It’s A Party As Long As You’re There

It is now officially confirmed: Sir Steven is going to put together a showcase performance that Sparkledancer and I can do, and we are definitely doing Pasodoble. Can you feel the excitement? This past Saturday when we all met up, we started up by going back to work on Tango. That seems to be the dance that Sir Steven likes to torture me with lately. At some point I’m hoping that all of this work we are spending on making our Tango better will actually help me enjoy doing Tango more, but right now that dance style is really far down my list of ‘favorite dance styles.’ We spent most of our time going over the Tango, fixing little things in places and working on making my feet turn inward like a pigeons to help me walk funny (because that’s how ‘proper Tango’ is done). As we worked, all the other people who were at the Endless Dance Hall began to leave for the afternoon, pulling down the locking gate over the front door which is also the only real window into the dance hall. When it was just us and one other couple practicing left in the dance hall, Sir Steven decided to switch gears and told us to get our Latin shoes on so we could start looking at the Pasodoble, going over some ideas and talking about the sort of routine we Party1would want to put together. We were only sort of serious while practicing the figures – I know Pasodoble is supposed to be super serious, but to me it is a bit ridiculous, and it makes me happy. I don’t know if I will be able to pull off this showcase performance if I am supposed to be serious the whole time. There were several travelling steps that we went through, things that Sir Steven says he will want to put into our routine. There are points where I am supposed to raise my left arm up as I loop around Sparkledancer, and that is going to be a challenge right now. The previous six months I put a lot of effort into putting on more upper body muscle mass, so my shoulders are far less flexible than they used to be. Luckily we have almost six months until the performance, so I can work on trying to regain some of what I lost before having to do this in front of an audience.

As I said last time, it had been a while since I had set aside time to go on a dance field trip, so later in the evening after our coaching session I rectified that problem. The Cherished Dance Hall was holding an open dance party with a lesson beforehand. Everyone and their brothers seemed to be busy over the weekend, but I did manage to convince Sparkledancer that meeting me at the dance party, to possibly practice but mostly to have fun, was way better than staying at her house all night. She was the only one that joined me on this outing, which is really good because without her there, I would have been the youngest non-instructor at this party by about fifteen years. This isn’t the first time I’ve gone on a dance outing where I’ve felt really young, but usually there are at least two or three other people who are my age or younger wandering around. So as things were going on, I kind of felt like I stood out a lot.

Anyway, the one girl who I saw before the party started that I didn’t recognize who looked to be about my age turned out to be the person who was teaching the group class before the dance started. She was a member of some Latin club in the area, and she was invited to the party to teach a lesson on Bachata. This was my first time taking an actual class in Bachata, but not my first time dancing Bachata since I have been pressured in the past to go out and ‘wing it’ during a social dance when a Bachata number came on. I knew the very basic pieces needed to get by – three steps and a tap has gotten me through many nervous situations in the past. In this class, they taught a few figures that I probably should have been able to figure out myself had I ever sit down to think about it, but never really spent the time to ponder. First we went over the basic steps without a partner – the steps I knew that went to the left and right, then the same basic pattern going forward and backward, a three-step turn going to the right and left, then the basic pattern staying in place, and finally a weird lunge-like forward check. If we had just stopped there, my knowledge of Bachata would have already grown by leaps and bounds (that’s partly why I’m writing it out here – it will help me remember what I did since I don’t know the next time I will actually put the knowledge to use).

But we didn’t stop there! We switched from doing movements alone to dancing with a partner, and the girl teaching the class began going through a pattern for us to memorize. There were several cross-body leads, which was one of the moves, in hindsight, that I probably should have been able to figure out how to do without taking a class. As we continued working through things, the pattern got a little weird for all the older women in the group as we did a figure where the lead, holding both of the lady’s hands, would wrap them Party2behind her back so that they were in an awkward hug-like position. As we rotated through partners, some of the ladies just seemed uncomfortable having to get really close to someone they didn’t know very well. Some people would get into a position where my arms were holding her hands, hovering around her waist, and the lady would pull her upper body back a little awkwardly, like she was unconsciously trying to increase the space between us. The hardest partner I had to deal with was one woman who was quite a bit shorter than me. When dancing with her, I had to make a point of bending my knees a lot when I went to do the wrap move. I was worried that if I forgot and started to bend at the waist to get my arms around her back, I would knock my chin into the top of her head! Things were going well until we got toward the end of the pattern the instructor was trying to teach. We got to a part where there was some complicated turn movement she wanted the leads to do with their arms, and from that point forward until the end she just stopped telling everyone what their feet should be doing. A lot of the people (both men and women) kind of just stopped moving their feet when they didn’t know what to do, using just their arms to perform the turns and then standing there awkwardly. Since the leads weren’t really moving very much while turning the ladies, I guessed that we were supposed to be doing the in-place basic steps with our feet, so that is what I did. The ladies had a much harder time – the instructor told them (more than once) not to worry about what they were doing during the turns, just to let the guys put them where they should be so that the men were doing all the work. The maneuver did not work out as well as I think she pictured it in her head, and as we rotated around the room to try the whole pattern with music playing, I think I only got through things correctly two or three times since a lot of the ladies just kind of stopped moving their feet toward the end.

The social dance afterward was pretty relaxed. With only Sparkledancer joining me on this outing, we mostly danced with each other, using the time to practice our routines a bit and possibly frightening many of the older people as we stretched our long legs to travel around the floor, passing many people along the way. We did the first Viennese Waltz played during the evening, but not the second – the floor at the Cherished Dance Hall is sort-of small, but shaped weirdly. There’s a large, square area that they used as the main floor for ballroom-style dances, and there is a smaller offshoot in the back corner that extends the floor farther. When doing travelling dances, there really is no long wall and short wall, since all four walls are pretty even if you cut out that little offshoot area. When doing Latin dances, Sparkledancer and I stayed back in that alcove to work on things while the other dancers tended to stay in the main square of the floor. The Viennese Waltz just seemed like there wasn’t enough room to move around, and with all the other people being much older than us and taking much smaller steps, it felt dangerous at times. The second Viennese Waltz that came up later in the evening we just stood by and watched, not wanting to worry about people stopping randomly in our line of dance.

I must say, going to parties at the Endless Dance Hall has really spoiled me. I never worry about doing Viennese Waltz there, even with many of the same people on the floor at the same time. There is plenty of space to maneuver around them that just isn’t available at other dance halls…

At one point during the party, out of the corner of my eye I saw two of the people who taught regularly at the Cherished Dance Hall, a Dance Lord and Lady, moving quickly toward Sparkledancer and I as we were getting up to do a West Coast Swing. When we started dancing, they both stopped, looked at each other, and then melded back into the crowd. I thought it was a little weird at the time, but I wrote it off as just me seeing things as the song ended and things returned to normal. Half-an-hour later, the same two people came back and actually caught us before we went out to the floor for the next dance, Party3splitting up Sparkledancer and I to dance a Cha-Cha. The Lady who I was dancing with was asking all kinds of questions about who I was, what brought me to the party, where I usually danced, and so on. While answering her questions, I found myself just doing basic chasses back and forth, focusing on talking to her. When there was a lull in the conversation, I would switch to doing more complicated figures. I hope she didn’t notice that discrepancy in the way I danced – I didn’t do it intentionally, I just caught myself doing it without thinking. Sparkledancer did not fare nearly as well. She told me afterward that she had a hard time following what he was doing, and that I was super lucky because I got to control what was happening during the dance, so we would never do figures I didn’t know. Being a guy does have its perks sometimes, I guess.

Monday night during Lord Junior’s Latin Technique class we got to work on Pasodoble, just like he promised. This was a far cry from the casual look we did during my last coaching session, where we just played around to get some figures and ideas down. This time we put effort into everything. There was a Party4lot of walking around with our hips pulled forward and our shoulders pulled back, looking as manly as possible. Sure, I still thought it was pretty funny (how could I not?), but it was a reminder of just what we would be shooting for when putting this performance together. We spent much of the class going over a figure similar to one that Sir Steven had worked with me and Sparkledancer on. It was a Promenade figure where the lead would circle around the follow, then lead her around back into Promenade position, and you could repeat that circle over and over again. Lord Junior said that generally you would never go around more than three times, often only twice, but you could easily repeat the movement until you hit a time change where you would need to alter the figures to line up with the music, or a wall… whichever came up first. While doing this, I kept running into the same issue I had over the weekend where bringing my left shoulder up to make a wide circle didn’t work as well as I’d have liked, but I’m making a point to work on that. By this summer maybe I can improve my shoulder flexibility so much that I could clap my hands behind my back without bending my elbows! Then I’d have no trouble making impressive shapes with my arms!

Ok, maybe I’d have to be double jointed in the shoulder to do that, but it’s good to have goals, right?

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