This past Saturday was a super busy day of dancing for me, with two lessons and a party. I think I spent more time at dance events on Saturday than I did at home, which I can’t tell if it’s a good thing or a bad thing. I had fun, but my cat was lonely and unhappy, so maybe it’s both?
The first thing I went to was my normal coaching session with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven. We started out with running through our American Waltz routine from start to finish. I had thought that we had worked out all the parts that Sir Steven didn’t like in the last couple of weeks, but when we finished stepping through everything he said that he didn’t really like the way the last short wall looked. So, we scratched out what we had before and changed things. I have a feeling that if I ever have to do this routine under pressure, I may get all the pieces mixed up and do some sort of unknown construct of things. For my own records, the progression around the corners is: from the Contra Check at the end of the second long wall, we stand back up into Promenade Position and go into a Natural Turn, cutting the rotation a bit to line up parallel with the wall we are facing. Then we do an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, rotating enough so that we come out facing the same way we began. Next we do a Turning Lock to the Right with a Pivot on the end that puts us facing the opposite direction. After that we do an Open Natural Turn, which should put us into the next corner if done well, and then step back into the same Outside Swivel we’ve always had in the last corner. So, now all I have to do is memorize that, and hope nothing else in the routine changes.
Once we finished changing our Waltz for the day, we switched over to look at American Viennese Waltz. Here we talked about the basic structure of the routine that he wanted us to use. We wouldn’t get a precise routine, more like guidelines, since that would allow us to change things easily if needed for any reason. He told us that if we are able to do it, he prefers that we start out using Natural Turns instead of Reverse Turns. The basic pattern he likes to use to keep things on phrase is to do eight Natural Turns, a Change Step, six Reverse Turns, and then one last Change Step to start over. Once he figures out the figures that he wants us to do on top of that, we will be able to mix in the various turns and pivots and such throughout the dance, but to go into or out of the figures he said we should try to keep to that basic outline as much as possible. Otherwise it would all be on me to determine what figures are safest to use based on who else is nearby on the floor. No pressure!
After we wrapped up things with Sir Steven, we moved on to our session with the Princess. Working with the Princess this past weekend was… weird. At least it was for me – Sparkledancer got off easier than I did during this lesson, as far as weirdness is concerned. The Princess wanted to go back and continue working on what we were doing the last time all of us got together, which was to pick on me for my lack of flexibility while she made uncomfortable comments about how nice and muscular my upper body is. I secretly think part of it was a game to her, to see how far she could push my limbs around until it got to be painful for me. She seemed to really like doing that for some reason… and I just let her. That wasn’t too bad though, I mean what guy would complain about some tiny blonde girl trying to manipulate their body?
It got weird when Lord Dormamu walked by, on his way to go out and grab a bite to eat, and she called him over to see if he could help get me into shapes. Then I had the two of them pushing my shoulders and arms around (awkward!). There I was, with the two highest-level, most internationally acclaimed dancers I’ve ever seen, running their hands over my upper body to get me to bend in ways I just can’t do comfortably. And then, to make things even better, the Princess stepped back and left Lord Dormamu sort of weirdly massaging my neck and shoulders by himself (super awkward!!) all the while he was absent-mindedly mumbling praise words at me in whatever romance language is his native tongue (super, super awkward!!!). I felt like I was some kind of pet being praised for being such a good boy. Do you think I should have asked for a treat? Even after ten minutes of that, when I was in the best position the two of them could possibly get me to hold on my own, the Princess still couldn’t believe that I was incapable of bending in certain ways. Because obviously I was just faking it when I would grimace as they tried pulling my arms backward or pushing my elbows upward without allowing me to rotate my shoulder. I’m such a good actor if I could give such a compelling performance of extreme discomfort without actually feeling any!
Some things were good though. She told me that despite what everyone else tries to get me to do with my head, all I really need to do to look like a professional is to hold my head up straight in line with my sternum, and then turn my chin about 45° to the left. No bending my head slightly to one side, no turning my neck in any weird ways, no pulling my skull back as far as it will go – as long as I can keep my spine as long as possible and turn my head 45° to the left, that’s the perfect spot. So the next time someone asks me to do something different with my head, I can just tell them that I have been given the order from the Princess to keep my head in that spot, and then everyone will bow and scrape and tell me what amazing advice that was for me to receive. Sometimes throwing around the names of the Royalty can be helpful!
Later on that night, I went out to my first real Christmas party of the year, and it was a formal party to boot. This was supposed to be a dinner and dance party, and part of the celebration was to thank everyone for their generosity sponsoring the three large children’s ballroom dancing groups that are in the Dance Kingdom. There were even going to be performances by the students in all three of the groups, which is always a fun thing to see. Well, whoever had planned the schedule for that evening didn’t really think everything through all the way. Doors opened about half an hour before the party was to start so that everyone could get in and find their seats. Along one wall of the Endless Dance Hall a second set of chairs had also been set out for all the parent’s to sit in and watch their children perform. Before they let the children take the stage however, they decided to call the various tables to go get food from the buffet spread for their dinners. I had thought that they would get everyone dinner so they could eat while the children performed, but no, they didn’t do that. They waited until everyone was mostly finished eating before calling the children out. So basically you had about a hundred people, dressed up really fancy and eating dinner while an audience of parents and family watched from the sidelines. That was kind of awkward.
The performances that the children gave were interesting. Most of them are much better than I’ll ever be, and they looked super serious while dancing. But that was also the problem I had with watching most of the performances – they looked super serious while dancing, not like they were having any fun doing it. The performance I enjoyed the most during the night was with the smallest group of children, only five students (three boys and two girls), who couldn’t have been more than five or six years old, and danced with their female instructor filling in to keep the numbers even. They were laughing as they danced and smiling at their parents the whole time. One boy was off time with the music, but he had such a big goofy grin on his face that just showed the pure enjoyment he was having being up there onstage that it was hard not to love what he was doing. They were my favorite.
The other groups of children (which includes the group I see practicing every weekend at the Fancy Dance Hall when I go in for my lessons), I don’t think I saw any of the members crack smiles at all while they were dancing. It makes me wonder if they actually like what they are doing, or if their instructors and parents are putting so much pressure on them to be perfect that they forgot how to be joyful. I listen to the guy who teaches the children’s group on Saturdays at the Fancy Dance Hall. While he is not mean to them, he is critical of everything they are doing. And some of their parents are super critical as well. There is one mother who sits on the sidelines, watching several of her kids who are in these classes, and she yells at them if they are screwing things up. Sometimes I want to go over to where she is sitting and pick her up and put her on the dance floor and tell her to learn to do it herself before yelling at the kids about messing up. If you take all the joy out of dancing, what is going to make these kids continue once they are old enough to make their own decisions about what hobbies they would like to do?
Anyway… boy, that lead me off on a tangent. I guess it bothers me when people forget how to have fun while dancing. Having fun should be the first thing that dancers should be trying to achieve. Sure, you can work hard, or look to get better, or compete against others, but if you aren’t having fun… what’s the point? The kids that go out and dance and have fun, even if they compete and get last place, are gaining more than the kids that win first place but hate being out there dancing because of all the high expectations that are placed on them. That’s what I think, at least.
After the performances were over, things got to be a bit chaotic at the Endless Dance Hall for a while. The DJ started playing music for general dancing, so people took to the floor. Then the maintenance staff at the Endless Dance Hall decided that it was a good time to start collecting and putting away the chairs that were set out for the parent audience, so they were wheeling carts full of chairs around between the front of the dance floor and the back room in the corner. The children were released from their dance groups, so they ran over to find and talk to their parents. Or they just ran amuck, which is what some of the youngest kids were doing. Some of the older kids wanted to jump in on the dance floor and dance with the adults, which was cool, but these students had really only ever been taught choreographed routines and technique. They didn’t have the floorcraft skills to get around the floor safely, and they were so much shorter than the adults that they were hard to see, so there were several close calls that I noticed with people almost colliding with them.
Even with all that going on, I still had a lot of fun at the party. There was tons of dancing, which is always a good time, and lots of snacks left over from the dinner. I didn’t really eat dinner there, but I got to eat little bits of the best things as snacks throughout the night. They also had someone come in to set up a formal picture stand in front of the Christmas tree in the corner. It felt kind of like a winter ball dance you would go to in high school (the few teenagers running around really completed that illusion for me). I got pulled into a couple of pictures with various people I knew there, much to my chagrin. I tried to tell people that their will pictures always turn out better without my presence, but no one seems to listen to me.
Don’t worry, there will be more holiday parties, this was just the first of many being held in the Dance Kingdom. Though, I expect there to be a few less than I got to go to last year, based on the fact that Christmas falls on a Sunday, so the Saturday right before Christmas I don’t expect any places to be open for dancing (since it is Christmas Eve). I guess I’ll get to have that weekend off instead. Maybe if I get my act together and move around all the furniture in my living room, I would have enough space to have a dance party at my place! Then I can sit and wiggle by myself… that wouldn’t be weird… or sad… or that just sounds like a bad idea to do all by myself. Sigh… I guess I could spend the weekend back home with family instead of dancing. Ugh.
I headed out to Latin Technique class this past Monday night like usual. I think that December is a month where not too many people head out to dance classes, since I seem to remember not seeing too many people around last December either. There were only three of us who came out to class that night, and Ms. Possible should probably only count as half a person since her left shoulder is still messed up and she really shouldn’t have been doing anything with it. She tried to tell all of us that she uses her left arm more when driving than when dancing, which I guess is painful for her currently. All I could think was that if it hurt her arm just to use it driving, she really should give it a break so it can heal, or at least wear it in a sling to prevent unexpectedly throwing it around, but I guess that doesn’t matter to her as long as she can dance. Sigh… some people.
We looked at Samba that night. Well, we really just looked at one figure in Samba that night – Samba Rolls in Shadow Position. Let me tell you, it was a pretty fun class, but I got my feet stepped on more during that hour than I think I have during the whole rest of the year combined. It kind of felt like I was back in a Newcomer class, and was rather amusing. Lucky for me, Sparkledancer was wearing practice shoes that night with wide heels, and Ms. Possible never put her full weight in her heels when she stepped on me, so I didn’t get hurt that badly. My big toenails were a bit sore when I got home, but that faded before I went to bed.
Rolling my body around, trying to keep in contact with my partner’s back with my chest while taking steps and trying to keep my feet back far enough so that I didn’t get heels pressed down into them… it’s not an easy thing to do. We didn’t do straight Samba Rolls either – we changed up the timing to make things more interesting while we stepped on each other. If you’ve never done Samba Rolls before, the footwork is exactly the same as a Reverse Turn in Viennese Waltz (forward, side, cross, back, side and together). Because the step is a lot like Viennese Waltz, the timing for the step doesn’t follow the normal timing you use for most other steps in Samba. Samba Rolls are counted ‘slow, quick, quick,’ more like a Foxtrot than anything else. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me they could do this step in Foxtrot (American Foxtrot, obviously). Maybe I’ll have to try that sometime…
Anyway, what we did to get into the Samba Rolls was to do two normal Stationary Samba Walks in a two-hand hold. On a third Stationary Samba Walk, we did a lunge out to the left, opening our bodies up to allow the ladies to pivot and turn past us while we just shifted our weight in place. The last step of their turn becomes their first step of our Samba Rolls, which all traveled straight down the line of dance. We did one complete turn with normal timing, and then we took a step forward for the next roll and held ourselves in place for a four count. Next we took four steps (side step, cross in front, side step and cross in front) going in a big arc, and then the second half of a normal Samba Roll to complete that set. For the last set we did the front half of a Samba Roll as normal, then took three quick steps to change our direction (one step back on the right, feet together while rotating, then a forward step on the right), going into a Lock Step Forward that moved toward diagonal wall to finish everything.
I will be hosting a dance party this weekend with the Royal Dance Court. It is a Christmas party, but it won’t be formal like the last one I went to. It will be quite the opposite, in fact. That should be fun. I think there is also a dance party at the Electric Dance Hall on Friday night, but I don’t know for sure right now so I’ll have to confirm with someone before I head out there to make sure I don’t look stupid when I show up and the place is dark. That would be silly. This means there are only a couple of weekends left in 2016 to go! How much dancing can I cram in before the year ends? We’ll have to see!