(Picking up where I left off on 5/1/2014)
Once we all got back from lunch, we began the American Rhythm and International Latin heats. I hadn’t anticipated the lunch break to cause me to lose focus, but just like in the morning, the first few heats I danced in the afternoon were not that great. For instance, the first Pasodoble heat was pretty bad. I got cut off by someone else on the floor, causing me to break routine in order to avoid running into someone, and then I was trying my best to do lead-and-follow Pasodoble until the first break in the song when we could get back into our Spanish line and pause, allowing me to get back on track. I learned from that first Pasodoble heat that I would need to either start more offset from everyone else to avoid having this problem again, or I would need to use the fact that I am quite a bit bigger than the other dancers to intimidate them into breaking routine to avoid me instead of me avoiding them. During the American Rhythm routines I was a lot more flexible with the routine order. I knew the structure of figures that we had originally set up when choreographing the dances, but Sparkledancer and I have both spent a lot more time working on American Rhythm than anything else, so breaking routine and just allowing me to lead whatever I felt like was easy for us to do. After the first few mishap heats, I got back into the groove so things did improve considerably going forward.
The Samba routines I am actually particularly proud of… but probably not for the reason you would first guess. Some of you might be familiar with the running promenade figure that exists in Samba (it also exists, as I’ve been told, in East Coast Swing). When our routine was put together, we had one of the long walls that is essentially just that figure from one corner to the other. I’ve never been too fond of the figure, so it is probably what I spent the least amount of time working on during all the Samba work that I’ve done. Sure, mechanically Sparkledancer and I could pull it off, and during rehearsals we got through it without anyone giving us any negative feedback, but it never really felt good. During the competition, in our first Samba heat we were last in line to take to the floor. All the other dancing pairs had staked out a spot at the beginning corner of one of the two long walls, as most dancers are wont to do. Since things looked a little crowded, I pulled Sparkledancer over to the closest corner that started a short wall instead, just to give us some space between the other competitors. I started our routine with the figures that composed our final short wall, so that when I got to the next corner we would start from what we learned as the beginning of the routine. The nice thing about starting in that corner was that not only did I have a fair amount of space to myself, since I was essentially one wall behind everyone else, but the heat ended before I got to the second long wall where we had the running promenades! The first Samba heat this was totally by accident, but every other Samba heat (including the Samba in the 5-dance Latin championship) I also started in this same corner, and there was only one heat where they ran the song slightly longer so that we got about halfway through the second long wall doing the running promenades. I was really happy with that.
Going in to the afternoon, the thing that I was most anticipating was the West Coast Swing. There were two rounds that I could see on the heat sheet I was given in the morning. Sparkledancer and I had discussed a plan for our West Coast Swing, knowing that we were likely going to be the only ones dancing in those heats much like last year. We had planned to make our last West Coast Swing heat different than any of the preceding ones. Luckily, there were only two, so our plan would make both unique enough so that people could notice. For the first heat, when we got to the floor we took a second to wave and make some flourishes to the crowd before starting the dance. The first run through I kept the figures pretty basic. The most complicated move that I threw in was this running left-hand pivot thing (I don’t really know the actual names of West Coast Swing figures). When we finished, I spun Sparkledancer out and we bowed to the crowd before walking off the floor. I didn’t see it, but people in the audience told me that while we were walking off Miracle Whip had frantically drawn a large ‘10’ on a sheet of paper and was holding it up for us. Slightly less than 20 heats later was our second shot. This time as we walked out, I kept Sparkledancer close to my right side. When we got to the middle of the floor, I spun her out and we waved meekly at the audience. As the music started, we both pulled out a pair of sunglasses: mine had been tucked beneath my cummerbund on my right side, and Sparkledancer had tucked hers into her dress on the left, and we slowly put them on and then smiled at the audience. Everyone went nuts when we did that, as I had hoped for. We started dancing, and after the first two turns I threw in the most complicated figure that we knew, something that Sir Steven had once called the “Sailor Shuffle” though I don’t know if that’s actually the name. It’s a long and dramatic figure, and I had timed it just right so that we were facing the audience when we opened up. As the song wrapped up, I spun Sparkledancer out dramatically once more and we took an extended bow before sauntering off the floor slowly, giving high-fives to the audience members we passed closely by.
At the end of the afternoon we had the Latin and Rhythm championship rounds. We were going to be in two of those. As I’m sure I mentioned, we had originally signed up to be in the 5-dance Latin round because I thought it would be fun, but Lord Fabulous had also placed us in the 3-dance Rhythm round unexpectedly (we did get a couple of days advanced notice, but it was still unexpected). So of the four championship rounds in the afternoon, we were in the first and last. Because we didn’t originally plan on signing up for it, we hadn’t put as much time into our American Rhythm dances as we had everything else, so I had told Sparkledancer that there was a good chance we would just go out there and have fun using the version of the routines that we had used earlier in the day (that didn’t necessarily match the version of the routines we had had choreographed for us). Once we wrapped that round up, the 5-dance Rhythm took to the floor. Jack and Diane had opted to be in that round, so Sparkledancer and I took a spot near the floor where we could watch and cheer along with everyone else from our little group. As they made their way off, the 3-dance Latin started up. This round was smaller, with only two couples taking part, because everyone else had signed up for the 5-dance Latin. We were one of six couples participating, and we were the only pair of amateurs facing off against all male instructors with their female students. This was my last real dance of the day, so I really gave it all I had left. By the time we had finished up, the shirt I had on underneath my Latin dance outfit was sticking to my body because of all the sweat, and I had this big goofy grin on my face that wouldn’t go away. I had one person in the audience later tell me that I looked really out of place during the Pasodoble final, since it’s a very serious dance, and I was smiling and laughing the whole while.
With that over, it was finally time to wind down. Everyone parted ways for a while so that we could all get cleaned up and we promised that those of us attending the after-party would meet up for dinner. The others got done cleaning up first (I actually went to take a shower, I felt so gross), and they couldn’t find the place they originally wanted to get dinner, so we ended up somewhere that I could get pancakes. I was quite happy about that. Maybe I’ll look into having pancakes after all future competitions because of how good they were. Once dinner was done, we all met back at the Great Dance Hall. The evening party was pretty laid back, and I didn’t end up doing a whole lot of dancing during it, opting instead to spend time talking to people. I did get pulled into a crazy Merengue line dance where we had difficulty. Everyone started out joining hands in a big circle, but as more and more people started coming in from all sides, people started to jump in wherever they wanted. I had the hand of this shorter lady, and the group made the move to go underneath our arms. Keeping time marching with the music, the people on the other side of me kept twisting and moving me around, while people kept going underneath my other arm. Once things settled down a little bit, I started to notice that the steady stream of people going beneath my arm wasn’t tapering off like it should, and my shoulder was starting to protest. When I watched Tall Steven go beneath my arm for the third time, I knew something was terribly amiss. I followed the line of people holding his hands all the way around, and found that there were actually two sets of people – one circle of people that were going beneath my arm on one side and through the arms of the people two down from me, and then the line of people I was holding on to who were actually a line, and not joined in a circle. I shouted to the people that we were messed up, and the line I was a part of started moving again to see if we could break the circle and link with them to form just one big circle, but then the song ended. We all had a laugh and I walked off to the side of the floor to stretch out my shoulder a bit.
Later on, they pushed everyone back to the edge so that the Princess and Hot Tottie could do a performance number. They did a dance to a popular song from a recent animated movie about a queen with ice powers (I’m sure you can guess which movie and song I’m talking about). Hot Tottie really showed off the power he has in his haunches, because the boy leaped several times and did the splits in the air, with at least four feet between the floor and where his legs were. There was also this funny moment when he was supposed to catch the Princess as she ran a jumped into his arms, but he didn’t catch her properly so he strained a bit to keep from dropping her. Finally, after the performance wrapped up came the moment we had all been waiting for: the results of the championship rounds. This is where the night took an awkward turn… the first set they announced the results for that I was in was the 4-dance Smooth. The Princess took a moment to hush the crowd, and then said some really unexpected things. She gave this speech about how they had actually run two different competitions, one for the Pro-Am couples, and one for the Amateurs. This wasn’t, as she said, to rate us differently or to pity us, but to acknowledge that there was a lot more that went into getting out on the floor without an instructor to rely on, and showcase our bravery. After they went through the ranking of all the Pro-Am couples, they had them all walk off the floor and then called Sparkledancer and I out. So in essence, we got first place. Or last place. Or both. It was awkward to be singled out like that, since all the other competitions we have been in we had always been ranked against everyone else. We knew going into it that most likely the Pro-Am couples would place higher than us, but we hadn’t expected this.
After getting over the initial shock, it went further downhill as she moved on to the 5-dance Standard championship. Announcing the rating for that, the first couple she called up in 6th place was… Jack and Diane. The only other amateur couple that participated in any of the championship rounds besides me and Sparkledancer. She went all the way through announcing all six places, they took a picture, and then they had them leave the floor. She moved on to the next announcement for the 3-dance Rhythm, called Sparkledancer and I out separately again, and then someone mentioned something to her and she went back and called up Jack and Diane, saying that they didn’t actually get last place, but first place in the Amateur competition for that championship. Once they took a new picture with just the two of them, they came back and stood over where Sparkledancer and I were. They got called separately for the 5-dance Rhythm round without any mix-up like before, and then they did the 5-dance Latin rankings. All six couples who were on the floor for that (including us) lined up as she announced the Pro-Am order. When the winner was announced, the crowd started cheering wildly for the girl who won, and then they totally forgot about Sparkledancer and I standing there, and someone put on a song and everyone started dancing again.
Having gotten through the announcements, Jack, Diane, Sparkledancer and I just stood there speechless for a while. Once the Heartbreak Kid and Bony came and found us, we all decided to go out and get ice cream. It had been a long day, and the ending was pretty weird, so we made a graceful exit to go get a treat.