Last Friday night we had a couple of guests at the Land of the Loft. Lord Scarry had brought one of his students over with him, and they were planning to perform a couple of routines that she had learned over the last few weeks during our usual Friday night social dance. The two of them came over early enough that they could join us for our Paso Doble class beforehand. Lord Scarry’s student, though she had been dancing about twice as long as I have, told me that she had never done the Paso Doble before. Lucky for her, Lord Fabulous pulled Sparkledancer and I into the middle of the room for a large portion of the class to be dance dummies again, using us to demonstrate all the figures as he described the steps to everyone. At one point, after explaining one of the figures, he had all the ladies line up on one side of the room and all the men on the other. With the two of us in the middle, he made everyone watch us and mimic our movements, telling them to practice with a “ghost-partner.” I considered using this newly granted power to see if the other guys would mimic anything I would do, but I couldn’t think of something funny enough in time before we moved on to the next figure. Sigh… there’s always next time, right?
Because Sparkledancer had an early morning appointment she couldn’t reschedule on Saturday, we ended up meeting at the Land of the Loft much later than we normally do for our coaching lesson. When there, all the morning classes were already over, so the whole place was empty. Sparkledancer was already there and ready to go when I arrived, and we were both about fifteen minutes early, so Lord Fabulous put on a Waltz for us and told us we could get warmed up. Just for practice, while making our way around the room I led Sparkledancer through the figure that we learned a while back in that random class we took with Indiana while she was in town. Lord Fabulous came out of the office and caught me doing that, and was really curious about one particular piece we did, something he called a ‘wing’ – he wanted to know where we had picked that up, since he didn’t have it in our syllabus until the level above where we are currently learning things. He took it and told us that we could put it in our International Waltz routine. We got through one corner and one short wall in the first part of the session. So far, we use a whisk to get into the corner, followed by the wing to bring the lady back around in front, and then something Lord Fabulous called a “weave” to travel down the remainder of the short wall and finish with a back twinkle to round the other corner. There were a fair number of hair-related jokes made every time we did the weave, as you might expect.
When we moved on from International Waltz, we switched over to International Tango. He told us that the weave would also work for that style, and we could modify our routine if we found we had an entire long wall with no one in the way. The Tango weave footwork sticks with me much better than the Waltz footwork, since it was a lot like the footwork for the reverse figure I already know, just repeated over and over. I’m not sure if that variation is something we would actually get to use; I’m thinking that they might run heats of International and American Tango at the same time to maximize floor usage, so there is a good chance that people will just be in the way. We briefly talked about some other variations that could be used in the routine to work our way through traffic if people were encroaching, and then did this exercise where Lord Fabulous put on a song, had us start our routine, and while doing it he would walk over and stand in the middle of where we were traveling sometimes, forcing me to break routine and work my way around him. I faltered pretty bad once and switched over to doing American style, and got mocked pretty badly for that. Tango is just not one of those styles I use very often, so it’s going to take some more work to be comfortable for me.
For the last fifteen minutes or so we switched gears completely from International styles and started looking at Bolero. We worked on a single figure, something new Lord Fabulous and Lady Q had recently picked up, and things started to get rather silly for some reason while we worked. It was a neat looking figure where I believe I move my feet all of four steps during the entire twelve-count in the music. As I roll the lady in and out across me, I’m supposed to allow her to curl up at the end before rolling back and cross her legs in front of herself, allowing her to be on one foot, bent at the waist. It’s hard to describe, but it kind of looked to me like Sparkledancer was doing a yoga one-legged chair pose during that step. Once my brain made that association, I started doing the yoga pose as Lord Fabulous and Sparkledancer were working on the figure. Lady Q even came over to join us for a while, going through the steps with Lord Fabulous and allowing us to both mimic the figure from a respective-sex instructor. Everything got to be silly at that point, and we worked and laughed about every little mistake that we made. A small crowd began to gather at the entrance, watching us all intently as we did this – a newcomer couple, who had an orientation with Lord Fabulous scheduled next. The look on their faces while watching us was one of apprehension and fascination mixed together. I’m guessing what we were doing looked a bit crazy if you’d never spent time around ballroom dance people before. Out on the floor, we kept trading, repeating the figure over and over in different configurations to practice, and every time we swapped partners things got crazier and crazier. First it was Lord Fabulous and Sparkledancer, then Lord Fabulous and Lady Q, then Sparkledancer and I, then Lord Fabulous and I, then Sparkledancer and Lord Fabulous, then Sparkledancer and I… at one point, I offered to trade places with the newcomers by the door, so they wouldn’t feel left out. They laughed nervously at my offer. Another couple had come in and stood with the newcomers, some of Lady Q’s students who had been taking lessons for a while. They were laughing along at the crazy things we were up to. I did manage to film Lady Q and Lord Fabulous doing the figure together, which was good because by the end we were so far off track that I forgot most of what we were doing in the first place. This way, I can go back and see what the figure should look like.
This weekend I also went out to an afternoon dance party that Jack and Diane invited everyone to. They had previously gone to events hosted by this group that they really enjoyed, but found that they were really young compared to everyone there. By inviting the people they usually went on dance adventures with, we probably lowered the median age in the ballroom by a good 20 years. The dance party started with a class on Bolero, which tied in nicely to the work we had done with Lord Fabulous on that style the day before. This figure involved something that the guy teaching the class called the “leg climb” – apparently it is one of those common figures in Bolero, but I had never seen it before. Of the people I worked with in the group class, only Diane and Sparkledancer were comfortable enough to actually climb my leg. There was this older lady I didn’t know who rotated to dance with me, but she kept her body pretty far from mine. I guess it’s OK for dance friends to climb each other’s legs, but it’s not cool for strangers.
Boy, remind me never to say that last line out loud anywhere…
I wasn’t feeling particularly social for the dance party after the class, so I danced only with ladies from the Land of the Loft. Sparkledancer and I did go out during a Tango and attempt to run our International routine that we had worked on with an actual crowd on the floor. That went… poorly. I was trying really hard not to do anything that would only be in the American-style Tango, so I felt like there was nothing I could do when people were right in front of me. We had worked on modifying the routine just the day before, but apparently none of that sunk into my little brain, so there were a lot of missteps on my part. That was not my proudest moment, let me tell you. I guess I’m really going to have to work on forcing myself to do International Tango during social dances between now and the competition so that I can build up some comfort with the style. There’s no better way to work on floorcraft other than to just go out there and do it, right? I believe I once commented on needing to just go out there and grind my floorcraft skill level to get better. I’ve done so well with improving my floorcraft in the American Smooth dances, so now it’s time to put the same amount of effort into the International variations of the same (and one day, add in Quickstep). Unless I can invent a way to have a training montage in real life, there’s no other way to improve.