Last Friday night a few of us went out to a random dance party with the Heartbreak Kid. It wasn’t even a ballroom-related dance party, believe it or not! He has become pretty active in one of the Swing dance communities in the Dance Kingdom, and has been asking for a while for people to come out with him to one of the dances he tries to attend weekly. So this past weekend, with that big competition going on nearby that had all but shut down the ballroom-related parties for the weekend, it seemed like a good time to go out and give this a shot to get in my dance fix. I’m not sure where I came up with all the expectations I had before arriving at the dance, but I imagined that I would be able to put to use all kinds of Swing-related things that I had learned over the years – East Coast Swing for moderate tempo songs, West Coast Swing for slower tempos, Jive if they played anything super fast, and Hustle for an occasional change of pace (since the Heartbreak Kid specifically mentioned Hustle when talking about things he did at these dances). There was this niggling voice in the back of my head though, telling me to reserve my excitement until I got there, since I couldn’t get anyone to tell me about the kinds of music they liked to play at these events. As it turned out, the dance party was nothing like what I had imagined, both in terms of dance styles and clientele who attended. I had been told that the crowd skewed younger than those that came to the average ballroom party, which was kind of exciting to me, but what someone failed to mention was that this event was a lot more like a high school dance than anything else. Looking around the room at all the faces in the crowd, I felt like an old man, and the few other adults who were stationed around the room seemed to be serving more as chaperones than as party-goers, making sure nothing unsightly happened. I tried not to be the creepy one, but I can’t tell if I succeeded or not. It also turned out that the music that was being played at the event catered to doing only one dance style, since everything seemed to be songs that were popular in the ‘40s and ‘50s which were all within about 10BPM of each other. You could do East Coast Swing pretty comfortably to songs of that tempo (and Foxtrot, if it wouldn’t have been so dangerous), but all the kids there were doing what they called “Lindy” – which was really more of an informal style of Swing that looked like a cross between East Coast Swing, Hustle and flailing wildly, all at the same time. Seriously, a lot of the kids were kind of dangerous with how much they were aimlessly flying around, and I was run into several times while dancing. I have to admit that I feel like I’ve been spoiled by getting to go to so many ballroom dance parties, and learning so many different styles of dance. Doing the exact same dance style for every song bores me to tears, so after five or six songs I mostly stood in the back watching what else was going on, hoping that the music would change if I just waited. I didn’t end up staying too long that night, even though getting out of the house is always fun and seeing people is always a good time. That leads me to believe I probably wouldn’t enjoy going out to some of the Salsa or Argentine Tango parties I’ve heard about either. Ah well, what can you do?
Monday night at Latin Technique class we ended up going through Cha-Cha again, since only one person who was there that night wanted to do Samba. We looked at this more advanced way of getting into Fan Position, which didn’t seem all that much more advanced since it felt a lot like doing a Crossbody Lead before turning another 8th of a turn and sending the lady out into Fan Position while the Leads did some kind of chasse (I personally stuck with a Hip Twist chasse, since I just naturally go into that when sending ladies into Fan Position). As we closed the Fan we went into a Hockey Stick, and at the end of that we went into what is called a Curl (basically a Spiral Turn that send the lady out in a different direction, i.e. ‘curling’ down the floor). At the end of the Curl we went into a Reverse Top, which is something Lord Junior said he wanted to try to use more often. Most people you see dancing do the Natural Top I guess (or so he says), so he wanted to start to use the Reverse Top more often to ‘bring it back’ in the area. We stuck with going around in our top for two chasse steps before turning the lady through another Spiral Turn and exiting out into an Aida. We did the normal set of Cuban Hip motion during the Aida, coming out with a Lock Step forward, then a Switch Turn going into a chasse to the right. Next we did two Cuban Breaks with the left foot, two with the right foot, then one Mambo Break (which is like a syncopated New Yorker) on both the right and left side before going into an actual New Yorker and ending with a chasse to the left. All these breaks ended up being the part of the night that people in class had trouble grasping when it was first explained to us, though they aren’t that difficult when you see them done. Lord Junior joked that we probably should have started with these couple of figures so that we could have spent more time getting through them. After he gave up trying to demonstrate things with Tanya unsuccessfully, he instead had me lead him so that he could demonstrate the Follower’s part of how things were done, and things got better. It still took a couple of runs through before everyone looked comfortable, but it was better. With a few minutes left in class, we went through the same process we had done last week where we just kept switching partners and going through the whole configuration from start to finish as Lord Junior slowly sped up the music until we got to full tempo. At the end, just for fun, he decided to put on an even faster song to speed things up even more and make us work at it before we all left for the night.
During Standard Technique on Wednesday night we got to go through some Foxtrot for fun. Before we get into that though, I do have to mention a different fun thing. When class started there was this guy hanging out in the corner of the studio, someone who was a high-level competition winner in Shag, and he was just in the corner by himself, practicing for something. He had some headphones in, and was watching himself in the mirror, really in his own little world. It’s fascinating to watch someone doing Shag really well. His legs looked like rubber bands, bouncing around all over the place as he moved forward and backward, and his knees kept swinging in and out toward each other at the same time. It’s crazy how different really high level dancing in any style looks when compared to the basics, but watching the way he did Shag was pretty unbelievable (though I had to believe it, because I was standing right there). The few times I have been in a Shag class, what we did just felt like doing East Coast Swing without picking your feet up off the floor, and I was told they always shuffled like that since Shag was mostly designed to dance on a sandy beach. What that guy was doing looked like it wasn’t even in the same family as what I had learned previously. Crazy! Anyway, for Foxtrot, there were a couple of high level figures that we looked at during the class that I had never seen before. The first thing that we started with was something called a Bounce Fallaway with Weave Ending. The ‘bounce’ portion, as I was told, was actually a rise action at the end of beat three of the Fallaway, which signals to the Follower that there is going to be a change to move out of Fallaway position (a requirement for using a Weave at the end). To practice this, we started at one end of the floor with a prep step going into a Feather Step, then went right into the Bounce Fallaway, and we ended everything without completing the Weave. We didn’t do that since Lord Junior wanted to change the ending of the figure and put in a different figure, something that he called a Tumble Turn, in place of the Weave. A Tumble Turn is essentially a turn where you go around in a tight circle very quickly. It’s a fun thing to do, but apparently requires moving in a very, very, very tight circle to do it correctly. I had thought that I was turning pretty tightly; by the end I was even banging my feet into each other as I rotated, but even that I was told wasn’t quite as tight of a turn as he was looking for. Coming out of the Tumble Turn we went into a normal Feather Finish, which would allow us to move on into something else. It was a fun pair of steps to practice, even if I can’t turn very tightly. I don’t know if these two figures are allowed in, or have a counterpart in American Foxtrot, but these two figures are going to be reused sometime soon if I have any say in the matter.
Lucky for me, I get to lead, so I almost always have a say in the matter!
On a completely different note…
Look at what day it is! Today marks the three-year anniversary since I started putting things up on this site! Can you believe it? I’m having a hard time, I’ll tell you. It also means that I’ve been studying how to be a ballroom dancer for almost four years too. Whoa! Can you believe that? I guess that I’m starting to get old. In fact, I think soon I will be able to start competing at the Senior I level at dance competitions if I want (I’m actually serious about that). How crazy does that sound? I don’t feel old enough to be a senior, by any stretch of the imagination. Hopefully I don’t look quite that old yet either. That’s why I try to hang on to so much youthful enthusiasm, so that I can obscure my actual age behind it.
For those of you on the Internets who check in on this site from time to time, thanks for following along with this strange artistic outlet of mine. From the bottom of my heart. I hope my writings have been slightly educational, and maybe even a little bit humorous for you. For anyone that I know in the real world who happens to be reading this, thank you for helping me along the course of my crazy dance journey. Who knows what kind of nutty stuff we’ll be getting into over the course of the next year! My friend and I are getting ready to make the coming year of posts even more fun than the last. I hope you’re ready for it!