All Pressed Up In Black And White

Call me weird, but I do kind of like going to formal parties. In recent years, so many things in life have leaned toward casual (or business-casual, as many offices are going now) that there are not many places to go where you might feel the need to get dressed up. What’s the point of even owning fancy suits or ties if you never have occasion to wear them? The occasional job interview may warrant keeping just one nice suit on hand, but certainly not more than that. So, I like events like the one I went to this last weekend because it helps me feel good about owning formalwear. I probably don’t look as good as I think I do while wearing it, but at least I don’t begrudge the money spent on that portion of my wardrobe.
The fancy dinner served at the beginning of the party was really nice as well. A lot of dance events I’ve been to where meals are served usually end up being plates full of what I like to call “dancer food” – lots of leafy green things. chopped up fruits, a single roll of some kind of bread, maybe a dessert offered at the end… and not a whole lot else. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all good stuff, and I love eating those kinds of things, but I am not some 100lb dance instructor. To compensate for the athletic training I like to put myself though on top of the long hours spent dancing, I like to be able to eat something more substantial to prevent my muscle fibers from cannibalizing themselves for nutrients. I had picked the vegetarian option for the evening because it sounded delicious (it was this spinach ravioli), and it was an awesome choice. They had also left a plate of cookies on the table at the beginning of the evening, and I laid claim to a really soft one so that no one would eat it before I could get to it, and that too turned out to be another awesome choice when I finally had it later in the evening.

During the evening’s dance festivities, the big thing I wanted to get out on the floor and practice was the new Foxtrot routine Sparkledancer and I had just completed with Sir Steven. I don’t think any competition that we would use this routine in would have quite as many people on the floor in a heat as we were navigating around that Suit&Tie2night, but it is a slightly better practice experience than working on the routine during our coaching sessions where there are only a few other people on the floor, and those people are usually working with their coaches on completely different dance styles. The Foxtrot went fairly well, I must say. A lot of that is due to the fact that Sparkledancer and I got together earlier in the day to run parts of the routine outside (side note: I didn’t end up working on my tan at the same time as I said last week. It slipped my mind). The last short wall in the routine was giving us the most trouble during our earlier practice session, but I thought we had ironed it all out before we called it quits. As it turned out, with all those people milling about on the floor, every time I got to that final corner to go into the last short wall, I could never start things cleanly so all the following steps were out of place until I managed to hesitate at the next corner where we would start the routine over. The other three walls didn’t have the same problem. There are points during those walls where one can quite logically hesitate, allowing any people who are in the way to move on. I couldn’t find a good point to do the same in that last short wall when it was needed, so I just kept screwing it up. Knowing how things went that night, I’ll find the time to work out those kinks and add the slight variations I’ll need to avoid these problems in the future. During the party, I also wanted to try and run the Samba routine that I had finished, but most times when they played Samba there were so many people on the floor doing the line-dance version that it was dangerous to do anything differently. I only got to do non-line-dance Samba once, and that time I did a slightly modified version of my routine while dancing with Diane because she didn’t know all the figures that were in the routine. During the party there were even ample opportunities for me to practice all the things I had been working on in the Viennese Waltz I had been in, dancing with Sparkledancer a few songs and once with Diane. Maybe at some point I’ll feel more comfortable dancing that style with someone besides those two, but for now those are the only people I know who know (and are willing to dance) that style.

They even had a couple of performances lined up that night for everyone to watch. The first was Lord Junior and his professional partner Lady Lovelylocks, doing a Rumba. I could hear Jack mumbling to Diane his appreciation for the show from the other side of the table we were all seated at – Lady Lovelylocks was wearing this “dress” that had to be more see-through black mesh than actual dress, and the Suit&Tie3performance they did was… sensual. That is really the best way to describe it (I’m sure that description helps you figure out why Jack was commenting on the dance to Diane). We also had a great view of the performance, since our group had congregated at a table that was near the table Lord Junior had reserved for all the students he brought along from the Electric Dance Hall. With the people Lord Junior came with all in one place, their routine stayed on our side of the room, which was sad for all the tables on the far side, but was good for us. I will admit that I couldn’t tell whether the routine was International or American Rumba other than by using the song choice – I know that Lord Junior tends to favor International styles, but dancing in a showcase-type performance like this, is there really a difference between what you would do for one versus the other, other than the music? Maybe I should ask him if there would be elements in his choreography that he would have to change to do an American Rumba. When they finished up, Sir Steven and Indiana took to the floor to dance a Foxtrot. Those two were dressed in a much more formal manner in contrast to the previous pair. I liked this performance a lot because I could actually make out elements that Sir Steven had recently put into the American Foxtrot routine that I learned, though these two were dancing much higher-level variations of the figures. Seeing them dance gives me an idea of what my routine might look like someday, many, many years from now when I have practiced things constantly for long periods of time.

By the end of the evening, I was exhausted and happy. As people were packing up to go, it was funny to watch all the men picking up the pieces of their suits that had been shucked during the evening when they got too warm. That’s the other fun part about formal dance parties, don’t you think?

As May was winding down and the Viennese Waltz class was ending, Lord Junior dangled an Intermediate/Advanced Pasodoble class in front of me. Being a sucker for Pasodoble I just couldn’t turn an opportunity like that down, so I’ll be out at the Electric Dance Hall on a different night during the week to practice being manlier. The first class of the month we started out by focusing on taking every step with the hips thrust forward and the shoulders rolled back, trying to make the body look as convex as possible. Lord Junior told the class a story about how he once worked with a coach Suit&Tie4on walking like this, and the coach actually gave the students some weighted bags to hold behind them while walking with their hips forward, to teach them how it should feel when done correctly. I don’t have weighted bags, but I do have some pretty heavy dumbbells, so there may be some hilarious practice sessions in my future when no one is watching. The figures we are using for the routine we will be building throughout this class puts my previous Pasodoble routine to shame. So far, we’ve only done a couple of the eight counts in the beginning of the song, but after repeating them many times over the course of an hour, all while keeping my glutes, lower abs and quads flexed so much to bring everything forward, it made me wish I hadn’t done plyometrics before going to class. I’m also trying to work on not laughing so much while dancing Pasodoble (laughing, as I’m told, makes it look less serious), but that’s a long term goal. For some reason, I can’t help but finding the dance style hilarious, and the more I try and force myself to be more serious, the funnier it gets.

This coming weekend I’ll be attending a workshop on Waltz, much like the Samba workshop I went to last month. They are going to try and do at least one of these intensive workshops a month at the Electric Ballroom. I’m guessing this one is going to lean toward International Waltz, and I’m hoping I can use the workshop to learn whether or not the figures that I had in my last International Waltz routine which broke frame are actually legal. It’ll either be a validation, or make me feel dumb for having done something stupid in front of a judge. We’ll find out this weekend!

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