So the big event this past weekend, as you may have guessed if you read my last update, was the grand opening party on Friday night for The Fancy Dance Hall. The week before the party they had decided to make it a free party, with free snacks and free wine for everyone who wanted some, so the night turned out pretty interesting. There were a lot of people who had come out whom I had never seen before, and many I am assuming were pretty new to dancing, based on the unfamiliar ladies I danced with during the lesson at the beginning of the party (which was on Hustle). From the story I was given, when they were planning the party, no one had any ideas of what would be a good dance style to start off the party with. Some discussion went back and forth, until the DJ who would be playing the music that evening suggested Hustle. Everyone loved the idea, so they put it on all the advertisements for the party. Well, when it got close to the day of the event, Lord Dormamu was asking all the staff of The Fancy Dance Hall who wanted to teach the class. Most of them had studied dance overseas in their home countries, so all they knew was International styles, which obviously doesn’t include Hustle. So they called on Sir Steven, who does both American and International, and pleaded with him to teach since it was too late to change the advertisements. He was already booked to teach a different group class on the other side of town at the same time, so he had to call in some favors with Lord Junior to have him teach that class so that he could be at The Fancy Dance Hall on time to teach their Hustle class. I showed up a bit late to the party, since I got home late from work and I live on the other side of town, so things were already underway when I got there. I had planned on just sitting the lesson out because I was late, but Sir Steven saw me putting my shoes on, and from the middle of class told me to jump right in with all the other men. He hadn’t gone over anything difficult that I didn’t already know, but there were women who were waiting for someone to dance with in class, so I was put to work right away. I picked up the pattern as fast as I could (I may have improvised for the first few rotations until I caught what it was actually supposed to be), and from there it was easy to get through.
Once class was over, the open dance got underway. During the course of the night, as the free wine was consumed, some of the dancing got much more… interesting. At one point as I was walking across the floor toward my coat to drop off something, the DJ put on a Hustle and told everyone to go practice what they had done in class. A lady who had had what seemed like quite a few drinks stopped me and asked if I would dance with her, since she remembered dancing with me during the class. She wasn’t nearly as blitzed during the class as she was when she asked me for this dance, but I wasn’t sure if she remembered much of what was covered earlier. It was kind of like dancing with a wet noodle, as she whipped all over the place, laughing and not really paying attention to what she was doing. I worked hard to keep her from hitting anyone, dancing with her in closed frame as much as I could get away with. The other thing that Sparkledancer mentioned to me when we danced together at one point during the night was that it didn’t seem like many of the people who were on staff for The Fancy Dance Hall were all that good at floorcraft for some reason. I talked to someone about that after the party, and they mused that many people who are high-level competitive dancers don’t spend a lot of time working on the type of floorcraft that is conducive to social dances. They are so used to being told by coaches to take up as much space on the floor as they could and make all their moves as big as possible so that the judges notice them, and to run people over if they get in the way. During a social dance, that kind of floorcraft makes you dangerous, and even I couldn’t avoid getting run into a few times by some of them, despite how much I have tried to work on my own floorcraft. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the dance party, but once Sparkledancer mentioned it to me I became hyper-aware of it when I was watching the floor as I danced. Halfway through the party they gave everyone a break from dancing and had all the staff members do a performance. They all paired off and picked a dance style to show off for a minute or two as Lord Dormamu announced all of their names so that everyone could meet them if they hadn’t already. When all of the staff finished up, he introduced himself and grabbed the Princess to show off his moves and impress the crowd. That was fun to watch. When they finished up, the King came out and spoke to the crowd, congratulating Lord Dormamu on opening the new dance hall, and let everyone who attended the dance know that if they grabbed one of the staff members before the end of the night they could sign up for a free introductory dance lesson if they wanted. Later in the evening the staff started passing out glasses of the free wine, and once everyone had a drink in hand Lord Dormamu made a toast. I don’t drink, so I didn’t take a glass before everything started. As Lord Dormamu was speaking, I leaned over to Sparkledancer whom was standing next to me and told her I needed some bread, since I was going to make a ‘dry toast’. I thought it was funny, but she just made a comment about how good dry toast sounded right then, since she was hungry. Ah well, my jokes can’t all be comedy gold, right?
I was back out at The Fancy Dance Hall the next morning for my coaching session with Sir Steven. Apparently now that we have moved over from taking classes at the Endless Dance Hall to The Fancy Dance Hall, all the dance instructors that I had previously only met in passing who barely acknowledged my presence are now great friends of both me and Sparkledancer. We got in a bit early, as usual, to spend a few minutes warming up and whatnot. Sir Steven was over getting the sound system up and running (someone had shut everything down after the party last night). As Sparkledancer and I were stepping through our Waltz routine in practice hold (always a good way to start first thing in the morning, right?), Lord Dormamu and another teacher whom I had seen lots of times (I’m going to call him Sir Latin because I think it’s funny) came into the building. Neither one of them had ever said more than a few words to us before, or gave more than the casual nod of the head in passing as we all occupied space on the floor at the Endless Dance Hall, but this time they both came right over to greet us – shaking my hand and kissing Sparkledancer on the cheeks and asking us how our day has been going so far. Not being the most social creature in the mornings, I didn’t have much to say, and Sparkledancer gave me this wide-eyed look as they were kissing her, so I’m pretty sure she wasn’t expecting that. With Sir Steven we only managed to get as far as looking through our International routines. We went through them in a pseudo-competition order. We started with Waltz, going back to look at little things that needed improvement. Then we went through Tango, which ended up being what we spent most of our time on. Sir Steven told us that both Sparkledancer and I are fairly strong at doing the smoother dance styles like Waltz and Foxtrot, but the more staccato styling of Tango was not our strongest dance by any stretch of the imagination. He can tell that we can mentally see what we are supposed to be doing, and generally we start out fine, but as we get going through the figures we start smoothing things out so that it looks more like Foxtrot. It’s not bad, he said, but it’s not really Tango. He split us apart and had us just do Tango walks side by side, trying to make them as staccato and split-weight as possible with each step. It’s going to take practice, but pointing it out made us more aware that it needs work. We spent the last few minutes finishing up by looking at our Quickstep for fun, focusing on the last part of the first long wall where there is a Backing Lock Step going into a Running Finish.
That night had several things going on. The one that I was most excited about was the fact that the local West Coast Swing enthusiasts group had rented out the Electric Dance Hall for the evening. They were going to have an intermediate level class and then a social dance. I have mixed feelings from my past interactions with the group because of the way that these West Coast Swing people treat ballroom people, but the fact that they were holding an intermediate class someplace so close to my house was just too good for me to pass up. And since Sparkledancer and I had a mission to meet at a dance party later that evening, it was easy enough for me to convince her to come to the class with me so that there was at least one person I knew there. When I got to the venue, there was actually someone else I knew wandering around there. Lord Junior was helping the people running the party get everything ready to go and showing them how the sound system worked and where he kept all the supplies. It seemed to intrigue everyone that when Sparkledancer and I were there, Lord Junior came and sat on the couch near us and was just talking about everything and anything as we waited for the class to start. They kept wandering around close to where we were sitting, listening to what we were saying, sometimes trying to interject comments but mostly not knowing how to handle us. Once the instructor showed up and class started, things got down to business. The instructor looked around the class and decided, since he knew most everyone else in class besides the two ‘ballroom kids’ standing off to the side, that he was going to start class by talking about technique. That took me aback for a minute, since most of the West Coast Swing people I had talked to were more interested in making sure that you knew fun moves that you could dance to “any” music using West Coast Swing, not how to make the dance look technically good. So he asked the class a question to begin, about where your power comes from as you are taking steps during the dance. My immediate thought (since I spend so much time in Lord Junior’s technique classes) was to shout out “Your standing leg!” – but I held my tongue to see where he was leading with his question. When no one offered any answers after several minutes of him rewording his question to try to get some response, I offered that up to him, and it turns out I was right! So I guess that should always be your default answer for any dance technique questions you get asked in any style, because apparently it’s correct. He used that to drive home the point that even in West Coast Swing, you should always be directing or following your partner from your core, taking the arms out of everything. He taught us a fancy figure to demonstrate the point, which was a variation of a underarm turn in handshake hold where the Lead stops on beat four facing away from his partner, then pivots clockwise around the Follower’s back, ending up back in the same position you start in. It’s a figure that can go wrong if you attempt to lead the turns and rotations from your arms instead of just using the rotation of your body to let the Follower go through her steps naturally. Getting this new figure down was worth the price of admission.
Once the class was over, Sparkledancer and I left before their all-West Coast Swing social dance got underway so that we could go on a covert mission. There had been rumors about a small ballroom dance studio up in the northern part of the Dance Kingdom that no one from the Royal Dance Court had been able to get in touch with as of yet. They apparently were never around when someone called them, and had very infrequent hours. Well, wouldn’t you know it that they had a social dance party that they put on once a month which just happened to also be Saturday evening. Since I had really wanted to go to the West Coast Swing lesson, we would be getting to the party a bit late, but I figured that Sparkledancer and I could go and meet the people at this dance studio and make friends, and maybe even start to build that bridge that would draw them into the dance world around them. As it turned out, it was a good thing that I brought Sparkledancer with me. The place was really small, and with the party underway there were less than twenty people there. The studio definitely focused on teaching social dancing only, so as Sparkledancer and I took the floor together for any song, we looked really different from everyone else dancing. Really, really, really different. I think it might have even been a bit intimidating for the others around us. It took a bit of watching to get the vibe of the party, but one of the first things I noticed was that no one there switched partners at all. Even the two instructors would only stop and help people with some basic steps from time to time, but then gave them back to dance with the partner they had come with. Sparkledancer and I sat out every third or fourth song since it was really warm in the building, so we got to talk to people a bit. They were really curious about where we had learned everything, as you can imagine. The owners/instructors of the studio pretty much ignored the two of us once it became apparent that we already knew how to dance. They were interested in talking and promoting their classes and parties when we initially got there, but that was about it. I thought the music choice was kind of weird in parts too. The strangest song was near the end, they said they were going to do one more song from each dance style before the party was over. When it came time to do a Waltz, the song that came on was at a very fast clip. I heard it as an American Viennese Waltz, but I was curious to see what everyone else would do. Well, all the other dancers cleared off the floor as the song played. I waited for almost a minute, and then looked at Sparkledancer and shrugged, and so we danced Viennese Waltz by ourselves. When the song was over, everyone else clapped for us. In any other situation that would have been funny, but thinking back on it I can’t figure out why they would use that song during a dance party when the people there struggled to get through the basics of slow Waltz songs earlier in the night. I guess I’ll never know. We did sort of make some friends that night, and invited them out to dance parties going on next weekend. We’ll have to see if anyone shows up!
Next weekend is going to be super busy as well. I don’t have multiple dance events crammed into the same night like last Saturday, thankfully, but there are a lot of things on my list to get accomplished. Hopefully there will be some time to sleep in there as well, because I am worn out just thinking about everything!