Watch Out, I Ain’t Lying, Yeah

In a strange turn of events, I ended up out at the Prime Dance Hall on Friday night. Things got to be a bit weird while I was there.

The idea for going out to the Prime Dance Hall started with Sparkledancer. She is one of Seedling’s favorite people to talk to about dance, and from what she has told me he will usually send her at least one message a day about some sort of dance topic. One day he told her that the instructors at the Prime Dance Hall told him that any of their students can sign up to do a performance at any of their Friday dance parties for a low cost. Seedling thought that was just the coolest thing, and was all gung-ho about performing, so just two weeks before the dance party I went to last Friday he had signed up to perform.

Two weeks to learn and polish a performance doesn’t sound like much, but it gets even better. Apparently his instructor didn’t like the choreography that they had put together, so the Tuesday before the performance she scrapped the whole thing, chose a brand-new song for Seedling to dance to, and started over. Then on Wednesday Seedling went back to the studio after finding what he called ‘cool moves that he saw videos of Pros doing’ and told his instructor that they needed to include at least one of those moves in the performance. She agreed, so they ended up having to redo large sections of the choreography again just two days before the performance… with no lessons on Thursday to work on it, and only two lessons on the day of the performance to get everything finished.

By this time, Seedling was asking Sparkledancer if she wanted to go to the dance party to watch his performance. Being such a nice person, Sparkledancer also extended the invitation to other people, including me, which is how I ended up at the Prime Dance Hall on Friday night to see what was going to happen. When I got to the studio on Friday night and met up with Sparkledancer, I was surprised to find that I was the only other person who came. Evidently everyone else had headed off to one of the many other Friday night parties going on in the Dance Kingdom rather than come to the party at the Prime Dance Hall.

I had gotten there early enough to be a part of the group class that happened before the party. The class went over the basics of the Tango and the Cha-Cha. Most of the ladies in the class had only been dancing for a few weeks at most, so even though the guy teaching the class only went over the American Tango basic and Left Foot and Right Foot Rocks, and in Cha-Cha he only covered the basic and the Crossover Break, these were all new steps for almost all the ladies I danced with.

A couple of the girls were talking with me a lot during the Tango section of class simply because I was starting off with all my weight on my right leg and my left foot pointed off to the side – because that’s a habit for me at this point. They had never seen anyone start a dance like that before, so two of them made a big deal about telling me that they were going to do the same as me because of how cool they thought I looked. I thought it was funny because it’s very rare that anyone calls me ‘cool’ which leads me to believe that anything cool that I do is completely by accident. ‘Accidentally Cool’ will be the inscription I ask for on my tombstone.

The party afterward was kind of weird. I ended up dancing with mostly Sparkledancer for the whole night. I’m sure that was kind of my fault – after the first time we danced together during the party, it was pretty obvious to everyone that we weren’t just newcomers like everyone else. There were a ton of the Prime Dance Hall instructors at the party that night, and almost all of them came to talk to either Sparkledancer or I (or both of us if we happened to be near one another) to ask about where we had learned to dance.

However, I think that dancing in the manner that we do also scared other people away from us. The only men that came to ask Sparkledancer to dance were myself, Seedling, and two of the instructors. Plus, the times when Sparkledancer and I danced together, even if we weren’t doing anything I thought was overly fancy, people were cheering for us. For example: a simple Back Corte in the Tango. It’s an easy figure, one of the first I learned in Bronze ages and ages ago, but more than once during that party people were applauding Sparkledancer and I when we did that figure. I have no idea why.

About forty-five minutes into the party they stopped the music and had everyone move to sit against the back wall for Seedling’s performance. The dance was a Rumba, and to sum it up… it was pretty much what I expected a performance that was choreographed, thrown out and re-choreographed and wasn’t practiced much to look like. What I mean by that is that the entire dance was the instructor. She wore the fancy costume and did most of the movement, while Seedling only did a handful of figures and then stood in one place for much of the dance while she used him as a support for the movements she was doing.

Don’t get me wrong – it was OK, but I honestly don’t think that it was what Seedling was hoping to show off. I think that his instructor took it a step too far with what she was doing, Her Rumba looked like an attempt to display her sexuality and power as she stalked around the room and engaged with the audience, while Seedling’s choreography looks like it was added as an afterthought. Her movements were egregious and bawdy, and the majority were done while separated from her partner, while he occupied a spot off to her side or behind her and did a few easy steps, like Cucarachas and some awkward arm movements. The end of the performance involved her grabbing Seedling’s tie (the sole costume item he was told to wear) and leading him off the floor like a puppy.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time in the Amateur world and don’t compete or perform with an instructor that I noticed that the whole performance was done by the instructor. Or maybe if I had talked with others in the crowd afterward they would have told me that they saw the same thing. What do you tell someone about how well they danced when that’s all you noticed? I kind of gave Seedling a sideways ‘good job’ afterward because I thought it might be rude to tell him what I thought. That’s why I am writing it out here instead. I can say whatever I want here because only one person I know in real life knows that this site exists, so no one’s feelings will get hurt.

Last Saturday night was a different story for me. There was a dance party going on at the Electric Dance Hall that I had heard about. I decided to head out to that so that I could spend some time being social in a place where I knew pretty much everyone.

Lord Junior was offering a group class before the party started. Only about a dozen people showed up early enough for the class, so he decided to change up his plan for the evening. Originally he had planned to do a class that covered just the beginner steps of the Foxtrot, but since Lord Junior knew that most of the people in the class had been dancing for quite a while he thought that he would try covering something a bit more challenging, so we ended up looking at Viennese Waltz instead.

There was one couple that came to the party that no one knew. From what the gentleman said, the two of them had come in from out of town to visit their son over the weekend, but had decided to go to the dance party that night just for a change of pace. They were active social dancers in their hometown, and the idea of going out to a studio they had never seen before in a different town intrigued them. The two of them told Lord Junior that they had done a little bit of Viennese Waltz years ago, but didn’t remember very much of it. He told them it would be no problem, and then asked Sparkledancer to work with the lady and for me to work with the gentleman if they needed any help.

After Lord Junior started talking about the footwork for the Reverse Turn, it became clear that neither of these people had actually done Viennese Waltz before… the guy admitted that he mistook the dance for something else they had done. So rather than just helping them out, Sparkledancer and I ended up giving the two of them extended help on just getting the Reverse Turn and Natural Turn down to a point where they could get from one end of the floor to the other. Halfway through the class we switched so that she could dance with the guy while I tried it out with the lady. Things were going pretty well for both of them, but then the lady said that the dance was making her dizzy so she went to sit down for the rest of class and just watch.

I’m not sure what other sorts of things that the class covered that night since I wasn’t really paying attention. By the time they finished up, I didn’t even think to ask someone if they had talked about anything else other than the Reverse Turn and Natural Turn. I assume that they did, because you need at least a Change Step to switch back and forth between the two as you go around the floor. But maybe not. Maybe all the people in class are going to go around the room only rotating one way. That could be silly, right?

The party afterward made me happy for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Sparkledancer and I finally decided to try out our new routines on a floor where there were other people dancing the same style at the same time, and all the ones that we did went great! I say ‘all the ones that we did’ because there wasn’t a Quickstep played that night, so we only really got to test out the Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango routines. Funny enough, there also wasn’t a Viennese Waltz played that night either, even though the class beforehand covered that style.

But the other thing that made me happy was the antics of Lord Junior. I guess someone had given him a nice bottle of rum that he had forgotten about, and he found it at the studio earlier in the day. During the party, he decided to give it a try… and ended up having several glasses of it while telling people that he was training to be a pirate. That made me laugh. Also, he had gotten a bag of cheesy poof snacks for everyone to share at the party, but it was him and Sparkledancer that polished off the majority of the bag before the party was even half over. I don’t know why I thought that was so funny, but I did.

Wednesday night was a bit different for me this week. Normally I go out to the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class, but this week Lord Junior had invited a high-level female coach to come in and work with his Pro/Am students for the day. One of the ladies that signed up to take a session with the coach was Sparkledancer, and since she doesn’t dance Pro/Am she asked me to be there for the lesson so that there was someone to dance Lead while the two of them worked together. This coach was actually someone that Sparkledancer had the opportunity to work with before, way back in the day in early 2017, a coach I gave the name Lady Kate the Great to way back then.

Sparkledancer had a few different points that she wanted to work on that evening, and luckily she was able to get some time on all of them using just one dance style. We started off the session by running through our Waltz routine for her once so that she could get an idea of what she was working with. When finished, the first thing she wanted to talk about with Sparkledancer was her positioning. She wanted to have her make some minor adjustments to her contact point with me. To practice this, she took Sparkledancer over to the wall and had her stand with her toes about two inches away, then bend so that she could make contact with her knees and chest while leaving her upper back free. Once the position was better in the body, she turned Sparkledancer’s head slightly so that it was pointed between the elbow and wrist of her left hand while in frame with me.

After those adjustments, we began to work on the meat of what Sparkledancer wanted to look at – Promenade Position. The first place in the routine that we go into Promenade Position is right near the beginning where there is an Open Impetus. Lady Kate the Great wanted Sparkledancer to delay her head opening during the Open Impetus to help keep her shoulders down when going into Promenade Position. She said that if you think about turning the head on beat three rather than on beat two, that will help get a better look out of the Promenade Position.

The next place where we transition into Promenade Position is a couple figures later after an Outside Change which goes into a Chasse From Promenade Position. Here, like before, she wanted Sparkledancer to delay the head opening. She also told her that during the Chasse From Promenade Position she should keep her shoulders down and arms long. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it seemed important so I’m noting it.

By this time we had decided to just keep stepping through the routine one section at a time so that Lady Kate the Great could look at as much as possible with Sparkledancer. Next up they went over the Natural Spin Turn into Reverse Pivot. She told Sparkledancer to make sure not to rise during the beginning of the figure. Her description was kind of funny – she said this was one of those figures that should look like something else (in this case a normal Natural Pivot), and then it’s a “surprise” when we do the checking action into the Reverse Pivot. To make the surprise actually be surprising, she wanted Sparkledancer to exaggerate the left shape during the checking action. She wanted the exaggeration to feel like bending over a bar situated at the bra line.

From here, the next figure we stopped to spend time on was the Wing from the Turning Lock. The way that Lady Kate the Great did the Wing was rather interesting. I was able to feel it since I was the dance dummy while the two ladies were working. She called it “Extreme Outside Position” to emphasize what she wanted Sparkledancer to feel. She said that Sparkledancer should detach the hips when going around, and take a much bigger step on beat two to cross my body further. By her third step she wanted the connection at the back left of Sparkledancer’s outer hip and the front left of the ribcage.

Basically, without bending herself too weirdly, she was on my left side with her hips behind me and her ribs in front of me. Truly a strange feeling for me while holding her in that position. She told Sparkledancer that a good way to play with the position was by using her arm, holding it up as guidance to show where the body should be. Coming out of the Wing she wanted me to step straight forward into the Double Reverse Spin while Sparkledancer was moving backward.

The last bit of the routine that we looked at before running out of time was the Cross Hesitation into a Back Lock and Outside Spin. Much like the Wing, she said that Sparkledancer should feel like she is in that “Extreme Outside Position” during the Cross Hesitation as well, only being on the correct side of my body this time. She told Sparkledancer to keep that same position throughout the Back Lock and into the Outside Spin. For the Outside Spin itself, she recommended that stylistically she should avoid opening her head on the Outside Spin, and instead try to exaggerate the shape like they had worked on in the Checked Natural Spin Turn earlier.

So that was a lot of great information. Much, much, much more useful than the last coaching session that I went to, even if the information wasn’t specifically for me. I still found much of what the two ladies talked about interesting to listen to.

Also funny: after the lesson was over, Sparkledancer and I were out in the parking lot, talking and comparing notes on the lesson. She told me that when she had to dance with Lady Kate the Great it felt weird for her. She doesn’t get to work with female instructors very often anymore, so she was surprised how tiny and light she seemed when Lady Kate the Great was in frame with her. Sparkledancer said that she felt like she was going to accidentally break her when they were dancing together.

I thought that was super funny because the two ladies are pretty much the same size, and I always feel like I’m going to accidentally break Sparkledancer when we dance together. Now she knows how I feel!


Meet Me In Outerspace

My Amateur dance partner and I happened to choose the Electric Dance Hall as the location for where we were going to practice last Saturday afternoon. When I showed up there at the time Sparkledancer and I chose, Lord Junior was hanging around the studio, cleaning thing a little bit while waiting for his next student to show up. He waved at me when I walked in the door and told me that he was having someone come in the next day to teach a Pilates class. It wasn’t really an informative statement he was giving me, it sounded more like a note to let me know where I was going to be the next day.

And that’s the story of how I ended up doing Pilates randomly on a Sunday afternoon.

Pilates is not something that I do very often. Sure, I have done it quite a few times over the course of my life (most of those times being at some dance studio or another), but I don’t really go out of my way to join classes unless someone else I know is going and they ask me to go with them. It’s not that I dislike Pilates or anything – I know all the benefits a number of Pilates exercises have for dancers – it’s just that all the Pilates classes that I get invited to go to don’t end up being all that difficult for me. I like a higher degree of difficulty in my core workouts.

Please don’t take that the wrong way – I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, it’s just that I have worked on my core strength for a long, long time, and the exercises that I am asked to do in the average Pilates class don’t really challenge me because of all of that work I have done for the last decade. Holding my legs up in the air and my shoulders off the ground while wiggling my arms up and down (I think the move is called the Hundred?) is really not a big deal for me. Later that same day I was doing slow crunches with a four-second count up and down while holding 60lbs over my chest, because that’s the kind of thing I do to get that good burning feeling in my abdominal muscles when I work them. Plus I think it’s fun. I’m weird like that.

But, since Lord Junior specifically mentioned it to me, I showed up and did the Pilates class with him. I am not one to shy away from a physical challenge so I was right there on the floor with everyone else. There were actually three guys in this class: myself, Lord Junior, and then Seedling. I guess he had been telling Sparkledancer for weeks how he wanted to try and get into shape and he needed to lose forty or fifty pounds because he has dreams of becoming a champion Latin competitor and also ballroom instructor someday, so when she heard about the class from Lord Junior telling me on Saturday she told Seedling that he should also go. Sparkledancer was also there, because she wouldn’t just challenge someone else to go and not show up herself.

I put my mat down in the back row for class, and ended up being right next to Lord Junior. He actually struggled with things as class went on, and I felt really bad for him. A couple of weeks ago, I guess he was doing some outdoor activity and ended up getting hit in the chest pretty hard, which may have bruised or cracked a rib. His doctor told him that he would have to take it easy for a few months until things healed enough. Ribs usually take a long time to get better.

He thought that he was going to be fine through this class since the incident was weeks ago, but any of the exercises where he had to curl his body up around that side of his rib cage ended up being a lot more painful for Lord Junior than he had anticipated. Gritting his teeth helped him get through things at the beginning of class, but by the time we got halfway through he started having to keep his back on the mat because it hurt too much. By the end of the hour Lord Junior was really only getting in work through his legs and trying to leave his entire core out of it. Poor guy.

Lord Junior was no longer feeling pain in his core on Monday night thankfully, so Latin Technique class went on as scheduled. Before class started, Lord Junior told all of us that he had promised one lady a few days ago that we could work on Samba in class, but she wasn’t there yet. I guess the last time she came to class she was ten minutes late, so he said that we could get started with warm up exercises and see if she showed her face before deciding what we wanted to work on. We did two different exercises, Batucadas – which Lord Junior said was good for everyone to do whether we worked on Samba that night or not – and Three Step Turns going from left to right.

Once we finished up those and the lady he had promised a class on Samba to still hadn’t shown up, Lord Junior decided that he should save Samba for her another time and work on some Rumba instead. He asked everyone if they could think of anything we hadn’t worked on in Rumba for a while. The first thing that came to my mind was the Rope Spin figure, but I didn’t say anything about it. There were a lot more women than men in class that night, so I didn’t want to pick something since I was in the minority. I’m not sure where the other guys who had been coming to class lately were (Seedling and Apollo for instance), but I sure could have used some help that night.

After a long pause, Veep, who was standing to my left at the time, ended up being the first person to speak up. Do you know what she suggested? Yeah, you guessed it: the Rope Spin. I thought that was really funny, as if she had read my mind or something. I leaned to my left and told her that I was just thinking about that figure too, and so we high-fived. Since the two of us seemed pretty happy about the Rope Spin, Lord Junior said that we would go ahead and work on it this week.

The progression that he had us work on was fairly short, which was good because there were a lot of ladies for Lord Junior and I to rotate through so that everyone could try it with a partner a couple of times. We started off with the lady out in Fan Position, closing her back to us to lead her through an Alemana. Once she finished the three steps for the Alemana, she did a Spiral Turn and then went into the Rope Spin. When she got to the Lead’s left side, she did another set of three turning walks (which is all an Alemana is) to end up on the Lead’s right side. Rotating ourselves 90° to the right, we took her into an Opening Out action on the right side, with the Lead faking the last step to stay on our left leg. That allowed us to finish up by taking the lady through a Telespin.

Finally this week, last night I managed to make it out to Standard Technique class. When I got to the Electric Dance Hall, the parking lot was pretty empty and it was raining really hard. The other class that usually goes on Wednesday nights had been cancelled, so those of us who were brave enough to face the rain to come out to Standard Technique class had the whole studio to use. Some of us started to talk about what we wanted to look at that night since we had all kinds of space to work with. Sparkledancer, Veep and I were leaning toward Quickstep, possibly to get in some extra work on the Running Right Turn just for fun.

However, there was one pair of students that were going to join us in class that night that had never been to Standard Technique before. The two of them had come for the other class that had been cancelled, and since they had driven a long way to be there they didn’t want to just turn around and go home quite yet. Lord Junior let them stay for his class for free because he’s such a nice guy. The pair were a husband and wife, and they only dance socially, so going to a class that was supposed to be for working on dance technique was a new experience for them.

Since we had been talking about doing Quickstep in class that night, we asked the two of them if they had ever done that style of dance before. Neither one of them had, so that idea got thrown out for their sake. Lord Junior then asked if the two of them had ever done Viennese Waltz. They both said that they had done a little bit, so Lord Junior said that would be good enough, and thus the decision was made. To make things easier on them, Lord Junior kept the tempo that we were working at below the normal speed for American Viennese Waltz. The fastest we got that night was 90% of the American style tempo, and that was only for a few rounds right before the end of class.

To evaluate how much the newcomers to class actually knew about Viennese Waltz, we spent several minutes working on just doing Reverse Turns going down the length of the floor, first with everyone dancing by themselves and then with Leads and Follows paired up. The two of them seemed to do OK, with only a few minor corrections needing to be made. The lady didn’t cross her left foot in front of her right on the front half of the Reverse Turn until told to do so. I guess she had never been told to do it that way before, which is weird. The guy needed to make some minor adjustments to his frame, most noticeable of which was that he was told to stop looking at his partner while he danced, because it was pulling his body to the right when he did so.

The bit of choreography that we were given to work on was something that would be pretty familiar to anyone who does American Viennese Waltz. There were one-and-a-half Reverse Turns followed by a Backward Change Step where the Lead actually took a larger step than the Follower while sliding his right hand down her left arm to put some space between the partners. That allowed the Leads to take one step back on the left foot and hold as the Follower did a Développé over the rest of the measure of music.

Coming out of that, the Lead would turn the Follower across his chest as he took two steps back in Canter timing so that we ended up in Shadow Position. From here we stayed in Canter timing and did four Canter Grapevine actions down the line of dance. Once we finished with those we wrapped the progression up by doing two Open Natural Turns that were allowed to curve off to the left as if we were going around one of the corners in the room. Most everyone in class could use the short progression to cover the length of the dance floor and actually do the Open Natural Turns around the far corner, except for the two newcomers who were more focused on getting their footwork right and thus didn’t travel as far as they took their steps.
Would you look at that? Another week has already passed by! We are getting close to being halfway through all of 2019 already! Holy cow! I guess time flies when you are having fun, or when there is just a ton of stuff going on, right?

My Tribe Went Down In The Hall Of Fame

Last weekend turned out to be kind of nutty. I got a text from Lord Junior last Thursday asking if I could meet up at the Electric Dance Hall late Saturday afternoon. He wanted to get the whole group of us who were going to the competition from his studio together that afternoon so that we could go over a few things before the event on Sunday. I got a hold of Sparkledancer and we agreed to rearrange our practice time on Saturday so that we would go practice at the Electric Dance Hall the hour before Lord Junior wanted everyone to meet up, that way when we finished we would already be there. If only I had known what I was getting myself into…

What Lord Junior wanted to tell all of us was that all the heads of the dance studios that were taking part in this competition had gotten together, and they decided that each studio was now a ‘team’ and all the teams were going to have to perform a group number at the start of the competition. He had thought about it and had come up with something that was completely ridiculous that he was going to have us all do. When he showed us all what he had in mind, it was really basic and silly, which I thought was a perfect performance number for me. None of us had trouble picking it up after about half an hour.

As an added bonus, Lord Junior brought his young daughter (I’m pretty sure she is only four or five years old) to join us. She was going to be our secret weapon, since she is tiny and adorable. Also, he had worked with her so that she already knew the movements for this performance, but she was watching everyone else to figure out the timing, so she was always a half-second behind the rest of us when she started the movements. But when she moved, she put so much enthusiasm into every move that it put all the rest of us to shame. It was the perfect idea that was definitely going to win our team all the adorable points for the whole day!

The reason that this competition ended up being on Sunday afternoon was so that the competition would fall on Cinco de Mayo, giving the competition organizers a theme to base the event around, and also giving all the competitors an excuse to drink heavily on a Sunday afternoon. There were bottles full of holiday-appropriate beverages that I’m sure you could think of that were provided for each team to enjoy together. I don’t drink, but the rest of the team that I was a part of more-than made up for my lack of participation in this area. The rest of my teammates managed to finish off the entire bottle that was given to our table before any of the other teams, and then they accepted a mostly-untouched bottle from one of the smaller teams at the competition to “help” them finish that off as well.

Can you hear the chorus from “We Are The Champions” swelling here? Seems appropriate, right? 😛

Since the drinking began before the first heat of the competition was even a thought in the DJ’s mind, as you can guess everyone was pretty jovial throughout the event. There was lots of cheering (and additional random thoughts) shouted out by the audience during each and every heat, and the organizers had mixed in some fun surprises throughout the competition to keep things from being super serious. And after about an hour or so, some catering company stopped by and dropped off tons of tortilla chips and salsa, and all the ingredients to put together any kind of taco your heart desired. The heats were running quick, so more than once I saw somebody take to the floor while still chewing on whatever snack they had tried to eat in between rounds.

Surprisingly enough, somehow the organizers talked the world-famous Judge Dread into being one of the two judges that watched that day. I had heard that Judge Dread was going to be in town last Saturday morning to give coaching sessions and hold workshops, so the organizers of this competition must have convinced him to hang around for one more day somehow. Probably using free tacos as a bribe. That would totally work on me, in case you ever need to get me to hang around someplace for a while longer. The other judge was a guy who I didn’t recognize at first because he was wearing an elaborate outfit that fit in with the theme, but he turned out to be one of the instructors from the City Dance Hall.

We started off the competition with the group numbers that every team had put together. Lord Junior had told us the day before that the group performance was supposed to be something short, like two minutes or less, but apparently not all of the teams got that message. A couple of them went on FOREVER – dancing to multiple songs that were spliced together to make their performance an elaborate presentation. One went on for so long that I actually got bored watching it. Still, the performances were silly – and may have been borderline culturally insensitive – but everyone there got a laugh out of them. Those performances pretty much set the tone for the rest of the event.

There were spots set aside in the schedule for “Mystery Rounds” that no one knew about until the day of the competition. When these rounds came up, the DJ had a member of the audience draw the name of one of the teams at random from a bowl. If your team was chosen, you had to go to the middle of the room and everyone had to dance to a song chosen at random by the DJ. Several of these mysterious songs turned out to be line dances, and a couple were just completely off-the-wall numbers that even I didn’t know. Supposedly each mystery round gave the teams points of some kind, but we never found out what they were worth. Since these mystery rounds happened a good ways into the competition after a lot of adult beverages had been consumed by members of each team, I don’t think anyone actually cared.

As far as the actual dancing goes… with all the decorations that were set up, and the tables around the outside of the floor for everyone to gather, the actual dance floor was really small. To give you an idea of how small – I was really trying to reel in my stride any time I was out on the floor, yet I still easily managed to cover the “long” wall of the dance floor using just an amalgamation of figures from the short wall of any of my routines.
On top of that, for a bunch of the routines they tried to fit ten to twelve couples on that tiny floor! My first real dance was a Quickstep, and that was a bit nerve wracking with so many bodies moving around in a small area. After my first couple of times out dancing, my routines pretty much got thrown out the window and I just used the figures piecemeal to get around as best I could without running into anyone. Safety first!

Most of the competitors who came to this competition were Pro/Am, so you would think that having to work so hard to avoid running into people wouldn’t be a huge concern. After all, many of the guys out on the floor Leading were supposed to be Pros, so theoretically they should be pretty good at getting around the floor safely, right? Well… there were a couple of them who had pretty questionable floorcraft skills. To make matters worse, they had mixed in American and International styles and all proficiency levels on the floor at the same time. That made navigating a rather interesting experience. In a lot of ways it felt more like being at a social dance rather than a competition.

For instance, that first Quickstep number I did – they ended up playing a slower Quickstep song, which was helpful to make things safer, but the reason that the song was slower was because there was one couple on the floor that was dancing Peabody instead of Quickstep. The handful of Viennese Waltz numbers I did were done using American Viennese Waltz tempo songs, but I had to navigate around couples who would break frame in the middle of the line of dance rather than go to the middle of the room, so that definitely kept me on my toes.

I have no idea how I actually did that day. As I mentioned, supposedly the competition was being scored with some kind of point system, and all the points from each team member were put together to decide which team was the best. The way they decided to do it must have been overly complicated though, because even though they had been periodically updating everyone with the scores for each team throughout the day, at the end when all the rounds were done they still had to sit at the desk for over half-an-hour with a couple of calculators to see which team won. You know the math is complicated when you need more than one calculator to solve the equation!

But I did get stopped by a number of people I didn’t know after all the rounds were over who wanted to tell me how good I looked while out on the floor, or to ask me where it was I trained and who my instructor was. Sparkledancer told me that a bunch of people did the same thing to her as well. I guess that indicates we were doing pretty well, right? It was a bit confusing to be asked who my coach was. Since there are so few actual Amateur competitors in the area, most people I run into already know who Sparkledancer and I are, because we stand out. I was surprised to run into several people all in the same place who didn’t already know my dance-life history. That doesn’t happen very often.

Monday night I headed off to Latin Technique class. Because Lord Junior had danced in almost all the heats in the competition the day before, we ended up looking at some Rumba to give him a bit of a break. He had us all work on the opening section from his basic Open-level routine that he uses with many of his high-level students. I’ve seen most of the figures from this amalgamation that we did before, just not necessarily in this order. None of the figures were all that exciting, so I don’t really need to remember them for later.

Standard Technique class was actually more fun, so I’ll just leave Latin Technique alone and talk about Standard Technique instead. Only a few of us showed up for class, which allowed us to cover a lot more material in our time together than we normally do when more people show up. I find it more entertaining to go through a lot of different figures in a short period of time, so classes like this really appeal to me. We decided to look at Waltz, since it had been a while since we used that style.

What we went through that night started out with a Progressive Chasse to the RIght into a Back Lock, and then an Outside Spin to turn a corner and head down the next wall. Moving in that direction we did a Checked Natural Turn and Reverse Pivot going into a Double Reverse Spin, then an Open Telemark that came out heading down the line of dance still. Connected to that we added a Curved Chasse from Promenade Position, turning us 90° to go around another corner.
Rather than continue traveling so much after all that, Lord Junior added in an in-place figure by doing a Right-Side Lunge with an Oversway in that corner, coming out by shifting our weight back to the left leg for a beat and doing one last Reverse Pivot so that we could go into a basic Reverse Turn heading toward diagonal center. The whole of this progression will take you down the end of one long wall, through the short wall, and come out at the beginning of the next long wall if you position yourself correctly on the floor when you start. Fun times!

It feels like forever since I’ve seen my coach. The last few weeks he has been running around all over the country giving coaching, and then he was competing at some big Pro/Am event last weekend. I was actually supposed to see him earlier this week, but he injured himself and had to cancel. Hopefully he will be back in dancing shape soon so that we can get together and look over things.

The Sane And The Insane Rivalry

Did you know there was a holiday last weekend? I completely forgot about it. Turns out, not a lot of stuff happens when a holiday falls directly on the weekend. My competitive partner Sparkledancer went off on vacation somewhere, so I had no one to practice with, and since I had just finished a competition the weekend prior I had no motivation to practice by myself. Instead, I stayed home and had a quiet weekend with my cat. That is rare for me – usually I am out and about most of the weekend. Being home was… nice.

I did finally drag myself out to go dance again on Monday night for Latin Technique class, and it turned out to be pretty funny. Let me catch you up with something that I didn’t write about over the last couple of weeks because there was so much else going on. Do you remember Seedling? He is bringing all kinds of weird things into my little corner of the Dance Kingdom. Do you remember last month when I talked about him being in love with his dance instructor at the franchise studio where he was taking lessons, how he danced in a showcase with her, and then later on another of the instructor’s students danced a showcase number with her and Seedling was convinced that the other student stole his thunder?

(If you don’t remember, no worries! Through the magic of the Internet, you can find that story here!)

A few weeks back, I actually got to meet the guy who Seedling swears stole his thunder. There was a dance party at the Electric Dance Hall that I went to. Seedling had talked a bunch of people from his franchise studio into coming out to the dance party so that they could see the place where he has been moonlighting and taking classes to learn non-franchise things. One of the people who came from his franchise studio was this guy, and I got to talk to him during the party. It turns out I had actually met him in the past, and I just didn’t recognize him in the video that Seedling had shown of the showcase performances because he was in costume. That was mildly intriguing.

More interesting than that though, is how Seedling talks about the guy. It seems that Seedling sees the two of them as rivals in dance, and he thinks that this rivalry is so intense for anyone to behold. To Seedling, the rivalry he is a part of is as great as legendary rivalries of old that you might know – ranking up there with the likes of Mario vs. Bowser, Naruto vs. Sasuke, Holmes vs. Moriarty or Rocky vs. Apollo. The only problem with Seedling’s assertion is that… this other guy doesn’t even know that the rivalry between them exists. That makes it a bit hard to believe what Seedling is saying about this other guy and the matchup between them.

Since it is unclear who is really ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in this imaginary rivalry, let’s call this new character to the story Apollo. That will give me a proper name to refer to him by from here on out.

So at the dance party I got to talk to Apollo for a while. He told me that he was starting to get bored with what he was doing at the franchise studio and was looking to move on to someplace that would challenge him more as a dancer. He had watched Sparkledancer and I dancing together a couple of times during the course of the party, and he said that we looked so different from all of the other dancers on the floor, and he wanted to know how he could improve his dancing to look more like mine. Obviously he didn’t say that to detract from how well Sparkledancer dances by any means – it’s just that he is a male dancer like me, so if he told me that he wanted to improve his dancing and look more like Sparkledancer, I might have had a few questions…

Of course, as you might imagine, I told him that a good place to start would be at the Electric Dance Hall. I mentioned that the way that the franchise studios taught people to dance was great for social dancing and just getting the confidence to get out on the dance floor, but when I dance with Sparkledancer we looked different because the two of us spend a lot of time practicing competitive-level technique, which not a lot of people do. I suggested that if he wanted to try out that kind of technique, he should start off by attending Lord Junior’s Latin Technique classes on Mondays and Standard Technique classes on Wednesdays. That would give him a taste of what I was doing for much less money than signing up for private lessons with a competitive instructor.

The next Monday night Apollo actually came to Latin Technique class, and he thought it was the greatest class he had taken in a really long time. Now he is hooked, and he has left the franchise studio entirely and has been coming on both Monday nights and Wednesday nights ever since, with plans to improve the way he dances so that he can start competing at some point in the near future. Hooray! Another male dancer in class with me!

What I didn’t expect was the kind of effect that this would have on Seedling. As you can imagine, Seedling was not exactly thrilled that his ‘rival’ was now in the same classes that he had been sneaking away from his franchise studio to attend. Whenever Apollo is around and talking to people before or after class, Seedling will hang around the outer edge of the room by himself, no longer participating in the conversations like he used to. I wonder if Seedling had been using these classes as a way to make himself a better dancer so that he could impress everyone back at his franchise studio, one-upping Apollo in the process? Now, Apollo is in these same classes and not at the franchise anymore, so if that was his master plan, it has fallen apart.

Since Apollo has made a clean break from the franchise studio, he has even signed up to take private lessons with Lord Junior for a while so that Lord Junior could help him fix the way he dances to be more technically correct. Lord Junior offered to set him up to take lessons with a female instructor at the studio, but Apollo thought that learning from a male instructor would help him get where he wants to be faster. After all, in theory a male instructor knows the male part more intimately, since they default to dancing that part all of the time. Plus, he and Lord Junior are both really tall men, so they are a better height match for working together than many of the female instructors in the area. I’m sure at some point Lord Junior will bring in a female for Apollo to work with, but for now this pairing seems to be working.

This Monday in class we actually ended up with more men than women, so Lord Junior spent much of the class dancing the Follower’s part. What we worked on was actually a bunch of simple figures from the Bronze syllabus in Rumba, focusing on the important technical points needed to make the figures look right. Because I have been going to the Latin Technique class for many years at this point, I actually did really well here, even when dancing with Lord Junior. He didn’t have any corrections for me afterward, like he did after he finished dancing the pattern with either Seedling and Apollo. I guess that I’m a better Latin dancer than I give myself credit for!

The pattern that we used started off with both partners facing one another. The Lead would go into a forward check before bringing the Follower through a Left-side Pass, over-rotating the ending slightly to take the Follower out into Fan Position. From there we did a basic Alemana, ending with the Follower on the Lead’s right side so that we could do a basic Closed Hip Twist that put the Follower back out into Fan Position. This time around we started doing a basic Hockey Stick, but at the end we overturned the lady an extra 1/8th of a turn to line the Follower back up with us before going into three New Yorkers to finish.

Interestingly, Lord Junior said that it was good that he got to dance with all the Leads in class to really feel what they were doing, and that if more guys keep showing up to attend class he would try to do this once in a while to help the guys out. He made some pointed comments about the way that the other two guys in class were leading him through the pattern when they danced together. For Apollo, he said that he needed to back off because his lead was really forceful at certain times during the pattern. Seedling was the opposite though – there was one time where Lord Junior ended up just standing there without moving because Seedling was giving him no pressure at all to tell him what he should be doing.

Class on Wednesday night was quieter. I think that someone mentioned that a lot of schools in the area are on Spring Break this week, which is why there were a lot of people who normally come to class that were missing. It wasn’t just the Standard Technique class that I was in that was small – the group classes going on elsewhere in the studio were also smaller than normal that night too. Hopefully vacation was treating everyone kindly.

With only a handful of us in class, all of whom have been dancing for quite a while, Lord Junior was going to let us work on some more difficult figures this time around in the Foxtrot. At least, that was the plan… Bony ended up having a lot of trouble on the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot, so we didn’t actually cover as much as Lord Junior had planned on when we started class because he kept going back to work on the pivots in that one figure with her. That was alright though, I still had fun.

The little progression that we used in class started out with a Three Step. It was a bit of a strange place to start, but we all made it work as best we could. From the Three Step we went into a basic Natural Turn and then an Open Impetus with Feather Ending. At the end of the Feather Ending we added on the aforementioned Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot, and took that right into a Double Reverse Spin, which is not a figure that is in the syllabus for International Foxtrot. Continuing with some Open-level choreography, we added on a Viennese Cross after the Double Reverse Spin and finished with a Left-side Lunge into a Oversway.

Are you excited for this weekend? I totally am! Like many other men you probably know, I am super pumped to see a movie tomorrow night. As I mentioned three weeks ago, my dance coach Lord Dormamu and I had been talking about this movie, and we were worried that if one of us saw the movie first we might accidentally spoil it for the other, so the two of us are totally going to see the movie on opening night together. It’s cool though – he and I are practically the same age, so it should be entertaining to go watch this movie together. Also the movie theater we are going to has a super fancy flavor of popcorn that I rarely get to have (I don’t go out to see movies very often), so I’m really excited for that as well.

Other than the cinematic excitement, there is another show that I am also going to see this weekend. There is a big dance showcase performance happening on Sunday evening that I got a ticket to go to as well. That should also be a lot of fun. I am pretty sure that I will know a lot of the people performing in this show, which always makes the performances more entertaining to me. Are you going to go? Let me know soon if you are, and that way I can save you a seat! I was told to get there early because they were expecting a lot of people to come out and watch, so it might be standing room only if you get there too late!