I was right and last week Friday was the last Waltz class of April. This month we have switched over to doing Foxtrot. I’m guessing that they are sticking with the ballroom-style dances because they tend to draw a bigger crowd for some reason. I guess people in the area like being smooth much more than they like being rhythmic, so they come out for these classes more often. We actually started this month reviewing a pretty interesting figure – at first, we went through how to get into Outside Dance Position in Foxtrot, which was necessary for us to move into doing the Grapevine. We did it in normal dance frame during class, which felt weird to me. Whenever I go to do a Grapevine when I’m out and about dancing socially, and all the times I’ve used the figure in competition routines, I’ve done it using a wide, two-handed hold with my dance partner. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone through it in normal dance frame. Back to the class – the men had made two rows along the wall to practice the figures as we worked, and I started out in the back row, but the next time we were able to shift I put myself in the front row because I kept running into the guy in front of me. He was a lot shorter than me, and took much smaller steps, so I felt kind of like a monster that was going to trample him if I stayed where I was. Being in the front row also gave me the ability to cover almost the whole room when traveling. I had to pull my stride back a bit because there was a couple along the back wall who was having a coaching session with Lord Junior, and I got really close to them a few times (close enough that I think I startled them once). One time through, when I danced with Sparkledancer, I led her through a turn at the end of the Grapevine right as we got close to where Lord Junior was standing. He chuckled at us and told us to quit being such showoffs. During the last part of class, we also covered how to do Passing Twinkles in Foxtrot, which was a nice way to end things since we had covered how to do them in Waltz just the week before.
Monday night during Latin Technique class, Lord Junior was telling us that he had been thinking a lot about what we were did when working on Jive last week, and had the brilliant idea that it would be really fun if he could put together a formation dance to perform during a showcase. His big problem with formation dances that he watches other people put on is that they always put together something really simple, since they can’t get people to commit to practicing together enough to add more difficult choreography. He said if he can get at least ten people to commit to practicing pretty regularly, maybe even turning the Latin Technique class into the formation dance practice period every Monday to make it easier for people to attend, then he would set something up to make this happen. Performing it wouldn’t happen until around December, because he wants to make things really challenging and have everyone work on good technique in the process. I told him that I would be all for it, and Bony and Sparkledancer agreed. There are a couple of people he talked to outside of the Technique class that he said sounded interested, but they haven’t committed yet. I think I could bug Points enough to make her want to do it, so this could happen. I’m always up for a crazy challenge! Anyone of you want to join the team?
As we started working on things for class, we didn’t go back to do Jive (as much as I was eager to). There was one older lady attending that night, and she said she would put in a ‘No’ vote for doing Jive. So we did Rumba instead. We walked through a simple pattern to focus on syncopated timings for Rumba walks. The pattern started with a back rock held for an extra half-beat followed by two syncopated steps forward. After holding for two beats we did a normal walking step followed by a Spiral, and took two syncopated steps when coming out. To finish things we just did a Cucaracha to the right followed by Cuban Hip Motions on the left side, ending with weight settled on the left leg and the right leg pointed to the side and ready to go. We were doing this without using partners, so the big trick was figuring out how to do the syncopated steps quickly and then stopping immediately afterward without losing balance and flailing around. I was doing fine with things until he asked us to add in an arm motion to the Spiral, drawing the right arm inward and twisting it straight up over our head as we spun around. Doing that really kept messing me up for some reason. I’m a boy, and I don’t do Spirals all that often, so I’m going to blame part of the issue on that. Without the arms I could do everything correctly (most of the time) and in time with the music playing.
…now for something completely different…
If you float around reading things about dancing on the Internet like I do, you might have also noticed a lot of things written lately dealing with so-called ‘dance demons.’ It worries me a little. It’s starting to seem like a theme, and I just want to give everyone hugs to make them feel better (I promise we can start out with side hugs or hearty back slaps, if we didn’t know each other that well. That’s cool with me).
Now I know full well that there will always be some doubt that those of us who are studying dance will have to face occasionally. Doubt can be sinister, and terrifying, and it tends to show up at the worst times. Sometimes it stops by just to make you squirm a little when you see that people are watching you practice. Those doubts like to hang out along the edge of the dance floor, threatening to trip you or step on your feet as you walk by, and you swear you can hear them mocking you under their breath.
Sometimes, I have to admit, that even I feel a little doubt about my dancing skills. I try my best to keep things light and humorous, but it does happen from time to time. My doubt is obviously personified as the worst thing out there to deal with, threatening to extinguish the tiny flame of my dance confidence behind my back when I’m not looking.
But there’s a reason that we keep dancing, isn’t there? Unless you have some sort of addiction to sequins, which is really what keeps you coming back, I’m guessing that deep down you think that dancing is fun. And that’s what’s really important here. You can kick yourself for not winning a competition, or failing to achieve the next rank at a medal ball, or messing up a foot placement during a showcase routine until you are battered and bruised, but all you are doing is focusing on something other than the joy of dancing. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture – you may feel bad because you didn’t achieve Gold-level after two years of dancing, but if you memorized all the Bronze-level figures for a couple of dance styles you are a better dancer than probably 90% (or more) of the people on the planet. And I’m not even talking about mastering Bronze-level technique; just knowing the figures is enough to make you look really good at any wedding reception you’d ever get invited to, even if your technique is crap.
Take a second to let that sink in…
If you still want to beat yourself up for doing something wrong, the thing to keep in mind is that there are people out there who can help. There are great dancers out there, and they always seem to be willing to give up their time to answer questions for people, even if they are not being paid for a lesson. I do it all the time for newcomers who I cross paths with (not that I’m really all that great a dancer or anything), and I have been to lots of social dance parties where dance instructors from all over can be seen mingling with others who attend the party and helping them work through figures that they do not know if they run into trouble. And even though they make their living by teaching people to dance, you’ll also find them out learning how to improve their dancing, just like we all do. I’ve been in workshops with some of them, so I can tell you that firsthand. During those workshops I’ve had them pair up with me so they can practice things, just like you would pair up with a newcomer in a group class. We can all help each other improve on our journey, no matter how good of a dancer we are.
And if things ever get too far out of hand, there’s always dance friends you can turn to! Even the members of the Council of Great Dance Leads have friends they go and get when they need help with things. One nice thing about this online village that we all hang out in is that we have each other for support and assistance. If anyone ever found me, I would definitely take them along on some of the dance adventures I go on every week, or we could practice some steps together to get better at things. Or maybe we’d just shimmy a little in public as people walk around us and wonder what’s going on. I would do that with you, to help you remember why you started doing this in the first place! If you forget how to have fun while dancing, you are missing out on a huge part of the experience. I mess up during dances all the time, especially as it gets later at night. Most of the time I end up laughing about it, because it’s silly.
So, don’t feel like you have demons interfering with your dancing. They are more like imps, really. Little imps. They stand less than two inches tall, and you could knock them over with a strong breeze. And you know what? If you are laughing hard enough, you could take care of them all at once. It’s all a matter of perspective. When you look at the bigger picture, usually things never look quite as bad as you thought…