Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I keep jumping around on locations to meet up. This past weekend, a couple of hours before we were supposed to get together, we had to change venues and plan on meeting up at the Electric Dance Hall. I’m not sure why we keep switching things around like this, but that’s where we ended up. This weekend was nice because we got there and no one else was in the building yet, so we decided to spend some quality time working on Viennese Waltz. I really like Viennese Waltz, but it’s one of those styles I don’t actually get to practice much because of the amount of space that is required to work on things safely at tempo. I’ve mentioned in the past that if I try to practice things at home, I can get about one and a half rotations in before I’m about to hit a wall, unless I take super tiny steps. What’s the fun of taking super tiny steps though? We started by looking at the way we usually start dancing a Viennese Waltz. Ever since I first learned the style, the normal way to start has been to take my partner, and when the music starts we would do a hesitation step to my left for a three-count, then a hesitation step to my right for a three count while winding up, and then going into a Reverse Turn to start traveling down the floor. Sir Steven wants us to change that so that we can start by going into a Natural Turn instead. The starting sequence he has us going through is almost like a production compared to the two hesitations and wind up we had been doing. It involves several three-count steps, a curtsy from Sparkledancer while I sort-of bow, and then we finally come together and wind away from each other to my left so that we can start off moving on the right foot in a Natural Turn. The big things that we worked on when we actually got into running through Viennese Waltz was to first make sure that at least part of my feet were always connected to the floor. The second part was that once we got through the first two steps of each rotation, the third ‘step’ was to quickly slide the back foot in toward the front foot. Obviously the first thing we worked on helped with the second, since it is hard to slide your foot across the floor if you don’t keep your feet in contact with the floor. About halfway through working on Viennese Waltz, Lord Junior showed up to start cleaning some things around the dance hall before a lesson he was going to give at the top of the hour, and as he was wandering around cleaning he was making offhand comments about what we were doing, trying to get us to laugh and mess up. I guess you could call that ‘training under fire’ or something – it was rather amusing to see how much I could get through without breaking into laughter.
And that right there is a perfect example of why I dance. No matter how seriously you take ballroom dancing, the thing is… unless you are getting paid to teach the craft to others, it is really a hobby, and it should be fun. I worry about people who take things so seriously that they lose sight of just how much fun (and slightly absurd) the world of ballroom dancing is. You can spend all your time worrying about how your technique looks, and what kind of impression you are going to give to a group of judges when you take to the floor, but once that short period of time at the competition is done, or you finish with the performance that you spent months learning the choreography for, the rush is over and you go home to take off your serious face, what are you left with? You learned all these things, collected all these medals or ribbons and you stick them all on a shelf where you can see them as you walk through your front room (that’s where all mine are sitting), and now they sit there, collecting dust (I hate dusting, so mine collect a lot of dust before I get around to cleaning them off). If you can’t afford to do a lot of competitions per year (most people I know compete Pro-Am, which is a lot more expensive than competing amateur), what are you really using this skill that you are leaning for? That’s why I like to spend so much time going out on weekends to social dances. It keeps things fun (which is the whole point of dancing in the first place), and it gives me a chance to utilize all the training that I spend so much time doing on a more regular basis than just the couple of times a year I decide to compete or perform. I think about dancing like I would about a classic car – if you spend a ton of money on a fancy classic car, but then only drive it around once every few months, what are you really getting out of the money you spent on the car? The problem with investing in dancing however is that you can’t easily pass your dance skills down to your kids or sell your skills to recoup some of the investment like you can with a classic car, so you have to actually use the skill in order to get something out of all the time and money spent learning.
Now, I do know that I am a bit spoiled. I live in a place where ballroom dancing is kind of a big deal, and there are a large number of dance halls and ballroom-related dance clubs within a very short distance of where my house is (side note: there’s credible rumors of a another new dance hall opening nearby next month!). If you don’t live in an area like I do where ballroom dancing has made a name for itself, your opportunities for social dance parties may be few and far between. On top of that, I also happen to be male (at least, last I checked I still was), so I can go out to any social dance party and dance with any ladies who are free during a song without having to worry about not having a partner or someone using figures that I don’t know (since I’m leading, I usually don’t use figures I don’t know. Usually…). I’m not super extroverted (though you probably think I am based on all the adventures I tell you about), but I don’t mind going out and asking people to dance at the events I attend. Knowing what I know gives me a level of dance confidence that helps me do just that.
So while competing and performing showcase dances may give you a chance to win some medals or ribbons or make your name famous in the greater ballroom community, I would argue that if you are spending your time pursuing that goal without spending an equal amount of time just dancing socially, you are missing out on a huge part of the ballroom dancing experience. There are so many benefits you can get, so many people you can meet, and it’s a big way to help keep the fun in dancing. And if you’re not having fun and it’s always frustrating and tedious work, it’s a lot more like a job than anything else (except, you know, you are paying to do it, not getting paid). I don’t know about you, but I have enough hard work and frustration going on at my normal job to not have fun at the things I choose to do outside of work. If you’re in the area nearby me, you can always ask me where the next dance party is happening. There’s at least one dance hall in the area offering a social dance every Friday and Saturday night around here (often multiple competing dance parties), and there’s one option I know of that happens every Sunday afternoon if you still need more. And that’s not even taking into account all the Club Latin dances that go on that I generally don’t go to because of my white-boy hips. If you’re looking to move someplace for dancing, I could not say enough good things about living in the Dance Kingdom with me. Plus, then we could go out dancing together! How fun would that be?
That went off on a bit of a tangent, didn’t it… Since I’m not planning on writing a novel tonight, we’ll just skip everything else I did for the sake of brevity and jump right to talking about last night’s Standard Technique class.
When I was sitting around getting my shoes on for class, it seemed like lady after lady was showing up to join us in class. By the time we were ready to start, there were three guys (if you included Lord Junior) and eight women. I thought for sure that I was going to be working hard all night to keep up with all the partner switching that we would be doing… but it turned out that I didn’t actually dance much at all. We all decided to do Foxtrot that night, so Lord Junior thought we should start by looking at a Gold-level figure called the Fallaway Reverse Slip Pivot. His plan was by the end of class to have us start with a normal Feather, go into the Fallaway Reverse Slip Pivot, transition into a Double Reverse Spin (which is an adaptation of the Double Reverse Spin you’ve probably seen or done in Waltz), then come out of everything into a Three Step. Sounds super easy, right (I hope I didn’t break your sarcasm detector with that)? Some of the ladies really struggled with the turns. In the Fallaway Reverse Slip Pivot they had to do two pivots in a row during the figure, and then of course the Double Reverse Spin starts with a heel turn. That combination was hard for them to get through, so Lord Junior spent a lot of time with the group trying to get them through all the issues. The biggest problem he kept going through was that when they are the outside of the turn they really needed to drive themselves forward, or the turn would not have any power to make the rotation. Many of the women were used to letting the Leader get them through things, and we could have just pushed them around enough to make it work, but to make things look good (which is one of the things that most people want their dancing to do) the Followers couldn’t just have the Leader forcibly spin them. At one point, Lord Junior was going over some problems that Deja brought up so that the whole group could work on things, so I and the other guy who was there were relegated to leaning against the front counter so that we were out of the way. All we could do was watch – there wasn’t even enough open floor space to try our own steps out. That was how the class went for much of the night – there were short periods where the guys would dance with the girls, then long periods where I was just standing off to the side watching the ladies work on their figures. That was not what I was expecting to be doing when class started, that’s for sure! By the end most everyone seemed to have gotten the idea of things, so Lord Junior put on some Foxtrot songs and we just lined up like people do for Foxtrot mixers and ran through the pattern over and over again down the floor well past the time class should have ended.
I used a lot of parenthetical phrases tonight, didn’t I? Well, I may have interesting news next week. I’m not for sure about things yet, but there’s a chance. Stay tuned – it could mean a lot of fun is ahead. Not just normal fun. No, I’m talking ‘dinosaurs in space’ levels of fun. Are you excited? I can’t wait to see what happens!