I’m So Powerful, I Don’t Need Batteries To Play

Oh man, a second post this week? I must have all sorts of free time if I am able to write so much! Either that or I did something dance-related that I need to remember in the future. I’ll give you a little hint: it’s the latter.

Let’s start off chronologically though, since that works best for my brain when I have to review things later. The first thing I did that is worth remembering was my lesson with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven on Saturday afternoon. We took our time together to work on continuing to try to improve our dancing based on the review notes that we got back from the judges the weekend prior. This week we focused exclusively on Foxtrot. The specific notes that Sir Steven wanted to have us work on were the two that read “Knees need to flex more when receiving the weight on the slow; Slows need to be fuller to show contrast from quicks.”

We went about this in a weird manner. I think, now that I have had a few days to digest what was going on, that I kind of understand what Sir Steven was trying to get Sparkledancer and I to do, but I was really confused by the method during our time together. Parts of it just felt wrong, and went counter to a lot of the techniques for moving in Foxtrot that I have been working on for so long, which may have been what brought on most of my confusion.

What we were doing saw us just using a simple Feather and Three Step combination while we took steps. Sir Steven wanted us to work on really driving as we took the first step, and then taking the last two steps of the figures with straight legs. Yup, you read that right, straight legs, like in a Latin dance. Obviously practicing the steps like this slowly will easily fix the issue of taking the steps with my knees bent, which makes it look like I never fully straighten my legs while moving, but how we were doing it also added significant rise to the figure, which is something I was told to never do. Remember in the past when I told you about Lord Dormamu’s theory of Foxtrot, described as a body of water? Yeah, adding ‘waves’ to my Foxtrot completely goes against that theory.

The whole lesson was spent pretty much like this, first using slow Feather and Three Step combinations, then moving up to slowly walking through our routine and applying the same action. Again, it felt weird to me, but Sir Steven thought that it helped by the time we were near completed for the day. As my luck would have it, as we were nearing the end of our lesson, the Princess arrived at the Fancy Dance Hall. She had a coaching session scheduled with a client at that location Saturday afternoon. While she was waiting for her client to arrive, Sir Steven asked her if she would want to watch Sparkledancer and I do our Foxtrot routine, to see if she could see improvements.

So we danced for her, then we had to stop and show her the notes from the judges that we were actually working on, then we had to dance for her again once she was on the same page. Her take on the proper approach in order to fix our issues was completely different from Sir Steven’s take. The Princess told me that I was basically off time when taking the slow steps in each figure, and that is what was causing all of the issues I was having. She had actually sat and watched a private coaching session with that world champion judge guy and a different male student of the Fancy Dance Hall where the judge tried to help the student fix the same problem she saw me doing.

To make the explanation easier, it turns out she had  grabbed a video of the world champion guy and this student dancing the same steps in Foxtrot side-by-side, and she forwarded the video to me so that I could have a copy to refer to. Watching the two men dance the same figures was enlightening. Though the music is playing and they start each figure on the same beat, it looks like the male student is off time compared to the world champion. On his slow steps in each figure, the judge always takes the weight onto his moving leg on beat two, whereas I (and the male student in the video) tend to transfer from leg to leg on beat one, so it looks like we are rushing even if the next two steps are on time.

The Princess told me that if I were to work on fixing my timing to look more like the world champion guy in the video, that would help fix my issues. For one, it would definitely improve the timing contrast between the slow and quick steps in each figure. But the best way to really make sure that I transfer weight later in each slow is to continue to stretch through my legs longer, which means that likely I will take bigger steps, fully extending my legs in the process, and since the legs are spread farther I will have to really pull my legs together, which will require flexing my knees, at the end of the slow step.

So… no problem, right? I should be able to fix that easily! Sigh… I just know that this is going to probably take me hours of repetition with each figure in my routine, likely danced with really slow music playing to force me to slow down and think about every single step. Sounds like soooo much fun. 😛

I finally managed to meet up with my coach Lord Dormamu this past Saturday as well. He’s been out either competing or running competitions the last several weekends in a row, so the last time I saw him was the first of last month, if I remember correctly. When we got together, we had a lot of things to talk about because of all the stuff that has happened over the prior three weeks.

The first thing that he wanted to sit and review with Sparkledancer and I were the feedback notes that we received from the judges, the same notes I had just shown to the Princess. In general, he seemed rather pleased with what he saw. There weren’t any notes that any of the judges had written that Lord Dormamu wasn’t already working on with us, and he was happy with the notes that we got about how we were fun to watch and had charisma. As Lord Dormamu put it, there is no way that he could teach either Sparkledancer or I to dance with charisma, that is something you either have or you don’t, so he was delighted that the judges thought we had it.

The next major thing we had to discuss was what Sparkledancer and I should be working toward next. It’s always nice to have something on the calendar to work toward, so we talked about what competitions that each of us knew were in the near future in the Dance Kingdom. We settled on one that is coming up around the end of April as our next event, and even talked about several that were coming up shortly after that which we should seriously consider. The one in April I’m feeling fairly good about, since it’s less than an hour away and it’s on a weekend, so there aren’t any conflicts to consider. Some of the others involve a bit more travel, so Sparkledancer and I will have to discuss those to see if we can both make it work with our work schedules.

Business out of the way, we started to look at dancing, and since we had the comments from the judges handy, Lord Dormamu had us start right at the top of the list with Waltz and the first two notes I wrote out last week (More rise and fall actions need developing; More lowering and rising). This was another one of those instances where Lord Dormamu thought of a different way to explain the mechanics of a certain dance technique to me so that I could understand how to apply the concept more easily.

Rising is the easy part, and he didn’t think that I needed to work on that at all this past weekend. It was actually the lowering action that I was doing when Sparkledancer and I demonstrated our Waltz for him that he thought needed the work. Over the years, I was taught by several people that when lowering, I should be bending my standing leg kind of like I was doing a single-leg squat (i.e. going straight down). Doing things in this manner does give the illusion of me lowering, but it also kills my movement in the process. If he were to let us advance to higher-level figures where we bring our feet together less often, this would become very problematic.

What he actually wants to see when I lower is my knees to come forward without moving my foot/feet, to the point where I would need to lift my heels off the ground. I got taken over to a wall to practice this action. Standing with my arms out in front of me on the wall, I was told to bring my knees forward and bend my elbows to alloy my body to move toward the wall. This is the feeling that lowering in the Waltz should give me every time I do it

When moving forward, this action will have me driving my body into my partner before even moving my feet. If I am going backward, the forward drive from my partner is a definite signal that I need to be preparing my leg backward to take the next step, because if I don’t then she just runs into me. And my body is fairly solid, so if I make my partner run into me, it’s probably going to hurt. Promenade Position is obviously a little different. If you rotate to Promenade Position properly by turning your nose and toes, the falling action will have both partners’ knees moving forward in the same direction.

We also talked briefly about two other points on the list (Beautiful closing action on the natural turn. More consistent with this; Closing action in natural turn could be more precise). When we danced through the routine for Lord Dormamu, he thought that our Natural Turns looked really good, but he wasn’t at the competition we did to see what the judges saw that day. He assumed they were talking about us closing our feet together with one foot being in front of the other, like you should see in Tango, but not in Waltz.

His advice to make our closing action on the Natural Turn (and any other place where we close our feet together) more precise was to not think about bringing our feet together, but just to think about bringing the toes of our feet together. For most people who aren’t pigeon toed, they can’t bring their toes together without the rest of their feet being together without a lot of difficulty. According to him, if that was really the issue the judges were referring to, focusing on just that small change should fix the precision issue pretty quickly.

Class on Monday night was pretty small, with only four of us showing up to attend Latin Technique. Even though that meant my vote counted for 25% of the total, I still got outvoted and we worked on Samba that night. Yay……………. Can you feel my excitement? Does it come through the screen like a slap in the face? Probably not. I’m too nice to slap you!

The big competition that Lord Junior and his students are preparing for is this coming weekend, so in class we were reviewing some figures that Veep uses in her Silver Samba routine with Lord Junior. The pattern itself was pretty simple footwork-wise: we started off by doing three Reverse Turns, but later in class Lord Junior cut that down to just one so that he could prevent us from traveling so far away from him. After the last (or only) Reverse Turn we did two Back Rocks, then a Plait, which is essentially the Samba equivalent of Chicken Walks you would see in various Swing dance styles. After the Plait we finished by bringing the lady across us to get back into dance position during one final Reverse Turn.

There were a couple of tricky points for me specifically during that lesson. First off, the Back Rocks. These aren’t like the rocking action you see in Tango, which is essentially what I tried to do the first time through the figure. There is about a quarter-turn of rotation in the course of the Back Rock, and a little slide action with the front foot when you shift your hips forward. So it’s actually like you step back with an 8th of a turn rotation and shift your hips back, slide your other foot forward and to the outside a little to do another 8th of a turn as you shift your hips forward, and then shift your hips back over the standing leg again to prepare for the next figure. I kept wanting to pick my front foot up instead of sliding it for some reason, which was bad.

Next up, the Plait. The first couple of times through the figure, when I would take that delayed action step backward onto the ball of my foot with my heel off the ground, I was letting my knees track in the direction that my toes were pointed, mostly because that was comfortable for me. Lord Junior stopped me and made me redo the step action and bring my knee inward while twisting my foot so that I could step on the inside edge with my toes till pointed outward. Yikes. Luckily we were near a mirror, so I could walk through it a few times while watching to see what I was doing.

Finally, there was Ms. Possible. Yes, she was one of the tricky parts for me that night. I have real trouble dancing with Ms. Possible for some reason, and apparently it is always my fault. I know I’m not a Latin competitor, so obviously I have trouble with techniques I don’t use all the time, but as soon as she hears that I am doing something wrong, like with my knees in the Plait, that ends up being the whole reason that she can never do the figure successfully with me. Even after I step through things enough to fix what I was doing wrong. Even after Lord Junior stops her to tell her that she is doing parts of the figures wrong. Even though I can switch partners and dance through the same choreography with Veep with no trouble at all. Nope, Ms. Possible still blames me, loud enough for everyone in the studio to hear.

I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that Sparkledancer and I have directly competed against her and her amateur partner a few times at this point, and we always do better than the two of them. Maybe she is holding a grudge against me for that? I don’t know. I like to believe I am nice, so I don’t know why she would treat me like that. The other guy in class Monday night had trouble the same choreography with her as well, but she never blamed him for it like she was doing with me. Hmm… what can I do to make her my friend again? I’ll have to think about this for a bit.

Standard Technique class was also used by Lord Junior to give Veep some extra practice on a section of one of her routines. Hopefully all the extra practice he worked in for her will result in awesome scores this weekend when she competes! The routine they had been working on in their lesson that day was her Open Waltz routine, and there were a couple of fairly challenging figures back-to-back that she needed to perfect.

The two figures in question were variations on more basic figures that people who have done International Waltz before have likely gone through. We started the set with a basic Chasse from Promenade Position just to build up some momentum to carry us through the turns at the end. I believe the technical name of the next figure would be ‘Overspin from a Quick Open Reverse Turn.’ You take an Open Reverse Turn (which is a Reverse Turn where you pass your feet at the end), add in an extra syncopated step at the beginning because you are starting on the wrong foot when finishing the Chasse From Promenade Position, then add a Reverse Pivot at the end.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, if that was too easy for you, we connected onto the end of that a Overspin from a Double Reverse Spin. Take the Double Reverse Spin, which is arguably the most difficult figure in the Bronze syllabus for Waltz (and Quickstep), and then add on a Reverse Pivot to the end of that too. That’s why I mentioned using the Chasse from Promenade Position to create momentum – the Chasse and the first couple of steps of the Quick Open Reverse Turn are the only traveling that you get to do. Once you start the first Reverse Pivot, and then for the entire Overspin from a Double Reverse Spin, you will barely cover any ground.

The big trick to getting all the turns at the end to work properly is for the ladies to keep their bodies (especially their heads) out to the left. You may have heard that advice once or twice if you are a lady that dances International Standard often. With the head weight on the outside of the circle as we try to turn, it helps us get all the way around. If the lady straightens up and puts her head over her feet, then it becomes a struggle to get the turns to rotate as much as they need to. As you can guess, each of the Reverse Pivots we did was supposed to rotate 180° to set us up for the next figure, so killing the rotation would also hurt whatever figure we would go into afterward.

I think it’s going to be a quiet weekend around the rest of the Dance Kingdom since so many people will be congregating at the Dance Death Arena for this weekend’s Pro/Am competition extravaganza. I thought about offering my time to help out behind the scenes as a volunteer for the event, but then I realized that if everyone was gone, I could get in a bunch of practice without having to share floorspace. The last couple of weeks the dance floors where I normally practice have been filled with people taking extra lessons to get ready for this competition, so I have had to keep my own practice contained, or only work on small sections to avoid running into anyone.

If you are competing this weekend, good luck! I hope that you manage to kick some names and take some ass, or however that saying normally goes. I’ll give you a high-five for every heat that you win if you happen to be nearby. My arms are only so long, so I have a limited range of where my high fives can be received from, but I’ll make an effort!


Unbelievable Sights, Indescribable Feeling

Last Saturday morning I got my result sheets from the pseudo-competition I was in the Saturday prior. Someone who works at the Fancy Dance Hall had been nice enough to type up all of the notes for me so that I didn’t have to try to read all of the judge’s handwriting, but since I danced in so many heats the feedback still covered more than one sheet of paper. My lesson with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer that afternoon was focused on some of the specific notes that we were given, much like all of the practice sessions I have had since I got the sheets back.

Let’s start by talking about the results from the last round that I did that day, which was the five-dance challenge round that Sparkledancer and I opted to be a part of. The only reason we decided to dance in that round was because at the level we are dancing right now, none of the competitions we take part in have us dancing all five International Standard styles back-to-back, so we wanted to give that a try to see how we did. Initially I thought that this round would just give us feedback from the judges, like all the other heats, but I was wrong. Apparently they scored this round with placements, like you would get at a real competition.

Sparkledancer and I were ranked second or third by all judges in all five of our dances, but when all the scores were added up we were placed third overall out of five. I know that doesn’t sound super good, but being ranked in this way overall wasn’t a good idea to begin with, for a number of reasons. First of all, we were the only Amateur pair that danced in this five-dance round – everyone else was Pro/Am, so we definitely had that working against us. Secondly, this was not a leveled challenge. The Pro/Am couple that took first? That lady was doing her Gold-level routines. The second place Pro/Am pair I know competes in Silver regularly, so I assume they were using those routines that day as well. Then there was us, dancing our Bronze routines.

I’m sure that makes it slightly more impressive, seeing as how the people who beat us are definitely dancing at a higher level, but I still don’t feel right about it. Had I known that we wouldn’t be getting feedback and would be ranked, I probably would have made the argument with Sparkledancer that it wasn’t really a good idea to dance in the five-dance round, and instead would have signed up for five more single-dance heats. Still, what’s done is done, and it is nice to know that at least we didn’t take last place against a while field of Pro/Am couples.

With that out of the way, the more interesting thing I got was the notes on the single-dance heats. Many of the notes are only semi-helpful, because they aren’t overly specific. There were quite a few that mentioned something about keeping the frame stronger or more consistent, but they don’t specify where I need to do that, or even tell me whether it is Sparkledancer or I that should be doing it. Those comments I just skimmed over, because frame and posture is going to be a constant point to work on (at least, until I figure out how to replace large portions of my upper body with cybernetic parts).
There were also a lot of comments about how Sparkledancer and I were fun to watch, or looked like we were having fun. While that is good to know, and was something I was actively working on that day, those notes don’t really help me focus my practice. In fact, all of the comments that talked about how I did something well I just skipped over. When all was said and done, I highlighted just the comments that were actually useful information on things I should work on in each dance style.

Because I’m not ashamed to admit my own faults, I am going to put that list here. Also, it will make it easy for me to look up the notes if I lose my copy of the results sheet, which is entirely likely to happen at some point…

For Waltz – More rise and fall actions need developing; More lowering and rising; Man’s left side up and forward; Beautiful closing action on the natural turn. More consistent with this; Closing action in natural turn could be more precise; Maintain a good head position.

For Tango – Powerful movement but inconsistent; Keep Tango flatter.

For Viennese Waltz – Stay in your left space at all times; Work on bigger steps; Head position needs to be more aware of space, too much rotation in the head, needs to be longer; Needs more depth on the first step in both natural and reverse turns.

For Foxtrot – Use your standing leg; Too steppie at times; Use your sides to pass one another; Shape gets slightly distorted because of foot position; Knees need to flex more when receiving the weight on the slow; More projection outwards needed; Slows need to be fuller to show contrast from quicks.

And finally, for Quickstep – Too steppie at times; Use your standing legs and divide the feet; Longer steps; More confidence; Great energy, but inconsistent.

(All notes are verbatim as on the papers I got)

Based on those notes, if I didn’t know any better I would feel like Tango is my strongest dance style all of a sudden. How in the world did that happen? Quickstep seems to come in as a close second though. I mean, if I think back to the results that I got from the last actual competition I was in, that would follow with the scoring that the judges in that event gave Sparkledancer and I, so I guess maybe that has some merit, but Tango and Quickstep are definitely not the dance styles I feel like the strongest in. I always thought that Foxtrot was my strength, with Waltz behind that. Maybe this means that I will have to devote more practice time to those two styles to keep them at the top of the heap.

Saturday night was a big night for me. This past weekend was the scheduled weekend for the monthly dance party that my Royal Dance Court group hosts, but this month was special. Many months ago I had asked the Princess to come in to teach the lesson that we hold before the dance party, and Saturday was the night that she actually did it, and oh man did things turn out great!

First of all, we had so many people show up to see her that night that there was barely any room on the dance floor during the lesson that she taught. People didn’t seem to mind that though – they were enraptured listening to her talk about American Tango, and entranced by watching her demonstrate the steps. Second of all, though she didn’t have to, the Princess actually stayed for the majority of the dance party afterward, talking with anyone who wanted to talk with her and dancing with any man (or woman) brave enough to dance with her. All the while using her magical princess powers to liven up the room.

(I’m not even kidding about that. If you’ve ever spent any time in the same room as her, you know that she has a way of commanding attention if she wants to. Her personality is a force of nature, and it sweeps anyone nearby up in its wake. Good thing she’s also super nice. If she were a villain, she could be really dangerous and manipulative.)

So what does a Princess tell her subjects if she is giving a class on American Tango? Well, first she made everyone dance for her so that she could stroll around the room and evaluate how everyone danced currently. Then she split up the class and gave everyone a look at some important Tango technique that would make everyone better, but was especially good information for those more advanced dancers in the crowd. Finally she showed everyone a fun and challenging combination of figures that would help people practice the technique she taught, but would also give them something that could be pulled out during dance parties to impress others on the floor.

The technique that she spent time going over in class was something that she had been discussing the weekend prior, after the competition I was in was over, with that multi-time world champion who had come in to judge that I mentioned. Apparently they had somehow gotten into a conversation about taking steps in Tango. I guess if you are both world-class dancers, like the Princess and that judge guy are, these are the sorts of things that just come up in normal conversation when you talk…

The technique that they discussed really was about how to take steps in Tango. Whether dancing American or International Tango, to make it look and move differently than any other ballroom dance you need to drive out of your standing leg and step on the beat and then hold, split weight, body weight in-between your legs. On the ‘&’ of the beat (or on the ‘&’ of the second beat, if you are taking a slow step) you will shift your weight to the new leg, and the old leg essentially becomes dead weight until it is collected. This driving and then holding action is what, more than anything else, will give your Tango the powerful staccato look that it needs to really look like Tango at a world-class level.

To practice this, the Princess had people just do the American Tango basic a few times down the floor alone, then she partnered everyone up to have men and women try it together. As soon as she had people partner up and give it a try, she had to split the men and women up again to tell all the men about being in frame correctly with a lady and having a right-side lead the whole time while dancing Tango. Apparently watching the men near her try to dance with a partner offended her so much that she had to stop everyone to fix it.

By the time she was finished having us work on walking, everyone in the room had been drawn into her lesson in some way. Normally we have people who show up for the dance party and spend their time during the lessons on the sidelines, just sitting and chatting with each other, but even these people were standing next to the chairs and paying attention to everything the Princess was saying. Even Lord Junior and Sir Digler, who had both stopped by the party at different times just to visit with people they knew for a little while, ended up in line with the men so they could work on the things that the Princess was talking about. I wish that I had a magical air of command about me like that!

Splitting the men and women up again, she now went through a small progression of Tango figures. None of the figures were super difficult, but she made it look amazing. Have you ever watched a world champion-level dancer dance a Bronze-level routine before? It makes the Bronze-level routines I practice look terrible by comparison. Luckily, I wasn’t the person she asked to help her demonstrate the routine. Sir Digler happened to be standing in line near the Princess, so she called him out and told him that she would just back-lead him through the sequence. The whole time she kept calling him ‘darling’ (or “dah-ling” in that accent of hers), which made him blush a lot. Poor guy…
The progression began with a normal American Tango basic – two curved steps followed by a three-step close. On the last step of the basic, she had people shift to Promenade Position heading diagonal center. Next we did a Promenade that ends in a throwout to get the lady into Open Fan position. Here we led her through a Underarm Turn with an extra spin on the end to get her into Shadow Position. While the lady turns, the man just has to rock in place.

From here we did an Open Reverse Turn in Shadow Position, ending the figure with a right-side lunge/picture line that stretched toward diagonal wall. To finish, the guy takes two steps backward to settle on right leg and holds while lady is turned across our body to collect back in Promenade Position, before taking off into a basic closed Promenade that ends facing wall so you could start all over if you wanted.

So yeah, things went well. The class was challenging for a lot of people – most people who only dance socially don’t usually think about their technique, so the Princess really pushed them outside their comfort zone to help them improve. Plus there were so many people trying to dance in the class that the floor was super crowded, which also made things challenging. All those people stuck around afterward for the party to hang out and dance with the Princess more, and because of that anyone who was dancing had to keep themselves really contained. I didn’t hear any reports of injuries throughout the night, so I’m going to assume that everyone was successful. Hooray!

I dealt with an ever-so slightly smaller crowd on Monday night when I went out to the Electric Dance Hall for Latin Technique class. Lord Junior still wanted to use class that night to give his competitive students who joined class some extra practice for the competition they are going to in a couple of weekends, and tonight’s class was primarily for the benefit of Gatekeeper. She had gotten her feedback from the competition she participated in with me two weekends ago, and one of the comments that the judges made repeatedly was that she needed to work on straightening her legs completely in her Latin dances. So tonight we worked on Rumba to let her practice that.

When we really focus on doing the Latin dances on Monday with super straight legs, it hurts me on the inside. Straightening my legs like that is pretty much anathema to everything I have been practicing so hard for International Standard to improve my movement. Also, there is this very fine line that I walk while straightening my legs like this, between really flexing the bottom of my quadriceps to hold my leg straight, and just being kind of lazy and letting my knees settle back a little farther to lock in more of a hyperextended position. Because I don’t do Latin all that often, if I’m not thinking about what I’m doing I have a tendency to allow the latter to happen, which ends up being painful when I get home.
For the first twenty minutes, we drilled the basic steps and New Yorkers extremely slowly to make sure that our legs were straightened perfectly when they needed to be. I’m talking music so slow that dancing sloths would have told Lord Junior to kick it up a notch. If they danced ballroom, that is – I have a feeling that dancing sloths usually end up at raves for some reason, slowly waving around glow sticks. Yeah, you can picture that too, can’t you.

When we had been tortured enough with this extended warm up, Lord Junior gave us a few more complicated steps to use to continue working on our legs. We did three New Yorkers (to the right, left, then right) into an Alemana that ended with lady on man’s right side. Then we finished with a Closed Hip Twist that sent the lady out into Fan Position. There weren’t too many figures, but if the fastest you dance them is to 80% of International Rumba music tempo, it takes a long time to get through what little is there. By the end of class, I started to wonder if what we were doing was practice, or punishment.

There was much less torture for me on Wednesday night when I went out to Standard Technique class. Once again, we took to working on a style and a figure so that one of Lord Junior’s competitive students could get in some additional practice with it before competing. This time it was Foxtrot, and the specific figure she wanted some more work on was the Reverse Wave.

We didn’t get through a whole lot as far as steps were concerned because a few of the ladies were struggling to get through the few figures we did use. What we ended up doing was just a prep step into a Feather, then an Open Telemark with a Feather Ending. We took that into an Overturned Reverse Turn that flipped us 180° so that we ended up backing diagonal wall, and now we added on the Reverse Wave, which curved to head down the line of dance. To get out of that easily, we just did an Open Impetus that turned us to head toward diagonal center in Promenade Position.

The most difficult part for me was going through the Overturned Reverse Turn into the Reverse Wave. Lord Junior had told all the ladies about turning their heads to the right as they started the Reverse Wave. This had the unintended effect of making the ladies want to go in that direction. If the lady did not want to dance in body contact with me (there were two in class who really didn’t like doing that), then I had very little ability to control where they ended up, so they would drift off toward outside partner on my left side. It didn’t matter how strong I held my arms, or how many times we went through the figure and they were told not to do this, those two ladies kept trying to shift to that side for some reason.
On a funny note, Lord Junior spent some time getting on the ladies to make sure they took a heel step for their first step when we were in Promenade Position. After the third or fourth time telling them all to do that, he threatened to make the next lady who didn’t take a heel step run a lap around the outside of the dance floor using all heel steps. We all thought it was a pretty funny threat, until Bony stepped up to dance through the progression with him… and failed to take a heel step for her first step in Promenade Position.

Lord Junior told her to go run her lap, and to make sure to go around the outside of the dance floor, which would take her behind the other group class that was going on down at the other end of the floor. Bony told him that she didn’t run, so she just started sauntering along slowly. When she got to where the other group class was, rather than go around them she stopped to talk to one of the people on the edge of the class. At this point, we were all laughing, and Lord Junior started calling across the room to her to keep moving because this was not supposed to be a break for her to socialize.

The instructor leading the other class stopped what she was doing to ask Lord Junior what was going on. He told her that Bony was supposed to be running her lap as a punishment. Everyone in the other group class started laughing too, so the instructor fought to get her class back under control and told them all not to talk to Bony because she was being punished. Finally Bony sauntered her way around the room and back to our side, looking pretty pleased with herself.

The funny part was, after going through that exercise, Bony never messed up her heel step in Promenade Position again that night. It was a hilarious method of getting there, but apparently her punishment really did teach her the right lesson. 🙂

So We Gon’ Dance Until We Drop

Another week in the books. The most interesting thing that I did this past weekend was participate in a pseudo-competition that was being put on by the Fancy Dance Hall. There would be heats, and some well-known judges, and after the event was over there would be written notes from the judges about things that they noticed you doing while you danced. Exciting, right?

Sparkledancer and I signed up for this event, because feedback that we can actually make sense of is something that we can use to help us improve. Before we signed up, we discussed what we should do with Lord Dormamu. He thought that this would be a good chance for us to work on our stamina, so the recommendation was to do a ridiculous number of heats. Seeing as how I dance amateur, and it is very rare that I actually get to dance heats at a competition, working on stamina wasn’t really even a concern for me. But he’s the world-class coach, so I wasn’t going to argue with him. Besides, the Fancy Dance Hall was offering a pretty cheap rate for amateurs to dance per heat, so splitting the cost with Sparkledancer wasn’t all that expensive.

I had originally signed up to dance twenty individual heats (four each of each of the five International Standard styles) plus one five-dance challenge round. There was a bit of a mix-up when they put together the schedule for the day though, so a lot of people got signed up to dance more heats than they paid for, which was a pretty good deal. I think in the end I ended up dancing something like thirty individual heats plus the five-dance challenge round.

Sparkledancer and I were on the floor a lot more than most other students that morning, and even more than a majority of the instructors. The only person I know for sure who was on the floor more than us was Lord Latin. When a group of his students booked their heats, apparently the schedule had to be built around how often he would be on the floor. For the entire morning session when I was there, which covered all the heats in International Standard and American Smooth, there were only two Viennese Waltz heats that Lord Latin did not dance. That guy was the real champion of the day.

A lot of people who I knew from the area were taking part in this event, so it ended up being really fun there. Lord Junior had three of his students sign up to dance heats that day. They were interested in getting feedback from the judges that they could review because they had all signed up to go to a big Pro/Am competition that is happening in a couple of weeks. Sir Digler was there with two of his students, one of those being Points, a lady that used to dance a lot but then disappeared for a long time, and now apparently has resurfaced as a competitor. Surprise! The Princess was there as well, and she had a couple of men whom she was dancing some heats with during the morning session.

One of the judges for the event was also dancing that morning in a few heats, weirdly enough. This guy is apparently another one of those multi-multi-multi-time world champion ballroom dancers, much like Lord Dormamu. When he was asked by the people at the Fancy Dance Hall if he would come judge this competition for them, he thought it sounded like fun, and then asked if he could bring one of his students with him to dance in some of the rounds! No one expected that as his response, but they weren’t about to say no if it meant he would be there, so there was a block of dances near the end of the morning set aside where he wasn’t judging so he and his student could dance.

Speaking of Lord Dormamu… he was not there that day. Back when we first talked about doing this event months ago, it sounded like he would be dancing there with a few of his Pro/Am ladies, but it turns out that he was asked to go help run a bigger competition out-of-town, and then give coaching to competitors from that event the next day. So that’s where he ended up instead.

My first heat was heat three, so I started out in the designated ‘on-deck’ area of the studio watching while waiting my turn. The first thing that I noticed when watching the first couple of heats that morning was that there seemed to be very little energy in the room. This was late in the morning, so it wasn’t like everyone there hadn’t had plenty of time to be up and about to wake themselves up, so I wondered what it was that was making everyone so subdued. It was then that I remembered that when I did this same competition the year before, Lord Dormamu was the one that was engaging everyone who wasn’t on the dance floor during the competition. This year, the DJ was trying to do the same, but it wasn’t working nearly as well.

After Sparkledancer and I finished our first few heats and had a bit of a break, I told her that we needed to step up and help liven up the crowd. So we started to perform rather than just dance. When we would go out to dance a heat, after picking a corner to start in we would talk to the people sitting in chairs nearby as the music started, or to other competitors who decided to start dancing near us. Sometimes I made comments to people as I danced past them, just to get them to smile or laugh. In one heat I had a whole conversation with Sparkledancer fairly loudly, where we talked about how she was a classy lady who danced, and since I was dancing with her, what that would make me. We managed to decide that the most appropriate word would be ‘debonair’ before the heat ended, but it was a tough choice between that and ‘suave’ let me tell you.

And performing like that actually worked! After a few rounds where people watched the two of us dancing seriously but acting silly, the whole atmosphere in the room changed. The audience, and other competitors waiting between their heats, started to actually cheer on the dancers on the floor, and even started to play along with Sparkledancer and I as we interacted with them. Suddenly it seemed like everyone was actually having fun, which I think made many people dance much better. That made me happy.

Near the end of the morning, the student who had come to dance at this event with the judge stopped to talk to me while I was hanging out in the on-deck area. She was an older lady who could have easily passed for my grandmother, if my grandmother ever wore a fancy yellow ball gown. She wanted to tell me that she thought that Sparkledancer and I looked like we were having so much fun while we were out on the dance floor. In fact, apparently when she found out that she was going to be dancing some of the same heats as we were that morning, at first she was nervous because she didn’t think she could compete with us for attention.

I tried to tell her that she really didn’t have to worry about competing with me, since I am just an amateur, and her instructor and dance partner has been one of the highest rated dancers in the world. She laughed at that, and then said that after being on the floor with Sparkledancer and I, she was inspired to try even harder at dancing, and also to have fun at the same time.

That bit of feedback right there from some lady I had only met that morning means more to me than any of the written notes that I will eventually get from the judges. 🙂

When the competition broke for lunch after the American Smooth rounds, I had to head back home to take care of some things in the afternoon. But that competition wasn’t the only dancing that I ended up doing that day. Sparkledancer sent me a note late in the afternoon saying that Prez had asked her to go to the dance party that night at the Endless Dance Hall to make some announcements for our Royal Dance Court group. Since I am also on the Royal Dance Court, she was drafting me to help her out. Plus, I assumed that we could get in some practice if I was there with her, which is always a good thing.

The dance club that had put together this event had called up the illustrious Judge Dread to come teach a lesson in Bolero for them before the open dance started. I was interested in hearing Judge Dread teach, because he has such a different perspective on things. The man is an internationally acclaimed ballroom adjudicator, so hearing him talk about the different dance styles is fun. However, I didn’t end up getting to participate in the class. Somehow, through some sort of wizardry that I don’t understand fully, the dance club ended up with more men than women showing up for the class! Unbelievable!

I know I could have muscled my way into a spot in the line if I wanted to, but being a member of the Royal Dance Court, I thought that might be considered bad form. Also, there were people in the class that had never danced Bolero before, so Judge Dread spent quite a bit of time covering just the basic steps. I thought that it would be better for people who had never done Bolero before to practice those steps rather than me, so that was another reason why I stepped off to the side.

Things got a bit more ridiculous at the party after the lesson. The first thing that Sparkledancer and I had to do was track down the leader of this ballroom club, who happens to be the famous President Porpoise, to talk with him about making the announcements that Prez requested. Turns out that he had already planned on making announcements about the same items before we even got there, so Prez really didn’t need to send Sparkledancer on this mission. Huzzah! That meant that our Royal Dance Court duties were done for the night, and we could do whatever we wanted with the rest of our time.

So I ended up socializing for much of the night. I don’t go out to too many dance parties anymore now that I am training to be a serious competitor (super serious), so I don’t really get to see people as much as I used to. Since I was at this party, and I had already danced quite a bit earlier in the day, I took the time to try to at least say hello to a bunch of people while I was at the party.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t dance at all. In fact, Sparkledancer and I did dance together for every ballroom dance that was played that night until I left, save for one where some other guy grabbed her for a Tango before I could find her. Being kind of burnt out on working on our routines, Sparkledancer suggested at the beginning of the night that we spend the night practicing our posture, frame, footwork and floorcraft, but dance whatever figures that we wanted, or even switch to American style if we wanted to do something completely different.

During the first Foxtrot of the night, I tried to do American style, but it just felt weird since all I do is International anymore. Somewhere around the floor I was doing some Passing Twinkles, and after closing Sparkledancer back to the point where we connected the right side of our bodies, I never brought up my left hand to offer it to her. Rather than stop dancing, I proceeded to continue to move around the floor just holding her with my right hand behind her shoulder, and switched to mostly doing International-style Foxtrot steps instead of American.

That actually turned out to be a lot more fun by comparison, and it was a good way to practice our connection. When the song ended and I walked with Sparkledancer back to the side of the dance floor, she told me that when the next ballroom-style dance came on, she would come find me again, and we should try that one using only one arm as well. A few songs later a Waltz came on, and we did the same thing, using a variety of International Waltz steps and only one arm to get around the floor.

Because it was so much fun, we ended up doing that the rest of the night whenever we danced together. The only exception we made was for the one Viennese Waltz and one Quickstep that came on before I left for the night – those we figured would be safer if we used both arms to maintain a good frame. People gave us some strange looks as we passed by them when we danced with our arms hanging down at the side, but I was having too much fun to care. So… I guess you could count that as practice for the night, in a way. I’m certainly going to.

Returning to a bit of quiet normalcy, I headed out to Latin Technique class on Monday night. As a treat, when I got there Lord Junior announced to everyone that we would get to work on Pasodoble that night. Hooray! That’s my favorite!

As I mentioned, Lord Junior and a few of his students are preparing to head off to a large Pro/Am competition coming up soon, and one of the ladies who was in class on Monday night and also danced in the competition that I was in on Saturday was working on perfecting her Pasodoble routine, so Lord Junior opted to use the Latin Technique class to give her some more practice. All of the figures that we were given to work on that night were from the Bronze syllabus, so if you’ve ever done any Pasodoble before you’ve probably seen these at least once.

We started out with a Separation. Then we did another Separation, only this time we brought the ladies back to us on our right side so that we could follow it with the Fallaway Ending to Separation (yes, that’s the real name of the figure). This ending to the Separation allowed us to turn a corner so that the next figures would all head down a new wall.

There were three figures used to close out our little progression for the night. The first was an Open Telemark. We underturned this slightly so that we ended facing the wall rather than facing down the line of dance. That set us up so that we could go into a Promenade and Counter Promenade. Lord Junior gave the guys a choice whether they wanted to do the Bronze-version of the figure where the Counter Promenade heads toward center, or the Silver-level version where the Counter Promenade goes diagonal center (way more advanced, right?). To complete the progression and to line us up facing the wall again, he had us add on a Grand Circle.

In Standard Technique class this week, Lord Junior once again had us working on a section from one of his competitive student’s routines so that she could get some extra practice with the figures before the upcoming competition that she and Lord Junior would be doing together. The dance was Quickstep, and the choreography that we looked at actually ended up being broken into two pieces because there was so much of it. In the first part of class, we looked at one section and linked it to the second section, but when we started to run short of time Lord Junior had us drop the first section entirely so that we could focus on improving the second section.

Part one had us starting off with a prep step into a Forward Lock. From there we added on a non-syllabus figure called a Hairpin, which looks a lot like a Curved Three Step from Foxtrot, and at the end of the Hairpin we attached a Heel Pull, which should rotate you so that you end up backing line of dance. Then we did those two figures again, though to attach them you have to take out the first slow step of the Hairpin. After the second one you should be facing line of dance going down the new wall (obviously you would do these figures in a corner if that is the intended rotation).

This set us up to take one step forward on our left leg and then go into a Rumba Cross, but like I said earlier, as class wore on and Lord Junior wanted to save time we ended up dropping all of those prior figures and started directly with the Rumba Cross instead. We did two Rumba Crosses in a row, with one step on the left leg in between to link them. Assuming you were able to do the pivot on the last step of the Rumba Cross correctly and get a full 180° turn, and you pushed with your standing leg enough to really drive through the first step and float through the others, you could easily cover the entire short wall with just those two Rumba Crosses.

Lord Junior had us add on a Natural Turn and an Open Impetus to turn the corner and line up moving diagonal center down the new wall, and we finished by doing one Step Hop into a Promenade Chasse in Pepperpot timing and then four running steps to end. These were actually four steps where you were ‘running’ on the balls of your feet, and not a Four Quick Run, which is a completely different figure though it sounds like it should be the same. I was confused as well when Lord Junior first told us we were doing the four running steps, but once I saw it I understood that it wasn’t the figure I was thinking of at all.

Holy cow, we are already halfway through February! Where does the time go? It feels like the year just started a little while ago, but we’re actually well into the year already. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try my best to have a fairly quiet weekend this week. I’m actually hoping to disappear for a while and go out to see a movie (you can probably guess which one). Will I be able to pull off my plan? Or will dancing pop up and insist that I go hang out with it instead? I’m sure I’ll tell you all about how things go next week!

Here We Are, Juggernaut

It’s been another crazy busy week over here in my little corner of the world. Sometimes I wonder if the amount of dance-related things that I do with my time in this quest to be a Competitive Dancer that I am on is normal. Do other people who are working to dance competitively and hold down a day-job also forego their social lives to dance all the time?

Maybe I’ll ask around sometime (if I ever socialize with other competitive dancers) and write about that in the future. It could be an interesting topic. Or sad. I haven’t decided yet.

Anyway… at the end of my notes last week, I mentioned that I had managed to meet up with my coach Lord Dormamu on Thursday night for one last review before my competitive partner Sparkledancer and I went off to compete over the weekend. Lord Dormamu had been out-of-town for the last week or so, which is why I hadn’t gotten to get together with him in a while. Thursday was the first day that he had been back at home and out on the dance floor again, so he offered Sparkledancer and I an opening in his schedule that evening to look over our routines before we left. Since Sparkledancer and I were planning to meet up to practice together that night anyway, we jumped on the chance to have him watch us.

We danced through all of our routines for him when we got started, and then he went back over each one with us one at a time, to point out what he thought the weakest point of each dance was so that we could work on practicing those points before we left for the competition. This is what we were told:

  • Waltz – In the last few weeks Sparkledancer and I were told to make sure that our rise and fall was distinct, so that is what we had been practicing. Lord Dormamu said that now our rise and fall looked distinct, but really forced. He wanted us to focus on smoothing it out to clearly have us begin to rise on beat one, continue to rise on beat two, and peak our rise on beat three before lowering just before stepping into the next figure.
  • Quickstep – Somehow we had gotten the timing on the Overspin from a Natural Spin Turn in the corner wrong. We were trying to do the figure with the last step syncopated, when Lord Dormamu said that we should be doing all the steps slow. If we hadn’t fixed that timing, we were told that we could have been invigilated if we got caught. Good thing we found that out before going!
  • Tango – According to Lord Dormamu, Tango is our most improved dance style – night and day from where it was after our last competition. So yay! He did want us to spend some time working on the Twist Turn in the final corner. Most of the focus was on working to pull my left side more toward Sparkledancer when we were in Promenade Position.
  • Foxtrot – We were told that Foxtrot was our second most improved dance, but still our strongest overall. We ran the routine for Lord Dormamu straight through several times, and he didn’t have any specific points that were terrible for us to go back and focus on when we finished.

Much like when I met up with Lord Dormamu before the competition in November, as we wrapped up for the day he told Sparkledancer and I each one item to focus on while we were on the floor at this competition. For Sparkledancer, he said that she should always think about creating more volume. For me, he said to think about nothing else but maintaining the “Holy Cross” shape that my spine and shoulders create if I’m in the correct position. If each of us could hold on to that one item, then we would make him happy, which should also make any judges watching us happy.

So… competition time. Did I mention that it’s been crazy? Because this weekend was pretty crazy. I spent most of it traveling, so there really wasn’t much that was actually exciting, other than those few punctuated moments when I was on the floor Sunday morning. But it felt crazy to me, so that’s what I’m going with as the theme for the weekend.

As I mentioned last week, my first round of dancing was the very first heat on Sunday, so I had to be on the floor and ready to go at a stupid time of the morning. My other heats were all earlier in the morning too. The nice thing about that schedule was that, even with me hanging around for the final awards ceremony that covered all of the morning sessions, I was done for the day by 11:15AM. I had plenty of time to head back to my hotel room, shower and change back to my street clothes, and still make check out of the room before noon. Yay me!

To not let you hang in suspense, I’ll say this now: things went pretty OK at the competition. There were a lot of parts that I did not feel too happy about, but none of the judges scored us all that badly, so our placements at the competition looked really good. Discounting the judges placements however, there were points that I walked away from this competition knowing that I would need to do better next time around. So I personally think it went pretty OK, even though everyone else I’ve talked to seems to think that things went really well.

The first heat was the big one that I felt did not go well at all. There are lots of excuses I could use… like the fact that I’m not a morning person, or the fact that I barely slept the night before because I had some work for my job to do that took me a lot longer to take care of than I would have liked… but excuses really aren’t going to cut it. I’ll just have to try harder and do better next time.

The first round was a two-dance, Waltz and Quickstep, and I felt like the Waltz was terrible in that round. The floor that the competition venue had was smaller than the floors of the studios where I normally practice and take lessons, so covering that amount of space shouldn’t have been an issue. Yet for the life of me I think that this Waltz never made it all the way to the end – like all the steps I was taking were super tiny for some reason. On top of that, even though there were barely any other dancers on the floor for that first heat, I felt like my Waltz was always running into someone. That was disheartening.

Surprisingly, Quickstep was really solid – not just in that first heat, but in all the other rounds I had where we did Quickstep as well. You would think that during the first dance of the early morning for me, Waltz would have been better than Quickstep because it’s slower, but I felt just the opposite. Weird.

Sparkledancer didn’t feel very good about the first round either. I’m pretty sure that was primarily due to her messing up one figure during the Quickstep routine. After our first round was over we had about forty minutes before our second round, and she seemed really down during that time. I was worried about her. Our next round was a Tango and Foxtrot two-dance, so we tried to run through each of those styles a little on the practice floor.

The practice floor that they had in the back of the venue was a mess that morning. It was covered with a million kids who were barely half my height, all practicing under the direction of their instructor who was yelling at them in another language that sounded harsher than it probably really was (based on the way it sounded, it was a type of Slavic language, but I couldn’t tell you more than that). Sparkledancer and I weren’t the only adults who had to run ourselves off  the edges of the floor when dancing to avoid accidentally knocking one of the small fries over.

Tango and Foxtrot went much better in the second round, and that more than anything really helped Sparkledancer regain her confidence. The Tango felt sharp and staccato, and Foxtrot has always been our strongest dance, so I walked away from the second heat feeling pretty good. Our third round was only a couple of rounds later, so I had just enough time to have a glass of water and a mint before getting back in line at the on-deck area to wait to get on the floor again.

Round three was a Waltz and Quickstep two-dance again. There were enough couples in this round that we started off with a Semi-Final and only six of the ten couples would get to come back and dance the final. This time, my Waltz and Quickstep both felt strong. The Waltz moved the way I wanted it to and covered the floor with ease, and the Quickstep once again just felt on the whole time. When I got done with the round, I was fairly certain we would at least make the Final, even without looking at the board to confirm.

I even managed to have some fun with one of the other couples on the floor during that Semi-Final. I cut them off accidentally in Quickstep as I did a Forward Lock past them on their left side into one of the corners. Rather than do that funky Overspin from a Natural Spin Turn, I did a Hesitation that I held for a long time, and I told the guy that I cut off that he could go first down the short wall. I don’t think he was expecting me to actually talk to him in the middle of the heat, because he looked really surprised. It took his brain half-a-second to process what I said before he started moving, just a bit behind the music.

We did make the Final, just as I thought, and we had about fifteen minutes to wait before we would be on the floor again. By that time though, I was finally awake, and I was talking to other competitors I recognized, and other people in line with me for my heat, and even the deck captains who were trying to wrangle everyone into their places. The Final itself felt really good, and with only the five other couples on the floor I had all the space I wanted to really push and cover as much of the floor as I wanted with each stride. That was great.

My last round of the day was about half-an-hour later, and it was my second Tango/Foxtrot two-dance of the day. By that time I was well past the initial nerves of getting on the competition floor in the morning, and I’d had enough caffeine to really make me super-awake, so this round was by far the strongest round I danced of the day. And the scores we got back from the round proved that without a shadow of a doubt, since we got perfect scores from all judges on both dances. That’s something I’ve never done before, though I’ve come close, and I was really happy to see that. Hooray!

So… what about Grampy Snaps and Ms. Possible, the other amateur couple that I know that was at the same competition? I first ran into them on Saturday night after I had checked into the hotel and walked to the competition venue to register and pick up my packet of stuff. Ms. Possible was all aglow, saying that all of the International Latin rounds that they had danced on Saturday were going super well, and that they took mostly first place all day long.

They did not fare so well in the International Standard on Sunday. The two of them were in two of my rounds, the early morning Waltz/Quickstep heat and the end-of-day Tango/Foxtrot heat. Based on the scores I saw, Sparkledancer and I beat them pretty handily. As the awards were being handed out, they didn’t do any better than second place in any of the Standard rounds where they weren’t uncontested.

Ms. Possible was not happy about the results. When the awards for the first heat of the day on Sunday were being called, and Grampy Snap’s name was called before mine, she went to get her ribbon and walked back while staring daggers at Sparkledancer (and me to a lesser extent). Apparently she was also sending videos of her rounds off to Lord Latin that morning, who was giving her recommendations on what to fix to make their next rounds better. That reminded me of how she had monopolized Lord Latin’s time during the last competition where we danced against her, except she was doing it virtually this time instead of in person.

Final thoughts about the competition before I move on to something else… much like last time, I can’t say that I am feeling overly happy or proud with the results that I got back. The feeling is more like relief than anything else. Relief that I didn’t do terrible and disappoint Sparkledancer, relief that I didn’t do terrible and disappoint Lord Dormamu or Sir Steven, and relief that all the practice time that I have been putting in lately has actually made a difference. Hopefully I can continue to improve at this rate for quite a while longer before I collapse from exhaustion.

Will I ever be happy with the results? I don’t know. At this point, I’m still only allowed to compete in Bronze. Maybe if I go to a national competition and do super well I might feel more than relief at that. Maybe when the powers that be finally decide that all of my main issues are corrected and I can move up to Silver I might start being proud if I do well. Or maybe as long as I’m dancing in syllabus categories, none of this will really mean anything since I’ve been told that you essentially start over at the bottom once you hit Open choreography. So for now, all I think I will expect to have when I do well is relief. I’ll let you know if and when that feeling changes.

To finish up, since this is already starting to run pretty long, let’s talk about a bit of amusement from last night. I made it out to Standard Technique class on Wednesday. With all the preparing I have been doing cor competitions lately, I have been terrible about getting to class, and I feel bad about that. Lord Junior wanted us to work on Foxtrot for the evening, specifically a figure from American Smooth Foxtrot that could also be used in Open-level choreography for International Standard since you don’t break frame: the Curved Three Step. This not to be confused with the Gold-level Curved Feather from International Foxtrot, but the idea behind the figure is the same.

What we did in class was not actually the interesting part of the night. Lord Junior had all of us warm up by practicing our Heel Pulls, since everyone can always work on getting better at that action. Once we finished, we did a pattern consisting of three Curved Three Steps in a row with a Feather Finish on the third, and then a Reverse Turn with Feather Finish at the end to give the ladies a figure with a Heel Pull in it for more practice. There were a lot of ladies in class, so we didn’t add on any other material than that to give all the ladies a chance to get some practice during class.

The amusing part of class was that both Ms. Possible and Grampy Snaps decided to join class that night. As I mentioned, Ms. Possible did not seem too happy on Sunday morning when Sparkledancer and I did better than them at the competition, so I was a little worried about how she would react to being back on the dance floor with Sparkledancer and I in a class setting. I’m happy to report that Ms. Possible wasn’t an issue that night, playing off the loss as a lack of practice on her part due to her busy work schedule. Grampy Snaps on the other hand…

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but Grampy Snaps is actually sort-of a pseudo-instructor. He teaches group classes and private lessons to dancers at the Endless Dance Hall, but he has never declared himself a Professional for competitive purposes, which is why he still is able to compete in the Amateur category against people like me. Also, he’s a lot older than me – we’re talking at least twenty to twenty-five years my senior. This has the unfortunate effect of making him pretty set in his ways as a dancer. The Princess told me once that when they first started competing together, Ms. Possible and Grampy Snaps signed up to get some coaching from her, and throughout the lesson Grampy Snaps wouldn’t really make any effort to adjust his technique based on her recommendations.

Anyway, I bring that up because as you can imagine, throughout this class we ended up rotating partners a lot, which means that Sparkledancer got to dance with Grampy Snaps quite a few times. After class was over, when a bunch of us were walking through the parking lot toward our cars, Sparkledancer was telling everyone that when she had to dance with Grampy Snaps the first few times, the figures did not go as expected, and he tried to explain to her how she was doing her part wrong. She was getting really frustrated by that, since she didn’t have any problems dancing the figure the exact same way with either Lord Junior or I. Finally, Lord Junior caught what Grampy Snaps was doing and stopped him to tell him that he was actually the one doing the figure incorrectly, and worked with him for a few minutes to try to get his steps right.

And that is why, gentlemen, you shouldn’t try to ‘teach’ ladies what they are doing wrong unless they actually ask you for assistance. Especially during a social dance or a group class! Because we are the ones leading them in the dance, there’s a pretty good chance that it is actually our fault when figures don’t work. 🙂

Hey, you know what? I’m competing again this weekend! Well, only sort-of – this is not really a competition like the one I did last weekend. This time around, I am just dancing a bunch of heats in front of some judges, and they will actually give me feedback on how the heats go. I’m kind of excited to see what kind of reviews I get this time around. Hopefully there is some good information that I can use to refine my practice time.

It’s also the weekend before Valentine’s Day, so there are dance parties aplenty going on around the Dance Kingdom. The two that I am interested in that are both happening on Saturday night are a free party being held at the Endless Dance Hall, and a party with a live band playing going on at the Electric Dance Hall. Maybe I’ll go to one of those. Maybe I’ll hop between both of them! Who knows? With the power of my youthful enthusiasm, I can do anything!

I’ll see you on the dance floor, I hope.