Tag Archives: Dance Party

Open Up Your Eyes, Life Is Poetry In Motion

Saturday morning I had two coaching sessions scheduled again, much like last week. This week we managed to get to both lessons in the order that they were originally set up, though a bit behind schedule. I got to the Fancy Dance Hall about a half-hour early to stretch out and warm up, like usual. Lord Dormamu was there giving another lesson at the time, so I knew he was already in the building (always a good sign). A few minutes later when he noticed me stretching out my shoulders near the mirrors, he stepped away from his lesson to come over, greet me and ask if I had a lesson with him first or with Sir Steven. I told him that my calendar said it was him, so he nodded and said that he was running about twenty minutes behind. That gave me almost an hour to warm up instead of the half-hour I had planned on.

I felt like we did actually show some progress in our Foxtrot that day, which is always a good feeling. We got to look at the end portion of the short wall in the routine, if you can believe that. One point we spent some time covering was my Natural Closed Impetus with Feather Ending. Lord Dormamu showed me why my Heel Turn in that figure tended to get messed up. Many people over the years have shown me how to do a Heel Turn – going slowly, you take a step backward (or back on an angle), pull your other heel back to line up with your standing foot, turn however much you need to rotate, rise up on the balls of your feet and then step out onto the ball of the opposite foot. Over and over again I’ve practiced doing Heel Turns just like that.

The issue with my Natural Closed Impetus is that the lady is stepping between my feet, so if I take a step back and to the left and then attempt to pull my right heel to meet my left, there’s a foot in the way. So in the middle of a routine there tends to be some fumbling and stumbling while I attempt to make the turn work without stopping when my foot would run into my partner’s foot. I generally manage to recover fully by the time I hit the Feather Finish. Lord Dormamu looked at what I was doing and told me immediately that my step backward and my turn should not be two separate movements. If I step backward and begin to pivot on my left leg, then as I am pulling my right heel back my right foot will naturally arc around where my partner’s foot as I turn. Basically all that practice I did in the past where I would pull my heels together before turning was what was holding me back. Sigh…

This also led us to a discussion about our Feather Endings and how he thought we were rotating as we went through them. Lord Dormamu explained that the most important thing about the Feather Ending is that it is the ending, so before you take those two steps you have to already have your body in the correct position. If you rotate yourself at all to get into the correct position during the two steps of a Feather Ending, you are doing it wrong and will get marked down. Yet another good point that I’ve never really thought about before until he said it out loud. I’m making a note of it here so that I won’t forget about it in the future.

Skipping ahead… later that night I was out to help host a dance party with the rest of my Royal Dance Court crew. To celebrate the beginning of summer, we had managed to get the famous Mr. Rubber-legs to come in and teach a Shag lesson to everyone. We had booked him for one of our dance parties last year and had such an overwhelmingly positive response, so it seemed natural to have him come back again. The endeavor seemed to really pay off. When Mr. Rubber-legs started teaching his class that night, we had about twenty-five people out on the dance floor by my count. There were quite a few more women than men, so I ended up jumping into the line during class to help out. By the time the class finished up, so many more people had shown up that our line of dancers was running out of space. The count I heard later was that we had more than fifty people show up! I guess half of them missed the memo on what time class started…

The lesson that Mr. Rubber-legs gave that night was pretty much the same one he gave during the party last year. We spent a lot of time (waaaaaay more time than I thought was necessary) to cover the Shag basic. I’m talking like half the hour was spent just going over that one figure. Once he felt that everyone could do the basic, he had us look at a starter step for Shag so that everyone knew how to begin a dance. This basically amounted to getting into a closed dance position and doing a Throwout-like movement. After people got those two figures, Mr. Rubber-legs covered two different basic turns that you could use. At the end of class since there were a couple of minutes left over, he showed everyone how they could transition from the normal open dance position to the closed one used in the starter step, allowing people to dance a basic pattern that could be repeated by going to closed position at the end and repeating the starter step. Nothing too fancy.

I had thought that the DJ would play more Shag numbers that night for the people who came to the party specifically to see Mr. Rubber-legs, but there weren’t that many more Swing songs of any variety than I would normally expect to hear. The ratio of men to women as the party got started was actually really good. We must have had a large number of single men show up after the class got started, because there were a lot more women than men when I joined class, but I was hardly needed to entertain ladies during the dance party. So I spent time that night dealing with… other issues.

HotDog was in high form that night. Originally he had decided to come out to the party because he has taken classes from Mr. Rubber-legs in the past, so he considers himself to be a Shag connoisseur. His quest to show off in front of everyone was quickly derailed by the appearance of two attractive young ladies. One was Juniper, whom I was glad to see out and about on the dance floor that night. She had been away for a while because she fractured a bone in her foot, so I was happy to see that it was finally healed enough for her to begin dancing again. I actually took her out for her first dance of the night to say hi to her. The other was a sorority sister of Prez’s daughter, whom Prez had invited to the party because the girl was curious about dancing. This young lady mostly wanted to sit on the sidelines and watch to see if ballroom dancing was a hobby that she was really interested in taking up.

As I’ve mentioned before, HotDog is a horndog when attractive ladies show up. I found out later that HotDog was texting Sparkledancer for days after the party, asking her to tell him Juniper’s name and how he could get in touch with her. He also spent quite a while awkwardly trying to talk to the sorority girl. She managed to fend off his requests to try dancing, and eventually she got up to come hang out at the front counter near where some of us from the Royal Dance Court were running things. When I caught her making a beeline away from HotDog, I took the opportunity to maneuver myself between where he was and where she was, playing human barricade. That was enough to send HotDog off to find a different girl to dance with.

I made a point to apologize to sorority girl for his creepiness, and she just laughed and said that she’s used to guys like him. Since I had heard Prez mention how this girl was interested in possibly taking up ballroom dancing before the party started, I then put on my Dance Ambassador hat and talked with her about dancing for quite a while. I regaled her with stories of the fun and crazy dance-related things I’ve done since I started dancing all those years ago, and I even waved Sparkledancer over so that she could tell the girl all about sparkly dance dress things (a topic I am not all that well versed in). The girl seemed genuinely interested, and I hope that means we could actually see her come back again, but next time as a participant instead of just an observer.

Now for the thing I did this week that was really outside of my normal schedule…

Sunday afternoon I got to have a coaching session with one of those crazy world-renowned International Standard instructors that travel around spreading their wisdom (for a fee, of course). We’ll call this guy… Lord Maple, since it makes me laugh (this gentleman comes to us from a land up north that you may have crossed into during your own travels). A few weeks ago, Lord Junior mentioned to Sparkledancer and I during one of our practice sessions that he would be bringing Lord Maple in for one day to give coaching sessions to a number of his students, and if we were interested in reserving one of the 45-minute slots that day he would be happy to put our names on the list. Sparkledancer told Lord Junior that she had really enjoyed the class that Lord Maple taught last time Lord Junior had brought him in about a year ago, so she was totally going to sign up.

She then turned to me and asked me if I would do the lesson with her, because it would be easier to show Lord Maple her routines if I were there to lead. I told her that if we scheduled this coaching session at the same time we would have normally been meeting up for practice that day, then I would already have the time set aside in my calendar anyway. This would be a nice (albeit more expensive) way to get some outside feedback on how we’ve been doing since we started taking things more seriously at the beginning of the year.

In order to make sure that this coaching session would be worthwhile, I convinced myself to get up earlier than usual on Sunday so that I could stretch out and warm up my body thoroughly before leaving the house. That way I wouldn’t show up to meet Lord Maple in the afternoon and hear him tell me that my problem is that I need to take bigger steps to travel more all because my legs are still half-asleep. I also got Sparkledancer to agree to meet me out at the Electric Dance Hall an hour before the coaching session so that we could dance for a while, helping to further ensure that I was all ready to go. It turned out that taking those precautions was the right call.

Sparkledancer and I had agreed to have Lord Maple look over our Foxtrot with us, since that is what we have been going over with Lord Dormamu recently. After some brief introductions and telling him about our dance experience, Lord Maple asked us to dance our Foxtrot routine together. Then he asked both of us to dance the same thing again with him so that he could get a better feel for what each of us were doing during our steps. When we finished that exercise, he told me that he really liked my forward driving movements during the dance, since they were quite clear and strong, and he could easily follow what I was trying to lead him to do. I may have done a little happy celebration upon hearing that. Then he asked me to dance through it with him again, and this time he would add in all the parts that he thought I was missing when we danced the first time.

When we finished going through the first wall of my routine, Lord Maple stopped and asked me what was different this time through. I told him that he had been emphasizing the shaping a lot more than I had been, partly because I had been told by Lord Dormamu to not worry about anything else other than working on how I drive my Foxtrot from my standing leg and pelvis. He told me that was one way to describe it, and then listed off a bunch of other words that could be used to also describe it depending on who my teacher was and what country they hailed from originally, but basically what he was seeing that I needed to work on all came down to how ‘powerful’ I was when dancing.

Lord Maple told us a story about how he used to want to be described as a powerful dancer when he read articles about himself. He eventually found a female coach to work with, and she asked him what he thought it meant to be powerful. That’s when Lord Maple gestured at me and started to flex his upper body, saying that he used to think power came from looking super muscular and manly, but this female coach stopped him and said that as a dancer, being powerful comes from being the person that shows the most movement from each step that they take. That’s basically what Lord Maple says that I am missing to take my Foxtrot (and other dances, by extension) to the next level.

To show me how I should be doing this, Lord Maple actually started by working with Sparkledancer. He wanted her to make sure that she is moving herself out of the way for each step so that I would have plenty of room to really take my steps. They danced for a bit with him trying to explain the concept to her, and then he thought of an exercise that someone had shown him a long time ago that he thought would help the two of us with the idea. After searching around the studio for a few minutes with Lord Junior’s help, he came back with a scarf that he rolled up and held taut between his hands.

The scarf is used to give you an actual visual representation of the line your hips are making (and by extension, your shoulders and elbows, since they should be on the same line when you are in a proper frame). It was supposed to be a towel, but we were working with what we could find. If you roll up a towel and hold it stretched between your hands on both sides of your pelvis, this shows the straight line your hips make when they are at rest. Then we started to dance. The first step we covered was the Feather. As you do a Feather in Foxtrot, your left foot is the first leg that you step with, so you need to involve your whole left side as you dance through the figure until the next time you get to neutral (which is normally before you go into the next figure). You can emphasize this by rolling the towel with your left hand, as if you were wringing water out.

This was a fairly simple but eye-opening exercise to do. The way we wrung the towel basically changed from hand-to-hand as we moved through the figures in our routine. The Feather used the left hand, the Reverse Turn used the right, the Feather Ending of the Reverse Turn the left, the Three Step the right, etc. etc.. If you use this exercise to help you see the lead with the proper side of your body, it should get the whole body involved as you move. That helps you feel like you are taking steps not just with your legs, but all the way from your upper back. Rise and fall will happen naturally in the figures if the whole body is engaged. It also easily eliminated the issue where it looked like I was dancing in a constant squat, since stepping with my whole body allows me to naturally straighten my legs as I move. Funny how that works, right?

This is another one of those lessons where it really shows that the techniques that instructors harp on in the early days (rise and fall, heel vs. toe steps) shouldn’t have to be forced or remembered. If the underlying mechanics of how you move are correct, those techniques happen automatically.

Wednesday class was cancelled this week because Lord Junior’s wife had some event scheduled that he needed to attend, so the only group class that I went to this week was Monday night’s Latin Technique class. We looked at Jive for the first time in quite a while. Jive was actually not my first choice for the night, since A) my first choice is always Pasodoble, because I think it’s the most fun and B) it had been leg day for me that day, so my legs were already feeling exhausted from my pre-class workout. I always grit my teeth on the nights when my leg workouts happen to correspond with nights I’m going to be dancing, since I know working out my legs will make things harder than normal.

That was certainly true on Monday night. We always start off any class where we look at Jive by going over the basic triple-steps slowly since Lord Junior thinks everyone should continuously work to improve those. At the beginning when we were going slow, my triple-steps in the figures looked and felt pretty good. By the end, since I did a lot of dancing that night to give all the ladies enough chances to practice, my legs felt like jelly and I’m sure my triple-steps had devolved to look more like fast-ish East Coast Swing instead of Jive. No one said anything though, so I must not have looked all that bad…

We only looked at two variations of two different figures that night: Spanish Arms and Rolling Off the Arm. Starting with the Spanish Arms, we covered the normal configuration of the figure, and then the ‘cooler version’ (according to Lord Junior) where we led the lady to do an extra turn as we unwind her. After doing the two different variations independently we then chained them together, doing the basic version followed immediately by the more advanced version. I will admit that there were a few times when I got over-eager and ended up turning the ladies for both.

The Rolling Off the Arm figure was done the same way. There was the basic by-the-book version, and then a more advanced version where we led the lady to do an extra turn as she is rolling off of our right arm. As before, we did the two variations independently, and then chained them together. After everyone was comfortable with all four different figures, we strung them all together – starting with the basic Spanish Arms, the advanced variation, a single Jive basic to compose ourselves and then the basic Rolling Off the Arm followed by the more advanced version. This small pattern is what we ended up putting to music, starting off slowly and finishing at tempo. The last run-through we did with each partner at tempo was really where I felt that my Jive basics were lacking, but I worked hard that night, so I feel like I should at least get partial credit for finishing to the end.

I am hoping that this weekend stays fairly quiet for me. I haven’t had much of a chance to really practice the things that I worked on in any of my coaching sessions last weekend, and I’d like to spend a few hours working through those items. We’ll have to see if anyone makes a convincing argument to me about going to a dance party somewhere!

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!

Dance, Dance, Dance To The Distortion

I promised myself I was going to try to keep tonight’s post shorter than things have been lately, so that’s what I’m shooting for. Especially since next weekend is going to be so full of dance stuff that I will likely make all sorts of notes about. Those, of course, will end up posted here. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start back at the beginning…

Last Saturday afternoon when I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for our normal weekend session, Sir Steven had originally wanted to start off by looking at some new figures in Tango to use for the crazy idea I had for the Fancy Dance Hall’s summer showcase. However, Sparkledancer stopped us both short by saying that she has some work training event that she has to go to this summer, which happens to be the same weekend that the showcase is scheduled for. She can’t get out of that training, so she has to bow out of the performance. I don’t have a backup partner prepared for events like this, much less someone whom I know would trust me enough to let me pick her up and throw her around in a showcase, so I said that I would shelve the idea for another occasion in the future. With that, Sir Steven thought about things for a few minutes to figure out what we would do instead, and put us to work on something else.

We went back to focus on the swing and sway in various parts of our figures again. There were a few points that stick with me as things I need to keep more in my mind as we go forward, since they’ve sort-of fallen by the wayside as I’ve gotten all this other information that I was told to make my priority instead. One thing in particular was in Foxtrot: during the first Feather that I go through, I guess my second step on my left foot was starting to look too much like a forward step instead of a side step, especially when I am thinking about other things (like the proper swing of the figure) when I take the step. That’s something I really need to make sure not to do. I’ve done tons of Feather steps in Foxtrot without issue, so I shouldn’t start creating problems now!

We also spent some time focusing on the Natural Spin Turn in Waltz. This was one of those things that the Princess and I had looked at quite a bit during my coaching session with her while Sparkledancer was on vacation. I’m not sure why Sparkledancer and I hadn’t gone through any Natural Spin Turns together in the practice time we had put in after she got back, but apparently we hadn’t. Sparkledancer was surprised the first time that we went through the figure, since it felt noticeably different to her, so it threw her off a little. I had to stop and tell her about the things the Princess had told me to make sure I was doing to make sure we were on the same page before trying things again. Sir Steven as listening to me talk and nodding along, and at the end he smiled and said that Spin Turns were kind of the Princess’ thing, and she really liked to focus on working on them with people.

The Natural Spin Turns we did afterward were much better, as you can imagine. Sir Steven wanted us to really work on following through even more with the rotation in our upper body at the end of the spin, but to do so while making sure that we didn’t rotate our feet any farther (it is an Under-Turned Natural Spin Turn, after all). There were a few times where we didn’t control the rotation enough while trying to turn from our waists and upper body, which caused our feet to pivot further, so we ended up accidentally coming out of the Natural Spin Turn toward backing diagonal center instead of backing diagonal center against line of dance. On top of that, we had to make sure that we were balanced enough at the end of the rotation to really drive out into the Reverse Turn once we finish spinning. There were times that I came out of the turning and rotating and didn’t have enough of a hold to push out of my right leg with any force, so the last step of the Natural Spin Turn onto my left leg was kind of weak and puny. Sigh… yet another thing to add to my list to focus on during practice, right?

This past Monday night I did manage to get to Latin Technique class. I felt bad for missing class more often than not lately, so even though it was pouring down monstrously that night, I put on my galoshes and headed out to dance. I was one of the few that dared to make the trip that night – when I got to the Electric Dance Hall the only other people in the building besides Lord Junior were Veep and Sparkledancer, and no one else showed up after me. With an even number of men and women for a change, Lord Junior decided to work on a Samba figure with us that really requires both partners to get through successfully. Plus, Lord Junior said that since Sparkledancer and I really only compete in ballroom styles, this figure would still be good for us because some of the ideas you have to keep in mind while going through the steps translate, since the figure is exactly like a common ballroom dance step.

Truly monstrous outside!

The specific figure that Lord Junior wanted to look at was the Samba Roll, which are essentially the same footwork as a Reverse Turn in Viennese Waltz. We ended up doing them in Shadow Position that night, so I guess it would be more like American Viennese Waltz than International, if you want to be specific. Anyway… to get into the figure, we started out on one end of the floor with the ladies opened up out to our right and a bit in front of us, while we had our weight on our left leg with our right leg pointed to the side. The lady would then roll in across our arm toward us, starting on beat seven in the music and doing two turns, ending facing down the line of dance with their weight on the right foot. The Leads would just transfer our weight to our right leg while the lady rolled, helping to guide her with our arms so that she wouldn’t roll away from us, and pivoting 90° as she finished turning to get us into Shadow Position.

On beat one of the next measure we started the Samba Rolls. I’m sure you’ve seen these done before – essentially what you do is that, while move your feet like a Viennese Waltz Reverse Turn, you both lean forward (so the Lead is over the Follow’s back) on the first half of the turn, and then you roll backward (so the Follow is over the Lead’s chest) on the second half. It’s not a hard movement to do by yourself, but you really need to practice a few times with a partner to make sure the two of you are in sync during your movements or it ends up looking crazy. If you watch really high-level dancers do this move in videos and such, you’ll see that they lean waaaaaaaaay over each other as they turn, but if you are doing these with a partner during a normal dance and you really focus on doing the rotations with your core, you don’t have to lean over so far to make the figure look really impressive to anyone watching.

We practiced doing several full turns down the floor to make sure that everyone felt good with them, and then Lord Junior decided to cut the number of turns that we would actually do and give us a good way to get out of the figure and go into something else. The progression still began the same way, with the lady rolling across the Lead to go into the Samba Rolls. We did one and a half full revolutions of those, which should have you standing sort-of backing line of dance with your left foot crossed in front of your right. Then, straightening back up from the lean required for the Samba Rolls, we did essentially an Outside Change from Waltz to turn around and head down the line of dance with two Cruzados Walks and a Lock Step (still in Shadow Position). To finish things, we added on three Curved Runs, the first traveling forward, the second backward, and the third forward again. If curved correctly, the three of those should curve you right around a corner to head down the next wall.

Finally, on Wednesday night I ended up out at Standard Technique class. We looked at some Foxtrot that night, which worked out pretty well for me because it allowed me to focus on some things that Sir Steven had told me to focus on in Foxtrot the previous Saturday, like taking a side step during a Feather and the correct swing and shaping in my Feather and Three Step. The figures that we went over that night weren’t anything all that hard, at least for me, and I’m fairly certain everyone in class had done at least a version of the steps before in some dance. I say that because some of the ladies had trouble that night with the last figure that we did, which was a Natural Twist Turn. This figure is a pretty common Bronze-level figure in International Tango, which is why I would think most people would have done it before. However, in International Foxtrot it is a Gold-level figure – apparently this is because the steps during second beat are syncopated. Other than that, it should feel pretty much the same.

Our progression that night had us starting backing diagonal wall on one wall and going right into an Outside Spin, turning a corner in the process. We came out facing line of dance down the new wall and went right into a Feather and Three Step combo. This was the piece that really tied things in with what I was working on during my lesson the previous Saturday. While rotating through partners during class, I made sure to keep my frame nice and strong and to emphasize the swing and shaping through the Feather and Three Step. Some of the ladies in class responded nicely to what I was doing, while others allowed their right arm to bend out of position rather than turn their bodies with me. It certainly seemed like the ladies who are still not comfortable with being in direct body contact with me (they tend to maintain a three or four inch space between us) had a much harder time feeling the rotation I was doing through my body, so I imagine that is a big part of why their right arm ended up bending when I rotated myself.

After we finished up the Three Step we went right into the Natural Twist Turn. I had no problem with the steps for this figure, since all I had to do was take three steps and then twist around. Unfortunately, several of the ladies got caught on the wrong foot somehow many of the times that they went through their steps. I think some of the confusion came from one point where they weren’t supposed to actually take a step, but rather just transfer their weight between their feet without moving their feet. That seemed to be the most common point of confusion. Once we got past that, we came out of the Natural Twist Turn with the Hover Feather ending. The Natural Twist Turn is one of the few places you can naturally add on a Hover Feather because of the heel pull that you do, so Lord Junior decided to take advantage of that fact to have us work on the Hover Feather.

(Note: a Hover Feather really isn’t too complicated, it’s just a Feather Ending you do from a rise. Since we were already lowered down at the end of the Natural Twist Turn, we would have to add in the foot rise for the Hover Feather right before taking the first of the two steps)

I don’t know about you, but this weekend is going to be super busy for me with all the dance things going on that I’m supposed to attend. First off, Friday was the day picked to have a party to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of the Electric Dance Hall. Then on Saturday I have to spend a bunch of time at the Endless Dance Hall to help put the place together for the formal dance party I am helping to host there that night. In between the setup and the dance party, I have a coaching session with Lord Dormamu scheduled at the Fancy Dance Hall. Then that night I have to make my way back to the Endless Dance Hall to actually attend the formal party.

With all of that stuff going on during the day on Saturday, I had to push my normal lesson with Sir Steven from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, because I didn’t think I would be able to fit that in otherwise. Also on Sunday, Lord Junior has some super-high-level coach coming in from somewhere to give a workshop late in the afternoon. The workshop this person is doing is covering some Latin dance style, so while I was invited to attend, if I get exhausted and fall asleep instead of going I probably won’t cry… but I’ll at least try to make it. Lord Junior has asked me several times this week if I’ll be there, so either he needs to make sure he has enough men, or he just really wants my company for some reason.

Those are all my weekend plans. I hope yours are even more exciting than mine!