The Best Peach Is At The Top Of That Tree

Aside from yesterday, there were a couple of dance things I went to this past week that asked me to try and make my poor white boy hips work like a Latin dancer. It did not go very well, however. Even cumulus clouds were looking down on me and saying that I needed to go get a tan because my hips looked too white to work like that. Clouds can be jerks sometimes, right?

Saturday night I went off to a dance party being held at the City Dance Hall. The party was kind of small, but there was a thunderstorm going on that I imagine kept a number of people who hate driving in the rain away. I had stopped to get dinner not too far away from the City Dance Hall about an hour before the party, and it wasn’t raining when I left to go there, so making it the short hop over to the studio in the rain wasn’t all that bad for me. I didn’t know that it was going to rain, so I can’t pretend that I was super smart and planned things out that way. I just got lucky.

The organizers of this party had asked an instructor from one of the local Latin clubs to come in and teach a lesson on both Salsa and Bachata. Since he was going over two different styles, and there were some people in the crowd who had never done either Salsa or Bachata before, the figures that he showed everyone were really basic. I had actually seen all of them (or a variation on all of them) before, and I almost never dance Salsa or Bachata. That was surprising to me.

But there was a comment that he made somewhere in the middle of the lesson that really made me feel like I was just a white boy pretending to dance Salsa. He told everyone to bring their arms into the mix, allowing them to move naturally with the body while still maintaining the connection with your partner. This meant a lot of different things to different people, but for me it meant… my arms didn’t really move at all. When I would try and move my arms around, it didn’t feel natural to me in any way. What felt right was to keep my elbows near my ribs and my spine straight. I can’t imagine why that might be what I prefer…

So I may have looked a bit stiff while dancing the Salsa and Bachata in class. No one called me on my lack of arm wiggling, but I did have a few ladies who mentioned to me that they were struggling to understand the steps when they rotated over to dance with me, only to tell me after we got done dancing that I was one of the few men that they were able to follow properly. Personally, I attribute that to keping my arms calm so that I could have a better connection with my partner. I guess that can count as a win?

There were a number of the ladies that I danced with as the class rotated around who were super into things. They were moving their own arms around so much as they danced that it was hard to actually lead them through anything. Lucky for me, they didn’t seem to need my help to get through the pattern that the instructor had walked everyone through. They just turned themselves when they needed to without any assistance from me. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t trying to do any figures outside of the choreography that the instructor had given during his class. It felt like those ladies were just holding onto my hand merely because they were told to do the figures that way, rather than because I was trying to dance with them.

In Latin Technique class this week we looked at Samba. We actually only really got through one real figure, because Lord Junior started off class telling everyone that the figure would be “no big deal,” and then it turned out to actually be kind of a big deal that some people were struggling to do passably.

The whole thing started off on a high note (he said sarcastically) when Lord Junior asked us to do Batucadas as our warm-up when class started. I have been asked to do Batucadas enough at this point in my life that I know what the movement entails. As I take a step back, I can do the lateral motions with my hips properly, even when asked to do the movement at higher speeds. What messes me up every time is trying to add the rotational action into my hips while moving them laterally. Also, trying to do the movement without putting my heels down completely is kind of comical too. So essentially I can do the essence of the Batucada, I would say. That’s pretty good in my opinion.

The reason that Lord Junior asked us to do these as a warm-up was because the opening movements that we used to get into position to do the specific figure that Lord Junior wanted us to work on had the ladies in class doing some Batucadas. Even though the Leads didn’t have any Batucadas in the choreography at all, Lord Junior thought it was a good idea to have all of us work on them, because reasons and such as and so forth (it was along the lines of making us better dancers by having us practice hard stuff).

We started off standing about ten feet apart from our partner. As the music started, the Leads would take a step back on beat five of whatever measure that we wanted to start and wind up a bit so that we could take a step forward on beat one of the next measure. Lord Junior told us that in a competitive setting, the Lead would do this as a visual signal to let his partner know that they would start their choreography when the next measure starts. Since we were split apart, a visual cue was the only clue we could give our partners, unless we wanted to yell across the dance floor at them.

As we started moving, the Leads would do a normal Cruzados Walks and Lock to close the distance between the two of us. The Follower would take two steps backwards as we did the two Cruzados Walks forward, and then she would go into three Batucadas as the Lead finished the Lock to catch up to them. When we met up, the Follower would have her left arm ready so that we could link up with her by grasping her forearm near the elbow rather than her hand. The Follower would then take her right hand and place it on the right side of the Lead’s chest, winding into us a little bit to prepare for the next movement.

This was the figure that Lord Junior actually wanted to have us work on that night. The idea was that the Leads would do Samba Locks forward while the lady would take a large step back, push off our chest to turn around and face down the line of dance as the Lead locked, and then turn back to face us to do it all over again. We were supposed to do three of these in a row, but sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t. For example, Veep liked to use more force to help turn herself around faster, so she would push off her partner harder than the other ladies in class were pushing. I thought it was fine, but the first time she did that to Lord Junior he jokingly told her that it felt like she was trying to crack his sternum. Too funny.

We never got any further than this figure since some people had trouble with it, but whenever someone messed up it was usually in a rather amusing way, so all of us were laughing our butts off throughout the class. The funniest mistake was when Apollo finally thought that he had the hang of the figure, so in his confidence he tried to push off his supporting leg and take a bigger step after he linked up with Gatekeeper. His step didn’t land properly though, and he came down on the back of his heel rather than the ball of his foot, so his front leg just slid forward out from under him. He managed to stop himself before he hit the floor, but he surprised Gatekeeper, and the noise she made stopped everyone else in class in their tracks and made us look back at the two of them, and of course we all started laughing at what we saw. Good times all around.

Wednesday night I headed out to Standard Technique class. Normally on Wednesdays there is more than one class going on at the Electric Dance Hall at the same time, but I guess the lady who teaches the other class was sick that day so our class was the only one there that night. That gave us the whole floor to work with without fear of running into someone on the other side of the room. Because of that, Lord Junior decided to have us work on some American Foxtrot to change things up a bit. He showed all of us the opening section from a Foxtrot showcase routine he had done with one of his students a while back.

This pattern started off facing our partner with several feet between us, with the Lead’s back toward the line of dance. Stepping in and leaning toward our partner, we took her left hand in or right and pressed our other palms together to do an Explosion before rolling her across our body. She did a syncopated turn here, adding in the extra step so that she could come out on the same foot that we were on. As she was turning, the Lead would shift his weight over to his right leg and bring his left leg in, winding up a bit and stepping forward on the left foot at the last possible moment in the measure of music. This put the two partners into something kind of like Shadow Position, but disconnected from one another.

All our movements for the next few measures of music were identical, done with the Follower in front and the Lead behind her and off to the right far enough that the audience could see him. Starting off with a couple of Grapevine actions down the line of dance, we then did a step and hop on the right leg, bringing the left leg up in the process, then pushed off with the right leg to do a bit of a slide to the left. Next we would step forward on the right foot and point our left leg off to the side, and then step onto the left foot and point the right leg to the side. After that we stepped forward on the right foot one more time, but here we would tap our left toe on the floor behind the right foot in a movement that I’ve done a number of times in Pasodoble.

As we pushed back onto the left foot, we allowed the right leg to Ronde around and rotate our body a bit so that we ended up backing diagonal center. That allowed us to take one step backward and then a second step to our left down the line of dance as our last movements in sync with our partner. Here the ladies did a double-turn to the left while the Leads did a syncopated turn, allowing us to take the extra step this time as we rotated so that we could get back on the opposite foot as our partner. Once done turning we brought up our left hand to signal our partner to get back into frame, and we finished up doing a Twinkle into an Open Natural Turn.

I thought that the progression was fun, even when Lord Junior tried to get us to add our arms into the mix. Having long arms, I had to keep mine bent at the elbows in a number of places to avoid smacking the people around me. As class wore on Lord Junior decided to give me a break and reduce the number of us trying to dance down the floor at once, so I had more room to spread my arms out as long as my partner wasn’t too close to me.

Apollo on the other hand, he told me at the beginning of class that he was worried because Foxtrot is a hard dance style for him for some reason, and sure enough he really struggled to get some things down. But it was struggling in a humorous way, since the things he messed up were minor and made the class entertaining as Lord Junior called him out when he saw something. I like that Apollo knows how to laugh at his mistakes. He is a man after my own heart, since I laugh at myself all the time for messing up, even if no one else notices.

It looks like it might be a quiet week coming up. Lord Junior is out of town next week, so his classes are cancelled next Monday and Wednesday. I’ll hopefully get to see Lord Dormamu this weekend (if his injury cooperates), but other than that there really isn’t much dancing on my plate that isn’t practice. There is a big dance event happening this weekend that a lot of people I know are going to, but I didn’t buy a ticket because I thought I would have a work project going on that night. Now, of course, my work project didn’t manifest, and the event is sold out so I won’t be going there. Ah well, maybe next time.


My Tribe Went Down In The Hall Of Fame

Last weekend turned out to be kind of nutty. I got a text from Lord Junior last Thursday asking if I could meet up at the Electric Dance Hall late Saturday afternoon. He wanted to get the whole group of us who were going to the competition from his studio together that afternoon so that we could go over a few things before the event on Sunday. I got a hold of Sparkledancer and we agreed to rearrange our practice time on Saturday so that we would go practice at the Electric Dance Hall the hour before Lord Junior wanted everyone to meet up, that way when we finished we would already be there. If only I had known what I was getting myself into…

What Lord Junior wanted to tell all of us was that all the heads of the dance studios that were taking part in this competition had gotten together, and they decided that each studio was now a ‘team’ and all the teams were going to have to perform a group number at the start of the competition. He had thought about it and had come up with something that was completely ridiculous that he was going to have us all do. When he showed us all what he had in mind, it was really basic and silly, which I thought was a perfect performance number for me. None of us had trouble picking it up after about half an hour.

As an added bonus, Lord Junior brought his young daughter (I’m pretty sure she is only four or five years old) to join us. She was going to be our secret weapon, since she is tiny and adorable. Also, he had worked with her so that she already knew the movements for this performance, but she was watching everyone else to figure out the timing, so she was always a half-second behind the rest of us when she started the movements. But when she moved, she put so much enthusiasm into every move that it put all the rest of us to shame. It was the perfect idea that was definitely going to win our team all the adorable points for the whole day!

The reason that this competition ended up being on Sunday afternoon was so that the competition would fall on Cinco de Mayo, giving the competition organizers a theme to base the event around, and also giving all the competitors an excuse to drink heavily on a Sunday afternoon. There were bottles full of holiday-appropriate beverages that I’m sure you could think of that were provided for each team to enjoy together. I don’t drink, but the rest of the team that I was a part of more-than made up for my lack of participation in this area. The rest of my teammates managed to finish off the entire bottle that was given to our table before any of the other teams, and then they accepted a mostly-untouched bottle from one of the smaller teams at the competition to “help” them finish that off as well.

Can you hear the chorus from “We Are The Champions” swelling here? Seems appropriate, right? 😛

Since the drinking began before the first heat of the competition was even a thought in the DJ’s mind, as you can guess everyone was pretty jovial throughout the event. There was lots of cheering (and additional random thoughts) shouted out by the audience during each and every heat, and the organizers had mixed in some fun surprises throughout the competition to keep things from being super serious. And after about an hour or so, some catering company stopped by and dropped off tons of tortilla chips and salsa, and all the ingredients to put together any kind of taco your heart desired. The heats were running quick, so more than once I saw somebody take to the floor while still chewing on whatever snack they had tried to eat in between rounds.

Surprisingly enough, somehow the organizers talked the world-famous Judge Dread into being one of the two judges that watched that day. I had heard that Judge Dread was going to be in town last Saturday morning to give coaching sessions and hold workshops, so the organizers of this competition must have convinced him to hang around for one more day somehow. Probably using free tacos as a bribe. That would totally work on me, in case you ever need to get me to hang around someplace for a while longer. The other judge was a guy who I didn’t recognize at first because he was wearing an elaborate outfit that fit in with the theme, but he turned out to be one of the instructors from the City Dance Hall.

We started off the competition with the group numbers that every team had put together. Lord Junior had told us the day before that the group performance was supposed to be something short, like two minutes or less, but apparently not all of the teams got that message. A couple of them went on FOREVER – dancing to multiple songs that were spliced together to make their performance an elaborate presentation. One went on for so long that I actually got bored watching it. Still, the performances were silly – and may have been borderline culturally insensitive – but everyone there got a laugh out of them. Those performances pretty much set the tone for the rest of the event.

There were spots set aside in the schedule for “Mystery Rounds” that no one knew about until the day of the competition. When these rounds came up, the DJ had a member of the audience draw the name of one of the teams at random from a bowl. If your team was chosen, you had to go to the middle of the room and everyone had to dance to a song chosen at random by the DJ. Several of these mysterious songs turned out to be line dances, and a couple were just completely off-the-wall numbers that even I didn’t know. Supposedly each mystery round gave the teams points of some kind, but we never found out what they were worth. Since these mystery rounds happened a good ways into the competition after a lot of adult beverages had been consumed by members of each team, I don’t think anyone actually cared.

As far as the actual dancing goes… with all the decorations that were set up, and the tables around the outside of the floor for everyone to gather, the actual dance floor was really small. To give you an idea of how small – I was really trying to reel in my stride any time I was out on the floor, yet I still easily managed to cover the “long” wall of the dance floor using just an amalgamation of figures from the short wall of any of my routines.
On top of that, for a bunch of the routines they tried to fit ten to twelve couples on that tiny floor! My first real dance was a Quickstep, and that was a bit nerve wracking with so many bodies moving around in a small area. After my first couple of times out dancing, my routines pretty much got thrown out the window and I just used the figures piecemeal to get around as best I could without running into anyone. Safety first!

Most of the competitors who came to this competition were Pro/Am, so you would think that having to work so hard to avoid running into people wouldn’t be a huge concern. After all, many of the guys out on the floor Leading were supposed to be Pros, so theoretically they should be pretty good at getting around the floor safely, right? Well… there were a couple of them who had pretty questionable floorcraft skills. To make matters worse, they had mixed in American and International styles and all proficiency levels on the floor at the same time. That made navigating a rather interesting experience. In a lot of ways it felt more like being at a social dance rather than a competition.

For instance, that first Quickstep number I did – they ended up playing a slower Quickstep song, which was helpful to make things safer, but the reason that the song was slower was because there was one couple on the floor that was dancing Peabody instead of Quickstep. The handful of Viennese Waltz numbers I did were done using American Viennese Waltz tempo songs, but I had to navigate around couples who would break frame in the middle of the line of dance rather than go to the middle of the room, so that definitely kept me on my toes.

I have no idea how I actually did that day. As I mentioned, supposedly the competition was being scored with some kind of point system, and all the points from each team member were put together to decide which team was the best. The way they decided to do it must have been overly complicated though, because even though they had been periodically updating everyone with the scores for each team throughout the day, at the end when all the rounds were done they still had to sit at the desk for over half-an-hour with a couple of calculators to see which team won. You know the math is complicated when you need more than one calculator to solve the equation!

But I did get stopped by a number of people I didn’t know after all the rounds were over who wanted to tell me how good I looked while out on the floor, or to ask me where it was I trained and who my instructor was. Sparkledancer told me that a bunch of people did the same thing to her as well. I guess that indicates we were doing pretty well, right? It was a bit confusing to be asked who my coach was. Since there are so few actual Amateur competitors in the area, most people I run into already know who Sparkledancer and I are, because we stand out. I was surprised to run into several people all in the same place who didn’t already know my dance-life history. That doesn’t happen very often.

Monday night I headed off to Latin Technique class. Because Lord Junior had danced in almost all the heats in the competition the day before, we ended up looking at some Rumba to give him a bit of a break. He had us all work on the opening section from his basic Open-level routine that he uses with many of his high-level students. I’ve seen most of the figures from this amalgamation that we did before, just not necessarily in this order. None of the figures were all that exciting, so I don’t really need to remember them for later.

Standard Technique class was actually more fun, so I’ll just leave Latin Technique alone and talk about Standard Technique instead. Only a few of us showed up for class, which allowed us to cover a lot more material in our time together than we normally do when more people show up. I find it more entertaining to go through a lot of different figures in a short period of time, so classes like this really appeal to me. We decided to look at Waltz, since it had been a while since we used that style.

What we went through that night started out with a Progressive Chasse to the RIght into a Back Lock, and then an Outside Spin to turn a corner and head down the next wall. Moving in that direction we did a Checked Natural Turn and Reverse Pivot going into a Double Reverse Spin, then an Open Telemark that came out heading down the line of dance still. Connected to that we added a Curved Chasse from Promenade Position, turning us 90° to go around another corner.
Rather than continue traveling so much after all that, Lord Junior added in an in-place figure by doing a Right-Side Lunge with an Oversway in that corner, coming out by shifting our weight back to the left leg for a beat and doing one last Reverse Pivot so that we could go into a basic Reverse Turn heading toward diagonal center. The whole of this progression will take you down the end of one long wall, through the short wall, and come out at the beginning of the next long wall if you position yourself correctly on the floor when you start. Fun times!

It feels like forever since I’ve seen my coach. The last few weeks he has been running around all over the country giving coaching, and then he was competing at some big Pro/Am event last weekend. I was actually supposed to see him earlier this week, but he injured himself and had to cancel. Hopefully he will be back in dancing shape soon so that we can get together and look over things.

It’s All Around You, You Don’t Even Know It

A quick note to start with about the showcase performance I went to last Sunday evening. The show was great, in large part because I knew practically everyone that was performing. That makes a big difference in how much I actually enjoy watching a show like this. On top of that, I knew a ton of the people in the audience too, so between the different acts I could talk with the people around me and make jokes about everything that was going on. Knowing people helps make good times even better.

There weren’t any really stand-out numbers from this particular show. One unique thing about this showcase was the sheer number of group dances that were put together for the show. By my count looking at the program that they printed off for everyone, there were seven different formation teams, with one of the teams dancing twice. Lord Junior likes to keep the number of performances at his showcases pretty low and mix in some social dancing as a way to help keep the audience from getting bored. Because of that philosophy, the formation team numbers made up almost 25% of the show based on my rough math. Whoa!

I didn’t even know that there were that many formation teams in the area around the Electric Dance Hall to begin with, so seeing them all perform in the same showcase was a unique experience. One of the formation teams was made up of three little girls. I have no idea how old they were, but to give you an idea of how young they were I can tell you that if any of those three were half my height (literally), I would have been surprised. One of the girls apparently hadn’t been planning on being in the show originally, but just decided that morning that she wanted to participate. She came out to the floor holding two big feathers and was waving them around while trying to follow what the adult leader was doing. When she couldn’t follow, she just jumped around doing her own thing with the feathers. Too funny.

Last Monday night I really tried my hardest to convince everyone else in Latin Technique class to vote for working on a different dance style, but my words fell on deaf ears and we ended up working on Samba anyway. I survived the class mostly intact – we spent a lot more time working on figures that used the Samba Bounce action this week than we have in a very long time, but I managed to muddle my way through. Having strong abdominal muscles that I can manipulate helps me give off the impression that I am doing the Samba Bounce action, even if I’m pretty sure that anyone watching closely would be able to see that I am faking it pretty hard.

We started off the progression that night in Shadow Position. Now, before I go any further, I want to mention something that Lord Junior did that I thought was interesting. Remember what I wrote about at the beginning of last month, where I was in Latin Technique class and we did something in Shadow Position and Seedling accidentally did all sorts of uncomfortable things with his hand to at least a couple of the ladies he danced with? This time around Lord Junior had us get into Shadow Position with our left hands holding the Follower’s left forearm as usual, but he had us place our right hand atop the lady’s right shoulder instead.

He told the class that when you do Botafogos in Shadow Position that’s just where the hand should go, but he never really had us change that hold when we did other figures throughout the progression. Obviously putting the right hand atop the shoulder like that took away almost all the risk for error, protecting the ladies from having to go through the situation that happened last month all over again. I wonder if that was the reason that Lord Junior had us hold like that, or if that really is how you always do Botafogos while in Shadow Position? Obviously I don’t dance a lot of Samba outside of this class, so I just don’t know enough to be able to tell you the right answer.

With that interesting tidbit out of the way, what we did was this: starting off in Shadow Position facing the line of dance, we did two Botafogos. After the second one, we rolled the Follower out to our right as we brought our feet together. From this position we did a variation of the Rolling Off the Arm figure, where the Follower did a Three-Step Turn going to the left in front of us as we did a small chasse to the right behind her, stopping her turn by taking her right forearm with our left hand. Then we did the same thing again going back the way we came. We did a similar action one last time, but now the Follower did her Three-Step Turn going on an angle forward while the Lead faked a step, taking two steps forward to end up back in Shadow Position.

Here we did two sets of Cruzados Walks and Locks heading straight down the line of dance. When we got to the end of the second set, we rotated 90° to the right and did another two Botafogos in Shadow Position facing the wall. To finish, we did a step-and-point Volta combination that I have seen lots of times before, but can’t for the life of me remember the name of. I know that I’ve seen it used in quite a few places, and quite a few Samba routines that I’ve watched, but the name is just eluding me at the moment. If it comes to me later, I’ll let you know.

Finally this week, Wednesday night I went to Standard Technique class. This week in class Lord Junior gave us a few exercises to work on, and then allowed us to spend some time working on Viennese Waltz. I don’t actually spend a lot of time working on Viennese Waltz since most of the competitions that I do haven’t offered it for my level yet, but the competition that I am going to be in this weekend will require it of me, so it was nice to get in some extra practice.

Halfway through the class though, we had already managed to spend time looking at the Natural and Reverse Turns for longer than Lord Junior thought was fun, so he added in a figure from American Viennese Waltz to keep class interesting. It wasn’t actually much – just a Cross Body Lead into an Explosion, nothing fancy. Once we had gone through that figure, we attached it to one-and-a-half Reverse Turns, which is all we did that night. We never even looked at any Change Steps.

After class was over, one of the lady’s from class left right away, but the rest of us hung around outside the front of the studio in the parking lot talking for a bit. Apollo tried to Apollo-gize (see what I did there?) to Sparkledancer and Bony for the way he had been dancing in class, since he only knew how to do Viennese Waltz the way that his franchise studio taught him, and there were a lot of things that Lord Junior was correcting him on. All three of us tried to tell him that we had also been there, coming from franchise studios ourselves originally, so there was no reason for him to feel bad at all, but I’m not sure that he really believed us.

Speaking of Apollo – he seems to really be taking to what he is learning in these technique classes, even if it is going slower than he expects of himself. I have seen him in the Electric Dance Hall, hanging around after his lessons are over of coming in early before class, just to spend a little extra time working on what he has been taught. In the long run, I think that Apollo will really be able to go far if he continues at this rate. He has mentioned that he is interested in competing one day, since he loves working on the technical aspects of all these dances that we do in class.

Apollo also brought his wife in to take one of the social-oriented dance classes on Tuesday night, and he introduced her to me while I was there to practice with Sparkledancer. Where Apollo really likes going to the technique-based classes, his wife told Sparkledancer and I that she only wants to dance for fun. That likely means that if Apollo really wants to head down the competitive path in the future, he will probably end up in the Pro/Am world to start with. Unless of course, some lady who wants to compete is able to make friends with his wife and convince her to let her compete with her husband. Male ballroom dancers who are excited about improving their dance technique are a rare breed, so I could actually see that happening if word about Apollo hits the streets.

This weekend I will be going to a competition again. This competition is going to be a bit different from any I have done in the past – I’m not really going to get any placements for my dancing at this event. Instead, Lord Junior had asked Sparkledancer and I if we wanted to do this competition because the dancers are going to be given ‘points’ for how well we dance, and those points will be awarded to the studio that brought the competitors to the competition. The studio that gets the most points is going to get a trophy, as well as bragging rights in our part of the Dance Kingdom.

I think Lord Junior asked Sparkledancer and I to come and dance for his studio because we are one of the few Amateur competitor pairs in the area, so there will be no one at this event for us to dance against. That means that he gets free points for his studio toward winning that trophy. I am only too happy to help with that goal. After all, Lord Junior’s studio is the closest to my house, and he is nice enough to allow me to spend a lot of my free time there for classes and practicing and whatnot. If I can help him bring home a trophy for the studio, it will make me feel good. I like helping.

Wish us luck. Go team!

The Sane And The Insane Rivalry

Did you know there was a holiday last weekend? I completely forgot about it. Turns out, not a lot of stuff happens when a holiday falls directly on the weekend. My competitive partner Sparkledancer went off on vacation somewhere, so I had no one to practice with, and since I had just finished a competition the weekend prior I had no motivation to practice by myself. Instead, I stayed home and had a quiet weekend with my cat. That is rare for me – usually I am out and about most of the weekend. Being home was… nice.

I did finally drag myself out to go dance again on Monday night for Latin Technique class, and it turned out to be pretty funny. Let me catch you up with something that I didn’t write about over the last couple of weeks because there was so much else going on. Do you remember Seedling? He is bringing all kinds of weird things into my little corner of the Dance Kingdom. Do you remember last month when I talked about him being in love with his dance instructor at the franchise studio where he was taking lessons, how he danced in a showcase with her, and then later on another of the instructor’s students danced a showcase number with her and Seedling was convinced that the other student stole his thunder?

(If you don’t remember, no worries! Through the magic of the Internet, you can find that story here!)

A few weeks back, I actually got to meet the guy who Seedling swears stole his thunder. There was a dance party at the Electric Dance Hall that I went to. Seedling had talked a bunch of people from his franchise studio into coming out to the dance party so that they could see the place where he has been moonlighting and taking classes to learn non-franchise things. One of the people who came from his franchise studio was this guy, and I got to talk to him during the party. It turns out I had actually met him in the past, and I just didn’t recognize him in the video that Seedling had shown of the showcase performances because he was in costume. That was mildly intriguing.

More interesting than that though, is how Seedling talks about the guy. It seems that Seedling sees the two of them as rivals in dance, and he thinks that this rivalry is so intense for anyone to behold. To Seedling, the rivalry he is a part of is as great as legendary rivalries of old that you might know – ranking up there with the likes of Mario vs. Bowser, Naruto vs. Sasuke, Holmes vs. Moriarty or Rocky vs. Apollo. The only problem with Seedling’s assertion is that… this other guy doesn’t even know that the rivalry between them exists. That makes it a bit hard to believe what Seedling is saying about this other guy and the matchup between them.

Since it is unclear who is really ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in this imaginary rivalry, let’s call this new character to the story Apollo. That will give me a proper name to refer to him by from here on out.

So at the dance party I got to talk to Apollo for a while. He told me that he was starting to get bored with what he was doing at the franchise studio and was looking to move on to someplace that would challenge him more as a dancer. He had watched Sparkledancer and I dancing together a couple of times during the course of the party, and he said that we looked so different from all of the other dancers on the floor, and he wanted to know how he could improve his dancing to look more like mine. Obviously he didn’t say that to detract from how well Sparkledancer dances by any means – it’s just that he is a male dancer like me, so if he told me that he wanted to improve his dancing and look more like Sparkledancer, I might have had a few questions…

Of course, as you might imagine, I told him that a good place to start would be at the Electric Dance Hall. I mentioned that the way that the franchise studios taught people to dance was great for social dancing and just getting the confidence to get out on the dance floor, but when I dance with Sparkledancer we looked different because the two of us spend a lot of time practicing competitive-level technique, which not a lot of people do. I suggested that if he wanted to try out that kind of technique, he should start off by attending Lord Junior’s Latin Technique classes on Mondays and Standard Technique classes on Wednesdays. That would give him a taste of what I was doing for much less money than signing up for private lessons with a competitive instructor.

The next Monday night Apollo actually came to Latin Technique class, and he thought it was the greatest class he had taken in a really long time. Now he is hooked, and he has left the franchise studio entirely and has been coming on both Monday nights and Wednesday nights ever since, with plans to improve the way he dances so that he can start competing at some point in the near future. Hooray! Another male dancer in class with me!

What I didn’t expect was the kind of effect that this would have on Seedling. As you can imagine, Seedling was not exactly thrilled that his ‘rival’ was now in the same classes that he had been sneaking away from his franchise studio to attend. Whenever Apollo is around and talking to people before or after class, Seedling will hang around the outer edge of the room by himself, no longer participating in the conversations like he used to. I wonder if Seedling had been using these classes as a way to make himself a better dancer so that he could impress everyone back at his franchise studio, one-upping Apollo in the process? Now, Apollo is in these same classes and not at the franchise anymore, so if that was his master plan, it has fallen apart.

Since Apollo has made a clean break from the franchise studio, he has even signed up to take private lessons with Lord Junior for a while so that Lord Junior could help him fix the way he dances to be more technically correct. Lord Junior offered to set him up to take lessons with a female instructor at the studio, but Apollo thought that learning from a male instructor would help him get where he wants to be faster. After all, in theory a male instructor knows the male part more intimately, since they default to dancing that part all of the time. Plus, he and Lord Junior are both really tall men, so they are a better height match for working together than many of the female instructors in the area. I’m sure at some point Lord Junior will bring in a female for Apollo to work with, but for now this pairing seems to be working.

This Monday in class we actually ended up with more men than women, so Lord Junior spent much of the class dancing the Follower’s part. What we worked on was actually a bunch of simple figures from the Bronze syllabus in Rumba, focusing on the important technical points needed to make the figures look right. Because I have been going to the Latin Technique class for many years at this point, I actually did really well here, even when dancing with Lord Junior. He didn’t have any corrections for me afterward, like he did after he finished dancing the pattern with either Seedling and Apollo. I guess that I’m a better Latin dancer than I give myself credit for!

The pattern that we used started off with both partners facing one another. The Lead would go into a forward check before bringing the Follower through a Left-side Pass, over-rotating the ending slightly to take the Follower out into Fan Position. From there we did a basic Alemana, ending with the Follower on the Lead’s right side so that we could do a basic Closed Hip Twist that put the Follower back out into Fan Position. This time around we started doing a basic Hockey Stick, but at the end we overturned the lady an extra 1/8th of a turn to line the Follower back up with us before going into three New Yorkers to finish.

Interestingly, Lord Junior said that it was good that he got to dance with all the Leads in class to really feel what they were doing, and that if more guys keep showing up to attend class he would try to do this once in a while to help the guys out. He made some pointed comments about the way that the other two guys in class were leading him through the pattern when they danced together. For Apollo, he said that he needed to back off because his lead was really forceful at certain times during the pattern. Seedling was the opposite though – there was one time where Lord Junior ended up just standing there without moving because Seedling was giving him no pressure at all to tell him what he should be doing.

Class on Wednesday night was quieter. I think that someone mentioned that a lot of schools in the area are on Spring Break this week, which is why there were a lot of people who normally come to class that were missing. It wasn’t just the Standard Technique class that I was in that was small – the group classes going on elsewhere in the studio were also smaller than normal that night too. Hopefully vacation was treating everyone kindly.

With only a handful of us in class, all of whom have been dancing for quite a while, Lord Junior was going to let us work on some more difficult figures this time around in the Foxtrot. At least, that was the plan… Bony ended up having a lot of trouble on the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot, so we didn’t actually cover as much as Lord Junior had planned on when we started class because he kept going back to work on the pivots in that one figure with her. That was alright though, I still had fun.

The little progression that we used in class started out with a Three Step. It was a bit of a strange place to start, but we all made it work as best we could. From the Three Step we went into a basic Natural Turn and then an Open Impetus with Feather Ending. At the end of the Feather Ending we added on the aforementioned Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot, and took that right into a Double Reverse Spin, which is not a figure that is in the syllabus for International Foxtrot. Continuing with some Open-level choreography, we added on a Viennese Cross after the Double Reverse Spin and finished with a Left-side Lunge into a Oversway.

Are you excited for this weekend? I totally am! Like many other men you probably know, I am super pumped to see a movie tomorrow night. As I mentioned three weeks ago, my dance coach Lord Dormamu and I had been talking about this movie, and we were worried that if one of us saw the movie first we might accidentally spoil it for the other, so the two of us are totally going to see the movie on opening night together. It’s cool though – he and I are practically the same age, so it should be entertaining to go watch this movie together. Also the movie theater we are going to has a super fancy flavor of popcorn that I rarely get to have (I don’t go out to see movies very often), so I’m really excited for that as well.

Other than the cinematic excitement, there is another show that I am also going to see this weekend. There is a big dance showcase performance happening on Sunday evening that I got a ticket to go to as well. That should also be a lot of fun. I am pretty sure that I will know a lot of the people performing in this show, which always makes the performances more entertaining to me. Are you going to go? Let me know soon if you are, and that way I can save you a seat! I was told to get there early because they were expecting a lot of people to come out and watch, so it might be standing room only if you get there too late!