A quick note:
I didn’t have much to say this week, because I didn’t go out and do anything this past week. In fact, for a large part of the time since last Friday, I didn’t even consider it since I felt so ill. I don’t get sick very often, but it seems like when I do it puts me out of commission for a few days. Stupid sickness…
Lucky for me, my good friend offered to help me out this week, since this was all pretty much her fault. So as I try and get caught up with everything I missed at work, I will leave you with the words of my friend Sparkledancer to keep you entertained.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done this, but today your friendly blog host will be played by none other than me, Sparkledancer! Just like the last time I stepped in, the Thespian has contracted a death plague (from, cough, cough… a certain sparkly dancer who had said death plague a week ago), so me and my guilty conscious are stepping in while he recovers.
I’m not going to lie, ever since the last big dance competition we went to, way back in April, things have not been going smooth. First, we had a very difficult time tracking down and getting lessons from Lord Dormamu, which means it took months to get our new routines. It was getting borderline ridiculous… four months past the April competition, and we had only seen him a handful of times. It got to the point where the Thespian and I would start putting odds on Lord Dormamu canceling our scheduled lessons.
By the end of summer, we had about a 30% chance of actually get instruction. Yep, it got that bad. It was hilariously frustrating, if that makes any sense. Lord Dormamu had only just started to clean up some of our dances, and has never even touched the Quickstep (besides the one time he choreographed the entire thing), when the next big thing happened.
I got injured. I don’t particularly want to go into details, because it’s not a pity party or an invitation to feel bad for me. It’s a simple fact I’m working around. I’m currently hurt, and pretty badly –so much so that the doctor was threatening me with a surgery that would involve detaching muscle from the bone and then reattaching it in a slightly different location. I’m a very active person, so dropping almost all activity for the past 2 months while I focused on recovery has been incredibly difficult.
I’m finally turning a corner, so my fingers are crossed I should get cleared soon to start (slowly) picking up physical activity. Maybe if all the stars align, we might even be able to start regular practices in the next month (especially as I, uhm… don’t exactly remember the new routines). Still, that means competition the rest of this year is probably minimal, if at all. Welcome to Silver, huh?
This extended break has been interesting. As the Thespian mentioned in a previous post, all the small and constant aches and pains associated with repetitive and constant practice have gone away (though in my case, they’re replaced by a much stronger and sharper pain, but you can’t win them all). I have actual free time again. When I’m deep into the competitive dance mode, life is a precariously balanced tightrope. Work, home, workout, make dinner for myself and my husband, eat and out the door in 20 minutes, practice, home, bed, repeat, repeat, repeat. Even being late 10 minutes is enough to throw off the whole evening.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s a part of me that thrives on the thrill and stress of the pressure to pull it all off. When the Thespian and I are in the groove, everything just clicks. I can feel our dancing getting stronger, pushing the limits of what we could do and how we perform. He’s a great friend with a killer sense of humor, which frequently makes practice incredibly entertaining. At this point, many years in, we’ve developed a way of working together that others envy and comment on frequently. We don’t fight, and on the occasions we get frustrated with each other, we’ve learned to just move onto something new, or call it quits early.
I miss the camaraderie we’ve developed while working through things together. Still… the break from the grind has been nice. Really nice. Who knew how lovely it would be to have leisurely dinners with my husband, and actually give my animals attention throughout the week? Weird… it’s like I actually like the guy I married, and enjoy spending time with him!
I also have mixed feelings about getting back on the competition floor, but not for the reasons you’d expect. I’m excited to try out our Silver routines in front of the judges, and see how well we can perform (after I remember them, of course!). At the same time, I’m concerned about how we’ll stack up against the other competitors. Not because I’m scared of losing, and not even because a lot of expectations are placed on us by Lord Dormamu. Nope, I’m worried because Silver is the place that a lot of the collegiate couples start to sandbag, and this the start of the game truly starts to get rigged.
There are several different organizations that Amateur couples can compete, and unfortunately, proficiency in one organization doesn’t carry over to the other ones. We ran into this in April, and it left a dark shadow on competing that neither one of us have ever really been able to shake. The Thespian and I skipped a big competition due to my injury, but I did check to see what happened in what should have been our categories.
Surprise, surprise, the winning couple in the rounds we would have signed up for was one that consistently places well in Open categories in one organization’s competitions, but dances only Silver in this other organization’s. I have no issues with not winning (despite Lord Dormamu’s expectations!), but not even really having the chance? How do we deal with that? When you already know the result before you even take the floor, what’s the point? I just want a fair fight to test myself. If I wanted to be destroyed, I’d just move up to the next level before I’m ready for it. The Thespian and I are legitimately where we’re supposed to. It makes it hard to be enthused about getting back on the floor.
The problem is, even if I wasn’t to go back to competing, I know I wouldn’t be happy as a pure social dancer anymore. Social dancing is for fun, and I like getting out and seeing people, but the training I’ve had makes it hard to enjoy dancing with someone who hasn’t had the background that I’ve had. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of flying down the floor with someone who can match (and exceed!) my own long stride. You don’t get that with your average social dancer.
Dancing International Standard styles without body contact at this point feels like I’m dancing blind. Usually, it’s not an issue. I generally only dance the ballroom dances with the Thespian. It’s a bit of extra floorcraft practice for us, and Lord Dormamu decreed a long time ago that we should only dance with each other to avoid picking up bad social habits. Sometimes, we screw around and dance some extravagantly over-the-top Smooth just for our own amusement (shhhh… don’t tell our coach!) It usually gets us a few side glances, but it makes me laugh, so it’s all good.
My Rhythm social skills are really rusty at this point, having been many, many years since I’ve had any real instruction. My Latin is serviceable thanks to Lord Junior’s Technique class, but even then… I’m just as likely to dance International Rumba with suuuuper bent knees, then turn around and attempt to do Cha-Cha without bending my knees at all just for laughs. Unlike a lot of people I know, I don’t take social dancing very serious
There’s a certain older gentleman in our community who drives down from a city a few hours away. He fancies himself very advanced at Standard, and he complains to me frequently about how he can’t find a partner who’s as serious and as good as he is. He always comes and changes into a completely black outfit before each dance, then changes again before he leaves. Like a lot of leads in our community, he enjoys “instructing” his partner on what they’re doing wrong. This older man dances almost exclusively with younger females, though if there’s a female instructor at a party, he will monopolize her time.
Unfortunately, I’ve been deemed both young and skilled enough that this man likes to dance with me. The feeling is definitely not mutual. He always attempts body contact, which in the context of social dancing should be the Follow’s choice. Generally speaking, the man is supposed to offer the frame, and the lady chooses how close she wants to get. I will only do contact with a handful of people—both Lord Junior and Lord Dormamu, obviously the Thespian, and lately I’ve added Apollo to the list.
Apollo’s very serious about his dancing, and since I see him a lot in Standard Technique, we’ve gotten more used to each other’s styles. We laugh when things go off the rails, and then try it again, so it doesn’t bother me to dance that close with him. In body contact, it’s pretty easy to bump knees or wrench your partner around if you don’t know the proper lead. Right now, with an injury I’m trying not to make any worse, I’m pretty cautious about what I’m doing.
It’s not like the Man in Black and I dance even successfully with each other. Body contact should be through the chest. He’s trying to connect through his pelvis. Ick. And another thing-he’s significantly shorter than me, which means his pelvis contact is… mostly just humping my leg. Double ick. His lead is through his arms, not his body, which often means he’s trying to twist me around. Granted, he’s not terribly strong compared to me, but it’s still unpleasant. Every time we dance, it’s bad. I keep a mental tally in my head—okay, the song is about 1/3 over… ½ over… should be any time now… c’mon, let’s wrap this thing up!
With him, I always end up doing a lot of Promenades and Whisks, even outside of Waltz. I don’t know if he’s trying to lead that, but that’s pretty much all I feel. Still, after every dance I always smile and say thanks, and silently hope that my toll has been paid for the night. In this particular social context, there’s no reason to hurt anyone’s feelings by turning down a dance.
In his defense, this man has never tried to correct me personally (though I’ve seen him do it many times with other ladies), so that’s a point in his favor, sort of. I must apologize to the Thespian, though. Whenever I see this gentleman walking over my way, I usually run over to quickly grab him and we end up dancing whatever the song was. Sorry if you were in the middle of a conversation, but I greatly appreciate the save, and thanks for the 200th Foxtrot of the night!
So, stepping away and summing it all up, where does all this mean for us as an Amateur couple? We’ve been exposed to the ugly reality of competition, and it’s certainly taken a lot of the pureness and joy from just going out and doing our best. At the same time, social dancing isn’t going to fulfill the need I have to push myself and my own limits. Step one, of course, is getting myself back up to full health. We probably won’t have anything major on our dance calendar until next year while we slowly work on getting ourselves back into competition shape. From there… well, I guess that remains to be seen. At least I’m not alone in this crazy adventure.
Thanks for letting me ramble for awhile, Thespian. Feel better soon, and I’m super sorry that you’re likely on your deathbed because of the illness I gave you. I owe you!