Who loves you? It must be me, because I won’t let this holiday stop me from putting this online…
This past weekend I went to a Christmas-themed dance party at the Endless Dance Hall. Well, that’s not exactly the case – it was a dance party hosted by the people of the Cherished Dance Hall, but housed at the Endless Dance Hall. I guess they needed more space for their party than their own facility offered (Christmas parties are a BIG DEAL!). Now, I want to give a quick PSA here: just because you are holding a Christmas dance party doesn’t mean that every song that gets played has to be a Christmas-themed song. I realize that there are a lot of Christmas songs out there (I’m sure you’ve also flipped through one of the 24-hour Christmas radio stations that show up on air this time of year), but not all of those songs are right for dancing. At this particular dance party I was attending, all they were playing throughout the night were Christmas songs. To make matters worse, no one was calling out what style of dance they were shooting for when the song came on, so people were left to pick whatever they wanted. There were really only a few dance styles that sort-of worked for what was being played. A lot of the songs were almost good for some dance styles, but they were either too fast or too slow to feel right. The other problem was that some people decided on a style of dance that was completely different from what others were doing, so sometimes there were near-collisions on the floor. Foxtrot and East Coast Swing were often being done by different couples during the same song, because songs that work for one of those styles usually work for the other, and with no direction given there was no reason to prefer doing one to the other. At a good dance party, the people doing Foxtrot would be told to go around the outside of the floor, and people wanting to do East Coast Swing would stay in the middle to be out-of-the-way. When no one is in charge and telling people the rules, things devolve into anarchy, and then you end up with people doing East Coast Swing in various places all over the floor and a few couples doing Foxtrot, weaving in and out of the other couples (some couples being more successful at weaving than others). As far as other dance styles during the party, aside from the previously mentioned Foxtrot and East Coast Swing the next most common was Rumba, though sometimes you did Rumba just because it was a slower song and nothing else would fit. We did a few Cha-Chas, and handful of Waltzes, and I managed to fit in a Bolero and a West Coast Swing once each just because I wanted to do those styles. There were a few times I saw some people trying to do Quickstep, but the songs I saw them trying to use for Quickstep were really slow… too fast for a normal Foxtrot, but not what I would consider fast enough for Quickstep.
Santa was also dancing at the Christmas party! I’m sure you could have guessed that someone would have dressed up for this party (it’s a fairly common practice), but I mention it because that is something I was really impressed by – the guy wore the whole costume the entire time I was there, and danced in practically every song throughout the night. I can only imagine how hot he must have been that evening wearing that outfit. The coat was thick and fuzzy, and it had to remain closed all night so that whatever he had tucked underneath to simulate the large belly would stay in place (it was too high up his in the front to be natural, so the coat must have been stuffed with something). He even wore boots with the white fur-like trim out on the dance floor! Well, it may have just been normal dance shoes with some kind of black extension added on to make them look like boots; I really didn’t get too close to stare at them and find out. But even with all of that warm apparel, he kept it on the whole time and danced the night away. That’s what I call a jolly old elf! He did get a break from dancing a couple of times during the night. As everyone entered the building they were given a raffle ticket, and twice during the evening they pulled Santa up to sit in the corner by the tree, and he handed out gifts to people whose raffle numbers were drawn. They also held a couple of performances during the night: a Tango and a Waltz by a high-ranked amateur couple and a Rumba from a Pro-Am couple, and Santa got to sit out during those as well.
Two nights later, on Monday night I was out at Lord Junior’s Latin Technique class, and only Sparkledancer showed up to join me for the evening. Lord Junior got excited about just having the two of us there, because he said that he wanted to go back to what he had been going over with us a couple of weeks back when it had been just the two of us there. Back then we had started working on a short Rumba figure – it was a check into a syncopated hip twist that went out into Fan Position (also syncopated). He said that he wanted to go back to that pattern because we had been so close to getting things the way he wanted us to at the end of that class that he wanted to continue on and see if we could do better. He even added on to the pattern so that after the lady was out in Fan Position, then we would go through a Hockey Stick which would put us back into the same spot we started when we did the forward check at the beginning, that way we could loop everything as we practiced.
During my Tuesday night meeting with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven, we spent most of the evening working on Tango. Last week we went over Foxtrot and Tango with the first part of the hour and most of the lesson focused on Foxtrot, this week we started with Tango and spent most of the hour on that, and then switched to Waltz for the last ten minutes or so. If we keep going like this, next week I’m guessing we start with Waltz and spend most of the time on that and then switch over to Viennese Waltz at the end (we can find out if I’m right next week!). After working on getting things right in Tango for so long, both last week and now this week, I can honestly say that I don’t really like the ‘proper’ Tango technique. Let me explain: so far, for the rest of the dances that I have been working on achieving Silver-level technique for, I can understand why people have decided to do things the way they do. Take the Latin technique class that I take with Lord Junior on Monday nights – a lot of the things that he really pushes me to do in order to improve my dancing for Latin dances also serve to make dancing those styles easier. The straight legs help improve the lines, the pushing off of the standing leg helps you have more power when moving, moving your arms from your back helps make the arm motions seem more connected to the steps, etc.. Then there’s Tango. Who would ever have decided that this is the best way to dance? Squatting down on the floor, feet spread wide but knees turned in toward each other, pigeon-toed for a lot of the steps… it just seems to make dancing this style more uncomfortable rather than make things easier. Someone described proper Tango to me recently as looking like you are dancing while trying to hold in a full bladder, but without the uncomfortable facial expressions. Not exactly the prettiest picture (you’re all picturing that now, aren’t you?), so why did the great Lords and Ladies of Dance decide that that is what Tango is supposed to look like when danced properly? I know it’s supposed to be one of the more dramatic dances that we as ballroom dancers do, but I don’t think I’ll ever have drama on the mind when dancing like that. It’s hard enough for me to dance without laughing as it is.
During our work on Tango, as we worked hard at getting our bodies to stay low to the ground and walk with our feet pointed inward toward each other, apparently Sparkledancer and I would allow our upper bodies to drift toward each other too much for Sir Steven’s liking. After the fourth or fifth time we did that, he decided to help us see what he was seeing. He went back behind the desk and returned with the blue cushion off the top of one of the stools that is back there. He had us get back into position to start stepping through the beginning of our routine again, and before we started moving he stuck the cushion between our necks so that it was resting on the top of our chests. Then, he let us go. The cushion wasn’t solid enough to prevent us from bringing our upper bodies closer to each other, but it allowed us to see when we did, because we began to squish the cushion whenever we got too close. As far as inexpensive teaching utensils, that cushion worked out pretty well… for a time. As we wrapped up for the day and Sparkledancer and I were walking through the parking lot to our cars, she asked me if I had thought about all the people who had put their butts on the cushion that we had had sitting beneath our chins as we were dancing. Up until that point, I really hadn’t thought about it, but now I don’t think I could go through that again without that thought coming up. Gross.
Happy Christmas and Merry New Year to everyone! I hope you have dance plans for the upcoming weekend between the holidays to celebrate. I certainly do! Feel free to come join me if you don’t have something else going on!