Here I Go, Playin’ Star Again

For all sorts of reasons, I didn’t do too much that was noteworthy this week. Hooray! If I spend a lot of time practicing all the things I’m supposed to be remembering, then there is less new stuff to write about that I have to try to remember later! I know some people would think that working on new material all the time would be pretty awesome, but it helps me remember everything better when I have a week or two to do nothing but review.. Still, there were a couple of things I did get to this week. After all, in the Dance Kingdom, there’s always something interesting going on that I somehow manage to get myself involved in…

First off, I did have my normal standing lesson with Sir Steven this past Saturday. In a complete turn of events from what we have been doing lately, Sir Steven asked us to pull out our International Tango routine and show him how that has been going. Sparkledancer and I got ready while he put on a random song, and we danced through the whole routine from start to finish.

When we walked back across the floor to meet up with Sir Steven, he told us that there was one really obvious issue with our Tango, but otherwise it was good. Still, the one problem we have is kind of a huge deal – our steps were right, our movement traveled quite well, but our Tango flowed way too smoothly. He described it as ‘dancing figures from the Tango syllabus with Foxtrot smoothness’ which of course makes sense since Lord Dormamu has us spending the majority of our practice time lately working on our Foxtrot. So instead of doing anything else that day, we spent the whole time going over the first five or six figures in our Tango routine to try to make them look more like Tango.

What are the takeaways I have to remember from this session? Well for starters, dancing Tango really slowly for a long time makes my knees feel weird. Who was it that thought that dancing like this looked good, or felt comfortable? Bending my knees in toward each other before taking steps, or constantly trying to turn my legs to step in a semi-pigeon-toed manner is not comfortable in the least, and I really don’t understand how anyone watching from the outside would think that it looks good either. So who decided that this was the best way to dance Tango? If anyone knows, let me know so that I can go have a few words with that person…

More specific things to remember: during the opening Back Corte, I am supposed to do a sort of head flick at the same time Sparkledancer does her own. I have to remember not to allow my head to turn too far to the left when I do this. I can turn my head with a lot of force if I’m trying to turn it fast, and letting it go too far is rather painful, so I actually need to make sure to kill the momentum from the head turn before I hit that painful point of rotation. Normally it’s not a huge deal to remember, but if I’m going to be going through the Back Corte figure over and over again in practice, it’s important to keep this in mind.

After the two Curved Walk steps there is a Progressive Link. For some reason, I’ve always done the first step of the Progressive Link curving along the same path as the preceding Curved Walk steps, but if we use the Progressive Link to go into Promenade Position heading toward diagonal center, I’m not really taking a step with my right foot during the Progressive Link. My right foot is usually already in the right spot, so all I would do is turn my toes to point the right way. Sir Steven wants me to actually take a step with my right foot though. Instead of taking the first step of the Progressive Link curving , I need to make sure to make it travel straight ahead. This way I have to take a step with my right leg to get it into the right place as I turn to Promenade Position.

Otherwise, generally I need to make my steps snappier, which will take the smoothness out of the dance. This primarily means waiting until the last second to move my feet on steps that cover two beats. Usually this is done by beginning to move the spine and the knees, but leaving the feet in the same spot until the very end. The first step in Promenade Position after the Progressive Link is a good example of this – I need to make sure to bend into my front knee and push it forward while bringing my spine a bit forward. Once I start moving my feet, the rest of the steps should look like they are all quick. When I get to the end of the Promenade and am about to go into the Open Reverse Turn, the same thing happens on the two beat step that occurs there, and theoretically along down the line (until I am told otherwise, that is).

So that officially adds items in Tango to my list of stuff to practice along with Waltz and Foxtrot. I’m starting to think that the amount of time I have set aside for practice each week is going to run out rather quickly at this rate. Maybe I’ll have to find something in my life to give up to free up more practice time. What could I even do without? Work pretty much has to stay, since that’s how I afford to dance in the first place, so what’s even left? Eating food outside of work hours? Going to singles events occasionally? Spending a bit of time at night on the couch with my cat writing or studying? Sleep? Working out? Grocery shopping? I don’t really do much in my life right now besides those things and dancing.

Man, that list makes my life sound kind of boring…

Let’s talk about this week’s Latin Technique class next, to make things a bit more exciting. This week we looked at Cha-Cha. Apparently they had also looked at Cha-Cha last week while I was having my lesson with Lord Dormamu, but since only one person who was in class this week had also been in class last week, and she didn’t even remember the figures they looked at in class last week, Lord Junior thought that it was safe to look at Cha-Cha again. We started out with four ladies to two men that night, but about twelve minutes after class had started one more lady who had been sitting in her car in the parking lot talking on her phone decided to come inside and join us.

The figures that we looked at that night weren’t that hard for me. Seriously, the Lead’s part was ridiculously easy compared to the Follower’s part. Most of what I did that night was just to shift my weight and rotate in place while the ladies did all kinds of traveling spins that were super fast at normal Cha-Cha tempo. The thing that we spent most of the class working on, as you can imagine, was the turns for the ladies, to make sure that everyone could accomplish them correctly both with and without a partner.

At one point while working on the turns, Lord Junior was helping out one of the ladies who was having trouble maintaining her balance while turning fast. He stopped to ask the whole class “What’s the main reason that ladies lose their balance when turning?” The lady who had shown up late for class that night enthusiastically raised her hand and shouted out “My boobs!” Everyone stopped talking and turned to stare at her. Then she shrugged and said “What? They’re really big, and they throw me off sometimes.” I lost it at that remark and broke out laughing, which made several other people in class start laughing too. Lord Junior, ever the professional, shook his head, and said “OK, that may be so, but that wasn’t the answer I was looking for…” and changed the subject to try to get the class back on track.

Funny business out of the way, let’s talk about what I danced that night. I started out facing diagonal wall with my weight on the right foot, left leg pointed back (ladies with the opposite setup) holding on to the lady’s right hand with my left. I would then check forward on the left leg, then rotate 90° and do a small chasse to the left while the lady does a Forward Lock Step, bringing our right hand around behind her shoulder as she passes in front of us. Over beats two and three of the next measure we did a Telemark, or possibly a Telespin – one is where the lady comes around the guy, the other is where the guy comes around the lady. Lord Junior didn’t want to go look up which one this figure actually was in the middle of class. He thought the lady was coming around the guy during the move, which would make it a Telespin, but I was definitely going around the lady which would have made it a Telemark.

Either way, once we get done coming around each other we were both facing center and we held in place like that for the first half of beat four. Then we changed hands with the lady to take her left hand in our right as the Leads lunged out to the left and the ladies stepped to the right and brought their feet together and their right arm up, strike a line. From that position we did a figure that reminded me of the Roll In, Roll Out figure that I learned long ago in Hustle. We would turn the lady inward across our right arm until she is standing in front of our shoulder, then turn ourselves face the opposite wall and roll her back out along our right arm.

After two of these that turned us in a complete circle, we rolled the lady back in one last time and took her right hand in our left and released the other side. The Lead then lunged out to the left again while the ladies stepped to the right and struck another line, raising the opposite arm straight up. After that we brought the lady back toward us, turning her one-and-a-half times in the process so that she ended up facing diagonal wall and then the Lead did a Forward Lock Step while the lady did a Backward Lock Step. If you did things correctly, these final Lock Steps should be traveling along the same line as the first Lock Step the lady did while the Lead did a chasse alongside her.

Before I move on: in case you’re wondering, the correct answer that Lord Junior was looking for to why ladies usually lose their balance during their turns is because they don’t keep their core muscles engaged.

In Standard Technique class this week I got to work on Viennese Waltz, which was fun. Specifically, we spent time looking at the rest of the original post-Bronze syllabus for International Viennese Waltz last night. I know I’ve mentioned before, but back in the days before high-level competitors started to complain that International Viennese Waltz was too ‘boring’ (whoever those crazy people are), the entire syllabus for the dance was a total of seven figures. Bronze students learned the Reverse Turn, the Natural Turn, the Forward Change Step and the Backward Change Step. Silver students would get to add in the Reverse Fleckerl, and when you hit Gold you finished things off with the Natural Fleckerl and the Contra Check. Nowadays they’ve been adding in all sorts of pivots and other things into the mix, but these seven figures were the entirety of the dance for a long, long time.

I think this is the third time that I have gotten to work on doing the other three figures from the original starting lineup, and I’m starting to feel pretty comfortable with where my feet should be going at what time while I am rotating. The epiphany that I had the last time I worked on Fleckerls where my foot crossed behind on the fifth step of every Fleckerl really helped me in this class, and feeling good about what I was doing meant that I could focus more on helping to keep the rotation stable and balanced rather than wondering if my feet were in the right place. I hope that helped the ladies I danced with feel more confident in their steps by extension.

The progression we did was pretty simple, and is a really useful for practicing everything in Viennese Waltz except the Change Steps. We did one Reverse Turn followed by two Reverse Fleckerls, then a Contra Check to transition into two Natural Fleckerls, exiting with half of a Natural Turn to head back toward the line of dance. This setup does go through a lot of spinning, and we had one older lady in class that night that was getting dizzy from turning so much. As we practiced in class, Lord Junior had me take out one of each Fleckerls when dancing with her to cut the rotation in half to see if that would help reduce her dizziness. Even after taking out the Fleckerls, when we got done dancing I still let her hold on to me as I walked her back to the desk in the corner and she would use that to steady herself while Lord Junior and I danced with the others.

As I said, I was feeling much more confident about going through all the figures this time around. I tried to go through things with Sparkledancer a bit more seriously to make sure she felt really good about everything. She’s really the only person I ever dance Viennese Waltz with outside of classes like this, so she would likely be the only person I actually practice these figures with in the future. Bony was in class that night, and she was just trying to make sure her feet were crossing correctly for most of the class, and as I said the older lady who was also there with us was having trouble with dizziness, so she and I never transitioned out of practice hold. At this point, I think with a bit more practice this figure could easily become something that I could use with Sparkledancer anytime that we do an International Viennese Waltz.Yay!

OK, one last thing I really, really, really want to mention, though it’s still in the formative stage: I’ve joined a group that is a decision-making part of a national ballroom dance organization! I’m not sure how much I can say about what it is and what I will be doing quite yet – during the interview process, someone mentioned that there is likely to be some confidentiality agreements that will be mailed out for all the new members of this group to sign before anything can actually get started. So… yeah. At some point in the future, my input on some matters that affect portions of the ballroom dance world in the whole U.S. could affect you, if you do ballroom dance-related things in the U.S.!

How cool is that? I still have a hard time believing that they would select me of all people to be a part of things at a national level. Although…, I’m a little wary about what I might have gotten myself into. On the one hand, I applied to be a member of this group because I really feel like the kinds of decisions this group will be making shouldn’t be left solely in the hands of a bunch of retired people, with no one in my age range or younger having any say in matters. On the other hand though, I have a lot of things going on in my life, and since I’m not nearly old enough to retire yet, I can’t devote endless amounts of time to yet another part of the ballroom dance world. I am kind of worried that this could end up being like a second job for me, which would seriously cut into my dance practice time that I mentioned earlier I already feel like I don’t have enough time for…

So, stay tuned for more news in the future on this new ballroom dance-related adventure I’m going to embark on!

How’s that for an ending?

A Break In This Routine

This past week, I tried to fit in a couple of different activities to break up the routine of doing the same things over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still having fun with the training (for the most part) and the practicing constantly (again, for the most part), but I have to try to keep this hobby as fun as possible in order to justify the stupid amounts of money I spend on it. Sometimes you just have to go out and do things that are out of the ordinary to keep life interesting, right?

First of all, last Thursday I posted all my dance notes early so that I could go out to a West Coast Swing class that was being held. This class was at a dance studio, but it wasn’t a ballroom dance studio, which is why I had never heard of the place before. I saw their calendar on the wall when I got to the studio, and they didn’t seem to have any classes on traditional ballroom styles listed, and as I waited for the West Coast Swing class to begin there was a class in Balboa finishing up out on the dance floor. I had never seen anyone dancing Balboa before, but it looked vaguely interesting. I’m not sure where I would ever use the dance style during my normal travels, but maybe I should make myself a note to learn the basics of Balboa next summer just for fun. Maybe.

It was a good class to attend for me. I learned a figure in West Coast Swing that I think I might have seen once before, but I can’t be entirely sure so I’m going to say it was new. The instructor was also a pretty goofy guy, so the class was definitely amusing. He started the class off by having everyone warm up first by walking up and down the length of the dance floor, and then had the men and women pair off to dance through the Sugar Push basic several times with each partner.

At one point during the warmup he was saying that we could start doing some fancier moves with our partner if we wanted, but for some reason he got stuck on doing what he called the ‘Sunshine’ move instead of just adding in some simple turns. This ‘Sunshine’ move is basically bringing your hands up before doing the last triple step in the Sugar Push basic and drawing them in an arc over your head – like making a rainbow with both hands. That became a running joke for the rest of class – we were told many times during class that if we messed up our steps that the ‘Sunshine’ move was an appropriate substitute for the actual figures we were supposed to be doing.

So what did we actually cover? Well, starting from handshake hold, the men lead the lady into a Left Side Pass, but at the end we rotated her so that she ends up in something that resembled Shadow Position with our arms going over her shoulders to take both of her hands. In this position, we led her through four Sailor Shuffles going from left to right. At the end of the last Sailor Shuffle we would lead the lady through a Underarm Turn while spinning ourselves around, bringing her right arm up and over our shoulder as we turned and letting it slide down our arm to our left hand to get back to dance position. It wasn’t anything overly difficult, but it is something I didn’t know, so that adds one more West Coast Swing move to my repertoire. Hooray!

On Friday night, I headed out early to make the long trip from my house out to the High Five Dance Hall. It had been about a year since the last time I headed out there, so I figured it was about time to make another pilgrimage. After all, as a member of the Royal Dance Court, I feel like I should visit all these places on a semi-regular basis. The flyer that I had seen told me that they were planning on having a lesson on American Tango before an open dance party. Since getting to the studio is such a time commitment for me, I made sure to get out there with enough time to attend both.

Let me mention something about the High Five Dance Hall before I get into what happened at the lesson: the High Five Dance Hall is a social dance studio. As far as I can tell, they have one instructor who rents floor space who teaches students to dance competitively, but all the other instructors just teach their students to dance socially. Going back to metaphor that I used before which compared dancing to language, the instructors teach their students a lot of dance vocabulary, but only the minimum amount of dance grammar they need so that their students can be understood by partners in their classes.

With that being said, let’s talk about what happened during the American Tango lesson I attended. The progression that was covered was relatively simple, but pretty long. We started with two normal Tango Walk steps forward, and then the men would do a forward check and release the lady out into Fan. From there the men would do another check going backward while rotating the lady to come into Shadow Position.

In Shadow Position, we did another two Tango Walk steps forward, then alternating Forward Rocks before releasing the lady while turning her to the right as the men did the three-step ending of the Closed Basic (a.k.a. the “Tango close”), and we got back into dance frame with both partners doing the three-step ending of the Closed Basic. With some time left over in class the instructor had us add a Link going into a Promenade Basic with the lady closing, finishing by doing the three-step ending of the Closed Basic twice in a row (like the ending of an Argentine Walk).

That all seems pretty straightforward, like something that you might learn at any other ballroom dance studio you would go to, right? Let’s talk about the things that the instructor mentioned that seemed out-of-the-ordinary to me. First off, let’s mention the Link. The instructor was teaching this step using the footwork of the Progressive Link figure from International Tango. This figure really isn’t specified on the American Tango syllabus from what I remember, but since it exists in International Tango it is fair game in American style. However, the instructor kept calling it an “Argentine Link” for some reason. I did a quick search online after the class, and I couldn’t find anything that used that figure name, so I wonder where the instructor got that name from?

Also, as you can imagine, most of the people in class were uncomfortable dancing in close contact, so what we ended up with when doing the link was the ladies being in front of the men instead of behind them in Promenade Position. The instructor caught some people like this, and told the men that they could fix that issue by pulling their right elbow backward, which would pull the lady behind them as they rotated to Promenade Position. I’m sure that many of you who studied competitive dance technique cringed slightly when reading that, but again this is a dance studio that teaches social dancing – having the men use their arms to adjust the lady will get the job done so that the next step works. I just found that to be an interesting thing that the instructor specifically recommended.

The open dance party that started after the lesson was over was… an experience. I had totally forgotten about how their parties ran since it has been a year since the last time I attended one. Their social dances have more of an open format than other parties I usually go to closer to where I live. They had someone on staff sit and run the music that night, playing a bunch of contemporary songs that you’d hear on the radio, and then people just danced whatever they wanted. No one told the attendees what dance style to do, and a lot of the songs they played seemed to have a really fast tempo for the dance styles people chose to use during the song, so to me it seemed a bit chaotic.

I would step off of the floor every couple of songs to stand near the people I came to the studio with and just watch what was going on. Oftentimes I would see a lot of people doing some sort of Two Step, either Nightclub or Country for the most part. Either version of Two Step is not something that comes up during the ballroom socials I normally attend. Other people would be doing West Coast Swing, and occasionally you would see Hustle as well. There were a few songs played that I identified as Cha-Cha, but it didn’t seem like many others picked that up, so I was one of the few people doing that on the floor. Quite often there was also some sort of line dance going on in the middle of the room at the same time, so there was a big section of the floor that was set aside for that purpose.

The person playing DJ also did not play many songs where you could dance any ballroom styles. There was one Viennese Waltz song played, and one song that most everyone did Quickstep during, but other than that there were only two or three songs played that were a Waltz, and a couple of Tango numbers, and just a few Foxtrot songs as well. During a song where people were dancing a lot of faster Swing styles, there were two couples who were out dancing the Foxtrot and traveling extremely fast. They were careening around the room with very little regard to the other couples dancing, weaving through everyone to do what looked like the fanciest figures that they knew. There were a few moments where I held my breath while watching them do that as they got really close to other dancers.

Overall, it was a fun night out doing something completely different. I spent quite a bit of time talking to and getting to know the other attendees of the party whom I had never met before. There were a few people whom I knew from seeing them around the Dance Kingdom, but most of the people who attended the party lived closer to the High Five Dance Hall so they don’t really come around to other events I attend. I will have to make a note in my calendar to try to get back out there again next year, and make this at least an annual occurrence.

I got to do even more Tango in Standard Technique class this week. Lord Junior wanted to work on one figure from International Tango with us, but also wanted to throw in some items from American Tango just to give us all something fun to do. I thought it was fun at least; I’m not entirely sure if everyone else felt the same way. There was this one lady in class who was really struggling with the concept of Shadow Position and it was pretty funny… well, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with what we covered.

The figure that Lord Junior wanted to go over with us that night was the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot, a Gold-level figure in International Tango (the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot is also a Gold-level figure in International Waltz and Foxtrot as well, in case you’re wondering where you’ve heard of it before). At the end of the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot, the men would just release the ladies by doing a quick checking action, allowing the lady to roll out into Fan. When she hit the line created by Fan, both partners would do a fast Brush Tap, just to add in a little extra fancy Tango styling.

From Fan position the men would start to slowly walk around the lady, which automatically leads her to go underneath our left arm. After we walked in a complete 180° arc, we would turn the ladies with our left arm so that she spins across our bodies to end up in Shadow Position with both partners facing diagonal center. From there we did an Open Reverse Turn in Shadow Position, ending on the last step facing diagonal wall with a right-side lead. We could then use our left arm again to turn the lady, having her take three steps against the line of dance to get into Promenade Position with us. The men would just take two steps and fake so that we were back on the correct foot to continue. Because we were running out of time in class, we just took one step forward in Promenade Position and ended there for the night.

So the funniest part of all of that was what I alluded to earlier. There was an older lady in class who really seemed to struggle with the idea of being in Shadow Position, even after both Lord Junior and I spent extra time trying to help her through it. When I tried to dance through the Open Reverse Turn in Shadow Position with her the first few times, after every step she tried to turn around and get back into dance frame with me. Every step! I told her that she needed to keep her left arm stretched out and her back to me and just let me direct her with my hands.

I think her problem was that she kept letting her left shoulder collapse, which rotated her arm toward her body, and that caused her to start turning to face me. By the end of class I think we got that all worked out, but it was just funny to me that she seemed surprised when she would start turning to face me, so she would try to adjust her arms to get back into dance frame. Then I would stop, tell her she needed to keep her back to me again, and she would jump to fix it and smile. But the next step we would go through it all again! Luckily she did the same thing with Lord Junior, and I watched him walk through it slowly with her as well, so it wasn’t just something wrong in my lead that was causing the issue.

Let’s see, what do I have going on this coming week? Well, there’s a dance party going on Friday night at the Electric Dance Hall that I think I’ll go to. Sparkledancer is out of town until Sunday, so we moved our lesson with Sir Steven to then so that she could be there, and then we had to move our lesson with Lord Dormamu to Monday since he wasn’t going to be around on Sunday. I guess that means that Latin Technique class will be missed on Monday. Ah well, that’s what happens when people take vacations. Until next week, keep dancing!

Come On Now, Follow My Lead

For a little bit of a change of pace this week, let’s reflect on a bit of dance drama that is going on in the Dance Kingdom at the moment. I am not a part of it, but I have been hearing a lot about it from a growing number of people. Plus, it’s on my mind at the moment, so I want to talk about the problem. This isn’t necessarily a brand new problem we’ve been having – parts of this drama have come up during a couple of different quarterly meetings I’ve been to for my Royal Dance Court group, so the issue has been going on for at least six months. I personally did not see it as being a big problem initially, certainly not an issue worthy of discussion at multiple different meetings, but since the issue now seems to be spreading into conversations with even some non-Royal Dance Court members, I don’t feel so bad spending a little time writing about what’s been going on.

It all starts with one elderly gentleman, whom for this exercise I’ll refer to as Mr. Grouchy-Face. Now, Mr. Grouchy-Face likes to dance, and when he goes to dance parties he is an unattached male, so he’s the kind of person that all of us in the dance community like to have around. Followers like him because usually there aren’t enough guys at any dance party, so having one more guy around who doesn’t bring a dance partner with him increases their chances of getting to dance. Other Leads like him because having another Lead around means that occasionally they might get to have a break during a song to go get some water or snacks, or even (gasp!) say hi to their friends.

This guy…

But Mr. Grouchy-Face is not like other dance Leads in that way. Mr. Grouchy-Face does not rejoice in the arrival of all other dance Leads at the parties he goes to (and occasionally at parties he doesn’t even attend). Mr. Grouchy-Face seems to have something major against a specific subset of Leads, and he likes to make sure everyone knows about his feelings regarding these gentlemen. It used to be that he would occasionally make off-hand comments during dances about these Leads at parties, but lately it seems he has taken to writing up long-winded ranting posts complaining about these men online. These rants of his are things that I have seen because lately they’ve gotten copied and emailed around when others take offense to his messages. Mr. Grouchy–Face goes back and deletes his writings after a day or so, so the only record we really have are these copied versions that are passed around… but if you wait until another dance party comes along, there’s a good chance you’ll get to see another message on the same theme be posted by this gentleman.

See, what we have going on in the Dance Kingdom is this process where sometimes a couple of ladies in the community will get together and, to make sure they have a dance partner during a dance party they want to attend, they hire a male dance instructor for the evening. These instructors essentially act like Dance Hosts, like you would see on a dance cruise. From what I’ve been told about the process, there are a handful of younger male dance instructors in the Dance Kingdom that are willing to give up their Friday or Saturday evenings to make some extra money, and if you split that fee amongst two or three ladies it doesn’t cost a whole lot. If the dance instructor has two ladies, each lady gets to dance every other dance, if there are three, they get to dance every third dance, etc. etc..

The return that the ladies get for the price is incredible. I have been to many parties where male instructors have been hired out in this manner, and these guys really get a workout during those evenings. They dance pretty much every song, and I’ve seen times where the only rest they take is during line dances or mixer dances, and during the break in the middle where the host of the party gives a few announcements. These Dance Hosts rival only the Dance Robots for how much time they spend on the dance floor during your average party!

Mr. Grouchy-Face does not like this practice. Not even a little bit.

The first time I heard about Mr. Grouchy-Face’s issue, it was described to me during a Royal Dance Court meeting as a patron of some of our dances being concerned about the hired dance instructors coming in and doing all kinds of “fancy moves” all over the dance floor, which Mr. Grouchy-Face said was a safety issue. When I heard that, I think I just stared at the person relaying the story, blinking slowly. That concern about a ‘safety issue’ is what brought about the speech I gave about floorcraft at the beginning of our dance party last month (note: I didn’t give a repeat speech this month because we had a much smaller crowd this past weekend, as I feared we would).

And that’s the point that brings Mr. Grouchy-Face back into the light this week… this past weekend I did help host another monthly dance party with my Royal Dance Court crew. There weren’t a ton of people who came by – it was a fair amount, but nothing like the crowds of the months prior. Mr. Grouchy-Face was not one of those that came out that night to dance with us. His name was not on the sign-in sheet, and I did not see him out on the floor, so I know for a fact that he wasn’t there. Yet even though he had no first-hand knowledge of the party, he chose to complain about what he thought happened that night. The next day someone showed me a copy of another long-winded rant that he had composed all about things that ‘happened’ at our dance party.

The Internets are serious business!

Living in this modern world like we do, a couple of the attendees at our dance party had taken a number of pictures of the event and posted them online. Mr. Grouchy-Face looked through all those pictures and decided to write up something all about how the party looked like a lot of fun and he wished he had gone, but it was probably better that he didn’t because it appeared, based on his personal count, that 85% of the pictures taken of the party were centered on these hired Dance Hosts. When I read through this message that was forwarded to me, I thought someone was pulling my leg! There was only one instructor that I saw who came to the party that night because he was hired as a Dance Host! One!

Now, to be fair, there were a couple of other instructors that were there at various points throughout the night – we (the Royal Dance Court) had hired an instructor to come in before the party and teach an American Waltz lesson, and he had stayed for the party afterward to dance with ladies and possibly drum up new business for himself. Lord Junior had been in the area that night, so he had stopped by to say hi to people he knew, and he ended up staying for an hour or so to dance a little… but no one paid him to be there, and the Royal Dance Court member running the check-in desk let him in for free since he has helped us out with a lot of things in the past. And finally there was a guy who came to the party that I am pretty sure teaches lessons at the Endless Dance Hall, but I can’t swear to that, so maybe he was counted as an instructor. This gentleman actually paid the cover charge to get into the party, and spent the evening dancing with ladies socially without causing much of a fuss, so I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

I had to actually get out my computer after doing that mental checklist of the dance instructors at the party so that I could look at the pictures that Mr. Grouchy-Face was talking about. As I flipped through them and took count for myself, there were nowhere near 85% of the photos being centered on the dance instructors (and that was counting the few instructors who were there that weren’t hired as Dance Hosts for the evening). I then went through and took another count of the photos where you could see one of those individuals in the background of the pictures. The venue we use isn’t super huge, so if you take a picture that isn’t facing the wall you can get a large portion of the dance floor in the shot. Counting that way you might be able to make an argument for 50% of the pictures having a dance instructor in them, but that is still a far cry from 85%.

But the part that really confuses me the most? I think it comes down to this statement that he made:

“The [Royal Dance Court] feels so strongly about hosting as the norm for “social ballroom dancing” that some of their [Court] members don’t even show up and participate in the club’s own group lessons. It’s the same [Court] members who arrive with a dance host only after the lesson and rarely dance with their own club’s members. When these [Court] members manage to dance with someone other than a pro (their “host”), it takes a “real” man away from everybody else. Essentially, the [Court members] ensure that they dance every dance—even when it leaves other (member) ladies sitting out.”

(Note: this is a direct copy from the statement Mr. Grumpy-Face wrote that I was forwarded. The italicized words in brackets change the names he typed to protect the innocent)

This is what throws me for a loop – if Mr. Grumpy-Face is so concerned about ladies sitting out during these dance parties, don’t you think he would be excited to see these instructors acting as Dance Hosts out on the dance floor? If the Dance Hosts take care of a couple of the ladies throughout the night, that frees him up to take care of other ladies who are “sitting out” so that more people can dance during each song! I mean, I don’t see it as being any different from what the Dance Robots do. They are not married, but they always come to dance parties together, and they very rarely dance with anyone else during the evenings. If the female Dance Robot decides to join in during a mixer dance while the male Dance Robot goes off to eat snacks (or cause trouble, which he thinks is funny), you could make the same argument that the female Dance Robot is taking a “real” man away from the other ladies attending the party too, couldn’t you? If that’s true, then you could say the same about the handful of older married couples we see coming to the dance parties who don’t often switch partners during the evening too!

I don’t think this concern for ladies sitting out is the whole reason that Mr. Grumpy-Face dislikes the Dance Hosts so much. I think a lot of it has to do with some dance jealousy. Take a look at this statement he made in an earlier rant he wrote about another event:

“’Hosting’ was going on last night, so it looks like this was about a 7:1 opportunity for the ladies to dance with someone better than the ‘members’.”

What am I even reading here…?

That’s what I personally think the real heart of his problem is. Dance jealousy. It’s fairly obvious that these dance instructors that are hired to dance with ladies know more than the amateur male dancers at the parties. After all, they are dance instructors! If they didn’t know more than the amateur male dancers, then they probably shouldn’t be teaching, right? But rather than watch these instructors dance at the parties and get inspired by what he sees, and then go out and learn how to dance better himself, Mr. Grumpy-Face chooses to complain about their presence at the dance parties instead. Because obviously complaining online takes much less work than going out and practicing his own dancing so that he can become better… which is something that he could totally do, since he is retired and thus has lots of time during the day he could devote to dance practice!

Another weird thing that Mr. Grumpy-Face has made comments about that he doesn’t like is an upcoming fundraiser dance that is being held in the Dance Kingdom this summer. To raise money for one of the children’s ballroom clubs, there is this adult ballroom club in the area that is holding a fundraiser dance party. They talked a whole bunch of local dance instructors in the Dance Kingdom into donating a few hours of their time that night, and people are allowed to “purchase” a dance with those instructors during the party, with all the money for those dances being donated to the children’s ballroom club. It’s a neat idea, and I’ve been to a party like this in the past, and everyone who was there seemed to really enjoy themselves and the event raised a sizable amount of money for the cause. Who wouldn’t like that?

Mr. Grumpy-Face saw the announcements posted for this upcoming charitable dance party, and he is not a fan. He thinks that a better idea would be to have the group of people who is putting together this dance be the ones whom people will donate money to dance with. I’m not sure how he thinks that will differentiate this event from a normal social dance that these people attend where other attendees can dance with them for free. You would think that he could see that, logically, more people would be interested in attending a dance party to dance and socialize with these local professionals, many of which do not often attend social dances, versus donating money to dance and socialize with the party’s organizers, whom I see all the time at various social dances around the Dance Kingdom and could dance with at any of those events. Especially since several female dance instructors have signed up to donate their time for the fundraiser, which you almost never see happen because there is usually a glut of female attendees at social dances. So that night even Mr. Grumpy-Face could hire a dance host to dance with if he wanted to!

Sigh… OK, I think I’ve got that out of my system. I apologize for showing you a part of the seedy underside of the Dance Kingdom. Being elected as a member of the Royal Dance Court exposes me to these things. This issue has started to take on a life of its own lately, so I thought I could use this as a way to get my incredulous thoughts off my chest so that I can remain calm and collected during the future discussions about this issue that I’m sure will come up. You can bet that there will be more to the story the next time I get together with my Royal Dance Court group, even if I see them informally.

Thanks for sticking with me through this. Until next time – keep on dancing!

Some Enchanted Evening


Last Friday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall to attend the party they were holding to celebrate the anniversary of their opening day all those years ago. The actual anniversary wasn’t really on that day, or even during that week, but Lord Junior said that as long as he had the celebratory party during the same month as the original opening day he would call that a win. I showed up at the Electric Dance Hall with tons of time before the actual party started, so the group class that was being held beforehand was still going on when I got there. They were going over some basic Cha-Cha stuff, so I prepared myself to dance a lot of Cha-Cha that night.

I had fun at the party that night. I feel like it had been quite a while since I had just gone out to dance for fun rather than going out to dance for practice purposes, and sometimes you need to just have fun. After all, one of the big three rules is that you’ve got to have fun, right? I believe that it’s right up there with staying safe as rule one, and keeping your form as rule two. I also got to spend time with a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a while, and I did my best to hide my amusement at HotDog’s constant attempts to try to dance with only the youngest, most attractive ladies who were at the party. About halfway through the night Lord Junior gave a brief speech about how awesome the years at the Electric Dance Hall have been, and told us all about his hopes that the success of the studio continue for many years to come.

One unexpected thing did happen that nearly stopped my heart that night. I had just gotten done dancing something, I don’t even remember what it was now, and was going to work my way back to the side of the dance floor to pick up a new partner for the next song when suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see the Dance Robots standing there smiling at me. I love these two – they make me so happy. I see them at lots of dance parties around the area. They are like twenty-times my age, yet they are always the first ones to take to the dance floor on the nights that I see them, and usually the last ones to leave as well. You can just wind them up and they dance all night long! It’s amazing, and I hope I can be just like that when I’m older.

Anyway, when I turned and saw who it was that was laying hands on me, I was happy to see that it was the two of them. I was quick to exchange greetings and pleasantries, and I asked them how life has been treating them lately. The lady Dance Robot tells me that they have been super busy lately because they have been packing up in preparation to move.

What!!?!?!?!?!????!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!???!??????

At that point, I am kind of staring at them with some sort of shocked look on my face, while the two of them are just exchanging looks and laughing about something. I’m thinking to myself how the whole Dance Kingdom would fall apart if these two moved somewhere else. Things just wouldn’t be the same, and it would be super sad!

Sparkledancer happened to be walking by at that point and stopped to greet the Dance Robots. When she sees the dumb look on my face, she asks them what’s going on, so they tell her the same thing about how they are getting packed up to move. She gets shocked too and puts her hand over her face in a gesture of surprise, but manages to hold it together well enough to ask about where they are moving to. The two Dance Robots are really laughing now, and say that they are just looking to downsize their residence, and they managed to find a smaller place just a few miles from where they currently live, so they’ll still be around to cause trouble at all sorts of dance parties for the foreseeable future.

Crisis averted. Those two… they think they are sooooooooo funny. If they weren’t so lovable, I might have to be angry with them.

Saturday morning came far too early. I had rearranged everything I normally have planned for my Saturdays so that I could head over to the Endless Dance Hall to help get everything set up for the big formal party that my little Royal Dance Court group would be throwing that night. I got to the Endless Dance Hall before we were scheduled to get started, since I was hoping to try to get some things out of the way to make sure that I could get out of there on time to be at my coaching session with Lord Dormamu later that afternoon. Sparkledancer had also agreed to meet me there at the same time, since she had to meet up with Lord Dormamu as well, so she was totally on board with getting things done as quickly as possible.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to find that all of the tables and almost all of the chairs had already been pulled out of storage and set up by the Endless Dance Hall’s staff prior to our arriving, and that the tables had been arranged in the manner that I had recommended! See, originally the members of the Royal Dance Court had wanted to put a table for the DJ in the middle of one of long wall against the back of the room, and line up six tables on either side of the DJ table curving down the short walls. This would have left a square-ish area for dancing in the middle of the floor. When I had gone to the Endless Dance Hall for the last competition I was in several weeks ago, they had set up six tables lined up along each long wall with a place for their DJ in the middle of one of the short walls, leaving a competition sized rectangular dance area in the middle. I had loved the look of that setup, so I had taken pictures of it and they were shared with the rest of the Royal Dance Court. While Prez was… skeptical about changing the layout, everyone else thought it would be great.

As I was taking stock of the situation inside the Endless Dance Hall, Sparkledancer and one other member of my Royal Dance Court crew showed up. Seeing the boxes with the chair covers and ties sitting over in the corner, I put the three of us to work on getting all the chairs in order. As more of the Royal Dance Court members showed up, I ended up having to tell them what things they should be starting on next, since everyone immediately started in on the chairs as well and no one went to work on any other tasks. Once Prez showed up with the boxes full of the pieces to assemble the centerpiece, I asked two of the ladies to go work with her on getting those put together and to leave the other tasks to the rest of us. I remembered what happened last year when too many people tried to deal with the centerpieces, and the arguments that followed, and how we ended up having to go back and change things several times… Not wanting to repeat that this year, I figured a small group could handle that task, and fewer hands would mean less rework required.

Things came together quickly, which was nice. We could have been slightly more efficient if people had stuck with the tasks I had asked them to do until they were finished instead of getting sidetracked, but overall I was happy to wrap everything up in about an hour and a half. I confess that I don’t often like to be the ‘alpha male’ in the room ordering a bunch of ladies around, but since I had a deadline that afternoon where I had to leave, I felt like exerting that influence was necessary to make sure that things got done. No one stopped me from delegating tasks, or questioned the executive decisions I was making to speed along the setup process, so I don’t think any of the ladies really minded me taking charge like that. Or if they did, they didn’t come say anything to me about it, which for right now I’m also going to count as a win in my book. Hooray!

Finished with the setup, I took off from the Endless Dance Hall to get to the Fancy Dance Hall for my coaching session with Lord Dormamu. This was the first time I had gotten to work with him since the competition I had done at the beginning of April. Because of that, Lord Dormamu decided that I have to go back to having things taken away from me since he still doesn’t think certain aspects of my dancing are right, and he wants me to focus on fixing those points while not worrying about anything else at the same time. Sigh… sometimes I feel like I am not actually moving forward, even though I’m supposed to be the Lead and I don’t walk backwards too often.

So what were the main points that I was able to take away from this session? I think they can best be broken down as follows:

  • I have to go back to keeping my nose in line with my sternum. Lord Dormamu says that, while it’s gotten much better, I still unconsciously lean my head to the right sometimes when I am thinking about other things, so until I can fix that habit I have to force myself to realign my default position to be neutral
  • On Double Reverse Spins in Waltz, he wants me to throw out the notion of “early quick rise” altogether. That is the technique you are supposed to use according to the book, but Lord Dormamu says that no one actually does it that way. To force Sparkledancer to bring her feet together for the Heel Turn, I should now take a shorter step that curves to the left going into the figure, which will force my partner to bring her feet together
  • Going forward, I am supposed to really emphasize the rise and fall in the Waltz by staying down farther (almost like squatting) on both beats one and three in the music, and rising up for beat two. Lord Dormamu said that he will be the one to let us know if rising and falling like that gets to be too much and we need to go back and smooth things out more, but that is how we should do it until he says otherwise

Sparkledancer’s only focus coming out of this session was that she needs to work on spreading her elbows farther and pulling her body farther to the left when in frame. There were lots of comments comparing her to a jet while he was getting her to do this, and the times that she did it right and was able to hold the position the entire time we danced something there were some explicit exclamations of joy. It’s funny when Lord Dormamu swears like that. English is obviously not his first language, and he only swears in English when really good things happen, so it catches me by surprise when I hear him do it.

That brings us to Saturday night at the formal party that I helped to host. All in all, the party went off without a hitch, and people seemed to enjoy everything going on. The dinner was good, but personally I think that the dinner rolls were the best part. After everyone had eaten and they allowed people to go back and help themselves to any of the leftover food, I think I went back to get three more rolls on top of the one I ate with my meal. Then again, the meal itself was much less food than I normally eat for dinner, so I was still hungry after dinner was finished (that is the one downside to building big muscles – you have to eat A LOT).

Throughout various parts of the evening, I was running around the dance hall taking care of things, trying to keep the people who came to attend the dance happy. The one person we had on hand from the Endless Dance Hall’s staff had been up most of the night working on something for his actual job (he just owns a gigantic dance studio as a hobby. Must be nice), so the few times we went back to the office to get things we had stored back there we found him sleeping, with the office lights still on even. That was part of the reason I tried to take care of things, leaving him to get some much deserved rest.

The dancing went really well. We did have a few minor hiccups on the dance floor, but I think those were all due to people having a bit too much to drink. There was one lady who was a bit out of control when she danced, but luckily her “date” who wasn’t actually a date took it upon himself to keep a tight leash on her about halfway through the dance. Lord Fabulous and Lord Scarry had come to the party with a large contingent of their students, and near the end of the night Lord Fabulous seemed to forget many of the rules of good floor etiquette. I saw him take one of his students and dance an East Coast Swing right in the line of dance while everyone else was dancing Foxtrot, and later in the evening I watched as he and Lord Scarry danced together, weaving a Foxtrot through all the other people on the floor doing East Coast Swing. But the worst one I saw was when Lord Fabulous took a girl who, by the look on her face didn’t know what she was doing, and attempted to do a Quickstep with her. They were all over the floor during that dance, not following the line of dance at all, and several times even traveling directly against the line of dance! That one scared me a bit, but luckily the song ended in short order.

Shortly after the halfway point of our party, I saw a new couple enter the building. I didn’t see any other members of the Royal Dance Court nearby, so I excused myself from the lady I was dancing with to run over and greet them. Introducing myself and asking if I could help them at all, they looked around a bit and told me they thought they were in the wrong place, since this didn’t look like the dance party they were looking for. I explained to them that this was my Royal Dance Court’s formal dance, and asked them what they were looking for to see if I could help. They said there was some sort of anniversary party at a ballroom studio, but they didn’t know the name of the studio off the top of their head, so they said they would just head out and call some friends of theirs to ask. I wished them luck, and they took off. Little did I know that this small event would become relevant later…

Even though Saturday was an exhausting day full of dance tasks, there hadn’t been enough time to fit in everything that I had to do, so I went out to do more dancing on Sunday as well. I had rescheduled my normal weekend coaching session with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for Sunday afternoon, so I headed back over to the Fancy Dance Hall for the second time that weekend to see them. There was also a Latin workshop that was scheduled for late in the afternoon on Sunday that I really tried to make it out to, but I hadn’t been home all weekend so when I tried to take care of some things after getting home from my coaching session, I didn’t finish until after the workshop had already started, so I never made it there. Ah well, you can’t do everything, right?

The Fancy Dance Hall was quite a site when I got there on Sunday afternoon. The place looked trashed! All of the tables and chairs had been moved into piles in the corners or were pushed back against the wall, but I could tell that something wasn’t right after I walked through two really sticky spots on the floor as I headed over to take a seat next to where Sparkledancer was already waiting for me. Sparkledancer and I started talking about what we wanted to do to warm up before getting started, and where to go on the floor since I wanted to avoid the sticky spots I had already found, and both Lord Latin and Lord Dormamu were occupying different sections of the floor to give lessons.

Before I had even gotten my shoes on, Sir Steven came over to say hello. He had come out of the back room as soon as he had seen us, and was still eating part of his lunch, so I could tell something was up. He started off by apologizing to us for the state that the building was in. Apparently they had rented out the Fancy Dance Hall as a venue for a party the night before for some group that is associated with the Salsa community in the Dance Kingdom, and the party got to be out of control. They were still trying to clean up the mess that had been left behind, as we could plainly see. The party had lasted until well past two in the morning, and the rough estimates that they got from the people running the party was that just about 500 people had shown up, even though the Fancy Dance Hall is only rated to hold slightly less than 300 according to the fire code for the building.

The two girls from the Fancy Dance Hall’s staff who had volunteered to be on site during the party had started calling Lord Dormamu after midnight when they lost control of the situation, telling him he needed to get his butt back to the studio as fast as he could. Once the party was over, they had tried to clean up as best they could but called it quits after a couple of hours, leaving the place in a functional but messy state so that people could teach lessons on Sunday. Lord Dormamu had already called the service that comes in on Saturday mornings to clean their wooden floors to schedule them to come back as soon as possible and clean the floor all over again. There were sticky spots all over the place, and in the front there was a trail of stickiness that traveled all along the short wall in a curving pattern that looked like a giant slug had crossed the floor. I’m not sure how someone at a party managed to make a sticky mess like that, but it was kind of impressive to see!

So what was the funniest part of the whole mess? As soon as Sir Steven said the name of the event, I remembered the couple that had stopped in at the Endless Dance Hall during our formal party the night before asking about a dance party they were looking for. They had been looking for the party at the Fancy Dance Hall! Had I known that was where they were trying to go, I could have told them exactly how to get there! Small world, right?

Anyway, the stickiness of the dance floor turned out to be a metaphor for what we worked on that day with Sir Steven. He wanted us to slow down some of our movements, and to do so he had us practice leaving our feet ‘stuck’ to the ground for as long as possible in Waltz and Foxtrot. This involved doing something that I had really only done in Tango up until that point: bending my legs so that my knees extended out over my toes as far as they could before moving my back leg, filling up the time for each step. This sounds pretty simple, but it was easy enough to forget at times when trying to remember to also do the various points that Lord Dormamu asked me to do the day before (like keeping my nose in line with my sternum), and it requires you to really engage your core to help maintain your balance the entire time.

I couldn’t tell if taking my steps like that while dancing through portions of my Waltz and Foxtrot routine actually helped to slow down my steps at all, or if the steps just happened to be slower because I was trying to process so much information in my brain that it took extra time for the signals to reach my legs so that they would start moving. Either way, thinking about this did help slow down a few spots that I know tend to get rushed when I’m not paying attention (like coming out of the Reverse Turn in Foxtrot going into the Feather Ending). This is yet another thing to add to my ever-increasing list of items to do during my practice sessions. At the rate that list has been growing lately, I’m either going to have to start dividing the points up to work on only some homework items each practice session, or I’m going to have to find time to spend four or five hours in the studio for each practice session to fit everything in.

With all this dancing, it’s no wonder I have no time for much of a romantic life…

There were other dance things that I did this past week, but the stuff that happened this weekend is the important stuff I’d like to remember for posterity. Next weekend shouldn’t be quite as busy, though there will be some interesting happenings to write about. Outside of my normally scheduled weekend dancing, I have another lesson with Lord Dormamu scheduled for this coming Sunday before he heads out of town for several weeks. We’ll have to see if I am able to get in enough practice before that time for him to see a difference on the points he gave me last weekend. Wish me luck with that!