Been a bit weird for me this week for a whole bunch of reasons. Most of the weirdness was something I had planned on occurring, and I even warned all of you about it a little over a month ago. But one weird thing came up that was completely unexpected, and was really surprising for me. That event occurred on Saturday night, when I was asked to meet up with both Sparkledancer and Apollo at a dance party that was happening at the City Dance Hall.
There was a Quickstep lesson listed before the party started. I was busy all afternoon that day, so I ended up getting to the party a little – just after the lesson started. After watching from the sidelines for a few minutes I figured out what had been covered so far so I jumped right in. The instructor that they had teaching the class was someone who was listed as being on the staff for the City Dance Hall, but I didn’t recognize the last name when I saw it written out, and the first name was one of those generic female names that didn’t flag for me either.
I’m not entirely sure if it was a good thing that I joined the class or not. The heavy accent made it clear that English was not this instructor’s first language, and it took me a bit to get used to the way she spoke, but lucky for me I have done enough Quickstep that I could figure out the figures she was doing by watching her footwork as she demonstrated. A lot of the other people in class were really struggling. When I joined the class, there were a little over twenty people on the floor going through the sequence that she was teaching, but by the time the class finished only four of us were left. Everyone else had opted to sit out along the side of the room.
None of the figures that she went through were all that difficult, but the way she taught (or didn’t teach, as it were) wasn’t really helpful to dancers who had never done Quickstep before, which is why I think a lot of people dropped out. For instance, she gave people a set of figures to cover the long wall of the room, and then a different set that could cover the short wall. To turn the corner after the short wall to go down the next long wall she told everyone that they would just do a Running Finish into a Half Natural Turn… but she never broke down what a Running Finish was so that the other dancers knew the footwork for the figure. It was like she just expected everyone to know what a Running Finish was already.
The series of figures she gave started off easy, and there was only one above-Bronze level figure she threw in near the end after most people had dropped out of class. She started with a prep step into a Quarter Turn to Right followed by a Progressive Chasse, then a Forward Lock toward the corner with a Natural Turn with Hesitation to change walls. The short wall was simply a Progressive Chasse to Right and a Running Finish. She gave a few things to continue down the next long wall – a Half Natural Turn, a Natural Spin Turn and a V6, but stopped there without going on any further.
As I said, only three of us stuck with the class all the way through (you might argue against me, since I showed up a bit late). The three of us were, as you might have guessed, Sparkledancer, Apollo and I. There was another lady who was part of the group who organized the party that jumped in at the end to try and dance through the pattern with Apollo, but he told her that she would be better off going through it with me since he was still working on figuring his own part out with Sparkledancer’s help. I managed to help get this lady through everything so that she felt pretty good about the steps.
With that success, I made the offer to help out other ladies who had dropped out of class, but none of them wanted to get up and give it another try. By that point Apollo was feeling pretty confident about what he was doing so he wanted to switch partners and try it out with the other lady. That left Sparkledancer and I standing together watching them. After Apollo finished, he waved at me and told me to go ahead and go through it with Sparkledancer as he walked back to try it again, so the two of us did. We weren’t doing anything overly spectacular, since Sparkledancer still isn’t 100% over her injury, but when we finished dancing the people along the sidelines started clapping for us. That was weird.
Now, so far I’m sure you are thinking that there is nothing too weird about this story, other than the random applause. Well, stick with me another moment and I’ll tell you what blew my mind…
After the class was over, once the dance party started and most of the attendees were back on the floor, Apollo, Sparkledancer and I wanted to go over and talk to the instructor to thank her for doing the Quickstep. We wanted to let her know that we appreciated the class even if everyone else dropped out. On our way across the floor to where the instructor was standing along the edge of the room Apollo was grabbed by a lady who wanted to dance with him, so it ended up being just Sparkledancer and I who made it over to talk with her.
After some general small talk, the instructor asked the two of us where we had learned to dance, so we each gave her a brief synopsis of how we decided to start dancing Amateur together and who we’ve trained under over the years. When we mentioned the name of the franchise studio where the two of us met all those years ago, her eyes perked up. She said that she thought the two of us had looked familiar, and it was because she had taught at that franchise studio during the time when we first started out! Talk about a blast from the past…
I’m sure I’ve told a version of this story before, but I can’t for the life of me find a post where I wrote it down on this site. It’s gotta be in there somewhere, but I can’t prove it sadly. Anyway… back in the day, early on when I started dancing at the Land of the Lof (I’m talking like my first two months of trying out ballroom dancing)t, there was a female instructor at the studio along with Sir Steven. At this time in my dance career when I was just taking a bunch of group classes and didn’t know much about what I was doing, I somehow got talked into going to a weekend class where this female instructor was teaching the Cha-Cha.
The class was extremely technical, and way over my head when I barely knew how to keep the footwork for the Cha-Cha basic straight. On top of that, this instructor was not very forgiving when I would invariably mess things up because of how inexperienced I was. Needless to say, I walked away from that class thinking that I was a terrible dancer and being slightly afraid of this instructor watching me any time I was at the studio dancing because I didn’t want to get reprimanded by her again for doing things wrong. Lucky for all of you, I had purchased a package of dance classes from the franchise system, so I didn’t just quit dancing right there because I still had to use up all the classes I purchased. That’s a big reason why I didn’t get scared off and just quit.
Like many instructors I met during my stint in the franchise world though, she wasn’t an employee of the studio for very long, so my fears of her watching me dance and reprimanding me for doing things wrong soon disappeared when she stopped hanging around the studio. But though she had left, I never forgot that plethora of criticism that she leveled at me in that one class so early on in my dance career. It made an impression.
But yeah… even though I never forgot how much time she spent trying to tell me what I was doing wrong in one class way back in the day, apparently I had forgotten what that young lady who leveled all that criticism at the way I danced Cha-Cha looked like, because all these years later there I was, standing right in front of that same instructor on the floor of the City Dance Hall and trying to make conversation. Once I figured out who she was, it weirded me out. Even almost a week later I’m still weirded out by that random meeting!
The more I have spent time thinking about both of these classes I have taken from this woman since Saturday, the more I have been wondering if the real problem I had with the first class I took from her was the same problem that made many of the other people drop out of the Quickstep class. By watching her dance, I could tell that this lady was a good dancer, but just because someone is good at doing something doesn’t necessarily mean that person is automatically good at teaching that skill. Based on how she handled the Quickstep class, it seems clear to me that she is not that good of a teacher for beginners who don’t know what they are doing. Maybe that was actually the problem I had with her in that Cha-Cha class with her all those years ago?
On top of that, it seems like criticism of how other people dance is just something this woman hands out all the time. Even during that brief conversation I had with her after the Quickstep class had ended, she had to make a point to slip in a comment about how I would do better if I worked on fixing something that she thought was an issue with how I danced. Maybe being critical is just part of her personality? I’d have to spend more time talking to her to confirm that, but it certainly is a possibility. Some people do just like to point out things that they think others are doing wrong. I don’t see that as being a super fun hobby, but some people seem to enjoy it.
The other interesting dance-related thing that I did this past week was heading out to Standard Technique class last night and looking at some Foxtrot. Most of the class was spent looking over the Three Fallaways figure, which is a figure I have seen a couple of times in the past in this same class. Out of the four of us in class that night, Apollo was the only one who had truly never seen the figure before, so we spent a lot of time going over the footwork for him until he felt comfortable enough with what was happening to add in other technical points to think about.
Once Apollo was feeling pretty good, Lord Junior wanted to talk with us about two different ways that coaches had told him he should do this figure over the years. The first way was what could be described as the more traditional Foxtrot way, where there is normal sway throughout each section of the figure much like what you would see in the book when the various sections of the figure show up in other figures. Dancing this way looks clean and classy, and based on how much competitors are trying to push the envelope when they are on the floor, doing the figure this way may actually make you stand out nowadays.
The second way that he showed us is more fun to do however, so if you are just out dancing for fun or are performing this figure in a showcase, this was the version he recommended. This involves doing more of a rolling action from side to side as you go through the figure. The key is to shape as much as possible without breaking on either side of your body to make it look correct. The size of the roll then is only limited by the flexibility and balance of you and your partner as you move.
Doing the figure this way doesn’t work with everyone – I could kind of do it with Sparkledancer, since I am used to dancing with her at this point in my dance journey, but when I considered doing it with Bony that night in class I decided that it was a bad idea. Bony is considerably shorter than me, so while I could lead her to sway enough to get the ‘classic’ look when dancing, it just wasn’t going to work to do any more than that. Even if she was super flexible like a gymnast, bending too much with her would require me to distort my arms to make it work after a certain point, and I didn’t want to do that just to dance through a figure in a more fun way.
Near the end of class Lord Junior had us add on a little to the figure so that we had a more continuous pattern that would take us across a large chunk of the floor. We started with a Feather heading toward diagonal center and then added on the Three Fallaways. After the third Fallaway we finished the figure with a Feather Finish, then went into a Reverse Turn into the corner with a checking action so that we could come out on the short wall with a Basic Weave. The figures at the end were added because they are a section of Apollo’s own Foxtrot routine that he was working on earlier in the day, so Lord Junior threw it in here just for him to give Apollo another chance to practice them that night.
If you pay attention to the pictures I add at all, you probably notice something a little different about them this week. The big project that I have been working on for the last month in my non-dance life was moving, if you hadn’t guessed. I think the spot I chose to put my table where I take my pictures is going to open up all kinds of new options for setting things up for artistic (in my world, that really means ‘comedic’) effect. So yay!
As far as dancing goes, I was asked to meet up with people at a dance party this weekend, and I think I will likely go. I don’t have a lot of stuff, believe it or not, so I am actually mostly done with unpacking after only a week of being here. That frees up time this next week for me to get back to what’s really important, right?