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!

Advertisements

Cyclops Woman Got One Eye In Her Head

All sorts of non-dance stuff went crazy this past week. I feel like it knocked me a little out of my gourd. I’m hoping that all the issues get squashed soon. I don’t like the feeling of being out on the vine like this.

…did these pumpkin jokes do it for you?

Moving on. Let’s get right into it and talk about Latin Technique first! Much like last week, this week in class was all about Lord Junior working on some of the new choreography that was put into Veep’s Latin routines to help her (and him too!) memorize everything. The two of them are planning on competing at an event early next month to debut these new routines, so Lord Junior wants to be sure that they get as much practice with the new sections in as possible so they don’t forget anything. This week we looked at the new opening section to Veep’s Cha-Cha routine.

The routine starts off with both partners facing each other in a one-handed hold, the Lead having his weight on the left leg and the Follower on the right. Once the music starts, you do a rock step backward and go into a Forward Lock. When you get to the end of the Lock Step and do another rock step going forward, the Lead would take the Follower’s other hand, then go into a Slip Chasse. However, instead of bringing your feet together at the end of the Slip Chasse, you would twist 90° clockwise and take a step to the side. While doing that, the lady would be doing a Forward Lock, but as the Lead rotates he would let go with his left hand while continuing to hang on with the right, which leads the lady to finish in a side-by-side position with the Lead.

After this, the rest of the opening is pretty much all the work of the Follower while the Lead gets off easy. Over the next measure in the music, the Follower would compress into the Lead’s right side momentarily before pushing off and striking a line with their right arm up in the air. Next the Follower would do a Three-Step Turn, rolling in across the Lead’s right arm. He would curl his body slightly around to let her through, then do an in-place chasse action that turned our bodies 180° while the lady does another Three-Step Turn to roll out across the right arm again. You’ve probably done one of these roll-in, roll-out moves before in a number of other dance styles, so it should be pretty easy to picture the idea. We did two in a row to get the lady back to the place she was when she started.

On the next measure of music the Follower would repeat the compression action into the line that she did before the first roll-in, and then we would roll her in again. This time however, the lady would take an extra syncopated step as she passed in front of the Lead’s body before she started to roll out. The Lead would let go of her completely as she rolled out, staying in place and not rotating this time, while the Follower would go into a New Yorker. As the Follower hit the line for the New Yorker, the Lead would reach across with his right arm to grasp the Follower’s left forearm, basically to keep her from flying away from us if she went into the New Yorker with a lot of power.

At the end, the Lead would pull the lady back onto her right leg and give her a little spin so that she could do one last Three-Step Turn. The Lead would do a basic chasse moving to the right at the same time, and we should end up facing one another with the Lead’s weight on the right leg and the Follower’s weight on the left, ready to continue the routine. That’s where we stopped things that evening, since the next section of the routine was actually made up of pieces that Veep already knew.

The most interesting conversation I had this week in regards to dance happened on Tuesday night. This may be a lengthy discussion, so sit back and enjoy if the matter interests you.

As you might have guessed, on Tuesday night I had a lesson with my coach Lord Dormamu. The lesson part itself covered Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango, and we talked about a lot of the finer, nitpicky points that are needed to keep moving those styles forward toward the next levels. It was all fascinating stuff that I could spend this entire post talking about if I wanted to, but the thing that really set my mind into a tizzy actually came about because of a question that I asked him right at the end of our lesson that was completely unrelated to anything that we had talked about during the whole lesson prior.

Right at the end of the lesson, as we were sitting down to ‘do the paperwork’ so to speak, Lord Dormamu was telling Sparkledancer and I that next time we got together we would look at our Quickstep routine primarily, since we didn’t get to it that night. The mention of Quickstep made me think of Standard Technique class the week before, where Lord Junior had shown me a full Natural Turn in Quickstep that has a second half to the figure I had never seen. So I asked Lord Dormamu about it, and whether or not I would ever use the full version of the figure for anything. He told me that I would in the future, but not yet. It was one of those ‘only when you’re ready, young grasshopper’ moments.

But then I mentioned that Lord Junior had said that no one ever does the second half of the figure, and I wanted to know if he himself had ever used it before in his days as a competitor. That led him off on a wild tangent for the next fifteen minutes where he went off on the way Pro/Am is done in this country, and how much the traditional rules are overlooked for the sake of making students feel like they are progressing faster than they actually should, all in the name of having them continue to spend money on taking lessons and going to competitions instead of putting in the hard work of actually learning to do the dances properly.

Apparently, according to Lord Dormamu, it is a rare thing in the US for instructors to work with their students on Closed Gold, especially in International Standard and International Latin where the syllabus figures are so clearly defined. He says that most instructors feel that the figures and techniques required are “too difficult” for their student because they push the student through Bronze and Silver so fast, so what a lot of instructors will do is to move their students from Closed Silver all the way up to Open Silver, bypassing Closed Gold and Open Bronze completely. This allows them to put off having to teach the student the figures and techniques from Closed Gold for at least another year, if they ever actually decide to go back to it at all.

Supposedly this is done to help the student think that they are ‘moving up’ in the competition world while avoiding the things that would potentially frustrate them, for fear that the student might quit out of frustration if they tried to make them do the work. Lord Dormamu told me that this practice of having students skip levels got to be so commonplace that some large competitions in the Pro/Am arena had stopped even offering Closed Gold rounds entirely decades ago, because instructors stopped signing up for them.

The effect of this, Lord Dormamu thinks, is that you have a weakening of the skills of both the Professionals and the Amateurs in the US because the Professionals would rather put off doing the hard stuff until later to keep making money. Not only are the students not being pushed to learn the material, but if an instructor has no students working on the material then they themselves may not be practicing and keeping their skills up in that material, so doing this can cause the instructor to get rusty. A big problem that he sees though is that a lot of the “really cool” figures in the Open-level world use pieces from the Closed Gold syllabus. He specifically mentioned things like the Hover Corte, Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot and the Bounce Fallaway as examples.

Not studying these figures and their associated techniques in Closed Gold means that the student will oftentimes see those techniques for the first time when they get their higher Open-level routines at the Open-Beyond-Gold levels. If the student didn’t learn the techniques, and the instructor let him/herself get rusty because they have few high-level students who ever reach that level, then the Pro/Am couple is suddenly at a huge disadvantage during a competition. All it takes is for a couple of students to enter the events who have mastered the techniques in Closed Gold, and suddenly the rest of the competitors who were allowed to skip up into the Open-level rounds are marked poorly in comparison. Lord Dormamu told me that when he is judging events, his eyes can pick out the differences in people who have mastered the concepts and those that were just moved up into the Open category and weren’t really ready to do so quite yet.

Since Lord Dormamu is not originally from this country, he was raised in a different competitive landscape. When he was on his competition journey to becoming a world champion, his coaches made him compete in Closed Bronze, Closed Silver and Closed Gold, and train hard enough to do well in his events, before he was even allowed to toy with the idea of moving away from the syllabus into the Open-level world. That is the way he is training all of his students as well, whether they be part of an Amateur duo (like me) or one of his Pro/Am ladies. He refuses to allow any of us to start working on Open-level routines until we manage to complete Closed Gold to his satisfaction.

To that end, Lord Dormamu told me that he actually had to push for the organizers of one of the biggest Pro/Am competitions in the country to add Closed Gold to their list of offered events, all because he had a student who moved up to compete at that level. After hounding the organizers for a long time, they finally relented and added the rounds for him. The events ended up being small, with only seven couples signing up, but I guess it was the first time in almost forty years that they had even run Closed Gold rounds at that particular competition.

(His student obviously swept first place across the board in the Closed Gold at that competition…)

Now, to pull this rant of Lord Dormamu’s back to show why it intrigued me so much… both Sparkledancer and I get asked a lot why we are still competing in Bronze events, even though we no longer look like the average Bronze-level dancers. People are curious what the reasoning is that we remain behind even though many of the other people that we have been in competitions against have already moved up to the next level. When I try to explain to them that our coach is holding us at our current level until he is sure that our fundamentals are rock solid, I get either wary agreement or replies that I could do so well in the higher levels, so there is no reason to hang out in Bronze any longer.

I guess that it is hard for people to accept that we would purposefully pay our coach to hold us down. Outside of the franchise studio environment, there really is no ‘graduation’ ceremony that one has to accomplish before they can move up to the next level. As Amateurs, Sparkledancer and I could sign up to dance in whatever events we wanted. If we wanted to jump from Closed Bronze International Standard straight to the highest Championship levels in American Rhythm, no one would question us when we signed up. They might question us when we got off the floor at the competition after watching us dance terribly, but that’s a different matter entirely. So because there is no set point to confirm a competitor is ready, a lot of people just decide to jump up to the next level after they get bored dancing at the lower level, whether they have actually mastered the material at that level or not.

There is one couple in particular that comes to mind. I have competed against them a number of times, and talked with them about other competitions that they have done that I didn’t sign up for. The female from this Amateur pair loves to talk about all the first place ribbons/stickers/medals they have won when she is telling everyone about their results. What she doesn’t mention is that they mostly dance unopposed because they are in that weird limbo age category where there are so few competitors. When they do get on the floor with other couples, they don’t do nearly as well. And then, I think that she secretly doesn’t like me, because all the times they have competed directly against Sparkledancer and I, we have always crushed them when the results come in.

The two of them decided to move up to dance Silver this month. It wasn’t a recommendation from their coach, they just decided on their own that they no longer wanted to dance the simple stuff in Bronze, and there is nothing holding them back. So this month they have been working on adding the new figures from the Silver syllabus into their routines in hopes of being ready to compete again in December of January. That example I think illustrates what Lord Dormamu is talking about – people decide for themselves that they want to move on because of boredom, and the coach that trains them doesn’t stop them because he wants to keep the money for their lessons coming in.

Is there a good fix for this? I don’t know. The franchise studio system seems to have things worked out pretty well, where students have to ‘graduate’ from one level to another. However, that kind of system would be nearly impossible to implement in the world outside of the franchises where every studio uses a disparate system for tracking their students’ progress. The bigger dance organizations have ‘point systems’ to help track progress and prevent more experienced dancers from sandbagging the competition, but tracking the points is done primarily through the honor system rather than through some centralized electronic system, so I know people who have fudged their numbers so they can compete at whatever proficiency levels they want because they like to win.

As for me, I guess I am content just following Lord Dormamu’s master plan, rather than moving up at whatever pace I could get away with. Sure, sometimes it makes things a bit boring for me, but if I go back through my notes I can see the long-term progress that training in this way has allowed me to make. Plus, the progress plan he has me on is tracking really well to the proficiency point plan of the organizations that I do the most competitions in. By the time I reach the maximum number of proficiency points I could carry, Lord Dormamu has said that he plans to move me up because I will be ready anyway. Knowing that the end is in sight keeps me content with where I am currently.

Also, as I’m sure you guessed, I was told that night that I will have to go through Closed Gold. He told me to look forward to it, because he thinks it will be fun for all of us. 😉

One last quick story, then I’m done, I swear… we had a special treat this week in Standard Technique class, a treat that hopefully lasts longer than one week. There was a random guy wandering around in the studio when I got there for class. I didn’t think anything of it at first because I assumed that he was there for the Hustle class that is usually taught on Wednesdays on the other side of the Electric Dance Hall. But as Lord Junior came over to start Standard Technique class up, the gentleman followed him. The surprising thing was, it was actually a guy that I knew! Someone that I had even picked out a name and a Lego Figure for in the past! How convenient is that? Let’s all welcome back The Professor to the scene!

It took me a bit of searching to find what I wrote about the last time I saw him, but for those that don’t remember this guy, he is a highly sought after dance fitness teacher in my area of the Dance Kingdom. According to Lord Junior, The Professor recently decided that he wanted to take that next step and start working on becoming a ballroom dance instructor, so he went to Lord Junior to ask for assistance. Being the nice guy that he is, Lord Junior said that he would help train him… but rather than start out simply, he decided to throw him to the wolves and have him join us in Standard Technique class.

Now what we ended up doing in class was really simple as far as the figures are concerned. We looked at Waltz, and went through a Natural Turn, an Open Impetus, a Chasse from Promenade Position, and then a Quick Open Reverse Turn to finish things off. All fairly simple figures that most of the people in class had seen before – except for the new guy. The more experienced dancers in International Standard were told to focus on other technical aspects in the dance since the figures were simple, namely the footwork, posture, frame, timing and alignment. Those points sound familiar, right?

The Professor was told to just stay alive for his first night out on the floor with us, and I think he managed to do just that. Sparkledancer told me after class that his frame was really loose, and both she and Veep were backleading him through the figures when they danced with him, but otherwise he did OK. I could tell that he was thinking really hard about what he was trying to do though, even if I didn’t dance with him. All the other times that I’ve ever seen The Professor he has been very bubbly and extroverted, but throughout the class that night he was rather subdued and looked very thoughtful, watching both Lord Junior and I closely when we were going through his steps.

I hope that this first class didn’t scare him away. It would be nice to have another guy who shows up regularly to help out in Standard Technique. Also, I secretly hope that Lord Junior tells him to start coming to Latin Technique on Mondays as well. I wonder how long the study period is for someone to become a ballroom instructor? Maybe I’ll get lucky and he’ll be working with us in class for the next several months or more. That would be awesome!

It’s finally here! The big weekend in October! The one where everyone throws dance parties and we’re allowed to wear costumes! It’s my favorite. I don’t know if you caught on to that at all. This year I know for sure that I will be going to the party out at the Electric Dance Hall on Saturday night. There are a couple of options for Friday night that I have heard of, so assuming that I can get out of work early enough to make it to a dance party, I will try to choose the most fun one of those to go out to as well.

Also, I’m super excited about my costume. It started out as a joke that I made with a friend of mine, but then I decided to make it a reality. No one at any of the dances I potentially go to will know the story behind my costume, but luckily it will still be funny when they see me in it even without knowing the joke. It’s just that hilarious.

Where will you be going to dance for Halloween this year? Are you planning on being anywhere that I’ll be? I mean, you won’t know if I’m actually there, since I’ll be in costume, but if you do know that it’s me maybe we could high-five or something. I hope to see you out on the dance floor!

It’s Nothin’ Dangerous, I Feel No Pain

Last Saturday it seems like all the stars aligned and everything worked out perfectly in my morning so that I could go to a workshop taught by Judge Dread in the afternoon. Hooray for me! Part of me thought that going to the workshop would be a good idea because Judge Dread is a big-time judge that I see often enough at competitions I sign up for, so getting in some face time with him in a non-competition setting would be a good political move. Dance Politics, am I right? Things turned out even better than that though, because the workshop also turned out to be both a lot of fun and relevant to the material I usually practice.

Judge Dread wanted to work on Foxtrot that afternoon, and he told the class that while the pattern he had in mind was built using figures from the International side of Foxtrot, a good dancer could also apply the choreography in an American Foxtrot if they wanted. He wanted to ease everyone into the steps slowly, so we started off with a bit of basic choreography from the Bronze International Foxtrot syllabus, then those figures were upgraded piece by piece until we ended up with the actual choreography Judge Dread had in mind.

The starting point is pretty simple if you’ve done International Foxtrot before: a prep step into a Feather, then a Basic Weave, and finally a Change of Direction. Judge Dread pointed out to all of us that the Feather was a four-count figure, while the Basic Weave and the Change of Direction were both six-count figures, so the pattern should fill a full four bars of music. That’s all well and good, but what if we wanted to attach something different to the end of the choreography? Then the six-count Basic Weave would throw off our phrasing. To fix that issue, Judge Dread had us add in an extra two steps to the Basic Weave to make it an eight-count figure, so now the figure fits into the phrase.

Doing that however makes the Basic Weave look really long and boring, so rather than just stay in the position that we got into when we started the Basic Weave, Judge Dread told the ladies that we were going to have them shift across the man’s body for steps four and five to get into Outside Partner position on the man’s left side. Some of you may have heard this called ‘Wing Position’ before. Extending the steps and shifting the lady like that in the middle of the figure actually changes the Basic Weave into a figure called the Quick Open Reverse with Left Side Run, according to Judge Dread.

Now that we had fit this new figure to the musical phrase and made it more interesting to watch, we were ready to look at the Change of Direction at the end and make it into something more interesting as well. The pattern of steps that Judge Dread showed to us was something that he said a famous dancer (whose name I didn’t recognize) taught to him back in the early 1980s, and he still sees high-level competitive couples using it to this day. According to him, it especially comes in handy in competitions if you get stuck by people on the floor, because it’s an interesting pattern that stays in a relatively small area for a few bars of music. On top of that, this pattern can be done in ANY International Standard style. Yes, even Viennese Waltz works when you use a bit of Canter Timing.

Each section listed next covers one measure in the music; since we were working on Foxtrot that day, we were doing it with a four count. This configuration started out by facing diagonal wall and going into the first two steps from the Change of Direction, as you probably already guessed. After those steps, instead of stepping forward on the left foot to complete the Change of Direction, Judge Dread had the men step backward and lead the ladies to do an Outside Swivel. Once back in dance frame after the Outside Swivel we would lead the lady into a Contra check that ended with a Natural Pivot on the left leg that would flip us around 180°. That covers the first three bars of music.

The last part of the grouping was something that Judge Dread called a “Rudolph Ronde” with Slip Pivot. Essentially the men would finish the Natural Pivot and take a step forward onto their right leg. Leaving the left leg behind you, we would rotate our bodies to lead the lady to ronde her outside leg before shifting our weight back to our left foot and then slipping and pivoting on the right. Depending on how you rotate your body, supposedly you can indicate to the lady whether you want her to ronde with her outside foot on the floor or in the air, but I wasn’t able to figure out the way to do that during class. After the Slip Pivot you should be back facing diagonal center, and four bars of music will have gone by without you having traveled a whole lot. After that was done, Judge Dread just had us go into normal a Reverse Turn (International or American, depending on how comfortable the lady is with Heel Turns) to keep traveling down the floor.

That class wasn’t the only dance-related thing I did last Saturday either! I also went out to a dance party that night that was being held at the Electric Dance Hall just to get out and be social for a little while. I may have gotten scolded for going to the dance party to mostly talk to people by a lady while I was there… I had a hard time trying to explain to her that I spend so much time on the dance floor lately while I practice my competition stuff, but don’t get much opportunity to talk to people. Apparently that wasn’t a good reason for her. It wasn’t like I was hurting anything though, since the ratio of men to women was almost even that night. If the ratio had been lopsided, I would have been on the floor more, I promise!

The party advertised a lesson beforehand on Bolero. It’s a style that I don’t really do too often, and I never picked up a whole lot of figures for it, so I thought that the lesson would probably be interesting. As it turned out, the instructor that had come in to teach the class only managed to cover figures that I already knew for Bolero. Plus, the guy teaching wasn’t very interesting to listen to. I don’t know what it was about the guy’s voice, but he seemed to drone on and on and I just couldn’t get engaged in what he was saying. So I ended up being a little bored while in the lesson. I maaaaaay have roped Sparkledancer into playing a game of ‘Quick Draw’ with me using finger guns while we were standing across the room from one another. I lost a lot, because my arms move slower. You know, from all the muscle. That’s where the real gun show is at. 😉

A large chunk of time at the beginning of the lesson was spent with the instructor describing the Bolero and how to do the basic steps for the dance. He only taught the class how to do the basic without rotation, though he demonstrated later in class how the Leader could rotate the basic if desired. After getting through the basic movements, he next showed everyone how to do the Cross Over Break (i.e. a New Yorker, depending on what syllabus you look at). We were told to link the two figures together by doing the front half of the basic movement followed by three Cross Over Breaks in a row. Once done with those, he showed the class how to do a Lady’s Underarm Turn on the man’s left side.

Rather than link back into dance frame after the turn, the instructor had the men take the lady’s left hand in their right with the arms wide. In this position we did Outside Breaks Forward, two of them normally and then a third that ended with the man stepping to the side without rotating his body. This wound him up to the right, allowing him to lead the lady to do Swivels in front of him for two measures. At the end of the swivels the man would pull the lady back toward him slightly as he went into the back half of the basic to close back into dance position to finish.

The Swivels were the figure that a lot of the other men in class had the hardest time with. Several of them stopped the instructor to ask how it was that they were supposed to lead the ladies to do them, and they didn’t seem to understand when he explained to them how they needed to leave their arms engaged and rotate their bodies to signal to the ladies to move. Having done this figure before lots of times in a couple of dance styles, it seemed so intuitive to me how the movement was supposed to work, so I had a hard time understanding how those guys couldn’t just feel the lead they were supposed to do when they tried the movement. I can’t remember if I had that much trouble getting it back in the day all those years ago when I originally learned how to do it myself. Maybe I did? I don’t know.

After the lesson was over, the party began. I admit to not being a huge fan of the DJ that was working the music that night. The DJ seemed to like playing Latin-style songs almost exclusively, with only a smattering of ballroom-style or swing-style numbers mixed in. If you like dancing Latin numbers more, I guess that wouldn’t bother you too much, but I prefer a more balanced mix of the three classes. I think it helps mix things up over the course of the party, which gets different people out on the dance floor as the class of song changes. But, to each their own, I guess.

Also, the DJ liked to go out and dance to a lot of the Latin-style songs, which is fine, but more often than not she would totally forget to watch what the music was doing while she was out on the floor. I’m not sure why she didn’t set up multiple songs to play on some kind of mixed playlist that she had chosen. Most music programs will let you queue songs like that. There were a couple of times when she would forget about what the music was doing, then the song would end and her computer would move on to another song of the same dance style before she managed to run back to abruptly change the song to something else in a different dance style. That was weird.

But the weirdest thing that happened during the dance party was that the DJ tried to play a Pasodoble for people to dance socially. At first, people were looking around, not quite sure what to do. Many of the social dancers had never even seen Pasodoble before, let alone learned any steps for the style. After a few bars of the song, two dance instructors who happened to be at the party convinced a couple of their students to go out and give it a try. It didn’t go super well, since Pasodoble is usually choreographed and isn’t done lead-and-follow, but when the DJ cut the song short and everyone cheered for them for giving it a shot. Hooray for them!

This past Monday night when I got to the Electric Dance Hall for Latin Technique class, I was sitting along the back wall with some of the others waiting for class to start. The ladies near me were talking about how tired they all were, and they were trying to figure out what they wanted to go over in class that night. They made a pact that they were all going to vote for Rumba, because even though what we’d likely cover in class might not be easy, at least it would be slower. Lord Junior wasn’t opposed to the idea, so that’s what we ended up doing. He decided that we should go through some exercises that emphasized Latin Walks, since he said that everyone can always work on making those better. Some of these exercises were done alone, some with a partner, and some were done first alone and then a partner was added in later.

We started out with just going over some single steps forward as Lord Junior discussed where we should be settling over the leg in order to initiate the movement, and how we should all think about the lines the legs create in each stage of the steps. After that, we spent time chaining steps together. First we did three four-count measures going forward (half starting on the right leg, half on the left). Next we did steps going forward that would rotate to steps going to the side. We only did two four-count measures of these steps so that we could have one measure starting out in each direction (forward-side-forward, side-forward-side). Like before, half of these were done starting on the right foot, and the other half starting with the left.

The next thing that Lord Junior wanted us to try ended up being kind of hilarious. His intention was for us to do Hand-to-Hands, but after replacing your weight to go back forward you were supposed to do a Spiral Turn that ended facing where your partner would be and then take a step to the side before rotating 90° to go into another Hand-to-Hand. You know how if you put your weight on one leg with the other behind you, you should only be able to rotate in one direction to do a Spiral Turn? Well… that didn’t seem to be the case in this class. For some reason, all of us (including me) at one point or another tried to rotate the wrong way, which just messed up everything after that.

After spending a few minutes laughing really hard at us, Lord Junior thought that we might be able to get through the turns properly if we worked with a partner, so the guys were paired with one of the girls and we tried things again. This is where I got messed up, because suddenly I was on the other leg and it threw me off for some reason. I think I had to go through two partners before I managed to work out my issues and get it down 100%. By that point though, everyone in class was so fired up that anytime one of us messed up and tried to turn the wrong way, it would set everyone else off laughing (including Lord Junior), so messing up didn’t feel so bad. Yes, we really were the ‘advanced’ class that night!

There was one final exercise that Lord Junior wanted us to try out that night. The idea was to start facing one wall, take a step backward and do a 180° pivot that went into a Three-Step Turn and came out as if we were a lady going into Fan Position. After going through this a couple of times, he decided to pair us off again so that we could work in partners. I spent a minute going through the step on my own using the opposite leg so that it wouldn’t throw me off this time when I had a partner with me.

When we ended while with a partner, we were essentially in Hand-to-Hand position. After watching us work through things with a partner a few times, Lord Junior had the brilliant idea of going from the ending back into the Hand-to-Hand with Spiral Turn action that we had done so spectacularly earlier. Yay…? The issue with trying to turn the wrong way during the Spiral came back with a vengeance, and it was still just as funny for everyone the second time around. Who says that technique-focused classes are boring? Not me, that’s for sure!

Finally, last night I was back out at the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class. Lord Junior told us that we were going to work on some Tango, in honor of one of his students who was in class with us that night who would be moving away at the end of the week. Tango is her favorite dance style, so it was a fitting final dance for her, and we were all happy to oblige.

What Lord Junior failed to mention before class started was that the pattern that he was going to have us do was going to be super hard. Stupid hard, even. Normally I don’t have much problem picking up choreography, since there are so many women in class and I get to repeat the steps a lot more than they do, but this class it took me quite a while to feel even semi-confident with what my feet were supposed to be doing, so I didn’t switch over part way through to focus on other techniques. I’m not sure why that was. During most of the class my brain was struggling to just keep the steps straight, but now that I am home and sitting here on the couch writing this I can picture the figures perfectly. I bet if I had enough space in this room, and my cat was willing to dance with me, that I could get through it perfectly! Here, kitty, kitty, kitty…

We started off with our partner facing down the line of dance in Promenade Position. To set up for the first difficult figure Lord Junior wanted to do, we did a basic Promenade with the man closing and a Natural Pivot attached at the end to turn us back around so that we were facing down the line of dance again, this time in closed dance position. Easy enough. The first difficult figure that we did was a Gold-level figure called The Chase, but we did it using the alternate ending to the figure where you come out with a Chasse to the Right and end with a Whisk that rotates you 90° to the right and puts you back into Promenade Position. This would normally be used to turn you around a corner.

The next figure confused a lot of people because it is a lot like the previous one, so doing both back-to-back was what made this choreography particularly hard that night. We did two Fallaway Whisks in a row. Because we had allowed the outside foot to come forward after the previous Whisk, to start the figure we had to take one slow step forward on the outside leg before the first Fallaway Whisk, which starts with the inside leg. If you get through the first Fallaway Whisk correctly, rather than let the outside leg come forward after the Whisk part at the end you would just push off that leg after it crossed behind to start the second Fallaway Whisk right away. Most people in the class that night weren’t good enough to keep both of these Fallaway Whisks going in a straight line, so we would curve them as needed – sometimes almost going in a complete circle. After the second Fallaway Whisk we finished the pattern by adding on a basic Closed Promenade at the end.

Now that I’ve finished writing all of this, I have to go find some band aids. My cat was not too happy about me trying to use her as a dance partner, so I got slightly scratched. Still worth it. Until next week!

Deep In The Fiction We Live

So… I had something happen again this weekend, something that I’ve experienced a couple of times before, and it’s gotten me thinking. You know what happens when I get to thinking, right? I get to writing. Bear with me a little bit today – I have some thoughts to process through.

Last Friday night I had gone out to a dance party. The ratio wasn’t good at the start of the party – we’re talking like over 2:1 women to men as the night began, so I had my work cut out for me. As the night wore on and people started leaving to head back home the ratio got better, so I had a little more time to relax and talk to people instead of just dancing the whole time.

There was a group of people who I had never met before who had come to the dance. Three ladies and one guy – I’m pretty sure the guy said he was married to one of the three ladies, but I can’t remember for sure, so don’t quote me on that. Since I didn’t know who they were, as the night progressed and the ratio of men to women improved enough to give me a chance to talk to people, I opted to put on my Royal Dance Court Member hat and go introduce myself to them and see if I could figure out their dance story. It turns out that I really hadn’t ever seen them before, since they were all students and friends from a franchise studio chain, and that dance party was their first outing to see what the dance scene was like in other parts of the Dance Kingdom. They had all gone out together because they hadn’t been sure what to expect when dancing in non-franchise studios, so they figured they could at least have safety in numbers.

I ended up talking to one of the girls in his group for a few minutes longer than the others. She was younger than the rest, and extremely chatty (which I didn’t know when I started talking to her), so I got stuck in a conversation until I could find a convenient point to make my exit. I ended up just kind of nodded along with what she was saying and occasionally asked a related question to let her know that I was paying attention. I know what you’re thinking – I would make such a well-trained boyfriend if I had free time for that sort of thing, right?

Anyway, she’s talking all about the dance classes she takes at her home studio, and goes on and on about how she’s one of the few students in the super-mega-advanced-higher-than-Gold+-level classes, so she really knows all the high-level figures and cool stuff that her friends that she came with don’t know. The dance styles that she claims to be best at are Cha-Cha, Samba and Tango. Also, she mentioned that she didn’t really dance at parties with any Lead who wasn’t an instructor, because apparently other Leads didn’t know how to handle how advanced she was. My first thought when she said that was that it would be a huge problem for her at this party, since we were not at her home studio and no instructors that she knew were anywhere nearby. I kept that to myself though.

Eventually I managed to extricate myself from that conversation with an excuse that I needed to go dance with someone else. Because I am nice, I filed the information I learned away for later. As you probably well know by now, I am not a fan of Cha-Cha or Samba, but I consider myself to be pretty OK at Tango. Later on in the evening when a Tango comes on I head over to where that girl is sitting and ask her if she wants to dance the Tango with me, since she had said it was one of the styles she was best at. I figured that she would be excited to do one of her best styles while at this party to make a name for herself.

Do you know what she said when I asked her to dance though? She said no to me.

I was a bit shocked by that. I had thought that since she had never met me before, it would feel more comfortable for her if I chose a dance style that she specifically mentioned. After all, she had made a point of emphasizing during that earlier conversation how advanced she was, so while I wouldn’t have started out with anything too crazy since we would both need a little time to acclimate to each other as dance partners, I probably would have been willing to throw in some Tango figures that were flashier if the dance seemed to be going well. But no, she just didn’t want to dance the Tango with me at all. Huh.

Don’t feel bad for me about that – there were still more than enough ladies at the party, and I was able to find another partner who wanted to dance with me without even trying very hard. I was confused about the encounter though, so several songs later when I decided to take a break I wandered over to where she was and talked with her again. She never really gave me a reason for why she didn’t want to dance the Tango with me in that discussion. I probably should have pressed harder, but the DJ announced that a Foxtrot was the next dance, so instead of continuing to talk I asked if she wanted to try doing a Foxtrot instead of a Tango.

She turned me down again! This time, she pointed to one of her friends from the group that she came with and told me that her friend was really good at Foxtrot. I didn’t know what to make of that, but I went with her advice and asked her friend if she wanted to give the Foxtrot a try. We had already danced together once that evening, so I had a good feeling that she would say yes to another dance with me. Despite the praise I had been told of how good this girl was at Foxtrot, the girl seemed really unsure of herself as we danced together, so I ended up having to keep what I did really simple.

With this second denial for a dance, I was starting to wonder if this girl was really Simon Peter in disguise and I had to watch out for a third before the night was over. After dancing for a few more songs, I ended up going over to tell Sparkledancer about this strange situation. Sparkledancer just thought that it was funny, and made jokes that the girl must have a crush on me or something, so she was actually just nervous to go out and dance with me. I didn’t think that was the case, but I wasn’t in any hurry to try things again. The night wore on, and much much later in the evening there was a slower East Coast Swing number coming on. I happened to be standing on the side of the room near where that group of four was again when that happened. I hadn’t planned on it, it was totally by chance that time.

Since the party wasn’t going to go on much longer, I decided to give it one last try. This time the girl actually agreed to dance with me! So we went out on the floor, and I started off simply enough to gauge her skills. I quickly found out that this girl liked to do whatever she wanted, rather than waiting for a lead from me or staying on time with the music. There were a couple of points in the song when she just turned herself without any cue from me. I guess she just felt like there should have been a turn for her at that point in the song, so she just went for it. Fair enough… that’s fine, I guess I can work around that. She also liked to turn really fast, much more like a turn in a Latin dance. The problem with that was that turning so fast ended with her just standing there looking at me before we got to the right beat in the music where she would go into her next triple step.

Also, apparently she didn’t really feel like leaving her arms available for me to grab. After some of the turns, whether led by me or done on her own, I would need to grab her hand when she got around so that I could try to lead her into the next figure. When I would reach for her hand, I would find that neither of her arms were in a place where I could get them safely. There were several times when I had to abandon the figure I would have otherwise gone into because I wasn’t able to re-establish a connection between us.

I did my best to make the dance entertaining at least, and I managed to get her to laugh with me throughout the song with my (self-proclaimed) witty banter.. But what I was able to do with her was not super advanced by any stretch of the imagination. She went back to her group of friends and I went off to dance with other people, and that was the only dance that we did together.

At the end of the night, I got to talk with the guy that was part of that little group before the four of them left. He was super excited about getting to dance at the party, and had gotten a business card so that he had all the information on how to find the studio’s calendar online so that he could come to other events there. I recommended a few other studios that were nearby the area that he said he lived in so that he could check those out as well. Obviously I also recommended that he come to the next dance party that my Royal Dance Court group put on. Shameless self promotion, you know.

Soon the three ladies that came with him to the party came to collect him, and we said goodbye for the night. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see them again, but I hope that the four of them end up going out again to other social dances, and they are able to make connections with the bigger ballroom world. I know that the franchise studios like to keep all their students segregated, but I want to believe deep down in my heart that we can all dance together for fun.

So what is it that has been bothering me about this whole situation? I suppose that it can be broken down into two pieces. First off, I have been wondering if this girl (and other ladies in the past who have told me similar things about the proficiency levels they dance at) spent time telling me all about all of the high-level classes that she was taking at her home studio as a way to try to influence how I might dance with her if we danced together. Secondly, and probably the one that has made me scratch my head more, I have been wondering if this girl could honestly claim to be super advanced if she is really only able to dance with one of her instructors, as she also told me.

The influence thought that I have been having is, I believe, pretty easy to grasp. As you might be aware, in the world of ballroom dancing there is only one partner who gets to lead. Because of that, the second person in the mix only gets so much of a say in what figures, techniques, floorcraft, etc. that the couple uses when out on the floor. I can imagine that at a dance party where most of the attendees are relatively new dancers, someone who does spend their time studying more advanced points might just get bored.

I can imagine it, because I have certainly been through it myself. After all, I will moderate what I do in a social dance to better fit the abilities and experience of my partner. If my partner is new, or has never even seen a dance style before but for some reason wants to try it with me, I will limit myself to the absolute basics to try to help my partner out. If I have the opportunity to dance with someone like my dance partner Sparkledancer, who I know has worked on more advanced figures and techniques (I happen to know in this case because I was most likely there with her when she learned to do it), then I can ‘up my game’ so to speak to make things more interesting. More interesting for both of us, of course – not necessarily just for her.

But what do you do when you meet someone new at a dance party? If I haven’t seen the person around, how would I know what sorts of dances they have spent time working on before I decide to step onto the floor with them? Is that where it might be appropriate for a Follower to tell the Lead what kind of experience she has had? After all, in this specific situation, I thought I had picked an appropriate dance style to try with the new girl I had talked to because she told me it was one of the styles that she was best at. She obviously didn’t want to do it with me, but it was information that I had gotten because she had specifically mentioned it. If I never go to her studio to even see the classes going on, how else would I know that she was in those classes if she doesn’t verbally tell me?

There is a part of me in the back of my brain that says that I would be able to figure out whether a Follower knows more than just the basics of a dance style if I were to go out and dance with them. I’m not sure if that part of me is just my ego trying to convince myself that I am super cool, or if that is actually an ability that I have, but there is merit to the thought. If you’ve been out social dancing in the past, you probably know whether you can feel the difference between a partner who is more advanced based on how they hold their frame and the confidence with which they move, versus a more remedial dancer who doesn’t move in that manner. I’d like to imagine that most everyone can tell the difference.

But it is certainly easier if a potential dance partner would just say to me ‘Hey dude, I’m pretty good at the Polka.’ or ‘Hey dude, I’ve never done Mambo before.’ when we meet. Then I would know that if a Polka came on, we could dance together, but if a Mambo came on I should find a different partner. No guesswork involved.

So, I have to ask – was she telling me all that information when we first talked because she wanted to give me an idea of her skill level as a dancer, or because she was trying to impress me? Or maybe there’s some third option that I haven’t thought of. I don’t know.

Then there’s the second point, of whether the girl could actually claim to be a super advanced dancer if she admitted that she was only able to dance with one of the instructors at her home studio. I will admit, I am not a very good Follower, but if that were the part I had opted to study for long periods of time (and drop serious amounts of money on studying), I would want to be sure that I could do that part with more than just a select few people.

Now it would have been one thing if she had told me that she danced competitively, and there were figures that she was only comfortable performing with her competitive partner/teacher. That would totally make sense. After all, there are certain things that I would only put effort into doing when I dance with Sparkledancer, and other things I wouldn’t even consider doing at all if I were dancing with some random lady I didn’t know at a social dance. So I would understand someone making a claim like that. But to make a blanket claim that she couldn’t dance with anyone who wasn’t her instructor sounds to me like she is claiming not to be a good at following. That’s the first place my mind went when I heard that.

The dance that I ended up doing with her didn’t really change my opinion either. It didn’t really feel like we were dancing together, rather it felt like we were sometimes dancing similar figures near one another. It would be one thing if I had been trying to do non-syllabus figures that she hadn’t known and she had needed to improvise to just stay in the dance. It’s another thing entirely for a lady to just turn herself at points I’m not leading. That makes it seem like she never really needed me to dance in the first place. Do you find yourself going into figures without waiting for your partner to lead them? Is there a reason that you would do that? I mean, if I know that ladies do that for a reason, I might be able to work with that in the future.

Plus there was the awkward pauses that ended up being in the dance because the girl felt the need to whip herself around in her turns much faster than the tempo of the song called for. I like a good awkward moment as much as the next guy, but I normally aim for those for comedic purposes. When they happen in a dance and I can’t find a way to make a joke out of the moment, the awkward pause doesn’t seem quite as good. I know that musicality is a hard skill for an instructor to train their students in. My coach Lord Dormamu has told me that he feels that musicality is either something a student has or doesn’t, and there really isn’t much that he can do to help the student if they don’t have it in them already. But I would think that she should have been able to tell that the tempo of the dance was rather slow, so the turns didn’t need to happen at the speed of light in order to finish them before her next steps.

So why would she have done them so fast? Did her instructor tell her to turn as fast as she could anytime that she needed to turn? Was she trying to impress me with her turning ability? Or is it just that she was nervous and defaulted to turning the way that she spends most of her time turning, which would be like a Latin dance turn rather than a Swing dance turn. I don’t know the answer to that either. All I have is speculation which, while fun, doesn’t really help me out.

Anyway, those are the questions that I am left with. A) Do ladies tell men about all the high-level classes that they take in order to influence the way the men lead during a social dance? And B) do you consider a partner to be high level if the only person they say they can dance with is their instructor? Those questions have been in my head all week. Hopefully getting my thoughts out in writing can clear them out of my head and make room for other dance thoughts. What do you think?

On a happier note, I hear that National Ballroom Dance Week starts tomorrow! Yay! I don’t follow much of what the organization that created this Week has to say, but I saw a sign up at a studio I was at a few weeks ago telling me about it, so I looked it up. Did you know that National Ballroom Dance Week is actually ten days long? Yeah, for reals, that’s a fun fact that you can go tell other people you know. Get a calendar, am I right?

My Royal Dance Court group is going to help put on a dance party this Saturday with a studio in the area to celebrate National Ballroom Dance Week though, since it is a point we can use to promote the event. We couldn’t see any rules preventing us from using National Ballroom Dance Week in our advertisements, so we’re totally doing it! Hopefully we’ll get a ton of people to come out. Will you be there? If you are, come find me and we can have a long philosophical discussion about the questions I wrote about. I promise that it’ll be fun!