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?


The Best Peach Is At The Top Of That Tree

Aside from yesterday, there were a couple of dance things I went to this past week that asked me to try and make my poor white boy hips work like a Latin dancer. It did not go very well, however. Even cumulus clouds were looking down on me and saying that I needed to go get a tan because my hips looked too white to work like that. Clouds can be jerks sometimes, right?

Saturday night I went off to a dance party being held at the City Dance Hall. The party was kind of small, but there was a thunderstorm going on that I imagine kept a number of people who hate driving in the rain away. I had stopped to get dinner not too far away from the City Dance Hall about an hour before the party, and it wasn’t raining when I left to go there, so making it the short hop over to the studio in the rain wasn’t all that bad for me. I didn’t know that it was going to rain, so I can’t pretend that I was super smart and planned things out that way. I just got lucky.

The organizers of this party had asked an instructor from one of the local Latin clubs to come in and teach a lesson on both Salsa and Bachata. Since he was going over two different styles, and there were some people in the crowd who had never done either Salsa or Bachata before, the figures that he showed everyone were really basic. I had actually seen all of them (or a variation on all of them) before, and I almost never dance Salsa or Bachata. That was surprising to me.

But there was a comment that he made somewhere in the middle of the lesson that really made me feel like I was just a white boy pretending to dance Salsa. He told everyone to bring their arms into the mix, allowing them to move naturally with the body while still maintaining the connection with your partner. This meant a lot of different things to different people, but for me it meant… my arms didn’t really move at all. When I would try and move my arms around, it didn’t feel natural to me in any way. What felt right was to keep my elbows near my ribs and my spine straight. I can’t imagine why that might be what I prefer…

So I may have looked a bit stiff while dancing the Salsa and Bachata in class. No one called me on my lack of arm wiggling, but I did have a few ladies who mentioned to me that they were struggling to understand the steps when they rotated over to dance with me, only to tell me after we got done dancing that I was one of the few men that they were able to follow properly. Personally, I attribute that to keping my arms calm so that I could have a better connection with my partner. I guess that can count as a win?

There were a number of the ladies that I danced with as the class rotated around who were super into things. They were moving their own arms around so much as they danced that it was hard to actually lead them through anything. Lucky for me, they didn’t seem to need my help to get through the pattern that the instructor had walked everyone through. They just turned themselves when they needed to without any assistance from me. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t trying to do any figures outside of the choreography that the instructor had given during his class. It felt like those ladies were just holding onto my hand merely because they were told to do the figures that way, rather than because I was trying to dance with them.

In Latin Technique class this week we looked at Samba. We actually only really got through one real figure, because Lord Junior started off class telling everyone that the figure would be “no big deal,” and then it turned out to actually be kind of a big deal that some people were struggling to do passably.

The whole thing started off on a high note (he said sarcastically) when Lord Junior asked us to do Batucadas as our warm-up when class started. I have been asked to do Batucadas enough at this point in my life that I know what the movement entails. As I take a step back, I can do the lateral motions with my hips properly, even when asked to do the movement at higher speeds. What messes me up every time is trying to add the rotational action into my hips while moving them laterally. Also, trying to do the movement without putting my heels down completely is kind of comical too. So essentially I can do the essence of the Batucada, I would say. That’s pretty good in my opinion.

The reason that Lord Junior asked us to do these as a warm-up was because the opening movements that we used to get into position to do the specific figure that Lord Junior wanted us to work on had the ladies in class doing some Batucadas. Even though the Leads didn’t have any Batucadas in the choreography at all, Lord Junior thought it was a good idea to have all of us work on them, because reasons and such as and so forth (it was along the lines of making us better dancers by having us practice hard stuff).

We started off standing about ten feet apart from our partner. As the music started, the Leads would take a step back on beat five of whatever measure that we wanted to start and wind up a bit so that we could take a step forward on beat one of the next measure. Lord Junior told us that in a competitive setting, the Lead would do this as a visual signal to let his partner know that they would start their choreography when the next measure starts. Since we were split apart, a visual cue was the only clue we could give our partners, unless we wanted to yell across the dance floor at them.

As we started moving, the Leads would do a normal Cruzados Walks and Lock to close the distance between the two of us. The Follower would take two steps backwards as we did the two Cruzados Walks forward, and then she would go into three Batucadas as the Lead finished the Lock to catch up to them. When we met up, the Follower would have her left arm ready so that we could link up with her by grasping her forearm near the elbow rather than her hand. The Follower would then take her right hand and place it on the right side of the Lead’s chest, winding into us a little bit to prepare for the next movement.

This was the figure that Lord Junior actually wanted to have us work on that night. The idea was that the Leads would do Samba Locks forward while the lady would take a large step back, push off our chest to turn around and face down the line of dance as the Lead locked, and then turn back to face us to do it all over again. We were supposed to do three of these in a row, but sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t. For example, Veep liked to use more force to help turn herself around faster, so she would push off her partner harder than the other ladies in class were pushing. I thought it was fine, but the first time she did that to Lord Junior he jokingly told her that it felt like she was trying to crack his sternum. Too funny.

We never got any further than this figure since some people had trouble with it, but whenever someone messed up it was usually in a rather amusing way, so all of us were laughing our butts off throughout the class. The funniest mistake was when Apollo finally thought that he had the hang of the figure, so in his confidence he tried to push off his supporting leg and take a bigger step after he linked up with Gatekeeper. His step didn’t land properly though, and he came down on the back of his heel rather than the ball of his foot, so his front leg just slid forward out from under him. He managed to stop himself before he hit the floor, but he surprised Gatekeeper, and the noise she made stopped everyone else in class in their tracks and made us look back at the two of them, and of course we all started laughing at what we saw. Good times all around.

Wednesday night I headed out to Standard Technique class. Normally on Wednesdays there is more than one class going on at the Electric Dance Hall at the same time, but I guess the lady who teaches the other class was sick that day so our class was the only one there that night. That gave us the whole floor to work with without fear of running into someone on the other side of the room. Because of that, Lord Junior decided to have us work on some American Foxtrot to change things up a bit. He showed all of us the opening section from a Foxtrot showcase routine he had done with one of his students a while back.

This pattern started off facing our partner with several feet between us, with the Lead’s back toward the line of dance. Stepping in and leaning toward our partner, we took her left hand in or right and pressed our other palms together to do an Explosion before rolling her across our body. She did a syncopated turn here, adding in the extra step so that she could come out on the same foot that we were on. As she was turning, the Lead would shift his weight over to his right leg and bring his left leg in, winding up a bit and stepping forward on the left foot at the last possible moment in the measure of music. This put the two partners into something kind of like Shadow Position, but disconnected from one another.

All our movements for the next few measures of music were identical, done with the Follower in front and the Lead behind her and off to the right far enough that the audience could see him. Starting off with a couple of Grapevine actions down the line of dance, we then did a step and hop on the right leg, bringing the left leg up in the process, then pushed off with the right leg to do a bit of a slide to the left. Next we would step forward on the right foot and point our left leg off to the side, and then step onto the left foot and point the right leg to the side. After that we stepped forward on the right foot one more time, but here we would tap our left toe on the floor behind the right foot in a movement that I’ve done a number of times in Pasodoble.

As we pushed back onto the left foot, we allowed the right leg to Ronde around and rotate our body a bit so that we ended up backing diagonal center. That allowed us to take one step backward and then a second step to our left down the line of dance as our last movements in sync with our partner. Here the ladies did a double-turn to the left while the Leads did a syncopated turn, allowing us to take the extra step this time as we rotated so that we could get back on the opposite foot as our partner. Once done turning we brought up our left hand to signal our partner to get back into frame, and we finished up doing a Twinkle into an Open Natural Turn.

I thought that the progression was fun, even when Lord Junior tried to get us to add our arms into the mix. Having long arms, I had to keep mine bent at the elbows in a number of places to avoid smacking the people around me. As class wore on Lord Junior decided to give me a break and reduce the number of us trying to dance down the floor at once, so I had more room to spread my arms out as long as my partner wasn’t too close to me.

Apollo on the other hand, he told me at the beginning of class that he was worried because Foxtrot is a hard dance style for him for some reason, and sure enough he really struggled to get some things down. But it was struggling in a humorous way, since the things he messed up were minor and made the class entertaining as Lord Junior called him out when he saw something. I like that Apollo knows how to laugh at his mistakes. He is a man after my own heart, since I laugh at myself all the time for messing up, even if no one else notices.

It looks like it might be a quiet week coming up. Lord Junior is out of town next week, so his classes are cancelled next Monday and Wednesday. I’ll hopefully get to see Lord Dormamu this weekend (if his injury cooperates), but other than that there really isn’t much dancing on my plate that isn’t practice. There is a big dance event happening this weekend that a lot of people I know are going to, but I didn’t buy a ticket because I thought I would have a work project going on that night. Now, of course, my work project didn’t manifest, and the event is sold out so I won’t be going there. Ah well, maybe next time.

It’s All Around You, You Don’t Even Know It

A quick note to start with about the showcase performance I went to last Sunday evening. The show was great, in large part because I knew practically everyone that was performing. That makes a big difference in how much I actually enjoy watching a show like this. On top of that, I knew a ton of the people in the audience too, so between the different acts I could talk with the people around me and make jokes about everything that was going on. Knowing people helps make good times even better.

There weren’t any really stand-out numbers from this particular show. One unique thing about this showcase was the sheer number of group dances that were put together for the show. By my count looking at the program that they printed off for everyone, there were seven different formation teams, with one of the teams dancing twice. Lord Junior likes to keep the number of performances at his showcases pretty low and mix in some social dancing as a way to help keep the audience from getting bored. Because of that philosophy, the formation team numbers made up almost 25% of the show based on my rough math. Whoa!

I didn’t even know that there were that many formation teams in the area around the Electric Dance Hall to begin with, so seeing them all perform in the same showcase was a unique experience. One of the formation teams was made up of three little girls. I have no idea how old they were, but to give you an idea of how young they were I can tell you that if any of those three were half my height (literally), I would have been surprised. One of the girls apparently hadn’t been planning on being in the show originally, but just decided that morning that she wanted to participate. She came out to the floor holding two big feathers and was waving them around while trying to follow what the adult leader was doing. When she couldn’t follow, she just jumped around doing her own thing with the feathers. Too funny.

Last Monday night I really tried my hardest to convince everyone else in Latin Technique class to vote for working on a different dance style, but my words fell on deaf ears and we ended up working on Samba anyway. I survived the class mostly intact – we spent a lot more time working on figures that used the Samba Bounce action this week than we have in a very long time, but I managed to muddle my way through. Having strong abdominal muscles that I can manipulate helps me give off the impression that I am doing the Samba Bounce action, even if I’m pretty sure that anyone watching closely would be able to see that I am faking it pretty hard.

We started off the progression that night in Shadow Position. Now, before I go any further, I want to mention something that Lord Junior did that I thought was interesting. Remember what I wrote about at the beginning of last month, where I was in Latin Technique class and we did something in Shadow Position and Seedling accidentally did all sorts of uncomfortable things with his hand to at least a couple of the ladies he danced with? This time around Lord Junior had us get into Shadow Position with our left hands holding the Follower’s left forearm as usual, but he had us place our right hand atop the lady’s right shoulder instead.

He told the class that when you do Botafogos in Shadow Position that’s just where the hand should go, but he never really had us change that hold when we did other figures throughout the progression. Obviously putting the right hand atop the shoulder like that took away almost all the risk for error, protecting the ladies from having to go through the situation that happened last month all over again. I wonder if that was the reason that Lord Junior had us hold like that, or if that really is how you always do Botafogos while in Shadow Position? Obviously I don’t dance a lot of Samba outside of this class, so I just don’t know enough to be able to tell you the right answer.

With that interesting tidbit out of the way, what we did was this: starting off in Shadow Position facing the line of dance, we did two Botafogos. After the second one, we rolled the Follower out to our right as we brought our feet together. From this position we did a variation of the Rolling Off the Arm figure, where the Follower did a Three-Step Turn going to the left in front of us as we did a small chasse to the right behind her, stopping her turn by taking her right forearm with our left hand. Then we did the same thing again going back the way we came. We did a similar action one last time, but now the Follower did her Three-Step Turn going on an angle forward while the Lead faked a step, taking two steps forward to end up back in Shadow Position.

Here we did two sets of Cruzados Walks and Locks heading straight down the line of dance. When we got to the end of the second set, we rotated 90° to the right and did another two Botafogos in Shadow Position facing the wall. To finish, we did a step-and-point Volta combination that I have seen lots of times before, but can’t for the life of me remember the name of. I know that I’ve seen it used in quite a few places, and quite a few Samba routines that I’ve watched, but the name is just eluding me at the moment. If it comes to me later, I’ll let you know.

Finally this week, Wednesday night I went to Standard Technique class. This week in class Lord Junior gave us a few exercises to work on, and then allowed us to spend some time working on Viennese Waltz. I don’t actually spend a lot of time working on Viennese Waltz since most of the competitions that I do haven’t offered it for my level yet, but the competition that I am going to be in this weekend will require it of me, so it was nice to get in some extra practice.

Halfway through the class though, we had already managed to spend time looking at the Natural and Reverse Turns for longer than Lord Junior thought was fun, so he added in a figure from American Viennese Waltz to keep class interesting. It wasn’t actually much – just a Cross Body Lead into an Explosion, nothing fancy. Once we had gone through that figure, we attached it to one-and-a-half Reverse Turns, which is all we did that night. We never even looked at any Change Steps.

After class was over, one of the lady’s from class left right away, but the rest of us hung around outside the front of the studio in the parking lot talking for a bit. Apollo tried to Apollo-gize (see what I did there?) to Sparkledancer and Bony for the way he had been dancing in class, since he only knew how to do Viennese Waltz the way that his franchise studio taught him, and there were a lot of things that Lord Junior was correcting him on. All three of us tried to tell him that we had also been there, coming from franchise studios ourselves originally, so there was no reason for him to feel bad at all, but I’m not sure that he really believed us.

Speaking of Apollo – he seems to really be taking to what he is learning in these technique classes, even if it is going slower than he expects of himself. I have seen him in the Electric Dance Hall, hanging around after his lessons are over of coming in early before class, just to spend a little extra time working on what he has been taught. In the long run, I think that Apollo will really be able to go far if he continues at this rate. He has mentioned that he is interested in competing one day, since he loves working on the technical aspects of all these dances that we do in class.

Apollo also brought his wife in to take one of the social-oriented dance classes on Tuesday night, and he introduced her to me while I was there to practice with Sparkledancer. Where Apollo really likes going to the technique-based classes, his wife told Sparkledancer and I that she only wants to dance for fun. That likely means that if Apollo really wants to head down the competitive path in the future, he will probably end up in the Pro/Am world to start with. Unless of course, some lady who wants to compete is able to make friends with his wife and convince her to let her compete with her husband. Male ballroom dancers who are excited about improving their dance technique are a rare breed, so I could actually see that happening if word about Apollo hits the streets.

This weekend I will be going to a competition again. This competition is going to be a bit different from any I have done in the past – I’m not really going to get any placements for my dancing at this event. Instead, Lord Junior had asked Sparkledancer and I if we wanted to do this competition because the dancers are going to be given ‘points’ for how well we dance, and those points will be awarded to the studio that brought the competitors to the competition. The studio that gets the most points is going to get a trophy, as well as bragging rights in our part of the Dance Kingdom.

I think Lord Junior asked Sparkledancer and I to come and dance for his studio because we are one of the few Amateur competitor pairs in the area, so there will be no one at this event for us to dance against. That means that he gets free points for his studio toward winning that trophy. I am only too happy to help with that goal. After all, Lord Junior’s studio is the closest to my house, and he is nice enough to allow me to spend a lot of my free time there for classes and practicing and whatnot. If I can help him bring home a trophy for the studio, it will make me feel good. I like helping.

Wish us luck. Go team!

The Journey Seems Endless But I’ll Carry On

To make up for the lengthy post last week, I’m going to limit my stories this week to just two items. I’ll talk about Latin Technique on Monday, because that class brought a whole mess of drama with it, and then my lesson with my normal coach that I had on Wednesday night. The drama is… well, I was only dealing with it vicariously, but it still got weird. So bear with me while I work through that a bit.

So Monday night at Latin Technique class we looked at Samba. Lord Junior was having a lesson with his student Gatekeeper before class started, and there was a piece of her Samba routine that she was having trouble with as they were finishing the lesson. Rather than promise her that they would work on it the next time they got together, Lord Junior had all of us work on that same piece during class to help her out. I don’t know what part in this sequence that was giving Gatekeeper trouble in her lesson since she seemed to get through everything just fine when I danced through the section with her. Maybe the class magically solved her problem?

The sequence in question was pretty short. Lord Junior started us off with four Criss Cross Botafogos, which wasn’t actually part of the routine but he said it was an easy place to start us moving so we ended up in the right position. From there the ladies did a Solo Spot Volta while the men did a Stationary Samba Walk. As the ladies turned, we kept hold of their right hand with our left, and at the end we reached our right arm around the lady’s right side to take their left hand, putting us in Sweetheart Position. In this hold we did three Samba Walks heading down the line of dance. After the third we did a Rolling Off The Arm, then rolled the ladies back in as we faked a step to get into Shadow Position. We finished with a pair of Volta Movements down the line of dance, since we ran out of time to go any further.

That part of class was pretty normal, and though I never feel all that good when I do Samba, I managed to get through the sequence pretty well with all the ladies. What created the drama in this class was Seedling. I didn’t find out about this until after class was over, and it wasn’t really explained to me all that well, but at some point, either when getting the lady into Sweetheart Position or into Shadow Position (or both, maybe), Seedling got a little… handsy. Sparkledancer was in class that night, and was the one who actually told me about it happening to her, and she said that she also saw Seedling do the same thing to Gatekeeper.

I have no idea why his hand would have been up so high while trying to get the ladies into Sweetheart Position, or coming around the side of the lady at all when getting into Shadow Position, but as I was standing out in the parking lot in front of the Electric Dance Hall after class was over, Sparkledancer told me that his hand was definitely there – fingers grazing all over places that made her cringe. It got to the point that when dancing through the pattern with him, she started to cross her arms over her chest without even thinking about it to try to prevent his hand from getting to that point again.
Lord Junior was the one that noticed her doing this, and called her out on it. While dancing through the pattern with her, when he put his right hand out to take her left hand in Sweetheart Position, she didn’t grasp it like she was supposed to. He had to knock his hand on her right hip a few times to remind her to grab hold before they got to the Rolling Off The Arm. Trying to roll her out without a hand to hold on to would have caused all kinds of problems.

But it wasn’t just Sparkledancer that seemed to be crossing her arms over her chest rather than taking the hand in Sweetheart Position.. Three out of the four ladies that were in class that night were hugging themselves in this same manner, and when Lord Junior danced with them and they did this he would have to say something to get them to give him their hand before they hit the Rolling Off The Arm. There were times that I could think of when ladies in class had done the same thing to me and I struggled to get a hand as we were dancing.

Once Sparkledancer told me about what Seedling had done to her and how she thought it might have caused her to cross her arms over her chest protectively, it made me wonder if the same thing might have happened to the other ladies in class, which is why so many of them neglected to give Lord Junior and I their hand. Since Sparkledancer said she saw the same thing happen to Gatekeeper, it would make sense that she would unconsciously react the same way, and that might explain why she had missed the hand link a few times. Did the other two ladies go through the same thing?

When the shock of hearing what happened in class left me, the next thing that came into mind was the story that Seedling has told a couple of times about how his instructor at the franchise studio he goes to chewed him out for “inappropriate touching” while he was practicing with her. To me, one time something happens can be considered an accident, two times with two different people is a bit coincidental, but three times with three different people? Possibly more? That makes me think that something else is going on here. If Seedling hadn’t already left to head home after class, I probably would have considered having words with him to see what was going on.

Instead, Sparkledancer asked me if she should mention it to him. I thought about it for a second, and then replied that if it happened to her and she doesn’t say anything, then she is basically deciding that she is OK with what transpired – which I didn’t think that she was since she just finished telling me how weird the situation made her feel out in the parking lot, rather than just messaging me about it when she got home. Since Sparkledancer has a running conversation with Seedling most days via text, I thought she should let him know what he did, and how he can fix the issue going forward so that it doesn’t happen again – predominantly by lowering his hand so that it is near the lady’s hip rather than keeping his hand up anywhere near her chest.

It seemed like the right thing to do to me, but oh man did that advice take the situation all the way off the rails…

Rather than apologize for inadvertently touching someone inappropriately, Seedling’s reaction was first to deny that anything even happened because he “didn’t feel” anything during class, and then he turned the conversation around so that he seemed like the victim in all of this. After Sparkledancer reached out to Gatekeeper and got confirmation that Seedling had accidentally touched her in the same way, Seedling continued to deny that he had done anything wrong, even though there were now two ladies from class saying that they had clearly felt his hand somewhere that it shouldn’t have been.

This conversation between Sparkledancer and Seedling apparently continued late into the evening, until finally she got sick of Seedling telling her that she obviously couldn’t have felt his hand grabbing her breast because he didn’t feel that. She quit talking to him and went to bed. That wasn’t the end of things though, because Seedling wouldn’t let this perceived insult to his dance pride go, and he went back at the situation the next day.

His new approach on Tuesday was to tell her that if he really had done something wrong, any of the ladies in class who he had wronged should have said something at the moment so that he could have corrected the problem rather than “running away” from him after class. Also because Sparkledancer had talked to Gatekeeper about the issue, he was concerned that the two of them would start spreading rumors about something that he swore he hadn’t done to all the other ladies at the studio in order to turn all the women and also Lord Junior against him. All of this just because Sparkledancer tried to tell him to change where he was putting his hand to avoid any future problems.

Finally, Sparkledancer got fed up with all of this and told him that his reaction to her giving him helpful advice was inappropriate – there was no reason he should have been shifting blame and questioning if it happened. My phone started chirping on Tuesday morning as Sparkledancer forwarded me his response so that I could see firsthand what he told her in reply.

(This is all copy/paste; the spelling and grammar errors are not mine.)

“You two talked to each other and made your choice”

“Idk what was said..Or even when you had time”

“My reaction is my reaction.I am sorry that I accidentally did whatever you two thought I did.”

“Should I let myself get walked on?”

“Im not going to be told how my reaction should be.”

“Forced to do things”

“I just don’t like getting told that I’ve done something wrong that wasn’t intended. I don’t wrong people.”

“I take pride in not being an asshole..”

“But if feels from my perspective that everyone seems to think that.”

“No matter where I go.”

So… there’s sort of an apology mixed in there, but wow… There’s some hardcore victim mentality mixed in that mess. I’m beginning to understand why his instructor at the franchise studio might have chewed him out for accidental inappropriate touching. If his reaction to being told is to deny that anything happened and then turn the issue around so that he is the one being wronged, then it makes sense how that could have upset his instructor enough that she would yell at him. I want to yell at him for this, and he didn’t even stand close to me during that class! Sheesh.

Anyway… that’s all for that story. Let’s move on to something else – yesterday night I headed out to the Endless Dance Hall to meet up with my coach. We are only a week-and-a-half out from the next competition that I plan on going to, so it was important to get together and go over everything at least once to make sure that Sparkledancer and I are in good shape for that event. I also wanted to spend a few minutes talking about the coaching that Sparkledancer and I had with the judges from the last competition.

As it turns out, according to Lord Dormamu I could just disregard all of the information that the judges I worked with gave me about changing how I danced. The whole reason that Lord Dormamu worked with the competition organizer to sign Sparkledancer and I up for those coaching sessions was just to get our faces in front of those judges. He told me that back when he was competing, he stopped keeping track of how much time and money he put into coaching sessions with judges that he had to do just to make sure the judges recognized him, not to actually learn anything. That is how the dance politics game is played, and he is trying to help Sparkledancer and I play it as best as he could.

So… that was a little disheartening. I understand the concept of stacking the deck in your favor, but there is a part of me that had hoped that somehow I could be good enough to get by on just my own skills, rather than playing intricate mind games to build a reputation with the people in power. I don’t like spending time networking, especially networking that I feel is pointless because there are no concrete results that I can point to in order to prove that the time spent was fruitful. Plus, it’s really expensive to do all of this if I can’t see any fruitful results. But I did agree to let Lord Dormamu choose my course through this competitive world since he is the expert, so if he says that it is a good idea that I do these things, then I will go out and do them.

Once we got that discussion out of the way, we got to dancing. That night we managed to look at Waltz, Quickstep and Foxtrot for quite a bit of time, and spent just a few minutes right at the end on the Tango before we had to stop because Lord Dormamu’s next students had shown up. Things were looking and feeling good that night overall, so the most important thing that we were given were overall thoughts that applied across the board, rather than any further corrections to specific figures.

The overall idea given to me that I needed to focus on before going into our next competition was my chest. Lord Dormamu wants me to take that broad chest of mine and work on having it stand out proudly as I move in all dances. The caveat to this is that I need to be sure to keep my head back while I keep my chest forward – if I don’t, then having my head out of place will destroy the look that he is trying to mold me into. The note for Sparkledancer was still that she needs to think about volume while moving. Nothing else fancy, just creating as much of it as possible will keep Lord Dormamu happy with her.
Otherwise we are looking pretty good. Since the next competition is so close and (based on the entries that we can see) looks like there will be a decent amount of competitors to challenge ourselves against, we aren’t going to try to change anything else between now and then. Once we finish that event we can come back around and start to make some more changes to the way that we execute figures. Based on the competition calendar, we will have a couple of months at least before the next competition, so we should be able to put in the time and effort to take everything to the next level. That’s the current working plan, at least.

Before leaving for the night, Lord Dormamu was telling me about a movie that he had gotten to go out and see recently, one that I had also gone to see a few weekends ago. There is another movie that is coming out in a few weeks that I am super excited about (I’m sure you can guess which one), so naturally he and I started talking about that movie as well. We were both speculating on what that movie would be like, and finally we just agreed that we should go see the show on opening night together – that way there was no chance that one of us would spoil the movie for the other. Going to see a movie with my coach will probably be hilarious.

All kinds of crazy stuff in the works for this month! What kinds of plans do you have on your calendar? It’s hard to believe that it’s already April. Where has the time gone?