controls, and absolutely no traction or weight balance on twisting mountain roads. We called this behemoth The Destroyer.

After resigning ourselves to The Destroyer, we started our sightseeing with the Oregon Zoo, where we caught the penguin feeding and saw a rare bald eagle exhibit before heading to the Lan Su Chinese Gardens, a city block which has been converted into a traditional Chinese garden and teahouse, complete with rooms with names like "Knowing the Fish Pavilion" and "Painted Boat in Misty Rain." Then we visited Powell's House of Books, which spanned another entire city block, before checking out some local restaurants.

That Friday it was foggy and rainy, but we made it out to historic Oregon City to see the official end of the Oregon Trail, where we pretended we were setting out on the Trail and packing our covered wagon. When we returned to downtown Portland, we took a maritime tour on the Willamette River with the three seamen of the steam-powered tugboat the Portland and explored the many food truck options, trying street food from a few different spots before checking out the free night at the Portland Art Museum. There was a special exhibit on Japanese art, but we turned in early to prepare for the competition Saturday.

As is typical of the west coast, most of the competition focused strongly on the international styles. We danced smooth with only two other couples, and we were the only adult rhythm competitors in any skill level, dancing the only mambo of the entire competition. Although enthusiasm for the American styles was low, we got the qualifications we wanted and enjoyed our time there. The venue was spacious with lots of room to eat lunch and practice between rounds, and the people were very friendly and welcoming (a wonderful and supportive woman named Fang agreed to record our dancing even though we were competing against her friends).

We look forward to returning to the Portland Dance Classic next year, and we may even take some extra time to explore the west coast more. Although I was surprised at just how little American style was represented in Portland, I hope to start to spreading the American love and recognition as we make new friends across the country. Going to the Portland Dance Classic made me appreciate just how lucky we are to have a well-rounded community that represents all styles in the Twin Cities, from standard and Latin to smooth and rhythm to swing and salsa.