This being New Year’s Day and all (again, I’m putting this up on a holiday. I must either be crazy, or I enjoy this way more than I let on…), I suppose it’s only fitting to spend a moment reflecting on how the last year in dance has gone. That’s what people do in these sorts of things, isn’t it? I went back and looked at what I had written for myself around this same time last year, and I must say that things have changed dramatically when comparing what I do now to what I did then. You know, aside from the fact that I started off this year dancing, just like I did last year…
Last year about this time, I still spent much of my time at the Land of the Loft. I think that has really been the biggest change that I notice when going back through things I wrote at the end of last year. Nowadays, I spend most of my time out at the Electric Dance Hall. It’s half the distance from my house that the Land of the Loft was, so if I have a hankering to go to a group class or a dance party I don’t have to travel nearly as far. Even Sir Steven has taken to meeting up with Sparkledancer and me there for our coaching lessons, since all three of us live pretty close by. Sometimes, convenience is a good reason to do things, right? The other nice thing I’ve found being at the Electric Dance Hall has been Lord Junior. Pretty much everywhere else I’ve been, either for classes or lessons or parties, all the Dance Lords and Ladies that taught at those places there were younger than me, even though I’m really not that old (yet I get older every day). Lord Junior is not that much older than me, but he’s been studying and teaching ballroom dancing for almost twenty years – which is almost longer than some of the Dance Lords and Ladies I’ve met have been alive. His technique classes, while grueling, are filled with anecdotes about all the times over his career that he was picked on by various coaches for the same things he picks on me for. Hearing stories like that allows me to watch the way he dances and realize that once upon a time, he moved more like me, so maybe someday there’s a chance that if the planets align, I practice a lot and archeologists happen to dig up the lost city of Atlantis… maybe I could learn to move more like he does. Something to work toward in 2015, right?
The latter part of 2014 I also see my dance training becoming a lot more technical. This has certainly caused the frustration level to rise, because there is a lot of time spent pointing out all the things that I am doing wrong. In the end, I know this is good for me, and I’m sure that the next time I end up competing I will look and feel better about what I am doing than I did the last time I was out, but that doesn’t make it the most fun way to spend my time and money. I’m hoping that throughout 2015 I can get a good handle on really learning and remembering all of these points that I am being told I need to have in mind while dancing, at least for American Rhythm and Smooth. I do notice that some of the things I am told repeatedly are slowly making their way into my social dancing – my knees are much more bent while doing ballroom dances, even when dancing with newcomers, and I’ve started to bend my left wrist and pull my elbow back no matter who I am dancing with as well. At this point, the changes are subtle, so it gets harder to recognize progress. Maybe when I reflect on things as 2016 starts, I will still be worrying about not doing the same things correctly. As I’ve been told, I can always put more effort into pushing off with my standing leg, making sure my legs are really straight and rotating my hips. I don’t think that changes, no matter what level one dances at.
There has been a lot of dance parties this past week, so I’m glad that I had a day off today to recover a bit. Two of the parties in particular stand out the most – last Saturday night I was lucky enough to go on a dance field trip that was being held someplace I’ve never gotten to dance before: the Hollow Dance Hall. It took me a couple of passes on the road to be sure I was at the right place at first. On the outside, all the windows looked dark, so I wasn’t sure that I was in the right place when I pulled into the parking lot. Luckily, another lady had shown up at the same time, and as we both got out of our cars she asked if I was also there for the dance party, so then I was pretty sure I had made it to the correct venue. Walking through a hole in the wall to head inside, the front rooms opened up and looked more like the entrance of someone’s home with a sort-of foresty décor theme, and they even had a full kitchen in a room on the left-hand side. But if you went through the two doors in the back beyond the living-room-like area, there was a large dance floor covering the back of the building where everyone was starting to gather as the music began. I met up with a couple of dance people I knew (Sparkledancer, of course, and a new dance friend Points who had agreed to come out to dance for the night) in the back corner to change my shoes.
Dancing at the Hollow Dance Hall was a lot of fun. About a half hour in, with all the people moving around in the room, it got really warm in there. Really warm. I was out dancing for almost every song that night, so I ended up being pretty sweaty as you can imagine. During an East Coast Swing I was dancing with Points, my hand slipped out of hers during a move and I stumbled a bit trying to grab her hand again to get back into the groove. The hosts at the venue did turn on the big wall-mounted air conditioners during the night, setting them to cool the room down to sixty-two degrees, and they had a couple of large fans in two corners of the room to circulate the air, so there were some places to stand that would allow you to cool off a bit before going back out to dance some more. I liked the Hollow Dance Hall. The DJ that was there that night told everyone that if they enjoyed the venue to let her know and she would talk to the owner about adding the place into her regular rotation of dance halls to hold parties at. I would be one more name to add to the column of wanting to go back there again.
Then there was the big party last night. Much like last year, I went out to the big formal dance party being held at the Endless Dance Hall to end the old year and begin the new one. This year I had heard of a lot of New Year’s Eve dance parties going on throughout the Dance Kingdom, so there were a lot fewer people in our group this time because others got to go off to different places. We ended up with just two guys (myself and The Crank) and four women (Bony, Enthusiasm, Points and Sparkledancer) at a table on the far side of the floor. The evening kind of came full circle with last year – at one point, I was walking along the back wall behind the dance floor, and I came across Indiana standing back there in exactly the same spot she was when I first laid eyes on her one year ago. I talked with her for a bit, asking her about how the year had gone for her. She told me that things were going well, but she wished that she had been able to expand her client base in the area more in the last year. She had high hopes that 2015 would be better, now that she had lived in the city longer. Also, as we went out to dance when an East Coast Swing came on, she told me that her feet were really hurting. Apparently she had been out doing a showcase performance with her professional partner earlier in the day and she hadn’t really had much time to recover from that. I caught her later in the evening hiding in the back room with her shoes off to give her feet a break, and slightly later she was out dancing barefoot with someone on the main floor. That just shows that none of us really take any serious respite during dancing, do we?
I spent the evening really trying to pace myself, trying to make sure I sat out every fourth song or so. I had pushed myself pretty hard working out just a couple of hours before leaving to attend the night’s festivities, so I didn’t want to come across as being a sweaty mess all night like I was during the previous dance at the Hollow Dance Hall. That didn’t stop me from going out with Sparkledancer to do every Viennese Waltz that was played, which is a surefire way of counteracting my brief rest periods. Someone even decided to take video of me dancing a Cha-Cha with Points during the party, and it ended up being posted online. I watched it earlier today, and all I could think about was how I did that weird looping thing with my arm a couple of times during the dance. Sigh… this is why I don’t usually watch video of myself dancing.
The strangest thing that happened during the party was that I ended up stepping up and being in the lead for most of the line dances that were being played that night. The Samba line dance was the most noticeable – the first time we were out there, there were a couple of people who didn’t know the pattern, and were clearly stumbling through. I took it upon myself to step in front of them to call things out. Soon, I had taken over being in front for two walls and convinced Sparkledancer to be in front for the other two while I hung out in the middle to stand next to those who were struggling the most. Halfway through the evening a group of college-age people came in, most of whom looked really out-of-place when trying to mix in with the rest of the crowd. Most of the guys had clearly had at least a few drinks before showing up, so when they took their [female friends, dates – I wasn’t quite sure what the relationship was] out on the floor, they were just gyrating erratically in the middle. One guy who had been at the party since the beginning that went over and joined the group seemed to actually know what he was doing. He would take one of the girls out to the floor for many of the songs, and together they seemed to be able to go through most of the dance styles. The other guys in the group liked to come out to the floor for the line dances, and one in particular was very appreciative that I was willing to talk him through the steps (though I’m not sure he will remember those steps later). Usually when line dances are going on, any Dance Lords and Ladies that are at the party will step up and take the lead to make sure that everyone knows the steps. I saw plenty of Dance Lords and Ladies at the event last night, but they all stayed around the outside of the floor and were content to leave things to the amateurs. I wonder why they wanted to do that…
So how was your 2014? Did it leave you ready to keep dancing into 2015? I sure hope so. What am I going to do now that a new year has begun? We’ll have to see! Come back next week and I’ll tell you all about my continuing adventures wandering around the Dance Kingdom!