Tag Archives: Merengue

Dancing Through The Fire

My weekend started out with a dance party at the Electric Dance Hall. I had been having a bit of a rough week since I had lined up all kinds of major changes in life for myself and I was trying to work through them while minimizing the amount of confrontation involved, so a Friday night dance party was a good way to get myself out of the house to do something fun. The class that was held before the party had covered Cha-Cha, so the DJ made a point to put on quite a few Cha-Cha numbers so that the people who had stuck around after the class could practice what they’d learned. I’ve been having an interesting relationship with Cha-Cha lately. Ms. Possible has taken it upon herself to be my designated Cha-Cha partner whenever she is around. Most of the time, as the nights wear on (and she has more wine), she starts having trouble following what I am doing. I try my best not to vary the figures that I use too much the later at night it gets, in hopes that she will be able to dance with me without making mistakes and then blaming me for doing ‘super fancy’ things, but that doesn’t always work. So a few times when a Cha-Cha came on later in the evening, I tried to be deeply immersed in a conversation with someone so I could avoid dancing.

There was also a new lady at the party that I did spend some time talking to that night, someone who said that she had been to the last couple of parties at the Electric Dance Hall, but I do not remember seeing her at all. She really liked to be at ballroom dance parties, but she didn’t really know how to dance much herself. Never having taken lessons or joined in any roar1group classes, she had only picked up a few things here and there when people at these parties had shown some basic steps to her. She made a habit of running off to stand in front of the mirror by herself whenever a song she really liked came on, just groovin’ in her own way without a partner. I offered to dance with her a couple of times, all of them to slower Rumba songs, but she seemed more content with sitting back and watching others dance rather than participating. Next time I see her at a party, I’ll be sure I recognize her and maybe I’ll try and pull her out onto the floor again to see if she remembers the basic Rumba steps I showed her.

My regular coaching session this past Saturday afternoon started off a bit more interestingly than usual. We got pushed back an hour because Sir Steven told us that the Fancy Dance Hall was allowing a kids’ ballroom boot camp to use their floor in the morning. When I got to the studio a few minutes early to get my shoes on and warm up a bit, I was surprised to find that there were kids everywhere still, and they were nowhere near done with running their rounds. There was an open seat in one of the corners near the door, so I popped a squat and watched things for a while. With so many kids dancing, and the instructor-dude on the side of the room yelling at them to move big and use all the space they could, there was really nowhere safe for someone of my size to do anything. A large chunk of these kids would have barely come up to my waist if they stood next to me, so I was afraid I wouldn’t see them if I started moving around.

It was pretty clear that this class had been pushing these kids pretty hard for quite a while. None of them looked like they were having any fun when I was watching. They all looked sweaty and exhausted, and they only smiled when I made faces at them to specifically try to get them to cheer up a bit. Sure, at the rate they are going, by the time any of them get to be my age I bet they will be super good at dancing… but is that really worth sucking all the fun out of dancing for kids who are still so young? I could only wonder to myself if all the parents sitting and watching from the sidelines were living vicariously through their children because they were too afraid to get on the floor themselves and try dancing.

The rounds finally wrapped up about ten minutes late, and the kids started to filter off the floor to go sit down for a while. Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I took the opportunity to jump in and use the floor space while we had the chance. We started by running through all of our International Standard routines to warm up, like we have been doing for the last few weeks. roar2There were still a number of bodies on the floor who decided that standing around in the middle of the line of dance was as far as they were going to move, so I ended up having to break the Waltz and Tango routines at points to avoid running into anyone. Sparkledancer managed to follow all the changes I made without complaint, so I thought things went well. The Foxtrot and Quickstep routines didn’t have that problem, either because the routines naturally went around the people on the floor or they decided to move for me so that I didn’t have to avoid them. Afterward, Sir Steven told me that the variations I did looked OK, but he joked that he needed to know that I actually remembered the routines and all the changes were done on purpose, or if I just forgot what I was supposed to do and made stuff up. Ha ha… why not both?

After we finished running through all the routines, the kids class wanted to do some additional Latin-style rounds, so they asked us which side of the floor we would be using so that they could stay to the other half and out of our way. Because we were restricted by space, Sir Steven decided to spend a large amount of time going through the swing movements in our International Waltz routine, to make sure our swinging looked more defined. We also went back to go over things in our American Tango routine that we had finished putting together last week, to try to clean the technical aspects up a lot. Our focus was on the first half of the first long wall, ending right after we finished the Viennese Crosses. At the end of our session we spent just a bit of time looking over our American Waltz routine, finally putting in a figure linking the two sections that we had gone over so far, allowing us to practice the routine without having to stop and reset between sections anymore.

The dance party that I had planned to go to on Saturday night over at the Cherished Dance Hall was cancelled. That made me super sad. Apparently there were some things going on in the area of the city where the Cherished Dance Hall is, and they didn’t want people to have to deal with all the confusion, so they just called the party off. Sigh… maybe next month I’ll get to go back there.

Because my plans for Saturday night were unexpectedly cancelled, I was looking forward to the dance party that I was helping to host on Sunday afternoon at the White Dance Hall even more. As a reminder, the Royal Dance Court of which I am a member decided to hold this party to celebrate the end of National Ballroom Dancing Week. We had gone out of our way to send out invites to all corners of the Dance Kingdom, hoping to attract as big a crowd as possible to spend the afternoon having fun. At the beginning of the party, I kind of kicked all the other roar3people out of the reception area and invited Sparkledancer to help me with checking everyone in. I figured people might be surprised to see two “young kids” when they first walked into the party, just to shake things up. Also, secretly, my plan was to use this as a reason to introduce myself and have people tell me their names. All the other long-time members of the Royal Dance Court seem to know everyone, so I thought this would be a good excuse to help me not look dumb. I could either get them to tell me their names, or take a look as they wrote their names down on the sign-in sheet. I’m such a sneaky problem solver, right?

We didn’t have do anything overly fancy for this dance party. There was no lesson beforehand, just good music and hours of dancing. There were some general snacks brought in to help quell any snacky feelings that might arise (yes, I’m going to stand by that statement), and there were a couple of bags filled with some sort of prizes that were raffle off about halfway through the event. The DJ did ask the crowd to do several mixer-style dances, since there were people in attendance from all corners of the Dance Kingdom. Near the end of the party the DJ tried to get everyone to do a Merengue mixer, but some of the dancers had a different idea. They wanted to get a bunch of people to link hands into one big circle and weave everyone underneath people’s arms, kind of like a fancy limbo. The DJ was having none of that, however, and after a few minutes went over to that side of the floor to break up the rather large circle of people to get them to dance with partners instead. I was off on the side of the floor watching while that all went down, trying not to laugh too obviously at everyone.

How many of you know the Samba line dance that seems to be done at every dance event I go to in the Dance Kingdom? I promise this question is related to something, so bear with me… I have gone out to dance parties in other parts of the country (like when I go home to visit my parents), and they don’t do the same version of the Samba line dance there, if they do one at all. The one we do here is an amalgamation of Bronze-level Samba figures that I imagine anyone who had done Samba before would recognize. There are four forward and back Basic Movements, then four Whisks, four traveling Bota Fogos forward, a set of four Voltas that curve to the right which are used to rotate 90° and face the next wall, and finally four non-curved Voltas to the left before you start over from the top.

Have you seen or done this pattern before? It’s pretty straight forward, right?

In Latin Technique class on Monday night Lord Junior wanted to work on Samba. We had a lady who joined us for class that night who confessed to not having done much in the way of Samba, so rather than pick some complicated higher-level figures to work on, Lord Junior decided to have us look at the figures in the line dance and also threw in some variations that we could do to make the line dance more interesting if we so chose. The timing on the figure variations he gave us fits right in with the other steps, so you can do either version while out on the floor with everyone else during a Samba line dance and you shouldn’t throw anyone off (other than when they stop to watch you in amazement because you look so cool, that is).

In the beginning, instead of doing four Basic Movements in a row, cut that down to two and then do two Stationary Samba Walks instead. They should take up the same amount of time and cover the same amount of floor space, so other than looking different from everyone else on the floor, no one should notice. Next up are the Whisks. Here is where you get to do variation based on how advanced you are with Samba, and how safe you feel. You start with two Whisks like normal, and then you can either throw in a Spot Volta in place of the third and come out to do the fourth Whisk, or do three Whisks in a row and replace the fourth with a Spot Volta. If you are super, super advanced (and the song playing isn’t crazy fast), you could replace both the third and fourth Whisks with Spot Voltas. This is a lot harder than it sounds though – the two Spot Voltas rotate in opposite directions, so essentially you have to do one, do a checking motion with your leg to stop your turning abruptly, and then rotate in the other direction for the second. It’s possible to do, and it looks cool if you can do it, though I could only do it while we were practicing with the song slowed down a bit. Once we started doing things up to tempo, I was not able to do both turns and make it look pretty.

Next up are the Bota Fogos. Like the other figures, we still did two like normal, but then the last two were replaced with an Open-level figure that I’m not sure has a name (I can’t find one). You basically do a small side step with your right foot, cross over with your left foot, take another roar4step with the right and then point your left foot forward without transferring weight. All of that should take place in the same amount of time it would take you to do one Bota Fogo, and then you would do the same steps with the opposite feet to replace the second Bota Fogo on the other side. Lastly we come to the Voltas at the end of the line dance pattern. If you come out of the preceding figure and use the first step of the Voltas to do the 90° rotation to face the new wall, you can then do four Spot Voltas that rotate 180° each, and then do four straight Voltas to the left to finish things up before repeating the pattern.

Hopefully these variations will come in handy for you. If you don’t do the Samba line dance at all where you live, maybe you can start it up next time you are out at a dance party now that you know the steps! I would recommend starting everyone off with learning the basic pattern before you try throwing in any of the variation steps, just to keep things as simple as possible when teaching the pattern to the masses, but if you think you can pull it off using the more advanced steps with everyone, more power to you.

So many words, better cut this shorter – I’ve been invited to go out to a rather unique dance party at the Pendulum Dance Hall this weekend. It’s not necessarily a ballroom dancing party, but I don’t know whether I would be able to go anywhere playing dance music and dance anything other than some ballroom style at this point in my life. So we’ll see how things work out for me when I get there. I’ll let you know all about it next week!

Somewhere, Like A Scene From A Memory

So I did manage to get out and dance this weekend. Hooray for earth! That’s really a testament to my team at work and how well they did getting everything done early enough so that we could all go home. When I got home, I debated whether or not it was a good idea to go out again, after not being home for most of the previous 48 hours. But then I thought about how Sparkledancer didn’t have much fun at the last dance party I saw her at, and how I mentioned here that I would make that up to her, so I called her up and asked her if she was up for meeting me at the one dance party going on in town that night at the Cherished Dance Hall. She said yes, so that’s where I ended up. I had planned on just dancing all night with her, not to practice anything or work on any new stuff we had learned, but just to have as much fun as possible. I managed to do that too, for the most part. There were a couple of times where I was made to go dance with other people: the first was when they did a Merengue mixer, which obviously requires everyone to shuffle through partners. The second time was when this older gentleman, who had been following Sparkledancer and I around the floor for a few songs, got in between the two of us MetropolisPt1-1right before an East Coast Swing number and took her away from me kind of rudely. I recognized the gentleman too – this was the same guy who, a while back, decided to tell Sparkledancer all about how she walked incorrectly. I’m not sure if he remembered that incident or not, but I certainly did (and I have written documentation to help back up my memory, which helps make sure I’m not just making stuff up). I guess that we have been able to make some progress in our dancing since that time though. At the end of the night, when we were changing our shoes to leave, he came over to talk with Sparkledancer again. Since I was sitting next to her, he talked to me as well. He told us that we were pretty good, which was a big surprise, and then asked us how long each of us have been dancing. We told him that it’s been slightly less than four years for both of us, and when Sparkledancer asked how long he had been dancing he told us that it had been over seventy years for him. There was some of the stuff he said that I couldn’t quite understand, and I’m pretty sure he couldn’t hear either of us very well when we talked to him, but it was a much nicer conversation this time around for Sparkledancer than the last one he had with her. That along with all the dancing we did helped make it a pretty nice night.

There was one sad item that did come up while we were there though. During the break in the middle of the night, the DJ spoke to everyone and brought up again a member of the local dance community who had fallen really ill. A few weeks ago, I attended a different dance party where the DJ had first mentioned the ailments of this sick individual, and all the bad luck that had followed along with the sickness. This time the story took on an even more sad theme. I guess the infection has gotten much worse, and they are not sure if she is going to get better or not. At the last party, the DJ said that half of the money collected at the door and any additional monies given would be donated to help stave off the medical bills that this dancer was incurring. This time, she mentioned that the dancer had two cats, no children, and a spouse that had passed away a few years back. They were again collecting money that night to donate, but this time most of the money would be going to help take care of the cats, who were currently being cared for at a shelter that was charging some fee per day, and if their owner did not end up recovering, they may never be able to return home. Well, that just about tore up my heart-strings (it even makes me sad thinking about it now). I could feel my cat sitting on my shoulder, butting her head into mine and whispering in my ear that those cats deserved to eat the ritziest bitz that money could buy, so once again I just emptied out all the cash I had in my wallet into the collection bowl. If there wasn’t a hard limit on the number of cats I could have in my apartment, I would have probably stopped and asked about taking them in too, because I’m a sucker for sad animals.

Hrmm… let’s talk about something less depressing now.

I’m super happy to report that I finally managed to break the 200lb threshold I’ve never been able to hit before. It has taken almost seven weeks of lifting much heavier weights than I would have otherwise (and increasing the weight whenever physically possible), and eating a lot more food than I ever have before in my life. Before you look at me cross-eyed for being excited about my weight increasing, let me clarify that I now weigh over 200lbs, but still easily wear the same size pants I did when I finished high school, when I weighed between 135-140lbs. My shirts are about the same size too, but they are much tighter across my chest and shoulders now than they were before (as you can imagine). So far I am only feeling the extra muscle mass when I try to do certain things while dancing. For example, bending my shoulders continues to be a problem, as I have lost some more flexibility just because of the added mass that is now in the way. Sometimes when Sir Steven is pushing my arms to try to get them into certain shapes, it is almost painful because they just don’t bend like that anymore. On my off day I have been setting aside some time to stretch, just to try to keep as much flexibility as I can during this bulking phase I am in. There’s also a lot more strength in my legs than there was before. Recently, we were working on some figure in Tango, and Sir Steven was holding my foot down and telling me to push off from my standing leg harder than I was to demonstrate something, so I did what he asked and flicked my foot against the floor and almost knocked him down in the process. I’ve been wondering about what dancing would be like when I finish up with this experiment I’ve been running. Will I start putting crazy lifts into everything, even my social dancing, because I will be so much stronger and everyone I dance with will feel so light? Will random ladies start feeling me up again like they used to when I started dancing, because I have an odd physique for a male dancer? Will I start flexing involuntarily when I am told to strike a dance line to show off all sorts of muscle definition at the same time? We’ll have to see!

…hopefully that tangent was random enough to change the mood a bit.

Latin Technique class this week covered Cha-Cha, and was used basically to show people that they needed to move faster than they think for a lot of steps. Seriously, the pattern that was put together wasn’t all that difficult, but if you weren’t paying attention to the music as Lord Junior started having the tempo turned up to normal, you weren’t going to make it through all the steps in time. We also went through a lot of different chasse varieties in this progression, which is always a lot of fun. The pattern started with a normal starter step to the left going into a basic chasse to the right. From there we went into a forward check and come out at an angle to bring the ladies into Fan Position while the men did a Cuban Check chasse. Coming out of Fan Position he had the ladies go into an Alemana with a Forward Lock to end up at the man’s right side. While they did that, originally Lord Junior was going to have the men just do a stationary chasse, but after he tried demonstrating the figure with one of the ladies in class he changed that to have us do a Slip Chasse, because he said that’s what he normally always did while bringing a lady out of Fan Position, and trying to do a stationary chasse instead was going to make him mess things up every time he went through the steps. With the ladies on our right side, we did an Opening Out action, releasing the ladies so that they could do an overturned Hip Twist chasse across our bodies while the men did a Ronde chasse. From there we ended things by sending the ladies back out into Fan Position while the men did a Hip Twist chasse of our own. After everyone was pretty comfortable with the pattern, Lord Junior started to turn the tempo up on the music from the 75% where MetropolisPt1-2we started until we got up to about 95% at the end of class. Merlot was struggling with the timing on one of my last times dancing through with her – she said she felt like we were doing two different things the whole time, and I told her that the music was moving a lot faster than she was going. Before rotating to the next partner, I started the pattern again with her while counting aloud to the beat so she would be able to see and hear how fast she needed to go. She looked really shocked when we had to stop and said really loudly that it was really fast, which made everyone laugh. I must also say that Hips McGee was in his element that night. I could see his hips moving in time to the beat from the other side of the building. He must be double jointed there or something, because I don’t think that I could ever get my white boy hips to move like that, even in my dreams!

Then in Standard Technique this week I got to work on some Waltz. We started off the night focusing on the correct way to accomplish an Outside Spin, but ended the night focusing on doing the Hover Corte figure that had been added into our MetropolisPt1-3amalgamation. I will tell you, though the Hover Corte seems like a fairly simple figure of three steps, if you hold that figure for an extra three count as you do the body rotation it becomes much more difficult to make it look good and maintain your balance. That’s probably why it’s a Gold-level figure… Anyway, what we ended up with by the time class was over was to start facing diagonal wall, then do a prep step into a Natural Turn. Next came an Overturned Spin Turn, this one overturned enough to go a whole circle and end with us moving backing line of dance. Coming out of the turn we put in the Hover Corte, at first just using one measure of music to complete the step, but near the end adding in the extra three beats to rotate from Promenade Position into normal dance frame and step out in CBMP. Next came the Outside Spin. We did a full turn with this as well, doing 3/8 of a turn with the first pivot, another 3/8 of a turn on the second step to the side, and the final quarter turn as we lowered out of the third step. Coming out of the Outside Spin we went into another Natural Turn and Overturned Spin Turn just like we had done earlier to end with us moving backing line of dance again, and then we went into a Turning Lock to the Right that had us finish up in Promenade Position moving toward diagonal center. Lord Junior said that coming out like that would allow us to go into whatever we wanted next like a Progressive Chasse, so sometimes as we danced through the figure everyone would end by going into the chasse, but other times we would just bring our feet together in a normal Change Step and stop smoothly.

Things should be back to normal this weekend. It looks like there aren’t a ton of options for dancing since there is a big competition going on a few hours from the Dance Kingdom that many people will be participating in, so for the one dance party option that I see of interest for Friday and Saturday nights there may be a small crowd. That may leave plenty of space out on the floor for you to fill in if you want to come out and dance. I hope to see you there!

‘Round The Outside, ‘Round The Outside

My coaching session this past Saturday started out kind of rocky. I got to the Endless Dance Hall early and changed my shoes, and was just waiting around while Sir Steven finished up with his previous client so that we could get started. When Sparkledancer got there and got her dance shoes on, we started to go over some things against the far wall, out-of-the-way of everything else going on. Before we could get started with our session with Sir Steven, one of the organizers at the Endless Dance Hall said that there was an event that was scheduled to use the building for the rest of the afternoon, starting right when we would have otherwise started our work! Well, that kind of threw things off. Sir Steven made a quick phone call, and then came and told us that we could move over to the Electric Dance Hall instead, unless we wanted to reschedule. Both Sparkledancer and I were fine with making the trip to the other end of the Kingdom, so we dispersed and met there to start going over things.

We ended up spending much of our time on Waltz. There is a Spin Turn at the beginning of each of the long walls, and we worked on getting to the point where we are actually moving down the line of dance as we do the turn as opposed to staying in place, or even sometimes backtracking a bit. In addition to that, I also got picked on to make sure that I didn’t do any rotation at all on the first step of anything. This makes the rotation needed on the second step much more prominent, so sometimes I might have turned a bit too hard to make things work… this is an idea that we had been working on in Foxtrot previously, but now I’m told to start using it in Waltz and Tango as well. At the time, I didn’t think to ask if I should also apply this technique in Viennese Waltz, but as I write this all down I am curious as to whether it would even work, or if things are just moving too fast so that idea gets thrown out the window. I’ll have to make a note to remember to ask about it next time I see Sir Steven. We were only about halfway through things when Lord Junior had some of his students show up for a lesson. We had switched over to work on Foxtrot when they started out, and since we had music on Lord Junior had them start looking at Foxtrot as well. Based on what they were doing, it looked like they had just started learning Foxtrot, since they were still walking in a straight line down the line of dance. Lord Junior told them that we would be traveling around the outside of the floor WithoutMe1as we danced, so they would be safe staying more toward the middle of the room. I heard him tell them that it was good advice to remember if they started to attend social dance parties as well – the more experienced dancers would go around them easier if they stayed near the middle. To not prove him wrong, I made sure to give them a wide berth as we worked through things.

Sunday afternoon I had heard about a party being held at the White Dance Hall, so I decided to take a dance field trip up to that location. It has been a while since I have gone to that venue, so I made the trip to meet up with some people just like we did last time. There was no lesson being offered before the dance this week, so everything was just for fun. We ended up making a spot for ourselves in the back corner, right about in the same spot we were in last time we all came here (at “the kids table” as someone called it). There wasn’t a specific theme for this party like there was last time, but they were really pushing the idea of getting everyone to go out and meet everyone else during the dance. The DJ did several different things to try to promote this behavior – there was the expected Foxtrot mixer, which WithoutMe2seems to show up during every big dance party. There was also a Merengue mixer, where the DJ had all the organizers of the event come out to the floor and then go out to the audience seated on the outskirts and pull people in. Every time they called to change partners, the people on the floor were told to go grab someone from the outside until everyone was on the floor, and then they could grab someone else already on the floor. I got picked up really early for this one. I happened to be sitting in the seat at our table that was closest to the dance floor, so I was the easiest to grab of the four of us sitting there. They also did a mixer that ran similar to the Merengue one, but to East Coast Swing instead. Again, being the closest one to the dance floor, I was out on the floor long before the others were grabbed by someone. Next time I end up at the White Dance Hall, I am going to remember to have someone else sit on that side of the table to make up for them not being picked so easily this time.

The dance party was good though. Despite all the DJ’s comments about getting the crowd to meet each other, people sort of self-selected the groups of people they associated with throughout the afternoon. Since those of us at sitting at the ‘kids table’ were soooo much younger than everyone else, the older crowd kept out of our way both when we were on the dance floor and when we weren’t. I think that we terrified some of them when we were dancing together. Both Sparkledancer and Diane are fairly tall with long legs, so I am able take something more akin to my natural stride when dancing with either of them. My natural stride far outpaced what most of the older people were doing, so I could easily pass everyone else as we traveled around the floor. I probably could have pulled that back a little, but it is so much more comfortable for me to dance taking a more natural-sized step than it is for me to take tiny steps. I tried to WithoutMe3stay either on the outside or inside track of everyone else so that I could maneuver without worrying too much about running into anyone. At one point, just for fun, Sparkledancer and I danced a Cha-Cha where we purposefully took really tiny baby steps to keep things as small as possible, just to see what it was like. We didn’t do anything fancy during that dance because we were laughing too hard at ourselves. Lord Junior showed up after the party had started, and he had his really young daughter in tow. She really enjoys going out on the floor and dancing with him, which involves a lot of spinning on her part (and a lot of bending over on his part, since he is way taller than her). It’s pretty easy to see that she is already a better dancer than I will probably ever be, and she’s more than twenty-five years younger than me.

I wonder how much better I would be at dancing if I had started out at a much younger age…

Monday’s Latin Technique class went a lot differently than I expected. I got there a bit early to change my shoes and stretch a little bit. Sparkledancer and Bony arrived about the same time I did, so we were just chatting and stretching out before things started. Lord Junior came over and told us that there was someone new who had stopped by earlier in the evening, and said he was going to come back for the class, and that he wanted to work on Salsa. Since I generally avoid Club Latin-style dances, I wasn’t sure what I was going to be getting myself into. When the guy who had requested the Salsa lesson arrived, he came with an entourage – a girl (who was apparently his sister) and another guy. His two companions just sat in a couple of chairs against the wall and watched the whole time, sometimes laughing if one of us did or said something funny enough to warrant laughter. Not knowing much about this new student’s dance background, Lord Junior picked a couple of figures to work on that seem simple enough from the outset, but had some tricks needed to keep things from being crazy. We started with the Natural Top, a figure that I’ve done lots of times in Rumba and Cha-Cha, but never looked at in Salsa (or Mambo, I guess would be the place I’d actually WithoutMe4likely see it). We spent a bit of time working on the basic footwork because the other guy in class had never done anything like this before, but once he got that worked out he seemed to do okay. Coming out of the Natural Top, Lord Junior had us stop with the Lead’s right foot crossed in front of the left so that we could then move into an Opening Out. This was a closed position Opening Out, different from how I usually do things in Rumba, but a similar idea. I was more worried about what to do with my white-boy hips than I probably should have been at first, trying to force more motion from them than was necessary. Lord Junior said that it actually made me look like I had more of a white-boy hip problem doing things like that, so I had to take it down a couple of notches. I should get points for trying though, right? We ended things by closing the Opening Out with a Cross-Body Lead with an Inside Turn, allowing us to start over from the top.

At the end of class, Lord Junior kept talking to the guy about how the Natural Top figure was good for him to know because it worked for a lot of things. Before we could get off the floor and change our shoes, Lord Junior called Sparkledancer and me out to show how the same thing worked in Cha-Cha. I had thought he was just referring to the Natural Top, since that was what I had heard him talking about, so that’s all I did. He told me when I finished that I could have ended things using the same pieces we used to end the pattern in Salsa. I probably should have asked before I did anything to make sure I was on the same page as him, but I just did things instead. Ah well, it made the point well enough that I wasn’t asked to demonstrate anything else. Before leaving the dance hall for the night, I stopped to ask Lord Junior what was going on for Friday night. Lord Junior had mentioned that he will be at a competition over the weekend with a couple of his students, so I wanted to make sure the place would still be open before I showed up on Friday and was all alone. Lord Junior said that he would be leaving early in the evening, but there would still be classes and a social dance that night.

That was good to hear. Without dancing to do on a Friday night, I would probably just sit and be sad outside the door to the dance hall, not knowing what else to do with myself.

It’s A Repeat Of A Story Told

So… there was this show on that someone told me I really needed to watch. I don’t watch much TV in general, but I relented and have seen a couple of the episodes of it. As you can imagine, since I’m mentioning here, the show was ThrowAwayYourTelevision1related to ballroom dancing. You may have also seen it, and know exactly what I’m talking about – the basic premise is that the cameras are following around these amateur dancers as they prepare for, and then take part in, ballroom dancing competitions in whatever Pro-Am categories they dance in (a lot of the people they were following in the episodes I watched seemed to be dancing International Latin, but there were a couple who danced in the ballroom-style categories as well). There were scenes of these people taking lessons, getting ready to perform, on-camera monologues where they talked about their thoughts on the scenes that had just been shown, montages of their performances during the competitions, and the show usually ended after we saw how they placed in the competition and they gave closing remarks describing how they felt about the results. Not exactly the most groundbreaking layout for a reality show, but it was a show that really showed how actual competitions worked, as opposed to the show that only displays showcase-style performances with only one couple on the floor at a time; you know, the show that most people will refer to when you tell them that you do ballroom dancing as a hobby.

Now it may just be me, but after seeing the few episodes of the show I watched, I didn’t think that the way these amateur competitors talked about their hobby really made the rest of us in this world look that good. Many people wanted to talk about how fierce they were, which, to me seems like a strange attitude to have while participating in a ballroom dancing competition. One lady compared herself to a type of dog to emphasize her ferocity out on the dance floor. All I could think was that she must go out on the floor and growl at other competitors who get too close to her, a thought which made me laugh to myself (if I don’t laugh at my own jokes, no one else will). A couple of the ladies made it sound like this was a hobby that really only caters to rich people (seriously, there are people who spend $60,000 to $70,000 a year on dance lessons?!?). And one of the biggest thing that struck me was that almost all of the people they were following around talked about being injured. Ballroom dancers must be incredibly fragile people if all the amateur dancers they could find who were interesting enough to film all had to deal with these serious injuries, or had to quit dancing for a few years because they hurt themselves that badly. That can’t really be representative of the whole dance population, can it?

Now, I understand that this was a reality show, and part of what they do is to seek out drama in order to make the show interesting enough for the average person to watch. I imagine certain parts of the show were scripted to make the people’s lives seem more complicated than they actually were, because people who don’t know about dancing might not follow what they are talking about otherwise. Still, I wonder if these people think about things the way I’m seeing them. I can certainly understand the parts where they talk about how their lives are so committed to the pursuit of this hobby. I have met people in my travels that are so focused on training for competitions, and they even really try to avoid dancing with anyone who is not a professional because of that. But in doing so, are these people missing out on (what I see as) one of the big aspects involved with partner dancing: the social interaction? While the dance styles themselves have been formalized and documented over the years, we still impart the knowledge of this art form to one another by sharing the things that we know when we dance together. Think about all the times that you have been at a social dance and you have tried to explain a figure to someone who didn’t know what you were doing, or those times when you were in a group class with other students and you helped show someone the figure everyone was working on in a different way because they were struggling with picking up on what the instructor was saying. Yes, there is a lot to be said about learning how to dance in a formalized setting, especially if you want to do competitions – professionally trained Dance Lords and Ladies know what the judges will be looking for, and will show you what you need to improve. But there is this vast body of knowledge and experience that I think one would really struggle to pick up without interacting with lots of people in the Dance Kingdom, professionals and non-professionals alike.

Anyway… that kind of went off on a tangent. Where was I going with this… oh yeah – the way I learn things seems far less refined than what was depicted on the show. Sir Steven tries to explain things to me in a way that makes the concept stick with me, often by describing it in a way that is rather absurd. Take some recent examples of concepts that we are working on – we’ve spent a lot of time recently working on Mambo, since it’s been a long time since I’ve really had to dance Mambo. As I’ve said before, one of the things I tend to try to avoid at social dances is doing Salsa and Mambo (and Merengue, and Bachata – all of the dances that are in that ‘Club Latin’ genre). So now that we’ve been putting together routines for the American Rhythm category, I’ve had to start actually spending time on Mambo again. One technique for Mambo that Sir Steven has really been pushing for me to do is to make sure that with almost every step that I take, my knees are really bent and I’m digging myself into the floor. One day, as we were working on putting some shine chases together for our routine, he told me that I should be dancing Mambo as though I had a bunch of children on my shoulders. These children, as he explained, are really short and don’t want to get stepped on, but they still want to participate during the Mambo, so they all had to climb up to sit on my shoulders during the song. Now their weight is pulling me down into the floor and causing my knees to buckle. That is what he told me I should imagine while I’m working on my routine, to make sure that my legs look right.

Of course, nothing really helps if I HAVE NO KNEES TO BEND!!!

Of course, nothing really helps if I HAVE NO KNEES TO BEND!!!

Another example (because it’s silly and I like to share) – the last couple of weeks he has also had Sparkledancer and I spend some time really working on just walking around together, to improve how we look during our American Smooth dances. This has involved really focusing to make sure that both of us are standing with excellent posture, and learning to connect with each other using the lower right-hand side of my abdomen against her. This really forces me to drive what she is doing using my body as opposed to my arms. The way this was presented to me was that he told me to pretend like Sparkledancer is a ghost – I should be walking, making sure to always drive where I’m going ThrowAwayYourTelevision3with that portion of my abdomen, and attempt to walk through her rather than with (or in some cases, around) her like I had been doing. She will be able to feel the direction I want her to go because I will essentially be pushing her to go in that direction, and it leaves the upper portion of my torso free to focus on how I need to shape my body. Obviously it’s a little weird to walk around that closely with someone, so it’s lucky that Sparkledancer and I are such good friends or it would get uncomfortable. It’s not the type of dance frame I would use during a social dance with ladies that I have just met. I don’t usually get that friendly with people until after I’ve talked with them a few times.

And that’s what strikes me as the obvious difference between what I saw of these people taking lessons and what happens during the time that I take lessons. I don’t want to say that the stuff that I do isn’t serious, but when I reflect on it (or go back and read things that I’ve written in the past), the things that I do don’t seem nearly as serious as the people in that show seem to imply that they are. I prefer to keep things much more lighthearted. If I had to classify my dancing, I would call it… serious enough. I do put a lot of work into dancing, and I try my best to keep improving while I’m young and athletic enough to actually keep improving. But I don’t think I would feel good about spending $60,000 to $70,000 a year on dance lessons. I don’t know if I can really fault the girl who said she did though, because if she only dances with her instructor, then she would have to pay for his time if she wants to practice. The nice thing about having a partnership with another amateur dancer is that if either of us wants to put in extra time practicing things that we just learned, we just have to coordinate our schedules and meet up somewhere to do that. It works really well if you also like to go out to random social dances around the Dance Kingdom – the party also gives you an excuse to practice together if you both happen to be there. In my case, since I’m the lead I could theoretically practice my routines with any lady who is able to follow what I’m doing, but I try not to do that too often. It makes me feel like I am using the lady for my own benefit without her getting anything out of the arrangement.

Then again, I also straddle the edge between being a social dancer and being a competitor. Lord Junior has told me before that I frustrate him sometimes because I like going to competitions, but I don’t like doing it all the time, and I could be so much better if I just threw out all my social dance habits and focused purely on learning proper technique for competitions for a while. I don’t know… what do you think? Did I really just spend too much time thinking about how my personal philosophy of dance compares to events in a reality show?

Probably. Let’s see what else is on…