My weekend started out with a dance party at the Electric Dance Hall. I had been having a bit of a rough week since I had lined up all kinds of major changes in life for myself and I was trying to work through them while minimizing the amount of confrontation involved, so a Friday night dance party was a good way to get myself out of the house to do something fun. The class that was held before the party had covered Cha-Cha, so the DJ made a point to put on quite a few Cha-Cha numbers so that the people who had stuck around after the class could practice what they’d learned. I’ve been having an interesting relationship with Cha-Cha lately. Ms. Possible has taken it upon herself to be my designated Cha-Cha partner whenever she is around. Most of the time, as the nights wear on (and she has more wine), she starts having trouble following what I am doing. I try my best not to vary the figures that I use too much the later at night it gets, in hopes that she will be able to dance with me without making mistakes and then blaming me for doing ‘super fancy’ things, but that doesn’t always work. So a few times when a Cha-Cha came on later in the evening, I tried to be deeply immersed in a conversation with someone so I could avoid dancing.
There was also a new lady at the party that I did spend some time talking to that night, someone who said that she had been to the last couple of parties at the Electric Dance Hall, but I do not remember seeing her at all. She really liked to be at ballroom dance parties, but she didn’t really know how to dance much herself. Never having taken lessons or joined in any group classes, she had only picked up a few things here and there when people at these parties had shown some basic steps to her. She made a habit of running off to stand in front of the mirror by herself whenever a song she really liked came on, just groovin’ in her own way without a partner. I offered to dance with her a couple of times, all of them to slower Rumba songs, but she seemed more content with sitting back and watching others dance rather than participating. Next time I see her at a party, I’ll be sure I recognize her and maybe I’ll try and pull her out onto the floor again to see if she remembers the basic Rumba steps I showed her.
My regular coaching session this past Saturday afternoon started off a bit more interestingly than usual. We got pushed back an hour because Sir Steven told us that the Fancy Dance Hall was allowing a kids’ ballroom boot camp to use their floor in the morning. When I got to the studio a few minutes early to get my shoes on and warm up a bit, I was surprised to find that there were kids everywhere still, and they were nowhere near done with running their rounds. There was an open seat in one of the corners near the door, so I popped a squat and watched things for a while. With so many kids dancing, and the instructor-dude on the side of the room yelling at them to move big and use all the space they could, there was really nowhere safe for someone of my size to do anything. A large chunk of these kids would have barely come up to my waist if they stood next to me, so I was afraid I wouldn’t see them if I started moving around.
It was pretty clear that this class had been pushing these kids pretty hard for quite a while. None of them looked like they were having any fun when I was watching. They all looked sweaty and exhausted, and they only smiled when I made faces at them to specifically try to get them to cheer up a bit. Sure, at the rate they are going, by the time any of them get to be my age I bet they will be super good at dancing… but is that really worth sucking all the fun out of dancing for kids who are still so young? I could only wonder to myself if all the parents sitting and watching from the sidelines were living vicariously through their children because they were too afraid to get on the floor themselves and try dancing.
The rounds finally wrapped up about ten minutes late, and the kids started to filter off the floor to go sit down for a while. Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I took the opportunity to jump in and use the floor space while we had the chance. We started by running through all of our International Standard routines to warm up, like we have been doing for the last few weeks. There were still a number of bodies on the floor who decided that standing around in the middle of the line of dance was as far as they were going to move, so I ended up having to break the Waltz and Tango routines at points to avoid running into anyone. Sparkledancer managed to follow all the changes I made without complaint, so I thought things went well. The Foxtrot and Quickstep routines didn’t have that problem, either because the routines naturally went around the people on the floor or they decided to move for me so that I didn’t have to avoid them. Afterward, Sir Steven told me that the variations I did looked OK, but he joked that he needed to know that I actually remembered the routines and all the changes were done on purpose, or if I just forgot what I was supposed to do and made stuff up. Ha ha… why not both?
After we finished running through all the routines, the kids class wanted to do some additional Latin-style rounds, so they asked us which side of the floor we would be using so that they could stay to the other half and out of our way. Because we were restricted by space, Sir Steven decided to spend a large amount of time going through the swing movements in our International Waltz routine, to make sure our swinging looked more defined. We also went back to go over things in our American Tango routine that we had finished putting together last week, to try to clean the technical aspects up a lot. Our focus was on the first half of the first long wall, ending right after we finished the Viennese Crosses. At the end of our session we spent just a bit of time looking over our American Waltz routine, finally putting in a figure linking the two sections that we had gone over so far, allowing us to practice the routine without having to stop and reset between sections anymore.
The dance party that I had planned to go to on Saturday night over at the Cherished Dance Hall was cancelled. That made me super sad. Apparently there were some things going on in the area of the city where the Cherished Dance Hall is, and they didn’t want people to have to deal with all the confusion, so they just called the party off. Sigh… maybe next month I’ll get to go back there.
Because my plans for Saturday night were unexpectedly cancelled, I was looking forward to the dance party that I was helping to host on Sunday afternoon at the White Dance Hall even more. As a reminder, the Royal Dance Court of which I am a member decided to hold this party to celebrate the end of National Ballroom Dancing Week. We had gone out of our way to send out invites to all corners of the Dance Kingdom, hoping to attract as big a crowd as possible to spend the afternoon having fun. At the beginning of the party, I kind of kicked all the other people out of the reception area and invited Sparkledancer to help me with checking everyone in. I figured people might be surprised to see two “young kids” when they first walked into the party, just to shake things up. Also, secretly, my plan was to use this as a reason to introduce myself and have people tell me their names. All the other long-time members of the Royal Dance Court seem to know everyone, so I thought this would be a good excuse to help me not look dumb. I could either get them to tell me their names, or take a look as they wrote their names down on the sign-in sheet. I’m such a sneaky problem solver, right?
We didn’t have do anything overly fancy for this dance party. There was no lesson beforehand, just good music and hours of dancing. There were some general snacks brought in to help quell any snacky feelings that might arise (yes, I’m going to stand by that statement), and there were a couple of bags filled with some sort of prizes that were raffle off about halfway through the event. The DJ did ask the crowd to do several mixer-style dances, since there were people in attendance from all corners of the Dance Kingdom. Near the end of the party the DJ tried to get everyone to do a Merengue mixer, but some of the dancers had a different idea. They wanted to get a bunch of people to link hands into one big circle and weave everyone underneath people’s arms, kind of like a fancy limbo. The DJ was having none of that, however, and after a few minutes went over to that side of the floor to break up the rather large circle of people to get them to dance with partners instead. I was off on the side of the floor watching while that all went down, trying not to laugh too obviously at everyone.
How many of you know the Samba line dance that seems to be done at every dance event I go to in the Dance Kingdom? I promise this question is related to something, so bear with me… I have gone out to dance parties in other parts of the country (like when I go home to visit my parents), and they don’t do the same version of the Samba line dance there, if they do one at all. The one we do here is an amalgamation of Bronze-level Samba figures that I imagine anyone who had done Samba before would recognize. There are four forward and back Basic Movements, then four Whisks, four traveling Bota Fogos forward, a set of four Voltas that curve to the right which are used to rotate 90° and face the next wall, and finally four non-curved Voltas to the left before you start over from the top.
Have you seen or done this pattern before? It’s pretty straight forward, right?
In Latin Technique class on Monday night Lord Junior wanted to work on Samba. We had a lady who joined us for class that night who confessed to not having done much in the way of Samba, so rather than pick some complicated higher-level figures to work on, Lord Junior decided to have us look at the figures in the line dance and also threw in some variations that we could do to make the line dance more interesting if we so chose. The timing on the figure variations he gave us fits right in with the other steps, so you can do either version while out on the floor with everyone else during a Samba line dance and you shouldn’t throw anyone off (other than when they stop to watch you in amazement because you look so cool, that is).
In the beginning, instead of doing four Basic Movements in a row, cut that down to two and then do two Stationary Samba Walks instead. They should take up the same amount of time and cover the same amount of floor space, so other than looking different from everyone else on the floor, no one should notice. Next up are the Whisks. Here is where you get to do variation based on how advanced you are with Samba, and how safe you feel. You start with two Whisks like normal, and then you can either throw in a Spot Volta in place of the third and come out to do the fourth Whisk, or do three Whisks in a row and replace the fourth with a Spot Volta. If you are super, super advanced (and the song playing isn’t crazy fast), you could replace both the third and fourth Whisks with Spot Voltas. This is a lot harder than it sounds though – the two Spot Voltas rotate in opposite directions, so essentially you have to do one, do a checking motion with your leg to stop your turning abruptly, and then rotate in the other direction for the second. It’s possible to do, and it looks cool if you can do it, though I could only do it while we were practicing with the song slowed down a bit. Once we started doing things up to tempo, I was not able to do both turns and make it look pretty.
Next up are the Bota Fogos. Like the other figures, we still did two like normal, but then the last two were replaced with an Open-level figure that I’m not sure has a name (I can’t find one). You basically do a small side step with your right foot, cross over with your left foot, take another step with the right and then point your left foot forward without transferring weight. All of that should take place in the same amount of time it would take you to do one Bota Fogo, and then you would do the same steps with the opposite feet to replace the second Bota Fogo on the other side. Lastly we come to the Voltas at the end of the line dance pattern. If you come out of the preceding figure and use the first step of the Voltas to do the 90° rotation to face the new wall, you can then do four Spot Voltas that rotate 180° each, and then do four straight Voltas to the left to finish things up before repeating the pattern.
Hopefully these variations will come in handy for you. If you don’t do the Samba line dance at all where you live, maybe you can start it up next time you are out at a dance party now that you know the steps! I would recommend starting everyone off with learning the basic pattern before you try throwing in any of the variation steps, just to keep things as simple as possible when teaching the pattern to the masses, but if you think you can pull it off using the more advanced steps with everyone, more power to you.
So many words, better cut this shorter – I’ve been invited to go out to a rather unique dance party at the Pendulum Dance Hall this weekend. It’s not necessarily a ballroom dancing party, but I don’t know whether I would be able to go anywhere playing dance music and dance anything other than some ballroom style at this point in my life. So we’ll see how things work out for me when I get there. I’ll let you know all about it next week!