I did end up making it out to the Prime Dance Hall on Friday night for their little shindig. I even managed to get myself out of the house early enough to make it there in time for the group class that was held before the social dance started. The class was covering Tango, and actually ended up being my favorite part of the night. That’s saying a lot, considering that Tango is not one of my favorite dances. Sir Steven told me once that people who dance ballroom styles generally fall into two categories: those who prefer the swing dance stylings of Waltz, Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz, and then those who prefer the more rhythmic stylings of Tango and Quickstep. I would say that I fall into the first category. Still, the Tango class did end up being fun. At the Prime Dance Hall, they had asked one of their newest instructors to teach the class that night. He had just moved to the area a few weeks prior, but he was some kind of national champion in something dance related prior to moving to the area. Before class started, he asked everyone if they had gone through some Tango before. Since all of us who were there that night had done more than just the basics, he decided to spend the first part of class working on making us all better Tango dancers. We spent a considerable amount of time walking with our heels, pulled away from each other. His big thing was that the Follower needed to be propelling themselves backward, pulling away from the Lead almost, to try to create space between our bodies. The Lead’s job then, according to him, was to fill that space so that the Follower didn’t leave you behind. It is a very different feeling, dancing like that. It almost feels like I was not the one in control anymore. Which, I guess, I’m not truly in control whenever I dance with someone, but I like to imagine that I am. However, even though we talked about doing things like this a lot, once we started going over figures the Followers stopped pulling back so hard, so dancing felt more normal.
To practice, he started working us through a bunch of figures. Since all of us had a really good idea of what we were doing, we worked through a lot of figures. A lot more than I think the guy teaching expected us to get through in one class. We did Curved Walks (the place everything starts), then a Left Reverse Turn, then a Link into Promenade. At the end of the Promenade, we went into Open Fan and stuck the simple ending on it to close back into frame. After going through each of those pieces individually and linking them all together in order, we still had about five minutes left before the dance started. Rather than just end there, he decided we should start looking at what he called a Fallaway Reverse Turn ending in a Slip Pivot that turned into Viennese Crosses. This was one that I had never seen before, so I might have stumbled through it the first time or two. With the rest of the staff opening up the floor for everyone else to join in and dance, we were rushing to get through so that everyone got a chance to try the figure with every partner before we gave up. I think by the time I danced with the last partner, I had finally figured out what my feet were supposed to be doing, but since we went through things so fast I will have to try to figure out what I did since I only sort-of remember how it goes now that I’m sitting here thinking about things. After we wrapped up class for the evening and everyone else ran off to join in the dancing that had already started, I hung back to talk to the instructor, and thank him for bringing the class up to meet our level even though the calendar lists it as a basic class. He told me all about moving here a couple of weeks prior, and he and his wife/dance partner really enjoying all the dancing going on in the area, and that they were going to be performing something later in the evening. As we talked, at one point I told him I generally avoid Tango in favor of Waltz or Foxtrot, since I have long legs attached to white boy hips. He laughed at me and said that was a problem he really wished he had (I could have rested my chin atop his head pretty easily, just to give you a visual).
The dance after class was the low point of the evening for me. Supposedly every instructor from the Prime Dance Hall was going to be in a competition the next weekend with a lot of their students, so they were all out practicing their routines. Normally, that wouldn’t bother me – I have certainly used social dances as a place to meet up with Sparkledancer and practice our competition routines lots of times. However, there were a few of the instructors that took social decorum and threw it out the window for the night as they practiced. They were always in the way, and running into people; two of the male instructors even seemed to have some sort of friendly feud going on where they would run into each other on purpose. At one point, a West Coast Swing came on, and I was super excited to go out with Sparkledancer and try out some of the new things we had been working on in our West Coast Wednesday meetings. We picked a slot right on the floor at the beginning of the song, and were going along happily for a little while, but then two of the instructors brought some students out to the floor and began dancing almost exactly at the endpoints of our slot. One of them didn’t even seem to know West Coast Swing, so he was doing a slow and rotating East Coast Swing and almost hit us a few times. That made me sad. Later in the evening, a Bolero came on. Since it had been a while since the last time I did Bolero, Sparkledancer and I actually made a point of going off and dancing in the little ‘L’ shaped alcove that comes off the main dance floor in the building so that we didn’t have to worry about anyone getting right on top of our space again.
When I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer on Saturday afternoon, I got a break from doing Tango for a little while, though Sir Steven made a point of asking both of us if we were going to one of the dance parties that was going on that night since he would be teaching a Tango class at the start. Most of our time was spent on Foxtrot, with a little bit of Waltz mixed in at the end. Sometimes, I feel like working on these small tweaks is really an exercise to test my balance. There are a lot of points where we are going through figures and Sir Steven will ask us to stop in the middle, which is hard to do if you’ve built up any momentum during the previous movements. Once stopped, there is a period of getting posed and manipulated so that your foot is turned just a little bit differently, or your body is facing slightly differently, or your head is tilted somewhere else. During the manipulation (for me) there is a lot of effort put into flexing the muscles of my core to keep from getting knocked over in the process. Then, once you’ve got it right, you have to back up and get back into that position again, and maybe (if you’re good the first time) you get to move on to the next foot placement. It does feel monotonous at times, very different from going to classes and learning figures like I used to do. During this lesson though, we did get a strange sort of reprieve. As we were standing in a particularly awkward pose, a group of men wandered out of the back room and lined up in front of the mirrors on the wall. This isn’t normally all that out of the ordinary at the Endless Dance Hall, but this group of men were all wearing really short shorts (like the kind of shorts you’ve seen teenage girls wearing) and high heels. I was told that they were working on choreography for some musical that was going to be performed in the area. As they pranced around in front of the mirrors at the direction of the girl calling their steps out to them, it occurred to me that this was not something all that uncommon for me to see in my life. I guess once you fall down the dancing rabbit hole, all kinds of things that other people find weird become commonplace for you to witness. Who would have known?
Saturday night’s open dance was a lot of fun. The local dance council chapter had rented out the Electric Dance Hall for the night to hold their monthly meeting/party, and they had a Tango class beforehand that was taught by Sir Steven (like he mentioned to me earlier in the day to make sure I showed up). There were a lot of people who came to the party. A LOT. When we would attempt to partner up to practice the figures they were going over with a partner, the Leads were making rows facing the back of the dance hall so that we would all travel in the same direction. I was in the first row along the back wall, and beyond that the rows had trouble staying straight, so the rotation got really messed up once the Followers traveled beyond the back row. One of the moves that Sir Steven showed everyone how to do was going from Promenade into Open Fan. The move turned out to be dangerous because part way through the class, Lord Junior decided to join in, and he took the spot in the row right in front of me. When I would go through things and send the lady out to Open Fan, they would invariably allow their outside arm to extend fully, and narrowly avoid smacking Lord Junior every time. Some of the ladies who actually knew him would even go through with hitting him just for fun. For once, this wasn’t something that I was promoting – they would just do it on their own accord. I still thought it was rather funny when they did it, so I also didn’t try to actively discourage anyone from it if that’s what they wanted to do. During the dance afterward, HotDog was making a big deal of dancing pretty exclusively with a set of three younger girls that he wouldn’t stop talking about. Sparkledancer actually told him to be careful and dance with more people than just the three of them, otherwise they would notice what he was up to and think he was creepy. That guy and his trials with dance ladies. I don’t know whether to be amused by it or jealous.
This weekend should be a bit quieter, which will be nice. I think there’s a couple of workshops going on this weekend, but I will only be able to make it to one of them unfortunately. If anyone else wants to go to the others and tell me all about what you all worked on, that would be awesome, so that I can learn vicariously through you!