There’s No Need To Ask Directions If You Ever Lose Your Mind

Man, Saturday night… Saturday night… you know what? Let’s have a bit of a discussion for a few minutes, because some things from Saturday night are driving me a bit nuts.

Friday night and Saturday morning I was having kind of a grumpy time, so on Saturday I decided to get out of the house and go to a movie, get some dinner and then go to a dance party to try to turn things around. I went and saw a movie that was childish and hilarious to make myself laugh, and then ate a bunch of food that wasn’t exactly made out of items from my normal strict diet when I’m doing a bunch of weight training, and then I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall because I had heard that a party was going to be happening there that night. When I got there, Lord Junior had just started giving a class in East Coast Swing, and there were more women than men, so I changed my shoes quickly and jumped in the line to help out.

I didn’t recognize a lot of the women that I danced with during the class. I thought it was just me at first, since it has been a long time since I have been to a social dance like this, but when I started talking to the ladies I found out that many of them hadn’t been dancing for long, and more than a couple of them were just coming out for the first time that night. Then I didn’t feel quite so bad for not recognizing them. There were a lot of young, single, attractive ladies at this party, and I was actually quite surprised that HotDog wasn’t around that night. He always seems to show up for parties when young, single, attractive ladies are in attendance and then proceeds to be a creep trying to hit on them all night. I would have thought that his warning system would have been going off, telling him that he was missing out.

(What would he call his warning system? Babe-dar? Hottie-sense? I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere that I’m missing…)

But even though HotDog wasn’t there to bother these young ladies that night, there were two other culprits that were doing the bothering in his place. One of those men I have actually written about before. It took me a bit to find it, but remember Mr. Grouchy-Face? Yeah, he was one of the two. The other guy was actually given a nickname by a couple of the girls that night. They were calling him ‘Vader’ because he was really tall and they didn’t think he was very pleasant. I’m sure you can figure out the reference. The name was funny to me, so I’m going to use it here.

I don’t know exactly what it was that these two guys were doing, but it was creepy enough to make these young women avoid them. They were even hiding from them. Seriously! Let me tell you, there were several points during the few hours that I was at this party that I actually had women hiding behind me, as if I were a tree or something. Not just one or two women, but several of them used me as a shield to avoid one or the other of these two men throughout the evening as the guys were walking around looking for a partner to dance with when a new song came on.

Beast mode.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a part of me that felt really good being used like that. After all, A) that tells me that through all the heavy weight lifting I have done, I have gotten to be huge enough that women can hide from view behind me, which makes me feel like a total beast, and B) what man doesn’t like the white knight feeling of helping out a woman in need? But it also makes me feel terrible as a guy when I hear that other guys are making these girls feel this way.

It’s unfortunate that there are so many fewer men in the ballroom community than there are women, because that allows guys like these to develop a overinflated sense of importance through lack of competitive selection pressure. A lot of women will avoid directly confronting these men and telling them how they feel, because the women just want a chance to dance with someone during the evening rather than sitting out on the sidelines. I have heard the complaints from lots of ladies, because I can dance and talk to them at the same time (it’s a skill, like walking and chewing gum), and the women will tell me that there are some men that they don’t like dancing with very much. Yet I still sometimes see those same ladies accept dances with the men they complained about if offered.

Another complaint that I have heard about often over the many years that I have been dancing (I’m getting old, aren’t I?) is of older men who must feel like it is their duty to teach things to younger ladies at a social dance, even if the lady did not ask for the instruction. It’s one thing to repeat a figure that didn’t go so well if the lady asks you to try it again, but it’s something else entirely to pull her aside during or after a song to try to impart your knowledge to her, especially while her eyes are darting back and forth like a cornered prey animal that is trying to find an escape route.

The worst case of this I ever saw was a few years ago. An International Viennese Waltz came on, and people who wanted to do the dance started to pair off and take to the floor. One guy went over to a young girl and asked her if she wanted to do the dance with him. She said no, not because she didn’t want to, but because she didn’t know how to do Viennese Waltz. A pretty valid reason for turning him down, one would think. Right?

Wrong. Rather than go off to find another partner, this guy decided that he would show her how to dance the Viennese Waltz, and began to teach it to her right in the line of dance! He wasn’t following the line of dance however, just going back and forth on one of the short walls, stopping to talk to the girl when she invariably did the steps wrong. Other couples, many who were not all that good with floorcraft, were forced to try to go around the stopped couple to avoid having a collision. It was really a dangerous situation. Luckily no one got hurt, but that could have ended very badly.

I don’t want to stereotype here, but all of the times that I see this sort of ‘unrequested teaching’ occur, it always seems to be old men trying to teach young ladies things. I wonder why that is? Is it because these men feel good about themselves when they get to impart their knowledge to the next generation? Is it because the women closer to their age don’t allow these men to instruct them, while younger women will often naturally defer to their elders and just go along with it to avoid confrontation? Is there some kind of fantasy going on in the older guy’s head about having a hot young lady, who he would normally never be able to date, giving him her full attention for the duration of the song and possibly afterward until another man comes to take her away for a dance?

I’m a firm believer that a social dance is not a place to try to give instruction, especially if your partner did not ask for help. I might be able to spot you an exception if someone asks you to help them and the two of you retreat off the floor so that you can show them what they want to know, but the middle of a social dance floor should really be off limits. And if your partner doesn’t ask you for help, you shouldn’t put forth the effort to try and be a teacher. Also, if their body language says that they don’t want to be there with you, you should just leave them alone and go find someone else to dance with.

That last point… I cringe sometimes when I see young ladies dancing with a guy like Vader, and their body language makes it super obvious that they don’t want to be there anymore. One time I saw him trying to dance a Latin dance – had to be a Rumba or a Merengue – with two different young ladies at once. Both of them had a look on their face that was more like a grimace than a smile, and shortly after that dance was over one of those women left the party entirely.

Are a lot of men clueless about facial expressions and body language? It looked really obvious to me, but I don’t know how Vader missed that. Plus, there were two ladies giving those looks, so that means he had twice the number of opportunities to pick up on it! If I saw my partner making a face like that, I would have to ask them what’s up because I would know that something is not making her happy. After all, the three major rules about social dancing that I was taught were A) to keep my Follower safe, B) keep her  secure and C) keep her entertained. Body language is a great cue to tell me whether I am succeeding at rule C or not.

Doesn’t that feel like common knowledge? This makes me wonder if some people need classes on dance etiquette, where points like this would be discussed. Maybe something that seems like common sense to me just doesn’t cross other people’s minds. Even simple things like keeping your dance contained to keep other dancers near you safe. That seems like an obvious thing that I should always be doing at a social dance, but I know a few dancers who will do dangerous things, like always throwing out their arms behind them when doing New Yorkers no matter how crowded the dance floor is. Can they really not see that as a potential hazard? Should there be a class that tells you not to do things like that unless you know the space around you is clear?

Anyway… I got a bit sidetracked. What was I talking about before? Oh yeah… to top it all off (and this one’s a doozy), I was told a story at the end of the night on Saturday from one girl. For a little background, this girl had decided to start dancing only about two months ago, as she told me. Not being able to afford private lessons on her salary, she has been going to the newcomer group classes and picking things up as best that she can. She told me that dancing was something that she always loved to watch, and this summer she finally felt brave enough to go out and give it a try to see if she could do more than just watch from the sidelines. Good for her, right?

At the dance party that evening, Vader asked her to dance with him. I’m not sure what style they were doing, but keep in mind that this girl has only had two months of beginner classes at the Electric Dance Hall since she started dancing. The beginner classes that the Electric Dance Hall holds teach the same dance style for the whole month, and this girl has only gone to one class a week, so as far as my math knows, she would have had real experience with two just different dance styles from the beginner classes, plus that crash in East Coast Swing she got in the class right before the party that night started.

After the dance she did with Vader was over, apparently he told her as they were walking off the floor that the dance did not go well. He said that she needed to go home and watch some videos on the Internet to learn the basics of the dance styles before he would ever dance with her again.

Noooooooo… I can’t believe what I’m hearing!

Yeah. He really told her that. What. An. Ass.

Seriously, what in the world is going through his brain that made him think it would be OK to say that to any dance partner he has, let alone a young girl who is still a dance newcomer? Why in the world does he think that he is such a good dancer, and thus allowed to pass judgement on others at a social dance?

Ugh… he was lucky that the girl told me about this at the end of the night after Vader had already gone home. If he had still been around, I probably would have been tempted to go over and break off his robotic hand before frying him with some lightning… or something like that. Hopefully that joke works. I’m pretty sure that’ happened in the movie. Honestly, I think I was a teenager the last time I saw it, so I could be totally wrong. But please don’t yell at me if I’m wrong! My nerd credentials are probably very different from yours, and I’m OK with that.

Anyway… other dance stuff happened this week, but this has been consuming my thoughts since Saturday night. Writing it all out helps, so hopefully it will all be laid to rest now (at least until the next time some guy does something stupid that really bothers me). I did go back through and proofread this and added in a bunch of jokes that hopefully make this post sound less angry, because my first draft felt awfully bitter. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled discussion of dance events next week. Until then, keep dancing!

And guys – let’s all promise each other that we will be good Leaders this week. Maybe working together we can make up for these few bad eggs that are out there.


To The Window, To The Wall

 When I finished up my lesson with Lord Dormamu on Saturday morning, I felt… surprisingly good about my dancing.

  Things just seemed to start off on the correct foot that day. I got to the Fancy Dance Hall early, as usual, to warm up. Sparkledancer and I decided to spend most of our time that morning warming up with Waltz, even though we both were pretty sure that when Lord Dormamu finished up with his current lesson he was going to come over and have us work on Foxtrot. That was a correct assumption, so we ran through our entire Foxtrot routine for the first time that morning while under the scrutinizing eye of Lord Dormamu. Turns out that he thought our first run of the routine was the best that he’s ever seen us dance a Foxtrot. He even had us run through it again and got Sir Steven to stop teaching the other student he was with for a few minutes to watch us.

  I didn’t think it felt all that different from what we normally do, but Lord Dormamu was so excited! I even got one extremely positive comment that gave me something to look forward to – as I mentioned, when we started working on Foxtrot with Lord Dormamu, he was telling me that when I danced he wanted me to stay extremely low, almost like getting into a Yoga Chair Pose and then trying to dance. A month and a half ago I had compared dancing Foxtrot in that position to doing the prisyadka, and I still find that comparison to be accurate. During our lesson that day, Lord Dormamu was once again telling me that I needed to get down into the lowest squat I could while still being able to move my legs and dance the routine.

  After a couple of times running through the first part of the routine that day with Lord Dormamu pushing on my shoulders to lower me even further toward the floor, he gave me a break for a minute and told me that no matter what anyone else said about how weird it looked to be dancing Foxtrot in this manner, I needed to keep working on this technique for the time being to make my movement in Foxtrot better. He compared the technique to what he had me do with my head back in March, telling me to keep my nose in line with my sternum to ‘reset’ all the bad habits I had of moving my head around while dancing. It took a few weeks, but after he considered me to be reset to a new default, I was then told to start putting my head in the right position.

  Lord Dormamu’s comment that day was that dancing while being so low to the ground in Foxtrot is not the correct way I should dance. He knows this to be true, other judges will know this, so if I hear instructors make comments about me looking weird, they aren’t wrong. He told me that this exercise is like a doctor giving me medication to cure a sickness. Sure there might be a side effect that no one likes (i.e. me being so low to the ground), but once the sickness is cured then I won’t have to be on the medicine any longer and the side effects will go away, meaning that I will get to come up to a more reasonable height while dancing.

  That is definitely something to look forward to for me. Also… since the ‘sickness’ that he’s curing is the movement of my Foxtrot, does that make it… motion sickness?

  Why yes, I totally did just high-five myself for typing that.

  After Lord Dormamu got us through our movement drills (or got tired trying to fight against my strong legs when he was pushing me down), he had us focus on the Three Step for quite a while. He said that although it is one of the first steps in International Foxtrot that anyone learns, and it is only three steps down the line of dance, the Three Step is one of the hardest figures to master. What he asked us to do was to go slow and pause and balance with every step, giving him a chance to adjust our position if needed and really lock in the feeling of each position before moving to the next step.

  This… was harder than I would have thought. I will admit that working on the isometric portion of Yoga is not my favorite thing to do for a lot of positions. I enjoy the flow and the movement, but holding really uncomfortable positions for long periods of time is something I will actively avoid if I can get away with it. Dancing through the Three Step slow like we were was a lot like only doing the isometric portion of a Yoga routine.

  The second step was really what caused us all the problems. Lord Dormamu wanted me to work on sliding my left foot forward as much as possible in the step, so I would end up with both my left and right legs almost completely straight, still low to the ground, and also trying to twist my upper body to create the right-side sway I should have. Then on top of that, he wanted me to hold that position, maintain my balance, and add in Sparkledancer to the mix and allow her to make micro-adjustments to her position to get in her proper place without knocking me over!
  We worked on this for probably twenty minutes. Ten minutes in, Lord Dormamu got a phone call he had to take, so he left us to work on it on our own for a little while. That was probably for the best, since it allowed me to curse about what we were trying to do without him listening. When he got back and continued to watch and comment on what we were doing, he told us that this was something we should set aside time to work on during our practice sessions. He made sure to say that he realized what we were doing was terrible when going so slow (he had to go through this exercise quite a bit himself over the years), but going slowly is really the best way to practice everything.

  Finishing up, Lord Dormamu had Sparkledancer and I meet him in the office to sign the paperwork for our lesson and schedule our next session. As we were each going through our calendars to find a time that worked for all three of us, Lord Dormamu called Sir Steven in to the office as well. He took some time to go over with Sir Steven what we had just done, and told him to continue to avoid working on Foxtrot for the time being. That day he specifically wanted Sir Steven to spend time with us focusing on getting Sparkledancer to extend her body even further out away from mine to create as much volume as possible. The slight look of panic on Sparkledancer’s face when she heard that comment was enough to let me know that she was super excited about that.

  As soon as we finished with all the paperwork, Sparkledancer and I were back out on the floor to work with Sir Steven. He decided to have us work with the Waltz while working on Sparkledancer’s position while in frame. I think my Saturday was all about fun times while moving slow…

  One of the notes that I made after the lesson was over was about a story that Sir Steven told me while working on Sparkledancer’s position. Sir Steven said that I really needed to make sure that I kept myself as straight as possible when Sparkledancer is trying to create volume with her frame, and not to try to ‘help out’ by pulling my upper body away from hers. He has seen me doing that before, so he wanted to squelch the behavior before he sees me doing it again unintentionally. This behavior was something that he himself got yelled at for doing in the past, so he knows firsthand that I shouldn’t be doing it.

  The story goes that some undisclosed time ago, Sir Steven was working with the Princess on his own dancing as he was getting ready to do a competition with his professional partner. In the middle of the dance, the Princess stopped him to ask him what he was doing. Not knowing what she was talking about, he just stared at her blankly until she pointed out that he was leaning his upper body away from her during the figure they were dancing. He said that he was just trying to increase their look and volume during the step, and she just stopped him and said “We can’t both be flowers. I’m supposed to be the pretty flower opening up away from you. Are you a pretty flower?”

 From then on, the Princess would make fun of Sir Steven whenever she saw him start to lean his upper body away from his partner. There would be times he and his professional partner would be practicing, and the Princess would be in the studio doing other things and would yell out across the floor “Sir Steven, who’s the pretty flower?” to remind him to keep himself straight. And for the amusement of everyone else, I’m sure. So the warning I was given that afternoon was to keep my own frame strong and straight if I don’t want to be yelled at by the Princess when she’s around.

  One figure that we focused on in particular that afternoon was the Outside Change that is between our Progressive Chasse to Right and Chasse from Promenade Position. I guess that the way we were coming out of the Outside Change into the Chasse from Promenade Position didn’t look quite right to him. He spent some time making sure that Sparkledancer was heading straight down the line of dance for her first two steps instead of curving off to her right as I was stepping to the right to get out of her way. I spent a lot of time just standing in the position I was in at the end of the Progressive Chasse to the Right as Sir Steven went over the step with her.
  Let’s talk about Latin Technique this week instead of Standard Technique, like I did the last week. I’ve gotten particularly verbose lately when writing these posts, so I’ve decided to try my best to keep them as controlled as I can. There are just so many dance-related things that I want to remember!

  Monday night I was out at Latin Technique class as usual. Our favorite fierce Latin cat Tanya Tiger was there that night, having finally finished up her long-running obligation that had kept her away on Monday nights. To celebrate, she got to pick what we worked on that night, and she picked Samba. I personally don’t think that is much of a way to celebrate, but that’s just my personal opinion.

  The big reason that I wasn’t having much fun that night was because of my dance shoes. I have one pair of Latin shoes, and lately I only wear them for this class. I got them quite a while ago from some website that had a pair of really nice Latin shoes on clearance for 25% of normal price. The problem was that the closest size that they had of these clearance shoes was a half-size smaller than what I usually wear for my ballroom shoes. Since the deal was too good to pass up, I ordered them anyway. The left shoe fits just fine, but the right shoe is too tight. I spent the week after they showed up using all sorts of things like sticks and ice and shoe stretchers to stretch out the right shoe just a little so that it fit, but over time it slowly shrinks until one day I put on the right shoe and my big toe hurts. Then I have to stretch the shoe all over again.

  Monday night it was fairly obvious that the shoe had reached the breaking point that my foot could handle, so I need to stretch it out again. I’m kind of sick of doing this just to make the shoe usable, so I’m contemplating breaking down and ordering new Latin shoes. What holds me back is that I really only use the shoes once a week, just for Latin Technique class. They aren’t like my ballroom shoes which get used all of the time, so replacing them when they have issues is a necessity. I think that it’s finally time to bite the bullet and just order a pair in the right size though. Who knows? Maybe if my shoes fit well I will be more inclined to compete in International Latin again someday. Maybe. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that though.

  What we worked on in Samba was a set of figures that Lord Junior is starting to fit into his Samba routine with Tanya Tiger, but he modified it slightly so that we could all dance the progression without partners that night. I think he did that so that Tanya would end up with an exercise that she could use to practice without him that would help her directly with her routine. We started the progression on one end of the long wall, and those of us who really pushed out of our standing legs could get all the way to the other side when we finished so we could just turn around and go back.

  We began with a Three Step Turn to the left, ending in a sort of lunged-forward position on the left leg. From there we did some Cruzados Walks and Locks, with the Lock Steps being syncopated to make them more interesting. After two sets of the syncopated Lock Steps on the right side, we did three Samba Locks on the left side with no pause in between each one, ending once again in a lunged forward position on the left leg. We held that position for two beats of the music to allow the musical phrase to finish before the next steps.

 Here Lord Junior wanted us to do a non-syllabus figure to make things more interesting. He called the step a ‘Merengue Twist’ so that’s what I’m going to go with. It was a lot like doing a Hip Twist in Rumba or Cha-Cha, where you twist your body so that one leg ends up forward in a press line with the back foot turned perpendicularly. Lord Junior initially told us that he wanted everyone to try twisting as much as possible, so that’s what I was doing, but I felt like I was twisting so much that my front foot was crossing too far in front of my back foot, making it hard to do that step a second time. He watched me go through it once, laughed at what he saw, and told me that I was twisting waaaaaaaaaaaaay too far. I backed off to where it was more comfortable and then the step was much easier. We finished up the progression after those Merengue Twists by adding few more repeating Samba Locks on the left side.

Waaaaaaaay too far, for sure.

  It’s summer, so it’s time for me to do some out-of-the-ordinary dancing. I plan on making the hour drive out to the High Five Dance Hall to attend one of their parties. I know that doesn’t seem like much of a drive for some people who have to take long trips every time they want to dance, but I have all of these other dance studios within 20-30 minutes of my house, so going to one that is twice as far doesn’t usually seem necessary. Still, I’ve been trying to get out there at least once a year to help support them and see all the dancers in that area.

  I also saw an email go out that some dance hall I have never heard of before in the area is having an Intermediate/Advanced West Coast Swing class that sounds interesting to me. It is tonight, which is why I am posting this earlier than normal so that I don’t have to worry about trying to get home after this class to finish this post up. Summer dance adventures, here I come!

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!