The Hustle class that I am going to on Fridays continues to be fun. In the couple of weeks it’s been held so far this month, It’s been a weird mix of people who sort-of know what they’re what they are doing, people who should know what they are doing but are struggling with things, a few people who have no idea what’s going on, and several people who comment about how the movements we are going through are so different from the movements they learned for Hustle back in the 1970s. Lucky (or unlucky) for me, I’ve already done everything that we’ve covered so far, so I can help the others out as needed. This past week we started going through the Triple-Spin, which is the basis for several other figures I know. Bony was in class that night, and I could have sworn she was in class with me when I originally learned this figure, and then again in the classes after that where we went over it again, but she seemed to be struggling to get through it for some reason. I tried to ask her if she had ever done the particular figure before, but she didn’t answer me in English for some reason, and then laughed about it like it was a private joke and rotated on to the next guy, leaving me kind of dumbstruck. At the end of class, Sir Steven pulled Sparkledancer in front of everyone to show them some variations on the Triple-Spin like the Hammerlock and the Head Loop that he said he could go through later this month for those who planned on sticking around. I’m hoping to pick up at least one more new thing for Hustle this month. Maybe I’m going to have to actually ask for something, rather than just hope it happens. Hmm… After the class was over I stuck around for the bi-weekly social dance party. There weren’t a lot of people who came for the event, and of the ones that did most left pretty early. Lots of people in the Dance Kingdom were preparing to perform at a big showcase the next night, so it was only those of us who weren’t performing the next night (or who wouldn’t be able to go because of other obligations. Boo) who were out dancing in the evening.
Every other Friday night now since the turn of the year, the Electric Ballroom is hosting an Argentine Tango Practica social dance – as it was explained to me, it’s basically a social dance where they do 95% Argentine Tango. They also have been holding an Argentine Tango class on Fridays before the Hustle class I’ve been going to, so oftentimes when I come in I can see the end of the class. Argentine Tango is… well, I don’t exactly know what to think of it. It’s weird, and the people seem to be hugging awkwardly and shuffling around a lot. With how much I’ve been struggling with learning proper American Tango technique lately, Argentine Tango just doesn’t appeal to me. Even if I knew the dance style, I couldn’t see myself bringing a girlfriend to a dance where they only do Argentine Tango. I would feel more impressive taking her out to a normal ballroom social dance and dancing through many dance styles with her, rather than just one style most of the night. Would that be true? Or would girls be more impressed just doing one dance style most of the night instead? I have so many questions!
Another change that happened at the turn of the year was that, due to some scheduling conflicts with new group classes being offered at pretty much every dance hall for all the beginner students who are fulfilling their New Year’s resolutions, Sparkledancer and I had to move our weekly coaching session to Saturday afternoons instead of our normal Tuesday time slot. Historically this was the day (and time) when we used to meet, so going back just seemed more natural than picking another weeknight. This past Saturday Sparkledancer and I met up at the Endless Dance Hall a little early, hoping to spend ten to fifteen minutes practicing before getting into things with Sir Steven watching. However, when we got there the place was filled with young kids, and they were all working on some choreographed dance number that looked to be from some musical about newspaper delivery, or orphan pickpockets, or some such thing (I don’t know too many musicals that contain large numbers of children, if you couldn’t tell). There were a bunch of Dance Lords and Ladies helping out with this incident, including Sir Steven and Indiana, but “helping” mostly means that they were keeping the smaller children in line. With so much commotion on the floor, and lots of parents sitting all around the room taking video of the practice session, there was very little space for Sparkledancer and I to practice. I know that sounds surprising, since the Endless Dance Hall has an enormous dance floor, but all the spots where there was enough room we would have either been right in front of someone’s video, or we would have been right in the sights of a bunch of kids who were already having enough trouble focusing on what they were doing. So unfortunately, we got through very little until most everyone left.
Once it was time for us to work though, we were worked hard. Sparkledancer made a comment to me earlier this week that she thinks that when there are high-level dancers or instructors around who can watch our lessons, Sir Steven is a lot more serious with us. Having a couple of nights to think about that comment, I tend to agree. The week before on Saturday, we had all met at the Electric Dance Hall, and there was no one else there until the very end of our session. During that time, we still worked hard, but there were a lot more jokes and we all acted a bit more lighthearted. This past Saturday, there were a whole bunch of people around who could see us. We were told that the guy who was choreographing the musical dance number we saw when we got in was a dance coach on that famous dancing television show that everyone knows the name of (I wouldn’t have known he wasn’t a normal dance teacher if no one had told me). He was working with the leads from the musical on the other side of the room during our coaching session. There was also a pair of dancers near the back wall behind us who I have seen do showcase performances during dance parties around the area, and who also run a mock competition class on weekends that allows people to come practice their routines to prepare for competing. They were sitting and watching us quite a bit when they weren’t practicing Quickstep. Hopefully they weren’t making fun of my inability to do Tango the entire time, though I can’t blame them if they were.
We spent the entire time working on ballroom dances, which has been a trend lately. It started with (and spent the largest chunk of time on) Tango, then we made our way to Waltz, and when a line down the floor opened up we switched to Viennese Waltz, and then to cool down we did Foxtrot. This wasn’t really time spent running our routines, it was all a lot of technical work. The hardest thing I struggled with keeping straight as we went through things was my head position. For so long, I’ve been yelled at (sometimes literally) about keeping my head back, tucking my chin in, and looking off to the left while I dance. Doing that much is still a challenge for me a lot of the time, because when I get to thinking about other things (like the crazy foot positions I need to have during Tango, for instance), the first thing that flies out the door is holding my head in the right position, since I try to look at what’s going on. Now I’m being asked to turn my head away from its leftward post during key movements of the dance. For instance, during the Waltz there is a part where we do a natural rotation right before we go into a spin turn. I was told that as I come around during the natural rotation, I’m to let my head rotate to the right so that by the time we close the rotation I am looking directly over my partners head. I think I already mentioned the head rotation I was told to do in the Tango, where every time we go into a Corte (there are a couple in our routine used as transitional figures) I’m supposed to whip my head from the left to the right and then back left, unless my head is already over to the right in which case I just whip it to the left. Why would my head already be over to the right, you ask? Well, near the end of the first wall we do a couple of backwards rock steps, and as we go back to do the ones on the right foot I’m supposed to be looking over my partner’s head again, which is what sets us up to go into the Corte where my head only whips left. My neck hurts just thinking about all of this. While these movements sound easy enough when written out like this, remembering to do them when I actually have a dance partner standing in front of me and I’m going through everything is a different story.
This past Monday’s Latin Technique class was pretty good though. Someone had convinced HotDog to come back to the class this week – though I wasn’t there last week to see how things went for him, I would guess that only two months in to his dance journey some of the stuff we do to work on technique has got to be over his head. This week Lord Junior started class by asking us what we would like to work on, but then changed his mind and decided that to warm up we were going to work on Samba (and we just stuck with that pretty much the entire time). After going through the basic Whisk movement a bit, Lord Junior had us stand in place and do isolation movements to try to get the proper parts of our body rotating and moving the way they should without having to move our entire bodies. It was starting to feel more like a yoga lesson than a Samba lesson, but then we switched over to doing Cruzado walks with a lock step to get back to actual dance movements. One thing I found out that was really interesting to me that the rest of you probably already knew is that the simple figure of the Cruzado walk with a lock step is a Gold-level figure. How crazy is that? Since I am still mucking about at the bottom of the Silver-level mine, I’ve never really looked up the syllabus for Gold-level in any dance style, but it’s crazy to me that a step that seems so simple would be categorized as such. Lord Junior explained that while the footwork isn’t terribly difficult, putting the right technique into the step to make it look good takes a lot more work than one would think. As we practiced walking up and down the floor, HotDog was having trouble figuring out which of his feet were supposed to do things at the right time, so Lord Junior spent a lot of time following him around trying to help. It’s understandable, since I don’t think he’s ever even done the Samba line dance before. When he was watching Sparkledancer and I go through the step together, he told us that we were really looking better, which made me feel awesome about my dance ability. I did get yelled at to make sure to keep my head back and my chin tucked in, but overall I came out of class feeling like I have accomplished something somewhere.
With some of the technique lately being kind of frustrating to work on, all it takes sometimes is one good class to make you feel great about your dance skills again.