The closer we get to the next competition, the less time I feel I have for everything else in life. At this point, I’m spending six days a week dancing somewhere, and only one night a week staying home to get caught up on everything else that is being pushed to the side. At what point does one cross over from ‘hobby’ into ‘obsession’?
This past Saturday we went through and put together our Bolero routine. It was one of those that I thought I knew what the routine would end up being when all was said and done, but when we finally walked through what Lord Fabulous had in mind I was so far off the mark that it made my idea of what the routine would be seem silly. Half the stuff in the routine are figures I have never even seen before. He explained what he was thinking to me as I watched quizzically – the idea was to have contrast as we danced, where we would do one figure that travels quite a bit, followed by a figure that was more contained. That contrast, he said, would make our routine more interesting to watch. As I sit here thinking about it, I can’t remember anything about the order of things. All of the other routines we’ve put together so far I’ve been able to remember fairly easily, but this one is eluding me right now. Luckily I recorded Lord Fabulous and Sparkledancer stepping through everything, so I can go back and write everything down. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to have it down solidly by next Saturday, though I don’t know how much time I’ll have to practice with a partner before then. Maybe if I write everything down I can send the listing to Sparkledancer and we can practice separately, and then we’d be able to put it together easily by trying it together. If that doesn’t work, then I have no other ideas on how to learn it.
With that routine marked off the list, I’ve decided to revise my count and assume that the routines I thought were finished before when I didn’t have confirmation are actually not finished. That puts my current count at nine left in order to hit that magic number of 21. The majority of what we have left to choreograph would be American Rhythm styles, but there’s a reason those are left for last. Apparently we’ve been signed up to do championship rounds in the 5-dance International Latin and the 4-dance American Smooth categories. Knowing that, my focus is going to be on getting those to feel as good as I possibly can before the end of April. That said, the only dance left from those categories would be American Tango. Hopefully we look at that this next weekend. When that’s out of the way, Samba goes to the top of my list to spend practice time on, because I think that is by far my weakest. Even with all the fun figure names (cruzado walks, anyone?) and crazy music to encourage me, figuring out how to get my lower body to cooperate while doing the rhythm bounce is going to take a lot more focus. I’m sure I won’t make it look perfect by the time competition hits, but I’d like to look better than I do now (which, let me tell you, looks silly to me).
Also on Saturday, a bunch of us went out on a dance field trip that night to a different dance hall that I had never been to before, to attend an open dance they were having. We all went to celebrate a couple of March birthdays for Land of the Loft people, since there’s no better birthday party than a dance birthday party. There was an East Coast Swing lesson given before the social dance, where we learned this nifty behind-the-ladies’-back roll-out that I thought was a lot of fun. Since the dance hall was smaller, and a lot of people attended the event, it felt really warm inside. I kept ducking out every couple of songs to go stand outside in the cool night air for a bit before coming back in to dance some more. At one point while I was out on the porch-like area, the couple that had taught the group class came out. We talked for a while, and I told them how much I liked the East Coast Swing class they gave, and how nice it was to work on things in the American Rhythm category since most of the places we go people seem to prefer the International styles. The guy told me something interesting about that – according to him, there was one ballroom dance studio that had opened in the area before all the others, a place known as the Prime Dance Hall. The owners were from Europe, and they imported a lot of other European instructors to teach there. As you can imagine, they all knew International styles from their training overseas. As those instructors spread out over the Dance Kingdom and opened their own dance halls, they stuck with the International categories, which is why many of the people who have learned to dance in the area learned International. I hadn’t heard that legend of the Dance Kingdom before, and it strikes me as fascinating for some reason.
On Sunday, Sir Steven invited Sparkledancer and me to attend a competition prep class being offered at the Endless Dance Hall. He had heard good things about the class, and thought that since we were working toward the competition in April, it would be helpful for the two of us to go. While we were all out on our dance field trip Saturday night, Sparkledancer and I told Jack and Diane all about the class, and convinced them to come along with us (there’s safety in numbers). I knew that the Heartbreak Kid had gone to this class before the last competition we were in, so beforehand I found out from him what the class was all about. It wasn’t really a ‘class’ per se, but more like competition practice. All four of us arrived slightly before Sir Steven did. Looking around the room, there were many familiar faces, people that I had seen around either in classes at the various dance halls around the Dance Kingdom, or people who had attended events that I had gone to on some of the dance field trips that our group has gone on. Our friend Indiana even showed up – she was there to practice with one of her students. When Sir Steven showed up and we were looking around at everyone gathered, one thing became abundantly obvious: the four of us from the Land of the Loft were seriously outclassed. Most of these people had been dancing and competing together for many, many years. I haven’t even been dancing two years yet, let alone competing, so taking the floor with all these other people was pretty intimidating.
The class was run like the International-style championship rounds from a competition. There were a few of us who primarily know the American styles, so we looked a little out of place when we switched to those. The first round, the four of us sat out on the sidelines with Sir Steven and just watched what we were up against. During the Standard rounds, Sparkledancer and I went out and did American Waltz, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz and International Tango. We left the floor during the Quickstep heat, but Jack and Diane stayed out to work on theirs. After a few minutes for break, they started the Latin round. They repeated this setup over and over for as long as they had time, just giving people a chance to practice their routines with other people on the floor. The first time through, I was worried that all of the Smooth routines I knew, which were built for a much, much smaller floor were going to look silly out there in the immense expanse with everyone else. As it turned out, when Sir Steven told me before going out to make sure to reach farther and fill the space, I could actually do a passable job. I was originally worried I would end up just travelling the inner sphere of the room like a race car driver. This skill doesn’t really help me much for the next competition, since the dance floor at the Great Dance Hall is nowhere near the size of the Endless Dance Hall (none of the places I’ve been are anywhere near that size), but it does tell me that I can stretch things out to fit a room if needed, so logically I should be able to pull that back to fit a smaller room.
The real benefit of going and running our routines like that was that Sir Steven got to see them all from the sidelines, and make a bunch of mental notes about everything I did poorly. When we got together Tuesday night, we started to work through things for International Latin. We spent a lot of time specifically with the Rumba, working on our lines to make them look sharper. There is one figure Lord Fabulous gave us where we do an explosion, and afterward I roll the lady in against my right side and lean to the left, supporting her weight so that she can kick her leg out. Step-by-step we walked through the figure, changing the placement of the arms and legs to draw out the lines and make them stronger. I had a good vantage point to watch myself in the mirror, and by the time we finished making changes the figure looked completely different from what it was the day I learned it. He also showed me a way to change the weird ‘tilde’ arm effect that I had been told to do during the sliding door-like figure. My arms were never meant to wiggle like that, so I have always thought it looked weird. Now, I have an option that will make them look more masculine (which I believe is much more fitting, since I am a boy).
Little by little things are improving. Who knows? Maybe with all the work I am putting into this competition, I might be able to do better than last place in the championship rounds! Sure, Sparkledancer and I will probably be the only amateur team competing against a bunch of pro-am couples, but if we can get second-to-last place, that will be a huge improvement over last year, and doing better than I did before is always a worthy goal to strive for.