I want to follow-up to what I wrote last week for a moment… a couple of days ago a competition that I went to last year (which is coming up again in a couple of months) released their tentative schedule for this year’s event. My competitive partner Sparkledancer got an email from the organizers of that event announcing the release, so out of curiosity she went and looked at it. Shortly afterward, she sent me a bunch of notes about it and how stupidly she thought it was set up. Of course, now I had to go look at it myself, and I totally agree with her. Looking at the way they have the events arranged really made me think of all the shady conversations I listened to while discussing how to arrange the schedule for the competition I am helping out with.
It’s like… no one cared about how difficult they were making the competition for dancers who were thinking about attending. Just listen to what I would be up against if I wanted to go to that event this year: I dance one style (International Standard) in one proficiency level (Silver), but I’m allowed to be in two age groups. That gives me a chance to dance a few more heats if I want to put my name in for both age ranges, which usually I would consider to be a good thing. The problem is, for one age group I would be dancing all my rounds during the day on Friday, but then for the second age group I would be dancing all the rounds during the day on Sunday.
Even if Sparkledancer wasn’t injured and I was actively competing, I would probably try to get out of going to this competition. If my coach told me I had to go, I would seriously look at only going to do one age group. Staying for three days and two nights, with one day in the middle where I have nothing to do is not appealing to me in the slightest just to dance four different dance styles twice each. If each dance is limited to 90 seconds, that’s three days and two nights of being there to be on the floor for ONLY 12 MINUTES! Who is it that thought this was a good idea?
But it wasn’t just the two age groups that I qualify for that were split up like this. For all of the adult age groups, they are ALL divided in this way. There are no two consecutive age groups on the same day, it’s always one on Friday, and then the next age group up on Sunday! For all proficiency levels too, so it doesn’t matter if you are dancing Bronze or if you’ve made it all the way to the highest echelons as a competitor – if you want to compete in more than one age group so that you get a chance to dance multiple times, you have to be there on both Friday and Sunday. Why in the world would they structure things like this?
Oh. Right. Like I said last week, if you want to guarantee that your competitors will occupy a certain number of hotel rooms during the run of the competition, you shuffle the events around like this in order to force people to hang around. I know firsthand that competition organizers do consider that very fact when they plan out their schedule. Shadowy figures making shadowy deals in the shadows. Dark, mysterious stuff!
Ugh… I think I’m going to only be able to see competition schedules in this light from now on, whether I am looking to compete or just looking to volunteer at the competition. It’s going to make me sad when I see proof that so many competitions are scheduled in this bizarre manner in order to force competitors to hang around longer. The more I see it, I think the more sad I am going to get about it. Insert crying emoji here.
Anyway, let’s stop talking about this before I get too depressed, and let’s move on to different subjects.
This past weekend I did manage to get out of the house and attend a party that was going on at the Electric Dance Hall. I got there early enough to be a part of the lesson that Lord Junior was teaching before the party, and was surprised to find that I only knew a handful of people that were in the room. There were so many new faces that I had never met before! As I rotated through partners during the lesson, a lot of the ladies told me that this was also their first time ever being at this studio, or being in any studio. I am terrible with names, so if I ever see any of these people again, I probably won’t be able to introduce them to anyone else (it’s a weakness of mine). I’m usually pretty good about remembering faces though, so I can at least wave at people I’ve seen before.
Lord Junior had chosen to teach some Jitterbug that night before the party. He told everyone there that when he started learning to dance a million years prior, it was the first dance style that he was shown, so if he could become a dance instructor using Jitterbug as a launching point most everyone else should be able to pick up the style at some level as well. Lord Junior is only a few years older than me, so if he learned that style a million years ago, that probably means that I am getting old…
The figures we looked at weren’t anything groundbreaking for me, but since there were so many people in class who had never danced before we spent a lot of time going through everything to make sure everyone felt mostly comfortable with the steps. The few figures we looked at besides the basic were the Follower’s Outside and Inside Turns and the Waist Roll. All the pieces that we did were some combination of those figures, like how to go from an Outside Turn to an Inside Turn, or from a Waist Roll to an Inside Turn, etc. etc..
I don’t know if it was luck or what, but during the class Lord Junior had all the Leads line up across the middle of the floor and then had the Followers rotate through the line, and I got to be the very last Lead in the line before the person would have to run all the way back to the other end of the room to start going through the line again. Because several of the new people figured out that I kind of knew what I was doing, I was asked quite a bit to help them figure out what they were supposed to be doing. Sometimes this involved walking through the figures slowly with them rather than following along with what the rest of the class was doing.
The rest of the time, most of what I did was to keep a slightly firmer grip on my partners to try and rein them in a little. I’m sure you’ve danced with new dancers recently – they tend to be super excited, and end up using huge over-exaggerated movements for every step. While they could get by when the music we were practicing with was slow, I knew it was going to make things hard for them when the tempo picked up, so I tried to help them pull back a little and keep things cool.
One of the things that Lord Junior told the class that I wished he would have stressed more was that you could dance Jitterbug to Quickstep music, but you needed to stick to the middle of the room when you did that so that the Quickstep dancers could get around you easily. A Quickstep song was played early on in the evening during the party, and as I was walking out to the floor to dance I saw that several of the new couples were starting to do the Jitterbug right in the middle of the line of dance! Apologizing to my partner, I ran over to each of the couples and told them that it wasn’t going to be safe where they were, and directed them to go dance under the big chandelier that hangs in the middle of the Electric Dance Hall where everyone could get around them.
Once I had finally corralled all the wayward couples in the middle of the room, several of them were looking around anxiously as the Quickstep people danced around them. It appeared that they weren’t very sure of what they were doing while they were out there in the middle. So I picked up the partner I had abandoned at the start of the dance and told her we were going to go out there and dance Jitterbug with them, to try and nudge them in the right direction. And it worked! Once there was someone else in the middle dancing, those new couples seemed to feel at ease enough to begin dancing as well. Hooray!
Granted, that whole exercise took around 45 seconds to carry out, so the song was already almost half over by then. Even so, I consider it a win.
Sparkledancer was having much better luck with engaging the newcomers than I was though. I mostly stepped in to make sure that the new dancers stayed safe, but Sparkledancer took it upon herself to ‘adopt’ several new couples that were on one side of the room and help make sure that they could be out on the floor having fun rather than sitting out and just watching while waiting for a Swing song to come on where they could use the steps they learned in the class. For instance, she would pull the ladies out to the floor during the line dances they played that night and went over the steps with them so they could participate.
During slow songs she showed these couples how to get through the basic steps of the Rumba or the Bachata. When I was nearby, I got roped into helping out for that as well. I make a good dance dummy, so the guys were able to watch my feet while I danced their part, allowing the women to focus on watching Sparkledancer’s feet as she danced theirs.
It was quite the entertaining evening, and hopefully a lot of these new faces end up being regulars at the studio and in the dance community. The more the merrier, right?
One last note, but it’s kind of sad, at least for me: Lord Junior sent out a mass message on Monday night to those of us who usually come to his Wednesday night Standard Technique class letting us know that he was going to be cancelling class for the next couple of months. I was at Latin Technique class already when I got his message, so I got to hear him explain what was going on in person.
He has been getting a lot of new students lately, and has been running out of time slots that fit into these people’s schedules to take lessons. This is good for him, since that’s potentially more students he could end up training to be competitors who might be interested in coming to his technique-focused classes in the future… but he needs to find time slots to work with now to support that effort. Since a lot of people who had been coming to Standard Technique have been out a lot lately due to injuries – like Veep, and Sparkledancer, and Apollo – the class has been pretty small the last few months.
Theoretically this will only be for a couple of months. By then, the hope is that everyone will be all healed up and we can all get back to class like normal… or at least they might be patched together well enough to attend every other class or something. Also, maybe there will be more people who have never attended before asking about coming to the class as well. Until that time though, I now have my Wednesday night’s free again.
I liked Standard Technique class a lot. It was probably my favorite class I went to every week. I hope that it will be back soon. Keep your fingers crossed for me that it will be!