We Never Quit, We Never Rest On The Floor

At this point, it seems like my earlier remark about ending up with a routine in all 21 different dance styles for International Standard and Latin and American Smooth and Rhythm is coming true. In the coaching session with Lord Fabulous that I was at this past Saturday, we started building routines for International Foxtrot and Waltz. I had thought we would just do one or the other – International Standard or Latin, and add that to the ten styles we had worked with before. But after spending a large portion of our session going over the Foxtrot heel turns and impetuses (hee hee, impetus… you can all giggle too, it’s a funny word) and the Waltz whisks and chasses, I’m starting to think that both Standard and Latin are probably going to happen. On the bright side, I guess this will be a good excuse to put some effort into Quickstep. At this point, Quickstep is something I’ve always admired from afar, and never really learned more than the basics of. This would definitely force me to change that.

On the down side, this would also force me to put effort into really learning Samba, and more than just the line-dance version of Samba. I’m sure that doesn’t sound so bad to anyone else, but I have… well, I have white-boy hips, to put it bluntly. They just don’t roll naturally in a very Samba-esque manner. And if I try to shimmy, it makes people standing nearby wince in embarrassment for being seen near me. So, there would have to be a lot of work put into Samba to make it look passable. It probably still won’t be good, but I might be able to do passable. But hey, at least I would get to botafogo, right?

Our Saturday lesson also coincided with the newcomer-level class that Lady Q was teaching. We spent time working on three dance styles that day: International Foxtrot and Waltz (as previously mentioned), and OnTheFloor1American Viennese Waltz. As we worked through the pieces, and Lord Fabulous kept adding figures to the routine, we kept veering further and further into the side of the studio where the group class was being held. Sometimes I would have to stop or cut things short so that I wouldn’t run into someone who was encroaching on where I was going to be. I thought it was all completely unintentional at first, but Lord Fabulous had apparently planned things that way. At one point, he stopped and mused about how he loved teaching high-level lessons during the newcomer classes, and he especially loved it when he knew that the newcomers stopped paying attention to the class they were in to watch what the higher level students (in this case, Sparkledancer and I) were doing. He hoped it would inspire them to learn more, he said, and give them a taste for what practice could turn them into. So I guess now I am a show pony. Does this happen at other studios? I mean, I know other places have showcases where the students will show off for one another in scheduled, formal events. They aren’t held during the middle of someone else’s group class. At least, I’ve never heard of them being run that way before.

Monday night Sparkledancer joined me for a one-off lesson with Lady Q for some charity event the Dance Kingdom was holding. When I had signed up for it, I originally just wanted to go through all the stuff that was in the Bolero syllabus for this month’s class since it was apparent we wouldn’t get through everything in the class period due to the reduced number of Wednesdays this month and the other students in class struggling with the material. With just the two of us, we managed to go over each of the figures from the new syllabus and all the figures I only sort-of remembered from the previous syllabus in about fifteen minutes. Most of the figures weren’t too hard to get down, but the left-side pass, which was formerly on the syllabus and has now been moved to a higher level syllabus… for some reason that just doesn’t stick with me. I was thinking about it as I was falling asleep after that lesson, and I could not for the life of me picture the footwork that I needed to do. Then when we were at the Bolero group class on Wednesday night I tried it again with Sparkledancer and managed to figure it out after a few tries. Now when I’m thinking about it again I just can’t seem to picture the correct footwork. All the other figures I have no trouble doing that, but that one… it’s kind of frustrating. Why do all the other ones stick with me, but that one just goes in one ear and out the other? Perhaps next time I see Sparkledancer I will have to try it yet again to see if my body can remember the figure even if my brain cannot. And if I can remember it, I’m just going to have to break down and draw myself a picture of how it works so that I won’t forget it again.

Back to Monday night – after we finished everything in Bolero, we switched over to Paso Doble. Lady Q had originally told me when I signed up for the lesson that she wanted to work on a Cha-Cha routine that she had come up with. She mentioned coming up with it while driving around, and was really excited about going through it with me. That night she told me that since Lord Fabulous was already building our competition OnTheFloor2Cha-Cha routines for both American and International, we would be working on a Paso Doble routine with her instead, and this would become our future competition routine. In the remaining time, we managed to lay out all the figures from the start until the first break in the music, which allows us to cover a little more than one long and one short wall. Now all I need to do is get them memorized in order and I should be able to run through it without a hitch. I also laughed about the word “huit” probably more than I should have. Silly French people. What were they thinking, putting their figure names in Spanish dances?

Our Land of the Loft holiday dance party scheduled for tomorrow looks like it may be pretty small. When I was looking into the ugly sweater dress code for the party, I realized that I don’t own any sweaters at all. I think I got rid of them when I realized I didn’t live somewhere cold anymore. So I’m probably just going to wear a t-shirt. Considering that it’s going to get warm here in Charlotte again this weekend, and I don’t really get breaks at dance parties since I am one of the few male dancers, it’s probably better for me to not wear a sweater anyway. I don’t want to die of heat stroke in December, after all. That would be a sad and funny obituary, wouldn’t it?


Lifting Shadows Off A Dream Once Broken

Saturday night’s dance field trip was good, especially for the ladies from our studio. Really good. We went out to a large social dance event being held at a ballroom in town, much like we did right before the last competition I was in. We all met up at a place to have dinner that was within walking distance of the dance studio, and got there early enough to attend the class that they were giving before the event started. The class was basic Cha-Cha, reviewing a number of things I had learned previously and showing a few modifications I did not know of a few other steps. The guest instructors they brought in also did a performance for all of us, demonstrating their Cha-Cha technique before leaving for the night. Once they wrapped up, we danced.

As silly as it may sound to say that, seeing as how it was a social dance party and all, that’s what we all got up and did and that was what really seemed to help shake the dark cloud that had been looming around LiftingShadows1lately. Most of us there were former students of Sir Steven, and since his sudden departure, the ladies especially had been going through feelings that resembled, as one lady described to me, a ‘death in the family.’ That night as we danced no one was preparing for a competition, it was a new group of people that did not know us, on a new floor that only a small number of us had ever been on before. It really seemed to help center us all – to help remind us why it is that we all spend so much time doing this. We got out on the floor and laughed, danced, and basically sweat out all the negative energy that had taken hold. I felt really good about it, and it brought back the smiles to the faces of some of my friends that I hadn’t seen the week before leading up to this event. Sparkledancer and I even convinced Jack and Diane to go out with us to the floor during the two Viennese Waltz songs that were played that night – one for International and one for American style. The last time we did an event like this before competition, the two of them had pressured Sparkledancer and me to get out and practice our American Viennese Waltz routine. The two of them had been working on getting that dance style down the last few months, so we made sure to return the favor. That turned out to be a great way to get out and work up a sweat, as I’m sure you can imagine.

As we were collecting everyone who we came with and making our way out the door, a couple of people approached Jack, Diane and I to ask if we had ever thought about competing before. Apparently they had recently started a group for DanceSport competitors, and they had seen that we primarily knew American-style dancing. From what one of the people told us, that was something that not many people in their group could do (most of the people in their competition group all did International styles). I waved Sparkledancer over to talk with all of us, and we told them about our competition experience with each other, and they invited us to meet with them every Sunday. They had started getting together to work on competition preparation and held a potluck dinner afterward, and as a group they would sign up for various competitions together. The offer really seemed to excite Diane. She had been taking the loss of Sir Steven the hardest, and having someone else whom we had never met before come and complement everything she had learned and ask her to consider competing with them just solidified all the good feelings that we had been cultivating all night for her.

With the funk that the loss had brought to the Land of the Loft now mostly lifted, the big problem that I seem to face now is aimlessness. My former dance coach had some grand scheme in mind, a direction he was pushing me to go in, especially with my competitive dancing with Sparkledancer. Now, when he is no longer around to push down that unknown path, I really don’t know where I was heading. Sparkledancer and I discussed this in length over the weekend, since she feels the same way. One potential idea that we may do is to sign up to do the upcoming showcase together. If we have a performance to work toward, it would get us back into the groove of learning with a purpose, and force us to schedule time to practice together like we have done for every other performance we have had. I’m fairly certain we are in agreement on a song to use for a showcase, and a style of dance we want to do, so the hard parts are completed.

I also have some reservations about the number of people already signed up for showcase, and the numbers of routines each of those people are already doing. With so much already scheduled to go on that night, it may turn out to be a very long evening for everyone, especially the people who come just as spectators. The one factor that may open that issue up for me is that both Bony and Chanel have said that they are potentially going to drop some of the routines that they are doing because of Sir Steven’s departure. If they do, then I know there would be several open spots we could use. I will see what their plan is on Friday night.

Knowing that there is no goal to work toward, Tuesday night I met with Lord Fabulous and Sparkledancer for our first real coaching lesson he’s ever given us with an open mind. Both of us have worked with him LiftingShadows2or taken group classes with him a few times in the past, but this was the first time he has worked with the two of us together in our competitive pursuits. Based on a conversation that Lord Fabulous and Diane had after Sir Steven’s departure, he is looking at scrapping all the routines that we had and starting to build new ones from scratch, rather than upgrading the ones we had before with more advanced pieces, as was our original goal. He told me some remark about how it was like having one famous clothes designer design new items for another clothes line after the death of that clothes line’s namesake. I don’t know a whole lot about clothing, but I think I got the gist of what he was implying by that metaphor.

Having our lesson with him first kind of blew my whole idea of alternating between the three available Lords and Lady out of the water. I know he has watched the two of us work on things for a long time – sometimes literally sitting in a chair watching our past lessons. We are two of only a handful of people who have been members of the Land of the Loft longer than he has been, and he doesn’t really have any high level students of his own. When we had finished our lesson that focused mostly on Foxtrot, he started going on about how he really likes to alternate the lessons he gives to first focus on ballroom styles, and then go to Latin styles, and he told us if we were free Saturday after the classes we both usually show up for that he would put us down to work with him again. There wasn’t an offer to let us work with one of the other instructors, or a question as to whether we wanted to do a lesson on Saturday, it was something he added to his calendar and told us he couldn’t wait to do.

So, it seems like we have been claimed by a new instructor already. Decisions are easy when you don’t have to make them, right?

Time Keeps On Slippin’ Into The Future

The last few weeks, during coaching sessions with Sir Steven, we have spent a lot of time working on arm motions. I have to say, this is going to be one of those hard things for me to work on. Watching Sir Steven move his arms around, he makes it look so… graceful. LikeAnEagle1Watching myself in the mirror, I don’t look anything like that. For years and years, I have trained my arms with movements that involve things like Kenpo or lifting heavy objects. Neither of those training methods involves a lot of finesse, as I’m sure you can imagine. Thinking about moving my arms delicately is a foreign concept to me, focusing much less on power (which is what I’m used to focusing on) and much more on the movement itself. Practicing that type of movement is also difficult. When I’m in a studio setting, there are mirrors all around that I can use to watch myself, but when I’m at home I would have to be standing in the bathroom to see what I was doing. That just seems strange and dangerous, since the bathroom is small enough that my wingspan pretty much covers it. So it really doesn’t happen on my own time. I’m sure that I would improve much more quickly if I actually spent time practicing the movement. Perhaps that means I need to break down and invest in a mirror and hang it in a room where I have enough space to flail my arms around safely. We’ll see. The holidays are coming; maybe I can add that to some kind of wish list.

Earlier this week I also sat down with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer and we discussed our future dance goals related to competition. Sir Steven said that the level we were currently studying at was a good time to start introducing some of the International dance styles into our mix, so we could actually start working on putting together a Pasodoble routine (yay!). The tradeoff for doing that would be that we would also start working on Samba, so that it wouldn’t be us doing everything in American style and then just one International Latin dance. I have only a little experience with Samba, most of that stemming from a line dance I learned way back when I started my journey through the Dance Kingdom. I do know that Botafogo is probably one of the coolest dance-related words I have ever learned, so this might work out. Sparkledancer likes Samba a lot, so I know she is all for it. Originally when he mentioned doing more than one International style dance, I had thought about adding Quickstep, but that idea was shot down because that would be adding one International Latin and one International Standard dance, which would not be ideal. At this rate though, someday I expect the two of us will decide to just compete with everything in all categories. I mean, learning ten different dance style routines is not that different from learning twenty one different styles, right? It should be totally easy…

This past weekend’s dance field trip to the Grand Dance Hall was a lot of fun. This ballroom was having a weekend dance event, which was two nights of dancing to a live orchestra and some group classes offered on Saturday for anyone signed up to also attend. Sparkledancer and I were the only ones that ended up going from our little group, and when we got there we found that the average age of all the other attendees was around thirty five years older than we were, so we stood out in the crowd. Actually, the entire event reminded me a lot of the dance field trip that we took way back in September when we went to the other social dancing night at a different ballroom – a lot of people on the floor for certain dance styles like Foxtrot, Rumba and Waltz, not very many people participating in more obscure styles like Viennese Waltz and Quickstep, and pretty much everyone was much older than us so they didn’t engage in too much conversation with us younger kids.

We did a lot of Waltz. The floor was packed with people, but I managed to do pretty well maneuvering around without running either myself or my dance partner into anyone. The Foxtrot was much more dangerous – for some reason, Foxtrot songs drew many more people to the floor, and there were people in the middle who wanted to dance either Hustle or East Coast Swing to the Foxtrot songs. This made things even more dangerous, since those couples wouldn’t always stay in the middle, and as they drifted toward the outside it would be harder to avoid hitting either them or all the other couples working their way around them. The Rumba dances that we did also tended to get dangerous. When learning Rumba, I was told to try and keep things contained – you have a little circle on the floor, and you don’t drift outside of it or you would lose points. While dancing with all of these people, it seemed like everyone was trying to invade the circle on the floor that I had staked out, even if I started out with a considerable gap between where I was standing and where anyone else was standing. The night dances certainly forced me to keep on top of my floorcraft game.

The lessons offered on Saturday were equally interesting. They offered two levels of classes: basic and intermediate/advanced. Since most places I’ve been to in the Dance Kingdom do not technically rank their classes as beginner, intermediate or advanced like I have heard that other dance studios do, we weren’t sure where our level of training would fall. The first class of the day was a Tango, and Sparkledancer and I decided to go to the beginner level class first to see what it was like. It turned out that beginner level was really just that – newcomer Tango. We stayed for about twenty minutes, then left to go to the other room where the higher level class was offered. This class turned out to be much more interesting. Partly that was because they were going over things that fell more into place with things we had been working on, but also because the class was being taught by a married couple who were making really inappropriate jokes a lot of the time. The male instructor had to be more than twice my age, so some of the jokes he made caused me to cringe a little, but all the older people in class thought it was hilarious. Let me tell you, I am still far too young to hang out with old people making dirty jokes. The three classes they went through that day were in Tango, Rumba and Swing, and each lasted for an hour-and-a-half. Because there were so many people taking the classes and they taught these longer figures in pieces, we did not go LikeAnEagle2over everything they were trying to get through. I ended up recording the instructors doing the figures slowly at the end of each class, and I promised Sparkledancer that I would review what we were doing on the video and write it up so that we could go over it together at some point when we have some free time to get everything memorized.

Other than that, it’s been a rather calm week here in the Dance Kingdom. Everyone I have talked to at the Land of the Loft has told me that they are all geared up for this coming weekend’s Halloween ball at the Great Dance Hall, so I am super excited for that. There will be dancing, and costumes, and spooky-themed snacks for everyone! If you’re in the area, it is an open dance party for anyone who is in costume, so stop by and we can all party together. I can’t believe it’s been a whole week, and now there’s only a couple of days left to go!

It’s The Terror Of Knowing What This World Is About

Flashback to Wednesday night: we had just finished up Foxtrot class, and my dance partner and I were practicing some of the techniques from class. Others were in the back, chit-chatting, waiting for their private lessons to start. Sir Steven was going to be giving a lesson to Amazon, and Yessie was waiting for Lord Fabulous to finish up with the people he was working with to begin a lesson with her. My dance partner and I finished up and had gone over, sat down, and began changing our shoes, talking about our preferences for American Smooth Foxtrot as opposed to International Standard. As Sir Steven came over to grab Amazon to get started, Lord Fabulous turned from his lesson to yell out something unintelligible about telling about the competition. He paused for a moment, then said “Oh yeah” and came over to where my dance partner and I were sitting.

Sir Steven laid out this plan they had decided upon. Apparently they are going to have the two of us compete in some of the lower level heats Terror1during the competition, but we are going to do it separately. Sir Steven is going to compete with Sparkledancer, and I will be paired with Lady Q. When we asked him why, he said that we would be doing it to work on for and technique, and they wouldn’t be charging either of us anything to do it since this was their decision. Since Amazon was standing there with him ready to get started, he said that we would talk about it more the next time the three of us meet on Saturday for our lesson together, leaving us standing there in shock and confusion.

During my drive home, I started feel like I was suddenly under a lot of pressure. What is the reason for having the two of us compete separately? Is it really to have us work on the simpler version of the form and technique for things? Is it because they need more people to compete in the lower level heats than signed up? Believe it or not, I will admit to being scared of dancing with Lady Q. She knows a lot more than I do about what should or shouldn’t be happening. It’s one thing to be in a group class where no one really knows all the steps very well, and to dance with random people. It’s another thing to dance with someone who knows if you screw up and (since I’m the lead) make her look bad. I’m terrified enough when I dance with my dance partner, afraid that I’m going to make her mess up by messing up the lead, thereby making her look bad. That would make me feel horrible. I don’t really have to dance with Sir Steven during the lessons I take with him, as you can imagine, so I don’t really have much practice dancing with one of the noble class of the Dance Kingdom. Plus, how am I going to keep multiple routines for the same dance straight, especially since it is not as easy to schedule time to practice with Lady Q? Or, worse, what if they want me to freestyle it? That would be fine for things in the Rhythm category, but anything in the Smooth category… my skill level in floorcraft is not yet very high. It’s gotten better since the last time I spoke about it, but it’s still one of those things I would consider a weak point. I made the same point to Sparkledancer when we spoke about this turn of events, and told her that she shouldn’t worry so much about it. She gets to compete with Sir Steven, and he will know the routine inside and out (since he put it together), so he will be able to lead her through everything. If I forget things, I’m going to look silly.

These are the things I think about when I sit around.
These are the things I think about when I sit around.

The one thing I didn’t think of until just now is that it is possible that they could do this for West Coast Swing heats. Since I know, from all of the lands in the Dance Kingdom, that we are among the few who have taken a liking to West Coast Swing, and are among the even smaller set who compete with that style, splitting the two of us up to compete during some of those heats means there will be twice as many people on the floor as if they left us to compete with each other. Maybe that has something to do with it. I’d really rather not repeat the experience we had of being the only people on the floor for heats in that style last time…

I suppose this is not an unprecedented move. During the Spring Fling, one of the other non-Pro-Am couples actually did a few heats individually, each paired with a Lord of Lady. I thought it was strange at the time, but if this is standard operating procedure for non-Pro-Am couples, then I will remember to expect it if my dance partner and I ever decide to do another competition after the one in September.

No matter what happens, I suppose my focus should be on the routines I am learning with my dance partner. After all, anything I do with Lady Q, unless I totally destroy the lead during the routine she should know the female part that goes along with it. Last weekend when my dance partner and I worked with Sir Steven, we went back and reviewed our Bolero routine. I happen to like Bolero. It’s another one of those styles, like West Coast Swing, that not many people really put much effort into learning at the Land of the Loft. My dance partner and I enjoy it. Whenever we practice together, generally there is one of two songs on: Ricky Martin’s Casi Un Bolero (which should be obvious, since it’s in the title) or As The World Falls Down by David Bowie (yes, the one from the Labyrinth). Those songs are drilled into my mind as being shining examples of what the Bolero should sound like. It’s kind of like how the Mambo will forever be associated in my head with anything by Lou Bega. Luckily for us, there won’t be much in the way of changes to our Bolero routine that we used during the Spring Fling – we will be expanding on it, but the majority of it we already have down and in order. So that is one less routine I have to worry about studying so hard. We seem to be flying through the stuff in the rhythm category. Once everything is down and memorized, then I can work on actually making them look presentable. Hooray! It’s so exciting!

This weekend, there is a possibility that there may be two dance field trips that I have agreed to go on. We’ll see what happens! Stay tuned, and I’ll share some stories if I survive them.