One Step Closer

I have to say that when I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer this past Saturday afternoon, I did not have much fun. For me, that is pretty sad. I am a firm believer that dancing should be fun no matter what I am trying to do. Sure, it can be a lot of work, difficult and frustrating, but it can still be fun at the same time. This lesson was not fun though. We spent much of the hour looking at International Foxtrot again, much like we did the last week. This time, our focus was on portions of figures where our normal dance roles were reversed, which basically amounts to times that I am moving backwards and Sparkledancer is moving forward. I thought things seemed pretty easy to understand at first, where I was supposed to move my leg back immediately to make room for Sparkledancer to step forward and pulling my ribs slightly back so that she would know that I am letting her drive forward. I guess I didn’t really understand the English that was being spoken, because just following those directions wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was Sir Steven was trying to get me to do differently.

Somehow in the process of all of this, Sir Steven thought that balancing on one foot was my athousandyears1problem, so he had Sparkledancer grab onto my right hand while he held my left and tried to get me to move my leg. This was weird for me, because I wasn’t having issues standing on one foot. I can hang out on one foot for long periods of time – it’s one of those things you learn to do if you go through the balance poses they teach you in Yoga classes enough times. So there I was being held in the middle of these two, trying to push my leg back farther to see if that was what he wanted, or twist my hip backward like I would do in Latin dances to see if that was it, all the while just feeling really awkward, until I had enough and shook my hands free and told them I could easily stand on one foot on my own. I still never figured out what he had been trying to get me to do, but we eventually moved on from that exercise to something else.

We got through things with Foxtrot and then we moved on to some Waltz, specifically the Natural Spin Turn in Waltz. I would have to say that I think if I could master doing Spin Turns, then I would probably make Sir Steven really happy. We seem to come back to this figure quite a bit, always adding on some new thing to think about when doing them. The whole time we were at the Fancy Dance Hall on that Saturday there was a children’s ballroom class going on, and when we got around to working on Spin Turns the class had just started running rounds, so we had to try to stay in the middle of the room while doing things to give them a track to use around the outside of the floor. That was harder than it sounds, since I have long legs and am capable of covering quite a bit of distance when moving. I figured that I was bigger than all the kids on the floor (considerably bigger than some of them), so they would be able to see me even if they were short enough that I couldn’t see them without I tilting my head down. Luckily we didn’t hit anyone while spinning around. I probably would have sent them flying across the room if I had, much to their parent’s chagrin.

Probably the most exciting thing I did this past week was attend another meeting of the Royal Dance Court. Well, to be honest, that started off a bit boring for me, but got better by the end. After the opening rituals where we sacrificed dance shoes as burnt offerings to the dance gods (am I kidding? I’ll never tell!), we began by looking at the listing of our future monthly dance parties, themes and instructors for 2017. Prez, the current leader of the Royal Dance Court, had gone through and changed some of the ideas that we had put down last time for party themes. No one really questioned why she had done that, and they just let her get away with changing things. I guess the rest of the members of the Royal Dance Court are used to being accessories for Prez’s one-woman show. I thought it was a bit strange, but then themes for parties and decorations are not really something that I find all that important (I’m a boy, so sue me), so I didn’t have anything to say about the things she changed either.

I had asked to have the questions that were brought up during the big meeting I went through back in October added to the agenda so that the entire Royal Dance Court could discuss them. athousandyears2Sparkledancer and I had spent a lot of time kicking the questions back and forth between the two of us over the last several weeks, but I wanted to get some input on the answers from everyone else as well. Unfortunately for me, the discussions about party themes and such went on for a long time, so it was pretty late at night by the time we got around to the questions. Many of the other members had already had several adult beverages by that time, and were getting antsy to head home, but I thought it was important to bring things up so that we could talk about them.

The one that several people seemed to come back to over and over again was “Why be a chapter of the organization?” I let the other talk, and tried to make a few notes about what they were saying rather than reading off the dissertation I had written up as my own answer. What scared me was that no one really had a good answer for why our group of people should be a chapter of the organization. They could see no benefits from being members that they could not get elsewhere, though likely for a higher price if they went on their own to procure services. That made me sad. I can see so much potential for this organization on a national level if we took a few steps to really promote ballroom dancing in a different way, steps that could really help to increase the number of dancers in studios across the country. But if the local chapters cannot see a reason to be a chapter, those steps that I can see wouldn’t be able to become a reality. After about twenty minutes of discussing my agenda item, the older people decided that they were too tired to stay any longer and so we adjourned, setting a date to meet up again in January.

A few days later, Prez sent off an email to everyone on the Royal Dance Court that had the questions all listed out, and asked everyone to write up some answers and send them back to her. She offered to compile everything and forward the answers on to the guy who had asked the questions so that it would look like our Royal Dance Court spoke with one voice.

In case you were wondering, I had compiled my answers to the questions using all the notes I had taken from my discussions with Sparkledancer (she was extremely helpful for me to bounce my thoughts off of), as well as some other interesting ideas I had for the organization, into a long email and sent it off to the guy as he requested. I think when I finished writing everything up, the document I was using on my computer was six single-spaced pages long (I had a lot of things to say). I didn’t turn my answers over to Prez or the rest of the Royal Dance Court members for them to read, since I had already sent the answers directly to the guy who had asked the questions long before Prez had asked that everyone send their answers to her. Surprisingly, I actually got an answer back! I think it was partly a form-letter, and partly a campaign email (this guy is running for a position on the national leadership team). Here’s what his letter said:

“Thank you so much for taking the time and deep thought you’ve put into this.  I truly appreciate it and take it seriously.   I love your enthusiasm and creativity!   I want to digest it some more and then I may get back to you some more.

It’s very valuable to me to have someone who takes a very serious and visionary approach to our organization.

When I become the [vice president of social dancing] I plan to work closely with the districts and chapters so that we can make [the Royal Dance Court] an outstanding organization.   I love the ideas, thoughts and comments that you bring forth.

I can tell you that even though dance sport get so much publicity the new and returning national officers are committed to the ‘social’ side of the organization and realize how important it is to our success.

Keep up the good work.  It is truly appreciated and respected.”

(The bracketed edits are mine to keep this pseudo-anonymous, though you could probably guess who this guy is if you’ve seen the ballot…)

Maybe someday I can work my way up to be on the national council. Wouldn’t that be cool? Then I could help dancers out all over the country with my ideas. I have some good ones… at least I think I do. Also, then anyone who reads my dance notes on this site could send me their ideas too and I could bring them up for serious consideration. I think it’s important that we younger people who have taken up ballroom dancing have some say in the way things work, to balance out the extreme number of older people who seem to be in charge of everything now. Together we can make dancing awesome for everyone!

When I got to the Electric Dance Hall on Monday night, it felt like it had been forever since I had gone to Latin Technique class, but it really hadn’t been that long. Last week Monday was Halloween, so class was cancelled, and the week prior I had a work thing going on, so I wasn’t there, so it had really only been a couple of weeks. Everyone in class was tired that night, which makes sense since we were still adjusting to the Daylight Savings Time changes, so we opted to do some Rumba that night. We had a girl from Lady Lovelylocks’ ‘Sexy Lady Formation Team Dance Club©’ join us in class that night. I guess she had missed the team practice over the weekend, and had opted to make up for that by coming to Latin Technique instead. Lord Junior had said he wanted to work on a figure he called a Switchback during class, but since the new girl had never done any dancing with a partner before, he opted to start things off a bit more simply for her so that we could work our way up to the more difficult figure.

We led off with the beginning of one of Lord Junior’s Open-level routines, which wasn’t hard footwork, but involved a lot of syncopated steps to keep things challenging. Starting with your weight on the left foot and right foot pointed behind you, step forward on beat four and hold for two beats. Next is another step forward on beat two, rock back to the right foot on beat three and then take two steps forward to land on the right foot on beat four with the left foot pointed off to the side and slightly back. Ladies would mirror the footwork, but at the end they would step forward to be off on our right side. On beat two the guys would lunge out to the left while pressing slightly forward with the left arm to turn the ladies toward us, and then we would do three steps (almost like a chasse) to the right while the ladies move across our location and out to Fan Position. Finally we would go into a Hockey Stick, with the first half being syncopated and the second half being normal.

We worked through the opening part of the progression until everyone felt comfortable with athousandyears3the steps and could do everything in time to the music and with a partner. Now we added on the Switchback, the figure Lord Junior actually wanted to work on with us that night. As the guys would check forward at the end of the Hockey Stick we would rotate the lady’s wrist a bit to get her to turn 180° and she would raise her left arm and point her left leg behind her. Seems like an easy thing to do, except the ladies would have to get into that line and only hold it for only one beat before we would come out of it. Moving that quickly suddenly makes the figure an exercise in balance. The end of the figure has us turning the ladies back around by rotating her wrist slightly again and taking three steps backward in two beats, while the lady take three steps forward in two beats.

There is a new class that they started offering on Wednesday night right before Standard Technique, so the last two weeks when I have gotten there early there have been a bunch of people I don’t know out on the floor. So what do I do? I stand there and watch them. I don’t know why. It’s supposed to be some kind of intermediate-level class, but so far the people who have shown up have all been beginners so everything they’ve done has been really basic. Sparkledancer was the next to show up for class, and then no one else came for quite a while. A few minutes before the class started, Lord Junior came over to where Sparkledancer and I were standing and watching the people on the floor and asked if there was anything we wanted to work on that night. I turned to Sparkledancer and asked her if she had anything in mind, and she just shrugged. I thought back to last Saturday and said that we should probably work on Spin Turns if she had no other ideas, because for some reason that’s what came to mind. Well, Lord Junior thought that was actually a good idea – you can always use some more practice with Spin Turns, he admitted, so that’s what we ended up doing.

We worked on Spin Turns in Waltz, because that is the most logical way to work on them. Lord Junior joked that we could work on them in Quickstep if we really wanted to, but that didn’t sound like a good idea. The thing Sparkledancer and I were most interested in was any tips for doing Spin Turns while maintaining body contact the entire time, which is what we were having athousandyears4issues with on Saturday. This led us down a path to where Lord Junior was focusing on the ladies and how they were supposed to be providing the power when it was their turn to move forward. He had us switch roles for a little while so that the ladies could feel what it was like to do the inside part of the turn in a Spin Turn both when your partner is helping to drive the turn, and when they are not. Once the ladies seemed to be on board with this concept, we spent a lot of time doing Spin Turns reeeeeeaaaaaalllllly slowly. Painfully slow, even. We would do the initial pivot on beat one and hold to make sure everyone was good. Then we would do the second rotation on beat two and hold while up on our toes at the high point of the rise, and finally when we were just about to complain about being on our toes so long we were allowed to take the third step (a side and slightly back step for me, diagonally forward for the ladies) and lower on the second half of beat three. Whew!

It was a good class, even though we didn’t cover any new material. In the last ten minutes or so of the night we added on a couple of other easy steps so that we could work through things to music without starting and ending awkwardly right at the Spin Turn. We used a prep step and went into a Natural Turn, then the Natural Spin Turn, closing with a Reverse Turn. We then did a Whisk into a Progressive Chasse to the Left, closing back to dance frame on beat two. That was it, all fairly simple Bronze-level steps that I’m pretty sure most of you have done before. I was in a good mood after class was over, feeling much better about things than I did when I walked out of my lesson the past weekend.

There is a dance party that I heard rumors about on Saturday night that has a strange theme related to a not-quite-public-domain musical about two rival gangs rumbling that I’m sure everyone is familiar with. I’m not exactly sure how to celebrate such a theme. The dance lesson they are offering beforehand is Salsa… not exactly Mambo, as would be fitting with what happened in the musical, but close enough. I’ll have to try to think of a costume that is appropriate between now and then. Maybe I’ll see you there!

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