I apologize for my unintended absence last week. Though I am lucky that I don’t get sick very often, it happens every now and again, and unfortunately this was one of those types of sicknesses that kept me mostly asleep and away from everything, including writing something interesting. Thankfully Sparkledancer was willing to help me out and write something for me. Hooray!
Now I am recovered though. And it was a good thing too, since this past weekend was the annual ballroom dancing weekend at the Grand Dance Hall. Since I put down a deposit to reserve my spot last year that I wouldn’t be able to get back, I am glad I felt up to going by the time I had to leave the house on Friday night to get there. I won’t say that I was completely 100% by Friday – in fact, I ended up cutting out of the dance parties on both Friday and Saturday night about an hour earlier than I normally would so that I could go back to my room and go to sleep, but I still had a lot of fun.
Also, I ate a lot while I was there. Probably more than I should have, but this is really the only time of the year that I allow myself to eat as much as I want. I don’t even eat all that much on Thanksgiving, believe it or not – but I will when I go to the event at the Grand Dance Hall. The hotel next door to the Grand Dance Hall (where many of the attendees end up staying) has the best breakfast buffet I’ve ever had in my life. If they served breakfast for all three meals of the day at that hotel, I would probably have to take the next week after the event off from work to live in the gym as I work off all the breakfast foods I would eat. Other people who go to this event rave about what they serve for lunch on Saturday, but in all the years that I’ve been going to this I barely eat more than a salad for lunch because of everything I eat for breakfast.
(I love breakfast foods so much.)
This year’s shindig was scheduled the same as in previous years: Friday night all the attendees would meet up for a reception, dinner, and then dancing for the remainder of the evening. Saturday during the day there were workshops that people could attend, with beginner-level classes for people who had never done a particular style before and more advanced classes for those who had some experience. Finally, Saturday evening had another reception prior to dinner, and then after dinner was another dance party to close out the night.
Both evenings events were actual formal affairs, so I had to pull out my dance party suits for the event. I think that I’m going to need to look into replacing these suits soon, because I’m starting to outgrow them. That’s the problem with spending so much time lifting weights to keep myself in shape – if you are eating to build muscle and then lifting heavy, eventually you will need to replace your clothing. I’ve had to replace a bunch of stuff over the last couple of years, and I think it might be getting time to look at these suits next. The suit coats are the problem – they don’t really fit comfortably around my shoulders anymore. Putting them on is a bit ridiculous, kind of like contortionist training. I’m glad I could put them on in my private hotel room where no one could watch.
While I take the suit coat off when the dancing actually starts to allow me to move my arms freely, I do keep the coat on during dinner and such, and just pray that I don’t need to raise my arms over my head during that time. I guess I should set aside some time in my calendar to go looking for either new coats that fit my shoulders or a couple of all new suits that fit my frame that is more even muscular than when I got them. Should I ask them to size the suit for me with some added space for continued growth?
Anyway, enough about clothing issues for guys with muscle… the three workshops offered on Saturday were for Tango, Samba and East Coast Swing. The same couple of instructors were there teaching the classes this year that have been there for all the other years that I have attended this event. There was something definitely going on with the two of them this year, sadly. These two are definitely dance instructors from another era, and both are getting up there in years. This year was the first year I have been to their workshops where it appeared that they were struggling to remember or convey the material that they had prepared for the classes.
I’ll give you an example: the first class of the day was covering some Tango. The first part of the pattern involved two Walks, a Progressive Link, a Chase, and then the Leads would do a rotating Chasse backwards while the Follower would run around to end up back in Promenade Position facing diagonal center. Sounds pretty simple, right?
But what if the instructor just neglects to mention for the first forty-five minutes of going through this section of the progression that the Chasse backward that the Lead is supposed to do is also supposed to rotate? Then when you put the two partners together and the Follower is trying to go around the Lead but the Lead is just moving straight back without rotation, it’s nearly impossible to do properly. The class got stuck on going over this section for a long time, and even Sparkledancer and I couldn’t figure out what was wrong to help people out until the two instructors got back together again to demonstrate and I saw the male instructor rotating with his partner in a way that he wasn’t doing when he danced through the pieces by himself.
During the Samba class the female instructor was having problems remembering how to do her steps during parts of the pattern as well. The two instructors would split the classes as they started demonstrating figures, with the male taking the Leads to one side of the floor and the female taking the Followers to the other to show everyone their individual parts of the figures. There were a few times when the female instructor had to go over and grab the male instructor to go through the figures again so that she could remember what her steps were supposed to look like.
I know that these two have been teaching these workshops at the Grand Dance Hall every year for a long, long time, much longer than I’ve been going (and I’ve been going to this event every year for quite a while now). This is the first time in all the years that I have been going where it didn’t seem like the two of them were on top of their game though. The classes seemed to get through less of the patterns that were demonstrated at the beginning of class than they usually do – normally the instructors perform an elaborate amalgamation of figures, and in the ninety minute class we get through about ¾ of that pattern. This year I don’t think we got more than halfway through any of them.
Last year as we were all leaving the event we were given a survey to fill out. One of the questions that was on the survey asked if there were any instructors that we would like to see come teach at future ballroom dancing weekends at the Grand Dance Hall in years to come. I wonder if these two were thinking about retiring from the gig last year, but still came back this year? I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to find out if they will be back again. After all, unless something crazy happens like a tragic Botafogo accident that burns the calluses off of one of my feet, I’ll for sure be back next year!
Because I was gone the whole weekend, I didn’t make it out to Latin Technique class on Monday night. I did manage to get to Standard Technique class on Wednesday night though, to do a little dancing closer to home. Standard Technique class was the only thing going on at the Electric Dance Hall yesterday night because there was some big party going on somewhere up north which all the people who normally attend the other classes on Wednesdays had gone to, so we had the whole floor to ourselves that night to play around on.
Before class started, we discussed working on some different pieces that would travel a lot to use the space we had available. We ended up settling on some Waltz, with Lord Junior giving us some figures he uses in his Open Waltz routine to play with. Apollo was the one that brought up Waltz initially since he wanted to spend time practicing his rise and fall action, so Lord Junior made sure that there were several figures in the pattern with different syncopation in them that changed which step of the figure that the rise action was done on.
The pattern started us off in the corner going down the short wall first. We did a basic Half Natural Turn, then a Running Natural Spin Turn and a Progressive Chasse to Right with an extra Natural Pivot added on at the end to turn the corner so we could go down the long wall. From there we did an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, allowing us to finish backing line of dance, and then we did two Turning Locks to Right. The First Turning Lock to Right ends with a Natural Pivot action, setting us up to do the figure a second time. We ended the second one by the book, turning into Promenade Position lined up to move toward diagonal center on the next figure.
During this class, Lord Junior spent a lot of time working with Bony. Bony is an… interesting person. She has been dancing for almost as long as I have, but in all that time she’s been around she has never claimed to actually like dancing. Over the years I have watched her improve slightly, but she never really applies herself to getting any better unless someone is really pushing her to work harder.
This class was a good example of that. When Bony would dance with Apollo or I and Lord Junior was paying attention to someone else, she would just go through the steps and kind of fake her way through everything. Getting the turning figures to turn enough with her was a challenge, and often we would have to under-turn things to make it through the pattern with her.
When she would dance with Lord Junior though and he would get on her case about driving through her steps from her standing leg, she could get through everything with almost the right amount of turn all the way through. Sometimes she would dance with Apollo or I and Lord Junior would stand off to the side and call out at her to make her drive with her legs more, and dancing the progression was a lot easier. But as soon as Lord Junior wasn’t looking, she would back off again and the difficulty in getting around increased once more, no matter how much Apollo or I would try to encourage her.
I like Bony, I think she’s funny. Once, a long time ago, there was a weird week that went by where she only ‘spoke’ to me in animal noises for some reason… I never really figured out why she did that, but it was amusing. I have a really hard time understanding her motivation with dance. I used to think that she was just taking classes to be social and hang out with people, but then she keeps coming to these harder classes like Latin Technique or Standard Technique rather than just going to the easier classes offered at different times during the week where they focus on learning figures.
Maybe she sees these classes as a challenge, but then again she is just as likely to skip class as she is to attend, so maybe that’s not it. She doesn’t answer questions either, so there’s no way to ask her and find out what motivates her. Bony is just… an enigma. Maybe that’s why she fits in so well with the rest of us dancers. We’re all a little strange, aren’t we?
Except me, or course. I’m not just a little strange. I’m super weird. Super. Weird.