Editorial notebook: Swinging to the rescue of Century Ballroom
Seattle Times editorial page intern Ana Sofia Knauf marvels at how the fans of the Century Ballroom rallied to pay the dance hall’s unexpected state tax bill.
GROWING up, I was more bulldog than ballerina. I was nicknamed “Killer” by my childhood volleyball teammates for my powerful serve, which injured a rival hitter’s hands.
That is why my family and friends were shocked when I took up ballroom dancing in high school. Swing dancing became my favorite. Swing is a jazz-style dance that originated on the East Coast in the 1920s.
Last summer, a housemate and I ventured to a Sunday-night dance at Century Ballroom in Capitol Hill.
After a four-year break, I was rusty. By the time I completed the social beginners’ lesson with instructors Mark Kihara and Darla Weideman, I felt an overwhelming sense of community.
It didn’t matter if you were dressed to the nines or in your gym shoes; if you wanted to dance, you practically became family.
The dance floor feels like one of the few places it is acceptable for me, a perfectionist, to make mistakes. An offbeat step is either quietly ignored or, at most, met with a small smile. When my partner sends me flying with a swing-out, I suddenly forget about my two left feet and the stack of work on my desk and just let myself enjoy twirling around my partner.
I find being at Century Ballroom more relaxing than any yoga class or attempt at meditation.
I guess that is why Seattle’s dance community was hit so hard when it got word that the state Department of Revenue slapped the Century with a $92,000 tax bill. According to the DOR, the ballroom’s bill was a result of not paying a statewide “dance tax” for the last four years. The tax hurt a number of Seattle establishments, including Ballard’s Tractor Tavern.
However, in the three months the Century Ballroom’s owner Hallie Kuperman was given to pay the bill, the dance community jumped in. Fundraisers included a “Sweet 16” tax-relief birthday party for the dance hall. All told, donors raised $92,000.
Seeing a micro-community swing into action to defend its territory was truly inspiring. I could not be prouder to be part of that.
Ana Sofia Knauf