There’s Nothing Wrong With Just A Taste Of What You’ve Paid For

I was pleasantly surprised last Friday night at the dance party I went to at the Electric Dance Hall. There had been so much rain in the area all week, and it had been raining all day long on Friday. I was sure that all the rain was going to keep everyone home, which tends to be the case when it rains, but I was very wrong. When I got to the dance party, there were a lot of people who were there already for the Friday night group class that precedes the social dance, and all of them stuck around for the party afterward, so it was an even more fun night than I had expected it to be. There was about fifteen minutes of the class left when I got there, and they were going over some basic Cha-Cha steps that night. I watched as they reviewed the pattern that they had spent all class period working on, and then Lord Junior said he was going to put on some music so that they could rotate through all the partners and let everyone practice before class finished up. There were several more women than men in class, so after watching people do the pattern for a few minutes to make sure I had everything down correctly, I jumped into the rotation to help even the ratio out at little until the class ended. Afterward, when the dance party started, I got to spend some time catching up with everyone who was there. It felt like it had been a long time since I had seen everyone all at the same time. I’m not even sure why. I got to hear all about HotDog’s new life goal to become vegan, since somewhere he had apparently read that humans were never intended to eat meat and it rots in your stomach for a long time after you eat it (I know what you’re thinking, and I’ve already rolled my eyes pretty hard at that statement too). Yet for some reason he is still eating eggs (they’re healthy and full of protein, he says!) and yogurt and pizza and burritos. This leads me to believe that he doesn’t entirely know what ‘vegan’ actually means, but it made me laugh. That’s why I’m telling you! There were a couple of young ladies who had come to the dance party that night whom no one had ever met before. HotDog was very interested in dancing with them repeatedly throughout the evening. I even saw him turn down a dance request from Ms. Possible to do an East Coast Swing so that he could go grab one of those young girls to dance with instead. I did get a chance to go over and talk with those two young ladies later in the evening, just to introduce myself (and because someone needed to go apologize for HotDog to make sure the ladies didn’t get scared and never come back). I found out that they had picked up ballroom dancing as an extracurricular activity in college, and since they were home from classes for the summer, they decided to go exploring around to see what kind of dancing they could get into while waiting for college classes to start back up. I invited the two of them to consider joining us for the Latin and Standard Technique classes that I go to during the week, since it’s a good challenge and it’s a lot of fun (at least I think it is). From what they said, Lord Junior had also invited them to come to class as well, so they were actually considering doing so. Hooray for peer pressure!
BalladOfMonaLisa1  Then on Saturday night I helped to host the monthly dance party that was being put on by the Royal Dance Court that I am a member of. Since the dance party was being held on Armed Forces Day, we had a patriotically themed dance planned out, and we also used the party to help raise some money for a charity that is helping out veterans. We’ll get to more on that in a bit. To start the night, we had someone come in and teach a class on Bolero. It has been a long time since I’ve taken any classes covering this dance style, but going through things again reminded me just how much fun this lovechild of Rumba and Waltz really is to dance. I participated in the lesson again this month because there were once again not enough men to go around (that was a theme of many things I did this week – lots of women, very few men…), but there wasn’t much in the way of material I hadn’t seen somewhere before that was taught. I was able to help a couple of the ladies work out issues in their steps when I danced with them, but the instructor for the class didn’t have the crowd rotate partners very often so I didn’t get to help out as many ladies as I could have. Bolero is one of those less used dance styles that people seem averse to doing, and more and more people (men and women both) looked to be quitting the lesson as the class went on, taking seats on the side of the dance floor rather than dancing the whole time. By the end of class, when they put on some music and were letting everyone go through and practice the simple pattern of all the figures that had been taught, and the instructor actually started getting people to rotate through different partners, the number of men and women still standing on the dance floor was pretty close to being even since so many people had just stopped dancing and were watching from the sidelines.
BalladOfMonaLisa2  Once they wrapped up the class, we opened up the dance floor for general dancing. In front of the DJ we had put out a small table that had a bucket, a pad of paper and a couple of pens set on top. This is the main way we raised money for charity during the party. For a donation of cash thrown into the bucket, you could write down a request for a specific dance style on the sheet of paper. Since we weren’t sure if the DJ would have specific songs available or not, we made sure to tell everyone that they were really only requesting a dance style and not a specific song. Some people still went ahead and wrote down a song title anyway, but not all of those were able to be fulfilled sadly. A lot of people made donations and requests in the name of someone they knew who was currently or previously in the armed forces, and the DJ did her best to announce those names to the crowd before the requests were played. There were a lot of people who asked for various styles of Swing throughout the night, and that was probably the most requested style (even though there are actually several styles included, but you know what I mean). We also did what felt like a large number of mixer dances. The DJ seemed to really like those. One other funny point – I was a little embarrassed to find out during the course of the night that a couple of the ladies on the Royal Dance Court were up at the front counter talking about me while I was out circulating and dancing with the crowd. I had worn a shirt that I thought fit the theme of the dance party pretty well, but it’s a rather form-fitting shirt now that I have so much additional upper body muscle mass. I guess one of the ladies was telling the other about how obvious the changes in my physique were, and how it looked good on me. So… thanks? That made me blush when I was told. I guess I’ll remember to use that shirt the next time I need to pick up a date. Anyway… by the end of the night we managed to raise a few hundred dollars in dance request money to give over to the charity. A couple of women from the organization had come out to join us at the dance that night, and we were able to give them the money directly at the end of the evening, and we even managed to talk them into doing some dances with us even though neither of them had ever danced before.

I got to go through Samba this week in Latin Technique class. One of the young college ladies I had talked to at the dance on Friday night had actually shown up for class just like I had recommended to her! Yay! She really wanted to go through Samba that night, so the rest of us in class agreed for her sake. Lord Junior had one figure in particular that he wanted us to look at when we decided on doing Samba – a Silver-level figure called ‘Argentine Crosses.’ To get into position for those, we started with some simpler steps to help get everyone warmed up; essentially it was a combination of several different types of Samba Walks. There was a Forward Samba Walk, then a Side Samba Walk, another Forward Samba Walk, and a second Side Samba Walk where we rotated on the last step at the end to put us facing our partner. While in that position we added in two Stationary Samba Walks to settle into place before going into the Argentine Crosses. You didn’t necessarily have to have the two Stationary Samba Walks, but it made the transition from the traveling Samba Walks we did previously to the rotation in the Argentine Crosses less abrupt if you put the two Stationary Samba Walks in beforehand, so that’s what why they were there. In the Argentine Crosses, we did two rotations of these like they tell you to do in the book (don’t ask me what the name of the book is, I was just told we were doing things ‘by the book’). The important thing we were told repeatedly that would make the figure successful was the shaping. The men were supposed to shape their bodies slightly to the left over the first three steps, then slightly to the right over the second three, and then repeat over the next part of the rotation. After spinning around a lot, we finished up by adding on a pair of Whisks at the end to make stopping easier on everyone. Since there were so many more ladies than men in class that night, I got a lot of practice going through the steps. A LOT. By the end of class, I had worked up a pretty good sweat because I had gone through the pattern so many times so that all of the ladies got a chance to practice things themselves a couple of times. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason I seem so good at dancing is because I get the chance to practice things so much in all the group classes I’ve attended over the years and the like because there are usually more women than men. In these advanced classes like the two technique classes I attend every week, this fact is really useful, helping me apply what I’ve learned enough times to make it a habit. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel bad for the ladies since they don’t get to practice as much as I do, but I hope they don’t blame me for taking advantage of the opportunity this presents me with as much as I can.

Probably the thing that I am most excited about from this week in dancing though is what I did in Standard Technique class last night. I finally got to learn the other three figures in the International Viennese Waltz syllabus that I have never done before! Hooray! I know what you’re thinking, and I am aware that several organizations recently expanded their syllabus for International Viennese Waltz to include a bunch of other fancy figures, but I’m talking about the syllabus that is still used by ISTD, where there are only seven figures total for you to know and master to get from Bronze to Gold. Up until this point, I had never been told how to do the Fleckerls. The Contra Check (the second figure in the Gold-level syllabus) is pretty easy to figure out how to do logically if you know what contra-body means and understand how to check, I just never thought of places I could use it while dancing before. The Fleckerls look like people spinning around really fast from the outside, and I never remembered to look up the footwork online for the figure, so I have gone this long without knowing how to do them. We did a small amalgamation that allowed us to get into the Fleckerls easily and then get out of them. We started with two Reverse Turns, which turned us in a full circle. The second Reverse Turn we slightly overturned so that we ended facing line of dance. Then we went into the Reverse Fleckerl. To stop that rotation, we did a Contra Check and then went immediately into the Natural Fleckerl. At the end of that rotation we came out into a normal Natural Turn that would allow us to begin travelling down the floor again. Now as we were told, Fleckerls should always be done in the middle of the floor so that you are not turning on the spot in the middle of the line of dance. At the speed people are moving in an International Viennese Waltz, that could end disastrously. The direction you would head when coming back onto the edge of the floor is really a decision that whomever is leading needs to start looking at before you get done with the Natural Fleckerl, and Lord Junior recommended trying to head toward the closest spot with the least traffic that you could get to without making it uncomfortable. To make both Fleckerls look successful, ladies really needed to stay out to the left the whole time. The men were supposed to stay to the left as we did the Reverse Fleckerl, but during the Natural Fleckerl we are supposed to counterweight the turn with our heads, so we should be looking over to the right. I could do that when we were moving slow, but I’ll admit that when we tried to do these up to tempo a couple of times, I was having a hard enough time keeping my feet going in the right direction without throwing my head into the mix. These will definitely need a bit of practice to make them more natural for me so that the movement doesn’t require so much thought. Good thing it’s a holiday weekend! I don’t think I will be going in to the office on Monday, so I can stay home and practice these for a while on my own before I try to do them out on a floor when other people are there. Safety first!
BalladOfMonaLisa3  I hope everyone has a relaxing weekend planned, with at least some dancing in the mix. There’s one thing I am planning to make it out to on Saturday night, and the hopefully nothing comes up on Monday so that I can work on the new Viennese Waltz stuff for at least a short while. Otherwise I did hear that there was a ladies Latin styling and wine tasting workshop going on this Sunday afternoon at a dance hall nearby, but I wasn’t really invited to that event. Maybe one of you could go in my place and write down something about your adventure for everyone else to read about!

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