So one of the big things that I went through this past weekend was my coaching session with Lady Comrade. Since we got together at the same time that I normally meet with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven, the two of them were working on the other side of the Endless Dance Hall, so they could have come over to see what was going on, or made jokes at my expense, at any time. Speaking of people coming over at any time, it seemed like while we were working, everyone felt drawn to us. As I’ve mentioned lots of times, the floor at the Endless Dance Hall is immense, and yet no matter how far away from everyone else Lady Comrade and I moved, people kept getting into our line of dance. One of the other dance coaches recognized the silliness of getting near us so frequently, so he started to make jokes every time he got close enough for us to hear. After a couple of times, I started to wonder if he was just doing it on purpose. So… what did we go over, aside from the unique floorcraft requirements of avoiding the other coaches and their students? Lady Comrade’s big idea for our time together was to show me how to best telegraph my intended movements in my ballroom dances before I even did them. She worked with me on incorporating more subtlety of movement into my frame to show my desires. What does that mean? Well, when I want to move myself forward for example, she really wanted me to essentially press forward with my chest before I actually took any steps, so that the Follower would know that she would need to move backwards soon. In order to go backward, it was really important to lower my body slightly more and reach my leg back behind me, which would be the signal to an experienced Follower that she would need to step forward next as I moved backward. These movements needed to happen just before I did any further movement, especially any traveling movement, to help me eliminate any confusion from my Follower about what I had planned.
We worked on incorporating this into a couple of different dance styles. Lady Comrade liked to be really formal about dancing together. Every time she wanted to try things with me, she would back up away from me and wait until I held out my left hand for her to take frame, as if we were in a competition. We started out with, and spent most of our time on, the Waltz so that she could introduce the idea to me. Dancing with her was an interesting mental challenge for me. To keep things simple, I had wanted to just stick with figures in order from my current routines. Lady Comrade, however, doesn’t do American Smooth. After three or four times when I tried to do a Twinkle and ended up running into her feet, I caught on to that and asked her about it. She just smiled and said that things were fine, but I decided to be considerate and swap out the figures I knew that weren’t in International Standard with their counterparts. Waltz was fairly easy to do, as it only involved replacing a couple of Twinkles with Whisks. Foxtrot was a bit more difficult for me, as I haven’t led a lady’s Heel Turn in a long time, but I managed to figure that out after the second attempt. At the end, we were working on Tango, and that’s when things fell apart for me. International Tango is completely different from American Tango, and I have done so little International Tango that I couldn’t just switch what I was doing easily. I really had to stop and think about what needed to be changed, and I had to have her show me one piece because I kept doing it American-style since I just didn’t know. We really scaled back what we covered during the Tango because of the translation issues, until we were down to doing just two forward walks, and a Link into a Closed Promenade. I am really going to have to put some time into going back and reviewing International Tango at some point in the near future. My failure at being able to switch back and forth between the two like I could with American and International Waltz has me feeling a little embarrassed, I have to admit.
Saturday night I ended up playing host again at one of those ‘dance parties for single people’ like I’ve done in the past. This time, my rank was upgraded from just a lowly host to something more like a dance host/coordinator. The group had invited Lord Junior to give the initial opening lesson before the mingling started, which was cool. He went over the basics of American Rumba and Hustle. We had a big group of people, but there were more men than women in attendance (as you can probably imagine). To try to simplify the rotation of partners, we had the women make a big circle on the dance floor facing inward, and then had the men find a partner and rotate around the floor counter-clockwise. Lord Junior and I tried to get the men to space themselves out better, but for some reason every time we split them up then had them get back into that configuration, all the men clumped together so there were a couple of big runs of women standing without partners, and we had to shuffle people around to even things out. For the American Rumba, we only got through the basic box step (without any rotation, sadly) and then some Fifth Position Breaks in half-an-hour. In the Hustle we managed to cover a rotating basic step, and then the basic outside and inside turns for the ladies. Nothing too fancy, though there were some people in the crowd that knew more than those figures already.
Afterward, once the dance floor was opened up and the crowd got into the wine (it was mostly a middle-aged crowd, and they liked to drink wine for some reason), I meandered around and tried to pull as many ladies who were sitting out onto the floor as I could. Luckily, I was backed up this time by Abracadaniel and HotDog, whom I managed to finagle into helping out with the event. At events like these, you can never have too many men who know dance basics to help out. Having the two of them also gave me a chance to actually talk to people occasionally, instead of just dancing constantly like I’ve done at these events in the past. I did have one lady who I couldn’t understand half of what she was saying because of her thick accent, the amount of wine she had had and the loud music playing, but she was super excited to dance a Rumba with me. At the end of the song she threw herself toward me, and then fell onto the floor. I think she was expecting me to dip her or something, but she neglected to tell me coherently and get confirmation I understood what was going on before she went for it, so it did not end well for her. I felt really bad about that, so I made sure to dance with her again later on in the evening. I also got to be the one to lead the line dances that they played to try to get everyone onto the floor. There have been lots of times I’ve watched as dance instructors have bounced from one side of the room to the other, trying to stay in front of everyone while doing a line dance so that they could direct and lead the steps, but I’ve never tried that before that night. Covering that much ground to get around a big crowd while not missing any of the required steps of the line dance is tougher than it looks. We only did two of them, and they were more common ones that you would see in bigger dance clubs, so there were people who already knew the steps. When we attempted to gather everyone out on the floor to participate in the line dances, it was mostly the women that came out. The men just wanted to sit around the edge and watch.
Monday night I got to work on Samba. We stepped through doing some Criss-Cross Botafogos, followed by a figure I know as the Maypole (which is essentially the Lead and Follow doing concentric Voltas), followed by two Stationary Samba Walks and finishing with four Spot Voltas for good measure. Lucky for me, these were all figures I had done before, so I had a leg up on what was going on. The other two guys who had joined us in class that night weren’t so lucky. Abracadaniel has really only spent time doing the Samba line dance (and had learned that only through doing it during social dances), and had been in one other Latin Technique class before that day where we had done any Samba, so his knowledge of the dance style is still low. The other gentleman who joined us was an experienced Club Latin dance instructor, and actually teaches Salsa and Bachata classes elsewhere in the Dance Kingdom, but never really did any ballroom-style Latin dances. He picked things up quickly though, which helped out. It’s been nice lately having more people in that class. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed having the class when the only person I could convince to go along with me was Sparkledancer, and it was just the two of us getting beat up by Lord Junior, but having some more people adds another dynamic to the learning that is rather enjoyable. It is good for both Sparkledancer and I to work on things with each other, since so far she is one of only two women I’ve ever done a competition with, but it helps me to work on more advanced things with other Followers to be sure that I really know how to lead properly for all Followers, not just how I can nudge Sparkledancer into doing certain movements.
There’s an opportunity tomorrow for me to go to a random dance event, but I think I would be the only person I know there if I went. Everyone else is doing other things. Will I go do it, or will I stay home and spend time finishing some things for work that I haven’t been able to get to yet this week? I guess we’ll have to find out next week!