DANCING NEAR YOU
Inspired in the Catskill Mountains at a resort where the “Dirty Dancing” producers wanted to film the movie but were turned down, (Can you believe it?) Dancing Near You was the brainchild of Sharon Ohrenstein. Searching for a way to take some of her husband David’s compositions off the shelf, she toyed with arranging his solo piano pieces for multiple instruments and adding percussion.
For their new ballroom dancing CD, Dancing Near You, David and Sharon sought out expert advice. Eight different professional ballroom instructors trekked to their second floor rooms at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House to consult with them on this music. All of them fell in love with the melodies and enthusiastically encouraged further development. The melodies were so moving that each dance instructor immediately had choreographic ideas and “complained” that the tunes would haunt them for days. Going beyond their classical and theater backgrounds, David and Sharon forged forward with these original works to fine tune them for specific dance styles.
DAVID THE COMPOSER
Composing comes easily for David. He’ll wake up with melodies in his head and jot them down quickly. “You Gotta Love” was jotted down when David was 16 years old; while “Dancing Near You” was commissioned by two of the instructors. He composed it while in his 50s. Some were created on the Honduran island of Roatan, others were composed as part of the musicals they have written together, and one was written for their daughter.
SHARON THE ARRANGER
Although arranging music took Sharon way out of her comfort zone, she finds it strangely compelling. It appeals to her sense of theater. Rather than starting with an ensemble of set instruments and writing for that sound, Sharon allowed each piece to develop its own character by utilizing the wide array of instruments available with computer programs. The result is the unusual variety of instrumentation on the CD which keeps the ear attuned and the feet tapping. Singers, pianists, wind ensemble, violinists, and the concert band have performed David and Sharon’s original compositions and arrangements.
DANCE TO YOUR FAVORITES STYLES; NEW BEAUTIFUL MELODIES
- You Gotta Love has a rock flavor with flourishes on the Honky Tonk piano in a Jerry Lee Lewis style. It lends itself to East Coast Swing but several line dances would also work.
- Dancing Near You was written for South African Professional Ballroom Dance Champions Desiree and Martin Smith for a charity benefit in Boston honoring comic great Gilda Radner and hosted by her movie star husband, Gene Wilder. They danced an exquisite Argentine Tango to this piece recorded by David at the piano. In keeping with the original concept, Sharon enlarged this new arrangement for two pianos. The Smiths danced to it at the slower tempo, we speeded it up for only the 90 sec. version.
- The Snows of Winter waltz was a favorite of David’s mother and composed while he was in his early teens. David’s Polish-Jewish parents immigrated to the U.S. shortly after surviving WWII. You can hear their eastern European influence in much of his music.
- The Mango Tango was composed on Oquaga Lake and inspired by Patty’s Pub a.k.a. the Lakeside Room at Scott’s Hotel. This room is used for all sorts of social gatherings. Arranged in the American tango style, this piece charms its listeners. The guitar lead lends a Spanish flavor to the ambiance of the sound.
- How The Neon Twirl evolved is a twisted tale. It started out as a piano solo that stumped the dancers….exactly what dance style was it? So, I (Sharon) experimented with the percussion. Eventually, I settled on a beat – which then led to the featured drum moments. Along the way, the title was changed three or four times. To me, the melody suggests an urban setting, bar hopping, and maybe even a new line dance, thus the title. We like the results.
- We had to include The Highlander Jig in this collection of dance music even though it is not technically a ballroom dance style. Romance is romance in any style. We figure, somewhere in David’s past lives, he was Irish. Combining cello, violin and flute makes it a trio for musicians but a courting dance for two.
- Joining Hands for Life is about yearning to share more than just a few moments with another person. As the melody progressed, I heard the words of the title fitting with the notes. The complex meter makes the piece feel like a waltz yet it is counted in square time. (4/4) Its long melodic line melts the hearts of listeners and inspires thoughts of a pas de deux and/or contemporary dance.
- Laughing Eyes is softly percussive in this arrangement for two jazz harps – making it a highly unique cha cha. David loves to make his transitions musically intriguing so listen to how he make his way back to the main them after the middle section. This transition never ceases to catch my (Sharon’s) ear and is often commented on by our musician friends.
- Ah, Waltzing with Kathryn was named after our darling daughter. I wanted the arrangement to be light, graceful, sweet, yet dynamic as is our daughter. Flutes and violins lead the way and many different instruments are featured. By the way, she is on the CD’s cover and a great dancer.
- Dark and Dangerous. Turn the bass up for this piece. Just when you think David is all sweetness and light, he will compose a piece that reflects his Scorpio nature – still waters run deep.
- Sippin’ Monkey La Las. A Monkey La La is a drink we enjoyed on the island of Roatan made with coffee liqueur, rum, cream and ice. Yum. It’s named after a lizard that walks upright spinning his legs like a bicycle. We were performing a cabaret show at Bay Island Resort and three other resorts for a month. We had a delightful time! During our off time, David did a lot of composing. This was just one of his many pieces.
- Breezin’ Along. One day, David was thinking of one of his favorite songs: The 59th Street Bridge Song – aka Feelin’ Groovy by the great Simon and Garfunkle. As he was reflecting on the words “slow down you move too fast”, his own version of the sentiment “stop and smell the roses” came to him. It’s a slow waltz; and I gave it to the blow bottle.
- Bubbling Baroque started out as a takeoff on a German dance called an Allemande that we used in our musical “Elizabeth of Russia”. We were digging around for a foxtrot to include on the CD and pulled out this. Though, it’s not your typical foxtrot – it’s fun. Using a vibraphone makes it more contemporary and gives it the flavor of a circus calliope.
- Bolero Brillante was another piece that took several tries at arranging before settling on a bolero rhythm featuring marimba for a South American sound. All the dancers were delighted that we created a bolero. Its Russian-like melody led me to use the marimba in a way similar to the strumming of a balalaika.
- The Masks of Drama is a waltz with touches of a Mazurka – having a strong emphasis on the second beat – reflecting David’s love of Chopin. Its two contrasting themes suggested to me the masks of tragedy and comedy but more like the sweep of a tragic war story blended with a romantic comedy tale.