Sometimes When The Spirit’s Left Alone

Needing a space to practice on an actual dance floor this week, I headed to meet up with Sparkledancer at a social dance event being held at a small studio I had never been to before. Apparently I misinterpreted the note that the dance hall had posted about the event that read “Seniors Welcome” because I didn’t expect Sparkledancer and me to be the only non-senior-aged people besides the instructors to be there. They had a short class on Merengue before they turned the music on and opened the floor. In another twist that make me realize I should investigate things more thoroughly, looking back on the event in hindsight I realize that when they called it a “social” dance party, they really meant it was a social event that happened to have some dancing going on. Once the initial class was over, many of the others in attendance took to sitting around tables eating popcorn and talking amongst themselves, and only occasionally getting up to go out and dance. In some ways it was nice because it left the floor open much of the time for the two of us to use as practice space without worrying about maneuvering around other people. The down side was that if you accidentally got caught in conversation with one of the other guests, they were in the mood to be social and would have a bunch of things to talk about, and getting away to go back to dancing was hard. Because everyone there was sitting around during most of the songs and Sparkledancer and I were out practicing, as you can imagine it was like we had a dedicated audience, and they were all very eager to tell us how good we were, how we should be winning all the competitions we enter, and there were many comments about the two of us being on that-famous-television-show-about-dancing-that-I’m-sure-you-all-know. We did get a few breaks during our practice session – at this studio they really liked to do a dance style they called Night Club Two Step which I had never seen before. It sort of reminded me of Bachata, which is another dance style I have seen people doing frequently at some places I usually haunt for dance, but I’ve never really learned more than the basics of that. So, during those Night Club Two Step songs, if the music’s tempo would work we would practice our Rumba, otherwise we would just take a break and watch the others for a change.

I also went dancing out at a beach! As a random idea to keep our routine practice sessions from being overly repetitious and monotonous, I met up with Sparkledancer along a lakeshore at the beach and we staked out an area in the sand to run through things. Let me tell you what I’ve learned from this: dancing in sand is hard work. Much harder than I initially anticipated when we discussed the idea. We had tried picking a spot further away from the water that was out of people’s way, but as we LinesInTheSand1worked through things we had a pair of young girls gather up their towels and lay themselves out behind where we were working so that they had a good view of everything we were doing. Aside from the toll it takes on your connective tissues dancing on ground that moves beneath your feet, there were only a few figures we couldn’t pull off successfully in the sand, and for a lot of things we did, the sand made it easier to do the figures than dancing in grass does. In the Waltz for instance, we did have trouble in sand with the spin turn we have near the beginning of the routine. As you can imagine, spinning around like that has a tendency to drill you down deeper into the loose ground, something you don’t have to worry about on vegetation. I’m sure Sparkledancer faced similar issues with the spot turns she has in some of our other routines, but that’s the only major turn I have, so that’s the only place I really noticed when I had to pull my feet out of the ground like roots. At the end, as we decided to call it quits before we got too sunburned, I bowed to our two young audience members and got a round of applause from them in return.

Sparkledancer is going to be gone for a while, so those were be our last chances to practice together until she gets back. I can try running through things with other ladies until she returns, but she would have to teach someone else to lead the routines before she could practice with them, so I imagine she won’t be able to do too much. I hope she doesn’t forget everything while she’s gone. She is going to be away doing… whatever it is that girls do when they aren’t dancing. Which is probably camping or something. I’m not exactly sure, I don’t keep track of these things. It’s all a mystery to me.

Nature is obviously more terrifying than dancing.
Nature is obviously more terrifying than dancing.

I spent some time earlier this week working with Sir Steven on my own. He had told me that we needed to get together without a female dance partner to work on some “manly things,” but what he really meant was that we needed to work on all the technical things that I screw up that Sparkledancer does not when I dance with her. One of those was during Foxtrot. When doing the rise and fall I apparently have a tendency to make it look much more like Waltz than it needs to be by rising up and straightening my legs, and lowering down by bending them. When looked at from the outside, that movement creates that wave effect you should see in Waltz (seriously, if you are ever at a large dance party, watch the crowd during a Waltz number – there is this really cool wave-like flow that you would see if most people are doing the rise and fall correctly). I was told that for Foxtrot I need to keep my knees bent the whole time, then bend them some more because I’m probably not bending them enough, and then while they are bent to do the rise movement by raising my heels rather than straightening my legs. For now, I was told that if I can keep my head pretty level during the entire routine, then likely I am doing things correctly. That may change in the future if I can master this technique, but that’s gives me a good place to start figuring out how well I’m doing.

By far, the most difficult thing we went over was an interesting technical note for Samba that I have apparently been doing wrong since I started learning the style. There is this crazy heel lift thing that is supposed to happen prior to each step that is taken. As I was told, when I take an initial step for a figure, I put my whole foot down flat on the floor, but before moving my other leg I need to lift the heel of the foot I just stepped with, then move my secondary leg to where it is supposed to go and drop the primary leg’s heel down, then lift the heel again before changing feet as I move to the next figure. All that without lowering the heel of my secondary leg to the LinesInTheSand3floor before I shift my weight between my legs. Why someone would invent a dance where you go through that kind of motion instead of just stepping on the ball of your foot and leaving the heel off the floor is beyond me. Sire Steven said it was supposed to help with the rhythm bounce that your hips are doing during Samba, but all it seems to do for me is to confound me as to which foot is supposed to be doing what at what time. Sometimes I think that the people who invented dance styles just like making things more difficult than they really need to be. We stuck to just two different figures to practice this crazy technique (just the basic step and the whisk), but I kept mucking it up royally after the first few steps. After about ten minutes of grueling work, Sir Steven told me that he could tell I knew what to do in my mind, but it would take more practice time than he wanted to spend that night to get my feet to do what my brain wanted them to do instinctively, so he cut me a break so that I could practice things on my own without anyone watching. It’s a good thing I don’t have to go to the office on Friday, because I’ll probably need a whole day of work to master something that seems like it should be so simple…

Speaking of Friday, I was told that at least the Electric Dance Hall will be open that night for some people who are taking personal lessons, so intend to also holding their normal Friday group classes as well even though it’s a holiday. If I burn myself out practicing Samba during day, I think I might go to at least one of those classes to make sure I work on more than one thing that day. If you’re not doing anything, you should come with me! I think with the holiday events going on, it might end up being me dancing by myself with whomever ends up teaching class that night. Hopefully at least one other person wants to come along!

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