In a surprising turn of events that I wasn’t really expecting, last Saturday I was out at a competition. I wasn’t actually dancing in this competition, but I was there for a good chunk of the day as a volunteer helping out.
This all started two days prior when I got a text message from my coach Lord Dormamu. He said that he was running a Pro/Am event out at the Endless Dance Hall and they were going to be short staffed, so I should come help. It wasn’t like he was asking for me to be there to help, so much as instructing me to be there. “Voluntold” I believe is the pseudo-word that describes this type of situation.
But I had been thinking about going out to at least watch this event even before I was told to come help out. People that I knew were going to be dancing – Lord Junior in particular had a contingent of people from his studio that were going, so he told a bunch of us after class last Wednesday night that if we weren’t doing anything that Saturday we should all come by and cheer them on. So actually being there that day was already on my list of potential plans.
I got up early enough that day to arrive at the venue before the doors opened for the competitors, but I didn’t actually make it inside that early. As I was pulling into the parking lot, Lord Dormamu was pulling out. I waved at him as I drove by to park my car, but that caused him to back up and stop me so we could talk. He was headed out to pick up some things that someone had forgotten to get for the competition, but since the two places he needed to go were in opposite directions, he asked if I could go get one item while he went to get the other so things would be acquired faster. The items I needed to get weren’t super exciting, just a couple of reams of paper, but the scrutineer was super happy when I finally got inside the building and delivered them to him.
There were only a few other volunteers that had been asked to help that day. The lady who was playing deck captain for the day was one of them – I’ve seen her around a lot at various dance parties and competitions in the area, but for the life of me I couldn’t actually tell you her name. I’m just terrible with names. Sparkledancer was also there sitting at the registration desk getting people signed in and collecting money that hadn’t been paid for entries yet. Lord Dormamu’s personal assistant was also there at the front desk too, but she said that she wanted me to take over for her because the shuttle that was supposed to pick up all the judges from their hotel had booked things on the wrong day, so someone had to run over and get them quickly before the event started.
I wondered why she didn’t just ask me to go get them so that she could stay and run the front desk, but it turns out that I was actually the better person to leave at the studio because once Lord Dormamu got back I got roped into moving around a bunch of heavy stuff. His exact request to me was something along the lines of “We need your guns to carry stuff out of the back room.” So I flexed my muscles and helped bring out extra tables and chairs for all the spectators that unexpectedly showed up, and a podium that someone found in the back to put on stage for the emcee, and the like.
With the number of people who had shown up to watch and all the dancers who had come in by that point and had taken to the floor to warm up, it was just easier for me to carry things around rather than find a cart to move things. They had given me a cart that I could use when I got started, but I found that I could weave between people much easier while carrying items in my arms rather than trying to steer the cart between people.
When I did get a chance to be up at the desk checking people in, for the most part everything went OK. There were a few instructors who hadn’t paid their entry fees yet that I collected money from. Only one of those took a look at the amount I had been given as what he owed and told me that it wasn’t the number that he had been given prior to arriving that day. Not having been given anything more than a total amount, I had to find one of the people in charge to go and pull his itemized list of charges to figure out where the difference was.
The only complaint I would put out was about the fact that no one had brought a dedicated mechanism for the front desk to run credit cards with. That made life difficult for those of us up at the desk running things when any spectators showed up and wanted to pay for their ticket by card. That required either Sparkledancer or I to track down one of the two main organizers so they could run the card through on their phone. That was a little annoying anytime it happened.
There was only one lady that got super upset that I had to deal with. She showed up near the time when the morning session was almost over and wanted to get a spectator ticket so she could hang around the rest of the day. The ticket prices for spectators were set at a weird amount in my opinion ($25 each). That’s not an amount of cash that a lot of people have on hand, and most ATMs only and out twenties, so personally I think that just setting the ticket price to come watch at $20 makes a lot more sense.
Anyway, we didn’t start off the day with any small bills because none of the organizers had remembered to stop at the bank before the event. We managed to make it through the morning up until that point by having enough people show up with exact change that we had some small bills to work with at any given time, and when we didn’t have correct change we managed to find and force one of the organizers to empty out all the small bills in their wallets for us to use. That had been a pretty good system, but by the time this lady showed up we had just run out and didn’t have enough in small bills left over to break her two twenties, and none of the organizers were anywhere where we could see them.
When she showed up, I had been off in the back on another quest to help move around some heavy things, so when I returned to the front desk this lady was already standing off to the side with a sour look on her face while Sparkledancer was checking in a competitor who was going to dance in the afternoon session. I asked the lady if she had been helped yet, and rather than just getting a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’ I got an earful from her about how terribly unprofessional it was that none of us had any change to break her twenty so she could buy a ticket and get in.
I then made the mistake of telling her that we could run a credit card for her, which would help move things along faster. That got me another earful about how she shouldn’t have to pay some percentage credit card fee just because no one had bothered to get enough change to make it through the day. She had strong opinions about that! After checking my own wallet to verify that I didn’t have enough left over to make change for her myself (I don’t usually carry cash – the percent fee for running my card doesn’t bother me enough to give up the convenience of not having stacks of bills stuffed in my wallet), I told her to give me a few minutes and I would see if I could find someone else who could break a twenty for her.
People who get angry like that over little things just stand out in my memory – and not in a good way. You would think that if she was familiar enough with ballroom dancing to want to come and watch a competition that she would know that Sparkledancer and I were merely volunteers helping out, and yelling at us about how unprofessional things that we had no control over were wasn’t going to help resolve her situation any faster. I did manage to finally catch Lord Dormamu when he had a moment between all the stuff he was doing to run the show to see if he had any change on him, and between the two of us we managed to come up with enough to finally break her twenty, so everything worked out in the end.
Let this be a lesson for all of you who might be reading: to make life easier for everyone involved, please set your ticket prices to an easy amount like $20. Sure, you will have those few weird people who come in that want to pay with a $50, so you will need a few $10s on hand to deal with that, but otherwise keeping the price at a nice even amount like $20 will make everyone’s life so much easier. I promise.
Time for a note about something funny – Monday night at Latin Technique class, Lord Junior had planned on having us warm up by doing some turning Rumba Walks and then possibly moving on to something harder to challenge us. That night we actually had a fair number of people in class with us, with five people who would dance the Follow part and five who would be Lead. The random female instructor who has joined us in class before had decided to hang around for class again that night after her private lesson finished, and she was planning on dancing Lead, which is why I list it that way.
But we ended up spending a lot of time working on just those Rumba walks. They weren’t merely straight walks down the floor, but it wasn’t anything so complicated that you would have thought people would have trouble with it. If you started with taking a step forward on the right leg, you would do a 90° turn to the right and then take a side step with the left leg, then do a 90° turn to the right and step forward again with the right leg, and so on and so forth. If you started by taking a step forward on the left leg it was basically the same process except the first turn would be to the left and the second would be to the right.
You could go all the way down the floor like this for practice if you wanted, but we only did three sets of three steps before turning around and going back toward where we started using the other leg. It sounds like a pretty simple exercise, right? I thought it was. In fact, I had done something similar to this before in Latin Technique class, so I had a pretty good feeling for what I was supposed to be doing. I tried to focus on taking the steps by pushing out of my standing leg without pushing myself so far that I would slide down the floor. Since I have trained to dance International Standard rather than Latin, my default is to travel as much as possible when I move, which doesn’t work so well in Latin.
All of the other people in class had a really hilarious time doing this though. One guy in class spent the first part of the exercise somehow rotating the opposite way than he was supposed to, so he struggled to use the correct leg for taking the next step if he did that. At one point Lord Junior had to stop everyone because he was laughing too hard to keep counting, and he told us that the guy had done a 270° turn in the wrong direction so he could face forward and take the next step with the correct leg rather than do the easier 90° turn we were supposed to do. The guy in class just shrugged and said that at least he managed to use the correct leg for the next step that time.
After the first time down the floor, when we turned around to go back in the opposite direction Lord Junior said that he would count for us and we could do the steps in time. He gave us the first four count so we could get a feel for the tempo, and then we started on the next two since this was International Rumba. As we got through the first set of three steps, I stopped in place to wait for the next two before moving on… but apparently no one else did. Lord Junior had to stop the whole thing and laugh at the class, because every single other person (including the lady in class with us who has been an instructor for many years) didn’t hold. He pointed at me and said that the only person who did the timing right for some reason was me, and I don’t even dance Latin competitively like everyone else in class (except Sparkledancer) did. Lord Junior thought that was super funny.
Finally this week, Standard Technique class. No one could remember what we had worked on over the last couple of weeks at the start of class (and I didn’t want to seem weird by looking up what I had secretly written down on this site), so we opted to go over some Foxtrot even though I think we had done that style recently. It was still fun though, and for the most part, this class was more successful than class on Monday night.
The progression we looked at felt pretty simple to me. We started off with a Feather heading toward diagonal center. Next we did three Curved Three Steps in a row – first one was forward, the second went backward, the third forward again, and the whole thing ended with a Feather Finish. However, the Feather Finish we used here ended with a checking action so that we could start moving backward into a Top Spin (I’m not sure why they call the figure a ‘Top Spin’ since the figure actually has no real spin to it at all). After the Top Spin we finished the whole thing off with a Double Reverse Spin modified for Foxtrot timing, with a Feather Finish at the end to cap everything off.
It’s hard to believe that we’re already a week into November now! Holy moly, that means that the year is winding down! Soon I will have to start thinking about things like holiday parties and possibly getting my ticket to the big Christmas formal dance if I decide I want to go. And then figuring out what to do with all the New Year’s Eve parties to choose from! It’s going to be a busy time of year for dancing. Are you ready?