Can I Choose My Way In Life?

This has been a rather interesting week that may or may not change things for me considerably. I was asked to do something, and I agreed to give things a try for a while. It all started this past weekend…

So it happened, just like I mentioned the last week. There were white and fluffy particles falling from the sky last Friday night. This doesn’t bother me a whole lot (I’m originally from an area where snow was a constant thing during the winters), but everyone around me was FREAKING OUT. On my way home from the office on Friday, I tried to stop at a grocery store to pick up two things that I wanted to eat that night, and I not only had to wait to get a parking spot in the parking lot, and it took me a half hour to get through the line for one of the self-checkout machines. People were buying up groceries like the world was going to end!

Even worse, all dancing in the area was cancelled for Friday night and Saturday. Sir Steven actually called me a few minutes after five o’clock on Friday to tell me that all but three of his students had called him already to reschedule their Saturday lessons to Sunday to avoid the worst of the snow, and he wanted to know if I would be OK with doing that too so that he wouldn’t have to try to get to the studio at all on Saturday. He had already gotten the OK from Sparkledancer to move the lesson, so he just wanted to make sure I would be cool with that. So with that call, I officially had nothing on my calendar to do until Sunday afternoon. While it was sort-of nice to have a snow-day on a weekend, everything was shut down, so I was stuck at home doing nothing. Stupid snow…
mychoice1  I had assumed that after having a day off, when I went to the Fancy Dance Hall for my rescheduled lesson on Sunday afternoon, that I would get to do some hard work to make up for things. It turns out that I was very wrong about that. I actually didn’t get to dance very much on Sunday, as Sparkledancer and I got pulled into the back office for a large part of our lesson. We’ll get to that in a minute (that conversation has taken up most of my thoughts since it happened). What we did get to look at for a little bit during that afternoon was International Foxtrot. Sir Steven wanted to work on getting Sparkledancer’s head movements associated with the sway of our bodies during the figures. The sway was something that the two of us had so far been associating with the figures on instinct, but he told me that I wasn’t emphasizing it enough, which is why it never really made Sparkledancer feel like she should be turning her head from side to side during the figures. If, however, I actually make the sway pronounced during the figures, then she almost never misses the places where she is supposed to be turning her head. Funny how that works, right?

So, as I mentioned, fifteen minutes into our lesson Lord Dormamu comes out of the office and asks Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I if we have a few minutes to come talk to him. The office at the Fancy Dance Hall is a fairly small room with a large desk in it, so the four of us crowding in there was pretty cozy. The discussion took a lot more than a few minutes, and because of that Sparkledancer and I didn’t get charged for the little bit of time we spent with Sir Steven working on Foxtrot. Since everything from Saturday got rescheduled due to the snow, the rest of Sir Steven’s afternoon was already booked, so we couldn’t just make up the time later that day, which is why Sir Steven told us he wouldn’t record the few minutes we did some work anywhere for us.

Now then… Lord Dormamu wanted to talk about the two of us, Sparkledancer and I. Lord Dormamu confessed to us that himself, Sir Steven, and even the Princess (whom we had worked with a couple of times recently) had been talking about us recently. Hearing him say that started to make me a bit nervous. I guess their assessment from the discussions they had was that both Sparkledancer and I have a lot of potential, since we are both young(er) and fairly athletic, but we lack direction. They know we dance a lot – both of us go to a lot of social dances, and we continue to take classes and work on improving our dancing overall, but neither of us appear to be actually working toward anything. Lord Dormamu wants to help give us direction.

Then he starts telling us about himself. This kind of felt like we were interviewing him for a job: as we already knew, he has been dancing for a long time (he actually told us the story of how he mychoice2got started in his early teens), and along the way he became an international champion at arguably the-most-famous ballroom competition I’ve ever heard of (the ‘dark-colored recreational-body-of-water’ one, if you’re curious). Nowadays he doesn’t really spend his time teaching students. He just trains competitors to become champions. And apparently he thinks that he can do the same thing for Sparkledancer and me.

Luckily, he didn’t mention anything about splitting the two of us from this amateur partnership that we forged early on in our dance careers. In fact, he mentioned that will be an asset for both of us, since we don’t have to pay a professional to put in practice time, and we are both good enough friends that we don’t really fight about dancing while we work. Also, there was the alluded-to fact that pure amateur dancers can train and compete much cheaper than anyone dancing Pro/Am can.

His basic idea is that we will continue to work with Sir Steven as our primary instructor, since we know and trust him already, but Lord Dormamu will start pulling the strings behind the scenes, drawing up an outline of the things he sees us needing to do to forge down this path. He said he could dictate everything from what our routines should emphasize, to telling us what techniques we need to focus on when practicing, what classes and training camps we should attend throughout the week, and even what clothes to wear when practicing and competing. On top of that, we will start meeting with him every few weeks for coaching sessions so that he can check up on our progress and see what he thinks that Sir Steven should focus on with us in the following weeks. He will also outline what competitions that he thinks we should sign up for throughout the year, and we will essentially become a part of his group that he takes to competitions.

At several points during the discussion he talked about a different amateur couple that he works with regularly, some people who both Sparkledancer and I have met who are just a couple of years older than both of us. He said that when he started working with them, the guy had never danced before, but the girl used to be a ballroom instructor and competitor back in her home country before moving to the Dance Kingdom. The guy knew his lady friend missed dancing, so he bought a package of lessons for the two of them one Valentine’s Day. Lord Dormamu said that in a couple of years, he was able to take them from being a guy with no dance experience and a girl who hadn’t danced since moving to another country, to being national champions. He thinks that as long as Sparkledancer and I are cool with dancing together for the foreseeable future, we could do the same thing (obviously if we decide to dance with new amateur partners, we’d have to take a step back and do more work on things to get back up to the comfort level we currently have).

Since this talk had gone on a lot longer than he had intended, and the two of us were sort of staring at him in wide-eyed shock, Lord Dormamu said that we didn’t have to make the decision immediately. If we wanted to go off and talk about it over lunch, think about it on our own, sleep on it, or whatever, we should do that and let himself or Sir Steven know what we think in a couple of days. With that, we left the tiny and warm office. We had a few minutes left before Sir Steven’s next lesson had to start, so Sir Steven had us go through the things in International Foxtrot we had started before getting sidetracked one last time, but at that point we were all kind of distracted by other thoughts, so it didn’t go super well.

So… yeah. That was my Sunday afternoon. How was yours?

The next night I went out to Latin Technique class over at the Electric Dance Hall. We decided that night to look at some Jive, since it had been quite a while since the last time we had covered anything in that style. Also, Ms. Possible suggested Samba and everyone there really wanted to avoid that. With four women in class and only two men, I certainly got put through the paces that night. We started with a variation of a move in Sweetheart Position, using a double spin to come out, went to a Stop and Go before using an Advanced Throwout with the ladies running away from the guys while we do some Sailor Shuffles to follow them, and finished up with some Chicken Walks to practice those. Fun stuff, but not the most interesting thing I did that night. After class was over, Sparkledancer and I hung around to talk with Lord Junior a bit…

We told him all about our conversation with Lord Dormamu the day before, and asked him for his pseudo-professional opinion of the whole thing. His initial instinct that he warned us about was that Lord Dormamu was making this offer because, as a business owner, he wants to get mychoice3more money from the two of us. I knew instinctively that making the decision to head down this path would involve additional costs over what I pay for now. It’s not necessarily a huge problem for me, since I make stupid money at my job and I have very low expenses in life (my cat doesn’t cost me very much). That may be a problem for Sparkledancer though, since based on what she does for a living I could guess pretty confidently that she makes considerably less than I do. Lord Junior also told us how much that Lord Dormamu is paying per month to lease the building where the Fancy Dance Hall is located to put things in perspective (it is an incredible amount per month!). They are in a trendy part of the Dance Kingdom, and the cost of property in that area is high because of that.

Other than his worry that they were making this plan only to make more money from both of us, he also cautioned us that if we join Lord Dormamu’s competition group, we may be asked to pay costs for competitions that amateurs otherwise wouldn’t worry about. He told us that to be fair to the amateur couples he coaches, he always told them that it was optional for them to pay for him to come out to competitions to watch them and help out. His thought is that as amateurs, they can do whatever they want, since they don’t need him to dance necessarily, so he doesn’t want to force them to pay money if they just want to do their own thing. He said to watch out for them asking us to pay costs for instructors at competitions even if we decide to sign up for things ourselves and arrange our own travel and whatnot. Amateur rates can be fairly cheap, but if we have to start paying these random additional costs, it could add up.

And yet, he told us that he has often wondered the same thing about the two of us, why neither of us has really taken to doing competitions very much. Lord Junior said that it can be a lot of fun (at least he thinks it’s a lot of fun), and both of us have come a long way since he’s known us, so if we wanted to push ourselves even more we could probably do pretty well. He did say that the idea of us becoming “national champions” is relative though – for instance, if we go off and compete in small regional competitions and we are the only ones in our age group for a specific style, he knows people who tell everyone they are “champions” even though they just won by being unopposed. It is technically correct (the best kind of correct!), but meaningless. Lord Junior reminded us to make sure we are doing it for the experience, not necessarily for a specific outcome. That’s really what should matter.

On Tuesday night I got to go out to my quarterly Royal Dance Court meeting to discuss dance related things. Let’s see… what were the high points of that? Well we spent quite a bit of time talking about our first big event of the year, which will be our formal party scheduled for the mychoice4end of April. A lot of the deposits have been put down, so we have all of the important things like the venue and the caterer reserved officially. The caterer had some qualms with our selections for dinner, saying that if we were only going to have the few entrée choices and a limited number of sides because people would be dancing and wouldn’t want to eat a bunch of super heavy foods, she recommended that we add in some additional salad to the mix. She imagined that if dancers wanted lighter fare to eat, then the salad would be grabbed up quickly unless we specifically portioned it out for people. We didn’t want to have someone sit and create specific small plates of salad, so we agreed that night to pay more to have extra salad added in. There will be strawberries in the salad too, so I know I’ll have a bunch if there’s enough!

We also discussed an upcoming event that the local West Coast Swing group would be putting on in February. That will be their annual huge weekend extravaganza, full of workshops, social dancing, competitions and more. One of the things the West Coast Swing group wants to do to bring in even more people is have a ballroom night in one of the dance rooms that weekend. They are looking to partner with our group to help make that event happen, so there’s a good chance I will end up out there for that night. One of the members of the Royal Dance Court had gone to the event last year, and said the event was a really good time, so if we had more free time that weekend we should try to attend some of the workshops or join into some of the West Coast Swing competitions if we could.

The rest of the night was fairly routine talk. We moved around some of the instructors and dance styles for our monthly dance party schedule, and talked quite a bit about membership and how to make sure existing members renew theirs and how to bring in new members. There were some ideas floated about helping to start a children’s ballroom group in our area, which wouldn’t be until this summer if it happened, so we only talked about a brief outline of what we would do and then tabled the discussion until our next quarterly meeting to pick back up. Without breaking the discussion off on any tangents, we actually managed to wrap up everything on the agenda and get out of there at a decent time that night. Yay team!

Yesterday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class. Sir Steven was there, finishing up a lesson he was giving to someone. Once he was done, Sparkledancer and I took a few minutes before he left to ask him some follow-up questions to the discussion we had had on Sunday. We just wanted to make sure that if we decided to take this path with Lord Dormamu that we wouldn’t have to give up other things we both already enjoy, like going out to dance parties and going to Lord Junior’s technique classes during the week. I also wanted to make sure that they weren’t going to ask me to somehow lose a lot of the upper body muscle mass I work so hard on gaining, since it does impact my flexibility and the Princess said that cutting it down would be a good idea.

Overall, Sir Steven thought that this could be a really good idea for the two of us. He didn’t go so far as to call it a ‘life changing’ decision, like Lord Dormamu stressed it would be, but it could mychoice5be pretty good. There is really no way to know what to expect without taking the plunge, so he said we should give it a try for several months, and if we decide it isn’t to our liking then we can give it up and go back to the way things were before. So, both Sparkledancer and I agreed to go through with it. I guess when we head back down to the Fancy Dance Hall on Saturday afternoon we’ll get a real idea of what Lord Dormamu wants us to do (of course, it will be after I drop a bunch of money into their cash register, because I think that’s what really makes it official for everyone).

Making this decision kind of distracted me mentally from what we were working on in class. We were looking at International Waltz, doing a figure that everyone seemed to be struggling with that night. I could do the steps, but I’m pretty sure they were fairly robotic as my mind was a million miles away and I just couldn’t get it into the game fully. We didn’t get to go through the Double Natural Spin like Lord Junior told us last week we would look at again (he completely forgot), but I can’t for the life of me remember what the figure was that we actually looked at. Sigh… now I feel stupid.

So this weekend should be interesting. What will Saturday bring me? Does this mean that I am going to go back to doing only Bronze International Standard again for a while until I can prove that I can dance at a level Lord Dormamu finds acceptable and I’m allowed to move up? Am I going to have to give up American Smooth for a while as well? Maybe I’m actually going to have to spend some time memorizing the entire Bronze syllabus for all the International Standard styles so that I know what my limitations are going to be for closed routines. That’s the feeling that I get, at least. We’ll have to see what the reality is this weekend, and I’ll be sure to have it all documented here next week!

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2 Replies to “Can I Choose My Way In Life?”

  1. I’m really curious to see how this unfolds. I know studios have to make money but the idealist in me says that’s not the main reason here. I don’t think studios push people to compete unless they see a real potential to do well. It is certainly worth trying for a bit and seeing what you think.

    1. That’s the plan. I am most interested to see how what I am doing now differs from what this high-level champion thinks I need to do to train. Plus, I’ll tell you all about it, so you can take some of his ideas an incorporate them into your own training. I think it’s a good plan for everyone!

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