Dancing and Darts

DanceSport at Gay Games 2014. Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski.

DanceSport. Image (c)  Kathiann M. Kowalski.

Gay Games 2014 has lots of the same events as the “regular” Olympics. These include rowing, swimming, ice skating, track and field, and so on. The week has also offered a variety of other sports that demand skill, practice, and devotion from their athletes.

In fact, the Gay Games are ahead of the “regular” Olympics in some areas. Golf won’t return to those games until Rio hosts them in 2016. But the Gay Games has already had its golf competition at the Firestone Country Club in Akron.

Similarly, the “regular” Olympics had bowling as a demonstration sport in 1988. But the Gay Games had its competition out in Wickliffe on the far east side of Cleveland. And while the “regular” Olympics has equestrian events, the Gay Games had a whole rodeo.

Earlier this week I went to two other sports that aren’t in the “regular” Olympics: DanceSport and Darts. Both were held at the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel on Public Square. Fortunately, the events were in separate ballrooms.

DanceSport is a ballroom dance competition. Imagine something like “Dancing with the Stars,” but with more modest costumes. Some of the outfits were brocade or tuxedo style. Others had chiffon drapes or skirts that floated and swirled with dancers’ motions.

The couples I saw were the women’s finalists. The dancers moved with grace, skill, and style. When the groups got to the “A” classification, the dancers were indeed—as the emcee said—“a-MAY-zing!”

Bullseye! Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski.

Bullseye! Image (c) Kathiann M. Kowalski.

The darts competition was just as amazing. The last dartboard I handled hung in my son’s old bedroom and was surrounded by holes in the wallpaper from missed throws. The Gay Games competition had a row of electronic dartboards along one wall of the ballroom. The dartboards automatically scored each hit, and computers tracked teams’ progress through different brackets on a large electronic screen.

The room hummed with chatter as groups of men competed in teams. A team member would step up to the duct tape line on the floor, take three shots, and then remove his darts. Then the next team member stepped up. It was like going to a bowling alley on league night—but with dartboards and sharp projectiles instead of bowling lanes and heavy balls.

The last time I threw a dart was when I was at the MBL hands-on environmental program for journalists. It barely landed on the random number chart we were using to determine transects for field sampling.

These contestants easily got all their darts to land on the dartboard. In fact, I saw at least six instances in which players got all three darts right on the bullseye. If it were me, I’d have stood there jumping up and down and calling for someone to take my picture. These guys calmly removed their darts so the next player could throw.

Just as bowling alleys offer refreshments, so did the darts competition. A snack bar offered nachos, trail mix, and warm pretzels.

Plus, there was a full bar. As one Gay Games volunteer at the competition said, for most people, “If you’re going to throw darts, you’re going to do it in a pub.”

“This is my kind of sport!” added another.




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