As you may have heard, this past Friday I had the privilege to finally go to the Prime Dance Hall to see what it is like there. It was… an adventure. So many things to see, and lots of them stranger than I had expected. And then there were the explanatory stories I got from people about the Prime Dance Hall later in the weekend that made some of the things I saw even stranger to think back on. We’ll get to that, but let’s start at the beginning. I hear that it’s a very good place to start…
There were only a few of us that opted to make the trek to the other side of the Dance Kingdom and attend the party and class being offered that night. The Prime Dance Hall touted the night as a pre-Valentine’s Day party theme, and the dance party and lesson beforehand were styled appropriately to go along with that. Before entering to take part in the class that was offered before the dance party, we all made a pact to pretend to be newcomers if there was no one else in the class that recognized us (which is a much harder thing to pull off than you would think). On entering the building, the girls seated at the front desk took down our names, and asked us casually if we had any prior dance experience. Rather than say we knew nothing, we told them that we had taken just a couple of lessons in the past and left it at that. The class that night ended up covering East Coast Swing, and the leader showed us a pattern of movements centered on the Cuddle figure, which is obviously the most thematically appropriate East Coast Swing figure they could have chosen. There were only a few others in the class with the group I came with – a pair of high school kids where the girl knew how to dance and the boy picked things up pretty quickly, an older couple that joined class late, and one of the female staff from the Prime Dance Hall jumped in to even out our numbers. We got through the material fairly quickly. Nothing that they were presenting that night was difficult for those of us who had been dancing for a while, and the leader said he thought many of us had been sandbagging him, since we were twenty minutes into class and us ‘newcomers’ were 90% through the whole pattern with very little trouble. When we got to the double turns near the end of the pattern, the older gentleman in class struggled to figure out how to do things correctly, so that slowed us down as we stopped frequently to go over things again for his sake. Throughout the class, because I ended up getting bored, I started putting more into the dance. When class started, I was just shuffling through things, like a newcomer without confidence would have, but by the end I didn’t look anything like that. The pattern was pretty fun, and I think I remember most of it, but a week from now I may struggle to get through everything in the correct order.
After the class was over, the staff spent a few minutes preparing the dance hall for the influx of people who would attend the party. During that time, the female lead who was helping out in the class we had just gone through and one of the male dancers on staff came over to talk to our group. They introduced themselves as Lord Orange and Lady Beginning, brother and sister, and they were asking us all about our past dance experiences, and pushed us all to stop by the front desk and sign up for a complimentary introductory dance lesson if we liked what we had been through. Not wanting to quite break our cover yet, we downplayed our prior experience by smiling and nodding a lot, and made our way into the main room when the music was starting. The party brought in a large number of people. I had been concerned when the group class was so small that there would be no one else there to dance, but those fears were quickly alleviated. A handful of the faces in the crowd I recognized from other dance parties I have attended throughout the Dance Kingdom, but most people were unfamiliar. When the music started, at first I was standing in the back corner, watching everyone else begin dancing and talking to Sparkledancer about things going on. As a slow song came on, Lord Orange came over to where Sparkledancer and I were talking and asked us if we knew how to do Rumba, or if we would like him to show us. At that point, we pretty much had to come clean, so we said we actually knew what to do and then went out there and began to dance properly. The staff pretty much left us alone after they figured out that we knew what we were doing, but many other people who had never seen us before spent the night watching what we were doing quite intently.
The most out-of-sorts thing I saw from that had to be Lord Orange. It was strange to see him go out to do Latin-style dances with women from the crowd. During upbeat numbers like Salsa, he would be out on the floor with a lady and they would be… well, for lack of a better term I’ll say ‘dirty dancing’ – it was some odd mix of grinding, frequently holding the lady behind her back and dipping her backward while rolling her from one side to the other, and I swear at one point I saw him putting his face down the front of one woman’s low-cut shirt, but I could be wrong about that. I have never seen someone who is honored by the Royalty with the ability to teach dancing to others dance like this before. It seemed really wrong in the context of everything else that was going on in the room. Usually Lords and Ladies in the Dance Kingdom are very refined and proper. The worst part of watching him dance like that was that my first thought was ‘Oh, the ladies enjoy doing that with him because he’s safe. He’s not really attracted to them, so they don’t have to worry about things going any further.’ Late in the evening, he even danced like that with the girl he had introduced at the beginning of the part as his sister. Seeing that just made things really weird. In the middle of the dance party, they stopped the music so that Lord Orange and one of his students (someone from the crowd called her “Tango Face” during the performance) could dance a Rumba showcase-style number that they had been working on. When they finished up, Lord Orange pulled up a stool in the middle of the room and serenaded the crowd with a rendition of a popular Valentine’s Day song while another Dance Lord and his professional partner danced along. Trust me, it was no Sinatra, but the harem of Lord Orange’s female students gathered on one side of the room was in full swoon until the song was over.
The next afternoon I met up at the Endless Dance Hall with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer to work on things again. Sparkledancer and I told Sir Steven about our trip to the Prime Dance Hall, and he was amused by our experiences. From what he said, they have brought in high-level coaches from time to time, and he has gone there to work with those coaches in the past. A few times he was there the King had asked him if he wanted to open and run a satellite for the Prime Dance Hall on the northern side of town, but Sir Steven declined. He even knew all about Lord Orange when we talked about what we had seen him doing. Sir Steven told us that Lord Orange has actually been married for a long time, and has a couple of kids. That threw my whole view of what I had seen off… I was so certain that he wasn’t interested in ladies up until that point. We moved beyond our stories of the previous night into Foxtrot. This time, lucky for us, we worked on a completely different wall than we had been covering the last couple of times we worked on Foxtrot. The second long wall in our routine is all open figures, not in dance frame, and in order to make them travel the way that he wanted Sir Steven kept telling us to think about starfish. Our legs would actually travel without coming up off the floor, and with our arms spread properly we would slide forward into a five-point stance before transferring our weight to the leading foot and collecting the back leg. We also put a lot of effort into really driving the pattern from our standing legs, so much so that by the time we were done, we managed to cover the entire long wall of the Endless Dance Hall using the pattern. When we started, we weren’t pushing things so hard and we only used up about a third of the length of the wall, so being able to triple that was a major victory (if you’ve ever seen the size of the Endless Dance Hall, you’d know this was a big deal).
After we got done with our coaching session, Sparkledancer and I were sitting around and discussing things. She mentioned that stretching out the Foxtrot like we did, activating our long legs to cover more of the floor, was starting to be more natural for her. I told her that it was also sometimes more reverse as well. She just rolled her eyes and laughed at me before putting on her normal shoes and leaving the dance hall.
Saturday was obviously Valentine’s Day. Rather than sit around at home that night, I went out to the Electric Dance Hall. They had a live band coming in to play, and many people I know were planning to be there, so it just made the most sense to go there myself. There was a class at the start of the evening that covered beginner American Rumba as the band got everything set up. Afterward, they turned us loose to do whatever we wanted. This dance party was full of lots of people who I knew, so it felt like I actually spent more time standing around talking to people than dancing. That’s not a bad thing necessarily – I had a lot of fun doing so that night. One of the people I got to talk to for a while was Lord Junior. Just like I did with Sir Steven, I told him about the trip I took to the Prime Dance Hall. Lord Junior began to rant the people there, especially Lord Orange. Turns out that I was totally right – even though he is married (but won’t be for much longer) and has a couple of kids, he doesn’t actually find women attractive. He went off on the fact that they have that dance hall in the more well-to-do part of town, and they milk the students they have for all they are worth, always telling the students that they are the best at everything, sleeping with the students sometimes, and getting them to sign up for tons of heats in competitions without really preparing them to be good dancers. Lord Orange apparently told Lord Junior once that ‘it’s just how the industry works’ but Lord Junior feels really bad about other Dance Lords and Ladies who act like that. Lord Junior has always believed in telling people honestly if they are ready to compete or not at certain levels, and holding them back to work through things if they aren’t without letting them drop a bunch of money on things just to pay his bills.
That evening there was a taller couple I had never seen before who came to hang out at the dance party. During the lesson before the band started playing, I talked with the female briefly as she rotated through and I got paired up with her. I asked her if she had ever done American Rumba before, and she told me she really hadn’t, and that it had been years since she had taken lessons in anything. Well, it turns out that the two of them were doing the same thing we did when we went to the Prime Dance Hall the night before. They turned out to be really, really good when they took to the floor together. Lord Junior talked to them during the evening, and when he got done he came over to where Sparkledancer, Enthusiasm, The Crank and myself were standing and talking and told us all that the two of them had actually been dancing for many years, and had taken dance lessons at the Great Dance Hall. As he said that, I turned to watch them dancing to the Cha-Cha that was playing, and I could see something so familiar about the way the guy was moving his body. After the song was done, I went to go talk to them. Having been to many parties at the Great Dance Hall, I asked them if they happened to take lessons from one of the Dance Lords in particular out there, and they said yes! Apparently I am starting to be able to see stylistic differences in the way certain instructors teach their students to move now that I have been around long enough. Does that mean that trained people who watch me dance would be able to tell that I learned most everything I know from Sir Steven? I’ll have to ask someone that question sometime.
So that was my crazy weekend. I hope whatever you decided to do, it was as much fun as what I did. This coming weekend I don’t think I will be going out to do much. There’s a normal social dance at the Electric Dance Hall on Friday that I’ll probably end up at, but that may be it. Are you going to be there? If so, maybe I’ll see you then!