Oooh… I’m On A Boat With A Couple Of Wackos

Sometimes it’s nice to do something crazy just to say that you’ve done something crazy. I did something like that this past weekend (if you’re smart, you might have already guessed what it was). But! I did some other things too before AND after that! I like to do a lot of things. It makes going back through and rereading my dance training journal (which is really all this site is) much more interesting. So let’s start at the beginning…

Friday night started with me not being in a great mood. Work had been particularly stressful all week, and I had been waiting all day for some people to get things back into a good place so that I could verify all the problems were gone. To pass the time, I decided that I needed to get out of the house and not think about things or stare at my work email for a while. Looking at the options for the evening, I saw that the Prime Dance Hall was having a free party open to everyone, and there was also the party going on at the Star Dance Hall that I had mentioned last week. Part of me said that going to a free party was the best idea, since it was free and all, but another part of me kept telling myself that the atmosphere at the Star Dance Hall is way more fun, and since I knew the DJ playing the music at the Star Dance Hall that night, the music selection would inevitably be better, so in my guts I knew that was the right place to go. I called up Sparkledancer to talk her out of going to the Prime Dance Hall, saying that we would likely have more room on the floor to practice if everyone else went there, and also giving her my reasons I used to convince myself. I even promised to pay her cover charge so that it would still be a free party for her. So that’s where I ended up that night, and it really helped to end the day on a high note like that. It made everything else that went on previously in the week seem not so bad. During the evening we managed to run through all of our routines at least once. We did the International Foxtrot routine more than once, because that still seems to be the one OnABoat1that we struggle with the most, especially if we have to break routine for some reason. International Foxtrot does not feel as natural to me as American Foxtrot, so there have been times recently where I had to break the pattern because of other people on the floor and I would accidentally go into an American-style Reverse Turn instead of getting Sparkledancer to do a Reverse Heel Turn. I’m not sure how likely it will be during the competition that I will need to break the routine, but it is something that I think about. Lucky for me we do all the American routines on one day and all the International on another, so I should be able to mentally segregate things better knowing what day it is. Then again, we are dancing early in the morning both days, and I am not a morning person, so I may not know what day it is when I’m out there.

Near the end of the evening, Sparkledancer and I were standing near the wall talking about things (I think they were Viennese Waltz-related things) when the girl who had been hanging out near the front desk of the dance hall came over. I initially expected her to ask me if I wanted to dance, but I was totally wrong. It turned out that she was the person in charge of marketing for the dance hall, and she was interested in finding out who we were and whether we were instructors somewhere or not. She had been OnABoat2watching us dance our routines together several times when we were out on the floor, and said she had thought about taking pictures of us to use for some kind of promotional material. I wasn’t sure how I felt having a picture of me being passed around like that, so I changed the subject to talk about the upcoming competition and find out if anyone from the Star Dance Hall would be doing things at the same time we were. She did end up giving both of us her card and asked us to think about potentially doing a showcase performance during their next event, and joked that she could convince Sir Steven to work on choreographing something for us to sweeten the deal. The rest of the night I vigilantly avoided her camera. I think I may have unavoidably ended up in the background of some of the pictures she took, but I couldn’t find any pictures with me in them posted anywhere, so I might have gotten lucky.

And yet, as fun as Friday night was, Saturday night was when the even more fun stuff OnABoat3went on! I went on a dance cruise! To be fair, it wasn’t anything like what you are picturing right now, which I’m sure involves a giant cruise ship with a ballroom located somewhere below the shuffleboard deck, complete with all-you-can-eat shrimp and a full orchestra. No, this was a much smaller boat (I’d guess the boat was less than 20’ wide), and because of that the cruise was limited to just 100 passengers. I was lucky enough to get a ticket a while back before the event sold out. Have you ever danced on a boat? Have you ever danced on a boat where the combined movement of people dancing is enough to set the boat rocking slightly? After we had all boarded and the crew was casting off, we were all asked to warm up a bit with a basic Salsa lesson, giving everyone a chance to feel what it was like to dance when the floor was essentially moving. We all stood in rows, facing the side of the boat, and as we did simple rock steps forward and backward together in time with the music, the boat actually started rocking with us! I must say, dancing that night was a super workout for my lower leg muscles. Seriously – the fast-twitch movements in my ankles and calves to compensate for the boat’s movements were pretty incredible. I would really recommend it as a training method for anyone looking to tone up that area of their body. An hour a day of dancing on a boat would work wonders I bet.

Aside from the great workout, the dancing was also a lot of fun. As you can imagine, without being on a super huge vessel, most of what we did was Latin and Rhythm style dances. We did do a couple of ballroom dances throughout the evening, but it was a pretty tight loop going up and down the length of the ship. So tight a loop in fact that several times I swear I rubbed my shoulders up against the people going the opposite OnABoat4direction down the length of the floor. They had chairs set up against the wall of the ship for people to use when they wanted to take a break, but when I tried sitting in one it put me right at a level to stare at the butts of the people dancing right in front of me, so I ended up standing for pretty much the whole ride. At one point before the sun set, the wind picked up pretty strongly and it began to rain. The crew had opened up one of the plastic tarp windows earlier because it was getting warm inside the cabin we were dancing in, but when the wind and rain started to get bad one of the young female crew members was climbing on top of things to try to close the window again. I ended up helping her because I was tall enough to reach where the thing was tied up on the one side, and I had the strength to hold her in place so she didn’t fly out the window into the water as she untied the other side so we could roll the window down and secure it shut. That was probably the most turbulent point of the ride. I think one older lady fell down, but she seemed to be more upset about dropping her plate of snacks than she was about ending up on the floor herself. The dancing continued through the rough seas unabated though, because a good dancer knows that you have to keep going no matter what else is happening on the floor. I did dance in my sneakers that night, and that turned out to be a good choice. Though it made turning much harder than I am used to, the rubber soles helped me keep my footing the few times I ended up out on the uncovered part of the deck where the floor was damp. There were a few people I saw who were wearing suede-bottomed shoes, but they said that they had brought one of their old pairs so they wouldn’t be afraid of wrecking them.

For Latin Technique class this week, we had another large group of people. I’m not sure why so many people have been coming to this class lately – in the past, no one seemed interested in going because it was a lot of hard work (as working on technique things often is). To be fair, most of the people going to the class now are female, so the men in class have a lot of work to do. I guess that’s good for me, because it means I get a lot of practice with things. Anyway, this week we did Rumba. Lord Junior really wanted to work on the Sliding Doors for fun. Lucky for me, this was a figure I’d seen a slightly different variation for, so I felt like I had an advantage when we started on things. We did the first part of the Sliding Doors in closed position, releasing our partner as we stepped across to either side of each other and coming back into frame for the forward check action. Every other time I’ve done this figure it’s been in open position the whole time, using visual cues to signal the lady what to do next, so it felt weird to hold on for so long (I’ve had the same issue recently with doing the Grapevine in Foxtrot – all throughout my dance career I’ve done it in more of an open two-hand hold. I was asked to do it in closed position. It’s doable, but it feels weird). After the second pass like that, the Follower would remain with her weight on her right leg as we lunged forward behind her to catch the front of her left arm with our right, and then spin her forward. She would pivot a few times and then stop in a position one of the girls that night called the “Pole-dancer’s Plie” – I’ll let you dream up what that looked like exactly, but it was kind of sitting position for them so as the Leads took a few steps forward, we would stop in front of them and basically tower over them for a few beats. Lord Junior said for styling that the girls could put their hands up against the Lead’s chest in a stylistically flirty manner, or throw the hands up to stop the Lead out of fear of getting knocked backward onto their butts. To get out of that position, the guys did a Switch Turn and then a set of syncopated pivots to move backward and the ladies would stand and take a couple of steps to chase us. If everything went well (and we didn’t end up too far away from each other), we should have been able to reach the lady with our left hand and close with them doing an Alemana to get back into dance frame and potentially start the whole thing over. Easy as pie, right? There were some questions at the end about how the Leads would lead the lady to do the spin forward if we were lunged behind her and taking a step back to gather our feet, so Lord Junior said we could start with that next week to make sure everyone got it down.

Instead of going to class on Wednesday, I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven to review all our routines. Sparkledancer was feeling sick that evening, and I wasn’t completely over a cold I got on Monday yet, so dancing that night was interesting. Sir Steven made sure to keep his distance from us most of the evening, but the two of us sucked it up and danced together since we had to get through everything. We spent the majority of our time working on the International Foxtrot. Sir Steven told us that things for that routine actually looked pretty good, but it still just doesn’t feel natural doing International instead of American. I’m not sure what it would take to change that, but I’m not under any inkling that the feeling will change before the competition. It will probably take many more months of switching back and forth between the two whenever I do Foxtrot for that to happen. We worked on only a few fixes for some things, and adding a new starter step for the Viennese Waltz (which is actually a really involved sequence, not just a couple of steps). I think that’s it before we actually take these out on the floor to compete. Oh man!

So much excitement! What will next week bring? Tune in to find out!

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