Hands Up If You’re Down To Get Down Tonight

Inspired by my previous weekend’s trip out to a non-ballroom dance club to get my groove on, another opportunity presented itself this past weekend that I thought I would give a try. This one… did not work out so well, as far as dancing was concerned, which made me sad. I had built the evening up in my head during the day before I actually made it out to the venue, imagining it to be super fun and crazy, and the reality was nothing like what I had dreamed.

Have any of you ever gone to a ‘silent disco’ before? That is what I went to last Friday night. The concept seemed so conducive to dancing in my mind – each person who attends the event is given a separate pair of wireless headphones. The headphones have to different channels on them, and each channel is connected to a different DJ who is positioned somewhere in the room playing music. I imagined that I could go out and dance a lot as I had done the week prior, except this time if I didn’t like the song I would have the ability to change the channel and listen to a completely different song. Sounds like a pretty awesome way to go through a dance party, right?

What happens though if both DJs are playing songs that are hard to dance to (unless you are into bumping and grinding, that is)? What happens if most of the songs both DJs are playing are hard to dance to? Well, then you sit around awkwardly pressing the button on the headphones, hoping something to your fancy will come on. Ah well, the evening wasn’t an entire loss for me. I spent the night catching up with a friend of mine from where I grew up who happened to be in town that night and joined the excursion out to the silent disco party. The lack of danceable music also meant that I was able to leave earlier than I originally expected to, so that I could had home and rest up before the event that I was most excited to attend this past weekend…

(Side note: this is going to discuss dance politics for a bit. Be prepared.)

I had the opportunity to go to a meeting with a few other members of my Royal Dance Court to get together with some of the other Royal Dance Court leaders in nearby regions and discuss dance politics with a gentleman that showed up from the national leadership group. The offer for me to be able to attend this meeting was too much for me to pass up, and since I find dance politics strangely fascinating, I was super excited to be going. We actually met in one of the back rooms at the Endless Dance Hall to have our discussion, since there was going to be a dance party there later that night. Everyone who attended this meeting actually got a free pass to go to the evening’s dance as well, which was super nice of the organizer to negotiate for all of us. The only thing better than dancing all night is dancing all night for free, am I right?

The meeting started out with each of the representatives of their respective Royal Dance Courts picking a spokesperson to tell everyone a bit about what sorts of things they provide their constituents, and what concerns or challenges they had that they would like to discuss. Of the five different Royal Dance Court chapters present, there was one in particular that made me super sad. The chapter was from an area in the foothills of the nearby mountains. The spokesperson said that, despite the fact that they had an agreement with a nice venue to hold their monthly dance parties in and good relations with several dance studios in the area, the chapter only had ten members. That is down a few from the last time they came to a meeting like this, because a few of their members had passed away in the last year. Their biggest challenge, if you couldn’t guess, was just staying afloat. The members of the chapter all love to dance, and there isn’t much of a selection of events for dancing in the area where they live unless they are a member of a franchise studio location. Because all of their members are older, and do not like driving very far at night, they couldn’t just disband the chapter and join up with the next closest chapter (which would be mine, a little over an hour’s drive away). They were hoping someone at this meeting could give them some ideas on what to do to help their situation.
goodtime1 Once we had made it all the way around the table, and the spokesperson for each chapter had a chance to say their piece, the leader turned the meeting over to the guest of honor, and the tone of the conversation changed dramatically. The discussion became less about the local chapters and our best practices and challenges, and more about how awesome this guy who was on the national board was, and how awesome the chapter that he runs is compared to all of our chapters. Completely ignoring the plight of the ten-person chapter, he launched into a story about how his chapter’s biggest challenge is that venues in their area are rather pricey to rent out for their monthly dance parties. To put things in perspective, my chapter generally pays the venue we use $100 to use their dance floor for the night of our monthly dance parties. We will sometimes pay more if the party is a special event (like renting the Endless Dance Hall for our yearly formal party), but most of the time $100 does the trick. This guy was talking about how it wasn’t that weird for dance venues in his area to charge somewhere around $1,000 to $1,500 to rent their floor for the night. Whhaaaaaaaaattt?

His speech also became a campaign opportunity as he rambled on. He told all of us that while he is currently leading the membership committee at the national level, he is on the ballot this year to take over as the ‘Czar of Social Dancing’ – or whatever the title actually is. He said that although he is currently running unopposed, he really wanted all of us to go back to our members and encourage all of them to go vote in the national elections for the organization. With voting able to be done online, by telephone or through mail-in ballots, there was something for everyone, so there should be no excuses for low vote collection this year. I guess the last few elections have had very few people voting for the national council members.

Now, since this gentleman is currently the leader of the membership committee at the national level, his interest right now is focused on signing up and retaining members. He did stop talking about how awesome everything that he personally touches is near the end to ask all the rest of us in the room a set of questions. What he was looking for was for each person at the meeting to write down answers to these questions and send them on to his email, to potentially help the organization as a whole. The questions he asked are as follows:

  1. What does a dancer want to get from being a member of the organization?
  2. What do each of the individual chapters want from being part of the organization?
  3. What can each of the chapters do for organization as a whole?
  4. Why be a member of the organization?
  5. Why be a chapter of the organization?

You may notice that he didn’t ask us what I might argue is the most important question: what can the organization do for dancers? I have some thoughts on a few of these, and this weekend I am hoping to sit down for some uninterrupted thinking time to write some things down to send over for consideration. Seeing as how I was quite a bit younger than all the people who attended this meeting (except for Sparkledancer, who is right about my age), I probably have a much different perspective on things than the others will provide in their answers. I feel like it is important for me to have something to tell someone who has a connection to things at the national level. Who knows? Maybe I can have some of my ideas used to help everyone out.

We never did go back and talk about any ideas to help the group with ten members. The meeting was supposed to run until 4:00PM, but the people on one side of the table got antsy to leave around 3:30PM, so the meeting was ended shortly after that. I may have to look into how far away this group’s venue is from my house. Maybe I can make a trip out there sometime soon to visit and talk with them to throw out some ideas I might think up.

(Thus ends my dance politics discussion.)

As I mentioned earlier, attending the meeting that afternoon earned me a free pass to a dance party that evening. I had some work things that I had been scheduled to take care of early on in the evening, so I didn’t get to the party until just after the dance lesson they offered had finished up. When I got back to the Endless Dance Hall though, it was amazing to see the transformation that the place had undergone in the few hours I had been away. The dance hall had become a Halloween fun house, and most people were there in some sort of costume. I had come straight from something else without a chance to stop home in between, so I was just in my normal clothes that night sadly. I love Halloween dance parties so much!

The dance party was a lot of fun. The DJ made sure to play a lot of Halloween-themed songs for everyone, to get them into the mood. I did manage to get a bit of practice time in with Sparkledancer that night, but not as much as I would have liked. My chosen table where I had set my stuff down was in one of the back corners of the room, so I did my best trying to keep all the ladies without partners in that area entertained throughout the evening. About halfway through the dance party they decided to give everyone a bit of a break so that President Porpoise could make some announcements. Somehow I got booted from my table by Sparkledancer and Ms. Possible during announcements, so I went to sit in another chair nearby. There was a scarecrow sitting in the chair next to me, and I think it was judging me. It wouldn’t stop looking at me, but the head wasn’t affixed very well so I was too afraid of having it fall off to try to turn it to look at someone else.

"How you doin'?"
“How you doin’?”

Since I had spent all of Saturday afternoon in a meeting, Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I had moved our standing coaching session over to Sunday afternoon to accommodate. The dance floor at the Fancy Dance Hall was completely transformed because they were starting to get ready for their own Halloween party. There were tables around the outside that had decorations all over them, and lots of things hanging from the ceiling (some hanging low enough that I had to duck down as I danced under them). It made the floor seem a lot smaller, and since there was a couple working with another instructor in one of the front corners, we couldn’t do things that took up too much of the floor.

We skipped looking at our International Standard routines that day to get right into our American Smooth ones. At the beginning, we briefly looked at American Tango, to go over a few points and continue cleaning things up. From there we got into looking at the American Waltz routine, which we actually managed to complete that afternoon. Hooray! So now two routines are more-or-less complete, barring any potential changes we may make in the future as we work on cleaning things up. Sir Steven had yet to go through all the notes that they had written up for the American Foxtrot routine to figure out the parts where the notes were confusing, so instead of Foxtrot we finished up the session by starting to look at some things for our new American Viennese Waltz routine. There was one piece that we looked at, where Sparkledancer would raise her hands up over her head in a ballerina pose and I would put my hands on her waist as we danced Reverse Turns. I swear I have done that step somewhere before, but I couldn’t place a time to it to even try to go back and look through my notes to find out for sure.
goodtime3  At the end, as we were wrapping things up and putting on our regular shoes, Sir Steven told Sparkledancer and me that he had been talking to the Princess the other day about us. I kind of stopped what I was doing at that statement, because usually someone saying something like that means I’m going to be talked into something I don’t like or that is expensive. I guess the two of them had been talking about how much potential that Sparkledancer and I have, and how they both feel they just need to push us harder to get us up to that next level. Because of that, both of them want to start training us together to make that happen. In the back of my mind, I thought to myself ‘Yup, this is going to end up being expensive.’ So… there is the possibility that this could happen. Once they have an actual plan they can show me, I can decide how I really feel about things.

During Latin Technique class this past Monday night, we decided to look at Cha-Cha. Because there was more than twice the number of women to men in class that evening, we spent some time discussing whether to work on some figures with partners or to do solo work. None of us really had any preference, so Lord Junior decided to take the path in the middle where we would start dancing together, then both partners would release each other and we would do some solo footwork for a few beats, before linking back up again to dance together some more. Sounds like a simple enough plan, right? Well, for the guys it did end up being simple. Our individual section was nothing all that difficult. The ladies on the other hand were given the challenging part to work through.

As I mentioned, we started the pattern out dancing together with our partner. We began by standing in a one-hand hold with the gentlemen pointing their right foot forward and the ladies pointing their left foot back. We then did a normal rock step backward before going into a Forward Lock Step. At the end of the Forward Lock Step we would release our hold on our partner and each of us would do our own thing for a few beats. This is where the ladies drew the short straw. The men got to do three steps forward while pointing their opposite leg to the side. Lord Junior spent some time going over how it wasn’t so much about pushing your leg out to the side, but rather rotating your opposite hip backward and using the motion to move your other leg quickly. The ladies got to do Bachacadas while moving backward. Yes, the same Bachacada figure that you would normally see in Samba, but sped up even more to fit to a Cha-Cha song.

The first time we tried to get through just that much, Lord Junior put on some music slowed down to just 55% of tempo. Even with things moving that slow, we still did not get through the figures unscathed. It turned out that the ladies were really thrown off by watching what the guys were doing, which was so different from their steps. Therefore, Lord Junior banished the guys off to the far side of the dance floor so that the ladies could work on running through their steps without watching the men. After they ran through things enough times on their own that Lord Junior felt pretty confident that they could get through it with a partner, he allowed the guys to come back over from the far side of the room so we could try again.
goodtime4  That wasn’t the only thing we did for this pattern, though we didn’t add on much else afterward. We would link up again with our partner at the end of those separate figures to do a Forward Check, and then the guys rotated 90° to do a small Chasse to the left while getting back into closed dance frame. From there we did a Reverse Telespin, pausing for a whole beat at the end of the spin to slide our hands down and grip the ladies left hand in our right before doing an explosion-like movement where the men would lunge out to their left while the ladies struck a line off to their right. This was where we finished things up for the evening. We took some time to run through things to music, and right at the end of class we even tried to do things at full tempo, which was rather amusing.

The only thing that I have on my plate for sure this weekend is my normal lesson with Sir Steven and my Royal Dance Court monthly dance party on Saturday night. There are some things I have been told about happening on Friday night, but I haven’t committed to anything yet. If I stay home, I can use the time to write things up for those questions I mentioned, right? Do any of you have any thoughts you want included in my answers? I would love to hear them!

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