Lunch was a hasty affair. By the time I got out to the tables where the food had been laid out, there wasn’t a whole lot left. I put together a sandwich and some kind of fancy noodle salad, and combined that with a pack of peanut-butter filled cheese crackers, and called it good. There wasn’t a lot of time to sit and eat, so I scarfed it down quickly and went to change into my second outfit for the day.
The rhythm section of the day had a very different vibe to it than the ballroom section. Because we had run so far over schedule with the morning affairs, the afternoon heats were kept short. I mean really short, most of them barely hitting a minute and fifteen seconds. The transitions between heats were cut down as well, with all the dancers piling on the floor as soon as the music from the last heat started to fade out. Because the timetable was moving ahead so briskly, most of us who were performing decided to grab the things we needed and stake a claim to a spot along the back wall near the on-deck area, rather than spend our downtime over at the tables where the audience members that came to support our particular studio were camped out. Because of the way the heats I was in were spread out that afternoon, I spent any free time between heats just sitting on the floor stretching out, only occasionally talking to people, and doing my best to pay attention to what heat number was going on so that I wouldn’t miss my calls.
With the amount of time for each routine cut down significantly, it seemed like almost all of the routines that I had spent so long rehearsing and memorizing to keep every move straight were too long. A large chunk of the ending of each one was cut off as the music started to fade out. Lady Q noticed this too, and told me halfway through the afternoon that I could feel free to start any of the routines I was doing with her in the middle to mix things up and cover all sections of the original routine if I had liked. There were only a handful of heats where I did that, but I mostly just stuck with the routine as originally learned.
Things felt good in the afternoon. That’s not entirely unexpected, since I have always felt better about rhythm dances than smooth dances. Looking back on it, it seems like most of the heats I did were Cha-Cha, especially the ones I did with Lady Q. There were some issues, as I mentioned last time, with the floor. Wearing the Latin-style shoes that I had, the longer heels seemed to catch on the seams in the floor several times. The section of the floor closest to the on-deck area seemed much worse with catching the seams than the opposite side of the floor. Depending on where I was in the lineup entering the floor, I tried to stay around the middle of the floor or the far side, rather than the bad section. That wasn’t always possible, so I did the best I could. There were a couple of times where getting my foot caught on something derailed a portion of the routine, but we never stopped, and that counts as a win to me – though there was one Mambo heat in particular that I was in where this messed me up quite a bit: I lost time trying not to fall over, and it took me a bit to get things back to where they were supposed to be. Luckily, Sparkledancer kept with me during that event. Hopefully no one noticed, especially not the judge.
Then there was West Coast Swing. This was one of the first things I looked at when I got the program for the day – how many heats of West Coast Swing were going to be performed, how many I was in, and how many couples were in there with me. There were only four, my dance partner and I were signed up for all of them, and luckily for this competition there was one other couple that was signed up as well. I had gotten the impression from talking with Sir Steven that they hadn’t had anyone else sign up for that style, so we were going to be flying solo on the floor again like we did back in April. I don’t know if I would have had a problem being alone out there for this, having done it the last time, but it’s always more fun to be out there with other people. Since there weren’t too many heats, they played the same song for all of them (George Thorogood’s “Bad to the Bone”).
There were a few rhythm dance styles run during the competition that only had a handful of couples on the floor during the heats – Pasodoble being another example. They followed the same setup we had for the West Coast Swing: only two, maybe three couples dancing during the heat, the same song was used each time, and there were only around four heats total. In contrast to the seriousness of the Pasodoble though, West Coast Swing allowed us to have a lot more fun, even play with the audience a little bit. Part of that was driven by our cheering section – all the other dancers from our studio, plus all their friends and family who had come to watch, were sitting together off to one side of the ballroom, and when my dance partner and I got out there, I would start wiggling like a crazy person before getting in dance frame taking any steps. Everyone sitting on our section, plus many others that were sitting around the room, started laughing and cheering in response to my little show, and as the music took off they would start clapping along with the rhythm. Sir Steven had said over and over when we practiced this dance that West Coast Swing was supposed to be low and gritty, and yet I still tried to play it off as being lighthearted and fun, just to give the crowd something less serious to watch for a little while. It may have taken points off our technique score, but I sure had fun doing it. At the end of the last heat we did for West Coast, I spun my dance partner out and gave a little bow. Much like the last competition, I hope we at least got third place in those heats.
Speaking of Pasodoble, there was one member of our little ragtag crew from the Land of the Loft that actually performed during those heats. Corte, one of Sir Steven’s other students, actually did a number of International Latin style dances, one of which was the Pasodoble. She was one of only a handful of students throughout the day that did International style dances of any flavor – most of the ones competing in those styles were much higher level students who had been dancing for many years. Amongst all those performers though, Corte really stood out. She is extremely young, and extremely talented. She is kind of spacey, and every time I would try and talk to her between her heats it always seemed like her mind was wandering off somewhere else. Every heat that she went out on the floor to do, we would get everyone nearby to call out to her and cheer her on. She had mentioned when she arrived that she was nervous to be out there, and with so few students dancing the International Latin styles (there were only one or two other couples on the floor during the heats she was in), I really tried to be encouraging. She had only signed up to do a small number of heats in a couple of styles – Pasodoble, Samba, Cha-Cha-Cha and Jive, and all with Sir Steven. In the past, I had heard her mother say that she really only felt good dancing with Sir Steven. She had a different instructor once upon a time, but never liked the man, so she almost gave up. She is the only student left from our studio that has been studying with Sir Steven longer than Sparkledancer or I have, and it really shows. Being so young, she catches on to things extremely fast, and I think she will always be several steps ahead of me as I make my way up through the dance levels.
At the end of the afternoon, the championship rounds were run. The three-dance ones went first. There were a large number of students signed up for those rounds, some instructors had a couple of students signed up for them, and so they split them into two sections. Unlike the morning, we did run the other championship rounds after the three-dance were completed. Sparkledancer and I were in the five-dance American Rhythm round with five other couples. Because all the other heats had been completed for the day, they ran these rounds closer to two minute per dance rather than the minute to 75-second mark that the rest of the rhythm heats had gone. This was slightly more nerve-wracking than the regular heats, but it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Going in to it, I felt pretty confident about what we were doing, but looking at the competition, I was fairly certain that we weren’t going to win anything. Because there weren’t large numbers of people signed up for these rounds, we were dancing against all the high-level students that had also signed up to compete, so I was sure we would look like novices by comparison, especially considering that there was only one other couple out there that didn’t have an instructor as part of the mix. After the five-dance American Rhythm, we got to sit out and watch the performances of the three-dance and five-dance International Latin rounds, and then they dismissed us all to start prepping the ballroom for dinner.
When everything was over, we finally got to take a bit of a break and go sit for an hour. Dinner was to be served, and then there would be the four-dance American Smooth championship round that didn’t happen in the morning. Plus we had been promised that all the Lords and Ladies who taught in the Dance Kingdom would be taking to the floor to compete in a sort of faux-championship round for our amusement. On top of that, the Hellmanns and the Princess were going to dance together for a couple of numbers. Sparkledancer and I returned to the dressing room with the few other students who were going to be in the last championship round of the day, to switch back into our ballroom outfits before dinner, preparing us for the evening session.
I’ll leave you on that note. Join me in a couple of days for Part 3!