That Ain’t Workin’, That’s The Way You Do It

Busy, busy, busy. Working hard or hardly working? It’s hard to tell sometimes…

Friday night I went out to the Hustle class at the Electric Dance Hall and stuck around for the dance party afterward. Hustle class got to be a bit more fun this time around, since we got to work on variations of the Triple Spin, but it was all stuff that I had done before. I am hopeful that next week, being the last week of the month, we will get to go over some more eclectic items that I don’t know yet. Or maybe I’ve just reached the level where the only real way to learn new Hustle figures is going to involve online training. I guess I’ll find that out tomorrow night. The dance after the party was fun, and everyone who was hanging around was in a good mood. I was tired out after a long week, so I spent a lot more time talking than I probably should have, but that was OK. I certainly wasn’t the only person feeling tired that night. At one point I had asked Sparkledancer to go out and do a Cha-Cha with me, and she sort-of sighed deeply and asked if we could do single time Cha-Cha instead. I said “What, you mean like Jitter-Cha?” and that felt pretty funny. Now, before any of you get super excited about me possibly coining a new dance, I’ll have you know that Jitter-Cha turned out to be a lot like Rumba, as you could probably guess. Still, it made both of us laugh while we tried it out, so that was good. There was an older lady at the party that night who wanted to dance the Waltz with me many times throughout the night. She told me she had learned the basics a long time ago, and didn’t really remember them, but she was convinced that I could teach her everything so that she could dance like me. We started off pretty easy, nothing more than basic Change Steps going down the line of dance the first time I danced with her. The second Waltz we did, I was able to move her up to doing Quarter Turns around the floor. That was about as far as we got. The other times we went out, I tried to get her to do a simple underarm-turn and Open Change Steps (which I thought everyone would have done at least once in their lives), but those confused her, so the last one we did I switched back to just Quarter Turns. I think she still had fun though, especially since she came back to dance with me more than once. That makes me believe I wasn’t terrible for her to dance with.

Saturday afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for our coaching session. We worked a lot on improving our connection to go along with all the other things we are trying to use the connection to do now. We spent a lot of time dancing normal Waltz boxes while changing how our upper bodies were held together. We excelled at keeping our torsos touching if we danced while using my right arm around her shoulder (and her left around mine) as part of the hold. There was a lot less success if we switched to holding on with her extended right hand in my extended left. And things just got silly when we tried dancing Waltz in what Sir Steven called ‘spear position’ – straightening your arms above your head with your palms together. That was enough to switch things from feeling pretty serious to being pretty silly. As we finished that up, Sir Steven said that he has been thinking about having me work on this with a female coach. He is able to tell me all kinds of things from a male perspective, and give me hints and tricks that he knows and uses himself, but without things getting weird he can’t really dance with me to see how it feels for my partner. And even if he did, he doesn’t dance the Follower part all that often, so he said it would be best to find someone who does for me to MoneyForNothing1work with. He told me that he thinks that I’m at the point now where this would be really helpful to get some feedback, so he ran to the back room of the Endless Dance Hall (the mysterious room where all the Lords and Ladies hang out when not dancing) to see if someone whom he was going to recommend to me was back there. Turns out that she was, so I was introduced to Lady Comrade. She looked familiar – I’ve definitely seen her around, dancing with her professional partner before. Sir Steven said that he would go over everything he wanted her to look at with me to get her opinion on what I’m doing, and they would set something up. I got a text from Sir Steven a couple of days later, and they decided that I should just show up the next Saturday at the same time I normally do and I can work with her. So, that should be interesting next weekend.

That night, I attended an open dance that was being held at the Cherished Dance Hall, and I was super excited to see that they were holding a lesson in West Coast Swing beforehand. I was on the edge before getting to the party about whether this would be a lesson in ballroom-style West Coast Swing (which has flavors from East Coast Swing, and uses the Coaster Step to allow ballroom dancers to have a greater continuity of movement) or barroom West Coast Swing (which is a lot less technical and uses that Anchor Step at the end of their dance phrases to break things up). It turned out to be the latter, and we had a pair of instructors who were members of the same West Coast Swing group that I ran into at a workshop back in May. I did manage to pick up a few new figures as they went through the class, which made me super happy. I also got stopped by the male instructor and told that I was doing things wrong at one point, because I was doing my footwork ballroom style, and when I told him that I prefer to do things that way he just glared at me and wandered off. Awkward.
MoneyForNothing2  I will admit, if you hadn’t already figured it out, that I am fascinated by West Coast Swing. I don’t know why. The problem is, I want to dance it ballroom style. The only places I go where I dance West Coast Swing are ballroom studios. I’m not the type to go hang out at a bar to “drink and dance” as the male half of that night’s instructor team so eloquently phrased it – since I don’t drink (to help me keep my bikini body, or something), it gets a bit awkward sometimes hanging out at bars. So, after their little performance, I started wondering if they might know anyone who taught ballroom-style West Coast Swing in the area that they could recommend. When I saw the lady hanging out behind the snack counter and picking at all the finger food there, I casually made my way up to refill my glass of water and I asked her if she knew anyone in the area who taught ballroom style West Coast Swing. Her response was “No, and don’t waste your time learning it that way.” Apparently she had actually taught ballroom dancing for almost fifteen years, and now she had moved on to ‘better things.’ She wished me luck on my quest, and then I was dismissed so that she could go back to eat some more of the laid out meats, cheeses and crackers. That exchange is probably the low point of the night, if I had to rank things that happened. I’m not quite sure what to do. I want to learn more West Coast Swing, but I really only want to learn ballroom-style West Coast Swing, since that fits in with everything else that I do, but everyone I have talked to in the West Coast Swing community around here seems so… negative, just because I do things slightly differently than them. It’s funny to say that about people who prefer a dance style that is supposed to be focused on expressing individuality – how could I be wrong when I do things in that context? At this point, based on the exchanges I have had with them, I have come to the opinion that the local West Coast Swing community isn’t going to be able to help me learn more without bringing me down. I think I’m going to have to find a different way to go about learning what I want to know…

The dance that night was a lot of fun though, despite the awkward interactions with those two. There was a good crowd, and with the already warm temperatures outside I’m sure the air conditioner for the dance hall was working overtime trying to keep the place cool with all the warm bodies moving around inside. Abracadaniel was quite the dance pimp that night – he made a goal at the beginning of the night to dance with every woman there, and told me on Monday night that he managed to get all but three of them. He has come quite a ways from the shy newcomer I met only a few short months ago. He did tell me that night that he really loves to do the Latin dances. The ballroom dances he finds to be boring. I tried to convince him that if he worked on them, as he learned more they start to get more challenging and exciting once you get into continuity of movement. There was another workshop going on the next morning that would cover Silver-level Foxtrot, and I told him if he had nothing better to do he should go to that and see MoneyForNothing3what I was talking about. He gave me a noncommittal answer to that. There were a bunch of new people at the dance who had never danced before. I tried my best to get them to come out and do the Samba line dance with everyone whenever it came on, since it’s pretty easy to figure out. A couple of them took me up on it, but stayed behind me every time we would rotate so they could watch what I was doing. The version of the Samba line dance they do at the Cherished Dance Hall always seems weird to me, since they do backwards Botafogos during it, and I never see that anywhere else.

As mentioned, Sunday afternoon there was another pair of workshops being taught by Judge Dread over at the Endless Dance Hall. This month we worked on Foxtrot and American Rumba. I’m starting to gather a larger crowd of people I know pretty well who go to these workshops with me. This time around, I was joined by Abracadaniel (who did end up coming out. Hooray!), Sparkledancer, and three of the Condiment Kids (Ketchup, Relish and Mayo). When starting off the Foxtrot that afternoon, Judge Dread again brought up the three jobs that every Lead has on the dance floor: 1. Keep the Follower safe; 2. Keep the Follower comfortable; 3. Keep the Follower entertained. He mentioned that keeping the Follower safe is a big part about what floorcraft is all about, and it’s important to spend time around the people you dance with to figure out who it is OK to dance closely next to, and who out on the floor needs to be given a wide berth. But most of our time was spent on what could be done to keep the Follower entertained. Judge Dread wanted to work on some figures that involved the Lead traveling backwards for a bit. He said that social dancers have a harder job in many ways than competitive dancers, since during competitions there are generally few couples on the floor, most couples have fairly set routines, and everyone on the floor dancing in an average heat has about the same level of experience. Social dancers don’t usually have routines before they get out on the floor, people out there with you are of all levels of dance, and your partner may even be a different level of dancer than you. floorcraft becomes huge so that a Lead can compensate for the unexpected things that others may be doing. Since people generally worry about what the others on the floor are doing, few Leads ever go backwards during a social dance because then they have to turn their back on where they are going. So occasionally throwing in a move that travels like that will be really unexpected for any partner, and thus more entertaining than average. He said the important thing to keep in mind before doing a move like that is to always precede it with a move that rotates forward so that you can scope out where you are going to make sure it is clear. We practiced this by doing what looked like a Fallaway from Waltz, changing the timing of the steps a few times for variety.
MoneyForNothing4 After we wrapped up working on Foxtrot, we switched over to American Rumba. This is the first time I’ve been to one of these workshops where we have specifically worked on an American style of dance, so that was fun. Judge Dread made a big point of saying that the basic box step needs to rotate, because true American Rumba always rotates unless you are doing a specific step that can’t rotate (like the Cross-Over Breaks or Cucarachas). Practicing this concept was made difficult by all of us being lined up against the far wall in front of the mirrors. Some people had trouble keeping their rotating boxes away from the people standing on either side of them. I ended up having to back out of the line away from the guy on my left because he kept getting too close for comfort. This, of course, made the rotation difficult for the ladies, because they kept skipping around through the line when everyone wasn’t standing in a neat row. I ended up walking many of them over to the guy who would have been in line next to me so that they wouldn’t get lost along the way.

Whew, it’s like I did a lot of things, I’m sure there’s stuff I left out too. What kind of trouble will I get into this weekend? Will it be as exciting? I guess you’ll have to tune in next week to find out!

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