Get The Party Going On The Dance Floor

Let me tell you, the finger food was a brilliant idea for last Friday night. I had been mentioning it to some people who were also coming to the potluck party, so they also brought simple foods that people could pick up and eat without a lot of effort. By the end of the night, those items (like cookies and cupcakes and deviled eggs) were what was mostly consumed, and the things that required effort to put on a plate and eat (like macaroni and cheese and meatballs) were still mostly untouched. Sometimes, my brilliance scares me. From now on, anytime someone mentions having a potluck at the dance studio, I am always going to bring some sort of finger food. I’m never going back.

Speaking of Friday, being the guinea pigs for the Rumba class turned out to be much more than just showing off. When the class started, Lord Fabulous had Sparkledancer and I pair up and go through the steps so that everyone could see what the final result would look like. After the initial show, he started to break the figure apart and show the two genders how to each do their respective pieces. After he worked with the men to go over the first part, he proceeded to turn them over to me so that I could show them how to do everything while he worked with the women. I was a little shocked at the sudden responsibility, but there were only three of us, so I just stepped through it slowly over and over while giving the counts so that the other two could get things down. After Lord Fabulous got done showing the women their first section, he did the same things with Sparkledancer. She mentioned to me later that she had a much more difficult time showing the ladies what to do, because much of the step doesn’t make sense unless you get to see it with a dance partner.
PumpUpTheJam1  As we got through more sections, one of the men I was working with was really struggling through things. I was having trouble showing the arm motions properly without someone to hang on to, so while Lord Fabulous was working with the women again I called Sparkledancer over to our side of the room and went through things again slowly from the beginning with her. As I did, I tried to mention all the things I could think of that I had made mistakes on the first couple of times I went through the figure, hoping that passing that information on would help these guys learn from my mistakes. Sparkledancer liked the idea of the two of us showing off the step and asked me to come help her with the ladies, but at that point Lord Fabulous decided we had all had enough solo practice time and we should now dance together to music. I tried my best to help out each of the ladies as they rotated around, but I only sort-of knew the women’s steps so I don’t know how successful I was at that. By the end of class, we hadn’t made it all the way through the figure that he had taught us, but we had gotten close. Tomorrow we should be able to get through everything, though a large number of the people who usually attend the class with us won’t be in town to attend.

The coaching lesson that Lord Fabulous gave to Sparkledancer and I on Saturday primarily focused on Tango and Viennese Waltz. We didn’t really do anything groundbreaking in either of those styles – there were some new variations of things in Tango, and a spin in Viennese Waltz that I know I have worked on in the past, but couldn’t quite remember before going over it again. Mostly I got hounded to keep rolling my right shoulder back while PumpUpTheJam2in frame. I don’t know what it is about my right shoulder, but it always seems to be the problem point, and I’m guessing that’s due to all the other work I do with that body part. Lifting weights with your shoulder, you mostly work on pushing upward, rolling forward or rolling out sideways. None of that really rolls it backward, so my shoulders aren’t really trained to stay like that for long periods of time. When I think about it, I can keep it there just fine. The problem comes when I shift focus and stop thinking about that shoulder, which causes it to settle back into a more rolled forward state. So, I’ll keep working on that, but I think it’s going to be a while before it becomes natural for me.

As we finished up the lesson, we started to talk about the upcoming Spring Fling, and how both of us were interested in signing up to do it so that we would have some direction for our coaching lessons going forward. The competition is quite a ways out, since it is in April, but Lord Fabulous was super excited to put us down. We didn’t know they were doing it, but apparently they were running a special for anyone who signed up before the eighth of December to give ten percent off the event. Hearing that sealed the deal for us, and so we both went ahead and signed up for it. As it stands we are planning on doing fifty heats, and we told him we’d like to do at least the ten dance styles we had done for our last competition (Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Rumba, Cha-Cha, Mambo, Bolero, East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing). Beyond that, we gave him free reign to come up with a plan and start working things out. It will be interesting to see what he comes up with, since we’ve never worked on competition material with Lord Fabulous before this point.

This Friday sounds like it may turn out to be an impromptu Dance Kingdom get together at the Land of the Loft. Some weeks ago, Lord Fabulous started asking if anyone was interested in coming in on the day after Thanksgiving, because if no one would be around he wasn’t going to be either. When he found that there was enough interest in having a normal class schedule, he decided to hold regular classes like they would on any other Friday night. One of his friends from the Great Dance Hall by the Lake, Lord Scarry, told him that most everyone from their studio was going to be gone, so Lord Fabulous invited him to come and hang out with us that night and bring along any stragglers that wouldn’t be gone for the holidays and might be interested. Wednesday night we were told that the Great Dance Hall was also going to be closed on Friday night, so any of the people who usually attend the Friday night parties there who haven’t gone out of town for the weekend may be coming to dance with us as well. In my mind it’s kind of exciting – a lot like one of the normal Dance Kingdom parties they throw from time to time, but with less people so it’s easier for us all to mingle rather than stick with PumpUpTheJam3people from our normal circles. Plus, someone once told a bunch of us that Lord Scarry is kind of paranoid, and always thinks that people are talking about him if they happen to look in his direction and are out of earshot. Someone suggested to me that we have some fun with that while he’s around, since we never really get to spend time with him.

There is also a dance field trip available for Saturday night. With so many people that I usually go on these sorts of trips with out of town for the weekend, it sounds like so far it might just be me and a plethora of ladies from our studio going. From what I have been told, it will be a casual social dance at a ballroom studio in the city that is open to all for the evening. In my mind, I am picturing it to be a lot like the Friday night social dances that we have at the Land of the Loft, just with a different crowd. I hope it will be a good way to work off the calories I would have normally burned off by going to Thursday night classes, since those classes were cancelled so that everyone could stay home and eat food.

I hope my legs enjoyed their day off. There’s lots of dancing to be done this weekend, so they’ll need to be in top shape.


Follow The Day And Reach For The Sun

I rearranged my schedule this week so that I could go to the Thursday group classes instead of the normal Tuesday group class that I have been going to in order to work with Hot Tottie. I figured this would be the only real way I would get to learn from him, seeing as how his schedule is always booked otherwise. Plus, it falls on my normal recovery week in my workout schedule, so it makes it much easier to move things around on my calendar to do this.

Honestly, for me this felt like the best day to start taking the Thursday group class. Because next week there is a holiday on LightAndDay1Thursday, this was the last class of the month. They had been doing lower-level Foxtrot on Thursdays, so today I fell in with everyone as they reviewed everything that they had spent the rest of the month working on. I have been through this level Foxtrot class several times before over the last eighteen months, but recently they have been modifying the syllabus for each dance the Dance Kingdom teaches, so it was nice to quickly recap the entire level and see what was different in the syllabus all in one night rather than over the course of an entire month. Time just seemed to fly right by. I’ll be sticking with Thursdays for a while. After all, it is nice to change things up once and a while, just to keep life interesting.

My last Saturday coaching session with Lord Fabulous and Sparkledancer was interesting. We warmed up by going through the things we had been working on in Foxtrot again (lots of Foxtrot this week!), and then we started working on International Rumba. Now,LightAndDay2 this may not seem strange to anyone reading this, but it was the offhand comment that Lord Fabulous made about what we were doing with the Rumba that has stuck with me all this time. He worked with us on the figures that we had been learning in the group class he has been teaching on Friday night, showing us all the pieces of the figure we would be learning the rest of the month. There was nothing too difficult there – the steps were similar to something that I had learned in the past for American Rumba. Somewhere along the line though, he admitted that we were learning these steps so that we could (almost an exact quote) “perfect the steps, and serve as demonstration models for the rest of the class.” So coming up, I guess we will be the guinea pigs that everyone will watch as he teaches the steps.

Sadly, I also found out that the brilliant idea that I had been debating for a unique showcase dance wasn’t actually all that unique, so Sparkledancer and I decided not to go ahead with that plan. It was really exciting to think that you’re the only one who has a great idea – the only one brave enough to pick a lesser-used dance style; and then it is incredibly disappointing to find out that someone besides you came up with the same brilliant idea and signed up for it first. After discussing our options briefly, Sparkledancer and I are now toying with the idea of looking toward the upcoming Spring Fling competition in April, as the next event that we work with Lord Fabulous toward. It’s far enough out in the future that we have plenty of time to work on any number of routines that we want to add to our repertoire, but still close enough that I think it will drive home the pressure for us to continue getting together and practicing everything, knowing that we will be performing the routines in front of people. During our next coming coaching lesson this Saturday we will try to spend a few minutes at the beginning talking with Lord Fabulous about the idea, to start working out a plan for what dance styles we want to compete in, how many heats we want to sign up for, and to get him to start thinking about building the routines for us.

At our Friday night dance this week Lord Fabulous has told us that we are going to have some kind of potluck to celebrate the holiday that is a week from now. We have done these a few times in the past, and I always brought a simple pie of some kind in the past, because I am not very skilled at culinary adventures, and also because I figure that everyone likes pie. At the end of each of our past potlucks, it always seemed like I would be bringing the entire pie home with me, save for maybe one or two small slices that I would goad people into eating. From those past experiences, I have learned a couple of lessons: 1) Never make something that I could not bring home in its entirety and finish off before it goes bad, because there’s always the chance that I could be bringing it home in its entirety. 2) Always bring finger food. This is a dance party, and people will be dancing all night. They never really stop to do complicated tasks to eat food (such as cut a slice of pie and put it on a plate). So my brilliant idea is to make (or buy) some kind of finger food. That way if someone dances by the table where the foods are laid out, they could do a quick spot turn and grab a cookie or something as they twirl by without stopping the dancing fun.

Who brought the random fish?
Who are the weirdos who brought a random fish and a t-bone?

Can you picture it? Finger food is such a good idea, and I’m sure I’m not the only one to ever come to this realization, but it makes me feel like a genius now that I have this plan. I’ll let you know if it actually works or not.

Lifting Shadows Off A Dream Once Broken

Saturday night’s dance field trip was good, especially for the ladies from our studio. Really good. We went out to a large social dance event being held at a ballroom in town, much like we did right before the last competition I was in. We all met up at a place to have dinner that was within walking distance of the dance studio, and got there early enough to attend the class that they were giving before the event started. The class was basic Cha-Cha, reviewing a number of things I had learned previously and showing a few modifications I did not know of a few other steps. The guest instructors they brought in also did a performance for all of us, demonstrating their Cha-Cha technique before leaving for the night. Once they wrapped up, we danced.

As silly as it may sound to say that, seeing as how it was a social dance party and all, that’s what we all got up and did and that was what really seemed to help shake the dark cloud that had been looming around LiftingShadows1lately. Most of us there were former students of Sir Steven, and since his sudden departure, the ladies especially had been going through feelings that resembled, as one lady described to me, a ‘death in the family.’ That night as we danced no one was preparing for a competition, it was a new group of people that did not know us, on a new floor that only a small number of us had ever been on before. It really seemed to help center us all – to help remind us why it is that we all spend so much time doing this. We got out on the floor and laughed, danced, and basically sweat out all the negative energy that had taken hold. I felt really good about it, and it brought back the smiles to the faces of some of my friends that I hadn’t seen the week before leading up to this event. Sparkledancer and I even convinced Jack and Diane to go out with us to the floor during the two Viennese Waltz songs that were played that night – one for International and one for American style. The last time we did an event like this before competition, the two of them had pressured Sparkledancer and me to get out and practice our American Viennese Waltz routine. The two of them had been working on getting that dance style down the last few months, so we made sure to return the favor. That turned out to be a great way to get out and work up a sweat, as I’m sure you can imagine.

As we were collecting everyone who we came with and making our way out the door, a couple of people approached Jack, Diane and I to ask if we had ever thought about competing before. Apparently they had recently started a group for DanceSport competitors, and they had seen that we primarily knew American-style dancing. From what one of the people told us, that was something that not many people in their group could do (most of the people in their competition group all did International styles). I waved Sparkledancer over to talk with all of us, and we told them about our competition experience with each other, and they invited us to meet with them every Sunday. They had started getting together to work on competition preparation and held a potluck dinner afterward, and as a group they would sign up for various competitions together. The offer really seemed to excite Diane. She had been taking the loss of Sir Steven the hardest, and having someone else whom we had never met before come and complement everything she had learned and ask her to consider competing with them just solidified all the good feelings that we had been cultivating all night for her.

With the funk that the loss had brought to the Land of the Loft now mostly lifted, the big problem that I seem to face now is aimlessness. My former dance coach had some grand scheme in mind, a direction he was pushing me to go in, especially with my competitive dancing with Sparkledancer. Now, when he is no longer around to push down that unknown path, I really don’t know where I was heading. Sparkledancer and I discussed this in length over the weekend, since she feels the same way. One potential idea that we may do is to sign up to do the upcoming showcase together. If we have a performance to work toward, it would get us back into the groove of learning with a purpose, and force us to schedule time to practice together like we have done for every other performance we have had. I’m fairly certain we are in agreement on a song to use for a showcase, and a style of dance we want to do, so the hard parts are completed.

I also have some reservations about the number of people already signed up for showcase, and the numbers of routines each of those people are already doing. With so much already scheduled to go on that night, it may turn out to be a very long evening for everyone, especially the people who come just as spectators. The one factor that may open that issue up for me is that both Bony and Chanel have said that they are potentially going to drop some of the routines that they are doing because of Sir Steven’s departure. If they do, then I know there would be several open spots we could use. I will see what their plan is on Friday night.

Knowing that there is no goal to work toward, Tuesday night I met with Lord Fabulous and Sparkledancer for our first real coaching lesson he’s ever given us with an open mind. Both of us have worked with him LiftingShadows2or taken group classes with him a few times in the past, but this was the first time he has worked with the two of us together in our competitive pursuits. Based on a conversation that Lord Fabulous and Diane had after Sir Steven’s departure, he is looking at scrapping all the routines that we had and starting to build new ones from scratch, rather than upgrading the ones we had before with more advanced pieces, as was our original goal. He told me some remark about how it was like having one famous clothes designer design new items for another clothes line after the death of that clothes line’s namesake. I don’t know a whole lot about clothing, but I think I got the gist of what he was implying by that metaphor.

Having our lesson with him first kind of blew my whole idea of alternating between the three available Lords and Lady out of the water. I know he has watched the two of us work on things for a long time – sometimes literally sitting in a chair watching our past lessons. We are two of only a handful of people who have been members of the Land of the Loft longer than he has been, and he doesn’t really have any high level students of his own. When we had finished our lesson that focused mostly on Foxtrot, he started going on about how he really likes to alternate the lessons he gives to first focus on ballroom styles, and then go to Latin styles, and he told us if we were free Saturday after the classes we both usually show up for that he would put us down to work with him again. There wasn’t an offer to let us work with one of the other instructors, or a question as to whether we wanted to do a lesson on Saturday, it was something he added to his calendar and told us he couldn’t wait to do.

So, it seems like we have been claimed by a new instructor already. Decisions are easy when you don’t have to make them, right?

Lacrimosa Dies Illa

I don’t even know how to begin this. Things have suddenly gotten weird.

Tuesday night I had a session scheduled with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven to work on some things we would be using to build new competition routines. Much to my joy, Sir Steven also spent time with us talking about how he had been working on building a Pasodoble routine for us, and we started working through the first dozen measures of the music, mapping out where each promenade, sur place and cape movement would go, and the stances we would take at the start of the song. We stayed pretty late that night, being ridiculous while working through things, and joking around with Sir Steven after our session was over. Everything seemed pretty normal.

Wednesday night I got there early before the Cha-Cha class that Lady Q would be giving. Right away, something was off. The dance fitness class that Lord Fabulous usually teaches on Wednesday nights was being headed by Lady Q, and Lord Fabulous was off on the far side of the room giving a lesson to Chanel, who normally takes lessons with Sir Steven. Just before the class Lacrimosa1started, Lord Fabulous pulled all of us who were there together to say a couple of things. Apparently, sometime Tuesday night after I had left, Sir Steven had told Lord Fabulous that he wouldn’t be coming in to teach any longer. From the story we were given, there were some family things going on, and he needed to take a step back and figure out how to work through that and also figure out what he was going to be doing going forward. Everyone standing there was shocked, to put it mildly. All of the air seemed like it had been sucked out of the room. Because all of us who attend these higher-level group classes had Sir Steven as our primary instructor, Lord Fabulous said that he either had already or would be meeting with each of us that were standing there to discuss what we wanted to do going forward. With that, he turned things over to Lady Q, and we started to work on Cha-Cha.

The class went poorly, as I’m sure you could imagine. I tried my best to pay attention in class, but the atmosphere in the room wasn’t conducive to learning. Sparkledancer and Diane seemed to be bearing the worst of it – every time the girls would rotate and I would be paired with Diane, she seemed to be in a stupor. I tried to talk with her, to cheer her up a little, but she told me several times that the class felt awkward, and she was having trouble following my lead. Sparkledancer and I managed to get through things by mostly falling back on how we had used the steps we were reviewing in our last Cha-Cha routine. The other three ladies in class had all been there for a class beforehand, or for a private lesson in Chanel’s case, so they had had an extra hour to process the information and were already beyond the initial shock. Still, it was easy to tell that all of us were responding better to the repetitious technique exercises rather than the leading and following portion at the end where we worked on shine chases. The less thought that was required, the better we all did.

When class ended, Jack, Diane, Sparkledancer and I all retreated to the corner of the room. Lord Fabulous had said that he wanted to talk with all of us before we left for the evening, so we changed our shoes and waited for him to finish up the lesson he was giving. When he finished up and came Lacrimosa2over, he tried to reassure us that, though this was all of our first time having to change to a new primary instructor, this sort of thing has happened before so he knew how to handle these sorts of transitions. He said that he had been watching our coaching lessons with Sir Steven recently, and he had all the notes from our previous lessons and the notes that Sir Steven had left him before he left, so he knew what we had all been working on. One offer he made was to let us all go to a sort of team-teaching experience if we wanted – working with different instructors throughout the month rather than just sticking with one person. Jack and Diane had already been doing this with Sir Steven and Lord Fabulous: once a month they would get together for a lesson with Lord Fabulous just to study some off-syllabus things where they could play around for fun without worrying about all the technical aspects. In addition to the offer to do team-style teaching with himself and Lady Q, Lord Fabulous mentioned that starting next week Hot Tottie would be coming to the Land of the Loft on Thursday nights to work with students, so we could also work with him if any of us desired to for the few months that he would be teaching at our location.

Since Sparkledancer and I had scheduled a session with Sir Steven the previous night for next week, Lord Fabulous started with us. With no time to really discuss things, we said that we could keep the time we had scheduled and just have him step in to instruct, so he marked us down. Jack and Diane had scheduled a time with Sir Steven to happen while we were standing there talking, and because Diane was still in shock they decided to reschedule that for another day rather than try and do something that night. Sparkledancer and I took our leave to let them work out the calendar, and exited the building. We stood outside talking for quite a while – partly because we needed to figure out what we wanted to do now as far as training for possible future competitions, and partly to wait for Jack and Diane to come down and talk with them. Everyone else had already left, so it was pretty quiet. We sat with our backs to a brick support pillar holding up the awning above the front door and discussed the day’s events.

There was a lot of discussion last night among the four of us once Jack and Diane emerged; we especially focused on making sure the girls were doing alright. Today I also sent a few messages to Sparkledancer while we were both at work to make sure she was feeling ok. At some point, I will have to meet with her and discuss our individual dance goals and then our competitive dance goals, and figure out how we want to go forward. For now though, it seems like there is going to be a period of grieving, possible for a couple of weeks. Aside from being a great dance instructor, Sir Steven was also someone I would call a friend. Sure, he wasn’t allowed to come fraternize with us outside of business hours, but I still hope he is doing ok. I’m sure many of the other students he had would say the same thing.

So, tomorrow night when I head back to the studio, we’ll see what happens. I’m sure we will be discussing what choices each of us are looking at when we go out for dessert after the Friday night dance. Beyond that, I’ve been wondering if I should schedule some time to work with all of the people Lord Fabulous gave me as options before making a decision on a new primary dance coach. That seems like the smartest move, doesn’t it? Informed choices are always the best choices.

There’s also rumor of another large open social dance being put on at one of the other ballroom studios around town on Saturday night. Maybe I will gently push everyone I know to go to that event with me. This seems like just the sort of abrupt change that we will all need to go to some therapeutic dance field trip together to get past.