The Best Peach Is At The Top Of That Tree

Aside from yesterday, there were a couple of dance things I went to this past week that asked me to try and make my poor white boy hips work like a Latin dancer. It did not go very well, however. Even cumulus clouds were looking down on me and saying that I needed to go get a tan because my hips looked too white to work like that. Clouds can be jerks sometimes, right?

Saturday night I went off to a dance party being held at the City Dance Hall. The party was kind of small, but there was a thunderstorm going on that I imagine kept a number of people who hate driving in the rain away. I had stopped to get dinner not too far away from the City Dance Hall about an hour before the party, and it wasn’t raining when I left to go there, so making it the short hop over to the studio in the rain wasn’t all that bad for me. I didn’t know that it was going to rain, so I can’t pretend that I was super smart and planned things out that way. I just got lucky.

The organizers of this party had asked an instructor from one of the local Latin clubs to come in and teach a lesson on both Salsa and Bachata. Since he was going over two different styles, and there were some people in the crowd who had never done either Salsa or Bachata before, the figures that he showed everyone were really basic. I had actually seen all of them (or a variation on all of them) before, and I almost never dance Salsa or Bachata. That was surprising to me.

But there was a comment that he made somewhere in the middle of the lesson that really made me feel like I was just a white boy pretending to dance Salsa. He told everyone to bring their arms into the mix, allowing them to move naturally with the body while still maintaining the connection with your partner. This meant a lot of different things to different people, but for me it meant… my arms didn’t really move at all. When I would try and move my arms around, it didn’t feel natural to me in any way. What felt right was to keep my elbows near my ribs and my spine straight. I can’t imagine why that might be what I prefer…

So I may have looked a bit stiff while dancing the Salsa and Bachata in class. No one called me on my lack of arm wiggling, but I did have a few ladies who mentioned to me that they were struggling to understand the steps when they rotated over to dance with me, only to tell me after we got done dancing that I was one of the few men that they were able to follow properly. Personally, I attribute that to keping my arms calm so that I could have a better connection with my partner. I guess that can count as a win?

There were a number of the ladies that I danced with as the class rotated around who were super into things. They were moving their own arms around so much as they danced that it was hard to actually lead them through anything. Lucky for me, they didn’t seem to need my help to get through the pattern that the instructor had walked everyone through. They just turned themselves when they needed to without any assistance from me. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t trying to do any figures outside of the choreography that the instructor had given during his class. It felt like those ladies were just holding onto my hand merely because they were told to do the figures that way, rather than because I was trying to dance with them.

In Latin Technique class this week we looked at Samba. We actually only really got through one real figure, because Lord Junior started off class telling everyone that the figure would be “no big deal,” and then it turned out to actually be kind of a big deal that some people were struggling to do passably.

The whole thing started off on a high note (he said sarcastically) when Lord Junior asked us to do Batucadas as our warm-up when class started. I have been asked to do Batucadas enough at this point in my life that I know what the movement entails. As I take a step back, I can do the lateral motions with my hips properly, even when asked to do the movement at higher speeds. What messes me up every time is trying to add the rotational action into my hips while moving them laterally. Also, trying to do the movement without putting my heels down completely is kind of comical too. So essentially I can do the essence of the Batucada, I would say. That’s pretty good in my opinion.

The reason that Lord Junior asked us to do these as a warm-up was because the opening movements that we used to get into position to do the specific figure that Lord Junior wanted us to work on had the ladies in class doing some Batucadas. Even though the Leads didn’t have any Batucadas in the choreography at all, Lord Junior thought it was a good idea to have all of us work on them, because reasons and such as and so forth (it was along the lines of making us better dancers by having us practice hard stuff).

We started off standing about ten feet apart from our partner. As the music started, the Leads would take a step back on beat five of whatever measure that we wanted to start and wind up a bit so that we could take a step forward on beat one of the next measure. Lord Junior told us that in a competitive setting, the Lead would do this as a visual signal to let his partner know that they would start their choreography when the next measure starts. Since we were split apart, a visual cue was the only clue we could give our partners, unless we wanted to yell across the dance floor at them.

As we started moving, the Leads would do a normal Cruzados Walks and Lock to close the distance between the two of us. The Follower would take two steps backwards as we did the two Cruzados Walks forward, and then she would go into three Batucadas as the Lead finished the Lock to catch up to them. When we met up, the Follower would have her left arm ready so that we could link up with her by grasping her forearm near the elbow rather than her hand. The Follower would then take her right hand and place it on the right side of the Lead’s chest, winding into us a little bit to prepare for the next movement.

This was the figure that Lord Junior actually wanted to have us work on that night. The idea was that the Leads would do Samba Locks forward while the lady would take a large step back, push off our chest to turn around and face down the line of dance as the Lead locked, and then turn back to face us to do it all over again. We were supposed to do three of these in a row, but sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t. For example, Veep liked to use more force to help turn herself around faster, so she would push off her partner harder than the other ladies in class were pushing. I thought it was fine, but the first time she did that to Lord Junior he jokingly told her that it felt like she was trying to crack his sternum. Too funny.

We never got any further than this figure since some people had trouble with it, but whenever someone messed up it was usually in a rather amusing way, so all of us were laughing our butts off throughout the class. The funniest mistake was when Apollo finally thought that he had the hang of the figure, so in his confidence he tried to push off his supporting leg and take a bigger step after he linked up with Gatekeeper. His step didn’t land properly though, and he came down on the back of his heel rather than the ball of his foot, so his front leg just slid forward out from under him. He managed to stop himself before he hit the floor, but he surprised Gatekeeper, and the noise she made stopped everyone else in class in their tracks and made us look back at the two of them, and of course we all started laughing at what we saw. Good times all around.

Wednesday night I headed out to Standard Technique class. Normally on Wednesdays there is more than one class going on at the Electric Dance Hall at the same time, but I guess the lady who teaches the other class was sick that day so our class was the only one there that night. That gave us the whole floor to work with without fear of running into someone on the other side of the room. Because of that, Lord Junior decided to have us work on some American Foxtrot to change things up a bit. He showed all of us the opening section from a Foxtrot showcase routine he had done with one of his students a while back.

This pattern started off facing our partner with several feet between us, with the Lead’s back toward the line of dance. Stepping in and leaning toward our partner, we took her left hand in or right and pressed our other palms together to do an Explosion before rolling her across our body. She did a syncopated turn here, adding in the extra step so that she could come out on the same foot that we were on. As she was turning, the Lead would shift his weight over to his right leg and bring his left leg in, winding up a bit and stepping forward on the left foot at the last possible moment in the measure of music. This put the two partners into something kind of like Shadow Position, but disconnected from one another.

All our movements for the next few measures of music were identical, done with the Follower in front and the Lead behind her and off to the right far enough that the audience could see him. Starting off with a couple of Grapevine actions down the line of dance, we then did a step and hop on the right leg, bringing the left leg up in the process, then pushed off with the right leg to do a bit of a slide to the left. Next we would step forward on the right foot and point our left leg off to the side, and then step onto the left foot and point the right leg to the side. After that we stepped forward on the right foot one more time, but here we would tap our left toe on the floor behind the right foot in a movement that I’ve done a number of times in Pasodoble.

As we pushed back onto the left foot, we allowed the right leg to Ronde around and rotate our body a bit so that we ended up backing diagonal center. That allowed us to take one step backward and then a second step to our left down the line of dance as our last movements in sync with our partner. Here the ladies did a double-turn to the left while the Leads did a syncopated turn, allowing us to take the extra step this time as we rotated so that we could get back on the opposite foot as our partner. Once done turning we brought up our left hand to signal our partner to get back into frame, and we finished up doing a Twinkle into an Open Natural Turn.

I thought that the progression was fun, even when Lord Junior tried to get us to add our arms into the mix. Having long arms, I had to keep mine bent at the elbows in a number of places to avoid smacking the people around me. As class wore on Lord Junior decided to give me a break and reduce the number of us trying to dance down the floor at once, so I had more room to spread my arms out as long as my partner wasn’t too close to me.

Apollo on the other hand, he told me at the beginning of class that he was worried because Foxtrot is a hard dance style for him for some reason, and sure enough he really struggled to get some things down. But it was struggling in a humorous way, since the things he messed up were minor and made the class entertaining as Lord Junior called him out when he saw something. I like that Apollo knows how to laugh at his mistakes. He is a man after my own heart, since I laugh at myself all the time for messing up, even if no one else notices.

It looks like it might be a quiet week coming up. Lord Junior is out of town next week, so his classes are cancelled next Monday and Wednesday. I’ll hopefully get to see Lord Dormamu this weekend (if his injury cooperates), but other than that there really isn’t much dancing on my plate that isn’t practice. There is a big dance event happening this weekend that a lot of people I know are going to, but I didn’t buy a ticket because I thought I would have a work project going on that night. Now, of course, my work project didn’t manifest, and the event is sold out so I won’t be going there. Ah well, maybe next time.

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