Turn The Bass Up, Let’s Go!

Man, what a crazy week! Has your week been crazy too? I hope so. That’s what keeps life interesting, isn’t it – things being crazy, and of course dancing?

Despite my initial reservations, I ended up going out to a dance party last Friday night for a short period of time. I had considered just staying home and going to bed early, since I was getting up to go compete on Saturday morning, but enough people asked me to go out to a dance party that I finally relented and made way there to meet them. The big event that night was being held at the Electric Dance Hall. Lord Junior was having his annual free dance party night, and no one in their right mind can resist a free dance party!

The place was packed by the time I got there. Lord Junior had told us earlier in the week that he anticipated over one hundred people showing up, based on how the events have gone in the past and the feedback he had already heard from dancers that he knew. That estimate seemed pretty spot-on given what I saw when I walked through the door. I couldn’t even find a chair to sit in to change into my dance shoes! I got there as Lord Junior was finishing up the free beginner Cha-Cha class he had offered, and I found a little spot where I could sit on the floor by a wall to put my shoes on.

A lot of the people in attendance had never danced before. While watching the end of the class, I was trying to figure out how much dancing each person whom I didn’t recognize had done based on the kind of shoes they were wearing. If there was a girl wearing flip-flops, or a guy wearing shoes with rubber soles that stuck to the wood floor, I figured it was pretty safe to say they hadn’t ever tried dancing like this before. That’s generally my go-to assessment criteria.

Luckily, there were enough experienced dancers scattered throughout the class to help everyone get through the basic figures with ease. There were a few times that I saw someone get a little too excited while doing a Crossover Break, throwing their arm out with a lot of force and almost knocking their neighbor in the head, but luckily everyone walked away without injury. Hooray!

Since I had to get some sleep that night, I only ended up staying at the party for about an hour or so. I danced some Rhythm/Latin numbers with friends and a few strangers, and tried to dance all of the ballroom numbers with Sparkledancer if I could find her in the crowd. I figured that would count as last-minute practice before the competition. With my usual amount of flair (i.e. none), I left the party a bit sweaty and disheveled with a smile on my face. Not knowing what the event the next day would bring, this party turned out to be a good way to get me in the mood for whatever came next!

I got up early on Saturday morning to head out to the competition. This was a small, local affair at the Endless Dance Hall, a competition that Lord Dormamu actually helped to organize and put on with a few business partners of his. He had told Sparkledancer and I that we should be in this contest to get some more time dancing in front of judges for experience, so I really wasn’t expecting much from this event. I was secretly hoping that this competition would be like the small event that I did back in February where I actually got written notes from the judges on every heat that I danced, but that was just a pipe dream of mine.

Lord Dormamu had taken care of signing Sparkledancer and I up for all the rounds that he thought we should be dancing in, so when I got to the venue I had no idea what I was registered for. After signing in and picking up a packet with my number and various information sheets, I found that I was slated to be in four different five-dance sets. Each one was listed to be judged differently, so theoretically I would be scored differently each time. For example, the first five-dance was listed as Bronze 3, the second as Full Bronze, etc. etc..

Everything I was signed up for was scheduled to be done before 1:00PM, so all I had to do was dance 20 times over the course of three hours. Nothing to it, right? Physically, that would be easy-peasy for me, however there were a few things that were thrown at me during those rounds that I did not anticipate before coming that day…

For starters, to make the best use of the floor space and time, they had scheduled multiple different divisions to be on the floor at once. Normally this doesn’t bother me, but there were a few times that I was on the floor with the Junior amatuer dancers. These kids barely came up to my stomach in height, and probably only weighed a quarter of what I do. Dancing near kids that size makes me nervous. I know that during those rounds I was moving my head out of position so that I could look down and make sure that I knew where all the kids were while I was traveling.
A few different people mentioned seeing my head moving around while I danced, but I was more than willing to take the heat for that decision. Sparkledancer also told me that if she saw a kid behind me, she would let me know. Both of us were willing to take a dive rather than accidentally collide with someone that small. I could have crushed them!

The second thing that happened that I probably should have guessed would happen was that Sparkledancer and I danced unopposed that day. There were only three other adult amateur couples that I saw in the Standard/Smooth part of the day, and they were all dancing either Gold- or Open-level rounds against each other. That means that the results that I got back weren’t all that meaningful. I have been told that it is possible to dance unopposed and get second place in a round, so the fact that I got first place in everything just tells me that I didn’t screw anything up enough to offend anyone. Whoop-di-doo…

Sparkledancer and I were given a trophy at the end of the day for getting first place in all of our rounds. That was awkward. It was a pretty big trophy, too, like the size of a tall flower vase. I didn’t know what I would do with it, so I let Sparkledancer keep it. Her husband can put up a shelf for her to set it on. If I tried to put it on a shelf, my cat would knock it off until it broke, because she doesn’t believe I should display awards that I didn’t truly earn. My cat is a harsh taskmistress like that.

I did get some unique feedback that day, which does make me feel sort-of good about how I danced at the competition. After the Standard/Smooth portion of the day was completed, the organizers brought in lunch for all the competitors, the judges and the volunteers. Sparkledancer and I had been sitting together at a table near the back of the dance floor next to one of the curtains that cordoned off the front entrance, so we were able to easily slip out and head over to grab some food early on. Since all our rounds were done for the day, we thought that we could eat quickly and then leave so that each of us could head home and get ready for the after party that evening.

After filling up our plates with some food, we headed back to our table only to find that a couple of the judges were sitting there enjoying their lunches! These two judges obviously knew each other, and were chatting away in some sort of Scandinavian dialect from the sounds of things. I didn’t understand what they were saying, and they were completely ignoring Sparkledancer and I, so the two of us sat down and talked about how we thought our rounds went, and left them to their own devices.

After a few minutes of this, the female judge finally looked over at Sparkledancer and I and switched over to English to address us. She apologized, saying that her companion’s English wasn’t the best, so it was just easier for them to have a conversation in that other language they both knew. We all took a moment to properly introduce ourselves, and then the lady asked Sparkledancer and I about where we had learned to dance. This led us down a path talking about how we were currently learning to dance together, and were one of the few amateur couples competing in the event that day.
That comment actually caught the male judge’s interest, and (in broken English) he said that he remembered some of the events he was judging where we had danced, and he had thought that one of us was an instructor.

That bit of feedback is what surprised me the most. I guess that either Sparkledancer or I were dancing well enough that day that this gentleman, who judges many competitions throughout the year, would consider one of us as good as an instructor. I didn’t get much more of an explanation than that simple remark – seeing as how his English was a bit hard to understand, I didn’t think that prodding him to elaborate was a good idea – but it still made me feel good that someone of his caliber would say something like that. It makes me feel like my dancing has noticeably improved.

After all the rigamarole of Saturday was completed, not a whole lot of what I had initially planned on doing on Sunday actually came to fruition. The dance camp that I was told to attend at the Fancy Dance Hall early in the morning, where I thought I would get s’mores? Didn’t happen. I got there that morning to find a couple of people waiting in their cars in the parking lot, and the building locked. Sparkledancer was one of the people who was there waiting, so she and I wandered off to a nearby café to grab some morning coffee and wait somewhere more comfortable than a car.

When someone finally showed up a couple of hours later to unlock the doors, it was getting to be close to the time that Sparkledancer and I had scheduled to have a post-competition review session with Lord Dormamu. The two of us were inside stretching out and warming up when Lord Dormamu arrived. He came over to talk to us and told us that he was having to run the judges all over, from their hotel rooms to the studio, from the studio to the airport because a couple were leaving right away, so he wasn’t going to be able to make it for our lesson until much later in the day. Sparkledancer wasn’t going to be free then, so we decided to try to set something up for next weekend instead.

That left me with only one item that I had planned that actually happened that day – my coaching session with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. We spent the time working on some more things for our upcoming showcase performance. According to Sir Steven, there are a few more figures that he is working out, but he is hoping to have the entire choreography from start to finish for us in the next week or so. If Sparkledancer and I can just get the routine recorded somehow, we can focus on getting it memorized in short order during our practice sessions, which would be nice.

He had us start off that day looking at the Open Natural Turns again. This time we were given a new variation, where I would continue doing my normal footwork, but Sparkledancer would be leaping up in the air on beat one, and then I hold her there for beat two and set her back down on beat three. We were going to do two of these in a row, and then come out into a normal Open Natural Turn. Sparkledancer was having trouble coming out after the assisted jumps at first, until she and Sir Steven worked out that she had to leap off of and land on the same foot in order for the next step to work. If she landed on her other foot accidentally, it would throw off everything afterward.

The rest of the additions we looked at that day were minimal – mostly pieces that allowed us to get into or out of figures we’ve looked at in other lessons. Sparkledancer and I should be able to nail those down in no time. Once we have the full routine, that’s when the real fun will start, leading up to the day of the first performance. Hooray!

This past Tuesday night I had a meeting with the other members of my Royal Dance Court gang to discuss dance business, this time around mostly related to finalizing the plans for our monthly dance parties in 2018. Sometimes I think it is a bit crazy to try to plan these things so far in advance, but that’s just me.

One of the members of the Royal Dance Court had already gone so far with the initial list we started at our last meeting to contact a bunch of the instructors that we suggested and confirm them to teach at our parties for the first six months of the year! I thought we had just thrown out the names of these people as ideas, but now it seems like they are set in stone already. Oh well…

The big drama of the night seemed to be that a few members of the group were outraged(!) that another small dance club in the area had “stolen” a few of our old themes for some of their upcoming parties, and had scheduled lessons before their dances that covered the same dance style that we were going to cover either the next month, or will have had taught the month before! The outrage! I guess one member of the Royal Dance Court interfaces with this group regularly to be sure that any parties we throw are unique from the parties that they throw, so that is how this information was attained.
I saw the list of what this other club had planned. Most of it seemed innocuous enough. There was only one dance style that they had listed that seemed like it could have possibly be taken from our list, since we had come up with an idea to use an eccentric dance style for one of our parties, and then the same eccentric dance style also showed up on their list. The rest of the so-called idea stealing I thought was kind of a stretch. After all, there are only so many different ballroom and Latin dance styles, so there is bound to be some overlap during the year with any ballroom clubs…

There is this part of me that thinks that some of these ladies that are members of the Royal Dance Court just like dealing with dance drama and dance gossip. I can understand how showing everyone a list of another dance clubs party themes and lessons and regarding it as scandalous would make more people sit up and pay attention, because the list is rather boring otherwise. Maybe the lady wants people to think the list is scandalous so that they will laud her for taking the time to collect the information for us?

That’s just not my style, though. If this person had pointed out things about the list that were humorous, I would have been all over that! But scandalous? Meh, I’m not really all that interested. In fact, I think that bringing up those points detracted from the conversation that we were trying to have otherwise, and thus made the meeting longer than it needed to be.

Anyway… one last thing for this week, and then I’ll be done. I promise. Yesterday night I was out at Standard Technique class and we worked on Viennese Waltz for a while. The first part of class turned out to be really funny to me. There was some actual focus on technique given: like practice on not putting the heel down on the second step of each Half Natural or Half Reverse Turn so that you could move the foot faster to begin the next Half Natural or Half Reverse Turn. That focus kind of fell by the wayside as the practice portion of the class got started.

What was funny was when Lord Junior decided to have all of us line up and go through our part of the figures individually. He wanted to call out an amalgamation of steps and then have each of us execute so he could watch. Seems simple, right? So we would line up, he would say something like ‘One-and-a-half Reverse Turns, Change Step, Natural Turn’ and then we would all start down the floor doing those steps.

The ladies in class that night were having trouble dancing through the figures on their own. It really shouldn’t be funny, but it kind of was. I forget sometimes that I had to spend a lot of time over the years figuring out my angles and rotations, because I am responsible for leading the ladies to move and turn in the right direction as well as myself. If someone tells me to face diagonal center and do a Natural or Reverse Turn, I know which way to point my feet and whether to rotate clockwise or counterclockwise. It’s almost second nature.
Lord Junior thought it was funny to watch the ladies fumble about, trying to align themselves in the right direction to start, and then sometimes start turning the wrong way as they began moving. I know that a couple of the ladies were getting pretty frustrated at having to stop and start over if they turned wrong, or ended up facing the wrong direction, so I tried my best to help out a little. No one seemed to listen to me though. At one point during class, Veep got caught up laughing at herself so hard after doing something wrong that she had to step off to the side of the floor for a few minutes and calm herself down. That was really funny.

Near the end of class, once Lord Junior had gotten enough amusement for the night, we switched over to look at a little bit of American Viennese Waltz. We didn’t do anything fancy here either, we just worked on Open Natural Turns, Open Reverse Turns and Change Steps in Shadow Position. I don’t think I’ve ever done a Change Step in Shadow Position before. They aren’t hard, just three steps forward (like a Three Step in Foxtrot), but I can’t say that I remember ever doing that before.

I’m all set for a quiet weekend. I’ve got only one lesson on my calendar for Saturday, and then some much-needed practice time with Sparkledancer lined up to go over the pieces of our showcase we need to memorize, and also some time to practice the lift for the routine, but that’s about it. There’s a chance I won’t do much else, unless someone calls me and convinces me to go out to a dance party. I could use the rest though – I signed up to be in another competition next weekend, on the 18th.

What? Yup. I did. It wasn’t that far away, so Sparkledancer and I decided to just go out and do it. Being amateurs, we can just do things like that unless Sir Steven or Lord Dormamu tells us it’s a bad idea. Lord Dormamu thought it was a good idea when I asked him about it, and told me to bring his regards to the competition organizers since he knows them. So I’m going to do it!

Dancing uncontested in our last competition just wasn’t really satisfying, so hopefully this event will be more meaningful. But, that’s a little over a week away, so I’ve got time to mentally prepare myself. It looked like one of the categories I signed up for was empty, so there’s a chance I could be uncontested in that round unless someone joins between now and then. We’ll have to see what happens!

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