Watch It Fly By As The Pendulum Swings

Someone I know happened to send over a link to a ballroom-related article. At first I was a bit reluctant to read it – the person sent it over for me to read because it was related to something that I do and it was kind of sad. Then I actually read it, and as it turns out… it actually was sad.

See, the article was talking about a ballroom community that lives in a city that was a few hours away from the city where I was born. This is a large well-known city that I have been to lots of times in my life, much of that during my crazy college years. Let me tell you, there is this amazing goth nightclub there that I used to love going to when I was in college because I thought it was crazy and funny. I don’t live anywhere close anymore, so I haven’t gone back in a long time, but I’m pretty sure that club is still in business… relatively in business, I suppose. Who knows what sort of state they are in at this time.

Anyway… there is apparently a large ballroom scene in that same city. I can’t say that anytime I have gone back home to visit my parents I have taken the time to drive over to that city to look for ballroom dancing opportunities, so I didn’t even know that was going on. The article I read says that this community has been particularly hard hit by the virus that is going around, and at the time the article was published, quite a few members of the community (estimates are between 3 and 6%) have died because of the virus.

Sad face.

Much like I said a few weeks ago, I think that this illness is going to change the face of ballroom dancing for a long time to come. The ballroom dancers I have seen while on my travels around this country are among those expected to be hardest hit by illnesses like this. Many, I might even hazard to say most of them, fall into those high-risk age groups. And ballroom dancing, as you know, is a full-contact activity, so the risk of transmission of an illness like this during the course of a dance is high. Unless science somehow manages to find a way to get rid of this virus (and any/all future mutations) completely, the world of ballroom dancing is going to have to radically change to keep all of those individuals safe.

Now, the article is quick to point out that they don’t know for sure whether all of the individuals who contracted the virus got it from any of the ballroom parties that occurred between the time that the virus was identified in the area and the time that the state had a stay-at-home order put in place shutting the parties down, but the members of the community have their suspicions. And that suspicion is potentially going to cause lingering issues. I can only imagine that if one of the parties is identified as the source for the illness in so many members of the community, that the organizers of that party are going to potentially face repercussions. It may just be that a large number of people avoid their parties in the future, but there is always the possibility that some family member takes the lawsuit route as well, as horrible as it is to even consider.

I’ve already heard reports that people are saying that even if the stay-at-home orders are lifted at the end of this month (like a number of states are scheduled to do), they still aren’t going to be comfortable returning to their old routines. So social dances may not see the masses return to participate even though the people are allowed to go once more. And even if the people do decide to attend parties, they may not switch partners as much as they used to. Couples that go together may decide to stick to dancing with only themselves rather than mixing partners. That’s a smart way to reduce the risk of catching something from the outside, but that would leave a lot of single ladies out of the fun.

I know from the time I spent in the past helping to organize dance parties that single ladies make up a large portion of the attendees for many social dances. If those ladies are left out of the fun and decide to stay home, many of these parties are not going to be able to make enough money to cover their expenses. While a lot of the dance clubs have some contingency funds set aside which could be used to cover shortfalls for a while, I don’t know how long they would be able to operate with negative revenues before they get into trouble.

And none of this even starts to consider the terrible implications of losing a large number of the people in the ballroom community! I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like for that community of dancers only a few hours away from my hometown when they all finally get back together at some dance event (when they feel safe enough to do so, of course) and are able to take stock of all the missing faces in the crowd. That is really going to change the mood of that party – possibly several parties if such a large number of people are no longer around. It makes me wonder if I’ll go through the same thing. I have no idea if any of the dancers in my part of the country have been hit by this virus, since I’m not the type of person to hang out on social media at all. Unless someone goes out of their way to let me know about how a particular person is doing, I probably won’t find out if there is a tragedy until I go to a dance party myself and discover people missing.

That thought needs a moment to sink in…

Like I asked before a few weeks ago – how is this situation going to change the small world of ballroom dancing that we’ve built around here? Are dance parties going to become more couples-only or line dance driven? Will the dancers who are in the high-risk groups be forced to give up dancing even if the stay-at-home orders are lifted, until some sort of cure/vaccine can be distributed? What about dance competitions? At a lot of the competitions that I’ve been to, the heats that have had the most entrants are the ones in those upper age groups, the same age groups at highest risk right now. Those dancers tend to have the disposable income needed to take part in these events. Will they be able to come back and compete if we still have no cure/vaccine to keep them safe? Does that take competitions off the table until that time, since without those competitors coming and spending money the organizers won’t be able to cover the costs of putting on the competition?

I just… have a lot of questions.

And, of course, there is some worry built in there. The story that I read was from a dance community that wasn’t close to me, but it could have just as easily been describing the community that I take part in. The dancers in my area are in the same age ranges, and gather together for the same reasons as the author of the article talked about those dancers going out for (it’s a lifestyle, or for exercise, or therapy for those who are lonely, or a way to maintain social connections, etc.). What if this article had been about the dancers in my area? Or yours?

It’s kind of a terrible thought, huh.

Anyway… reading that made me think, and I just had to get those thoughts out. In some ways it’s better to put them out here rather than talking about them out loud. I don’t need to put the thoughts I have into the head of anyone else in my area of the Dance Kingdom.

I guess I’ll leave it at that. I hope you and all the other dancers in your part of the world are staying safe and managing to find ways to fill your time. We’ll get out of this at some point. Just hang in there until that time comes.

There’s A Thousand Reasons I Should Go About My Day

So I have to admit that dance has fallen by the wayside for me this past week. I didn’t do any dance related activities, I didn’t think about dance, I didn’t even sit and think about what I was going to write about here until just before the usual time I post this. Dance just seemed… inconsequential this week.

It’s not that dance isn’t important, it’s just that other things came up. Let me tell you something about myself, which is not something I do very often – I am one of those people that is totally OK with being inside and by myself for long periods of time. I have ways of entertaining myself that don’t require being out in the world. For example, I like to write, even if I’m not very good at it, I like to sit and think, or solve puzzles. Once and a while I may even watch some of my favorite old cartoons from the 80s all over again, even though I’ve seen them all a million times. Normally I work a lot, so if I had time to do those things, I would be perfectly happy to sit alone and do such things for a couple weeks (or more).

But Sparkledancer is not like me. I know I said I wasn’t going to make a big deal out of admitting that she’s my wife, but this past week I have spent a lot of time just trying to be there for her to help her cope with the existential dread of things changing. She has had times over the last couple weeks since she’s been stuck at home (her job closed its doors before mine did) that this has been really rough for her. So the idea of doing anything dance related when my favorite dance partner is having trouble adjusting to the reality that we are stuck under seems like not the best use of my time.

Part of the issue is that her hip is still not completely healed, so she still can’t do a lot of the physical activities that she would otherwise use to fill her time. Part of it has to do with her job not really being set up to do remotely like mine is, so she and her coworkers are struggling to find the right direction moving forward. And, like I said, she’s not like me. Sitting and doing the same thing for long periods of time is just not her style. The fact that her hip hurts and forces her to stay sitting for a long time even though she doesn’t like it is hard for her.

There are virtual dance classes available, both free and paid that I could be doing that would give me all kinds of things to write about. I thought about taking several of them at various times over the week, but I would feel bad doing them at home when she can’t do them with me. She tried to do one with me back when this all started and the studios all shut their doors. She managed to make it about fifteen, maybe twenty minutes before she had to quit, leaving me to finish class by myself. That made me feel sad for her.

Even though it’s not something I’m very good at, right now I’m spending most of my time being available for the ladies in my house. Whether they need me to listen while they talk about the things going on that frustrate them, or they are waiting for me to sit down on the couch so they can curl up on top of me, that’s been what has filled most of my free time, which is any time that I’m not going over stuff for work while I’ve been home the last week-and-a-half. So… hopefully you can see why I don’t have anything interesting to say about dance right now.

Laptop… so… far… away…

My cat has actually been slightly more needy than Sparkledancer. She’s an old cat at this point, right around fourteen or so. I love her to pieces, and I know her life is much shorter than mine, so when she wants to cuddle with me I will always pay attention to her. Lately though, she doesn’t want to curl up on my lap if I’m sitting on the couch – she goes out of her way to lay on top of one of my arms, usually wrapping her front legs around it like a hug, and then just closes her eyes and purrs softly. If she lays there long enough, she will start to snore as well. Tiny little kitty snores.

It’s adorable, but it makes it really hard for me to do anything else. Several times she has done this while I was sitting there with my laptop on my lap as I was trying to write stuff. She just comes over and crawls across my lap, pushes my arm down and then lays down right on top of it. So demanding! I can’t blame anyone else for her being a weirdo either. I was the one that adopted her when she was just a kitten, so I was the one that raised her. It’s my own fault…

So as you can see, dance has just gone out the window for me this past week. Maybe next week I will get a chance to do some dance related things if the novelty of me being home during the day has finally worn off. Who knows?

I hope you’re managing to get your dance fix in while you’re stuck at home. Do some extra dancing for me if you can, OK?

Ready For A New Day, Ready For A Change

One of the things that has really struck me over the course of the last week now that all dance studios in my area are shut down is how much I never really planned to practice dancing at home.

I moved a while back for a variety of reasons, as you could probably tell when the backgrounds in all the pictures I have taken changed magically. My old place had a large front room that had hardwood floors. Because I tend to be a minimalist who doesn’t collect stuff, a short time after I took up dancing I ended up clearing everything out of that room. By leaving it empty, I could use it as my own personal at-home dance hall! That space wasn’t huge, but it gave me plenty of room to work on various figures and routines that I was learning over the years.

In my new place, I don’t have anything even close to that. This dwelling is much more compact, so I don’t have any rooms that are big and open that I could clear out easily like I did in my last home. That really limits what I am able to do while I’m stuck here. When I picked this place as my new dwelling, I didn’t think it was such a big deal – after all, there are a couple of dance studios within a short drive of here where I had been going to practice anytime I needed. I didn’t anticipate what I would do if those places were closed to the public for an indefinite period of time.

So I’ve been thinking about what it is that happens from here. The obvious first answer that I have been kicking around is to start focusing my time on dances that take up less space. Let’s face it, anything that falls under the International Standard or American Smooth categories is not going to work. Standard is what I had been focusing on, and Smooth is what I would do for fun because the two are related. That was great when I could go to a studio whenever I wanted and move around a lot. Trying to do that here… I think I would either end up using teeny-tiny steps while making a loop around my couch, or barreling into the furniture as I moved. Ouch.

What kind of dance styles are better to learn in a confined space like I find myself in now? Well, I first thought that I could spend the time working on my International Latin, but that… feels like a bad idea. Taking the virtual classes on Latin Technique has shown me that putting serious effort into working on the technical aspects of dancing is painful, as I mentioned last week. That’s probably my fault, since I still haven’t brought my dance shoes inside to use them, and have instead been relying on socks to help  my feet slide around. So maybe that’s still a possibility. But my knees really do not like whatever it is that I did to them, so I have to not do that anymore… whatever it is I did.

But maybe this new era means that I should learn something new. A style that I’ve never really done before, perhaps. Argentine Tango? That doesn’t move around the room a whole lot, from what little I know of the style. Then again, the frame for Argentine Tango doesn’t leave me much distance from my partner’s face, so once the dance world opens back up I would be right up in there with whatever sicknesses my future partners may have. Kizomba? That’s a dance style that I have only heard rumors of in this area of the world. I think it has the same problem though, so while I would look super cool if I could train my white boy hips to dance like that, who knows what the long-term repercussions would be if I have to dance super close to people when society is allowed to congregate again. Polka could be fun, but travels too much, so I would have the same problem practicing Polka as I do with any Standard or Smooth dances. Hmm…

I really get the feeling that there is going to be a push to open the country back up for business before this outbreak is eradicated, thus we will still be looking for ways to keep ourselves protected while we dance. Do you think that line dancing is the way of the future in this new physical distancing era we are living in? Or are we going to start seeing dancers show up to parties in protective gear? Gloves and face masks can look classy if you get them in the right colors, don’t you think? I would think that the face masks should be black, but the gloves probably would look better in white. Far more elegant, right? I almost feel like I’d have to wear a bow tie if I were out dancing with gloves and a face mask on. That would really accentuate the whole ensemble.

And that’s the thing I keep thinking about right now – things are going to have to change. How do I want them to change? Try and fit in the things that I used to spend all my time doing into this new reality? Or find new things to start working on in this new existence that is in front of me? That’s a tough choice, and I don’t know if I have a good answer yet.

I suppose, if I start to go a little crazy from having to avoid people so much, that I could always take up training cats to dance. Do you think my cat would like it if I tried to train her? Oh, I see that her claws are out… maybe she’s telling me that she wants to learn tap dancing instead? That could be it, right? Right?

We’ll see what the future holds. For now, there’s a virtual lunchtime Waltz class I heard about that’s happening tomorrow at lunchtime. That gives me something to look forward to, whether I can actually dance along or not.

This Empty Room Is My Companion

Well, it’s happened in my neck of the woods much like I’m sure that it happened in yours: dance shutdown. The dance parties that I was hoping to get to this weekend? Cancelled. Group classes at the studios near my house? Cancelled. For the foreseeable future, it looks like the Dance Kingdom is going to be a place where everyone stays at home rather than gathers together to have fun.

I get it. As I mentioned, the dance community is mostly populated by people who fall into the high-risk categories. From what I’ve been told, a lot of those older individuals don’t see themselves as being old (even though math tells us that their ages are well within those ranges) and they don’t want to stay home because they think this is no big deal. In order to not be held liable for someone getting ill because you decided to keep your studio open and offer classes and parties, many dance studios are in a position where they need to reduce the types of services that they offer. It just makes good business sense… as much as closing down and not having income come in makes good business sense. What a weird thing to say. The world really does feel a bit upside down right now.

Since I use this site to talk exclusively about dancing, I don’t know how interesting things are going to get as time goes on if the ballroom world remains shut down. We’ll have to see how things progress. There are some topics that I have in the back of my mind that are dance related that I could ramble on, things that I’ve been hanging onto for a rainy day, but it’s not enough topics to fill multiple months worth of regular once-a-week posts. Sigh…

Luckily, this week I have something different to talk about! On Monday night, when I would have normally made a trip out to the Electric Dance Hall for Latin Technique class, Lord Junior was offering a live virtual class that was free for anyone who wanted to watch! He put it together to see if there was any demand for this kind of class while people were stuck at home. I got to watch and dance along somewhat (more on that in a bit), and from the list of people attending that I could see there were a lot of people who were watching that don’t usually come out to the studio for the Monday night class, so the class size was (virtually) bigger than a normal Monday night would have been. That’s good!

It was a bit weird to watch, I have to say. Lord Junior was in the studio with Lady Peculiar, and they had set up the camera on one of the tables in the corner of the dance floor. The rest of the studio (and the Electric Dance Hall is a fairly large studio compared to most in the area) was completely empty. Normally on Monday nights there are tons of people there – all the people for Latin Technique class, plus all the people who go for the other group class that happens at the same time as Latin Technique, plus anyone there taking private lessons… seeing just the two of them there and hearing the echo from their voices as they talked was weird. Almost spooky.

Since this class was put together as an exploratory offering to see if there was any interest, and was also being given for free to anyone who joined the group, Lord Junior spent time covering the basic technique points of International Rumba. It wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before, but there were quite a few people watching who had only ever done American Rumba, so some of the points he covered like when to straighten your legs, the timing used for your steps and what the basic figure for the dance looked like were all new to those individuals.

We spent quite a bit of time looking at the different types of Rumba Walks which are all used in International Rumba at some point. This also gave us all exercises that we could do if we had the ability (and space) to practice along at home on our own. Can you name all the different types of Rumba Walks? There are seven that we covered. Take a second to see how many you can name!

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Did you get them all? If not, here’s the list that I have: 1) Forward Walk, 2) Backward Walk, 3) Checked Forward Walk, 4) Pressed Walk (Forward of Backward), 5) Delayed Walk (Forward or Backward), 6) Turning Walk (Forward or Backward), and 7) Extended Walk (Forward or Backward). How’d you do? Did you get all seven types? Do you divide the forward and backward versions of everything so that you actually think of eleven different types, and were super confused why I was only asking for seven? Well, to each their own, I guess.

Working on these walks was the part that I didn’t spend a lot of time doing. I had a laptop set up at the edge of my living room so that I could watch the class and also have some space to move around. I thought that if I was on the carpet I could do everything pretty well. As it turns out, after about ten minutes of doing any of the Rumba Walks that had turns built in, like when we practiced the Turning Walks or practicing the Checked Walks by doing New Yorkers, my knees decided to protest the movements I was doing. A. Lot. I don’t know why so much of the turning action seemed to want to remain contained in my knee, but it did. That was not pleasant, as you can imagine, so I stopped after a while.
My cat was watching me from underneath the island while I was walking back and forth. I’m not sure if she thought I was weird because I was moving around but not going anywhere, or if she was just waiting for me to sit down so she could climb into my lap. But whatever the reason, she was watching me very intently. I hope she thinks I did pretty OK.

If the class is offered next week for a nominal fee like Lord Junior talked about to help cover the expenses of maintaining the studio, I may try and move the furniture around and see if dancing in my socks, or even my actual dance shoes, while on the kitchen floor works out better. Carpet just doesn’t seem ideal for working on just the basic movements I was doing this week. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like if we had gotten into more advanced figures!

So, that’s what I was able to do to stay connected to dance this week. What about you? How are you faring so far? Were you still able to get out and dance in a studio with other people around, or is everything shut down in your area as well?

We can get through this together. Hang tough, stay smart, and we’ll come out on the other side! If you miss dancing and want to work on some International Latin stuff on Monday nights, send me a note and I can let you know about any more virtual classes offered that I will be attending virtually. If you go too, then we can totally high-five virtually when class is over!