Last week Sir Steven wasn’t feeling well, so we had all agreed to move our coaching lesson to Friday at the Electric Dance Hall instead of our usual Tuesday appointment. About an hour before I was supposed to be at the dance hall that night, Sparkledancer called me to let me know that she wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t be going out dancing that night. Since it was too late to figure out a time to reschedule things again, I ended up going and working with Sir Steven on my own. As you can imagine, we spent the majority of the time working on fixing technical elements, specifically things in my Foxtrot and Tango routines. We talked a lot about maintaining that body contact in the lower-right abdomen, and how it was easier to figure out what steps required Contra Body Position and Contra Body Movement if your body always has to be positioned to maintain contact with a dance partner in your lower-right abdominal area. Discussing it was one thing, but without a female dance partner there to work on demonstrating it, the only way to really practice was for Sir Steven and me to be that close to each other. One thing I found that I was doing (which I mentioned to him after we were done for the night) was pushing my abdominal muscles outward to expand the distance between the two of us. I didn’t notice it at first, but as we were drawing to a close and he was going through parts of the Tango with me one more time, I caught myself pushing the muscles in my abdomen out that extra half-inch as he sidled next to me, and then relaxing them and letting them move back toward my spine when standing by myself. I thought it was kind of funny. That extra half-inch gave me more room to move around in, and I’m always terrified whenever I dance with people who know more than me that I’m going to accidentally step on them and make myself look like a fool, so having extra room to move helped me avoid that. I think that may have been partly why I was doing it. If I had stepped on Sir Steven, I’m sure he would have told Sparkledancer, and then both of them would have had a good laugh at my expense. Plus, I don’t know the correct way to make amends for stepping on the person teaching you to dance – it doesn’t seem like the kind of faux pas they’d teach you how to deal with in etiquette classes.
Afterward I stuck around for the Cha-Cha group class and open dance at the Electric Dance Hall. The group class really didn’t cover anything that I didn’t already know, but they were keeping the steps pretty simple because there were several people new to dance in the class with me. We covered several different variations of the Crossover Break (or New Yorker – whatever you normally call it). During the times when we were rotating through partners and practicing the steps, I focused mostly on what my opposite arm was doing. I could see Lord Junior watching me occasionally from behind the desk by the front door where he was sitting, so I was really trying not to do that weird looping thing with my arm that he had told me about. I thought that if I could extend my arm fully, pulling it open from my Lats in my back instead of just using my arm or shoulder to do the extension, then maybe I wouldn’t have the wind-up motion happen. I’m happy to say I managed to get through the class without repeating the funny motion – I can’t tell if I really looked good extending my arm, but at least it no longer looked funny. Small victories are still victories, right?
The dance party that night was a small affair. I think there are a lot of people who have already left for holiday vacations, because my office is also pretty empty lately. That makes me excited to go to some dance parties after Christmas – maybe I’ll get the floor mostly to myself so I can do whatever I want! I might think about wandering through the line of dance with my arms straight out at my sides, making airplane noises in time with the music… it would be more of a freestyle dance than a traditional ballroom dance. Like I’ve mentioned before, when dancing with ladies that I do not compete with while at social parties, I don’t go practicing my routines with them because I don’t know if they would know all the steps, and I would also feel like I am using them without them knowing about it. It just feels wrong to me, so I try to be more spontaneous. Usually if I don’t know how long a lady has been dancing or where they learned to dance, I tend to stick with only a handful of figures that I am pretty confident that most people should know. That strategy doesn’t always work out for me, but I don’t know how to better figure out what figures I can use with someone other than to try things out and see what works. I’m pretty good about laughing things off if we end up looking silly trying some figures, and I think that laughter helps the people I dance with not to feel stupid because I tried something they didn’t know. Since I’m the one who’s leading whenever I dance, I happen to know all the figures we would be dancing (as you can imagine), so I don’t know what it’s like for someone to try to lead me through a figure I don’t know. Does it make the ladies feel dumb if I were to do that? Do they think I’m dumb for not knowing what figures they would know? Is it embarrassing for other people to stumble around a bit on the dance floor trying to get through things they don’t know? I don’t know. I suppose I could ask someone I dance with how it makes them feel if I try a figure that they don’t know, to make sure I’m not making them feel dumb. I would hate to bring someone down like that. At the social dance that night, things went pretty well. I danced with almost every lady that was there that night, and there were only a few times that we stumbled through things because I picked a figure the lady did not know. I think that’s pretty successful.
On Tuesday Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I all managed to get together and work on things without anyone being sick. What we ended up doing that night was pretty much the same as what Sir Steven and I went through the previous Friday night, except this time I had an actual dance partner to work with, which allowed Sir Steven to look at what I was doing from the outside in order to correct things. And there were a lot of things that I got corrected on… I will admit, it was a bit frustrating. I had thought that I was doing well on Friday when I initially went through everything, but adding in another person added in a level of complexity that doesn’t exist when you step through things alone. Sometimes, working on technical changes like this makes me think fondly of the time back when I was initially learning these dance steps. Back then, as long as I could get my feet to go in the right direction at the right time, I thought I was pretty hot stuff! Now it seems like there is so much of my body engaged with every movement I make, sometimes I get home from these technique sessions and realize that my body is actually tired out. It’s good, don’t get me wrong. I think the closest experience I’ve had like this that I can think of is when I refined the way I did push-ups. Once upon a time I also thought I was hot stuff because I could do a whole bunch of push-ups in every set I did. I was young, and all I cared about was the number of repetitions I could reach, and technique never even crossed my mind. Then one day I wanted to move things up to the next level, and in order to do different types of push-ups my technique started to really matter. Adding in the correct technique at first caused my numbers to really drop for every set – no longer could I rely on just my chest and arms to do push-ups, I had to make sure I was also engaging my abdomen, driving my heels back, keeping my neck lined up with the rest of my spine, and making sure not to let my back start to bow as I began to tire out; all things to make sure I was doing the movement correctly, but also to help ensure that I wasn’t going to hurt myself in the process. And I must say, though it took a while to really master the change in thinking, doing push-ups in this manner has actually helped make them easier for me to do. This leads me to believe that mastering the proper technique for each dance style will have a similar effect. Lord Junior has mentioned several times during the Latin Technique class that I go to that much of the technique helps to prevent a person from doing unneeded movements while dancing, which does make things easier. Right now, it seems like it’s gotten much harder when I’m trying to keep all these new details in mind, but hopefully someday soon it will start to make sense and I will begin feeling the benefits. I can see there might be benefits to all of this… way back there in the shadows, I can seem the benefits hiding back there. Maybe I’ll get closer to them someday. I just have to achieve a higher level of skill first.
Until I master things, this is the hypothesis I’m working with. Who knows? Adding in all the technique to my dancing could actually make things harder for me. My body might move around much more naturally if I leave my muscles super relaxed like cooked noodles instead of keeping everything engaged while moving around. Then I would be known throughout the Dance Kingdom as ‘The Dancing Noodle’ and people would flock from miles around to see how well I dance. Everyone would invite me to attend their dance parties to make sure they had a stellar turnout. Hmm… maybe I’m actually going about things all wrong. That sounds like it might be a fun way to go through life!