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!

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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!

Madness Is The Gift That Has Been Given To Me

I feel like I did a lot of dance things this weekend, but not much actual dancing. And then I did not do much else the rest of this week, because I got sick. Poor, sad little me. 😦

Last Saturday was the day that my Royal Dance Court group holds our monthly dance party. This month we had decided to put together a big formal affair instead of our usual low-key social dances. I’m talking everyone getting dressed up, a full meal served beforehand, fancy decorations – the whole enchilada. Most of my day on Saturday was actually spent putting this event together, so I didn’t have any lessons that day. Because everyone was busy on Sunday with a different event (which I also went to), I didn’t have any lessons that day either. What? Crazy! But it’s true.

My Royal Dance Court group had actually rented out the Endless Dance Hall for our event, since that is the biggest dance venue in the area. We were all told to meet there around noon to get the place set up for the dance party that night. I spent most of the setup time doing manual labor, leaving the actual ‘decorating’ part to the ladies. As you can probably guess, my forte is lifting and carrying heavy objects, not arranging flower centerpieces and choosing which color tablecloths to put on each table. I could do those things if I absolutely had to, but the arrangement would be less ‘artistic’ and more ‘logical’ then I’m sure some people would have liked. What can I say, I understand things better if there is an order to them.
The hardest part of moving around all the tables and chairs was the fact that there were still dance instructors teaching at the Endless Dance Hall while we were trying to do this. I felt bad for them, since they were just trying to do their jobs and make some money, so I did my best to stay out of their way. I can’t say that all of the members of my Royal Dance Court group did the same, though. Luckily, we all managed to get through our work without too much trouble, and the arrangement of tables and chairs that we opted for left plenty of room on the dance floor in the middle for students running through ballroom routines. The instructors naturally migrated their students into the center and worked around the tables almost like we had choreographed the whole thing. If they had been singing along with music playing in the background, I might have thought I was in the middle of some kind of elaborate musical number!

The party itself went off without any hitches that I heard about. There was only one person that was not able to make it, but everyone else who bought a ticket showed up. I think there was even one extra person who showed up, but I can’t be sure. I saw her when she walked in about an hour into the dance party and stood by the check-in table. When I went over to go talk to her, she told me that some guy had already picked up her ticket and was holding it for her. I just so happened to know what table that guy was sitting at for some reason, so I pointed her in that direction and sent her on her way. Whether she had a real ticket or not I never found out, but dinner was already done at that point so having her there just to dance didn’t hurt anything, I figured.

Personally, I didn’t think that the dinner was super good. I know a lot of other people liked it, but I thought that it was kind of lacking. I had opted to have the pasta dish for my entrée, but they gave me the tiniest amount of pasta ever, so I felt sad. Luckily there were leftover dinner rolls after everyone ate, so there may have been one or two more of those in my belly by the end of the night. Also, I ate a cupcake. I can’t remember the last time I ate a cupcake. Or any other cake that wasn’t baked in a cup, for that matter. Huh… that sounds pretty sad when I write it out.

We had just under a hundred people who bought tickets to our formal that night, so there were a lot of people on the floor dancing. As I’ve delved further and further into the world of competitive dancing, I’ve started to have mixed feelings about going out social dancing like this (which you may have noticed, because I write about dance parties a lot less than I used to). On the one hand, going to social dances is the only real way I have to practice my floorcraft skills, which is an important thing to practice. I don’t think that I can give up social dancing completely for that particular reason.

But I also feel… stifled, for lack of a better word, when I am out trying to dance during a social. I’ve spent so much time learning how to move while I’m dancing – covering great distances with every step that I take is kind of how I roll now. Dancing with social dancers, especially people much older than me who take tiny steps while dancing, really limits how much I can travel. It feels… disappointing to dance small.

I might be able to avoid this problem if I decide to only dance Rhythm- or Latin-style dances during dance parties. The problem with that is, I’ve spent all this time over the past year-and-a-half studying nothing but International Standard, so I feel like I have forgotten a lot of the figures I used to know in all those other dance styles. That means that if I try to dance a Rhythm- or Latin-style dance, I end up repeating the same few figures that I do remember over and over again while wracking my brain trying to think of others. I worry that the lady I happen to be dancing with at the time is getting bored, and then the dance starts to be less fun. It’s a weird progression of ideas to go through in a short two-to-three minute period.

Anyway… Sunday afternoon the big event scheduled in the Dance Kingdom was a showcase performance over at the Electric Dance Hall. I actually went out to the Electric Dance Hall early in the day to meet up with Sparkledancer for some practice, since the studio was open. When I first showed up, there were only a couple of people around setting things up for the performances later, so we basically got the dance floor to ourselves for practicing, which was totally awesome. I even got control of the sound system, so I could put on whatever music I needed for the dance styles Sparkledancer and I were practicing, which made it even more productive. Woo hoo!

After about an hour-and-a-half though, others had shown up and were starting to rehearse for the show, so we lost most of the space. We ended up calling it quits shortly after that because I kept having to stop myself or change my routines to avoid running into people, so practice was becoming less productive. Plus, since all of these people were going to be performing later in the day, I thought that they should get the first crack at the space they needed, so I was always the one changing things to go around them. I couldn’t help it, I know what it’s like to perform, so I didn’t want to bother them.

I ran home to try to get a bunch of stuff done in the couple of hours between my practice and when the show was scheduled to start. I managed to get back to the Electric Dance Hall fifteen minutes after doors were scheduled to be opened, but that turned out to be super late. The parking lot was packed! On top of that, the parking lots nearby that weekend parties at the Electric Dance Hall usually overflow into were mostly packed as well! So many cars! When I finally managed to park and walk over to the building, it was standing-room only, and even then I had to fight for a place to stand where I could see what was going on. Even though that was mildly inconvenient to me, I am super happy that Lord Junior managed to get so many people to come out and watch the showcase.

Personally, I thought that this showcase went better than the last one that I attended. Last time it seemed like the whole show was pretty much just performances by Lord Scarry and some of his students. This time around, they had limited him to only eight different numbers out of the thirty-some that were on the schedule, so while he was on ‘stage’ for a lot of the event, other people got opportunities to perform as well, so the whole show seemed more… varied. I mean, I know that it’s hard to choreograph a routine, but each instructor has a certain preferred set of moves that you can pick out if you watch performances that they put together, so a lot of performances in one show all choreographed by the same instructor makes the performances start to bleed together.

The beginning of the show was where they had scheduled all of the Amateur couples to perform. There were four of them, I believe, and they were all relatively new to dancing, so it was one of those “AWW ADORBS INFANT DANCERZ” moments while watching them. Seriously, it reminds me that I was like that once when performing. Full of nervous energy, arms all akimbo because no matter how much I practiced with them they still didn’t want to work right while being watched, and seriously trying to smile for the audience to show them that I was having fun even though I wanted to grit my teeth the whole time in terror. That’s what it’s like for an amateur performer. I know that Pro/Am shares some of those insecurities, but you would think that at least the Professional-half of the partnership wouldn’t feel like that, right?

One performance that was particularly notable was a routine that was done by Sir Digler and one of his students. This lady was much older than all of the other performers that day, so the times that she was on the floor moving her arms and legs you could see that she was a bit shaky and couldn’t move very quickly. To work around that, she and Sir Digler had put lifts into the routine. So many lifts. It was almost as if every other move they did involved him picking her up off the ground. It was incredible.

What made it so incredible, if the information someone else told me isto be believed, was that this lady was like 90 years old. That’s right – Nine. Zero. And the lifts that they were doing weren’t just ones where he would pick her feet up off the ground slightly either. He did ones where he held her over one shoulder while she was in a plank position, or lifted her completely off the ground while she struck a pose, or twisting her around his body and ending with her sliding between his legs. The amount of core strength that this 90-year old woman must have had was incredible. I mean, I have that kind of core strength now, but imagine maintaining it for the next fifty-some years! Super awe-inspiring.
Excuse me for a minute… I suddenly feel the urge to do a hundred sit-ups for no reason.

Other than that one overly inspiring performance, everyone else did a good job as well. On top of the performances, the party was also set up to be a bit of a social dance. The acts were divided into two halves, and between the sets there was social dancing. Not many people actually came out to the floor and danced with me though, they were too busy in the back area demolishing the snack table. Seriously, I had been standing by the snack table while watching the first act, since that was a spot where I had a decent vantage point, and there was tons of food. When I got back to that spot to watch the second half, there was barely anything left on the table! Crazy! It looked like a gang of sharks had descended on the table after I had walked away!

After the performances were done there was supposed to be open dancing as well, but not much of that actually happened. I tried to do a couple of things with a few ladies, but there were so many people from the audience standing around on the dance floor talking with the performers or other friends that it made dancing kind of dangerous, so I gave up after a few songs. I have lots of body mass, and I worry about running into people and seriously hurting them, and then there would be ambulances, and police, and questions, and dirty looks… and I hate dirty looks. So I do my best to avoid situations that could be dangerous.

That’s really all I did this week. If I had to guess, I must have caught something being around all of those people on Sunday afternoon, because Monday through Wednesday this week I was feeling miserable, and ended up spending all of my non-work time either on my couch staring at a wall or in bed sleeping. I had taken all of this cold medication to make it through my days at the office in a semi-functional state, but cold medication always leaves me feeling a little loopy, so ended up suffering for it in the evenings. Sigh… being sick is dumb. Hopefully that is all past me now and next week can be more fruitful.

I think I even get Monday off of work, so I can use that time to get caught up on all the  things I didn’t do while I was sick. Like dance practice! Hooray for that!

If You Happen To Be Rich And You Feel Like A Night’s Entertainment

This last week was yet another busy week for me. I’m hoping that next week will be much more relaxed. With the holidays all lined up, I may just get that wish. Perhaps I’ll even give my legs a rest for a few days next week instead of going out dancing in some way every night like I have been doing! There won’t be much practice time between the holidays, so there’s a real chance that my wish will become reality!

Well, what did I get myself into since the last time I posted? I guess I should start by going back to last Thursday night, where I attended a dress rehearsal for the showcase that I signed up to be a part of. Much like the blocking rehearsal that I went to the Thursday prior to this, dress rehearsal seemed to be awfully chaotic. The Art Director of the Fancy Dance Hall – who also happens to be the director of the showcase – did not seem to have control of all the performers during the evening.

But we soldiered on. Because we weren’t relegated to the stay in a room backstage like we will have to during the actual performance, I got to see several of the dance routines for the first time while waiting for my own cue to take the stage. Most of the routines were, as you could probably guess, Pro/Am numbers. There were only three amatuer routines by my count, and mine was one of those. One of the other amatuer numbers was done by the stage manager and set designer, and the third was an older couple whom I recognized, but could not tell you their names for the life of me.
Watching the performance that night, it was still hard for me to tell exactly what the storyline was. There were a lot of extra people wandering around on stage that shouldn’t have been in the scenes, and those people got in the way of some of the dance numbers. Because this was supposed to be a complete run-through, no one stopped the soundtrack to redo any scenes that got messed up unexpectedly. We just continued on as best as we could.

The part of the show that I was in comes near the end of the first half. My scenes went pretty well, with no extra bodies getting in my way that I had to work around. This was the first time that most of the other performers saw the lift that I did with Sparkledancer, so I got a lot of ‘Oooohs’ and ‘Ahhhhs’ from the makeshift audience when it happened, because it looks really impressive. I have done this lift now many times during practice in front of the big mirrors at the Fancy Dance Hall, so I know it looks cool, even with all the changes that we had to make recently to cut down the time.

After my dance number, I went back to rejoin the scene in the background, waited for the cue that marked my second scene. It was a little awkward – I had been told during the blocking rehearsal that all of us in the background scene were supposed to be ‘frozen’ while the new dance routine was happening, but none of the other extras on stage with me were frozen, so I felt dumb just standing there without moving while people tried to interact with me. Weird.

We all took a break after the first half of the show was finished so that everyone could compare notes. The Art Director came and found Sparkledancer and I and told us that she wanted to go over a couple of things for our scene, but Sparkledancer had to leave before the rehearsal ended that night, so we set up a time to get together on Saturday morning. That ended all of my responsibilities for the night. I quietly walked out without telling anyone after watching the first few acts of the second half.

Saturday morning I met up with Sparkledancer and the Art Director at the Fancy Dance Hall to discuss some minor, last-minute changes to our acting scene for the performance that night. Before we got into any of the changes she wanted, I asked about the ‘party’ scene that was happening when Sparkledancer and I get done dancing, where we were all told originally to freeze once the main characters started to wander around. The Art Director told me that she had decided after the blocking rehearsal that the party people freezing in the background looked weird, so she had told all the other extras in the party to continue partying, and must have forgotten to tell Sparkledancer and I. Oops…

We also talked about the ending of our dance routine, and how we returned to the party when we finished. This made it awkward when we were supposed to come back out for our secondary acting scene, since we were already on stage and the new scene has an abrupt change of temperament. Sparkledancer asked whether we should be portraying something while we were on stage to depict where this change in temperament happened.

The Art Director thought about it for a minute, and then told us it would be better for us to actually leave the stage when we finished dancing. Because the characters Sparkledancer and I were playing were part of a flashback that the main character was having, and there is supposed to be a passage of time between the scene where we dance and the scene when we return to mid-stage, the Art Director told us that it makes more sense for Sparkledancer and I to just disappear from the stage for a few minutes.

Sparkledancer offered to also do a minor wardrobe change in that few minute window before we came back onstage to further emphasise the passage of time. That really sold it for the Art Director. So, we decided that we would leave after dancing, and wait while the next dance routine went on. Once they finished and our next musical cue came up, we would re-enter the stage and stop on either side of the main character to do our scene, so it would look like he was watching this second flashback unfold right before his eyes. Dramatic!
Nothing like last-minute changes that I had very little time to practice right on the day of the show, right?

That brings us to Saturday night, the first performance of the showcase. And quite the performance it turned out to be! Both nights were sold out shows, which was nice, but I didn’t have anyone that I know coming to the show, so I was really just performing for performance sake. That’s OK though. I felt good about how my particular routine(s) went both nights. The dancing was solid, my ‘acting’ parts hit all the necessary cues, and I felt good about everything after I finished.

The overall performances of the whole show felt wildly different between Saturday and Sunday nights though, and I feel kind-of bad that the audience on Saturday night didn’t get to experience the quality of show that we had on Sunday night. That is the risk you take with running your showcase more like a musical instead of a dance recital – if things go wrong during the show, it impacts something larger than just one dance routine. In a normal showcase, if someone messes up while dancing, once their act is done you get a brand new show that starts with the next act that takes the stage.

It wasn’t just me who felt like Sunday night went better than Saturday night. One of the male students that was doing a couple of routines during the show told me during intermission Saturday night that the show felt to him “like a freight train hitting a marshmallow.” That is a pretty amazing description, and I wrote it down that night so that I wouldn’t forget. 🙂

So what made Saturday night feel like that? Well, these are the things that I either experienced or witnessed:

  • Just before my initial entrance to the stage, there is a part in the show where a group of kids were supposed to enter from stage right with a piece of furniture. The main characters then react to the teenagers being there, and it’s mentioned in the soundtrack. Saturday night, the kids were behind the curtain waiting, and then missed their cue. Rather than rush out to be on stage slightly late, the five of them dropped the piece of furniture and ran back to the green room, leaving the main characters on stage interacting with empty space. D’oh!
    There is a part near the beginning of the show where, to make a joke, the Art Director had wanted to have a random character walk across the stage. Apparently no one had been told to take up that particular part for Saturday night, so when the music changed in the soundtrack and the voice-over made the joke about the random character who should have been walking across the stage, there was no one there…
  • One of the characters was supposed to enter the stage with a large prop hanging over his shoulders. The Art Director had promised that there would be a stagehand around who would help him get the prop off his shoulders before his dance number, since the prop was heavy and noisy. Saturday night no one was there, so he ended up struggling as fast as he could to get it off, and he just dropped it in the back of the stage so he could go dance. It made a lot of noise, and was sitting there for quite a while before a stagehand finally collected it to take it off stage.
  • The green room that was set aside for the performers to hang out in when they weren’t onstage was not well controlled. Everyone was loud, and no one wanted to keep the door shut. I kept trying to shush them, and I shut the door whenever someone came in and left it open, but that didn’t help very much. Having been in a number of performances in my life, I know what it’s like to hear noises coming from backstage when you are the one on stage trying to do your bit, and I felt bad.
  • I have to say that the worst offenders of being a ruckus backstage were the ladies in the formation number. All of them were full of nervous energy before taking stage to do their performance, so they were really chatty, and they kept walking through their routine while counting loudly. After they finished performing, they came back to the green room and kept talking about how awesome they had done very loudly.
  • Neither the blocking rehearsal nor the dress rehearsal had been done with the black curtain up that was used to surround the stage and hide the backstage area. On the back of the black curtain, the entrance had been marked with a big ‘X’ in masking tape, but there was nothing on the front side that showed which curtain was the one you should go through. Saturday night, a number of performers exiting the stage (including myself and Sparkledancer) chose the wrong curtain to exit through. Because the curtains were all pinned together and tied to the posts, if you chose the wrong curtain you ended up breaking something or you got stuck trying to create an opening to go through. That probably looked really bad.

Sunday night came around and we got a chance to do it all over again. The night went a lot better. Everyone seemed much more relaxed that night, which I think really helped. Perhaps going through the show on Saturday night helped relieve everyone’s nerves? The crowd also seemed much more responsive to all the jokes and to what the dancers were doing, and that definitely made the performance more entertaining. I think that the Fancy Dance Hall is planning to give all the performers a DVD of the show, and I’m secretly hoping that they recorded Sunday night’s performance to create the video off of.

I did create one issue for myself on Sunday that I’m not entirely proud of, even though everything worked out in the end. I swear that people were saying on Saturday that Sunday’s performance started an hour earlier, so I had planned out my whole day around showing up an hour before the show started so that I could warm up and be ready to go. What I didn’t know was that the show actually started two hours earlier than Saturday’s show… when I walked through the door of the Fancy Dance Hall an hour before what I thought was the start time, the audience was already all seated and waiting for the show to start!

Luckily, I had some time before I was to get on stage, and I didn’t really miss anything. They were running a few minutes behind, trying to find more seats for the over-capacity crowd that had bought tickets to the performance. Sir Steven and Sparkledancer gave me relieved looks when they saw me stretching out my shoulders backstage since I was finally there. I guess next time I should make sure to check the official documentation to learn the start times rather than rely on hearsay.

To avoid dealing with the noise issues of the previous night in the green room, I spent most of the night when I wasn’t on stage plopped down against a wall behind the curtain that surrounded the stage area rather than in the green room. This also let me sort-of watch the performance as it went on. With the lighting being used to illuminate the dancers, I could (mostly) make out what was happening through the black curtain that separated the stage from the backstage area.

A lot of people could see me sitting there as they made their way to enter or exit the stage for their routines, so eventually more and more people also decided to hang out in the backstage area where I was rather than going to the green room. I eventually lost my view of the stage because these other people began standing right up against the curtain to peek through and watch, and I couldn’t see through their bodies. Oh well… I guess I’ll have to wait to get my copy of the show on video to actually see what everything looked like.

Everyone managed to make all their cues that night. I heard that those kids that had missed their entrance on Saturday night had gotten a stern talking to from their instructor about abandoning the show after missing their mark, so they were all extremely ready to get on stage Sunday night. They almost went out too early because they were so ready to go! Luckily one of the girls in the group held everyone else back until she heard the right cue, so they managed to be on time.

Near the end of the show, Sir Steven came out of the green room to hang out in the backstage area as well. He must have been feeling pretty good about how the show was proceeding that night, because he started to do something rather silly. Walking along behind the curtain, he stopped himself in front of where a few of us were sitting on the floor. Taking the hat that was a part of his costume off of his head, he stuck out one of his legs and placed the hat upon his foot. Waving his hands around dramatically for a moment, he then proceeded to kick the hat up into the air and attempted to catch it upon his head.

This maneuver did not go well in all his attempts. The hat went flying over his head and onto the floor behind him. Everyone watching tried to laugh as quietly as possible as the hat missed landing on his head over and over, since there was a performance going on only two dozen steps away from us. After the third time he launched the hat off of his foot and couldn’t get it to land where he wanted, he set the hat on his foot for one more go. Faking a wind up of his leg once, and then twice, he lowered his leg as if to launch the hat with even more power than he had before.

Just as he started to bring his leg up to kick the hat upward, he stopped his leg when it was parallel with the floor, and then reached out to grab the hat with his hands, rolled it down his arms and set it smoothly on his head. He then slid his fingers along the brim to look cool, smiled at all of us who were now gathered to watch this, and wandered off back toward the green room. Just as quickly as this backstage show had started, it was all over, and all of us sitting there were trying as hard as we could not to break out laughing too loud to be heard by the audience.
And that was the showcase! I will say that it was entertaining. As I’ve mentioned before, I never really felt a deep connection to the performance, so I mostly felt like an outsider observing the makings of this show from behind the scenes. That’s a weird way to feel since I was one of the acts in the show. Would I do another performance like this? There’s a chance that I could be convinced to do another in the future, but I can’t say that I will go out of my way to sign up for one. I guess it depends on what the theme of the show is. I won’t be signing up to do another show like this any time soon though. Maybe I will do one in 2019. Maybe,

Now that the show is done, it’s time to get back to my normal training for future competitions. I feel like a lot of my practice sessions the past couple of weeks weren’t as focused on my competition routines as I should have been. Though, I will only be able to get so much training in until after the new year – Sparkledancer told me that she is traveling after Christmas to visit family, so I won’t be able to practice with her until after she gets back. We did set aside some time this weekend to practice before she leaves, so I’ll have that time under my belt at least!