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!

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Wasted Days And Sleepless Nights

So… this weekend brought up a strange issue, one that I never thought I would be discussing with someone in the world of dance that I live in. Now I’m going to write about it. Lucky you, right?

There’s this guy I know in the dance community. Let’s call him Seedling, because it is Seedling. Remember that guy? The guy who said that he didn’t want to leave his current franchise studio even though it was much more expensive to stay there rather than going to another nearby studio and taking drop-in classes, because he loved being around the people who were at his studio?

Well, this particular thread came up again. This time, someone actually asked Seedling directly why he didn’t just get the contact information for these people at his current studio so that he could stay in touch with them. Then they could all talk, and maybe even still go out to dance parties outside of the franchise together if they wanted. After all, there was precedence for that kind of get-together happening, since Seedling has gone to dance parties outside of his franchise studio already and met up with other people from his franchise studio while there.

Caught in that tangled vine, Seedling sighed and said that there was one person that he wasn’t able to do that with. This person was someone who he hadn’t been able to get outside contact information from yet – she wouldn’t give him her phone number, or accept his friend requests on social media so that he could message with her there.

When Seedling said “she” it set red flashing lights ablaze in my mind. Can you guess who he was actually worried that he would never be able to see again if he left his franchise studio? Sparkledancer, also being a part of this conversation, managed to catch it as well. She decided to just bluntly ask Seedling if he was talking about his dance instructor, and did that mean he had a crush on her.

That really freaked Seedling out (I don’t think he expected anyone else to be able to see through his clever cover story). He became all flustered and defensive, saying that this wasn’t just a crush! It was so much more!! There was no way any of us could understand!!! None of us had never seen the way she treats him!!!! And he just KNOWS that if there wasn’t a ‘no fraternization’ policy at his studio, the two of them could be so much more!!!!!

Yup. Seedling thinks that he is head-over-heels in love with his dance instructor.

This is only the second time I have met someone who had developed feelings for their instructor. At least, someone who has admitted to the fact – I may know more people who have done this, but they’ve never said anything about it to me. The first time wasn’t this bad though. True story – a long time ago in my dance life, there was a really young girl that I knew – she was only in her late teens at the time – who admitted to me that she had a crush on her instructor. She would joke about how someday when she was older the two of them would be getting married and Tango down the aisle together.

I knew that the instructor that she was talking about didn’t like girls (it was SUPER obvious). Plus I had also met his boyfriend – who was another dance instructor. The two of them were pretty good at not talking about their relationship openly, but it wasn’t too hard to see. So I made a joke to the young girl and asked how she was going to convince instructor-guy to leave his boyfriend and marry her instead. I thought that she knew! Apparently she didn’t, and was shocked to hear that he liked boys.

Side note: Once I accidentally exposed the truth though, she came back to me a few days later and told me that now that she knew, she could see it so clearly, and she wondered how she had missed all the signs before.

Anyway… that was the only other time I have ever personally known someone who admitted to having a thing for their dance instructor. But that case seemed to me like nothing more than a passing fancy or puppy love, which the girl was able to easily get over. Seedling is… well, he seems to be in full-on ‘pining’ mode. Almost to the point where some of the comments he has made since this revelation sound obsessive and creepy.

Trying to reason with him hasn’t helped either – explaining to the guy that she is going to treat all of her paying customers like they are her favorite person in the world during the lessons doesn’t even phase him in his belief that there is some kind of ‘special connection’ between the two of them. The fact that he knows almost nothing of her life outside of their dance lessons doesn’t deter him, nor does the fact that he is somewhere around eight-to-twelve years older than her (I think Seedling said he was almost 30, and this girl is not yet old enough to go on a date and get drinks with him, making her between 18 and 20).

Plus… based on the stories that he has told, it seems pretty clear, even to someone who is terrible at reading women like me, that she is just not interested in him like that. There is a story he has mentioned a couple of times about how, during one of his lessons with his instructor, he accidentally grabbed something “inappropriate” while they were working on a new figure. He never elaborated further than that on what exactly it was that he grabbed, but he said that she stopped everything when it happened and spent a good bit of time telling him off for the incident.

Now I probably don’t have to tell you that ballroom dancing is a contact sport. It’s really hard to dance with someone in one of the Ballroom, Swing or Latin styles without some measure of physical contact with your partner. Inevitably, during the course of your dance journey someone is probably going to accidentally grab or brush against something that they shouldn’t. It happens, and if it’s accidental you kind of laugh it off or apologize, depending on how bad the accident was. No big deal.

Myself, I have even been intentionally groped by women I barely knew on the dance floor. Some just wanted to feel how solid my arms or shoulders were while we were dancing, I guess. One older lady (for reasons I still don’t know) felt like it was funny to grab my butt as I was walking away after the dance was over. Old ladies… apparently I have to be wary of them!

For Seedling’s instructor to tell him off about something that was supposedly an accident says to me that this girl doesn’t have the same ‘special connection’ in her heart for Seedling that he does for her. If she is teaching new dancers how to dance, she probably gets brushed up against all the time during the awkward newcomer phase with her students, so she has to know by now that accidents happen, and as a dance teacher you just have to stay professional during awkward moments.

On top of that, in my experience if a girl really like-likes you, and you accidentally brush against her inappropriately, yelling at you or telling you off is not the reaction that she is going to have. Usually you would get a joke, or a coy smile, or a flirtatious laugh. At least, that’s how things went with girls in my youth, before I got to be older and much more suave like I am now (HA!). I mean, I could be wrong about that, and all ladies are different, so Seedling’s instructor could react like this with any student who accidentally grabs something he shouldn’t… but I don’t think that I am. I’m pretty sure that this is a good indication that Seedling’s instructor does not reciprocate his affections.

But the weirdest issue that this is creating for Seedling is an overwhelming feeling of inferiority between him and other male students of his instructor. Take the showcase that he was in last month as an example. I saw a video of his performance, and it was perfectly good. Seedling has admitted that he is really bad at performing and hates getting up in front of crowds, and you can see that by how his body is tense through the whole dance and he has a serious expression on his face while trying to remember what he is supposed to be doing. If performing in front of people is that hard for a person, you would think that they would be twice as proud when they finish because they really accomplished something major, right?

Not Seedling. All he can talk about is another of his instructors students who performed later in the evening. He showed me the video that he took of that performance. The two of them did a ‘Contemporary’ dance, so it didn’t look like any dancing that I have ever been trained to do. Plus, I could only get a vague idea of what was going on because the two instructor and student spent so much time split apart, and Seedling kept his recording tracked on his instructor the whole time as you can imagine.

Only being able to see half of what was happening for large chunks of the video, I couldn’t get a good picture of what the male student was actually doing. The parts where I could see the male student, he wasn’t doing a lot of actual dancing, or even moving a whole lot. The guy shifted around a bit, there were some arm gestures, but a lot of it was him just standing there doing “lifts.” I say lifts, but it was actually the instructor doing most of the work. The guy was helping get her off the ground, but once she was up she was doing most of the work while he just stood there and let her fling her legs around, or she would wind herself around his legs, or other such moves. Nothing too extravagant, really.

Seedling thinks that this guy’s performance stole his thunder just because they got more applause, and his instructor looked like she was enjoying herself during the dance and he didn’t think she looked thrilled in the video of his performance. I tried to tell him that the most noticeable difference between him and this other guy was that the other student was smiling and looked like he was enjoying himself the whole time, which does a lot more to make your dance partner and the audience enjoy the show. Otherwise, all the moves that the guy did (which I could see in the video) were all extremely simple, so there was no reason for Seedling to think that this guy stole anything from him.

Then he started to go on about how next time he wants to do a showcase that would make her happy. He wants her to let him do lifts with her (she apparently already gave him a hard “No” on that when choreographing this showcase), and to do more challenging steps that she would think were fun. That turned into a plan of doing a showcase where she didn’t actually know what figures he was going to use, but that would be fine because she is apparently a good follower and she would be able to follow what he was doing. Sparkledancer asked him if she was the one choreographing the showcase, which he said yes to. Then the question was: how would the figures be a surprise to her if she was the one giving him the choreography?

He didn’t have an answer for that, because he hadn’t thought of that.

To be honest… I don’t know what to think about Seedling being in love with his dance instructor. It’s a foreign concept to me to mix thoughts of romance in with a customer/service provider relationship. I understand that dance can draw people out of their shells and let them live a life that they never would have imagined before they started dancing. On top of that, there are dance styles that obviously lend themselves to romance, and many performances of those styles can portray the idea of the two people dancing being in love. But that’s all supposed to be an act, a performance – not reality.

To fall in love with your dance teacher rather than fall in love with the dancing itself? Is that a common occurrence that I just never really hear stories about?

Maybe I’ve just been in a lucky position that I never really had to worry about this bug biting me like it bit Seedling. After all, when I started dancing I spent much of my time in group classes, and then I was fortunate enough to find another amateur that was willing to split the cost of lessons with me. That simple circumstance allowed me to take lessons from male instructors, which prevented me from ever having to worry about falling for my instructor since I’m not attracted to men. I’ve never spent much time in the world of Pro/Am. Does this happen often in that environment, where students fall in love with their teachers?

I am honestly asking. I am curious to know if Seedling’s case is unique, or if this sort of thing is commonplace.

A Momentary Maniac With Casual Delusions

Man there are a lot of interesting notes about dancing this week! So many! This post could end up being a bit long. I’ll try my best to stick to only the most interesting of interesting details, but I’m laying out that warning beforehand just in case. Deep breath…

The first thing that I should talk about was the competition I was in on Saturday. This was actually my second time signing up to be in this particular event – the first time being last year – so when I got up in the morning to make my way to the Dance Death Arena to sign in I actually knew which room they were using. I met with Sparkledancer in the parking lot so that we would be able to sign in together. As the two of us were getting out of our cars and grabbing our stuff, a lady who had parked nearby saw us. We were both wearing formal attire, so we kind of stood out in the midst of all the other people milling about in the area.

This lady walked over to where we had parked and asked us if we happened to be part of the dance competition that was going on. We told her yes, and she said that she had guessed that was the case because of our outfits. Apparently her son was also taking part in the competition, and she had driven in from out-of-state to watch him dance but had no idea where she to go after she had parked her car. Lucky for her, I knew right where to go! She decided to tag along with Sparkledancer and I as we made our way into the building and up to the room that was set aside for the competition. The lady parted with us as we reached the check-in desk to wander into the room and search for her boy. I hope that she came back and bought a spectator pass at some point later…

I was signed up for the same set of rounds this year that I did last year at this competition, and like before there were two rounds that were packed with other competitors and two rounds with almost no one else in them. The two rounds that had people sign up made me really happy – after competing uncontested in the last couple of competitions I’ve been in, being in these rounds more than made up for that. There were a bunch more couples signed up this year than there were last year! So many more in fact that they had to split the rounds one additional time over what they did the year before. This time, we had an extra ‘first round’ (that’s what they called it) we danced before the Quarterfinal rounds. I ended up dancing a lot more on Saturday morning than I had originally expected.

Just to get it out of the way early, let me say that the competition went really well. The only part where Sparkledancer and I had an issue was in the final Tango and the Foxtrot of the day, which were the last two dances that we did that day. Something unexpected happened that caused those dances to go a little off track, but I’ll talk more about that later. Overall the competition went great – much better than I expected it to.

The most nerve-wracking part of the whole competition experience was having Lord Dormamu as a judge that day. I felt like I had to put extra effort into everything that I did in order to live up to his expectations. I wonder if anyone else was feeling like that because he was judging? Maybe it was just me. Probably Sparkledancer too, since he’s obviously her coach as well.

Funny thing about Lord Dormamu being a judge: as I was waiting in the on-deck area for my first round of the day to start, the girl in line right behind Sparkledancer and I was talking to her partner about Lord Dormamu. She was super excited that he was there that day. I guess she has gone to some of his ‘Master Classes’ in the past, and even got a chance to dance with him at some social party a few months ago. She then proceeded to sound almost offended that he hadn’t gone out of his way since arriving at the event to come over and say hello to her… because obviously there was no way he could have forgotten who she was after that dance they had shared at a social! I had to work really hard at keeping a straight face when hearing her go through her line of reasoning.

Early rounds of dancing all felt really good, and Sparkledancer and I made it through the ‘first round’, Quarterfinal and Semifinal rounds to get on the slate for the Finals in all four dance styles we were doing that day. After the Semifinals, the organizers had put in a few other rounds of different dances just to mix things up a bit. Two of those extra rounds were the other rounds that I was signed up for, the ones that had only Sparkledancer and I and one other couple signed up to dance in. To make better use of the floor, they also rearranged other parts of the schedule to have some of the Mixed Proficiency rounds on the floor at the same time.

The first round of these smaller heats for me took a sideways turn – not in the dancing I did, but from an organizational standpoint. I’m not sure what went wrong, but for the first dance in the round they had us all take the floor and get ready to Waltz, and then let us go. Everything seemed to be going fine, but as the music wound down the judges were all huddled together along the side and were talking. That’s never a good sign… all of the competitors were standing around watching, starting to fidget a little bit. After a few more moments the emcee came back to the microphone and said that since our Waltz was so good, they were going to have us do another fifteen seconds of it so that the judges could see a little more. The music started again, we danced a little more, and then stopped.

Whatever was going on still wasn’t good, so the emcee came back and said that they were going to have to reset and have us do the whole dance again! So, once more I got to go through that Waltz number. I thought that everything went well this time around and we’d actually be able to move onto the next dance style… but alas, ‘twas not to be. After a few more minutes the emcee came back to the microphone and finally admitted that they were having some kind of technical difficulty, so while they worked that out they were going to put on a few songs for general dancing, and then when everything was fixed all of the competitors would get to come back and do the Waltz one last time. So I got to dance a lot more Waltzes that day than I expected.

Finally we got to the Finals for my highly contested rounds. First two dances (Waltz and Quickstep) go great. Everything feels strong and in control, and I can’t think of any points that I would have wanted to go back and do better. Then we got to the third dance… the Tango. In the middle of the second Back Corte along the first long wall, something happened where another couple of competitors got too close to us, and somehow the female in that pair put her heel into Sparkledancer’s right shoe! That obviously got her foot all caught up with the other girl, so she tripped over her feet a bit at that moment, and that made me trip up a bit (luckily no one fell), so coming out of that Back Corte as you can imagine was rough and it took a few steps to recover… or so I thought.

The incident made things much worse for Sparkledancer than I knew about at the time. She couldn’t tell me until after the Tango was over, but one of the results of the girls sticking her heel into Sparkledancer’s shoe and pressing down was that she pulled the shoe almost all the way off of Sparkledancer’s foot! For quite a while after that happened, Sparkledancer was desperately trying to keep from losing her shoe. She was spreading her toes as wide as possible to hold onto the shoe, and slamming her foot down onto the floor to try to get the shoe back over her heel so that it would stay in place. Obviously these movements would have made her footwork look a bit strange if any judges were watching closely enough.

When the Tango ended and we had a moment to recover before the Foxtrot, Sparkledancer finally managed to pull her shoe all the way back on properly, but it seems like the force of the girl putting her heel in there also stretched out the side of Sparkledancer’s shoe. I guess it was stretched out enough that her foot was wobbling around inside of the shoe instead of feeling secure. That made going through the Foxtrot a strange new experience for her as well.

I felt terrible about this after we got off the floor and Sparkledancer had a chance to tell me (and show me) what actually happened. Absolutely terrible. I didn’t think I had gotten too close to the other competitors on the floor, but I guess I misread the signs of where that one couple was going to be moving, and that allowed them to get close enough to us for this accident to happen. The worst part is that the shoe got stretched out badly enough that it doesn’t feel secure for her anymore. She told me that she is going to look at it and see if anything can be done to repair it, which may involve her drilling another hole into the strap that goes across the shoe so that she can pull the buckle tighter.

If nothing works, I’m going to have to find a sneaky way to figure out what size her shoes are and order her a replacement pair. I feel responsible since I was the one leading, so if need be I’ll be the one to pay to fix things. I know that Sparkledancer will probably read this and then call me or text me to argue this point… but she really can’t fight me over it. After all, I’m bigger than her, so she really can’t stop me. Plus, if I just buy the shoes and then give them to her husband, he’ll make sure that she uses them for me. One way or another, I’ll win.

Anyway… once we got all our marks back from the judges for the finals, it was clear that the last Tango and Foxtrot got marked a little lower than all the other Tango and Foxtrot rounds we did that day. That’s OK, it’s what I would expect. We still did really well all things considered, but I would bet that we would have done a little bit better without the shoe malfunction. So yeah… there’s really no way you can practice to recover from an unexpected event like that, so I don’t know if there’s anything we need to do to change the way we practice because of these particular results. The notes that we get back from Lord Dormamu on what he saw while judging us will be the areas that we’ll focus on instead, and I’ll just write off this incident as a fluke.

On Sunday afternoon, instead of staying home and relaxing I decided to head out to the Electric Dance Hall to watch the showcase performance that was scheduled for that day. Since I end up out at the Electric Dance Hall off and on to practice, I have seen quite a few of these performances throughout their stages of development, so I thought it would be good to go and support everyone, and also see the polished final products. It was actually a lot of fun for me to just sit and watch everything and talk with some of the people I recognized. There was some social dancing scheduled between acts, but I didn’t even bring my dance shoes with me to the party this time around. It was a nice little break for me!

(Just so you know, I did meet up with Sparkledancer earlier in the day on Sunday to practice, so it’s not like I didn’t also do some dancing on Sunday…)

This showcase had a vague theme that was outlined on the flyers for the event, and when I got to the Electric Dance Hall I saw a couple of people who were sort-of dressed up to fit with that theme, but the overall impression that I got from the performances was completely unrelated. So I’m not really sure if the theme had any real meaning for the day, or if the original plan called for the performances to be more theatrically appropriate, but that fell along the wayside somewhere.

Aside from the handful of performances that were group numbers, all of the other dances were done by Pro/Am pairs. That’s not really super meaningful one way or another, but it’s just something that I noticed. Usually during showcases I see one or two Amateur pairs performing, but there were none signed up this time around. The person who performed the most that day was actually Lord Junior for once. In the last few showcases I’ve been to that he’s hosted at his studio, usually there are other instructors signed up for a ton of dances. This time it was his students who had filled most of the slots. Good job Lord Junior!

You know who I did unexpectedly see performing again that day? Pompadour guy. Yeah, he showed up again, still giving off his strangely creepy vibe. I’m going to call him Sir Zippy just to make things easier. Actually, I got to see him earlier in the day before the show too. When I met up with Sparkledancer for practice, we had been dancing for about twenty minutes when Indiana showed up at the studio randomly. That was unexpected in and of itself, but then Sir Zippy also showed up! The two of them were going to be performing together at the showcase, doing the same number that they had danced during the last showcase when I first say Sir Zippy, so they were meeting up to get in a little practice before the event.

I did try to talk to Sir Zippy a bit that morning, to try and see if the creepy vibe coming off of him was all in my head or if he was actually a creep. However, I discovered that English is not his first language, so our conversation was… almost nonexistent. That didn’t help change my impression of the guy. Indiana had nothing but nice things to say about him, which kind-of helped… aside from the “funny” story she told me about how she was riding around in his car with him and the brakes apparently decided to quit working properly. He started to drive a bit erratically, but didn’t tell her anything was wrong until they got to their destination safely. Obviously they both managed to get out of that situation unharmed, which was great, but I just couldn’t see any humor in that. Maybe she needs to try telling me the story again with more animal puns? That might make it funny.

Other than Indiana and Sir Zippy performing together, there were a couple of other notable acts to mention. Indiana had brought her group of kids with her, and they performed one of the numbers that I saw them perform last month. I got to watch from a different angle this time, so that was fun. The Professor showed off a dance number with a bunch of ladies from his dance fitness class. I think the performance was intended to promote his class, and wasn’t put together specifically for the showcase. That guess is just based on all the repetitions of the same movements that they did during the song, which is something I would expect from a fitness class’ choreography, not a showcase performance choreography.

There were a couple of numbers that Lord Fabulous did with a few of his students. These were notable for a very different reason – which I noticed while he was dancing, and it was pointed out to me by another person watching the performance, AND was also pointed out to me by someone else before the class I went to Monday night. That’s how you know what he did was notable.

So what was it? Well, Lord Fabulous was being really, really, really forceful while leading those ladies through the performances. Like, to the point of being almost uncomfortable to watch. One of his students that he did a couple of dances with during the show was a much older woman who looked to be all skin and bones, and he was just shoving or pulling her roughly through every turn and rotation. There were a few points where it looked like he had used so much force that it caused her to over-rotate, and then she would get this confused look on her face as she tried to figure out on-the-spot how to recover properly.

I’m not sure if he was dancing like that at the show because of the adrenaline of performance or what. Sparkledancer has told me in the past that Lord Fabulous has an extremely forceful lead even during casual social dances, so maybe this was just the first time I really paid attention to how he dances from the outside. Crazy.

After all that, Monday night I got back to a bit of normalcy and headed out to Latin Technique class for the night. There were a couple of new faces that joined us in class – both of them were members of Lady Lovelylocks’ ‘Sexy Lady Formation Team Dance Club’ group that had performed at the showcase. They wanted to continue to improve at being Latin dancers, so they are going to start coming to Latin Technique to help out with that. Hooray!

One of them had asked Lord Junior if he could go over some basic Samba in class that night to get them started, and since he is such a nice guy he agreed. It was a little repetitive for me since we had just gone through Samba last week, but since Samba is one of those styles that I freely admit that I am not at all good at, I didn’t offer up any resistance to the idea. As it turned out, we didn’t do any partner work that day anyway, so I was able to work on trying to control my poor white boy hips in the back of the room all by myself without worrying about offending anyone else.

Interestingly enough, for a warm-up Lord Junior had everyone work on isolation exercises. They were just simple movements, like leaving your feet and shoulders still while moving your hips back and forth, or leaving your lower body still while moving your shoulders back and forth – all the ones he had us look at that night were core related, leaving the legs and arms out of the equation. He made a few remarks about how important these sorts of exercises were for dancing and improving flexibility, and how he really should make us all do more of them, but since they aren’t all that exciting he told us we should find a way to do them on our own time. I didn’t think that the exercises were all that challenging, but then again I do a lot of core exercises on my own time already. After all, that six-pack doesn’t maintain itself!

Once we finished up with that, Lord Junior moved us on to look at Whisks. For the new girls in class, he mentioned the basic forward-and-backward actions that is the actual Samba basic, but said that you rarely (if ever) see anyone doing those once you move beyond the basics since they are super boring. He likes to have his students think of the Whisk as the basic action instead, because it’s more fun. After the Whisk, he moved on to show the ladies the Botafogo, since in the Samba line dance that is popular in my neck of the woods that is the next figure that you see. Finally we looked at the Volta action, which is what we spent all kinds of time on in last week’s class. As class was winding down, we combined all three figures to run through everything slowly a few times with slowed down music.

Whew! I’m got tired all over again just typing all of these stories out. We’ll just call it good there for this week. I’ve already written much more than the self-imposed word limit I try to hold myself to (I fail at it a lot…). Until next time friends – keep on dancing!

I Was A Hand Grenade That Never Stopped Exploding

Last Saturday night I was feeling mildly extroverted, so I decided to head out to the dance party that was planned for the evening out at the Endless Dance Hall. This party wasn’t like most of the parties that go on in the Dance Kingdom – normally the hosts of the party set up a pre-party dance lesson from some local instructor to lure people to their event. This party wasn’t going to have one of those. Instead, the Endless Dance Hall had planned on having a showcase performance on Saturday, so the organizers of this dance party worked with them to schedule their party to start right after the showcase finished. They gave people a special deal that let you get a ticket to both watch the performance and attend the dance party for one low price, so of course I got there early enough to do both.

My friend Indiana had a huge role in putting the showcase part of the evening together, and I think that she was either dancing in or had choreographed at least two-thirds of the dance numbers in the show that night. Hooray for her! Normally when I go to showcase performances, what I see is basically an all-male review, with the majority of the acts being by a few male instructors dancing with their amateur female. It’s nice to occasionally switch things up and see what kind of show you get when a lady takes the spotlight.

Indiana spends a lot of time working with a gaggle of kids, and has been crafting them into a dance troupe over the last couple of years. This is an endeavor of hers that has been supported by donations from the whole dance community, and she likes to use events like these to give the community a chance to see what their donations are helping to achieve. That night the kids were the ones dancing the most – sometimes as a big group with all the kids participating, and sometimes as smaller groups. One of the acts was even done solely by the eldest male and female students, dancing together on stage alone. Sometimes when I am out at the Endless Dance Hall for my own lessons I have been able to see Indiana working on these routines with the kids, so it was cool to see the finished products.

There was one part that I admit that I was a bit worried about. In one of the routines I had seen them practice, two of the older boys pick up two of the much younger girls and hold them over their heads. I saw them practicing this lift in a couple of their rehearsals prior to the show, and what I saw had me a little worried. My biggest concern was obviously for the safety of the girls. I know that they chose the younger and smaller girls because they weigh less. The two boys doing the lifts were older, but are still in that scrawny early teen phase of their lives, so they don’t have a ton of upper body strength. As a male who went through that same scrawny early teen phase, I know what it’s like. In rehearsal there were a few times when the girls came dangerously close to being dropped – one time would have become a close encounter with the ground if other kids standing nearby hadn’t helped catch the young girl. So that was one thing that concerned me.

Also, the place where the boys were putting their hands on the young girls back to hold the girl over their head caused her to bend her back weirdly. At least, it seemed weird to me when I watched them do it in rehearsal. Then again, I am no longer that young, and it’s very rare for me to bend in strange angles like that nowadays. The young girls may have thought that bending like that was totally comfortable, even if it looked like an awkward angle for their spines to me. I never asked them, so I don’t know for sure.

But my concerns were all for naught because the lifts went off without a hitch that night. The crowd went nuts for them, as I’m sure you could have guessed. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – if you want to do a dance showcase and really impress your audience, a lift is the way to go. People love them!

Other than Indiana and her kids group performing that evening, there was one other notable instructor that was there performing with a couple of his students that evening. He was notable to me not because of how well his acts went (they were all really good), but rather because of him… I had never seen this particular instructor before in all my travels around the Dance Kingdom. I found out later that he had come in from out-of-town with his students specifically to perform in the showcase, which explained why I had never met him before. I like to believe that I’ve talked to or seen pretty much all the instructors that teach in my little corner of the Dance Kingdom by now.

There was something… I don’t know exactly, but the guy just gave off a creepy vibe. Have you ever been in the same room as someone, and you know that they’ve done nothing out of the ordinary, but the person just feels creepy? That was this guy for me. Maybe it was the greasy pompadour that he had going on that was throwing me off. Maybe it was because during his dance performances he seemed to like doing things that would shift the focus away from his students who were dancing and onto him. I’m not entirely sure, but I just couldn’t get away from the fact that he creeped me out.

Before you think badly of me, just know that I did intend on trying to talk to this guy after the performance was over. I thought that if I said hello to him and talked for a moment, I could learn more about who he was and probably find out that he was actually a really nice dude. Unfortunately, he didn’t stick around after the performance was over, so I never got a chance. I guess I will never know unless I see him around again sometime in the future.

The dance party after the showcase was also a lot of fun that night. There were a couple of younger guys who came to the party and danced together most of the night. That is not notable in-and-of itself, but I noticed it because they kept switching off which guy would lead and which one would follow. I did stop and talk to those two to praise them for being able to do that. Neither one of them was an instructor, they just both liked to have the option to be both the Lead or Follow as the mood struck them. I’ve been in classes where the instructor has asked everyone to try dancing the other part before, and it is a hard thing for me to do if the steps are not the natural opposite of what I would normally do, so my hat was off to these guys for being able to do that!

On Monday night out at Latin Technique class, I had a really easy night. The ladies that were in class did not, but Lord Junior and I did (relatively speaking). The weekend before class, Lord Junior and a few of his students had worked with some high-level out-of-town coach, and the coach had helped Lord Junior take a large chunk of Veep’s Open Rumba routine and throw it out to put in something much harder. Because they had just put the new section of the routine together only a few days prior to Latin Technique class, Lord Junior decided that since Veep was in class that night he would go over that new piece of choreography with the whole class… mostly to help the two of them memorize it faster.

Like a lot of high-level Rumba routines I’ve seen in my time, this new choreography is also focused on having the ladies do some crazy stuff, while the guy gets to basically just shift his weight back and forth over his legs without moving around. Most of what that consists of is standing strongly in place so that the girl you’re dancing with could use you for support, or as a platform to push off of. Man, us Leads have really got a rough job sometimes, don’t we?

We started out with the guys in a bit of a lunge on our left leg with our body twisted to offer our left arm to the lady. She was stretched out away from us with her weight on her right leg and her left foot pointed forward. The ladies would do a delayed walking action forward, holding on beat two and stepping on beat three, walking across our body and pivoting at the end to face away from us like in a Switchback, then bringing their arm up and pointing their leg back to create a line. The guys just stand up from the lunge while the ladies do this, then shift our weight to the right leg, then back to the left. Hard work, right?

The next part is the only real exciting thing that the guy gets to do. On the next beat two we would lead the lady to rotate back to face us, then release her hand. During the rotation she would lower down into her legs and put up both of her hands in front of her. The guys would then take a step forward on the left, then a small step on the right and go up on our toes to make ourselves as tall as possible while putting our right arm up. Those steps forward should put the guys body so that the lady’s hands are resting against his upper abdominal muscles. Be careful not to lean forward here – the lady’s hands are only there for decoration, not to actually support the guy. Once you are standing super tall in front of her she’ll tilt her head to look up at the guy – Lord Junior says it should be a look of amazement to really get the character of what the coach was trying to show him.

During the next measure in the music, the guy will pivot in place while lowering back down to be on his full foot and then step away, lunging out on his right leg this time. The lady uses that time to do a weird body-rolling move as she stands up slowly and then takes the guys proffered left hand. In the next measure she will step toward the guy on the second beat, then he will lead her to do a slow Spiral Turn over the next two beats. At the end the guy needs to shift his weight to his left leg and  lowered down his left arm to be near his waist, holding it strong there.

The lady will use that arm to press down on to help her create a line where she lifts her left arm over her head and stretches her left side as long as possible. It’s easier for the lady to do if she has something to press against, hence the guy keeping his arm strong. After a brief hold in this line, the lady will step forward out of it and the guys will take a step forward on their right leg. We’ll lead the lady to do kind of a Three-Step Turn where we release her hands, and she’ll move away from us and lunge out on her right leg perpendicular to the guy, turning her head to look over her left shoulder at us. We’ll hold in place until the very end of the third beat in the measure and take two steps forward to stand on both legs near her as she looks at us.

That’s where the new section ended. It’s kind of a neat looking piece, and I’m sure my picture doesn’t really show enough for you to get a true feel for what it looks like. Just trust me that it’s actually cooler than I can describe, even if it is complicated.

The things we did this week in Standard Technique class were a bit easier to explain than that Rumba choreography, since all the pieces can be found in the syllabus book. We got to work on Quickstep that evening at my suggestion – over the last few weeks before class started, I had heard Lord Junior mention that he thought we hadn’t looked at Quickstep in a while. Since no one else who came to class that night asked to work on anything specific, I threw that out as a suggestion, and everyone else just shrugged and went along with me. Hooray for me winning through other people’s apathy!

Lord Junior started off class by talking about the V6 figure from the Silver Quickstep syllabus. The by-the-book figure is actually just a combination of two different figures that you’ve probably seen before – a Backward Lock and an Outside Change – starting off heading toward diagonal center and finishing heading toward diagonal wall. That’s what gives it the ‘V’ shape that the figure is known for. I can’t find anything written about what the ‘6’ stands for in the name though… that part’s a mystery.

We started off simply enough by doing a prep step into a Half Natural Turn, then a Natural Spin Turn that went immediately into the V6. The last step of the Natural Spin Turn is used as the first step of the V6 in this configuration. At the end of the V6 we added on a Forward Lock and another Half Natural Turn to finish. This gave us the basic outline of what Lord Junior wanted to work with us on that evening.

Once we all had that down, Lord Junior wanted us to upgrade the V6 so that it used the alternate ending that you see done a lot which replaces the Outside Change portion of the figure with a Six Quick Run from the Gold Quickstep syllabus. This speeds up the ending portion, and you really don’t get a chance to take a slower step and breathe until you finish and get to the Half Natural Turn. The trick to keeping this alteration successful is to make sure and watch your rise and fall – you basically start to rise up at the end of step four of the V6 and then stay up the whole time until the end of the Six Quick Run.

Now, you may have noticed that I specifically kept saying ‘Half Natural Turn’ earlier. That was completely intentional, because once we finished upgrading the V6 to its alternate ending, Lord Junior wanted to have us change the Half Natural Turn after it into a full Natural Turn. Now, in Quickstep a full Natural Turn is not like what you would see in the Waltz or Viennese Waltz, where it is just two Half Natural Turns in a row. The second half of a Quickstep Natural Turn involves a Heel Pull action for the lead as you step to the side, then you pass your feet as you step forward onto your left leg.

Supposedly the Heel Pull action allows you to move faster than you would if you had taken three normal steps without the Heel Pull, but I’m not convinced about that. Still, Lord Junior warned us that we likely wouldn’t see people doing this full figure very often. In fact, he admitted that he had personally never seen this version of the figure until he was studying for his certification exam in International Standard a few years ago. If you read through the Bronze syllabus for Quickstep, this is the actual figure you’ll find, so don’t be surprised if you see it there now that I’ve told you!

After we got through the Natural Turn, we added on a Forward Lock that headed toward diagonal center. This set us up for the last step that Lord Junior wanted to show us that night, which was another Silver-level figure called the Fishtail. This is one that I had never seen before, but it wasn’t too rough to get through. Basically it is a forward check on the right leg toward diagonal center, then you step backward and then to the side to change direction so that you can finish with a Forward Lock toward diagonal wall.

There was one time that I messed up this figure pretty bad that night because when I tried to do the check on my right foot but my foot kept sliding forward, and it took some effort for me to get it to stop sliding and then to try to change direction. The mistake put me way off time with the music that was playing. Luckily Lord Junior didn’t notice, and my partner just laughed about it, so it wasn’t too embarrassing for me. I guess I should have brushed my shoes better before class started or something.

That’s all I did this week! So, I have to ask… are you getting excited? We are getting so close to Halloween! I am planning to do some finishing touches to my costume this weekend so that it is all ready to go for next weekend. I know that I will have full range of motion for dancing when in my costume, but this one does have a mask with it so I am a little worried that it may get to be hot as the evening wears on. Still, this costume makes me laugh a lot, so I am excited to wear it even with the risk of being warm.

Do you have your costume all ready? I hope so! Halloween is my favorite time of the dance holiday season! What kind of crazy creatures will I get to see people dress up as this year? I can’t wait to find out!