When We’re Dancing, The Night Begins To Shine

Forgive me for a bit of rambling this week. There are so many things jumbled around in my brain that I just need to get out so that I can sort through them. Bear with me on this…

Last Saturday I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer to continue working on Tango. There’s not a lot I need to remember from the actual lesson – the more interesting discussion came after we finished dancing. The one thing that I jotted down as a note is something Sir Steven wanted me to start doing during the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside. I was told that, in order to make the figure look more dramatic, I need to rotate my body just enough to keep Sparkledancer on the outside for the first two steps, but to make sure that I am not rotating my body as much as I possibly can.If I do that correctly, I can dramatically snap my body the rest of the way when I take the third step, making the figure look really sharp.

The big thing to watch out for when I do this (as I found out that day) is that I have to rotate my body quickly to make it look dramatic, but not too quickly. I weigh a lot more than Sparkledancer, and if she’s in close body contact with me as I rotate my body with any amount of force, I can end up just flinging her body around. While it’s kind of funny to me when that happens, I can’t really say that anyone else finds it super funny. So the trick is to rotate quickly, but to do it lightly. Reminds me of Lord Dormamu’s comments from last week, about moving with power, but softly – like a gentleman. I told you that was a quote to remember!

As we were finishing up getting all the signatures in order for our lesson, the topic of upcoming showcases came up. From what I gathered recently, the Electric Dance Hall was planning on holding their fall showcase sometime around mid-October, and the Fancy Dance Hall is planning their winter showcase for mid-December. A couple of people on the Fancy Dance Hall staff have now mentioned to either Sparkledancer or I that the two of us should put together an act for their showcase. In hearing that, I automatically thought that if I was going to do it, I should have an act that could be performed at both showcases, like my last showcase number.

But… when the showcase came up this past weekend, I found out that the December showcase that the Fancy Dance Hall is putting on will be like their recent summer showcase. That means that, rather than just being a collection of student performances for friends and family members to come watch, this ‘showcase’ will be more like a musical. There will be a story to follow, and all dance numbers need to fit the story, and the whole night will be arranged in a specific order that follows a plot. Rehearsals will involve not only making sure that performers can dance through their routines successfully, but also to choreograph transitions between performances so that everything runs together smoothly.

Also, it will involve having to do some acting, since the dances will be ‘performed’ by characters from the story. There won’t be speaking parts, but there are definitely characters that need to be embodied and presented so that the crowd can tell who you are.

So… that’s daunting. The story that they are planning on doing for the showcase is Christmas themed, as you can guess. It’s a pretty well-known story, so I was able to go back through the notes on the plot and think of ideas. I had one that I thought was pretty good, that could be rather dramatic and elegant and even, dare I believe, funny, but I’m not entirely sure how Sir Steven felt about my idea. It would be a ballroom style dance showcase. That’s a big leap of faith for me to take. I’ve always thought that ballroom showcases got to be kind of boring from an audience’s perspective – they tend to be slow and really limit the amount of exciting things that you can put in.

That’s why I also told Sir Steven that if we were going to do this, somehow we would have to put lifts into the routine. I think that audiences really enjoy seeing dancers do lifts while dancing, and I spend too much time on strength training to not do any. Plus, Sparkledancer is pretty tiny, so it hasn’t been much of a workout to pick her up during all of the other showcase numbers we’ve performed together. Sir Steven told me that he would look into some ideas for ballroom lifts and get back to me.

I’m sure I will have more to say about this in the near future. After all, we are less than two months from the possible performance at the Electric Dance Hall’s showcase, and less than four months from the Fancy Dance Hall’s performance date. If we’re going to be in the show(s), we’ve got to start working on things soon!

Last Saturday was also the night for the monthly dance party that is put together by the Royal Dance Court group that I am a member of. Yay! Someone had wanted to do a vaguely Summer-themed dance party that night, and we brought someone in to teach a Bachata lesson prior to the dance. While I’m sure that something like Salsa would have been slightly more Summery than Bachata, the guests to the dance seemed to enjoy the Bachata, so everything worked out great.

I will confess to not being all that well versed in Bachata. Afflicted with long legs and white-boy hips, I don’t think I’m all that good at any Latin dances, especially those of the Club Latin variety. That said, what the instructor covered that night was fairly basic, and with all the years of training I’ve had in making sure I have a connection with my dance partner, I could get a lady through the figures with ease. I had more than one lady tell me that I was the only guy besides the instructor that they managed to get through the steps with successfully. I even had one lady tell me that I must dance Bachata all the time with how easy it was for her to dance with me. When I told her that I really never dance Bachata, she looked right into my eyes and said “Well, then you must be a natural.” Huh.

Because only a handful of people in the class that night confessed to being good at Bachata, the instructor started things off just covering the basics. There was the side-to-side basic figure, and then the forward-and-back basic figure, and then Spot Turns for the ladies during the side-to-side basic. When the instructor felt like everyone had those basic figures down, he gave everyone a pattern of figures that they could do that got progressively more advanced as it went on, until he ran out of time in the class..

The pattern started out with a normal side-to-side basic. Then we did the same basic figure with the ladies Spot Turns added. Once we finished that, we took a wide two hand hold and the men led the ladies to travel forward on a diagonal path while he traveled backward, taking four steps diagonally back from right to left, then rotating the lady to do another four steps from left to right. We did four of these traveling diagonals so that when we finished we were on the right side once more with the left foot free. Then he had us do some leg flicks, pointing the leg to the side for beat one, flicking it up behind our other leg on beat two, taking a step to the side on beat three, and finally slowly sliding the other foot in over beat four. We did four of these as well, to keep the musical phrasing.

As we neared the end of class, he showed the ladies how to do Swivels, These were exactly the same as what you have probably seen in International Rumba, where the lady is in front of the man stepping and turning from side to side. This was a challenging step for many of the ladies I danced with. At first the instructor wanted the ladies doing one Swivel for each beat of music, but after a few minutes of practice when he saw that many were struggling to keep that pace he backed down and said that if they wanted they could do one Swivel for every two beats of the music. A lot of the ladies I danced with still wanted to believe they could do the fast ones, so I would let them try, and then if they struggled I would stop and get them to try it again slowly to be successful.

By the time the class had finished, more guests had shown up for the party to participate in the open dance. The ratio of men to women was pretty even that night, so I wasn’t really needed for dancing. That was probably for the best too, since I had to leave early to take care of some stuff for work. Also, the DJ made sure to play a fair number of Bachata songs, and I probably would have had to fake my way through those if someone had asked me to dance during one…

Keeping things on the slower side this week, we ended up looking at Rumba in Latin Technique class on Monday night. On an interesting note, a lady whom I have met several times before ended up joining us that evening. We’ll call her the Gatekeeper, and she’s an… interesting case. For a long time, I used to think that she was reluctant to learn anyone about dancing from anyone other than Lord Fabulous, but apparently the two of them had some kind of falling out recently. Since then, I’ve seen her at the Fancy Dance Hall taking a lesson with Sir Steven, and now she showed up to take Lord Junior’s Latin Technique class. I’m not sure if this will become a regular occurrence, or if she and Lord Fabulous will reconcile their differences shortly, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

As we usually do when new people who Lord Junior doesn’t know very well join us for class, the figures we looked at that night weren’t super intense. If Gatekeeper sticks around for a few weeks, I’m sure that will start to change, but for the first night there she could get through the figures pretty easily. Starting in Fan Position, we took the ladies into an Alemana, with the guy shifting to the left slightly so that the lady ends her last turning walk on the Lead’s right side. Collecting her with our right arm, we turned her in a Natural Opening Out action that we over-rotated as we closed so that it melded right into a Reverse Top. We went around for three measures, releasing the lady in the middle of the last measure so that she would end up back out in Fan Position. Just as class was ending, Lord Junior was having us move from that Fan Position into a Hockey Stick, but we didn’t get any farther that night.

Standard Technique class on Wednesday was pretty fun, in my opinion. The class was rather small compared to the number of people who usually show up. I think that with so many schools starting up again this month, many of the normal attendees are either getting ready to go back themselves or getting everything ready for their kids to go back. At least, that’s my theory – I could be wrong.

We looked at Waltz this time around. There were a couple of figures that we looked at that I don’t remember ever seeing before, which is always exciting to me. First off, when we started class, Lord Junior asked all of us if any of us had ever seen a Left Whisk. When everyone said no, he decided that we would definitely be using that figure during class. As you can probably guess, a Left Whisk is basically the same as the basic Whisk, only you are crossing the opposite foot behind. While the normal Whisk is a figure you learn in early Bronze International Waltz, a Left Whisk is a Gold-level figure for some reason.

Our pattern that night was rather short, and it doesn’t travel all that far because of the spin and lunge that we do after the Left Whisk. We started out with a normal Natural Spin Turn and then transitioned into the Left Whisk. With my right foot crossed behind my left, our next figure was to unwind with a Standing Spin while the lady walked around me. This Standing Spin felt a lot like a Natural Twist Turn from Tango. Once the lady got all the way around us, we rotated her body so that she was perpendicular to ours and then did a Same Foot Lunge, with the man lunging to the right and the lady stepping backward on her right leg and leaning backward in an Oversway-like line. If you were in the right position, you would almost have the lady sitting down on your right thigh when she was leaning back.

To come out of the Same Foot Lunge, the guys would stand the lady back up and pivot her around without moving yet (that’s how she gets back to being on the opposite foot from us). Once she was pivoted back into normal dance position, the guys could collect and do an Open Telemark, coming out in Promenade Position heading toward diagonal wall. Lord Junior was going to add on something else at the end to give us a better closing than ending right in the middle of an Open Telemark, but we had spent a lot of time working on the Standing Spin and Same Foot Lunge that night, so we had to leave it there so that we could get in several practice rounds before class ended.

Remember how last week I mentioned feeling like my schedule was overwhelming without actually having anything out of the ordinary on it? I guess feeling that way wasn’t good enough for me, so I somehow got talked into adding more things to my schedule. There’s the showcase that I mentioned earlier that I’m fairly certain I will start working on. Just before that, I had already agreed to compete at the end of September, so not only do I have to find time to learn and practice a showcase routine, but I still have to continue working on my competition routines at the same time!

Two weeks ago I mentioned that I had volunteered myself to be part of this committee that will be making dance-related decisions on a national level. Well going along with that, my local Royal Dance Court group will have our quarterly meeting next week to talk about what we have planned for the rest of this year, and to start discussing the dance parties and events we want to host next year. There is this debate going on about themes for our dance parties – a few of the members of the Royal Dance Court really like planning themes for these parties, with decorations and a playlist of music that matches the theme. Others (like me) don’t see many of the dance attendees dressing up for the themes, or mentioning anything about the decorations, so we feel like having a theme every month is overkill without participation. That should be a fun discussion…

On top of that, my Royal Dance Court group was asked to send representatives for an upcoming regional conference, where a bunch of different dance groups in our region are coming together to discuss our successes and challenges in getting people into ballroom dancing in our respective areas. As you can probably guess, I was asked by Prez if I would tag along with her to that regional meeting. I’m pretty sure that she asked Sparkledancer if she wanted to go as well, and that the ladies will be getting a hotel room together to reduce costs and whatnot. Being the only guy, I have to find my own accommodations. There was talk of reimbursements if I saved my receipts, but I hate doing expense reports, and I make stupid money compared to my living expenses, so I can just eat the cost.

Anyway… why did I agree to go to this meeting? For starters, there are rumors that some of the people in charge of the national organization that I had signed up to be on that committee for might have a representative there to talk with all of these regional clubs, so I figured getting in some face time is a good idea. Also, I’m fairly certain that Prez asked Sparkledancer and I if we wanted to go because she wants our Royal Dance Court to stand out because of our respective youth. There is supposed to be a dance party that night after all of the meetings in the afternoon, and if Prez shows up with the two of us who also happen to compete together, and she can get us to dance in front of everyone else at the party… I’m sure that will score her some bonus points, and I’m willing to do that for her.

I could be wrong about that, but with what I’ve learned about Prez over the years, she likes to have power and status over people, and I wouldn’t put it past her to use me to that end. But knowing how dance politics works, helping her earn status points can also help me out too. If I can get to know the leadership of all these dance clubs in my region, maybe I will be able to present my ideas about how I think things should be done to them, and have some small influence on the way the clubs are run. On top of that, if I want to use my committee position to help solve big problems at the national level, I want these people to know who I am, and trust me enough to tell me about issues they come across. After all, if no one tells you about an issue, how can you help solve the problem?

So now my calendar is actually getting full. What is it about me that seems to be drawn to do all of these things, even knowing that I would much rather just have a quiet weekend curled up in bed with my cat, doing nothing but staring out the window? I must be crazy.


Before I Let That Happen, I’ll Dance My Life Away

This past week I got to go to a meeting of the Royal Dance Court that I am a member of to discuss all sorts of dance business things. Yup, ‘dance business things’ – I’m going to stand behind that phrase. This meeting started out on a sad note. My friend Indiana had informed us that she was picking up a lot of other responsibilities in her normal job as a dance instructor, so she didn’t really have time to help out on the Court anymore. The rest of us all agreed to accept her resignation, though I wasn’t happy to do so. But there are a few of us on the council who are not old enough to be retired yet, and going to work-related things does take a priority still, so I understood where she was coming from. We had some basic discussions about who we might ask to see if they would be interested in coming on to fill Indiana’s seat, or whether we should stick with an eight-person Court instead of nine, but no final decisions were made that 19991night so we tabled the discussion for later. Next we spent some time reviewing everything for our upcoming big end-of-month formal event happening the weekend after next. It looks like all of the official tickets are sold out now, so yay! Since there were a lot of ladies who signed up to go to the party without a ‘date’ so we decided that from here on out any single men who wanted to go or whom we could talk into going could get in free. The party is also going to have a masquerade ball theme, and we’re going to give away prizes for the person wearing the best mask during the night. A suggestion was raised that, in order to make the judging of the masks easier, we would get everyone who wanted to participate in the contest to dance in a conga line and all of the members of the Royal Dance Court would watch from around the room as everyone went by and judge who we thought had the best, so that’s what we will do that night. The other big topic of discussion we had was about planning ahead for National Ballroom Dance Week which happens in September. We have been trying to put together some kind of special event we could do that would allow us to go out into the public and perform to interest more people in dancing. One member of the Court had proposed an idea a couple of months ago about doing a performance in a local outdoor shopping center, but after several communications with the coordinators at that center it looks like the idea is a no-go. So we’ll be trying to think of something else. So those were the high points of discussion during that meeting.

One other unofficial discussion came out at the end after most people had headed home for the night – with Indiana now gone, that leaves Sparkledancer and myself as the only young people left. The leader of the Court apparently sees the two of us as the future of the organization, and is interested in training one of us to replace her so that we’d be ready to go by the time the next election for members comes around. I’m not sure how I feel about this. It sounds interesting, and since I am already a Leader when I dance I could see it as a natural transition for me to also lead something like this (that was a lame attempt at a joke). Then again, I also have a full-time job, so I don’t have as much time to put into coordinating all kinds of events like the currently retired people who run the Court do now, so it would really only work for me if I could delegate a lot of things to others. This is something I need to think about a bit more before putting my hat into or out of the ring…

Last Saturday afternoon I got together for my standing meeting with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven. We started off the same way we did the week prior, going through our Standard routines for Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and Quickstep. There were some minor things we went back to work on after going through each routine once, but nothing major. Having gotten through things so quickly this time, Sir Steven decided it was a good idea to have us try doing International Viennese Waltz. As he went to go find us a song, I thought back to the last time he had worked on the style with us and decided to try starting things off with the Natural Turn. That… did not go well. Sparkledancer seemed to be having a hard time getting into the rhythm as we started turning down the floor. After a few messy rotations I stopped, asked her if she was doing alright, got a headshake, and went back to start over. After the second attempt didn’t go any better than the first, Sparkledancer told me that at the current song’s tempo, starting with the Natural Turn was much harder for her. The third time around I started using the Reverse Turn and that helped out considerably. Since we were doing International Viennese Waltz, there wasn’t much of interest to look at, so after a few Reverse Turns, a Change Step and a few Natural Turns, Sir Steven said that had covered pretty much everything he wanted to see. There are still some issues with having too much upper body movement while turning, which I am much better about avoiding later in the evening, but things weren’t that bad. With some time left over, Sir Steven said that he remembered us wanting to go back and start looking at our American-style routines again, so he had us pull out our American Foxtrot routine and go through things for him. We briefly considered going through American Waltz, but no one (not even Sir Steven) remembered large chunks of the routine while we were all standing there, so we tabled that for later review. After going through things once, we were told that it was noticeable how all the work we put into our technique on the Standard routines has improved our American style as well. We did go back over one section to make some changes to the 19992timing at the end of our syncopated Open Change Steps with Solo Turns, where we go into a Ronde-like movement as we link back up. He wanted us to come back together much quicker as we got back together and make the lowering from the rise on the previous sequence more pronounced, which would make the movement with our legs look more dramatic. I must say that working on American-style just seems more fun to me. Maybe it’s the wider diversity of movements, maybe it’s getting to dance in different connections than just the closed frame used in Standard, or maybe it’s because American style is what I started with when I began dancing. Whatever the case, it just feels… right. I hope we do more next weekend!

Saturday night the Royal Dance Court held our monthly dance party. This month we had decided to go with a Latin-themed dance, so much of the music that was played was going to be some variation of Rhythm or Latin styles. As I arrived at the venue and looked at the dance shoes in the back seat in my car, I briefly considered using my pair of Latin heeled shoes for the night, but then I thought better because 2” heels would be dangerous for me if I decided to do a Quickstep or Viennese Waltz. Yes, I know some of you ladies are rolling your eyes at me because you normally use heels taller than that for everything, but I’m a boy. Anyway, the event started out weird because the instructor we had asked to come in and teach a Bachata lesson was late. When someone called him a few minutes before he was supposed to be teaching, I guess he said that he forgot or something, and he would leave right away to get there. He was all the way on the other side of the area though, so it was going to take him a bit. So one of the other Court members made the executive decision to start regular dancing while waiting for him. They didn’t really tell the rest of us, and I was off on the other side of the dance floor talking to some of the guests when the music started. I excused myself to go find out what was going on. As the first song played, since the DJ was hard to understand when she gave directions, no one did any dancing. They just sat there looking at all of us behind the counter talking. The second song, once I knew what was going on, I asked a nearby lady to dance with me, and others joined us on the floor once they saw someone else do things first. It took about half an hour for the instructor to show up to give his hour-long lesson. From what we were told by the venue after the dance was over, we had about twice as much in sales of adult beverages for this party, and some of the other Royal Dance Court members have speculated that people sitting around waiting for the lesson to start are likely to drink more earlier in the evening so that they have time to sweat out the effects before the party ends. The Bachata lesson covered mostly basic movements, only a couple of things I hadn’t done before (and I almost never dance Bachata, so that says a lot). After the lesson was over the open dancing resumed. I was kept busy throughout the night dancing with as many ladies as I could find until I had to leave to go take care of some work things. It seemed like the party was successful overall though. We had expected a smaller turnout than normal with a competition going on in the Dance Kingdom that weekend, but we had a really good turnout instead. Go team!

And that leads me into yet another adventure I got to do because I’m on the Royal Dance Court now – Sunday morning I got asked to go out and do something dance related that I had never done before: volunteer to help out at the aforementioned dance competition. So I got to go back to the Dance Death Arena, but this time I had to sit at a chair behind a table at the front door, checking dancers in, taking money from spectators who wanted to go in and watch and answering questions as best I could for all kinds of people who stopped by our table. My volunteer hour was with several other members of the Royal Dance Court over the lunch hour 19993for the competitors, so I had a lot of people coming up and asking about where they could get food near the venue. I really didn’t have a good answer for all of those people. After all, this was the first time I had ever hung out at the Dance Death Arena when I wasn’t competing, so I have never explored the surrounding area to see what was nearby. Volunteering was pretty relaxed for me – there weren’t many people left to check in to the competition, since it was the last day and most everyone had already checked in the prior days or their studio leaders had come and previously checked all of their members in. There were a couple of changes that we had to put into the system. Apparently during one heat a lady had sprained her ankle during a “particularly vigorous Cha-Cha” (that’s actually what the guy said) so we had to substitute her name out for a different partner for the rest of the heats she was to be in. There was one weird experience that happened while everyone was eating lunch: one of the competition organizers came to the table where a bunch of us were sitting and said that the room being used as the lady’s dressing room needed to be moved, since the venue had booked the room for something else that afternoon. So several of us were asked to go down to the room and move all of the competitor’s stuff to the new room that was selected as the lady’s dressing room. I felt uncomfortable grabbing and hauling around other people’s things without asking their permission, but it had to be done. Luckily Sparkledancer had come along to help, since there were a couple of girls who had left their underwear strewn all over some of the chairs. She was nice enough to pick up those piles and move them so that the guys didn’t have to worry about that.

Finally, I want to mention something more normal that I did this week, so let’s talk about the Standard Technique class that I went to. This week Lord Junior wanted to look at a Waltz figure that he called a Big Top, which I’m guessing it’s called because you do a lot of rotating and very little travelling as you go through the figure. The Big Top is an open-level figure, so you won’t find it on the normal Waltz syllabus and you wouldn’t be able to use it in any of your routines until you move beyond Gold-level, but it was fun. Lord Junior compared the figure several times during the course of the class to the Double Reverse Spin, since both involve a lot of rotation and people have a hard time even getting through the figures the first couple of times, but once you nail down where you need to turn it isn’t so bad. We spent most of the class period just working on the figure by itself and by ourselves before trying to add in a partner to the mix. The idea behind the steps is that in one three-count Waltz measure, starting in Promenade Position with your right leg free (as a guy) you take the first step in Promenade across where your other foot is (farther across than the normal CBMP step you would take) since you are turning. In the middle of beat one you rotate your upper body to bring the lady across in front of you, since she is going to collect her feet together on your left side as you cross your left foot behind your right on beat two and rotate so that you are travelling backwards. The third step is with your 19994right foot going straight back and then you do a Reverse Pivot to turn around again, allowing you to move in the direction you started going forward for whatever you want to do next. Once we could get this figure all by itself, we added a couple figures beforehand, allowing us to get into the figure less awkwardly. We began with a prep step, took into a normal Natural Turn, then an Overturned Natural Spin Turn that spun us a full rotation so that the guys started and ended backing line of dance. Next we did a Turning Lock to the Right, coming out in Promenade Position moving toward diagonal center. This was where we added in the Big Top which, if done correctly, kept us moving toward diagonal center when finished. The steps move a lot faster than expected, even when done to slow Waltz music, so it’s a fun sequence to throw into things. At the end of class, Lord Junior said that he has also done this Big Top figure in Foxtrot, and if he remembers next week we might go through something for Foxtrot so that he can throw this in again.

Only a couple of crazy weekends left in this month! I’m starting to get worn out just thinking about all the stuff I have packed into all my April weekends. What will I do this time? Come back next week and I’ll tell you all about it!

Behind The Curtain, In The Pantomime

It seems like winter keeps coming back to haunt me. No, it hasn’t gotten cold again here in my part of the world, but that short cold spell we did have has left a lot of things behind to remind us that it happened well after the date that the temperature got back above freezing. Like all the rock salt that is spread around my neighborhood, for instance. Also, when I went out this past Saturday afternoon to meet up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for our normal coaching session, we found that the Endless Dance Hall was super busy. Apparently the previous weekend there had been a showcase performance scheduled that didn’t happen because of the snow we received. They moved the performance back a week, but didn’t tell anyone who wasn’t in the performance (like us) that they moved things until the day of, when they took over the studio. ShowMustGoOn1When I got there, I found all kinds of people wandering around in some state of costume, and groups of kids running through their choreography, and there were risers set up with seats for an audience. There wasn’t much room on the floor to do anything. When Sir Steven got there and also saw what was going on, he stepped outside to make some phone calls to find out what the story was. When he came back, we talked about it and the three of us decided it was best to not be underfoot while everyone was getting ready for the show that evening, so we rescheduled things for Tuesday night. Sigh… why do you have to play me like that Winter? What did I ever do to you?

Saturday night I did get to go out for some dancing, and I got a lot more dancing in over the course of the evening than I expected. There was an open dance being held at the Prime Dance Hall – not hosted by them, just held at the location. I didn’t even see anyone who is on staff at the dance hall there that night, which is kind of weird. Anyway, this dance was put together as an offering for everyone by the person acting as the DJ that night and a guy I call President Porpoise (he’s someone who I see play dance host at a lot of events). They had put together this dance not only because nothing else was going on for that Saturday night, but also as a fundraiser for someone in the dance community who had gone through some recent medical turmoil. I didn’t recognize the name of the person they were talking about, but I’m horrible with names so that’s not really surprising. I might recognize them if I saw them though. The story they were telling made me sad, so before I left that night I emptied out all the cash I had in my wallet and left it as a donation to the cause. Seeing as how I had to reschedule my normal dance lesson earlier in the day, that was probably a lot of cash (minus what I had to use to get into the dance party), but I didn’t count it before I turned it in. As the dance party got underway, I’m not sure where everyone else was that night. Since this was the only open dance party in the area, I would have thought all the regulars I usually see would have been around, but we had a lot of women show up and not a lot of men. So I got quite a workout that night. The DJ did lots of things to help make sure all the men rotated through dancing with everyone since we were so outnumbered. At one point they had each guy stand up and grab two ladies, saying that one of the ShowMustGoOn2ladies would be their next Foxtrot partner and the other would be for Cha-Cha, but even with each guy standing on the floor with two ladies there were still some ladies that were standing along the side of the floor all alone, so we ended up doing the Foxtrot first, then a Salsa where all the ladies who had been off on the side got to have first pick of a dance partner, then the Cha-Cha next. One of the ladies asked me if I danced Salsa during that middle number, and I told her before we started that I didn’t usually do Salsa, but I could fake it. Normally the things that I do for Salsa is all figures that I learned for Mambo, just starting on beat one, so I can fake Salsa pretty well. She was surprised by that, and after the dance was done she told me that she wished she could fake dances she didn’t know like I could. That was funny to me. I also ended up doing a Tango that night with a lady who was at least a foot shorter than me, so I had to take tiny steps during that dance otherwise I would have left her behind. It’s been a while since I’ve danced a ballroom dance with someone where there’s been that much of a height difference.

We had a couple join us for Latin Technique class on Monday night who had driven in from quite a ways out of town. Lord Junior was talking to them before class started and asked them what brought them to the area, and the guy told him that they had just come in for class. I guess where they lived they had spent a lot of time learning Club Latin styles like Salsa and Bachata, but they wanted to try something new. Because they hadn’t really done any ballroom dancing before, we went through Rumba that night, which is what we seem to go through whenever new people are around. We started out warming up just doing the basic step for a while to get everyone comfortable with things if they hadn’t seen Rumba before. Our pattern for the night started with one full basic in closed dance frame, and then we led the ladies out into Fan Position. From there we started to do a Hockey Stick, but after the first four steps we changed things and led them to do a loose Spiral Turn to line up facing one another so that we could go into a New Yorker to the right. I was told that a ‘loose’ Spiral Turn is just a Spiral that doesn’t turn a full 360°, which I had never heard before, but it seems like an interesting tidbit of information, so that’s why I’m mentioning it here so that I can remember it later. I caught Merlot and Sparkledancer spending some time that night discussing how ladies use their outside arms in New Yorkers, and somehow they got to talking about how it works best to pretend like you are giving someone a high-five with your outside hand. I’m not entirely sure if they were being serious about that, since they kept laughing about it while moving their arms around. Class is so entertaining sometimes…

So Tuesday night I had my rescheduled coaching session with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. As was promised the last time we met to go over things, we worked on Foxtrot and Quickstep this time around. I will admit, I was not feeling very good about how things went that night. It seemed like I was getting picked on a lot for things going wrong. It probably wasn’t any more frequent than I normally get during these sessions, but I just wasn’t having much fun with things that night, so it was hard to laugh things off at the time. We went back to talking about how, during natural rotations in Quickstep, I am to help Sparkledancer extend her body away from mine by pressing forward slightly with my right hip. This is something I still struggle with. Part of the problem I was having that night was that we kept breaking away from each other right before I would do that, so as I attempted to push forward with my right hip, there was nothing there, so I had to push forward even more to make contact with her, and that kept throwing me off balance. It sounds like a simple thing to fix when I write it out here, but something about hindsight and 20s or something… you know. As we were working through the Foxtrot that night, a couple of people came into the Endless Dance Hall to talk with Indiana and one of her students who were working on things on the other side of the floor. They left after a brief conversation and then came back with a video camera. This camera had a really bright light attached to it, and it seemed like no matter where we went on the dance floor, that light was always shining straight at me, ShowMustGoOn3burning bright light spots into my vision. They were filming what Indiana and her student were doing on the dance floor for some news program or commercial or something, I’m not quite sure, but they always seemed to line up their shots so that we were also in the background. At one point we even went over to stand near the mirrors, which I thought would prevent them from pointing the light at me since it would reflect off the mirrors back at them… but I was wrong about that, they still did. In the end, things were good, and there are some parts I will have to go back and work on. Hopefully when we get together this coming Saturday to cover things it will be more fun. Maybe I’ll look up some new jokes to tell before I go, so that if things get to be too much work I can just randomly insert a joke to lighten the mood. Maybe I’ll even try to find dance jokes, so that the material is relevant. That seems time spent on a worthwhile investment.

This week in Standard Technique class we got to go back to the pattern of figures that I went through with Lord Junior back in the beginning of December. I was the only person in class that night who had seen this amalgamation before, so I kind of had one foot up on everyone else when going through things. To prevent you from having to go back and read through my old notes, the pattern is as follows: we started off with a Chasse from Promenade Position, and then into a Quick Open Reverse with a Reverse Pivot at the end (interesting note: the Quick Open Reverse is actually a Quickstep figure that has been adapted for Waltz). After the Reverse Pivot we are facing line of dance and we go into a Double Reverse Spin that also has a Reverse Pivot at the end, which puts us backing line of dance for the Leaders, and from there we ended by going into a Throwaway Oversway. It’s a cool set of figures, with a lot of stuff that will really challenge you if you want to do things right, so I would recommend this pattern to anyone. I will say though that it’s really hard to do this sequence by walking through things slowly. In order to get the correct amount of turn, especially with those Pivots, you need to have some momentum to work with. Lord Junior actually told us that night while we were stepping through things slowly that he didn’t expect us to make it all the way around at the speed we were using, so he didn’t mind if we had to use our other foot to sort-of paddle ourselves around the full amount of the turn. Once you get going at speed, especially with music playing, turning becomes less of a problem, it’s actually stopping the turn to keep from overturning that becomes hard. My big problem during class as I danced through things with people was ShowMustGoOn4that I kept forgetting about what my head was doing as we were doing all the turns, so there were times when it looked like I was looking at my dance partner. I didn’t feel like I was doing it at the time, and I’m fairly tall so I might have been looking over the lady’s head instead of at her which would explain why I didn’t notice it, but I got called out for that a couple of times during the evening. By the end of the night I managed to keep myself from making that mistake again, but I could only do that by concentrating on what my head was doing, so all the other things I should have been working on probably got left out in the process. I was having a lot of fun in class though, which helped make up for not having much fun the night before. Hooray!

Look at this, we’re already in February already! Can you feel the love starting to permeate the air as Valentine’s Day approaches? I can. That’s why I’m volunteering to help out again at another singles dance party this weekend. Yay me! I can be a good dance host sometimes, and there’s always the chance that there might be interesting single ladies my age who show up that I can talk to. But the event was billed for singles over 40, so probably not. There’s also an interesting workshop planned for Sunday which I think I might end up going to, just for fun. We’ll find out what happens when I tell the stories about it next week!

‘Cause We Gon’ Rock This Club, We Gon’ Go All Night

So one of the big things that I went through this past weekend was my coaching session with Lady Comrade. Since we got together at the same time that I normally meet with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven, the two of them were working on the other side of the Endless Dance Hall, so they could have come over to see what was going on, or made jokes at my expense, at any time. Speaking of people coming over at any time, it seemed like while we were working, everyone felt drawn to us. As I’ve mentioned lots of times, the floor at the Endless Dance Hall is immense, and yet no matter how far away from everyone else Lady Comrade and I moved, people kept getting into our line of dance. One of the other dance coaches recognized the silliness of getting near us so frequently, so he started to make jokes every time he got close enough for us to hear. After a couple of times, I started to wonder if he was just doing it on purpose. So… what did we go over, aside from the unique floorcraft requirements of avoiding the other coaches and their students? Lady Comrade’s big idea for our time together was to show me how to best telegraph my intended movements in my ballroom dances before I even did them. She worked with me on incorporating more subtlety of movement into my frame to show my desires. What does that mean? Well, when I want to move myself forward for example, she really wanted me to essentially press forward with my chest before I actually took any Dynamite1steps, so that the Follower would know that she would need to move backwards soon. In order to go backward, it was really important to lower my body slightly more and reach my leg back behind me, which would be the signal to an experienced Follower that she would need to step forward next as I moved backward. These movements needed to happen just before I did any further movement, especially any traveling movement, to help me eliminate any confusion from my Follower about what I had planned.

We worked on incorporating this into a couple of different dance styles. Lady Comrade liked to be really formal about dancing together. Every time she wanted to try things with me, she would back up away from me and wait until I held out my left Dynamite2hand for her to take frame, as if we were in a competition. We started out with, and spent most of our time on, the Waltz so that she could introduce the idea to me. Dancing with her was an interesting mental challenge for me. To keep things simple, I had wanted to just stick with figures in order from my current routines. Lady Comrade, however, doesn’t do American Smooth. After three or four times when I tried to do a Twinkle and ended up running into her feet, I caught on to that and asked her about it. She just smiled and said that things were fine, but I decided to be considerate and swap out the figures I knew that weren’t in International Standard with their counterparts. Waltz was fairly easy to do, as it only involved replacing a couple of Twinkles with Whisks. Foxtrot was a bit more difficult for me, as I haven’t led a lady’s Heel Turn in a long time, but I managed to figure that out after the second attempt. At the end, we were working on Tango, and that’s when things fell apart for me. International Tango is completely different from American Tango, and I have done so little International Tango that I couldn’t just switch what I was doing easily. I really had to stop and think about what needed to be changed, and I had to have her show me one piece because I kept doing it American-style since I just didn’t know. We really scaled back what we covered during the Tango because of the translation issues, until we were down to doing just two forward walks, and a Link into a Closed Promenade. I am really going to have to put some time into going back and reviewing International Tango at some point in the near future. My failure at being able to switch back and forth between the two like I could with American and International Waltz has me feeling a little embarrassed, I have to admit.

Saturday night I ended up playing host again at one of those ‘dance parties for single people’ like I’ve done in the past. This time, my rank was upgraded from just a lowly host to something more like a dance host/coordinator. The group had invited Lord Junior to give the initial opening lesson before the mingling started, which was cool. He went over the basics of American Rumba and Hustle. We had a big group of people, but there were more men than women in attendance (as you can probably imagine). To try to simplify the rotation of partners, we had the women make a big circle on the dance floor facing inward, and then had the men find a partner and Dynamite3rotate around the floor counter-clockwise. Lord Junior and I tried to get the men to space themselves out better, but for some reason every time we split them up then had them get back into that configuration, all the men clumped together so there were a couple of big runs of women standing without partners, and we had to shuffle people around to even things out. For the American Rumba, we only got through the basic box step (without any rotation, sadly) and then some Fifth Position Breaks in half-an-hour. In the Hustle we managed to cover a rotating basic step, and then the basic outside and inside turns for the ladies. Nothing too fancy, though there were some people in the crowd that knew more than those figures already.

Afterward, once the dance floor was opened up and the crowd got into the wine (it was mostly a middle-aged crowd, and they liked to drink wine for some reason), I meandered around and tried to pull as many ladies who were sitting out onto the floor as I could. Luckily, I was backed up this time by Abracadaniel and HotDog, whom I managed to finagle into helping out with the event. At events like these, you can never have too many men who know dance basics to help out. Having the two of them also gave me a chance to actually talk to people occasionally, instead of just dancing constantly like I’ve done at these events in the past. I did have one lady who I couldn’t understand half of what she was saying because of her thick accent, the amount of wine she had had and the loud music playing, but she was super excited to dance a Rumba with me. At the end of the song she threw herself toward me, and then fell onto the floor. I think she was expecting me to dip her or something, but she neglected to tell me coherently and get confirmation I understood what was going on before she went for it, so it did not end well for her. I felt really bad about that, so I made sure to dance with her again later on in the evening. I also got to be the one to lead the line dances that they played to try to get everyone onto the floor. Dynamite4There have been lots of times I’ve watched as dance instructors have bounced from one side of the room to the other, trying to stay in front of everyone while doing a line dance so that they could direct and lead the steps, but I’ve never tried that before that night. Covering that much ground to get around a big crowd while not missing any of the required steps of the line dance is tougher than it looks. We only did two of them, and they were more common ones that you would see in bigger dance clubs, so there were people who already knew the steps. When we attempted to gather everyone out on the floor to participate in the line dances, it was mostly the women that came out. The men just wanted to sit around the edge and watch.

Monday night I got to work on Samba. We stepped through doing some Criss-Cross Botafogos, followed by a figure I know as the Maypole (which is essentially the Lead and Follow doing concentric Voltas), followed by two Stationary Samba Walks and finishing with four Spot Voltas for good measure. Lucky for me, these were all figures I had done before, so I had a leg up on what was going on. The other two guys who had joined us in class that night weren’t so lucky. Abracadaniel has really only spent time doing the Samba line dance (and had learned that only through doing it during social dances), and had been in one other Latin Technique class before that day where we had done any Samba, so his knowledge of the dance style is still low. The other gentleman who joined us was an experienced Club Latin dance instructor, and actually teaches Salsa and Bachata classes elsewhere in the Dance Kingdom, but never really did any ballroom-style Latin dances. He picked things up quickly though, which helped out. It’s been nice lately having more people in that class. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed having the class when the only person I could convince to go along with me was Sparkledancer, and it was just the two of us getting beat up by Lord Junior, but having some more people adds another dynamic to the learning that is rather enjoyable. It is good for both Sparkledancer and I to work on things with each other, since so far she is one of only two women I’ve ever done a competition with, but it helps me to work on more advanced things with other Followers to be sure that I really know how to lead properly for all Followers, not just how I can nudge Sparkledancer into doing certain movements.

There’s an opportunity tomorrow for me to go to a random dance event, but I think I would be the only person I know there if I went. Everyone else is doing other things. Will I go do it, or will I stay home and spend time finishing some things for work that I haven’t been able to get to yet this week? I guess we’ll have to find out next week!