Ah, Halloween. One of my favorite times of year. A time to walk around and see what amazing things people come up with to dress up as, and hear the stories of how they go out of their way to try to scare others for fun. How can you really learn to appreciate walking around on a sunny day unless you sometimes walk around at night? I like that Halloween gives us a chance to do that, to pretend to be things that normally scare us and share candy with others who do the same. My own ideas for costumes the last couple of years have been altered slightly, since all the parties I want to get dressed up and go to are dance parties, and some costumes would be impossible to dance in. Sure, it would be fun to get dressed up as popular characters from scary movies, but what would you do with all the accessories you’d carry around with that outfit? What if you want to wear a costume with a really tall hat? That means that you’d have trouble going through an under-arm turn, risking losing the headgear in the process. I applaud people I’ve seen go to these dance parties wearing things like animal suits, because I imagine something like that would get horrendously hot dancing in all night long. This year, I picked out a costume that allowed me to make a joke that I thought was hilarious… but the joke is really only funny if you went with me to the dance parties I was at this past weekend.
The first party was over at the Endless Dance Hall. As I entered the building, they had put a frame up with dark curtains surrounding the entrance that prevented you from seeing anything on the dance floor until you got to the end. There were also motion activated things that made noise as I walked through the makeshift hall. That’s always a good way to get into the Halloween spirit (provided said noise-making things don’t launch themselves in your direction unexpectedly). We started the evening with a group class on East Coast Swing taught by Indiana. Since she had no idea to what degree all of us who attended the class knew East Coast Swing, she started things out by going over the basics, and as we progressed we worked our way up to more difficult material by the end. Nothing we covered in the class was difficult per se, but there was one piece that really threw my brain for a loop. Once upon a time, I had learned a figure for East Coast Swing that we called the “Continuous Tuck-In” – you might know it as something else, but basically you would start in handshake-hold with your partner and then rotate clockwise around a center point, tapping your partner on the shoulder as you go. You would normally do this for a count of four, then turn the lady out with a free spin to move on to something else. That’s how I’ve always done it, and how I’ve always seen other people do it.
You would think at this point in my dance career, I would know that any International Latin or American Rhythm figure that you can do while spinning clockwise, you should also be able to do while spinning counter-clockwise. But boy, does that throw me off whenever someone reminds me of that fact…
As the end of the lesson approached, Indiana told us that instead of doing the free spin with our partner to go back to normal dance frame, we would be doing a rock step, switching hands so we were holding our left hands instead of our right, and then doing the same Continuous Tuck-In while turning around the center point going in the opposite direction. That simple variation, as easy as it sounds when I write it out like that, took me several tries to really do successfully. The first few times that I attempted to do it turning the opposite direction, every muscle in my body was screaming at me that things did not feel right. “We’ve only ever gone one way before!” my body shouted. “What the heck are you trying to make us do? Have you lost your mind?!?” After going through things three or four times, I managed to get the motions down, so I’m feeling pretty confident about it now. But man, those first few times doing it just felt weird. It reminded me of when I first started learning Viennese Waltz – we started out, as I imagine many people starting Viennese Waltz do, only rotating one way. For me, we it was the Reverse rotation. After a few weeks of mastering that in class, we tried to do the Natural rotations, and at first that just seemed wrong. Now, having done Viennese Waltz for a while, turning either way is no longer a problem, but that first time you fight against what you have locked into your muscle memory, it can be downright awkward. I’m sure all the ghouls wandering around the Halloween party last Friday night had a good laugh at my expense, watching me struggle with getting the figure down.
After the lesson was done, then we danced! The DJ made sure to spin lots of Halloween-themed tracks, and they turned down most of the normal lights in the dance hall to let the black lights that they had recently installed illuminate the festivities. Prior to coming to this event, I had made sure that pieces of what I was wearing would glow properly under a black light, so I was all set for when that happened. During the Latin- and Swing-style numbers, I would pull my dance partner closer toward the middle of the floor where all the lights were shining, so that I could glow while moving. It made things fun. They also had “snacks” at the party. Originally, the announcement for the event claimed that snacks would be provided, and during past events that I’ve gone to at the Endless Dance Hall, that usually meant they would have a table set up with cookies and fruits and things – you know, snack foods. This time, that wasn’t the case. They had a whole room in the back that had tables lined up with various hot dishes on them. The setup looked more like a catered meal than a snack. I first wondered what was up when I saw people coming out of that room with plates that were loaded with things you would have to eat with a fork, so I had to do some recon work to investigate. That was fun. The whole night was fun. I danced all night until my feet hurt, and then left via the same creepy, cackling setup at the entrance to head out again into the crisp fall air.
(Note: I live in the south, so it was still like seventy degrees out in our “crisp fall air”)
The next night there was a Halloween party over at the Electric Dance Hall. Arriving at the party a little later than everyone else, and just barely had time to change my shoes before they started in with the group class they were offering at the beginning of this party. Here, instead of a group class going over steps from some dance style, Lady Detroit decided to go through a line dance. Since it was a Halloween dance party, we worked through a zombie-themed line dance that I’m sure many other places also teach during this particular holiday season. While I was nowhere near as good as an actual zombie when performing this line dance, we had tons of fun doing it, and I know there were lots of people recording all of us as we danced. Even people walking by outside were stopping as they passed by the windows of the Electric Dance Hall to marvel at what was going on inside, so we must have at least looked entertaining enough to illicit that sort of reaction. This was actually the second time I’ve gone through a version of that line dance. The first was way back in the day, during the very first big dance party I ever went to in the Dance Kingdom (which was for Halloween). Back then, I had no idea what I was doing, and a few days after the party I had no recollection of the steps I had learned that night. This time, since I have gotten better about memorizing dances, I might be able to still walk through the line dance I learned even a week later. A month from now, if I don’t practice it, I probably won’t be so lucky, but right now I feel like I could.
In fact, I just walked through the whole thing in my mind to validate that I remember everything, and I must say that I looked pretty awesome while doing it. Good job me!
After we finished learning and performing the line dance a few times, we were set free to run amuck throughout the dance hall in an appropriate haunting fashion. For this party, the overhead lights were turned off and only the lights on the tables around the outside of the dance floor were used, keeping to the scary but fun atmosphere. There were no black lights, but since the Electric Dance Hall is much smaller than the Infinite Dance Hall (every dance hall I’ve been to is smaller than the Infinite Dance Hall), they were able to decorate the whole place much more to fit the holiday theme, since they didn’t have so much space to cover. There were scary sticky things up on all the mirrors, and footprints in what looked like fake blood coming in from the front door past the desk, and the tables in each corner had some random Halloween masks sitting on them that you could try on and pretend to be a different character with. I tried on both a bat and a vampire mask that were sitting on one table that night for fun. I would have tried to dance with one on, except the masks seemed to have been made for people smaller than me, and the eye holes really limited my field of vision, so I didn’t want to risk running into someone. During one of the East Coast Swing songs I tried out the figure that Indiana had taught the night before, rotating in the other direction. The first time, I got all messed up and Sparkledancer laughed at me for it, but the second time I tried during the same song I managed to get things right.
Since Halloween night is actually a Friday night this year, I’m sure there will be another open social dance party somewhere to go to (I really hope so). I will probably wear a different costume if there is, likely one I used in the past, just to change things up. After all, you feel better about the money and effort put into pulling together a costume if you use it multiple times, right? I imagine this is how ladies feel about wearing competition dresses… except costumes usually involve more candy. Happy Halloween every one! I hope you all have a scary good time dancing as well!