Step Up To The Streets

Last weekend… oh boy, it was exhausting. Both of the dance field trips that I had talked about last week actually happened, and they were both a lot of exhausting fun.

A few weeks back during our normal Friday night post-dance ice cream run, Amazon was talking about how she had found a place hosting a Stop Light Party. She sounded pretty excited about it, and that was enough to make the rest of us excited about going. We started gathering people and making plans, even letting Sir Steven and Lord Fabulous know that we would be leaving Friday night after the group class but before the social dance to go to this event. Originally we had planned on having a group of ten of us, but in the end four of them bailed on us (including Amazon, the progenitor of this idea). So it was just me, Sparkledancer, Jack and Diane and the Ski Bums that went. While making plans to go, we all decided to wear yellow to the Stop Light Party, since it amused us and also made it sort-of clear that we weren’t really there looking for any dates.

Arriving at the bar where the event was being held, we took to the dance floor before anyone else really joined. Going out in Charlotte in the past, I’ve found that usually the night life doesn’t pick up until after 11:00PM anyway, so being on a fairly empty dance floor wasn’t really a surprise. We spent the evening on the floor, playing around with a mixture of Cha-Cha and Rumba, East and West Coast Swing and Hustle. Speaking of Hustle, the Ski Bums are Hustle masters. In talking with StepUp1them, I found out that they had learned how to dance Hustle back when they were younger, so they certainly made the rest of us look amateur while we did it. They have only been learning to dance with us for a couple of months now, so they are pretty new to everything else that the other four of us were doing on the dance floor, but they made up for it with sheer enthusiasm.

As the night progressed and the other denizens of the bar had imbibed enough liquid courage, the dance floor filled up quite a bit. That made it much harder to clear room to dance how we were accustomed to dancing. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but when we started to run out of room, I couldn’t switch out of ballroom mode. There’s something about having danced for so long in such a refined manner that doesn’t allow me to dance like everyone else on the floor, like there isn’t an Off switch for that sort of dancing anymore. So the more the party picked up, the more all six of us started to get confined in the crowd, and eventually we decided to call it a night when we just couldn’t move around very much. Plus, we had promised Lady Q that we wouldn’t miss her Pilates class in the morning even if we were staying out late to attend this event, so there was some pressure to go home and get some sleep so we could all get up early the next day.

Saturday night Diane had invited a number of us to go with her to a “Salsa In The Streets” party that was happening on a street corner in downtown Charlotte. This time, Amazon actually decided to come along with us, meeting up with us at the corner and even bringing along the Heartbreak Kid, one of Lady Q’s male students. When I StepUp2arrived at the location, I saw that Jack and Diane had already arrived and, rather unexpectedly, Flexy was already there with them. This event was being put on by a local Salsa dancing club, mostly so that they could hand out fliers and invite people to join them. We chatted off near one of the buildings behind them for a bit, then we all went down and started dancing on the sidewalk with them. One of the members of the club came up to talk with us (and give us fliers), but she said that it was pretty obvious that we had learned ballroom-style Salsa dancing. I’ll admit, after watching the people they brought with them dance for a while, I couldn’t tell if there was any real difference between ballroom-style and whatever style they had learned – a lot of the moves that I saw them do I either knew how to do or had seen someone at the Dance Kingdom doing at one point. There could be a stylistic difference, but I guess I don’t know enough about Salsa to really tell what that was.

Most of the dancing that I did with people that night was just things I had learned in Mambo classes starting on the downbeat instead of the backbeat. I remember in the past, Sir Steven had told one of our group classes that Salsa was essentially ‘sloppy mambo’ because of the timing difference. With that in mind, I felt pretty comfortable dancing with everyone else there, aside from the sidewalk being difficult to dance on. The corner that we occupied wasn’t entirely flat, and wasn’t smooth by any stretch of the imagination. Trying to turn in sneakers on concrete and bricks was challenging, much like the times I have gone out to practice smooth-dance routines on the street. It really makes me appreciate the way the dance shoes that I have work on a wooden floor, even though at this point my shoes have been well worn and are starting to fall apart.

Dance field trips like these really help me keep things fun. With all the practice and all the intensity put into learning competition routines, and all the time spent at the Land of the Loft in classes learning, it’s nice to take a break and go do things that embody the whole reason I started on this journey in the first place: having fun. Sure, a lot of the time it is fun to me to be learning more and more complicated things, and it’s a lot of fun to be elegant and impress the ladies with mad dance skills that I’ve picked up, but sometimes… sometimes it’s really nice to take all that proper form and technique, and shove it aside just to be a bit crazy and laugh about what’s going on for an evening. It also helps reinforce the fact that even though I’m not a very good dancer when compared to other people who study in the Dance Kingdom, I look like a really good dancer when out amongst the population at large. That boost of self-confidence helps put me back in the right frame of mind to start buckling down and work on competition stuff again.

Speaking of competition – we are less than two months left to the competition now. At this point it looks like I will be doing 35 heats divided amongst 10 dance styles with my dance partner, and then another 35 heats with completely different routines in I-don’t-know-how-many styles with Lady Q, and one championship round with my dance partner again. When discussing these new routines with Sir Steven, he promised me that he would teach these different, secondary routines to both me and Sparkledancer, so that we could work on them together during our normal practice meetings, even though we won’t be performing them together when the competition comes around. That makes me feel slightly better about things, since then I wouldn’t have to try and fit extra lesson time in with Lady Q to practice with her in order to learn them properly. This feels like a pretty intense way to jump into the world of actual competitions for dancing. I hope I can step up to the challenge successfully.

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