Turning, Turning, Turning Through The Years

So… what do you think of Jive? I don’t really know what to think about it, at this point. Most of the swing dancing I have done has been with East Coast Swing, West Coast Swing and Hustle. Now that it seems that we’ve switched gears at the Land of the Loft and are doing everything in International Latin instead of American Rhythm, we have started to touch upon Jive. Right now, it seems like nothing more than dancing East Coast Swing at a much faster tempo, with some slight variations of technique. Some reading I did told me that all three dances (East Coast, West Coast and Jive) are evolutionary descendants of the Lindy Hop, so I would assume that they should all feel kind of similar if you look at them holistically. I just don’t see enough of a difference between East Coast Swing and Jive at this point for me to feel like they are really two different styles. Look at the differences between East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing – if written history hadn’t told me differently, I would have believed that they were birthed from two totally different animals. Are the subtle differences that Jive has more apparent the more you learn of it, and the more you practice it? Or is it always going to seem like nothing more than fast East Coast Swing? I guess that’s something I’ll have to find out.

I’m done being philosophical now.

The contest this week in our International Waltz class on Friday was a bit different than last week. Last time we each paired off to see who could cover the most floor space with one set of diagonal rotations. This week Lord Fabulous turned things I feel pretty... oh, so pretty...around on the girls and had them switch places with the gentlemen. He wanted to see who could best lead a guy through the same set of rotations. Some of the girls really struggled with having to switch the order they moved their feet in. The first time that I paired off with someone when we were doing the practice runs I went with Sparkledancer, and I essentially lead the steps myself so that she wouldn’t have to. Once things got serious, I expected she and I would pair off again and do the same thing, thereby winning the points for this week to go with the points we got last week. She decided to pair off with someone else though, and let a different pair of people win. When she explained it to me later, she told me that she wanted to make it so that at the end of the month everyone had the same amount of points. Lord Fabulous told us that the ones who won the month-long contest would get crowns made by those who lost the contest, so she thought that if everyone tied that Lord Fabulous would make everyone crowns that we could all wear. It seems like a good goal, so I’m all for throwing the game to make it happen. Hopefully we stick with eight people in the class for the whole month; the numbers will not work out to give everyone the same amount of points by the time the month is over if people who didn’t start the month with us jump in. I’m going to have to make a rule that anyone new that comes in is going to have to be banished to the other group class that happens at the same time on Friday nights on the other side of the room, whether they want to be there or not.

In Thursday classes this month with Hot Tottie, we’ve been going through some intermediate Rumba. Last week we didn’t get terribly far, because he spent most of the time working on proper turning technique with the ladies in class. Back when they offered a separate dance technique class on Saturdays, every four or five months Sir Steven would teach a class on spins and turns. Those of us who have Turning2been members of the Dance Kingdom for a while have taken that class at least once or twice, and there is a noticeable difference watching the new students whom had never taken that class and comparing them to the ones who had been through that class with me in the way they approached turning. In that class, there were several important things that Sir Steven burned into my mind about turning: always keep your weight forward over your toes when spinning; make sure to line up your three blocks of weight (head, upper body and lower body) over the foot you’re spinning with to prevent you from being off balance; always turn your whole body at the same time (i.e. don’t turn your upper body and hope your lower body catches up later); and make sure to step and turn separately, especially in Latin dances like the Rumba. Hot Tottie really only touched on two of those points before having the girls work on turning. This week in class we went through the same sort of turning exercise, but he let the guys practice turning as well this time instead of focusing just on the girls. We mostly went through this exercise to do the promenade swivel step and a couple of random spot turns tacked on at the end of some of the other figures, because in the two weeks of class so far we haven’t done anything else that requires much turning. To me, it seemed like a lot of focus on that technique for so little application, but it’s been nice to go through as a review. This week all the songs Hot Tottie put on for us to practice with were slow enough that I could work on the crazy hip motions I really need to practice for International Rumba, so that’s what I’ve personally been focusing on working during this class session. This isn’t really new material for me, I just happen to be a convenient male body for the ladies to dance with.

There are a couple of fun things coming up soon! It looks like the Princess is going to be spending the Saturday after next at our cozy little piece of the Dance Kingdom. With the rollout of the changes she made to the fitness classes offered at all the studios, she appears to be making the rounds to sit in on the first few weeks of those classes at each of the locations, and that Saturday is when she will be sitting in on Lady Q’s class. I’ve already gotten the guilt trip from Lady Q about being there, and she emphasized to everyone that she wanted us all to show up at least five minutes before the class starts when the Princess is here so that everything can start on time. Lord Fabulous also mentioned something about the Princess taking over the group class that he usually teaches right after the morning fitness class, which could be interesting. I have never sat in on a class with her before, so I don’t really know what to expect. The scariest thing though is that Lord Fabulous said she was interested in being there the rest of the day as well, to offer coaching advice and watch the other lessons that normally go on. Sparkledancer and I have a coaching session set up with Lord Fabulous that day, at our normal standing Saturday time, so I’m guessing she will be there for that. Not normally one to be squeamish about being watched, I have to admit that knowing that the royalty is there and is actively watching what I would be doing, I’m kind of nervous. Will she be impressed? Will she think I’m horrible and banish me from the kingdom? Will I mess something up and make myself, or worse, make Sparkledancer look bad? I wonder if our competitive dance friendship could withstand me screwing something up in front of the Princess…

I don't think I could handle being banished. Who would write all these stories then?
I don’t think I could handle being banished. Who would write all these stories then?

That same night as the Princess will be visiting with us is the 1920s-themed swing party being hosted at the Great Dance Hall by the Lake. This will be the first time I will be back at that location since… well, since last year about this time, for the last 1920s-themed swing party they had there. It’s kind of exciting to be going back. What I remember from the party last year is that the venue is not huge, and with the style of dancing that we will be focusing on (swing), I will probably end up hot and sweaty by the time the night is over. I did get suspenders to wear to the party, so I think I’m all set as far as costume is concerned. I can’t remember what I wore last year, but this year I’m going to keep things simple. I will probably wear a hat too, which will allow me to make bets as to whether or not I will keep it on for the entire night or if it will fall off somewhere along the line. All this month at each of the three Dance Kingdom locations in the area they are teaching special classes on Lindy Hop to prepare everyone for the party. Unfortunately I am not able to get there early enough on Friday’s to attend that class, so I’ll have to stick with the little Lindy Hop I remember from the classes they taught on it last year before the previous swing party. Although, as I said earlier it appears as though Jive, East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing are all descended from Lindy Hop, so maybe I am already thoroughly prepared to go to this party (assuming I spend some time practicing my Jive technique between now and then, of course).

Turning4  The Great Dance Hall by the Lake is also the home base of Lord Scarry, so we get to see him again. Maybe we’ll actually try and make him paranoid this time when we see him. No one remembered to try it out last time we saw him…

And only a few short weeks after the swing party is the showcase. I’m not participating in it this year, but I’ll be going to hang out with all the other people from the Land of the Loft who are participating. Man, when I think about all the dance-related things on my calendar, it exhausts me. I should probably start resting up now to be prepared for everything.


Had The Guts, Got The Glory

Dinner was much more relaxed than lunch, and I actually got to eat some real food. It was also really nice to sit for a while in non-dance shoes, giving my toes some room to stretch out for a while. Being a fancy hotel, dinner was multi-course and served by staff. When dessert was being served, they made an announcement for all the people participating in the evening dances to go get ready. Dessert turned out to be some kind of apple-thingy (I’m not very good with food names), a white-chocolate stick and some ice cream. Sensing a dilemma, I ate the ice cream beforehand so that I wouldn’t come back to a melted mess, and told the others at the table where I was sitting to protect the plate so that the staff wouldn’t come back and collect it before I had a chance to eat the rest.

I headed back to the dressing room to change back into my dance shoes. My dance partner met me out in the hallway. We talked for a while, stretched a bit, and did some half-hearted practice steps on the carpet. For some reason, this was the most nerve-wracking part of the day. This championship round would theoretically be shorter than the last one I did, but for some reason it made me more nervous than anything else I had done that day. They got us all to wander to the back of the ballroom and hide amongst the curtains behind the stage where the judge and emcee were sitting. Of all the dancers participating in this championship round, there was one other pair of amateurs with us; everyone else was Pro-Am. As the four of us stood there listening to the Pros making jokes back and forth, we looked at each other, and I made some nervous quip about wondering how I got talked into doing this. The other amateurs I had met before, having attended many of the same parties thrown at various locations in the Dance Kingdom. They have both been studying dancing for many years, and at one point they were even students of Sir Steven back when he taught at the Great Eye1Dance Hall. Of all the people in this round, Sparkledancer and I were the only true bronze-level students, so we were seriously outgunned. As the announcer started calling each set of names and the pair of competitors emerged one at a time from behind the curtains to the cheering of the crowd, I asked my dance partner if she wanted to split and each of us exit around opposite sides of the curtain, of if we should both exit out the same side (every couple who had gone before us had done it differently). She opted for both of us going out the same side. As our names were called, I took her hand and straightened my spine, and led her out into the bright lights shining down on the dance floor.

Things went well during this competition round. They had dimmed the lights in the outer section of the room and everyone that had been eating dinner had pulled their chairs up at the very edge of the dance floor. With people sitting so close, it was much easier to make faces at people as I passed, but I don’t think anyone saw what I was doing. Just like the heats that we had run earlier in the day, the Foxtrot felt really strong to me, followed by Tango then Waltz, with Viennese Waltz feeling the least stable. Part of that was due to one of the other dancers clipping my foot as I started doing reverse rotations down one of the long walls. I managed to keep on time, but I couldn’t get my footwork back in the correct configuration until I made it to the other corner and put in some cantor turns. There were a lot more couples doing that Viennese Waltz than in any of the heats that I had done earlier, so it was bound to be slightly more dangerous. Other than that foot incident, I didn’t run into anyone for that entire championship round, which I mark down as a win in my book.

It was nice that my dance partner and I received thunderous applause when we first entered the floor, even though I think everyone in the audience knew there was no real chance for us to place highly against all the other competitors in this round. Despite that, it was actually a fun championship round to do. As I’ve said, the smooth-style dances are not my forte, but to actually compete in a round like that and feel semi-competent at the same time shows that maybe in some small way I have been improving. After the last song ended and I spun Sparkledancer out, we stood as people clapped for a bit and then everyone headed off the floor. With that out of the way, I could catch my breath and relax the rest of the night. There were bigger and better things to look forward to from this point forward, none of which involved me doing any dancing.

As we settled in to finish the dessert that we had abandoned earlier, our first entertainment of the night took the stage. At the Great Dance Hall they had recently brought on a new Dance Lord, and he was performing some sort of contemporary dance number solo for everyone. Based on the way the ladies had been gossiping about this young man and his physique all day, we’ll call him Hot Tottie. His dance number was a sight to behold. He would leap about, getting an impressive amount of height with each and every jump. He would bend and swivel his body in ways that I don’t know if I could ever do enough yoga to accomplish myself. On top of that, he was just a really nice guy, which made watching him dance even more fun. I had gotten to talk to him a couple of times during the day, and there was even a time earlier  when my dance partner and I were standing together in the ballroom and he came over to tell us that we were a lot of fun to watch out on the floor. Seeing him perform solo made that compliment resound even more.

Even though there was all that leaping, the song he was dancing to was not "I Believe I Can Fly"
Even though there was all that leaping, the song he was dancing to was not “I Believe I Can Fly”

When Hot Tottie finished up and left all the ladies in the room swooning as he left the floor, it was time for the five-dance International Latin exhibition. The two main male Lords from the Great Dance Hall, Lord Bradley and Tall Steven, were performing for this round, but it was really Tall Steven’s professional dance partner (rumor has it that she’s also his wife) that took over the floor. This girl had been the deck captain for this competition and the Spring Fling, making sure that everyone was in order, keeping things in line, checking everyone off and sternly ushering people on and off the floor as necessary. I’ve met her several times, and this serious side of her is what I usually see when I interact to her. But, when she dons a sparkly outfit and gets out under the spotlight to dance, it’s like she transforms into a whole different person. Because of that, we’ll refer to her as Arcee. Arcee Eye3really took the floor by storm, so much so that the other couple on the floor, and many times even her dance partner, were lost as people were transfixed by her presence. Every shimmy she did in the Samba, every kick in the Jive, and every dramatic stomp during the Pasodoble were all designed to keep attention focused on just this girl. And there was good reason to watch her – she looked like she was having a blast while dancing. I really hope that someday people will want to watch me dance and have fun like that. Maybe I should start studying what she does and learn a thing or two from it.

After that it was time for the American Smooth four-dance exhibition. The Lords and Lady of our little corner of the city were all dancing in this, Sir Steven paired with Lady Q and Lord Fabulous dancing with a Lady who originates from another studio. I have to say that this, far and away was probably the most interesting thing I saw all night. I know that Sir Steven is an excellent dancer, since obviously I am still paying to learn things from him. I have seen him occasionally do exhibition pieces with various people during my time in the Dance Kingdom. I’ve also seen him doing many heats with his various students in the competitions I have been part of. This was the first time I had ever seen him do something where he was dancing things competitively with Eye4someone who can dance at his level, like Lady Q. He took ownership of that floor during this event, much like Arcee did during the last exhibition (and Tall Steven and Arcee were performing again in this exhibition as well). It was easy to see why he is the head instructor at the Land of the Loft. He outshone Lady Q, even though they were dancing together, and he never let anyone get too close to him without keeping them in line. There were even a couple of times when he even struck people who dared enter his dance bubble as he would move his arms, a strike that never fazed him but caused whomever was struck to look over at him with fear in their eyes. Of all the other competitors on the floor though, it was Lord Fabulous I felt the worst for. Having spent so much time around Lord Fabulous, I know that he is a very good dancer in his own right, but he kind of got lost in the crowd, and never really did anything to draw attention to what he was doing. Granted, that might have also been because he and his partner were so much shorter than everyone else on the floor, so it was easy to lose them…

This is an actual photo taken during their performance, I swear.

As the Lords and Ladies of the Dance Kingdom filed off the floor when their round was complete, it was time for the Princess and Hellmanns to perform. They did two numbers together – one that was slow and dramatic, and one that was quick and fun. I remember thinking while watching them together that it is really impressive to see how they can move so in sync with each other, even though they hadn’t spent much time practicing together before this performance. In order to do what I had done during this event, I had to schedule so much time week after week to practice with Sparkledancer, to make sure that we not only knew our steps, but knew what it felt like to do those steps with the other person on the floor with me. It’s amazing to think that these two can dance like that with each other in these complicated routines without going through that level of practice. Is that what it means to truly be a professional? To know what you are doing so well that you can perform with someone else without much rehearsal time beforehand? How long does it take to achieve that level? That’s what I kept thinking while they danced.

With the exhibitions finished, it was time for the award ceremonies. Because the score sheets had not been fully tabulated yet, they spent the time that they had scheduled to hand out the scores to instead take pictures of the entire cast of competitor and their instructors. We each got called up, once studio at a time; everyone got to stand in front of the stage with the Princess and Hellmanns and their instructor for the photographer they had hired to take some pictures. I’m not sure if we’ll ever get to see those pictures, but I hope they turn out well for whatever they get used for in the future. My dance partner and I went up there with both Sir Steven and Lady Q, since they had both worked with us on routines for this competition. When those pictures were finished, they announced the championship round winners. As expected, in both the championship rounds I participated in, Sparkledancer and I came in last place. Looking back on the results though, if you had taken the list of entrants and put their names in Excel, and then sorted the list with Pro-Am couples first and Amateur couples second, and then did a secondary sort based on how long each student had been taking lessons, you would have gotten the exact same results as the order we lined up in for placement of those championship rounds. I don’t feel bad about it though, I was glad just to be a part of the event. It gives me something to work toward next time, if I decide to do any championship rounds like these.

Of all the awards handed out that night, the most surprising one that they gave out was for the Best Newcomer. Lord Fabulous had a student we call Gable whom he had somehow convinced to be part of this event. By the day of the competition, she had only been taking lessons with him for about two months. It was nice to see someone from the Land of the Loft get recognized like that. At the end of the night, as everyone was packing up to leave, I was talking with Sir Steven and Lord Fabulous about the awards handed out, and they were scheming about how to take home the Best Studio award next time; they were both sad that they hadn’t gotten it this time, even though the Land of the Loft had the most students participating in the competition (their plan to get the award involved some complicated scheme to take out Tall Steven so that he wouldn’t be able to stand in their way).

And that’s that! All in all, it was a great day, and it really made me look back on how far I’ve come, and how far I still need to go to get to where I would like to be. With rumors floating around about the next competition in May, we’ll see if I can bring my skills up yet another level before then!

Hooray for us!
Hooray for us!

Morning Comes And Morning Goes, Now It’s Me Against The Sun…

Oh man, what a crazy weekend. Where do I even begin? There’s a lot to say, so I will probably split this into a couple of sections, so that you may digest this all properly. So now, here is part one: the ballroom section.

There was over 14 hours of dancing. I did 75 heats (more than I had expected, or even signed up for), plus two championship rounds during the whole day. I also ate way more candy during the day than I probably should have, but only because it was sitting at the table where all the spectators from our “home” studio had gathered. Despite everything going on, this competition didn’t make me nervous like the last one had. I guess the last one, being the first sort-of “real” competition I had ever done as a dancer, I was bound to be nervous going into it. This one felt much more at ease and relaxed, even with all the energy and adrenaline happening every time I took to the floor. Sometimes, when I was out there, I was having so much fun that I barely even registered the fact that someone was watching what I was doing and grading the performance.

Don’t ask me why I’ve made the judges sad clowns. Ask the judges why they all remind me of sad clowns!

Speaking of grading… our last judge, Miracle Whip, wasn’t in attendance for this competition. In his place we had another tall, vaguely foreign man who also was one of the Princess’ dance partners. Just to keep with the theme, we’ll call him Hellmanns. The MC went on and on about Hellmans’ dance credentials at various points throughout the day, but I don’t know how much of that I actually paid attention to, so I can’t impress you with how much I know about him. I imagine that Miracle Whip picked him out personally to carry the judging torch for this event, because to me it makes sense that all the people who are licensed to judge events like this would hang out together.

This competition was limited to just students from the Dance Kingdom. As was explained to me later in the day, because the Dance Kingdom is starting to expand as a franchise studio, they are going to turn these events into regional competitions for the franchise studios to compete against each other. Right now there are just the three Lands in the kingdom that are eligible to compete, but that number is expected to start expanding rapidly over the next year if the King has his way. I didn’t really see anyone that I hadn’t met before competing during the day, but the next competition they talk about will be held near one of the new Lands that the kingdom recently acquired in a different realm, so there should be new blood to test ourselves against at that point.

But, I’m getting ahead of myself… the morning started out with the smooth dances. Despite my preference for the rhythm category, I felt really good about all of the smooth dances on Sunday. Even the Viennese Waltz felt really good. The floor was a bit weird, because it was like a bunch of tiles that were connected together, so there were seams that ran between them that weren’t entirely flush, but that didn’t seem to cause problems during the smooth dances. It messed up some of the Latin dances (which I’ll get to later), but the smooth ones felt really solid. There was one heat in the morning with the Viennese Waltz where someone hit my foot, and after that my footwork was all messed up for the rest of that wall. I couldn’t find a way to fix it without getting off time, so I just stuck with it to stay on time until I got to the corner where I could pause briefly and collect myself. It may not have been perfect, but I never had to stop, and I am really proud of that. After proving to myself that I could perform a dance of that speed and complexity, maybe next time I can put some effort into mastering Quickstep and add that dance style to the rotation. Watching some of the better students perform during the Quickstep heats with their instructors, seeing how they practically bounded across the floor like rabbits, it looks like a lot of fun to me.

The Foxtrot by far I feel the best about. I don’t know what it was about practicing it during that last dance field trip we took, but somehow during IfIRun2that event I nailed down all the issues I had previously been having with that routine, so it just felt really solid to compete with that style every time Sparkledancer and I took to the floor to perform the routine. I think I even managed not to mess up taking all my heel steps while doing it. There were a few times, mostly during the Waltz, when I would catch myself up on my toes. That technique is one I have the most trouble with, since I normally walk on the balls of my feet. Things felt pretty good on Sunday though, and I hope I was at least consistent about how I stepped when the judge was watching me.

One of the Viennese Waltz heats I did not participate in that day showed me just why I was so apprehensive about doing that dance. During that heat, as I was standing in the little section of tables that all the Land of the Loft students had claimed and talking with one of the onlookers, suddenly a gasp went up from others in the crowd. I looked up to see one of the participants lying on the floor. Her dance partner was helping her get quickly to her feet as others were approaching, but luckily the DJ ended the heat when he saw what happened and no one got dangerously close. They left the floor and went to sit against one of the walls in the back for a few minutes. I could see her fiddling with one of her shoes before taking it off and setting it off to the side. My next heat was fast approaching, so I lost track of her as I went to the on deck area, but when I saw her again later she was wearing completely different shoes. As it turned out, the straps on the front of her shoes snapped during that Viennese Waltz routine, and she could not shed the momentum in time as it happened, so she just went crashing down hard. Luckily she didn’t get hurt, and had a spare pair of ballroom shoes with her. When talking with Sparkledancer about this later, she said that was a good reason to think about breaking in a second pair of dance shoes and start keeping them in her car in case something like that happened to her. She usually uses one pair for everything, and if they had broken she would have been out of the competition for the rest of the day. I had two pairs of shoes, one for Rhythm and one for Smooth dances, so if I broke one I could make do with the other. Still… that’s a lesson I will make sure to remember when and if we end up competing again.

There were only two smooth routines I did with Lady Q – Waltz and Foxtrot. After spending all that time during the last several weeks learning the routines she wanted to do for those, it turned out that the routines were more like… suggestions. All the heats I danced with her seemed to have more couples on the floor than during the ones I did with Sparkledancer, so I IfIRun3had to modify the routines to work my way through the crowd. Luckily she admitted to me that she had so many routines going on during the day that she couldn’t keep them all straight, so she just followed my lead rather than trying to stay on routine. That was something I was worried about, since she knows enough about what is going on and could have potentially tried to back-lead. It was a lot of fun dancing with her. She and I don’t get to do that very often, as she is usually tied up with her own students. The steps for these routines were much simpler that the ones I had practiced to do with Sparkledancer, so we would sometime chat idly while moving around the floor.

One of the things we talked about – and the thing that actually kept me smiling during most of the day while I was on the floor – was just how absurd this all seemed. I know that sounds weird, but if you step back and look at what I was doing, it really seems absurd. I was dancing. I was doing it competitively. I was surrounded all day by men and women wearing fine outfits and covered with an almost obscene amount of rhinestones and glitter. It is sort of a surreal world when you look at it logically. Sometimes I have tried to explain this hobby of mine to people I work with, and it is difficult to do without having pictures. There is no way words can really describe this world properly. And it makes me laugh thinking about it. It’s also one of the reasons it is so fun.

In trying to do the heats at about a minute-and-a-half to two minutes apiece, the morning ran well over the scheduled time. Originally they had planned on being done with the ballroom style dances by the time lunch rolled around, which would give all the dancers a break to sit and eat and get their outfits changed for the afternoon rhythm section. That didn’t happen. They started rolling out lunch around 1:00PM in the hall behind the ballroom and made an announcement that any of the audience could feel free to make their way back there to get something to eat, and the heats would continue during lunch. It was nearly 2:00PM by the time we were done with all the smooth dances. They finished the set with only the three-dance championship rounds (which include Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango) and then dismissed all the dancers to get a quick bite and go change to prepare for the afternoon. They wanted to start with things again around 2:30PM to try and get the day back on schedule.

So, we grabbed a little of what was left of the lunch buffet (most of it was gone by the time I finished my last heat and could eat something), and changed clothes. The four-dance American Smooth championship round, which is the one we were slated to be in, would be put off until after dinner, so I would eventually have to change back. But for now, it was time to start in on my favorite portion of the day – the Rhythm dances.

Join me for part two of this later on: the rhythm section!

Out On The Edge Of Glory

Time sure seems to be flying. I remember back when I started working on preparing for this competition, and I kept thinking “man, it’s like four months away, so there is tons ofEdgeOfGlory1 time to get everything ready!” Now here we are, with only a little more than a week to go, and there seems like there is not enough time. I feel like I am so close to having everything down, but there are just some things that elude me a bit yet. The second Cha-Cha routine that I know all the steps for, but I don’t always put them in the right order. The Foxtrot that I can step through so easily in my head, but always seems to hit a wall (literally and figuratively) when I practice it with someone. When I think about it, I think it feels like I am just on the precipice of mastering these things, so maybe ten days will be enough to push me over that edge.

On the other hand, sometimes I think that my routines are at the point that there won’t be much that will change between the way I dance each routine today and the way I dance each routine during the competition. With so little time left, and the butterflies starting to creep into my stomach when I think about getting out on that floor, there is really no way I can do anything different during the dance without quitting my job and focusing on running the routine full time to change the muscle memory I have developed for said routine. Little things might change, but then only if my brain thinks about them in time for me to stop my reflexes from doing it differently. Bolero is a good example – there is a part where we do these crazy shadow walks, and when we stop and turn to go back in the opposite direction somehow I always end up with my hand underneath hers, even though it should be clamped on the side. I know in my head the correct way to do it, and the last couple of lessons I have taken Sir Steven has told me to “do it better,” but it’s one of those things I never really noticed I was doing until a couple of weeks ago, so now it is going to be a hard habit to break. With time to practice dwindling, the ROI from running the same step over and over to fix that little thing is low, and it takes a lot of the fun out of dance practice. Over time, I will naturally fix it the more I think about it, but I don’t want to kill my enjoyment trying to make it happen forcefully right now. Competing is supposed to be about fun, not necessarily about winning anything. As I have discussed with Sparkledancer, going into this competition, we have no illusions about winning anything, we just want to do better than we did last time we were competing while still having fun.

So that’s where it stands right now. I know everything mentally at this point, and the body is feeling pretty good about doing what the brain knows. Sometimes I do get routines mixed up if I have more than one for the same dance style, but that doesn’t happen too often. It’s just a performance thing – you never really feel like you are fully prepared to go out and perform until after you walk off the stage when the performance is over. Right now it seems like everything that I am working on fixing are all little things that are cleaning up limb placement, or putting more energy into certain steps (while taking energy out of others). Nothing earth shattering. It feels like a lot of things though, even though it isn’t. And even when I mess up, I am at the point that I will just keep going and work my way to getting back on step or on time without making it obvious that anything went wrong.

I do need to make a point of working with Sir Steven on what to do for the smooth dances if I have to start on the short wall. My main Waltz and Foxtrot routines are really designed with a specific starter step that doesn’t work so well when you start on the short wall. Good thing I just made myself a note here to ask about it…

He and his shadow...
He and his shadow…

As it turned out, the rumor circulating that Young Dave was going to start training to be an instructor were true. I’m happy for him – for a young man who has no idea what he wants to do with his life after graduation, this could give him a direction to go towards, or at least a source of income as he tries to figure out what he wants to do as a career if this turns out not to be it. It’s kind of weird to see him wandering about the studio now, clad all in black, following Lord Fabulous around shadowing his lessons and the group classes he is giving, demonstrating things to people, or standing off against the wall practicing the female variation of the steps he has to learn. Some of the ladies have told me that there has been a noticeable change in his demeanor since taking on this role, and the superiority complex that he exuded before has been pulled back. That’s really made the difference, I think. Really, none of this has affected me so far, considering he is male and I never dance with him, so I am just seeing this from the outside as an observer. But as I’m sure many of you know, when the ladies at the studio are happy, the whole tone of dancing is happier.

This Saturday there is actually another dance field trip planned. Bony found a ballroom in the city that is having an event Saturday night, and was asking a bunch of us if we would attend the event with her. I’m always game for things, so I’ll be there. Sparkledancer and I will be using the opportunity to get together on a real dance floor and run through our routines for extra practice. We’ll see if we do better running through things when complete strangers are watching what we do. Friday night I will have to pull her aside and talk about what I should wear to something like this – I don’t think she would wear her performance outfit to an event like this, but I don’t want to skip wearing mine if she wants to treat it more like a dress rehearsal than a night out with dance friends. The dress code says “semi-formal” but that term has never meant too much to me. I basically take that to mean I don’t have to wear a tie. If it’s not going to be a dress rehearsal, I’m thinking it might just be gray slacks and a black dress shirt, but that might change depending on how fancy the people I’m going with will be dressing. So it should be a fun way to practice for the upcoming competition without actually getting judged. All the extra practice I can log helps.

EdgeOfGlory3 The King and Princess are hard at work putting the finishing touches on the competition stage, and all the competitors are putting the finishing touches on before they will brush off their dance shoes and take to the floor. Only 10 days left until the big day. Soon we will taste either the sweetness of dance glory, or the tartness of dance disappointment. Are you as hungry now as I am?