We Come Together For A Good Time

This week I did two dance-related things worth noting. Monday night I went out to Latin Technique class, and then Tuesday night I ended last year and began the new year out at a dance party. It’s how I’ve spent New Year’s Eve for the last however-many years (I’ve lost count), and I think it is an enjoyable way to close the year down. Of course, just because the calendars I own have all been replaced doesn’t mean a whole lot has changed otherwise, but getting a random day off of work after a late night of dancing is not something that I will ever complain about.

But let’s talk about Latin Technique first. Only a couple of us showed up for class that night, so Lord Junior decided to take the opportunity to talk about and practice some random dance theory with us rather than focus on any particular figures. I don’t think that this was what he initially planned on working on in class with us before we started, but as we were beginning to warm up by doing some Latin Walks from Rumba, he asked a question of the two people in class who actively compete in Latin styles, and they couldn’t answer the question.

Do you want to test yourself? OK, here’s the question: what are the different types of Latin walks?

…do you not know off the top of your head either? OK, I’ll give you a hint: depending on whether you count the various types of Forward and Backward separately or combine then together, there are either five or nine different types of Latin walks.

…do you have them all? I will list them for you so that you can check your answers. For simplicity, I combine the Forward and Backward types that are the same, so there are only five varieties for me to list:

  1. Forward/Backward Walks – this is the very basic variation, which hopefully everyone checked off first. If you didn’t get this type on your list… I don’t even know what to say to that.
  2. Forward/Backward Walk Turning – this is the next most common type that everyone has to do at some point. Everyone does a Spot Turn early on when they learn Rumba, right? That uses a Turning Walk. Typically you do a Turning Walk by flipping a full 180°, but the turn can be more or less depending on the figure.
  3. Extended Forward/Backward Walk – this type of walk is slightly more esoteric than the previous two. Basically this is where you would extend your leg out in front of you for a short time without changing weight onto it right away, and then take a step onto it later. The figure mentioned in class where I’ve seen this done before was the Follower’s part of an Alemana.
  4. Pressed Forward/Backward Walk – another more esoteric type of walk, this action allows you to create a Press Line with your front leg before you step, allowing you to change direction. Watch the Follower’s part from a Closed Hip Twist or Sliding Door and you will see them doing this type of walk.
  5. Checked Walk – even though I put this one last, this is another really common type of Latin Walk like the first two types I list. You do one of these every time you do a New Yorker, for example. Because the Check action is meant to stop your forward motion so that you can start moving backward, this type of Latin walk doesn’t have Forward and Backward variations like all the others (hence why I put it last on the list).

How many types of Latin walks were you able to name? Did you get everything on the list? If so, high five for you!

Once we had spent some time discussing all the various types of Latin walks that there were and warmed up by doing some basic Forward Walks, we spent the remainder of the class working on a couple of figures that allowed everyone to practice their Turning Walks. The first figure we used was the Hand-to-Hand. Lord Junior had us do the Silver-level form of the figure where between each Hand-to-Hand we would take a step straight forward and then do a 180° turn before going into the next Hand-to-Hand. Starting off with one on the Lead’s right side, we did three of these in a row.

After the third one we changed things up a bit and took two steps forward, then did another 180° Turning Walk to put us into an Aida. Rather than doing the fairly common ending that uses Cuban Rocks and a Spot Turn to come out of Aida, we did the ending variation that not a lot of people use but that required us to work on a lot of Turning Walks: the Double Spot Turn. This ending is no joke to try and do up to tempo with the music.

Turkish Towel was in class with us that night, and he really struggled to get through the Double Spot Turn without faking his footwork to make it easier. He said that he hasn’t gotten to a point in his private lessons yet where his instructor is working on getting him to turn from his core, so a lot of his rotation ended up being from up in his shoulders. Turning like that  kept throwing him off balance. Lucky for him, we only had to try the Double Spot Turn a couple of times at tempo before time ran out, so he just toughed it out until we finished.

As fun as that class was, Tuesday night was a lot more fun. I hope a lot of you managed to get out to a dance party to end the year on a high note, because it really is a fun way to do it. That is, if you like to stay up late. I prefer to stay up late rather than get up early in the morning, so parties like this that go super late into the evening are my kind of jam.

The New Year’s Eve party I went to was almost really two different parties back-to-back. The evening started out with a more traditional party centered around ballroom dancing. There was a DJ playing music, which seemed heavy on the Foxtrot numbers to me, but I guess that might have been part of the “roaring ‘20s” joke I have heard too many times already. Along the back wall of the studio a section of floor was cordoned off and a bunch of tables were set up where people could go and play games or sit and talk. Lots of snacks and free drinks were provided for everyone. Some people had way more to drink than others, and were a bit goofy by the end of the night when the calendar finally flipped over.

Halfway through the evening, as is tradition at every Electric Dance Hall New Year’s Eve party, we played musical chairs. This year was hilarious for a number of reasons. I helped set everything up this year, as I have done for several years now. I usually take care of pulling the chairs out after each round, and making sure that no one gets too violent when fighting for chairs. I feel that being a lot bigger than most people like I am means that I would have an unfair advantage, so actually sitting in and playing would be a bad idea for me. Sparkledancer helped me take care of the chairs this year because we had so many people that wanted to play, and Lord Junior took care of judging from the sidelines – making the final call on who wins if two people take a chair at the same time.

This year, we had the hardest time getting people to actually walk around the chairs. A bunch of the ladies playing thought that they were being really clever by walking around the line of chairs sideways really slowly, putting themselves in position to sit down really fast when the music stopped. But then the music stopped, and more often than not we ended up with two people sitting in the same chairs in several places and open chairs in the middle of the line that I had to point out so that someone would move and claim them. It wasn’t just one time this happened, it was most of the early rounds! I wonder if the people playing either had too much to drink, or if walking sideways like many of the women were meant that they weren’t looking very good at where they were trying to sit…

To get the players to start moving faster, we ended up having to pause the music for a minute and spread the chairs out so that they weren’t in a line anymore, but more of an oval with space in between each chair. That forced people to actually try and walk around the circle in time with the music so that they didn’t get stuck between the chairs. Unintentionally, this also seemed to make them more pushy. Two different times we had ladies push each other out of a chair so that one ended up on the floor. Yeesh… people are so competitive!

But at the end, when we were down to two people and one chair, somehow we ended up with the two most diametrically opposed ladies still in the game to fight over one seat. The first was this tiny woman who couldn’t have even come close to half my size if she was wearing a full-length winter coat that was soaking wet. She had managed to hang in there because she was so small and could squeeze in between others to claim her chair. The second woman was much larger – standing about as tall as me, with a stockier-looking build.

As the music started for the final round, the tiny woman looked at Lord Junior and told him that there was no way she could beat that other girl, and then just sat down in the chair. Everyone had a chuckle at that, but then, to our surprise, the larger woman reached down and picked up the small girl, holding her like a child, and turned around to sit herself down in the chair as well. That broke the game, and everyone in the room went nuts laughing so hard. For that hilarious show the ladies just put on for us, Lord Junior decided that his official ruling was that both women were winners, and would each receive the same grand prize (which was a private lesson with him). Hooray!

At midnight the DJ who had been playing the ballroom music all night started to pack up and then Lord Junior took over to play music for anyone who wanted to stay around. He had decided that he was going to spend the remainder of the evening playing old hip-hop and R&B songs from the ‘80s and ‘90s, turning the place over into more of a ‘club’ vibe than a ballroom vibe. This was really fun. I haven’t been to an actual dance club in more years than I can count, so it’s been forever since I let myself just bounce around in time to the music without worrying about what steps I was doing. I stayed there for a couple more hours just dancing like this, even though my legs were exhausted by this point (I had worked out before the party, and it was leg day, so I started out with tired legs).

Seedling had come to the party that night and had opted to stay late for the after-party, but he didn’t seem to want to participate in the dancing. While everyone else left in the building was bouncing around in the middle of the floor to the music, he was standing along the edge of the room, doing something on his phone. I get the feeling that he has some insecurities about the way he thinks people see him, so just letting himself go to have fun and be silly is probably something that makes him feel uncomfortable. That’s just my read on him though; I’m certainly not a professional, so I don’t know for sure if that was the reason. He stayed there for a long time just hanging off to the side, but then sneaked out at some point without saying goodbye to anyone. That was a bit weird.

We did take a break from the dancing at one point to play some strange games. I think, based on what other people were saying, a lot of these games were originally drinking games, but since I don’t drink I had never seen any of them before. I got picked to do a really weird one where I had to put a cookie on my forehead and then move it down into my mouth without using anything other than my face. I thought I was doing pretty well, but then the cookie ended up over my right eye, and I couldn’t get it off fast enough. Crumbs came off the cookie and fell into my eye, and that hurt, which made me lift my head reflexively, and that dropped the cookie onto the floor. I totally lost that game. Sad. No points for the Thespian…

We were playing in teams of six though, and my team (which only had five people) did manage to do really well despite my failings. We tied for first. For a tie breaker, someone chose a song and we were supposed to have a team dance off to see who would win. My team was at a major disadvantage though, because we were the only team without a dance instructor on it. So we watched while the other team came up with this intricate looking choreographed number in the few minutes we were given to rehearse. The rest of my team wanted to forfeit. I ended up drawing a face on a balloon and used that as the sixth member of our team, and then just wiggled like an idiot because the rest of my team didn’t want to do anything.

So the other team won pretty handily. The two teams that lost didn’t want to be left out, so they had come up with their own dance routines as well. Lord Junior’s team was all pretty drunk by that point, so as they were doing their number, Lord Junior bent over and it looked like he was going to lift Turkish Towel up over his shoulder, but didn’t realize how much the guy actually weighed, so then had to abort the lift after a few seconds. That was pretty funny.

So yeah. It was lucky I had the day off on Wednesday, because I stayed out way later than I had intended just partying the night away. It was a fun way to bring in the new year dancing. Here’s hoping that 2020 has more fun dance-related things like this in store. It’s a new year, and there’s lots of time ahead to get into some new adventures. Onward to the future!

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