Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger

Last weekend Sir Steven really got into showing us our American Rhythm routines. We worked on Rumba, Cha-Cha, Mambo and West Coast Swing. They aren’t all complete yet, but they should be soon. So far, what we have put together doesn’t in any way resemble the routines that I learned for our last competition, which seemed kind of daunting because that meant that there was all new stuff that I would have to cram into my brain. But then, after going over things a few times during the week already with my dance partner before various classes I was attending, I realized… rhythm dances are just so much easier for me to remember than all the stuff we learned for the American Standard section. I don’t really know why. It’s not that I don’t like the smooth dances. In theory, they are all really cool and it looks really impressive to do one of them, travelling around the room (without hitting anyone) and being all fancy. In practice though, I struggle with them. Even just remembering the order in which the steps were put together, sometimes I just have to stop and think about it – much harder than I’ve ever had to do with any of the rhythm dances.

Luckily, the level we are competing at for this competition lines up with some of the group classes that are being offered this month, which gives me an opportunity to practice some of the steps that have worked their way into our routines. Wednesday nights we are doing Foxtrot, and so far the last two weeks we have really done nothing more than repeated drilling of the feather ending and reverse steps (in both International and American style, just to make life more confusing). It seems like such a simple concept, but for some reason I always tend to miss the feather ending in one place or another when practicing the Foxtrot routine we are using for the competition. I don’t know why, it just keeps eluding me. When I step through the routine in my head, I can picture it; I know it’s there. When I step through it with my feet however… it doesn’t always make it to the floor.

That’s what practice is for though, right? Training me to fix my idiotic missteps? Believe it or not, I do practice things. Like the ‘running man’ move that is a major part of the routine Lady Q is teaching us in the fitness class. I was so proud of myself for figuring out how to do it more efficiently after spending some time practicing (it involves a lot of hopping on the balls of your feet, in case you want to try it). Last Friday night, during the mixer dance we were doing near the end of the night, I was in line behind Sir Steven and I was being silly and doing it. He then proceeds to show me that he is a master of said running man move – not only being able to do it in such a way that makes my rendition look shameful, but also being able to do it while travelling forward or backward and looking like a boss the whole time. Suddenly it was as if my feeling of pride was an empty beer can that had just been crushed against the forehead of a frat boy during Rush week. Shameful.

Better1 In other news, Young Dave was allowed to join us in our intermediate Rumba class last Friday. It was a move that had been on the horizon for some time now, since he spends a large amount of time at the studio just hanging out. Some of the ladies in class have told me that he wasn’t ready yet, that he still needs to get his body under control, but there isn’t really a way for him to practice with anyone without either being in one of the group classes or scheduling some time with Lady Q. That is one of the nice things about having an agreement with your competition partner like I have – we plan on being at the studio (or other agreed upon locations) at the same time so that we can work on things together, since it is very hard to practice steps properly when you are by yourself. For instance, I could be in a room practicing how to turn a lady in Rumba by myself, and it would be all well and good, but without someone for my hand to press against while doing it I would have no idea if I am being too wimpy, or spinning my arms crooked, or pressing hard enough to dislocate her shoulder. So giving him the opportunity to dance with a partner more should help him get better.

The biggest complaint though is that he can’t keep time. That’s something that isn’t easy to fix. The married couple that is usually in classes with me, Jack and Diane, have the same issue – Jack can’t really can’t keep time with the music. However, Diane is really good at it, and when they dance together she is able to compensate for what he can’t do. They make a good team. I’m not sure how to train someone on how to hear the rhythm in the music better though. That was one of those questions Bony posed to me one day after a class we had taken – did I know any way that she could learn to hear the rhythm? It’s something that I’ve always (as far as I can remember) been able to do, and growing up I had some musical training that reinforced that skill. But there’s the key word – the training reinforced the skill. If a person has a hard time hearing it to begin with, is there any sort of training that will help that skill develop in the first place? Are some people just innately able to hear musical rhythm and others are not? Sir Steven has talked with me in the past about how, at times, he has had to take some of the lessons he has given to couples and just have the people clap along with the music to help them hear the beats where they would take a step. But is that enough to learn a skill like that?

In Young Dave’s case, he tends to rush. His father, Hips McGee, who is also a member of the Dance Kingdom, has stated sort-of jokingly that Young Dave tends to view everything he does in dance as a competition. He enjoys being the first to finish; he enjoys being selected to demonstrate; during the Cardio Latin class he takes, when Lady Q says that everyone needs to “move big” Young Dave has to almost run in to everyone while doing things. Partly I would chalk it up to age. He is still in high school, and being impressive (especially to the ladies in the studio) is very important to people in that age bracket. I should know, I was that age once upon a time. So, he will be joining our Friday night classes, bringing along all the associated swagger of an 18-year-old male, and I will probably just step back and laugh as the ladies in class with us grimace a little. I don’t have to dance with him, you see, so I’m allowed to find it amusing.

To wrap up, and to show you just how much I’ve been practicing during Foxtrot class this month, here’s rendition of me doing a feather ending. See how good I am?

No birds are harmed when I practice this, I swear.
No birds are harmed when I practice this, I swear.

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