And The Muscular Cyborg German Dudes Dance With Sexy French Canadians

Last weekend wore me out. I spent pretty much all day on Saturday at the Endless Dance Hall. It was a lot more than I had originally planned on when I agreed to do the competition there last weekend, but it was mostly fun. To be available to do everything on Saturday, I had gotten up earlier than I wanted to so that I could get a few things done in the morning and head out to the Endless Dance Hall. I didn’t sleep too well that night – there were a lot of things going on, and I just couldn’t get my mind to quiet down, so I was awake on-and-off throughout the night. So the day started off with me already being tired.

Originally I was going to just dance in the competition, and my heats were going to be held late in the morning, which would have given me the rest of the day free. Then the organizers decided to have a dance party that evening in conjunction with the competition. Normally this would be something that I could skip if I was tired, but the week before the competition I had been asked if I could help set up and run the dance party because of my capacity as a member of the Royal Dance Court. At the time I agreed to do it to be helpful, since I am pretty easy to convince to volunteer for dance-related things.

Then the competition itself had some of its volunteers back out because another commitment that they couldn’t avoid came up, so I was asked if I could also come and help during the day. That’s why I ended up at the Endless Dance Hall well before my rounds were scheduled to start. In fact, I got there before any of the other competitors so that I could help set up the last-minute decorations, some of the technical equipment for the scrutineer and the DJ, and also help check people in once other competitors started arriving.

Helping out all day wasn’t really all that bad, but I also had some things for work that I had to get done that day. Since I was at the Endless Dance Hall all day long and well into the night once the cleanup from the dance party finished, I didn’t get home to start on my work items until after 11:00PM. By the time I finished working and crawled into bed, I had been up for almost twenty-four hours, so I ended up locking my cat out of my room overnight so that she wouldn’t walk all over me while I’m sleeping (she enjoys doing that for some reason) and passed out. I didn’t end up going out to practice on Sunday because I had kind of burned myself out on dancing Saturday. I feel a little bad about that, but not bad enough to apologize for doing it.

Anyway… there were only four of us working at the competition that day. One was a lady who was one of the two organizers of the event, and then there was also Sparkledancer and my friend Indiana who had been talked into volunteering for the event like I had. The competition was fairly small compared to others that I have gone to, but since the three of us were such novices at running an event like this, that turned out to be advantageous for us. We managed to get through the day with very few issues, and all the problems that did come up one of us was able to work out in very little time to keep everything running smoothly. I am quite proud of that accomplishment.

The rounds that I actually danced in that day turned out to be a bust though. I had thought that there would be people for me to dance against at this competition, but the people who had signed up for my rounds all scratched out at the last minute. Were they afraid of me or something? So that guaranteed that I got first place in everything that I danced, which in some ways is disappointing. I really hate dancing unopposed. Like, really hate it. It bothers me a lot.

Aside from the ribbons that I got for the events I danced in, I also got a medal. It was for being such an awesome volunteer and running everything so well. At least, that’s the story I will actually tell anyone who asks. The truth is slightly funnier than that, but only one other person gets to know that story. I am going to cherish it forever. Or give it to my cat to wear, because she definitely is first in my house. Either of those options would make me happy.
I did get a short break after the competition rounds were all finished up for the day while the staff at the Endless Dance Hall cleared up all the furniture that had been put out for the competition and cleaned up the floor for the dance party that night. When I got back to the venue, I switched on my full Royal Dance Court party host mode and got to work. I think I ended up doing a little of everything that night – collecting money at the door, engaging in small talk with guests that I had never met before, making sure that the snacks and drinks were filled, playing gopher to deliver messages between the DJ, the venue staff, and various volunteers as needed, and filling in to dance with ladies who were sitting out on the side since there were more women than men in attendance. That’s right, you can think of me like a Jack of all Trades for dance parties. I’m cool with that designation.

The party ran smoothly as well, like the competition earlier in the day. There was only one portion that I consider to be a bit of a hiccup – apparently over the last week or so prior to the event, the details of the party had been posted to a number of different locations, and some of those places listed the start and end times differently. That wasn’t really an issue that I had any hand in or that I could fix while helping to run the party, but I still consider it a hiccup to how well the event ran. There were a handful of people who showed up to the party an hour after we had actually started, because they had gotten their information about the party from a note someone had posted that listed the start time wrong. Because of that, we ended up running the party later than we had originally planned, giving those people who showed up late extra time to get their dance on before closing things down for the night.

However, being nice like that meant that I didn’t get out of there to go home until quite a while after I had originally planned. Also, there was one couple that had come to the dance that just would not go home! They were hanging around long after the music ended and we were trying to clean up. That would have been fine if they had offered to help us clean up, but they were just wandering around, getting in the way, trying to talk with the other volunteers and the DJ so that those people couldn’t finish the tasks they were working on… it got to be a little annoying to me. I was specifically waiting around for the DJ to finish disconnecting everything so that I could help move around the heavy equipment that was part of the sound system, but because that couple kept talking to the DJ I didn’t get to finish that when I wanted. Sigh… people.

Monday night I tried to get back to a bit of normalcy by going out to Latin Technique class. I had gone out after work to work out my legs, so when I got to the studio I was really hoping that we would end up doing Rumba to give them a little break. Unfortunately, I only had one other person agree with me that Rumba was the best way to go. Several of the other ladies wanted to do Samba, which I REALLY didn’t want to do! Lucky for me, a couple of ladies convinced him to work on Cha-Cha, which was still not going to be great for me to do with tired legs, but I could fake it better than Samba.

A fair number of ladies had shown up for the class that night, so Lord Junior said that he would have us work on some solo choreography rather than try to partner up. The choreography we were given was kind of short and was built to repeat, so you could use this to warm up or work on fast movements if you wanted. There is even something thrown in for people who want to do Samba, just so that those crazy people don’t feel left out.

We started out on a diagonal with our right foot forward. On beat two we would to a rock step and then go into a basic Forward Lock. Next we did three Open Box Steps, which is actually a figure that I learned a long time ago in Mambo. Each of these Open Box Steps should rotate you a quarter of turn over the three steps. At the end of the third one you would immediately take your right foot back to go into two Batucadas (the figure from Samba). Doing these in Cha-Cha timing seems harder to me than trying to do them in Samba timing, so good luck if you want to give them a try!
Once you finish the Batucadas, you would take a step back on your right leg, then pull your left leg in until your feet are together and do ⅜ of a turn and step forward on your right leg again. I know that kind of sounds like a heel turn, but trust me, it is not. To make the next step easier, we held in that position for most of one beat, then took two steps to the right on the next ‘& 1’ in the music so that you are standing on your right leg with the left pointed to the side. In that position we could go into two Cuban Breaks with ease. After the second one, we would stop halfway through a third with the left leg crossed in front of the right, do a Spiral Turn, and come out back into a Forward Lock like we had started the progression with so you could repeat everything.

After going through this slowly a few times, Lord Junior wanted to have us try to add arm motions to the mix. I was sort of able to do them while we were going slowly, but they just got to be wonky when he started to speed up the music on us. At that point, the biggest thing I had to spend a lot of effort focusing on was taking small steps as I moved. My default at this point is to try to push myself off my supporting leg to take as big of a step as I possibly can, which is a terrible thing to do during Cha-Cha. By the time we got around to dancing to full tempo music, I had dropped my arms out completely to help me remember to take small steps. I managed, though I’m sure that it didn’t look the prettiest while I did it.

Tuesday night I had to attend a meeting of my Royal Dance Court group to discuss dance business. There were so many topics that came up, it’s hard to sort through them and make any sense of it all! But above all of it, there was one topic that came up, one that was even listed on the agenda for the meeting for the night, that took up more of the discussion time than anything else that was talked about…

Mr. Grouchy-Face.

All I could think about when I got the agenda for the meeting a few days before was ‘Oh man, what did that guy do now?’ This is not the first time that we have spent time during our planning meetings to discuss things that Mr. Grouchy-Face has said or done, so my mind was rapidly trying to imagine all of the worst-case scenarios on things that he might have done this time which would warrant us spending even more time talking about him.

But all of my speculation was for naught, because Mr. Grouchy-Face was back on the agenda for a reason that we had already discussed before, albeit with a slightly new twist. It would seem that Mr. Grouchy-Face had decided that the best use of his time in his retired life would be to start writing letters to all sorts of people. Letters to my Royal Dance Court group’s president. Letters to various national dance organizations. Letters to friends, that he then would also post on his social media pages where anyone could read them. So many letters! Some of those letters even formed words! 😉
Jokes aside, the main topic that Mr. Grouchy-Face was writing about so much was a practice that he is really against, one that you’ve probably seen at dance parties you’ve attended: dance hosts. For those of you who never go social dancing, a dance host in my part of the Dance Kingdom is a dance instructor that is hired by a person or a group of people to go with them to a dance party and dance the night away. All the dance hosts I’ve ever seen have been male dance instructors hired by ladies, but I’m sure somewhere out in the world there are female dance instructors being hired by male dancers too. I’ve just never come across that in my travels.

Mr. Grouchy-Face does not like dance hosts. Does. Not. Like. Them. One. Bit. Based on what I found out about the content of his letters, for some reason he thinks that they are ruining social dances for all the men already in the Dance Kingdom, making dancing at social dances dangerous, and also preventing new men from stepping up to attend these parties and have fun with everyone on the dance floor. Yeah, those are his thoughts.

A bit of explanation, in reverse order:

  • Preventing new men – Mr. Grouchy-Face believes that new men are intimidated when they are at a social dance where a dance instructor is among the crowd of participants on the dance floor. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, trust me, I had the same thoughts, but Mr. Grouchy-Face believes that having dance hosts around who look more impressive on the dance floor makes it less likely that men who are new to dancing will come back to dance again.
  • Making social dancing dangerous – it is his belief that the dance hosts, when they are out on the floor with the ladies that hire them and doing ‘competition figures’ (as he calls them) make dancing dangerous because they bump into other dancers when they execute those moves. In truth, several ladies who are in my Royal Dance Court group have danced with Mr. Grouchy-Face and said that he is actually the one that is not very good at floorcraft and has run them into other dancers, but Mr. Grouchy-Face believes that the problem lies with the dance hosts.
  • Ruining social dance – according to the letters that he wrote, Mr. Grouchy-Face says that ladies who have hired dance hosts no longer want to dance with other men at the social dances they attend, which makes it hard for the other men to find willing partners. There was no mention of the fact that nine-out-of-ten dance parties (a statistic I just made up) have more men than women, so there always seem to be a plethora of other partners to choose from. No, somehow these dance hosts who only dance with the (anywhere from one to three) ladies that hired them for the evening make it impossible to find a lady to dance with.

I know, some of the positions he is presenting seem a bit… extreme, but those are his concerns that he has been spelling out in writing all these letters.

One of the groups that he had been writing letters to got sick enough of receiving them to actually start work on a response. They called someone they knew who lived close by, and asked that person to attend a large social dance that they knew was going to happen that month and take notes to see if the behavior Mr. Grouchy-Face was writing about actually happened. From what I was told at the meeting, the person took lots of notes, compiled some sort of report, and then passed that along to the people who had been getting Mr. Grouchy-Face’s letters. They are still ‘reviewing’ the report, which may just be management talk for ‘sitting on it until the problem is forgotten about.’

When Mr. Grouchy-Face was informed that someone had taken the time to come and investigate his concerns, he seemed pleased. Listening to all of this, I couldn’t help but wonder what, if anything, this group would actually be able to do about the so-called issue. Each social dance in the area is run by a different group; like individual studios running their own parties, ballroom fan club groups hosting events, and my Royal Dance Court group. While each of those groups that are in close physical proximity to each other try to arrange our events so that we don’t step on each other’s toes,  we all have different leadership and rules for our events. So even though one outside group decided to come see what was going on based on Mr. Grouchy-Face’s letters, no changes to the practice that he has problems with could possibly happen until he convinced the leadership of all of the actual groups hosting these social dances in the area to change for him.

I don’t think that most of the social organizations that are near me would even consider making changes for him. I know for sure that my Royal Dance Court group isn’t going to. Our reasoning is that we constantly have more women than men attending our dance parties, so if a few ladies want to attend our party and bring someone they hired with them as a dance partner for the evening, that helps increase our attendance numbers without wrecking the male/female ratio. All the dance hosts that are hired to attend our parties are dance instructors, and all of them are good about keeping their movements contained while on the floor (I’ve watched), so the dance hosts don’t bring up Mr. Grouchy-Face’s concern for safety in my view. Because of this, we see no reason to tell ladies they can’t hire someone.

While we spent quite a bit of time discussing this issue during the meeting on Tuesday, it was more of an informative discussion than one where we tried to come up with a resolution. After all, Mr. Grouchy-Face is just one guy, and so far he’s the only person I know of who has complained about dance hosts. Even though he does so quite vocally, and apparently also in writing quite frequently, unless we have more people step up and join in the chorus with him, I doubt my Royal Dance Court group will move to any action, and just continue to observe from the outside to make sure that everyone plays nice. Who knows? Maybe getting the response that generated a report from one group will be enough to placate him for a little while. We’ll have to see. I’m sure if I hear about changes to this situation, I will be writing about it again, because it’s a little amusing to me to document the history of this silliness.

I’m going to wrap things up here for the week, since I went off on that subject for much longer than I originally intended. Time to clear our minds and get ready for the long weekend ahead! Are you doing any fun dance things during your holiday? I’m pretty sure there are a number of things on my plate to look forward to. Couple that with an extra day to sleep in, and I am going to be a happy man. I hope your weekend is just as fun and productive as mine looks to be. I’ll tell you all about it next week!

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I’ve Got To Take It On The Otherside

I had an interesting discussion with Sir Steven on Saturday in addition to the work we got through on our lesson. Where to start? Well, how about at the beginning. Like we sort-of do regularly, we started out by running our International Standard routines in order – Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot then Quickstep. Finishing up those, we switched gears to look at our American Waltz routine. Sparkledancer and I ran through it once from beginning to end for Sir Steven. When we finished, he told us that he wanted some things to end up in different places than what we had originally learned, now that he had seen us do it a couple of different times.

The big thing was the placement of figures in the last two corners. What we had before was a Contra Check that is done about two-thirds of the way down the second long wall that he now otherside1wants to have us do in the corner instead. We have two syncopated Fallaways and a Curved Three Step right before the Contra Check, so I think with my long legs it should be easy enough to cover slightly more ground and put the figure in the corner. That means that the figures that come after are shifted onto the short wall. Because of that, Sir Steven wanted the back check step that I do while Sparkledancer does a Ronde around my right side to be the figure we use in the last corner.

There are still a few figures left after we come out of that Ronde, so if we do everything on the list we end up about a third of the way down the first long wall before we would repeat the routine from the top. This may end up being problematic in the future, since we have been really good about covering a lot of space with the figures on the first long wall to fill the floor from corner to corner, so taking out a lot of the floor means we will probably run out of room. We’ll see how it looks once the changes are really committed to muscle memory.

At the end we spent a bit of time looking at our American Tango routine. Because it always seems like at the end of the Viennese Crosses where we were closing our feet and then try to go into a Reverse Turn we would mess things up (i.e. I would mess things up, for some reason I would often go into a Progressive Link instead), Sir Steven changed the fourth figure in that set to be another Viennese Cross like the previous three. This continues the rotation, and makes going into the Reverse Turn feel much more natural. To compensate for the timing change that causes, he took out a similar Ronde-like figure like the one we have in Waltz that we had been doing at the end of the first long wall in Tango. We also talked about how he didn’t like the way the second long wall looked. He didn’t want to change anything about that right then, but he said he would think about what he wanted it to be instead and we would come back to it soon.

After we got done with our coaching session, Sir Steven and I got to talking about the competition he and the other instructors at the Fancy Dance Hall had put on the weekend prior. Somewhere in the conversation I asked him about whether they would consider allowing amateur dancer pairs to run heats at their competitions like they allow Pro-Am pairs to do. Believe it or not, I don’t mind competing, but I do it for more pragmatic reasons than probably anyone else you would meet. I liked to use competitions as an assessment of how I’ve improved in dancing. When I was dancing somewhere that allowed amateurs to run heats, it was nice because I could run each routine multiple times, and I’d get some kind of score back and a few notes from the judges that then I could take and compare to how I had done the last time I competed in those styles. The competitions I have found available for amateurs lately are all one-and-done style competitions, meaning you go out and run something like Viennese Waltz at some unspeakably early time of the morning if that is when you are scheduled, and if you mess up that was your only chance. At the end you get some placement between first and last place, and no other feedback about how you did. That sort of setup doesn’t really help me see how far I’ve come or get an outsider’s view of things I need to improve.

Sir Steven said that the crew at the Fancy Dance Hall has been having some interesting discussions about that. He told me that they have been cooking up ideas for recreating their Ballroom Boot Camp weekend sessions that they used to run at the Endless Dance Hall quite a while ago. They have discussed including a ‘lite’ version for amateurs that will include competition-style practice heats, workshops to cover important technical points everyone needs to work on, and having outside instructors standing around as pseudo-judges to watch and provide feedback to everyone who attends on what they should work on. That sounds like the kind of thing I was sort-of going for. Apparently they are thinking they can get something like this up and running around December or January, so there may be something else fun I can start doing in my dance career. We’ll have to see!

I did end up going out to that dance party last Saturday night over at the City Dance Hall that I mentioned last week. Since I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what kind of costume would work for the musical-themed party, I just went wearing normal clothes. That ended up being a good life choice, since the people who put together the event hadn’t put a lot of effort into the theme. There were some printed up playbills that they had stapled around the fake candles on each table, and a poster that someone had set up in the entryway, but that was all that I saw that had any relation to the chosen theme. I had at least hoped there would be some kind of dance rumble, like two competing line dances on opposite sides of the floor, to celebrate the theme. That would have amused me. Sigh… missed opportunity. Sometimes I wonder if it’s necessary for every dance club (club as in ‘group of people’, not venue) in the area to go through the effort of picking out a theme for every dance party they put on. Would people be turned off if we sent out a note that read ‘Hey! We’re having a party this weekend! The theme is dancing!’ and left it at that? Maybe that’s worth a discussion at some point.

The party this weekend started off with a Salsa lesson. As I mentioned last week, they really missed something by having a lesson on Salsa as opposed to Mambo, which I think would have been more thematically appropriate, but that’s just me. The steps that we covered in the Salsa class would certainly work for Mambo if you changed the timing, so that’s something. The class was also interesting because there were two people teaching, professional partners who I’m pretty sure I have seen at least the female teaching over at the Endless Dance Hall before. Before they started teaching, the guy gave a little speech introducing the two of them to everyone, and then they demonstrated what it was they hoped to teach that hour. The progression was really long – even the guy who was going to teach the progression acknowledged that it was pretty ambitious. So, we got to work.

The first thing that they did was ask everyone in attendance if there was anyone who had never done Salsa before. Two hands went up, so there was a quick overview of the Salsa basic. Once the two newbies to Salsa had that down, the instructor said he preferred to start off dancing Salsa using a side-to-side basic step more like a Whisk in Samba rather than the normal basic that everyone else does, so we began the progression with four of those before going into two normal basic steps. Next up we added on two Cross Body Leads, essentially turning us all the otherside2way around in a full circle. Now came the hard part – not a hard figure itself per se, but hard because it made some of the ladies uncomfortable. We were holding the lady’s right hand in our left, and he wanted us to reach with our right arm around her side to trade her hand behind her back. It was a weird hug-like position to get into, and some people were just uncomfortable with that. If you did it right, the men would rotate around the lady on her right side to roll her out into handshake hold facing the opposite direction from where you started.

Once we got past everyone being uncomfortable, we got to do some things that could be difficult if you tried to turn too early or in the wrong direction. Facing each other in Handshake Hold, we would reach under our right arm with our free left hand to take the lady’s left hand so that we were holding both hands with our arms crossed. From here we would do an Open Break and lead the lady through a Underarm Turn. As the guys would bring their feet together after the last rock step, we would turn 180° so that we ended up with the lady behind us (I’m not sure what you would call that. Reverse Shadow Position?), holding her hands over our shoulders. While in this position we would do four Cucarachas, breaking in the opposite direction (i.e. when we would go to the left, the lady would step to the right). If you were on top of the footwork, you could also do a fancy thing with the arms, crossing the right arm over your head, then the left, then uncrossing the left and finally the right.

And we still weren’t done after all that! In the next measure of the music, the Lead released the Follower’s hands and flipped around to face them on the first two beats, and then both partners were supposed to Shimmy for the last two beats. I can’t Shimmy to save my soul. I can use my shoulders to lift very heavy objects, but I can’t shake them quickly or gracefully, so I just raised my fists up to my chest and shook those instead. Next we would take the Follower’s right hand in our left again and lead them through another Cross Body Lead, this time overturning it a bit so that we could open up side-by-side. In this position we went back to the Samba Whisk-like movements like we had done at the beginning, doing two sets right then left (or left than right if you are doing the Follower’s part). The instructors gave us some variation we could do here, either adding in a saucy hip bump with your partner, or bringing the Follower’s arm up and over your head and letting their hand slide down your arm if you prefer that. Or both, if you were so inclined.

We finally got to the end section after that. After the second set of Whisk-like steps, we would link back up with the lady by doing a figure that looked almost like a Natural Top, rotating us around enough to face the wall we were looking at before the last Cross Body Lead. Then they had us do two measures of Cuban Breaks, which is something I’d only seen done in Cha-Cha up until then. After the last set of those, we would go back into a normal basic figure, rotating ourselves slightly to be facing one another at last.

Whew! Like I said, that was an ambitious plan to try to teach everyone. Several people dropped out during the course of the lesson, probably due to mental exhaustion. I’m surprised I even remember the whole pattern, writing it out several days later like I am now. To reward us for making it all the way through the class, the two instructors took to the floor and performed a Cha-Cha number that they had used for competitions they were in in the past. It must have been for some kind of solo performance, because the figures they used covered the whole room as they danced.

I felt good about the actual dance party afterward. Mostly because I made a point of dancing International Foxtrot instead of American in a social setting and it went really well. International Foxtrot, more than any other International style, has always seemed to be harder to get through on a crowded dance floor than American Foxtrot. That night though, I was on top of things, and it felt safe and traveled quite well through everyone else. That one point alone made my night, so I felt pretty good about everything else. Ms. Possible showed up to the party super late, with slightly less than an hour left before the dance would wrap up. She had come with a guy who has been trying to date her (he’s a dance teacher at some studio, I think), but she’s not totally interested in him. And yet, because he actually knows how to dance, she keeps leading him on. I’m not sure how this will end, but there’s a part of me that feels bad for this guy. I don’t know how I would feel pursuing a woman I meet at a dance party. I think that would be a weird dynamic, especially if we didn’t have much else in common. But that’s just me. To each their own, I suppose.

Skipping ahead, let’s talk about the thing I did last night that was probably way more entertaining to me than it should have been. Remember what I said last week about working on Spin Turns in Standard Technique class and Lord Junior switching roles with the ladies so that they could feel what it was like if they did and did not provide the driving force on the parts of the Spin Turn where they are moving forward? Well, Lord Junior wanted to get back to an idea from that class. Which idea from that class did we expand on last night? The idea where the guys and girls switched roles, having the ladies dance the Lead part while Lord Junior and I were dancing the Follow steps.

Whhhaaaaaaattt?

That’s right – I got to be such a pretty lady last night, though if I wanted to be prettier I’d probably need to go on an all salad diet for a while since my chest and shoulders are much broader than your average lady. Lord Junior’s explanation for us before we started was that way back in the day, early on in his teaching career, he could get by teaching the footwork for both halves of a figure, but it wasn’t until he really had to sit and learn the proper technique for the Followers part that his Leading really improved. Once he had an idea of what the ladies he danced with were trying to do and how they reacted to what he did, he could totally understand how his movements really affected them. So we were going to spend the evening dancing the opposite part to help us understand our partner, and in the process make us better dancers.

Lucky for us, we didn’t do any crazy steps. We kept with Waltz, like we had done last week, giving us a chance to start out super slowly and work our way up to a nice slow pace. The otherside3pattern we used was almost all Bronze-level figures. We started with a prep step to get moving and then a Natural Turn. Next up we did an Open Impetus into a Progressive Chasse to the Left, closing from Promenade Position on beat two. Next up was a Quick Open Reverse, which is just a regular Reverse Turn but you are starting on the wrong foot, so you have to take two steps for beat one to make up for that. At the end we had another Progressive Chasse to the Left, this one in normal dance frame the whole time, and ending with anther Natural Turn.

I have to say, believe it or not, that switching between one part and the other wasn’t too hard for me. It did help that I got to step through the Follower’s side of the figure once or twice before trying to do it with a partner so I could keep my footwork moving in the right direction while we worked. It seemed like the ladies in class were actually having a harder time with the switch than I was. Sparkledancer was thrown off by her left arm being out and her right arm being in – she said it felt all wrong to her. Veep kept cutting me off when we danced together, because she wasn’t used to having to give someone else the room. Bony had it the worst, I think. She was really unsure of herself, and didn’t like having the pressure on her to start moving. When she and I danced together, she would wait until I started moving on the first step in order to begin her own movements. It didn’t matter that she was supposed to be leading me – if I would wait for her to start moving before moving myself, we would just stand there awkwardly letting measure after measure of the music go by until I finally got us going.

At the end of class, we switched back to our normal dance roles and did the same pattern with each partner a few times. I have to say that I thought it made a bit of a difference. The ladies seemed to be more comfortable with providing the power on the parts where they are moving forward (like on the Open Impetus), and with both people really driving out of their standing leg with each step, we managed to run out of room on the floor using these figures. Plus it was weirdly amusing for everyone. Lord Junior said that this won’t be the last time he has us go through this exercise in this class, so maybe once a month now we will start switching places and using that as a way to improve our understanding and our dancing.

Also, he mentioned that while he has been working on building himself a bigger dance studio, he has been thinking that when the construction is completed he will start offering more beginner-level group classes, but rather than hiring a professional to come in and teach those classes he will open it up so that the higher-level students (like those of us who attend these technique classes) could teach instead. If we wanted to seriously do that, we would have to know both parts of each figure anyway, so really he is secretly training us for the future. How cool would that be, getting a chance to teach newcomers how to dance? I think it would be fun, and since I make enough money at my normal job for everything I’d ever want to do in life, I’d consider doing it for free from time to time. We’ll have to see what the future holds. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it here if it actually happens!

This weekend is when the Royal Dance Court that I am a member of will be hosting our own monthly dance party. I think we are going to have a lesson in East Coast Swing before the party, so if you want to come and dance, let me know and we’ll have some fun!

One Step Closer

I have to say that when I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer this past Saturday afternoon, I did not have much fun. For me, that is pretty sad. I am a firm believer that dancing should be fun no matter what I am trying to do. Sure, it can be a lot of work, difficult and frustrating, but it can still be fun at the same time. This lesson was not fun though. We spent much of the hour looking at International Foxtrot again, much like we did the last week. This time, our focus was on portions of figures where our normal dance roles were reversed, which basically amounts to times that I am moving backwards and Sparkledancer is moving forward. I thought things seemed pretty easy to understand at first, where I was supposed to move my leg back immediately to make room for Sparkledancer to step forward and pulling my ribs slightly back so that she would know that I am letting her drive forward. I guess I didn’t really understand the English that was being spoken, because just following those directions wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was Sir Steven was trying to get me to do differently.

Somehow in the process of all of this, Sir Steven thought that balancing on one foot was my athousandyears1problem, so he had Sparkledancer grab onto my right hand while he held my left and tried to get me to move my leg. This was weird for me, because I wasn’t having issues standing on one foot. I can hang out on one foot for long periods of time – it’s one of those things you learn to do if you go through the balance poses they teach you in Yoga classes enough times. So there I was being held in the middle of these two, trying to push my leg back farther to see if that was what he wanted, or twist my hip backward like I would do in Latin dances to see if that was it, all the while just feeling really awkward, until I had enough and shook my hands free and told them I could easily stand on one foot on my own. I still never figured out what he had been trying to get me to do, but we eventually moved on from that exercise to something else.

We got through things with Foxtrot and then we moved on to some Waltz, specifically the Natural Spin Turn in Waltz. I would have to say that I think if I could master doing Spin Turns, then I would probably make Sir Steven really happy. We seem to come back to this figure quite a bit, always adding on some new thing to think about when doing them. The whole time we were at the Fancy Dance Hall on that Saturday there was a children’s ballroom class going on, and when we got around to working on Spin Turns the class had just started running rounds, so we had to try to stay in the middle of the room while doing things to give them a track to use around the outside of the floor. That was harder than it sounds, since I have long legs and am capable of covering quite a bit of distance when moving. I figured that I was bigger than all the kids on the floor (considerably bigger than some of them), so they would be able to see me even if they were short enough that I couldn’t see them without I tilting my head down. Luckily we didn’t hit anyone while spinning around. I probably would have sent them flying across the room if I had, much to their parent’s chagrin.

Probably the most exciting thing I did this past week was attend another meeting of the Royal Dance Court. Well, to be honest, that started off a bit boring for me, but got better by the end. After the opening rituals where we sacrificed dance shoes as burnt offerings to the dance gods (am I kidding? I’ll never tell!), we began by looking at the listing of our future monthly dance parties, themes and instructors for 2017. Prez, the current leader of the Royal Dance Court, had gone through and changed some of the ideas that we had put down last time for party themes. No one really questioned why she had done that, and they just let her get away with changing things. I guess the rest of the members of the Royal Dance Court are used to being accessories for Prez’s one-woman show. I thought it was a bit strange, but then themes for parties and decorations are not really something that I find all that important (I’m a boy, so sue me), so I didn’t have anything to say about the things she changed either.

I had asked to have the questions that were brought up during the big meeting I went through back in October added to the agenda so that the entire Royal Dance Court could discuss them. athousandyears2Sparkledancer and I had spent a lot of time kicking the questions back and forth between the two of us over the last several weeks, but I wanted to get some input on the answers from everyone else as well. Unfortunately for me, the discussions about party themes and such went on for a long time, so it was pretty late at night by the time we got around to the questions. Many of the other members had already had several adult beverages by that time, and were getting antsy to head home, but I thought it was important to bring things up so that we could talk about them.

The one that several people seemed to come back to over and over again was “Why be a chapter of the organization?” I let the other talk, and tried to make a few notes about what they were saying rather than reading off the dissertation I had written up as my own answer. What scared me was that no one really had a good answer for why our group of people should be a chapter of the organization. They could see no benefits from being members that they could not get elsewhere, though likely for a higher price if they went on their own to procure services. That made me sad. I can see so much potential for this organization on a national level if we took a few steps to really promote ballroom dancing in a different way, steps that could really help to increase the number of dancers in studios across the country. But if the local chapters cannot see a reason to be a chapter, those steps that I can see wouldn’t be able to become a reality. After about twenty minutes of discussing my agenda item, the older people decided that they were too tired to stay any longer and so we adjourned, setting a date to meet up again in January.

A few days later, Prez sent off an email to everyone on the Royal Dance Court that had the questions all listed out, and asked everyone to write up some answers and send them back to her. She offered to compile everything and forward the answers on to the guy who had asked the questions so that it would look like our Royal Dance Court spoke with one voice.

In case you were wondering, I had compiled my answers to the questions using all the notes I had taken from my discussions with Sparkledancer (she was extremely helpful for me to bounce my thoughts off of), as well as some other interesting ideas I had for the organization, into a long email and sent it off to the guy as he requested. I think when I finished writing everything up, the document I was using on my computer was six single-spaced pages long (I had a lot of things to say). I didn’t turn my answers over to Prez or the rest of the Royal Dance Court members for them to read, since I had already sent the answers directly to the guy who had asked the questions long before Prez had asked that everyone send their answers to her. Surprisingly, I actually got an answer back! I think it was partly a form-letter, and partly a campaign email (this guy is running for a position on the national leadership team). Here’s what his letter said:

“Thank you so much for taking the time and deep thought you’ve put into this.  I truly appreciate it and take it seriously.   I love your enthusiasm and creativity!   I want to digest it some more and then I may get back to you some more.

It’s very valuable to me to have someone who takes a very serious and visionary approach to our organization.

When I become the [vice president of social dancing] I plan to work closely with the districts and chapters so that we can make [the Royal Dance Court] an outstanding organization.   I love the ideas, thoughts and comments that you bring forth.

I can tell you that even though dance sport get so much publicity the new and returning national officers are committed to the ‘social’ side of the organization and realize how important it is to our success.

Keep up the good work.  It is truly appreciated and respected.”

(The bracketed edits are mine to keep this pseudo-anonymous, though you could probably guess who this guy is if you’ve seen the ballot…)

Maybe someday I can work my way up to be on the national council. Wouldn’t that be cool? Then I could help dancers out all over the country with my ideas. I have some good ones… at least I think I do. Also, then anyone who reads my dance notes on this site could send me their ideas too and I could bring them up for serious consideration. I think it’s important that we younger people who have taken up ballroom dancing have some say in the way things work, to balance out the extreme number of older people who seem to be in charge of everything now. Together we can make dancing awesome for everyone!

When I got to the Electric Dance Hall on Monday night, it felt like it had been forever since I had gone to Latin Technique class, but it really hadn’t been that long. Last week Monday was Halloween, so class was cancelled, and the week prior I had a work thing going on, so I wasn’t there, so it had really only been a couple of weeks. Everyone in class was tired that night, which makes sense since we were still adjusting to the Daylight Savings Time changes, so we opted to do some Rumba that night. We had a girl from Lady Lovelylocks’ ‘Sexy Lady Formation Team Dance Club©’ join us in class that night. I guess she had missed the team practice over the weekend, and had opted to make up for that by coming to Latin Technique instead. Lord Junior had said he wanted to work on a figure he called a Switchback during class, but since the new girl had never done any dancing with a partner before, he opted to start things off a bit more simply for her so that we could work our way up to the more difficult figure.

We led off with the beginning of one of Lord Junior’s Open-level routines, which wasn’t hard footwork, but involved a lot of syncopated steps to keep things challenging. Starting with your weight on the left foot and right foot pointed behind you, step forward on beat four and hold for two beats. Next is another step forward on beat two, rock back to the right foot on beat three and then take two steps forward to land on the right foot on beat four with the left foot pointed off to the side and slightly back. Ladies would mirror the footwork, but at the end they would step forward to be off on our right side. On beat two the guys would lunge out to the left while pressing slightly forward with the left arm to turn the ladies toward us, and then we would do three steps (almost like a chasse) to the right while the ladies move across our location and out to Fan Position. Finally we would go into a Hockey Stick, with the first half being syncopated and the second half being normal.

We worked through the opening part of the progression until everyone felt comfortable with athousandyears3the steps and could do everything in time to the music and with a partner. Now we added on the Switchback, the figure Lord Junior actually wanted to work on with us that night. As the guys would check forward at the end of the Hockey Stick we would rotate the lady’s wrist a bit to get her to turn 180° and she would raise her left arm and point her left leg behind her. Seems like an easy thing to do, except the ladies would have to get into that line and only hold it for only one beat before we would come out of it. Moving that quickly suddenly makes the figure an exercise in balance. The end of the figure has us turning the ladies back around by rotating her wrist slightly again and taking three steps backward in two beats, while the lady take three steps forward in two beats.

There is a new class that they started offering on Wednesday night right before Standard Technique, so the last two weeks when I have gotten there early there have been a bunch of people I don’t know out on the floor. So what do I do? I stand there and watch them. I don’t know why. It’s supposed to be some kind of intermediate-level class, but so far the people who have shown up have all been beginners so everything they’ve done has been really basic. Sparkledancer was the next to show up for class, and then no one else came for quite a while. A few minutes before the class started, Lord Junior came over to where Sparkledancer and I were standing and watching the people on the floor and asked if there was anything we wanted to work on that night. I turned to Sparkledancer and asked her if she had anything in mind, and she just shrugged. I thought back to last Saturday and said that we should probably work on Spin Turns if she had no other ideas, because for some reason that’s what came to mind. Well, Lord Junior thought that was actually a good idea – you can always use some more practice with Spin Turns, he admitted, so that’s what we ended up doing.

We worked on Spin Turns in Waltz, because that is the most logical way to work on them. Lord Junior joked that we could work on them in Quickstep if we really wanted to, but that didn’t sound like a good idea. The thing Sparkledancer and I were most interested in was any tips for doing Spin Turns while maintaining body contact the entire time, which is what we were having athousandyears4issues with on Saturday. This led us down a path to where Lord Junior was focusing on the ladies and how they were supposed to be providing the power when it was their turn to move forward. He had us switch roles for a little while so that the ladies could feel what it was like to do the inside part of the turn in a Spin Turn both when your partner is helping to drive the turn, and when they are not. Once the ladies seemed to be on board with this concept, we spent a lot of time doing Spin Turns reeeeeeaaaaaalllllly slowly. Painfully slow, even. We would do the initial pivot on beat one and hold to make sure everyone was good. Then we would do the second rotation on beat two and hold while up on our toes at the high point of the rise, and finally when we were just about to complain about being on our toes so long we were allowed to take the third step (a side and slightly back step for me, diagonally forward for the ladies) and lower on the second half of beat three. Whew!

It was a good class, even though we didn’t cover any new material. In the last ten minutes or so of the night we added on a couple of other easy steps so that we could work through things to music without starting and ending awkwardly right at the Spin Turn. We used a prep step and went into a Natural Turn, then the Natural Spin Turn, closing with a Reverse Turn. We then did a Whisk into a Progressive Chasse to the Left, closing back to dance frame on beat two. That was it, all fairly simple Bronze-level steps that I’m pretty sure most of you have done before. I was in a good mood after class was over, feeling much better about things than I did when I walked out of my lesson the past weekend.

There is a dance party that I heard rumors about on Saturday night that has a strange theme related to a not-quite-public-domain musical about two rival gangs rumbling that I’m sure everyone is familiar with. I’m not exactly sure how to celebrate such a theme. The dance lesson they are offering beforehand is Salsa… not exactly Mambo, as would be fitting with what happened in the musical, but close enough. I’ll have to try to think of a costume that is appropriate between now and then. Maybe I’ll see you there!

We Back In The Club, With Our Bodies Rocking From Side To Side

When I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer this past Saturday afternoon at the Fancy Dance Hall, other people were practicing some things on the dance floor, so we were told that we were going to keep things contained to the back half of the room to avoid running into anyone. I have to say that I am quite happy with the way I was able to manipulate my routines djgotusfallininlove1to use the space without having to take tiny steps. As we have been doing recently, we started the afternoon off by looking at our International Standard routines. I threw Sparkledancer for a loop at first with the Waltz, since I took off and used the figures from the first long wall to cover two “walls” in our half-room, and then did the same with the figures from the next short wall, and so on and so forth. Doing so had us turning twice as many corners and covering twice as many ‘walls’ as the routine would normally, but this allowed us to do all the figures using our normal stride length. Once we got through the Waltz routine, Sparkledancer was on board with what was going on and was right there with me for the others as I tried the same thing.

The only routine that gave me a bit of trouble was the Quickstep, and that was really only because of the speed at which we were moving. I still managed to figure out how to make it work, but this one did not seem quite as smooth as the others did when I would get to a corner and have to turn more abruptly than I would have liked. After we had finished running through all of the International Standard routines once, we changed gears and spent more time working on proper swing technique in our steps. This time we worked on applying the technique in International Foxtrot and Quickstep rather than in Waltz like we had done last week. We spent most of the hour working on that, and it was not until right at the end that we switched over to quickly look at a few pieces of our American Tango and the new pieces of our American Waltz that we had added in last week.

This past Saturday night I was invited to go out with some people I often dance with to a non-ballroom dance club, just to screw around and dance for a while. I cannot decide if they invited me more because of the fact that I am a boy who knows how to dance, or because I do not drink so I am an easy pick to be the designated driver. Whatever the case, I ended up at a djgotusfallininlove2place I will call the Pendulum Dance Hall. I did not know it before heading out there, but even though it was the first day of October they were holding a Halloween costume party. Had I known, I would have thrown together some kind of outfit for the night instead of just being out there in my street clothes. I’m pretty sure that the only thing that saved me from being really out of place were my dance skills. People are able to overlook a lack of costume if you can dance.

I will freely admit that I am incredibly bad at trying to dance without using things I learned in my travels throughout the Dance Kingdom. I think no matter what lady I was dancing with or what song was playing, I was usually dancing something that was either a direct figure or some modified version of a figure I learned in a ballroom class somewhere. If I was dancing with Sparkledancer, then they were for sure real syllabus figures that I knew. Most of the songs that were being played that night lent themselves to using figures from either East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing, Cha-Cha, Mambo/Salsa or Rumba. Doing West Coast Swing was the hardest one that night because of how crowded the dance floor would get during some songs. The other styles I was able to keep contained to a small area on the floor, but I still gravitated toward dancing near a wall with my back to the crowd to protect my lady friends from the other people jostling around.

The dance floor was tiny compared to what I am normally used to, because much of the building area was reserved for the seating area or for the bar (things that actually make the place money, I’m sure). The booths and chairs were arranged so that people sitting could easily see what was going on out on the dance floor. Because of that, both Sparkledancer and I had a lot of people who approached us to tell us how much they liked the way we danced, and a couple of people even asked us where we learned the things we knew. There was even this one couple who approached me and asked if I could recommend a place to them based on where they lived in the Dance Kingdom that they could go and take some lessons too. I’m glad I remembered to bring my Dance Ambassador hat with me that night so that I could be helpful. I haven’t really worn that hat in a while, and it felt good to pull it back out and blow off all the dust. Maybe I’ll even see some of those people on the dance floor in the future!

On Monday night while I was out at Latin Technique class, we all decided to look at Rumba since we had not done that for a few weeks. We started out by warming up looking at Latin Walks in slow motion. As good as it is to practice doing Latin Walks that slowly, it is way more difficult to do things correctly when moving at that rate of speed than it is to go closer to actual tempo. Afterward a grueling ten minutes of slow walking, we put together a little pattern of figures to work on for the evening.

To force us to use the Latin Walks that we had just practiced, we started with the Leaders and Followers split apart about ten feet on the floor facing each other. To get together, we each took djgotusfallininlove3two steps forward to get close enough to clasp hands, and then the gentlemen took a third step to the side while the ladies took one final step forward . This set us up to transition easily into a Natural Top. To keep things fun for everyone, the first measure of the Natural Top was normal, then the second was in syncopated timing, adding in an extra step forward with our right foot at the end. We then turned the ladies around and went into an Opening Out action. When we lined back up into dance position, we had the ladies do a couple of side-to-side Swivels while the gentlemen just rocked back and forth in place. We did four such Swivels, and on the fifth we turned the ladies abruptly around while she was on our right side and she brought her left knee up (kind of like she was balancing in Tree Pose). We held this line for a few beats, and after the ladies brought their leg back down to stand on two feet again, we rolled her out quickly into Fan Position to finish the pattern.

Standard Technique class on Wednesday night started out a bit different from usual. Lord Junior actually had a video that he wanted to show the four ladies who had come to class of some super-high level dancers. He wanted them to see that all of the time he spends telling djgotusfallininlove4them about how they need to stay out to the left is not just because it amuses him, but that if they were to get better and ascend the ranks of dancers in the world that staying out to the left actually becomes a necessity. Lord Junior is on the technologically challenged side of things, so even though there is a big TV hanging in the studio, he did not know how to hook his phone up to it and project the video. The all gathered around on one of the couches to lean over the small device and watch. There was not a lot of room in that huddle, so I went out onto the dance floor by myself to spin around and wait until they wrapped up movie time.

Once everyone finished watching the video, they all came out to the floor so that we could start working on things. The dancers in the video had been doing Quickstep, so that was the dance style that we went with, giving the ladies a chance to emulate the things they had seen done. The pattern of figures we ended up with started out pretty simply, but got into a lot of super-fast footwork by the end. We started with a Natural Turn into a Natural Spin Turn – a pretty common and easy way to start any pattern. Then we looked at the V6 figure, first in its by-the-book form, but we ended up changing the last piece of it to make things slightly more complicated. Normally a V6 is a Backward Lock Step going into an Outside Change followed by a Forward Lock (for some reason if you string those three figures together, they are given a whole new name, even though each individual piece already has a name). Lord Junior had us take out the Forward Lock and instead do one slow step forward followed by a quick shift into Promenade Position to do a syncopated Progressive Chasse in Promenade Position.

But wait, the fun was just beginning to start there! At the end of the Progressive Chasse we did two Step Hops, which look exactly like how the name describes them. Hopping rotated us around slightly less than 90° in the process so that when we landed the second time the Lead’s back was to the wall. After that, we did another syncopated Progressive Chasse, this time one moving to the Right down the line of dance. At the end, we did a third Step Hop to turn a full 90° as if we had been in a corner and for good measure we tacked on one last Progressive Chasse, this time moving to the Left again. Because of the rate of speed we were going, Lord Junior decided to have us do this Progressive Chasse in Pepperpot timing rather than syncopated, which allowed us to put the brakes on our movement so that we could end the whole progression safely.

I am super excited for Saturday afternoon. There is going to be some big meeting that the Royal Dance Court (which I am a member of) was asked to come sit in on, allowing us to represent our dance constituents during the discussions. Since Sparkledancer and I are so much younger than everyone else who would be going to this meeting, we were both asked if we could make an appearance. Maybe to shake things up a bit, maybe to learn more about dance politics – I’m not entirely sure what we’ll end up doing. I find dance politics much more interesting than actual politics, so I’m pretty excited to go to this meeting and see what kinds of topics are brought up for the group to talk about. Who knows what kinds of exciting and crazy things will be discussed! I’ll be sure to tell you all about it next week!