Sparkledancer finally made it back to the world of dance this past weekend. Once she finally got ahold of me, we managed to get together to do some practice to see how out of sync we were after all that time spent not dancing with each other. Getting together turned out to be more of a challenge than I had imagined it would. When we first discussed times for this weekend, we decided to give her all day Saturday to “recover” from her harrowing vacation, and planned to get together on Sunday afternoon. There was a social dance we found that afternoon at a studio that was a bit of a drive, but the idea of getting out to practice on a real dance floor was very compelling. On Sunday, I arrived at that dance hall a bit early to see what we would be getting ourselves into. It only took a moment of looking around inside to realize that the studio floor was going to be far too small to safely run any of our routines with the other people dancing near us. So I left and called Sparkledancer to tell her the news, and convinced her to meet me later in the evening at our usual outdoor practice spot so that we would have ample space to run through everything. Since most of my afternoon was eaten up heading all the way out to this studio and then coming back, night was falling across the kingdom, and it was raining lightly so the air was warm and humid and the ground was damp. We paid no mind to the weather and worked through our Foxtrot and Waltz routines first, ironing out everything so that it felt like we hadn’t forgotten them. Once we were satisfied with those two, we started in on the last wall of our Samba routine, the wall that had most recently changed. It only took us about half a dozen tries to get that squared away. Once we got through the last wall correctly, we continued on with the routine as if it had looped back to the beginning, and we ran through the whole thing a couple times. As the lights faded, we finished up by walking through the choreography for our Pasodoble routine. Feeling pretty good (and really sweaty), we decided to call it quits for the night and meet up for one of the group classes being offered on Monday.
The next night I ended up at the Samba class at the Electric Dance Hall. I was a bit nervous about showing up for the class – it’s already the third class of the month, and I hadn’t gone to the other two, so I was hoping that they hadn’t gone over anything terribly difficult the previous weeks so I could catch up. Turns out that my fears were misplaced, as Sparkledancer and I were the only ones who ended up showing up for that class. Lord Junior made us an offer that he could either teach us the pattern the others had learned in the previous two classes, or he could look at anything we were struggling with in our own routine to see if he could help. We chose option two, and ended up spending the whole hour on just the running promenade figure that makes up most of the last short wall in our routine. I know what you’re thinking… an hour on just one figure? That’s crazy, right? But we needed it. With everything else we’ve been trying to accomplish, it was good (while at the same time, humbling) to finally go over the intricacies of that single figure to really make it look and travel the way it should. I got called out a lot because of things that I was doing wrong that needed to be corrected. After fixing the form and style of the figure, we managed to easily double the amount of floor that we covered while travelling. That increase in distance led to Lord Junior to give me one other important piece of advice: when doing Samba, many professionals have no corners in their routines. They run their routines more like how I learned to do Tango – a constant ovoid path that loops to the beginning when you finish, no matter where you are on the floor. This allows you to make the figures in Samba travel really far, no matter the size of the floor. With the improvements in our running promenade figures, we should now be able to cover the entire short wall plus a large part of the subsequent long wall.
Tuesday night I went in for my regular coaching session with Sir Steven. I met up with Sparkledancer at the dance hall about fifteen minutes early so that we could run through our Rumba routine on an actual dance floor. As much fun as it is to practice outside, there are still some dance styles that are easier to do while on a wood floor, and Rumba is one of those. By the time Sir Steven showed up and it was time to get started, we were feeling pretty good about everything, and were working on some simple forward and backward Latin walks. When Sir Steven came over to where we were walking, he told us that we were in a good place to go over our Rumba. Having just worked through the routine several times in our warmup, things went pretty well. I was told that there was a spiral turn right in the beginning of the routine, before we end up in fan position the first time, but I swear I have never done the routine like that before. Unless Sir Steven and Sparkledancer were putting it in the routine when I wasn’t looking, that’s new to me. It should be a simple fix, I just need to step through it a few times to commit the new pattern to memory. Once we finished up with Rumba, he asked us to move to Cha-Cha.
And I just had to stop and laugh for a while.
During all the time I spent walking through things on my own while Sparkledancer was gone, or working with Sir Steven on my own to correct technical things, or even the time Sparkledancer and I had just spent practicing the last couple of nights to get back into step together, I never once stopped to think about Cha-Cha. Before Sparkledancer left, we had just started looking at some of the figures from the routine, and when she got back I’ll admit I was more concerned with working through all the routines that we had completed or had large sections completed for, rather than dedicate time to the bits and pieces of other random dance styles we had done. It never even crossed my mind. Like the Jive routine Sir Steven and I had started in on the week before. I had briefly shown the pattern to Sparkledancer, but we never spent any real time on it since it was new and we had other things to work on. So Sir Steven asking to look at our Cha-Cha took me by surprise, and I’ll admit that it went… poorly. Not something I would write home about (though writing about it here is totally fine). Even thinking back about what we did now, I don’t know if I entirely remember all the pieces of the Cha-Cha we went through. That mental block I have with Cha-Cha doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and maybe it never will. Luckily, we didn’t spend forever on Cha-Cha, and we went over the Jive next so that Sir Steven could teach Sparkledancer her part of what we were doing. I got called out again quite frequently for all the things I wasn’t doing well while trying to show Sparkledancer what she should be doing. By the end, I was having trouble just keeping straight which knee should have been bent and which should have been straight at what point in each step. My brain was fried, and I think I was a little frustrated with always being stopped to go back and correct things. Luckily we ended the evening with Sir Steven taking Sparkledancer over to the mirror to show her the weird Samba footwork he had shown to me two weeks prior, so that she could start working on that too.
I was feeling the other night that dance has been really frustrating the last few weeks, as it seems like there has been a lot of people stopping me in the middle of things to point out all the ways I was doing them wrong. I understand it is all in the hope that I can work on it to make it better in the future, but they have to actually give me time to work on those things so that I can do better before throwing a whole bunch of other things to fix at me. I told Sparkledancer the yesterday night over the phone that I think I need to become a vampire, because if I am effectively immortal, then I would have plenty of time to practice dance technique. I was being serious, but she thinks that is really funny. So, I’m adding ‘discuss future with a vampire’ to the list of things I need to work on for dance.
This coming weekend there is another intensive workshop scheduled at the Electric Dance Hall, this time on International Rumba. Are you going to be there? If you are, maybe we’ll learn something crazy together!