If You Take My Pulse Right Now

This past Friday night I had a lot of fun. There was a party put together that was kind of an exclusive event for some people, but the guest list turned out to contain all kinds of people I knew, even people I hadn’t seen in a really long time, to come dance with us! Even the long lost Flexy made an appearance, though during the Tango class before the party she kept telling me over and over that she was too rusty to do much since she hadn’t practiced in months. I think that all these people showed up because everyone was told to bring snacks to share during the party, and everyone loves free snacks. I did figure out something to bring (it was ice cream – I opted not to try and make something from scratch), and everyone really liked to eat it, so I didn’t have to bring home any leftovers that wouldn’t have gotten eaten for a long time. Hooray! I must say, I probably spent more time during the party talking with everyone than I did dancing. There were several people I hadn’t seen in a long time I got to catch up with, and there was a new person who had come for the group class before the party, and just stuck around afterward to hang out with all of us. I spent some time talking with her to learn her story, and to help her not feel so out of place since everyone else knew all the other people there and she didn’t. Turns out that she had been dancing for several years at a certain franchise studio I’m sure everyone’s heard of, and after all that time had never ‘graduated’ out of Bronze, so she was feeling like she was stuck on a treadmill, never getting anywhere. She decided to come to the Electric Dance Hall to see if it would be a good change of pace for her. HotDog and Abracadaniel Sledgehammer1both chided me for dancing with her a couple of times that night – HotDog said that since I was a higher-level student, when women danced with me they got the impression that dancing with all men would be like that, so when he steps in and just does mostly basic figures the women get bored of him. It was throwing off his “game” apparently. I pointed out that Lord Junior had danced with her too, and he was waaaay better than me, but HotDog said that since he taught dance, that wasn’t held against him. No, it was just me that was messing things up for him since I am only an amateur.

I can’t say I felt really bad for him. Maybe it can turn into an incentive to get him to practice more.

I did end up going back to the dance fitness class last Saturday morning. I woke up earlier than I wanted to, and I’m not one to shy away from a physical challenge, so I really had no excuse to stay home. I ended up being the only boy there again besides The Professor, but there were less women this time than there were the last time I was there – only about thirty instead of forty. I took up a spot in the very back corner again amongst the few people whose names I knew that were in attendance. Based on my experience this time and last time, I came up with a conjecture that all the songs they use during this class generally fall into two categories:
1. Songs where the choreography involved a lot of jumping
2. Songs where the choreography involved a lot of shimmying
The ladies in class seem to like the jumping songs more than the shimmying songs. When they are jumping up and down, that seems to be what elicits the most enthusiastic yelling noises from everyone. Last time I went to this class, it seemed like the song mix was pretty even between the two types. This time, things fell heavily on the shimmying side of the spectrum. I have to say, I don’t find wiggling my hips and shaking my shoulders around nearly as much of a workout as jumping up and down is. Maybe I’m just not shimmying right, but I just barely managed to break a sweat before class ended. Perhaps that’s the reason that the ladies like the jumping songs more – It’s more of an exercise for them too, so they begin yelling to pump each other up? The Professor Sledgehammer2did introduce four new songs into his mix, which he warned everyone about before class started. If I thought I was fumbly before when trying to pick up the choreography for songs by watching the people right in front of me, I looked even funnier when the people in front of me only sort-of knew the choreography too. At the end of class he did go back and revisit two of the songs at a slower pace to show everyone what to do step by step. I did much better at following things that time around. Yay me!

Saturday night turned out to be weird. I was a bit worried about things heading out to the party – most of the people I knew who had said they were going to come along suddenly had reasons why they couldn’t make it. I managed to convince Sparkledancer to promise to meet me there, just to make sure there was one familiar face in the crowd that night. It was a good thing I did too. When I showed up for the lesson they were holding before the dance party, I would have been the youngest person there by probably a good twenty years or so if she hadn’t been around. That night they were going over some Foxtrot. During the class, the instructor kept talking about how he had people come into his dance hall from time to time who claimed to know Foxtrot. He would ask them to demonstrate for him, and what they would show him wouldn’t necessarily end up being Foxtrot. To him, it would look a lot more like a Waltz or Tango using Foxtrot figures. He talked about the Twinkle as his Sledgehammer3example figure to demonstrate what he meant by that (though he kept calling it a Hover, which I had always thought was something different). When you normally go in to do a Twinkle in Foxtrot, the first step should be two beats, the second one and the third is one beat (or Slow, Quick, Quick for those who prefer that terminology). What he said is that people who would demonstrate the Foxtrot for him would attempt to do Twinkles and would spend a lot of time on the second step, dragging the foot in and being all fancy, essentially making the second step take as long as the first step like you would do during a Waltz Twinkle, which blurs the dance styles together. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen anyone do that before, but I also can’t say that I’ve really paid a lot of attention to other people doing Foxtrot Twinkles in time with the music, so maybe it is a fairly common problem. I have heard the term ‘Waltztrot’ thrown around before, so maybe that blurred line between the two dance styles is a bigger problem than I’m imagining.

After the class, they opened up the floor for dancing. Remember a couple of weeks ago when I made an offhand comment about younger, pretty girls always being asked out to the floor? Well, what happened during this dance party pushed that idea to the extreme. One other girl (who appeared to be younger than me) showed up just after the dance started. Initially I thought ‘that’s cool, someone else to bring down the average age a bit’ and I thought I might go introduce myself at some point, but that was not to be the case. All the older men would not leave her alone for a minute. I also ended up having trouble keeping track of Sparkledancer that night – if I walked away for even a second, just to go get a glass of water or something, someone would pounce and then I wouldn’t see her again for several songs. It’s like the older men were hovering around those two girls like predators, waiting for any opening to strike. There were lots of older women hanging out along the edge of the floor, but those ladies did not seem to attract the same level of Sledgehammer4attention. And the men didn’t just want to dance with the young ladies either… they wanted to teach these girls how to dance. Sparkledancer told me that each of the old men who took her out to the floor to dance had to tell her after the song was over about all the things that she was doing wrong. I also saw that happen with my own two eyes – I watched this one pretty short guy whom I have seen at several dance parties teaching women figures during the dances, and he made his way over to the new girl every other song to take her out to the floor to train her. At one point the girl was having a conversation with someone else, and he just stood a few feet in front of her for several minutes, waiting for her to finish talking, instead of going off to find another partner for that song. His desire to teach wasn’t really an issue until he decided to try that out during a Viennese Waltz, and then it got terrifying. The young lady had no idea what she was doing for that dance style, he didn’t just keep things along the outside edge of the floor, but rather started going back and forth along the same short wall instead of keeping to the line of dance, much farther out on the floor than was easy to get around. I was out dancing with Sparkledancer when that happened (she’s the only non-instructor I know how to dance with well enough to try a Viennese Waltz with) and she was the one that warned me about what they were doing, so I ended up cutting that wall early on each lap so that I had a lot of space between us and them. Being out on the floor in the middle of a party teaching someone to Rumba is one thing, but Viennese Waltz? That just seems dangerous. I’m not sure why he thought that was a good idea.

Men… that whole experience reminds me of a research study someone was telling me about where single women look to date men who are within a couple of years of their own age, but single men want to date women in their early twenties, no matter how old the men get. I guess the same idea might be true for some men when choosing dance partners at social gatherings.

Lots of things going on this weekend! Saturday I will be meeting with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven to go over our Pasodoble routine again, and then Sunday she and I will run everything past Lord Junior to get his advice on things. Then it’s just a couple of weeks of repetition until the performance and I get to start thinking about what comes next! So much excitement!


We’re Hangin’ A Sign, Says “Visitors Forbidden”

I’m a firm believer that one of the best things you can do to get past any sort of funk, whether it is caused by dance or other things in life, is to go out and do something that is dance related, but is also fun and different. I love going out and having dance adventures (if you couldn’t tell just by looking at the title of this site), and I’ll admit that there are lots of times that I have gone out on dance adventures during the week specifically so that I have something amusing to write about later. If I didn’t do interesting dance-related things, this whole site would be filled with me talking about taking lessons and working on technique and figures over and over again. With that in mind, this past weekend I went out on two dance field trips, one I wanted to go on and one I got talked into going on, and they left very different impressions on me after they were over. Let me tell you all about them!

So… this past Saturday morning I ended up going to a dance fitness class. Bony has taken to going recently and has been loving it, and so she’s been telling everyone that they should join her because of how much fun it is. My initial thought when she asked me to go was “Am I going to be the only guy in class?” to which she said no. She convinced Sparkledancer to go, and then both of them were asking me to go along with them, and I have trouble saying no to groups of people. So I went. And I was the only guy there aside from the instructor. If you don’t count him, it was me and what seemed like forty women in class. Luckily, I knew three of them (Bony, Sparkledancer and Lord Junior’s professional partner Lady Lovelylocks also came). Before the class even started, I swear I was being evaluated like a piece of meat. I was off in the far corner of the room (it felt safe to me there), moving around a little to warm up. The song playing in the background was a Cha-Cha, so I was doing some chasses, just to get the blood flowing to my legs. One of the women on the other side of the room got all excited while I was doing the chasses and ran over to me to ask if I knew the video for the song, because what I was doing was part of the choreography apparently. I told her no, that it was just normal Cha-Cha chasses. I had thought that would be the end of it, JetSong1but that was not the case. She was super excited to talk about the class, and the instructor, and how much fun things would be, and how great it was to see me there. I did my best to keep up with her enthusiasm (and the speed with which she talked), but she was above my league. Class started when the music was turned up louder and the instructor, who was a ball of energy that we’ll call The Professor, made his way to the front of the room. The women waved to me and left to take her place to his left up at the front of the class as everything got underway.

(Note: after the class, Sparkledancer laughed at me and said that she had been watching the woman talk to me, and it wasn’t so much that the woman was really excited about the chasses I was doing, it was actually that the movement gave her an excuse to come and start a conversation with me. Sparkledancer thinks the woman would have done the same thing no matter what I would have been doing.)

The class went exactly as I expected it to for me. Without knowing the choreography, there was a lot of flailing of limbs on my part and some amusement over the selection of songs used. The Professor kept things going for well over the scheduled hour class was supposed to take, only allowing for a few brief respites for his flock before pushing them into the next routine. It felt kind of like being in a commercial for the dance fitness program – every so often, when JetSong2the Professor led a move that the ladies found exciting, or when a new song started, or sometimes for no reason at all, a woman would start yelling excitedly, then more would join in. If the excited yelling went on long enough, the whole class would get in on it together. I can’t say I’ve ever been in a position where that has happened before. Usually when I exercise, it’s fairly quiet – the whooping and hollering was a new experience for me. They also liked waving their arms a lot. Some of what they were doing seemed to be part of the choreography for the songs, but sometimes it just seemed like they were doing it out of sheer excitement.

When class was over, the same woman who made a point of talking to me before class started ran over to talk to me again. She really wanted to know what I thought about the class, and whether I was interested in coming again next week to join them. I told her that I felt a little out-of-place there, like I was invading a class for women only. She told me (I’m not even making this up) that they used to have a lot more men in class – there used to be two of them that came regularly. I had to bite my tongue to keep from laughing at that statement in front of her; we apparently have very different ideas about what constitutes “a lot” of men in a class. Then it hit me – she was playing dance ambassador to me! I have done the same thing many times: talking to newcomers, trying to get them to come back and dance with us again later, expounding all the fun things that we do as dancers. This lady was talking to me exactly the same way I would talk to dance newcomers when I wanted them to come back and dance again. So now I know what being on the other side of that conversation feels like. The whole experience was fun though, and I will say that I can see myself going back to do it again. I don’t think I could handle going every week, because I think that with my current workout schedule that would be a little much, but maybe every couple of weeks it would be a nice change of pace.

Then came the dance adventure on Saturday night. Let me tell you a tale I’m going to call West-Coast-Swing Side Story…

Let me preface this by saying that I have always really liked West Coast Swing. I have even done competitions where my dance partner and I have been the only ones on the floor during the West Coast Swing heats. I had heard about this free beginner workshop that was going on Saturday night hosted by a local West Coast Swing club, so I was all excited about going. I don’t get to do West Coast Swing that often (it’s not one of the more popular American Rhythm dances, and I’m sure living near the east coast doesn’t help either), so I thought that I might be able to pick up a few new figures while I was there. Now, I was fully aware walking into this workshop that this wasn’t actually going to be Ballroom-Style West Coast Swing, and there are some differences in the way we do things when compared to the way the general practitioners of West Coast Swing do things. The big one that I’ve been told about over and over is that in Ballroom, ladies do something called a Coaster Step to end one figure and start the next. In general practice they do a different figure called an Anchor Step. The Coaster Step allows the lady to bring her feet together and then take another forward step, pushing off her standing leg to build some power when starting the next figure. The Anchor Step is more like a soft punctuation mark at the end of a phrase, shuffling the right foot behind the left, in something that looks kind of like a rock step, but shuffleier (I know it’s not a word, but I’m using it).

The guy teaching the class started out by going into this long explanation of how West Coast Swing is the most educated of dances; people can’t just go out there JetSong3and pick a random partner and expect them to be able to follow what’s happening like you can with any other dance. I sort of understood where he was coming from with this remark, but the way he phrased it felt almost… snooty. Like he didn’t think that other dances were as good because they were more accessible to the masses or something. It was a weird feeling to get, something I don’t think I am describing, or could describe, properly. He talked about how West Coast Swing was unlike any other dance in that it was danced with the Follow travelling along a line and the Lead creating rails along the outside to contain the Follow, like a railroad track. He even made mention of how he had in fact danced West Coast Swing on railroad tracks, and even on a diving board to show how this concept should work. Of course, being the wisenheimer that I am, I thought ‘huh, he is just describing a Slot Dance’ and ‘he must have never tried Hustle if he thinks that West Coast Swing is the only dance that does that.’ I kept those thoughts to myself during the class though.

After the off-putting remarks, the class was sort of fun when looked at from a group class standard. It was a large group, with lots of new dancers in class, and though we only covered some pretty basic figures, there were a couple that I didn’t actually know mixed in, so that was good for me. The part of class that kind of makes me step back and scratch my head was the way the actual members of this West Coast Swing club seemed to treat people who knew Ballroom-style West Coast Swing. Most of the members of the club were easy to discern – they were wearing t-shirts with the club logo, so it was easy to pick them out. Many of the club members (both male and female) were helping out with the class since there were way more women than men. The club members seemed to be able to tell those of us who were Ballroom kids apart from the rest of the group, and they didn’t seem to like us very much. Before class even started, Sparkledancer and I were dancing some Rumba to the music playing in the background while waiting for others to show up, and I could see them watching us from the sidelines with weird expressions on their faces. During class, I ended up in line next to an older member of the club, and he stopped me a couple of times to adjust my arms and JetSong4my frame because I was holding myself much more like a Ballroom dancer, not using the floppy, overly relaxed posture that they were all using. When I mentioned I stood like that because I only did Ballroom West Coast Swing, he only said “I know” to me, and that was it. No other explanation of why he felt the need to fix my frame. Sparkledancer had it worse than I did – she told me after the class that some of the club members asked her as she rotated through if she had danced before, since she knew several of the figures already, so she told them she did Ballroom. They kind of scowled at her when she said that, and one guy even apparently apologized to her because of it, saying that he used to dance Ballroom and was so glad to be out of it. I didn’t realize it was such a negative thing.

It almost felt like we were in two different dance camps, and we weren’t allowed to interact with each other. I left shortly after the workshop was over, but maybe if I had stuck around we would have had a rumble. It wasn’t exactly the uplifting West Coast Swing learning experience I had been so excited for. I know we did things a little differently, but we were all dancers, so we should have been able to meet on some common ground. Would we have gotten the same reaction from people who dance Samba in Brazil when they see us dancing Ballroom-style Samba? Maybe. Maybe we are destined to live in two separate worlds, and ne’er the two should meet. I certainly didn’t want to do the shuffley version of West Coast Swing, I like the Ballroom version that I learned. It makes me happier. I wouldn’t want to give that up.

It reminds me of words once spoken by a great poet:

“When you’re a Ballroom kid, you’re a Ballroom kid all the way.
From your first basic steps to your last dyin’ day…”

OK, maybe that’s not how that actually goes, but it’s pretty close, right?

(With many apologies to Bernstein and Sondheim…)

Lacrimosa Dies Illa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Strangest Zoo You Ever Knew

After discussing things for a while with my dance partner, we decided that it would be best to meet up with Sir Steven twice a week to start really fine-tuning our routines. There’s only a month left to go now, and while I think we can do the steps, I want to make sure we can clean up all the little technique things that will give us that extra leg up with the judges. So, starting next Tuesday night, we are going to split things into two lessons: Tuesday nights we will meet with Sir Steven instead of going to the dance fitness class to work on our American Rhythm dances, and Saturdays when there is no group classes going on we can use the space to work on our American Smooth routines. The last couple of weekend lessons we had with Sir Steven, we only focused on two to three routines in each lesson, so this should give us a way to go over most of the ten routines we will be doing together each week, thus maximizing our potential in the time remaining.

Otherwise, we are at the point now where it is coming down to pure repetition to put things together. I don’t know what anyone else thinks of dancing, but sometimes I look at it in the same way I looked at a lot of the RPG video games I used to play as a kid – if you want to build your levels, you’re just going to have to grind it out to get better. This past weekend Sparkledancer and I started with the Cha-Cha. As you know, there is sort of a love/hate relationship with Cha-Cha on my part. I really like energetic sorts of dances, but there’s just something about the Cha-Cha that has never sat well for me, so I never seem to remember moves. A lot of the time if I try dancing Cha-Cha with someone during one of the Friday night socials, it would end up being incredibly rudimentary because of that. It’s getting better, but I don’t think I would ever put that dance on my ‘Top 5 Favorites’ list. So that seemed like a good place to start this grind. Over and over again- I’d start the music, we would start the dance, and if we messed up we would stop, go back to the top and start over. When the song was done we would just put on another and start the process all over again. There were a couple of breaks here and there to catch our breath, or occasionally we’d switch gears to something else just to avoid letting the frustration eat away at our sanity. The breakthrough seemed to come Sunday night in my living room, when we finally were able to do the entire routine in a loop four times without losing a step. That covered over four minutes of the rather WackadooZoo1briskly measured song we had on, so that for sure would take care of the minute-and-a-half to two minute heats we would be doing. I can tell you, the smile of elation I had on my face by the time we collapsed on the floor at the end out of sheer exhaustion was immense. That was a moment of pride that has stuck with me all week.

Also last Saturday, right after our regular lesson with Sir Steven, we met up with Lady Q to start looking at the other routines we would be doing. I almost called them ‘simpler’ – but that would be an incorrect adjective to use. It is true that the level we will be dancing for those sits below the level of the routines Sparkledancer and I would be dancing together, but I wouldn’t necessarily call them simple. It will take just as much work for me to memorize them in order. The steps individually are all pretty simple, and we could easily pull off the whole thing while Lady Q was calling it out to us without stopping. Yet, if you asked me even as soon afterward as Sunday to show you one of those routines, I wouldn’t have been able to. I was promised that I could get a write-up of the order of each one, so I’m hoping that will help me learn them. I’m also going to have to make a point to start stealing some of Lady Q’s time away from WackadooZoo2Young Dave during the Friday night social dances so that I can get accustomed to dancing with her. I can dance fairly well with most of the ladies who attend the same group classes that I do during the social events, but Lady Q and I do not dance together all that much, so it will take me a little practice to learn what her personal style is. Most of her dancing is done with her male students, and she has told me in the past that a lot of the time she tries to anticipate what they are going to do next, so if I am going to be leading her and would need to alter the routines in any way, I have to know just the right amount of pressure to apply so that she knows what to do, but I don’t break her bones doing it.

Speaking of breaking bones… that’s a great segue, isn’t it? (this next bit will probably seem a bit off from my usual line of writing) Lately I have been thinking a lot about the body, and what it means to “look like” a dancer. It all started a while back in a dance technique class I was taking one sunny Saturday morning. We were working on proper arm motions, so everyone was standing facing toward the front mirror making large circles with their arms. Right arm out, then back in. Left arm out, then back in. Repeat ad infinitum, you probably know the drill. As my gaze wandered up and down the line of people, watching how they whirled their arms around, it suddenly struck me that my arms were much larger than all the other people in this class. That has kicked off this whole line of thought.

Thinking about that, I realized that I had my own biases toward what a “dancer” should look like, and I really didn’t fit that mold. I guess growing up I had learned somewhere that dancers should be tiny little things that weigh nothing, are really tall and legs reaching up to forever. Sure, the Lords and Lady that teach at the Land of the Loft do fit into that category, so that sort-of helps reinforce that stereotype. I guess that’s what it is though: just a stereotype. I remember back to a story Sparkledancer once told me, about discussing her hobby with some men she worked with, and they made some cracks wondering if I was effeminate. I’ve never met those guys, but they would probably be surprised to see what I look like. Years of working out regularly are fairly evident, especially to people who knew me when I was younger. My dance partner was nice enough to tell me that I am far from effeminate, so you don’t have to just take my word for it.

This is how I imagine you all picture me now. It's close, but I'm slightly less tan...
This is how I imagine you all picture me now. It’s close, but I’m slightly less tan…

(I promise there’s a real point to this, it’s not just me talking about how awesome I am. Bear with me…)

I feel like without the level of athletic, flexibility and cardiovascular training I have done, I would have been much more reluctant to start doing something like this. Sure, it does have its disadvantages – I tend to roll my shoulders forward in Tango, for instance, because I let my anterior delts pull them forward. I tend to be exhausted all the time, because I work out almost every night and dance afterward. I’ve been toying with the idea of changing up my normal workout routine to see if I could add another twenty pounds of muscle doing something different, because it sounds like fun. However, I think that would start to impinge my ability to even do simple yoga moves somewhat, so I haven’t jumped on the idea quite yet.

But being like this sets me apart from the people in the studio in my own unique way. It doesn’t make me better as a dancer there because of my strength and athleticism – certainly there will always be Sir Steven, who reminds me a lot of the body shape I used to have when I was just a runner. He couldn’t beat me in arm wrestling, but I’m the one paying to learn dancing from him, aren’t I? And there’s the point I’ve been leading to – my stereotypes just needed to go away. There are people I’ve seen in my dance adventures in the Dance Kingdom of all sizes. Some really small, some people who might call themselves “average,” some super tall and skinny, some large people, and those whom people would call “fit.” And there are people in all those categories who are amazing dancers, in my honest opinion. Like the tiny twelve year old girl I call Corte who is another of Sir Steven’s students, who makes Cha-Cha look easy. Like the overly large girl who I saw dance Lindy Hop for almost an entire evening with Lord Bradley effortlessly – that sight made me wish I knew more Lindy Hop so I could do that (maybe someday…).

The thing it seems that makes all these people really good is not that they have that stereotypical “dancer’s body,” but that they were passionate about what they were doing, and just go out and dance it for themselves. Passion makes them pay attention in class, and practice extra hard, and also lets them have fun the entire time they are doing it. So this last week I have taken to looking around the studio when I’m there and trying to identify who the best dancers are not by the shape they are in, but by the look on their faces when they move. I think that will help me eliminate the stereotype and realize that though we all look different, we can still all look like great dancers.