Being the wonderfully charming and witty guy that my mother tells me I am (I have to be careful not to cut myself, that’s how sharp my wit is), I helped out hosting a dance party this past weekend. Last time we did this, I was playing more of the assistant role: talking with the attendees, helping them feel at ease, and spending a lot of the time on the dance floor dancing with the ladies who attended. This time, I got promoted, so I got to give speeches before and after the initial dance lesson to let people know how things would work during the event. I’m sure everyone loved hearing the melodious baritone timbre of my voice as I stood in the middle of the room and told them ‘do whatever you want.’
Wait a minute… what?
During the meetings we had after the last party was over, the big issue that everyone involved with hosting the event came back to was that all the men seemed to leave early. And when the men left, then the women left, because they were there to meet the men, and if the men weren’t there then they were stuck with meeting… me. I know that seems like that would be a lot of fun, but the party was marketed to the over 40 crowd, and the women who were there saw me as a cub (yes, that was a cougar joke… remember how sharp I said my wit is?). At these meetings we discussed what we could do to try to get the men to stick around longer, and figure out what would have caused them to leave early. Sparkledancer (who also helped out with the last event) posited the same theory she came up with about why so many people don’t stick with taking dance lessons: as an adult, it is really hard to start doing something that you don’t know, because it makes you feel stupid. If it takes you a while to pick up a new skill, you are less likely to stick with it unless A) you are getting compensated somehow to learn said new skill, or B) you have an incredible support team to make you feel good while learning said skill. Our theory was that at the last party, we gave that group class, and everyone looked like they had fun while the class was going on, but afterward we would just play songs and call out what style of dance would work for that song, and since some people who attended knew how to dance and others didn’t, we thought that a lot of the guys that didn’t know might have felt stupid just standing around watching. Compound that with the men (like me) who were out on the floor and knew what they were doing, and it would be easy to feel stupid if you’re just standing around.
This time, before and after the class that was held at the beginning, I emphasized to everyone that the real purpose of the party was for everyone to meet. The dancing was to be used more like an icebreaker – something that would give anyone a reason to introduce themselves. I told them that they didn’t have to dance any of the dance styles that we taught or called out during the party. If they wanted to just go out on the floor and wiggle during the song, that would be totally cool, and if they just wanted to sit and share a glass of wine and engage in a philosophical discussion about me wiggling during a song, that would be totally cool as well. People seemed to really like that idea. I’m not sure if that was what led to the more relaxed atmosphere at this party, or if it had to do with the different group of people who came this time, or some combination of those two changes, but everyone seemed to stick around until later in the evening. We had people who sat around on the couches chatting, and others who were out on the floor grooving with each other, and I think I even saw some people exchanging phone numbers. That’s always a good thing to happen at a singles party, right? That makes it seem successful!
This party wasn’t without its share of awkward moments though (just in case you were worried that this would be a mundane post). The promoters of the event had stopped telling people that the party was for singles over 40, so we had some people attend that wouldn’t have otherwise shown up with that restriction in place. There was one group of really young (comparatively) girls – had to be college age – that came in early on. At first they seemed like they were going to leave, seeing how much older most other people there were compared to them, but they did stay for most of the night. The awkwardness with that was because one of them was short. Really short. If she’d told me she was five feet tall, I would have thought her a liar. This doesn’t sound all that out of the ordinary, right? Well, keep in mind that this was a singles party, and she was dressed to entice men (that is to say, her dress was cut low). This led to it being kind of weird to dance with her. I was out on the floor with her a couple of times during the course of the group class and the dance afterward, and I struggled to not seem awkward doing it because… since I’m fairly tall, in order to look her in the eye I had to bend my neck, and then I could see her face and straight down the front of her dress at the same time. I wasn’t trying to look there, she was just that much shorter than me! A couple of the other guys who were helping out at the party said they had the same problem – in order to try to remain professional, they were just staring at the wall off to the side, because if you were six-foot tall or taller there was no way to look at her face without giving yourself a view.
We had Sir Steven helping out with this event again, teaching the group class before the dance party. This time around, he decided to switch out Waltz for Foxtrot, but he kept the other dance styles the same as he taught last time (Rumba, Salsa and Hustle). He went through basic Foxtrot first, and after about fifteen minutes of showing everyone what to do, we held a Foxtrot Mixer (I’m sure most of you have done one of those during a social dance party before), letting us put on some music and give people a chance to practice and mingle a bit more before moving on to the next dance style. Initially I got in the line on the guys side so that I could go through everything with the rest of the gentlemen, but I found that the first pair dancing together didn’t really understand what to do, so I ended up running back to the back of the room to let them know when they should split up and get back in line to go again. I followed the guy back toward the end of the line, and I almost got there when I saw the second couple dancing doing the same awkward shuffle at the back of the room, trying to figure out what to do next. I ran back there to help them out as well, and was about to return to the line when I saw the third couple also struggling. At that point, I decided just to hang out at the end and direct traffic rather than dance. Bony, who also volunteered to help out this time, came and stood on the other side of the room from me so she could direct people as well. Once we were in place and we got through the first rotation of all the attendees, everyone seemed to figure things out, and the mixer worked out much better.
There was also a crazy version of the Merengue line dance that night. For those of you who have never done that, the version of the Merengue line dance we did involves everyone holding hands in a big circle, and then someone will go across the circle and underneath the arms of the people there. The object is to wind everyone up and then unwind without anyone letting go of the hands of the people next to them, sort of like dancing Merengue with just one partner. A couple of the people in the circle with us had had several drinks by this point, and they got super excited about going under people’s arms, so they would just do their own thing and drag the people they were holding on to with them. This led to things getting extremely messy, and rather than just letting people work their way out of the tangle, some of the people would let go of their neighbor’s hands to unwind themselves and leave the rest of us to our fate. Everyone still seemed to have a lot of fun though, and luckily no one got stepped on as we were twisting ourselves up.
This event got what I see as better feedback than the last time we did this. Sure, last time we also got good feedback, but this time I get the sense that people were having more fun. I’ll have to join the review meetings to talk things over with the other organizers to be sure, but I can see us doing this again in a few months. I believe that as long as people keep showing up, it’s worth doing again!
As for the rest of my week, it pretty much revolved around Mambo. I had to set aside time with Sparkledancer to go over the bits of new Mambo that we learned last week, and that took a lot longer than it should have to look like I actually knew what I was doing. It still doesn’t feel comfortable, and it probably still seems sloppy, but I learned it. Then, on Tuesday with Sir Steven, we spent most of our time going over the pieces that would come next in our final Mambo routine. Based on the number of turns that we have in there so far, I wouldn’t be surprised if Sparkledancer gets dizzy running through the routine after we finish putting it together. But, the bright side of working on the Mambo so much is that we also got to start looking at Bolero too. Sigh… I’ve missed doing Bolero. I need to schedule a time to just sit with a partner and go through the basic Bolero steps I know again, since I struggled with remembering how things went, but I’m looking forward to putting this together.
Coming up this weekend there is some expert-level Cha-Cha workshop going on that I think I will go to. The posters I’ve seen for it say that it is open to all levels of dancers, so even though my Cha-Cha is far from expert level, maybe I won’t look out of place being there. Are you going to go? If you do, be sure to look for me. I’ll be the one grimacing in the back of the room, trying to pass my Cha-Cha off as presentable!