Now let’s talk about something completely different than what I have been going on about lately…
This past weekend I went out to a festival that was being put on to celebrate West Coast Swing in my area. As you probably already know, secretly I love West Coast Swing and wish that I knew a lot more of it, but in reality I spend most of my time studying other forms of dance for some reason. Still, having a night wandering around this hotel where the festival was being held was a lot of fun for me, and I would definitely go and do it again.
I was asked by my friends if I wanted to go because on Saturday night they were holding a ‘Ballroom Night’ at the festival. One of the many big rooms that the festival organizers were renting out for their event was set aside that night for ballroom dancing. The previous night they had done the same thing for Club Latin dance styles. I’m wondering if they did it as a way to bring in other dancers who may not do West Coast Swing to their event, in hopes of introducing them to West Coast Swing. Or maybe as a way to introduce all the people who only do West Coast Swing (I’ve met some) to other forms of dancing. Maybe a little of column A and a little of column B? Who knows?
We started out the night in the hall set aside for the ballroom party with a group class (given by a mother-daughter combo of instructors, which I thought was cool) on the basics of West Coast Swing. The fact that they were offering this class in that room is what led to my idea that the organizers were trying to bring in dancers who prefer other styles and show them West Coast Swing. The figures that they had us look at were pretty basic, but we had a fair number of people in the class who had never done any West Coast Swing before, and also a couple of people who had never done ANY dancing before. The instructors were really good about breaking things down so that, by the end, everyone could get through all of the material.
That was in stark contrast to the next lesson of the evening, which was a Rumba lesson given by a guy who owns a popular ballroom dance studio in the southern part of the Dance Kingdom. This guy… I have to say that I really don’t like the way that he teaches. He never really explained how to do the figures that he was trying to have everyone do. I knew what he was getting at, because he would say the name of the figure and I’ve done enough Rumba that I already knew the figures, but once he said the name of the figure, half the time he would just demonstrate it once, maybe twice if people were lucky, and then have everyone get together and try things out while walking around the room to help people.
I think the reason that he teaches this way is that all the people I know who say that they really like his studio and his way of teaching already know how to dance really well. If those are the people that he deals with and he doesn’t worry about teaching newcomers anymore, then I could see his teaching style changing over time to accommodate that. That’s good for people who have an idea on what they’re doing, because it saves them time during their lesson or class from having to break things down, but it’s bad when you have a number of people who don’t have that kind of background, because they get left out of the fun.
There was also a good ten-minute period during the lesson where someone must have crossed the wires for the audio system somewhere, and we started to hear the announcer from the event going on in another room coming over the speakers in the room we were in. The instructor was wearing a headset which would let him speak over the speakers sometimes, but whenever the announcer started to talk it would cut the instructor’s headset off and take over. I thought it was hilarious, especially when the announcer would tell everyone to “make some noise!” and then some people in our room would half-heartedly cheer because they didn’t know what else to do. But it definitely didn’t help the people who were trying to figure out what the heck the instructor was teaching with the problems they were having.
Needless to say, most of those newcomers ended up dropping out of the lesson before it was over. This guy has a core group of people in the ballroom community in the area that really like his way of doing things, and those people all stuck with the lesson until the end. I tried to help some of the people that dropped out, waving any of them sitting in the seats near me over so that I could walk through it with them.
But there were so many that had taken seats in other parts of the room, and the instructor constantly forgot to have people change partners. Even when he did remember to tell people to switch partners, there was no organized system in place to do so, so all the ladies just ran to whomever was closest, and half the time the extra ladies who didn’t have a partner before switching ended up not having a partner again after the chaos was over. I tried my best to work with as many ladies as I could, even asking the partners I had to swap with someone else who was sitting out when she got the hang of her part even though no one else was switching, but I only managed to do so much before the class was over. Sad face.
That kind of frustrated me, but it led to an interesting encounter. After the class was over, I found Sparkledancer talking with a pair of girls off on one side of the dance floor who had given up before the class was over. When I went over to say hi to Sparkledancer, I got to talking with all three of them about dancing for a while. One of the girls told me she was “reaching the age where she needed to try a new hobby” (whatever that means) which is why she had come out to try dancing for the first time that night, and brought her friend along with her for support.
The idea for ballroom dancing was actually put in her head by a guy she had met in a professional capacity not that long ago, who had been telling her all about how much he loved to go out ballroom dancing before he got injured and had to stop. When she mentioned that the guy told her about going to the Electric Dance Hall, I asked the guy’s name because I figured I might have met him before. That guy ended up being Apollo!
Small world, huh? It’s good to hear that he is still talking about ballroom dancing with others even though he can’t do it himself until his back heals. Next time I see him, I’m going to have to bring him a cookie.
One of the coolest things I spent time watching that night though was part of the Jack and Jill competitions that the West Coast Swing event was holding. This ended up being the event that the announcer we had heard during the Rumba lesson was talking about, and it was going on in the main ballroom of the hotel so you couldn’t miss it. After the dance party in the ballroom room that I was in started and I went through a few dances, I just had to duck out and see what was going on in the other room. After all, the mysterious voice from the speakers had told me to get excited, and I’m not the type to let a mysterious voice down!
I think that Jack and Jill competitions look like fun, and the concept also sounds like a lot of fun. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen a Jack and Jill event being offered for ballroom dancing anywhere I’ve been to dance though. I’m sure they exist out there somewhere, but not near me. Why is that? I hear about Jack and Jill events all the time in the context of swing dancing, like the one at this West Coast Swing festival. Do swing dancers just prefer Jack and Jill competitions, while ballroom people avoid them?
Maybe those of us in the ballroom community should step up and offer more Jack and Jill events of our own. And not just because I want to try being in one… OK, maybe just so that I can try being in one. But Jack and Jill should work great for ballroom dances, don’t you think? After all, the dances are supposed to be Lead and Follow, right? We could use it as a way to test how well we could Lead and/or Follow!
Or maybe I should just try to up my game in West Coast Swing and enter into their Jack and Jill events. I have time right now, right? Well… maybe. I’ve been devoting a lot of my time to other things that are not dance related. Like writing a lot (none of that is even vaguely dance related, so you won’t see it here), and hanging out with my cat a lot, and going through a lot of things at work because there’s a lot for me to do at work. But maybe I can shuffle things around and focus on becoming a West Coast Swing master for a while for the sole purpose of entering a Jack and Jill competition. I bet I could do well enough to get an honorable mention or something. 🙂
This coming weekend I am planning on heading out to a party on Friday night. It is a holiday party, as you might expect based on the date and all the hearts that you see hung everywhere. Rumor has it that there might be a big turnout at this party, so I could get to meet a lot of new people, plus see a lot of other people I don’t see much lately. That should be fun.
On top of that, I have to meet up with a couple of the other people helping to organize this competition in March that I’ve been volunteering to help with. This won’t be a meeting of all the people involved – just a couple of us talked about getting together to iron out the details on all the little things that need to be done which no one has talked about yet. Things like who is going to volunteer to go out and pick out snacks/mints for all the competitors and judges, or whether or not it is a good idea to bring a printer to the event to print off any documents needed rather than trying to print out enough beforehand (I think it is a great idea, but really don’t want to end up lugging my printer around), and the like.
How many of these tasks am I going to end up getting assigned to do if I make the mistake of bringing them up? We’ll have to find out this weekend!