My Tribe Went Down In The Hall Of Fame

Last weekend turned out to be kind of nutty. I got a text from Lord Junior last Thursday asking if I could meet up at the Electric Dance Hall late Saturday afternoon. He wanted to get the whole group of us who were going to the competition from his studio together that afternoon so that we could go over a few things before the event on Sunday. I got a hold of Sparkledancer and we agreed to rearrange our practice time on Saturday so that we would go practice at the Electric Dance Hall the hour before Lord Junior wanted everyone to meet up, that way when we finished we would already be there. If only I had known what I was getting myself into…

What Lord Junior wanted to tell all of us was that all the heads of the dance studios that were taking part in this competition had gotten together, and they decided that each studio was now a ‘team’ and all the teams were going to have to perform a group number at the start of the competition. He had thought about it and had come up with something that was completely ridiculous that he was going to have us all do. When he showed us all what he had in mind, it was really basic and silly, which I thought was a perfect performance number for me. None of us had trouble picking it up after about half an hour.

As an added bonus, Lord Junior brought his young daughter (I’m pretty sure she is only four or five years old) to join us. She was going to be our secret weapon, since she is tiny and adorable. Also, he had worked with her so that she already knew the movements for this performance, but she was watching everyone else to figure out the timing, so she was always a half-second behind the rest of us when she started the movements. But when she moved, she put so much enthusiasm into every move that it put all the rest of us to shame. It was the perfect idea that was definitely going to win our team all the adorable points for the whole day!

The reason that this competition ended up being on Sunday afternoon was so that the competition would fall on Cinco de Mayo, giving the competition organizers a theme to base the event around, and also giving all the competitors an excuse to drink heavily on a Sunday afternoon. There were bottles full of holiday-appropriate beverages that I’m sure you could think of that were provided for each team to enjoy together. I don’t drink, but the rest of the team that I was a part of more-than made up for my lack of participation in this area. The rest of my teammates managed to finish off the entire bottle that was given to our table before any of the other teams, and then they accepted a mostly-untouched bottle from one of the smaller teams at the competition to “help” them finish that off as well.

Can you hear the chorus from “We Are The Champions” swelling here? Seems appropriate, right? 😛

Since the drinking began before the first heat of the competition was even a thought in the DJ’s mind, as you can guess everyone was pretty jovial throughout the event. There was lots of cheering (and additional random thoughts) shouted out by the audience during each and every heat, and the organizers had mixed in some fun surprises throughout the competition to keep things from being super serious. And after about an hour or so, some catering company stopped by and dropped off tons of tortilla chips and salsa, and all the ingredients to put together any kind of taco your heart desired. The heats were running quick, so more than once I saw somebody take to the floor while still chewing on whatever snack they had tried to eat in between rounds.

Surprisingly enough, somehow the organizers talked the world-famous Judge Dread into being one of the two judges that watched that day. I had heard that Judge Dread was going to be in town last Saturday morning to give coaching sessions and hold workshops, so the organizers of this competition must have convinced him to hang around for one more day somehow. Probably using free tacos as a bribe. That would totally work on me, in case you ever need to get me to hang around someplace for a while longer. The other judge was a guy who I didn’t recognize at first because he was wearing an elaborate outfit that fit in with the theme, but he turned out to be one of the instructors from the City Dance Hall.

We started off the competition with the group numbers that every team had put together. Lord Junior had told us the day before that the group performance was supposed to be something short, like two minutes or less, but apparently not all of the teams got that message. A couple of them went on FOREVER – dancing to multiple songs that were spliced together to make their performance an elaborate presentation. One went on for so long that I actually got bored watching it. Still, the performances were silly – and may have been borderline culturally insensitive – but everyone there got a laugh out of them. Those performances pretty much set the tone for the rest of the event.

There were spots set aside in the schedule for “Mystery Rounds” that no one knew about until the day of the competition. When these rounds came up, the DJ had a member of the audience draw the name of one of the teams at random from a bowl. If your team was chosen, you had to go to the middle of the room and everyone had to dance to a song chosen at random by the DJ. Several of these mysterious songs turned out to be line dances, and a couple were just completely off-the-wall numbers that even I didn’t know. Supposedly each mystery round gave the teams points of some kind, but we never found out what they were worth. Since these mystery rounds happened a good ways into the competition after a lot of adult beverages had been consumed by members of each team, I don’t think anyone actually cared.

As far as the actual dancing goes… with all the decorations that were set up, and the tables around the outside of the floor for everyone to gather, the actual dance floor was really small. To give you an idea of how small – I was really trying to reel in my stride any time I was out on the floor, yet I still easily managed to cover the “long” wall of the dance floor using just an amalgamation of figures from the short wall of any of my routines.
On top of that, for a bunch of the routines they tried to fit ten to twelve couples on that tiny floor! My first real dance was a Quickstep, and that was a bit nerve wracking with so many bodies moving around in a small area. After my first couple of times out dancing, my routines pretty much got thrown out the window and I just used the figures piecemeal to get around as best I could without running into anyone. Safety first!

Most of the competitors who came to this competition were Pro/Am, so you would think that having to work so hard to avoid running into people wouldn’t be a huge concern. After all, many of the guys out on the floor Leading were supposed to be Pros, so theoretically they should be pretty good at getting around the floor safely, right? Well… there were a couple of them who had pretty questionable floorcraft skills. To make matters worse, they had mixed in American and International styles and all proficiency levels on the floor at the same time. That made navigating a rather interesting experience. In a lot of ways it felt more like being at a social dance rather than a competition.

For instance, that first Quickstep number I did – they ended up playing a slower Quickstep song, which was helpful to make things safer, but the reason that the song was slower was because there was one couple on the floor that was dancing Peabody instead of Quickstep. The handful of Viennese Waltz numbers I did were done using American Viennese Waltz tempo songs, but I had to navigate around couples who would break frame in the middle of the line of dance rather than go to the middle of the room, so that definitely kept me on my toes.

I have no idea how I actually did that day. As I mentioned, supposedly the competition was being scored with some kind of point system, and all the points from each team member were put together to decide which team was the best. The way they decided to do it must have been overly complicated though, because even though they had been periodically updating everyone with the scores for each team throughout the day, at the end when all the rounds were done they still had to sit at the desk for over half-an-hour with a couple of calculators to see which team won. You know the math is complicated when you need more than one calculator to solve the equation!

But I did get stopped by a number of people I didn’t know after all the rounds were over who wanted to tell me how good I looked while out on the floor, or to ask me where it was I trained and who my instructor was. Sparkledancer told me that a bunch of people did the same thing to her as well. I guess that indicates we were doing pretty well, right? It was a bit confusing to be asked who my coach was. Since there are so few actual Amateur competitors in the area, most people I run into already know who Sparkledancer and I are, because we stand out. I was surprised to run into several people all in the same place who didn’t already know my dance-life history. That doesn’t happen very often.

Monday night I headed off to Latin Technique class. Because Lord Junior had danced in almost all the heats in the competition the day before, we ended up looking at some Rumba to give him a bit of a break. He had us all work on the opening section from his basic Open-level routine that he uses with many of his high-level students. I’ve seen most of the figures from this amalgamation that we did before, just not necessarily in this order. None of the figures were all that exciting, so I don’t really need to remember them for later.

Standard Technique class was actually more fun, so I’ll just leave Latin Technique alone and talk about Standard Technique instead. Only a few of us showed up for class, which allowed us to cover a lot more material in our time together than we normally do when more people show up. I find it more entertaining to go through a lot of different figures in a short period of time, so classes like this really appeal to me. We decided to look at Waltz, since it had been a while since we used that style.

What we went through that night started out with a Progressive Chasse to the RIght into a Back Lock, and then an Outside Spin to turn a corner and head down the next wall. Moving in that direction we did a Checked Natural Turn and Reverse Pivot going into a Double Reverse Spin, then an Open Telemark that came out heading down the line of dance still. Connected to that we added a Curved Chasse from Promenade Position, turning us 90° to go around another corner.
Rather than continue traveling so much after all that, Lord Junior added in an in-place figure by doing a Right-Side Lunge with an Oversway in that corner, coming out by shifting our weight back to the left leg for a beat and doing one last Reverse Pivot so that we could go into a basic Reverse Turn heading toward diagonal center. The whole of this progression will take you down the end of one long wall, through the short wall, and come out at the beginning of the next long wall if you position yourself correctly on the floor when you start. Fun times!

It feels like forever since I’ve seen my coach. The last few weeks he has been running around all over the country giving coaching, and then he was competing at some big Pro/Am event last weekend. I was actually supposed to see him earlier this week, but he injured himself and had to cancel. Hopefully he will be back in dancing shape soon so that we can get together and look over things.

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