So, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, it has been two years since I started writing this. The natural question that comes up is ‘how far have you come in that time?’ I’ve been thinking about that for the last couple of days, and I finally decided to go before the Council of Great Dance Leads to discuss my answer.
The answer I came up with is: it all depends on the perspective. From my own perspective, when I go out and dance it doesn’t really seem to me like much has changed between what I was writing about a year ago versus what I am writing about today. Watching myself dance, it doesn’t really look all that different to me either (the parts I can see at least – when I keep my head in the proper place, I can’t always watch myself in a mirror). Yet other people say that I’ve been getting better. Sir Steven, the person I obviously work with the most, has recently said quite frequently that when Sparkledancer and I are working on things we are doing much better than he’s ever seen us do before. Lord Junior, who is the next person I spend the most time working on improving things with, has also said that things have been looking a lot better. In his Latin Technique class for instance, we don’t devolve into doing nothing but New Yorkers nearly as often as we did when I first started going to that class. Based on what those two say, it would seem that things have indeed improved in the last year.
But it still doesn’t feel like things have really moved up a level. I’ve mentioned before that I view myself as dancing “Silver-Plated Bronze” level, and I think that description still fits. So, if people are telling me that things are looking better, and those people are trustworthy since they are the ones who are teaching me to be better, does that mean that the Silver-plating atop my Bronze is getting thicker? If that’s the case, will I always feel that solid Bronze core? I’ve been wondering if that’s actually what I’ve been feeling about how my dancing has progressed. In the past I’ve been told that when you are going through the ranks as a dancer, Bronze-level is where the majority of your figures come from. Moving up to Silver, you learn only a few new figures, but mostly it is a major transition in the way you dance. Then when you finally reach Gold level there are only a couple of new figures to pick up, and the majority of what you work on is technical pointers to further refine everything, which continues on ad infinitum. When looked at through that lens, maybe I am always going to feel like a Bronze-level dancer deep down because that is where much of what I do came from, even if the way I do things changes dramatically. So as I move through this level, the Silver plating on my Bronze core will get thicker until I finish Silver level, and then we’ll start Gold plating things. I’ll end up being a “Gold-Plated Silver-Plated Bronze” level dancer rather than ever being a pure Silver-Level or Gold-Level dancer. Do other people feel the same way? Does what I’m saying make any sense, or am I just confusing things?
The Council of Great Dance Leads just stared at me blankly as I described my train of thought. Leaders don’t necessarily make great philosophers, I guess. In the end, they left me to my thoughts, leaving separately to go help out others with their wisdom.
Anyway, I heard there is a Silver-Level Waltz workshop going on at the Endless Dance Hall this weekend. All the workshops I have gone to in the past have never specified what level they are, but this one does specifically say that it is Silver. I’m thinking about going to this workshop to see if I can cut it in what they are doing, just to show myself that I either do or do not belong in Silver-Level. It would be fitting though if it turns out to be an International Waltz workshop, when all I’ve done lately is American. I might look really out of place if that happens. Maybe I should find out what I’d be getting myself into before I go…
The reason I can possibly go to this workshop this weekend is because Sparkledancer has a scheduling conflict this next weekend, so we moved our coaching session to yesterday night at the Electric Dance Hall so that she could make it. Working through things on a weeknight meant that there would be a group class going on at the same time, and since the floor space of every other dance hall I’ve been to is less than the floor space of the Endless Dance Hall, we were competing for space when we started working on things. We began the night with Waltz and Foxtrot, and the class that Lord Junior had going that night was Viennese Waltz, so things felt a bit dangerous at times as we started in the back corner of the floor and moved toward the front, and they started in the front and moved toward the back while working on their Natural Rotations (there were no collisions luckily). It helps that Lord Junior likes to talk a lot when he explains points for dances, so there were long stretches where we could move down the floor and everyone else was down at the other end just standing there and listening to him speak. About halfway through class they moved down to the back of the room and began working on Fleckerls, so that freed up the front half of the studio for us to use without worrying about crossing lines any longer.
Once we had half the floor to ourselves, Sir Steven had us switch to something completely different. We started talking about the Pasodoble routine we are going to do for the upcoming performance this summer. A while back, I had thrown out the challenge that Sir Steven could make the choreography as athletic as possible if he wanted to – I spend a lot of time keeping myself in shape, so I have no problem with testing myself. That night, Sir Steven introduced to us the start of what he had in mind to live up to that challenge. He wanted to put in a particular lift at the end of the routine. He started going over it by having Sparkledancer sit on the floor, hold her legs out ninety degrees from each other and then bend her knees ninety degrees. He called it the “half-swastika” look to describe exactly what she should be doing. I would be hooking my arms underneath her shoulders and twirling her around while she holds her legs in that position. Basically, we will get to the part in our routine, open up so that we are side-by-side with me holding her left palm with my right hand, then I will roll her in toward me and hook my arms under her shoulders as she lifts her legs to be parallel to the floor. I will do three pivots to my left, then I will set her down on the floor and give her a slight push, letting the momentum spin her along the floor away from me. As we practiced things that night, we did not do the part where she would spin on the floor. She happened to be wearing pants that did not cover her whole legs that evening, so as soon as the skin of her calves hit the wooden floor there was no further sliding without the possibility of some pretty bad floor burn. We only had to try sliding her along the floor to discover that. From then on, I would just put her down gently and we’d pretend that she was spinning along. She promised that the next time we practiced this move, she would wear pants that covered all her skin to prevent injury.
Working on that lift has got to be the most amusing thing I have done in a dance lesson in quite a while. When I got home and was reflecting on the evening, the thing that stood out most that I didn’t realize at the time was that the whole 25-minutes that we worked through things, where I was holding Sparkledancer off the floor countless times, I never once felt like I was going to fall over. I was in my Latin shoes the whole time too. There were times when I had my knees bent much more than Sparkledancer did as I lunged to the side to grab her, so when my arms went under her arms she would drop down an inch or two onto my arms. She’s a very light person, but dropping like that at the fast pace we were moving was enough to make my back leg come off the floor. Even when that happened, and I would be standing on one foot in two-inch heels, I never felt like I was going to fall over. I guess that means that all that work I’ve done to improve my balance – all those times I would do weird things like stand on one leg and do bicep curls or shoulder presses and wondered to myself if it would actually help me with anything – this proves that all that work has actually paid off. Of the three keys to ultimate fitness (i.e. speed, balance and range of motion), I guess I might be doing pretty well with at least one of them.
I did talk with Sparkledancer a bit before we both left the dance hall for the night, and she said that her armpits kind of hurt from being held off the floor from there so many times. So the notes I have for anyone else who wants to practice doing this move are 1) make sure the lady is wearing pants long enough to cover her skin so she can slide along the wooden floor without getting floor burn, and 2) don’t repeat the movement so frequently for a long period of time so that you don’t hurt your dance partner’s armpits. Hopefully those notes will help someone else trying to do the same lift. If you are doing the same thing and would like any more pointers, just let me know!