Struck By A Smooth Criminal

Viennese Waltz terrifies me a bit. Wednesday night we are in class working on it – the only people to show up for this week’s group class that was taught by Sir Steven were myself and Sparkledancer, so rather than a group class, we worked on what will be our competition routine for September. Luckily, most of what we will be doing in that routine we are going to get from what was normally going to be taught in that class, so next week if others join us again, we will still go over useful stuff that we could fit into the routine at some point.

The dance is crazy though. Elegance and high-speed are not really a combination that work well together in my mind, and on top of that it Criminal1isn’t a style I have had all that much opportunity to practice. Even just switching back and forth between reverse and natural rotations, there were many points where things just got out of control, and we had to stop, breathe, and start again. Lucky for me, I didn’t hit any walls (or run my partner into any either), or trip and fall flat on my face, so that’s a good start. Unfortunately we also couldn’t make it more than two laps around the studio without getting off track and having to stop. So… that’s a work in progress. It feels really neat to be rotating and moving that fast, and I hope it looks just as good. With some luck, I will be able to master everything by the end of three months. If it’s a bit rusty, I may ask to sign up for as few heats as possible for that style.

So with that mostly being worked out, we are done with all the American Smooth routines. We finished up our Tango routine this weekend. I think I have it pretty much memorized too, with only one step at the end that I seem to keep screwing up. That will get ironed out this coming Saturday (I hope), and then all we have to do is practice them until they actually look passable. We probably won’t look like top contenders in this category, but if we make it to the passable level, it will feel like a victory to me. Sir Steven also promised that Saturday at our next lesson together we would switch over to looking at the Rhythm dances, starting with Rumba and West Coast Swing. So that gives me something to look forward to.

Before that, however, we have to get through Friday. Friday night, as I’ve mentioned, is the night that Lord Fabulous declared there would be a luau-themed dance party where everyone can invite friends and family so that they can see the magic that goes on in the Dance Kingdom. Not having any family in the area, and with most of my friends I spend time with already being citizens of the kingdom, I have made a point of inviting random people that I have met who seem interested in this sort of thing. Last Friday, I found a few more as we went out for ice cream. Just down the road from the ice cream parlor, there was this strange stage set up in front of some bar, in the median of the street. When I walked up to the window where everyone I was meeting was ordering ice cream, someone told me that there were people over at the stage, dancing on it. Curious, I abandoned the people I knew and walked down there to see what was up.

I did actually find people dancing atop the metal structure. When I asked if they were taking lessons anywhere, I found out that they were just practicing some swing dancing moves that they had been picking up from some free club in a nearby village, which included Shag and Jitterbug. Hearing that, my Dance Ambassador nature kicked in, and I asked them if they were at all interested in coming to a dance party at the Land of the Loft to see if they were interested in coming to learn with us. One girl seemed very intrigued, and pulled out her phone to put the event in her calendar so she wouldn’t forget. If she shows up, I’m going to assume the boy that she was dancing with will be coming with her, and if both of them come, then the third girl who was on the sideline will probably tag along. For not knowing many people interested in dancing in the area, I have invited some dozen people to this event. Hopefully at least one will actually make an appearance, which should make Friday night a lot of fun.

That could be you waving at me! Hello sir!
That could be you waving at me! Hello sir!

I even have a Hawaiian shirt for the event! Maybe, after the luau, when we go out to ice cream, I will be seen dancing in it atop that metal stage. If you see me there, wave hello as you go past, and I will do an awesome dance for you.

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Well, You Can Tell By The Way I Use My Walk…

Walk1It’s official – I am signed up to do the upcoming competition in September. My dance partner and I spoke about it at length, and decided it would be a lot of fun. So we collected the large amount of jewels required to sign up, turned them over to Sir Steven to pay for our spot, and now we are on the list to do 35 heats and the 5-dance American Rhythm championship round.

35 heats do not seem like a lot, I’m sure. I hear about people who go to these sorts of things and do hundreds of heats. The thing is… I’ve never been to a competition like this before. I’ve never even seen a competition like this before. The competition we did in April was localized to just the studios in the Dance Kingdom, so most everyone we were competing against I had met before. This competition will invite dancers from other kingdoms to come to the area, and probably make me look bad by comparison, since I’m sure most of them will be better than I am. So, we went with a small number of dances, one that allows us to run our routines three or four times, but will still give us ample opportunity to just sit back and watch others perform, letting us see what people who have been doing this much longer than we have are capable of doing, what hopefully someday we are capable of doing.

To that end, this weekend during our time with Sir Steven we all but finished up out Waltz and Foxtrot routines. I captured video of the two routines, with my dance partner and Sir Steven demonstrating, so thatWalk2 we can both use these to refer to as we work to drill them into memory. He also mentioned that there wouldn’t be much in the way of changes to our Bolero routine, since that one is already at the level he will be signing us up to perform. So… three down, seven (or eight, if we get ambitious) to go. There’s three months to get this all done, right? Plenty of time!

This weekend I got talked into going out to a dance that was being held at a bar on Saturday night. It was something Bony had asked some people at the studio to go along with her to, and I’m a sucker for people asking me nicely to do things. What none of us knew beforehand was that it was actually a mixer dance for singles in their 40s and 50s… which didn’t drive us to leave when we found out what was going on. Instead, we used the opportunity to show off, as anyone who was in the same position would do. There were seven of us from the Land of the Loft who went that night: Sparkledancer, Diane, Jack and I stood out quite a bit, since we were all about ten years too young to get into this event; Bony, The Crank and Enthusiasm were old enough to attend, so we stuck close to them most of the evening. Considering the age group the party was intended for, a large portion of the songs played that evening were Hustle songs. From my vast knowledge of people who are now in their 40s and 50s (which mostly comes from watching Saturday Night Fever once upon a time), that was the style of dance that was popular when they were our age. When I started learning to dance in the Dance Kingdom, and they were teaching us the Hustle as a precursor to learning any kind of Swing dancing, I thought it was a fun-but-weird style to learn, one that was centered on a style of music that I wouldn’t really come across in my normal outings in life. Now I am thankful I did learn it, because all that knowledge served me well this weekend.

Walk3
I bet if I had learned the Tango Hustle routine from the movie, people would have thought that I was really John Travolta in disguise.

During the night, we had lots of people approach us to ask us things. The most exciting was one lady who came to ask us where we learned to dance like that. She recognized what we were doing, and had rushed over to talk about it. When we told her that we were squires of the Dance Kingdom, I swear she was going to start jumping for joy. It turns out that she was a former student of Lord Bradley! She gave up her dancing many moons ago when one of her kids went off to college, and she missed it terribly. Being the gentleman that others claim I am, I told her all about the upcoming Friends and Family Luau that our studio was planning on hosting in few weekends, and told her that she should go. I told her that if she claimed to be friends with all of us who were there that night, they would let her in for sure. I also led her through some Cha-Cha, because she was super excited to be with someone who knew how to do it, and she had wanted to dance so bad all evening. Who knows? Seeing the excitement in her eyes at the thought of going to one of our dances, it made me hopeful that I had found a new protégé for Lord Fabulous. After losing his last protégé, I know he has been working hard to find someone with the same flare to train, and since this woman already has the basics down, he should be able to work with her easily.

At another point in the night, I had one lady come up to me and tell me that she had been watching me dance with Bony, Diane and Sparkledancer out on the dance floor, and she wanted to know where it was that I taught dance at. I was taken aback by that, and after a good laugh I told her that I was merely a student of dance, and proceeded to tell her about the wonders of the Dance Kingdom, and how she could learn all that we knew if she wanted to join us. I even told her about the Luau party, and said that it would be a good way to come see where we learned to see if she liked it. She told me that she was very interested, and was going to go back to her table and tell all her girlfriends about it, and they would all try and come to the party. Later on, as I was relaying this story to Sparkledancer, she told me that the lady was probably using the line about me being an instructor as a pick-up line, and that she might have been more interested in me than in my dancing (it was a singles party, after all). Apparently I am oblivious to things sometimes. There is a part of me that hopes that they do come to the party and end up joining the Dance Kingdom, but now there’s this other part of me that thinks if she was just hitting on me, then I would have a hard time not laughing if I saw her again.

No one ever said that the job of a Dance Ambassador would be easy…

Another One Bites The Dust

Bites1Flexy has been banished from the Dance Kingdom.

This came as a bit of a shock to us, but in hindsight, it probably shouldn’t have. A few notes about Flexy: as I’ve said, she was Lord Fabulous’ most prized disciple that he acquired after joining the Land of the Loft, and he was quite proud of showing off her skills. She had been a gymnast in the past, so she was quite flexible, and one of his favorite things was to take her through Waltzes and have her do kicks where she would put her foot up over her head. She also adored him, and hung on his every word and followed his every command… some of the time. This gave him the kind of attention that he fed off of, so they developed this quasi-symbiotic relationship over her time studying under him.

The things that became her downfall were that she was, at her core, a spoiled teenager who got bored easily, and on top of that she always demanded that she be the center of attention. During group classes, if there wasn’t anything going on that would challenge her mentally and physically, she would let her focus drift, and often it drifted onto the person standing closest to her whom she would engage in conversation to entertain herself. This quite often became a distraction for the rest of the class. For months the Lords of our studio would put up with it. Lord Fabulous had convinced her when she started that in order to get better, she would have to attend every group class offered, and she followed that advice religiously – even continuing to attend every newcomer-level class that she had long since outgrown. Because of this, she never really had any reason to push herself to nail down her form and technique. Aside from her private lessons with Lord Fabulous and the few time during the week she would attend the higher level classes where I would see her, none of the other men in those low level classes knew what they were doing (since most were in the class for the first time, unlike her), so she grew tired of dancing with them. This caused her to develop the bad habit of never putting much effort into her dancing. Even while in the higher level classes when she would dance with me, her form was almost always really sloppy, and her technique was hit and miss, depending on how entertained she was on that particular day.

After a time, she would complain about being bored so much, that Lord Fabulous suggested that instead of complaining, she should also try studying the male part of the dances, so that she would understand what her dance partners were going through. A few months ago, during all the newcomer and Bronze I level classes that she took where Lord Fabulous was teaching, she took to only doing the male part. She wanted to do it in all the other group classes as well, but when Sir Steven was instructing, he refused to let her do that.

So, bringing this back to current events… during the last Friday night East Coast Swing class and the social dance afterward that Flexy attended, she had a bit of a meltdown. Something (that even to this day, I’m still not sure what it was) set her off, and she became all sullen and despondent. For parts of the class, she attempted to sit out on the floor, and she was moping and acting very dejected. Sir Steven tried continuing on without breaking stride in class, but she started to be obstinate toward him. When class finally finished, she rushed out into the hallway and didn’t return. Some of the other ladies who were there that night (my competition partner and Bony chiefly) went out there to try and bring her back in to have fun, and try and liven up the mood of the studio a bit, but she never took. When she started acting like this, it felt as though a dark spell had been cast over the area, making everyone within its radius feel ill at ease. She finally came back in, collected her things, bade us farewell for now, and said she was going to go get ice cream early with Bony and we could meet her there when the social dance was over. Even after her departure though, the vile magic continued to hover, and even the jokes I told to lighten the mood were met with forced laughter.

Meeting up at the ice cream parlor where we have been congregating over the last several weeks, we found Bony and Flexy on a bench, with Flexy wrapped in a blanket being miserable. We tried to cheer her up, but her complaining (and all she wanted to do was complain!) brought down the mood in this venue as well. After a while, when no one could take the sadness for much longer, the rest of us began conversing about other topics that had to do with our lives. When no longer the center of attention, Flexy fell silent.

This was going to be her last night dancing for a while anyway, since she was going in at the beginning of the next week for some kind of medical procedure, and would be required to take three weeks off to heal. From the story related to me about how this went down, it appears that because of the events that happened, and her attitude leading up to that night, the King was brought into the discussion about her behavior with the Lords and Lady of our studio. They all came to the conclusion that she would be offered an ultimatum: shape up and participate in dancing with the others who want to be there or she could opt to be let out of the remainder of her contract that she had signed with the Dance Kingdom and move on to another land.

She chose the latter.

Bites2So, with that, Flexy joins the ranks of all the other students I have met over my time in the Dance Kingdom who have passed through without making this a permanent home. There have been many who have left, but I think this is the first person I have ever heard of who was banished. Most of the others I hear about tend to drop out because either a) they didn’t realize that it was an expensive hobby when they started or b) they can’t keep up with the demands on their body that this kind of activity asks for. I don’t know if she will attempt to maintain contact with us now that she has gone on. I know that she has maintained contact with other students who have left, so it is possible we will see her in the future. Maybe she will drop by our (new) Friday night traditional ice cream outing. Maybe she will join another studio in the area and we will see her during competitions. Only time will tell. I’ll let you know if I ever find out.

They Must Grade On A Curve

Is it really the end of the month already? I went to the last group class for Waltz this week, so it must be the end of the month. It’s been good, I will say. There are a lot of bits that I picked up. The problem will now be fitting them into normal dances on the fly. That will require two things: a dance partner who also knows the particular steps, and me being able to pull them off at random without over-thinking things. The second piece is going to be the hardest to do. The end of the last Waltz class yesterday, the five of us in class just paired off to do some leading and following work with the new pieces we learned that month. I thought I had done pretty good at picking things up, but that last bit felt really awkward. I guess I am going to have to practice quite a bit until they become second nature.

And really, they should be easy to do. There’s just something about the Waltz that I have been struggling with lately (read: as I’ve moved beyond easy Waltz steps). The rhythm dances are easy for me to pick up. Heck, new East Coast Swing steps are something I have mastered in a few days of screwing around with them. But Waltz steps? We spent a whole month on them, and I thought it felt pretty good until that end of class. Is there such thing as having a smooth style block? Because I might have one of those. Hopefully it doesn’t carry over into June. Next month we switch the slow Waltz group class for Viennese Waltz, and I happen to like Viennese Waltz. It’s more my tempo, one might say.

Over the holiday weekend, a group of competitors from the Dance Kingdom descended to Florida to take part in an event being held down there. Sir Steven was one of those competitors, dancing with another of his students. He told us that the Dance Kingdom did extremely well. There were apparently two titles given out: one for best in-state team, and another for the best out-of-state team. The Dance Kingdom took the best out-of-state team title. Hooray for us!

Also, as a point of pride, one of the other out of state teams was led by Miracle Whip. He and Curve1one of his students were competing in the same category that day as Tall Steven and his student, and Tall Steven totally crushed Miracle Whip. From what I was told, after the results were given, Tall Steven approached Miracle Whip to congratulate him (on losing, I guess), and told him “Don’t hate the player, hate the game.” Laughs all around, scene fades to black, credits roll.

Hearing the story of the competition, it got me to thinking about what it might take to be part of the team that does the out-of-state competitions. I mean, I don’t know if that’s something I can ever really achieve, but I’m just curious what someone like me would need to do to get to that level. Doing the competition in September would probably help. That would give my dance partner and I another notch in our competition belt, and additionally show us what else we need to work on to get better. Maybe, if we do well against a myriad of dancers from other Dance Realms, the royal family will deem us worthy of a trial run as part of the Dance Kingdoms traveling troupe. Or, maybe they will decide we need to be put through more trials to test our mettle and toughen us up for more difficult competitions. I don’t really know.

Speaking of knowing what needs to get better, we finally (many weeks late) were given a copy of our numeric results from the last competition to look over. They were a lot better than I expected them to be, to put things mildly. Of course, I’m always my biggest critic, but even accounting for that, the scores were surprisingly good. The scores were on a scale of 1 to 100, and our lowest heat (out of 30 heats) was an 83, and our highest was a 94. Everything else fell between that. I don’t have anything to compare those scores to, to say that after practicing and learning for a year the average dance team does better or worse, but it was a good feeling to see that Miracle Whip didn’t score us really poorly. These are all Bronze II and Bronze III scores, of course. The way Sir Steven is pushing us right now, if we end up doing September I think we will compete at the Bronze III level for everything. That’s kind of exciting.

I would have done better if it was multiple choice...
I would have done better if it was multiple choice…