There’s No Need To Ask Directions If You Ever Lose Your Mind

Man, Saturday night… Saturday night… you know what? Let’s have a bit of a discussion for a few minutes, because some things from Saturday night are driving me a bit nuts.

Friday night and Saturday morning I was having kind of a grumpy time, so on Saturday I decided to get out of the house and go to a movie, get some dinner and then go to a dance party to try to turn things around. I went and saw a movie that was childish and hilarious to make myself laugh, and then ate a bunch of food that wasn’t exactly made out of items from my normal strict diet when I’m doing a bunch of weight training, and then I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall because I had heard that a party was going to be happening there that night. When I got there, Lord Junior had just started giving a class in East Coast Swing, and there were more women than men, so I changed my shoes quickly and jumped in the line to help out.

I didn’t recognize a lot of the women that I danced with during the class. I thought it was just me at first, since it has been a long time since I have been to a social dance like this, but when I started talking to the ladies I found out that many of them hadn’t been dancing for long, and more than a couple of them were just coming out for the first time that night. Then I didn’t feel quite so bad for not recognizing them. There were a lot of young, single, attractive ladies at this party, and I was actually quite surprised that HotDog wasn’t around that night. He always seems to show up for parties when young, single, attractive ladies are in attendance and then proceeds to be a creep trying to hit on them all night. I would have thought that his warning system would have been going off, telling him that he was missing out.

(What would he call his warning system? Babe-dar? Hottie-sense? I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere that I’m missing…)

But even though HotDog wasn’t there to bother these young ladies that night, there were two other culprits that were doing the bothering in his place. One of those men I have actually written about before. It took me a bit to find it, but remember Mr. Grouchy-Face? Yeah, he was one of the two. The other guy was actually given a nickname by a couple of the girls that night. They were calling him ‘Vader’ because he was really tall and they didn’t think he was very pleasant. I’m sure you can figure out the reference. The name was funny to me, so I’m going to use it here.

I don’t know exactly what it was that these two guys were doing, but it was creepy enough to make these young women avoid them. They were even hiding from them. Seriously! Let me tell you, there were several points during the few hours that I was at this party that I actually had women hiding behind me, as if I were a tree or something. Not just one or two women, but several of them used me as a shield to avoid one or the other of these two men throughout the evening as the guys were walking around looking for a partner to dance with when a new song came on.

Beast mode.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s a part of me that felt really good being used like that. After all, A) that tells me that through all the heavy weight lifting I have done, I have gotten to be huge enough that women can hide from view behind me, which makes me feel like a total beast, and B) what man doesn’t like the white knight feeling of helping out a woman in need? But it also makes me feel terrible as a guy when I hear that other guys are making these girls feel this way.

It’s unfortunate that there are so many fewer men in the ballroom community than there are women, because that allows guys like these to develop a overinflated sense of importance through lack of competitive selection pressure. A lot of women will avoid directly confronting these men and telling them how they feel, because the women just want a chance to dance with someone during the evening rather than sitting out on the sidelines. I have heard the complaints from lots of ladies, because I can dance and talk to them at the same time (it’s a skill, like walking and chewing gum), and the women will tell me that there are some men that they don’t like dancing with very much. Yet I still sometimes see those same ladies accept dances with the men they complained about if offered.

Another complaint that I have heard about often over the many years that I have been dancing (I’m getting old, aren’t I?) is of older men who must feel like it is their duty to teach things to younger ladies at a social dance, even if the lady did not ask for the instruction. It’s one thing to repeat a figure that didn’t go so well if the lady asks you to try it again, but it’s something else entirely to pull her aside during or after a song to try to impart your knowledge to her, especially while her eyes are darting back and forth like a cornered prey animal that is trying to find an escape route.

The worst case of this I ever saw was a few years ago. An International Viennese Waltz came on, and people who wanted to do the dance started to pair off and take to the floor. One guy went over to a young girl and asked her if she wanted to do the dance with him. She said no, not because she didn’t want to, but because she didn’t know how to do Viennese Waltz. A pretty valid reason for turning him down, one would think. Right?

Wrong. Rather than go off to find another partner, this guy decided that he would show her how to dance the Viennese Waltz, and began to teach it to her right in the line of dance! He wasn’t following the line of dance however, just going back and forth on one of the short walls, stopping to talk to the girl when she invariably did the steps wrong. Other couples, many who were not all that good with floorcraft, were forced to try to go around the stopped couple to avoid having a collision. It was really a dangerous situation. Luckily no one got hurt, but that could have ended very badly.

I don’t want to stereotype here, but all of the times that I see this sort of ‘unrequested teaching’ occur, it always seems to be old men trying to teach young ladies things. I wonder why that is? Is it because these men feel good about themselves when they get to impart their knowledge to the next generation? Is it because the women closer to their age don’t allow these men to instruct them, while younger women will often naturally defer to their elders and just go along with it to avoid confrontation? Is there some kind of fantasy going on in the older guy’s head about having a hot young lady, who he would normally never be able to date, giving him her full attention for the duration of the song and possibly afterward until another man comes to take her away for a dance?

I’m a firm believer that a social dance is not a place to try to give instruction, especially if your partner did not ask for help. I might be able to spot you an exception if someone asks you to help them and the two of you retreat off the floor so that you can show them what they want to know, but the middle of a social dance floor should really be off limits. And if your partner doesn’t ask you for help, you shouldn’t put forth the effort to try and be a teacher. Also, if their body language says that they don’t want to be there with you, you should just leave them alone and go find someone else to dance with.

That last point… I cringe sometimes when I see young ladies dancing with a guy like Vader, and their body language makes it super obvious that they don’t want to be there anymore. One time I saw him trying to dance a Latin dance – had to be a Rumba or a Merengue – with two different young ladies at once. Both of them had a look on their face that was more like a grimace than a smile, and shortly after that dance was over one of those women left the party entirely.

Are a lot of men clueless about facial expressions and body language? It looked really obvious to me, but I don’t know how Vader missed that. Plus, there were two ladies giving those looks, so that means he had twice the number of opportunities to pick up on it! If I saw my partner making a face like that, I would have to ask them what’s up because I would know that something is not making her happy. After all, the three major rules about social dancing that I was taught were A) to keep my Follower safe, B) keep her  secure and C) keep her entertained. Body language is a great cue to tell me whether I am succeeding at rule C or not.

Doesn’t that feel like common knowledge? This makes me wonder if some people need classes on dance etiquette, where points like this would be discussed. Maybe something that seems like common sense to me just doesn’t cross other people’s minds. Even simple things like keeping your dance contained to keep other dancers near you safe. That seems like an obvious thing that I should always be doing at a social dance, but I know a few dancers who will do dangerous things, like always throwing out their arms behind them when doing New Yorkers no matter how crowded the dance floor is. Can they really not see that as a potential hazard? Should there be a class that tells you not to do things like that unless you know the space around you is clear?

Anyway… I got a bit sidetracked. What was I talking about before? Oh yeah… to top it all off (and this one’s a doozy), I was told a story at the end of the night on Saturday from one girl. For a little background, this girl had decided to start dancing only about two months ago, as she told me. Not being able to afford private lessons on her salary, she has been going to the newcomer group classes and picking things up as best that she can. She told me that dancing was something that she always loved to watch, and this summer she finally felt brave enough to go out and give it a try to see if she could do more than just watch from the sidelines. Good for her, right?

At the dance party that evening, Vader asked her to dance with him. I’m not sure what style they were doing, but keep in mind that this girl has only had two months of beginner classes at the Electric Dance Hall since she started dancing. The beginner classes that the Electric Dance Hall holds teach the same dance style for the whole month, and this girl has only gone to one class a week, so as far as my math knows, she would have had real experience with two just different dance styles from the beginner classes, plus that crash in East Coast Swing she got in the class right before the party that night started.

After the dance she did with Vader was over, apparently he told her as they were walking off the floor that the dance did not go well. He said that she needed to go home and watch some videos on the Internet to learn the basics of the dance styles before he would ever dance with her again.

Noooooooo… I can’t believe what I’m hearing!

Yeah. He really told her that. What. An. Ass.

Seriously, what in the world is going through his brain that made him think it would be OK to say that to any dance partner he has, let alone a young girl who is still a dance newcomer? Why in the world does he think that he is such a good dancer, and thus allowed to pass judgement on others at a social dance?

Ugh… he was lucky that the girl told me about this at the end of the night after Vader had already gone home. If he had still been around, I probably would have been tempted to go over and break off his robotic hand before frying him with some lightning… or something like that. Hopefully that joke works. I’m pretty sure that’ happened in the movie. Honestly, I think I was a teenager the last time I saw it, so I could be totally wrong. But please don’t yell at me if I’m wrong! My nerd credentials are probably very different from yours, and I’m OK with that.

Anyway… other dance stuff happened this week, but this has been consuming my thoughts since Saturday night. Writing it all out helps, so hopefully it will all be laid to rest now (at least until the next time some guy does something stupid that really bothers me). I did go back through and proofread this and added in a bunch of jokes that hopefully make this post sound less angry, because my first draft felt awfully bitter. We’ll return to our regularly scheduled discussion of dance events next week. Until then, keep dancing!

And guys – let’s all promise each other that we will be good Leaders this week. Maybe working together we can make up for these few bad eggs that are out there.

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Making My Entrance Again With My Usual Flair

For me, the dance parts of last weekend that are worth mentioning started with a party on Saturday night. As I mentioned, my Royal Dance Court group was hosting our monthly dance party that evening, and to start the night off we had asked the best Shag dancer that you’ll probably ever meet, Mr. Rubber-legs, to come by and teach a class to anyone interested. As usually happens when we advertise that we are going to have a Shag lesson, a lot of people were interested, so the dance floor was packed.

Before we get going, I invite you to take a moment with me to quietly get all of the ‘60s British spy jokes about Shag out of your system………… yeah, baby.

Moving on. Where was I… right. I’ve been to a few classes taught by Mr. Rubber-legs before when my Royal Dance Court gang has invited him to teach for us in the past. The class he does is interesting, but always starts off the same way. I know that he holds classes of his own for beginners and more advanced Shag dancers in another location during the week, so I think that he takes opportunities like the one my Royal Dance Court presented to him that night to introduce people to Shag and to his teaching style, let them watch how rubbery his legs get when he dances, and then invite them to come to his normal classes if they want to know more.

Most of the class involved Mr. Rubber-legs discussing the history of Shag and showing everyone how to do two figures, the basic footwork pattern and a lady’s Underarm Turn. For some reason, Mr. Rubber-legs wanted to teach the class with everyone lined up in a straight line down the middle of the room, which made for reeeeeeeally tight quarters for dancing as the class progressed. I saw one lady get elbowed in the face by the lady next to her at one point in the class, which gives you an idea of how tight the quarters were. There may have been other people bumping forcefully into each other that I didn’t see, and that wouldn’t surprise me.

Much like most dance parties that my Royal Dance Court gang puts together, we ended up with more women than men attending, so I had to jump into the class to try to help even out the ratio a little. It’s been a long time since I’ve danced Shag, so I had totally forgotten the positions of the feet in the basic pattern (it’s just different enough from East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing to require you to see it once or twice), but it was easy enough to pick back up once I saw Mr. Rubber-legs go through it again. The lady’s turn was pretty much the same as West Coast Swing, so I could do that one easily just by watching it once too.

Close to the end of the class time, once Mr. Rubber-legs was sure that everyone was able to do the two figures that he had started with correctly, he ramped up the speed and gave out information on a third, more complicated figure, and then a variation of that figure right at the end that he only showed people by doing it himself, because he didn’t have time to actually teach it to anyone. The third figure started off in Handshake Hold and involved bringing the lady into something like Sweetheart position, with the Lead’s right arm up over the lady’s right shoulder. You would start doing the footwork for a normal basic while in this position, and halfway through you roll the lady out in front of you. If you are really cool, you could have the lady do a double turn while you rolled her out, though some of the women I danced with said that spinning twice like that made them dizzy.

The variation involved the guy turning around after he rolled the lady out, so that she was now looking at his back. Mr. Rubber-legs called this a ‘Trail’ – you know, because the lady is trailing the guy. It wasn’t too hard of a position to turn into, and the footwork that he was doing was just the steps for the basic pattern as far as I could see, but I was on the far side of the room while he was demonstrating this variation to the class and like I said, he never explained it to us, so don’t quote me on the footwork if anyone asks when you try it for yourself. 😉

After class was over, the rest of the dance party was mostly uneventful. Mr. Rubber-legs stuck around for a little while to dance and talk with people, but left at some point before the night was half over. For the most part, I tried to stay behind the scenes taking care of things to make the party go smoothly, aside from going out a few times during the evening to dance some ballroom styles with Sparkledancer. Events like this are the closest thing to practicing floorcraft for a competition that we can do, so try to get out on the floor right after the song starts and dance one lap around before everyone else gets on the floor and things get crazy with all the social dancers doing different stuff.

(I mean different like the people who dance Argentine Tango during a Tango and don’t stay in the middle of the floor, or who were dancing Shag during a Foxtrot. They tend to make it dangerous to dance with my competitive partner and really move around the floor without having to stop all the time to avoid people)

There was one encounter in particular during this party that was pretty weird for me. I was in the back of the room, working on refilling the container of water for all the guests, when the DJ announced that an International Viennese Waltz was next. I didn’t think anything of it, since I was busy at the moment, and by the time I finished the song had already been going on for a bit and I didn’t want to find Sparkledancer and just jump in. Well, a lady that I had never seen before saw me standing on the side of the room and came over to ask if I wanted to try the Viennese Waltz with her.

Now Viennese Waltz, much like Quickstep, is not one of those dances that is a good idea for newcomers, and since I had never seen this lady before and she had asked me if I wanted to ‘try’ the Viennese Waltz with her, red flags went up in my mind. I had to ask her if she knew how to do International Viennese Waltz before I just took her out onto the floor with everyone else. She gave me a wishy-washy response and shrugged her shoulders, which did not make me feel any better about doing this.

I told her that this one was the faster version of Viennese Waltz and she wouldn’t get to open up and do fancy turns like they have in American Viennese Waltz. She seemed shocked by that, but still wouldn’t give me a straight answer as to whether she had even done Viennese Waltz before. Finally, when I saw that she was just going to be difficult and wasn’t going to leave me, I relented, even with all the voices in my head screaming that this was a bad idea. I waited for an opening on the floor and then took her out there, and prayed that things would be alright.

Lucky for me, the song only lasted about another ninety seconds, or about a loop and a half around the floor. When I walked her back to the side and then parted ways, she seemed happy enough, because she was all smiles. Sparkledancer caught me though as I was heading over to the other side of the room and told me that it looked like the woman was just running to keep up with me, because I was staying on time with the song and Sparkledancer said that my partner’s footsteps were not. That kind of made me feel bad. I didn’t feel my partner struggling to keep up, but she wasn’t that heavy of a woman, so was I really just inadvertently dragging her through everything? Sigh…

On Sunday afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer and Lady Tella again for work. Even though these sessions are mainly meant for the girls to work on girl things, I feel like I work really hard while I’m there, because I always end up all sweaty and gross by the time we finish up, while both girls still look nice. I wonder why that is? That’s just a random observation I had during this session.

Anyway… we started off looking at the Tango again. The notes that I have from the Tango are pretty much all things that Lady Tella was telling Sparkledancer. Let’s see, she mentioned that in general she wanted to see Sparkledancer work on getting her position even more to the left around me – almost to the point that she would be on my right hip. During the Back Corte, she wanted Sparkledancer to work on creating even more volume (though I think that is going to be a constant request until her hair is dragging on the floor). She also said that anytime that we are in Promenade Position or doing a Reverse Turn that Sparkledancer should be pulling her left elbow outward to help keep her shoulder down.

When we got to looking at the Natural Promenade Turn (Promenade Pivot), Lady Tella made a comment that I thought was funny. She was trying to explain to Sparkledancer how she wanted her to slow down the turn of her head between positions, so she brought up a carnival game for comparison. Have you ever been to a carnival and seen the game where they have the clown heads in the middle that are slowly rotating with their mouths open, and you have to throw a ball into the mouth as it goes by? That’s what Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to rotate her head like. This comparison may have resulted in a few attempts where Sparkledancer was keeping her mouth open while turning her head, but since my own head is looking away from her during the figure, I cannot completely confirm or deny this.

Finally in the Tango we looked at the Right-side Lunge in the corner again, so that Lady Tella could see how our practice with the figure was coming along. She just wanted to have Sparkledancer make a few minor adjustments to the position that she was in while holding the lunge – chest forward more, head back more, keep hips more level, and be sure not to tilt. Minor adjustments, am I right?

At the end of our session, just to break things up a bit, Lady Tella had us switch over to look at the Quickstep a little so that she could see how that has been coming along with our practice as well. Overall the Quickstep was fairly strong, and there weren’t a lot of spots that Lady Tella felt like she had to point out for either of us to be aware of. She did mention that she wanted us to be aware of the amount of volume between us any time that we were rotating (which we do a lot more in the Quickstep than we do in Tango). Not really a major issue, just something to be aware of.

For me specifically, she said that during some of the rotations she was seeing me do a slight head tilt when I started turning. It wasn’t something that I did all the time, but sometimes she could see it. That was a frustrating thing to try to go over, because the times she did see it when we repeated a turning figure over and over again, I couldn’t feel any movement in any of my upper body, but she saw it. Also, according to her the movement is very slight, but it is enough that she can see something happening. So yeah, that’s something that I have to look at somehow. Joy.

Latin Technique class this week was sadly hilarious for me. I’m not sure what in the world was going on. Either my legs were too tired to work right, or my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but I was having trouble getting things right for most of the class. I would describe it as being… hilariously inept. Luckily I managed to pull it together by the end of class and get through without problems, but man it was rough getting there. Also I got made fun of a lot by Lord Junior, which made things so much better. I deserved it though. Everybody needs to have a bad dance day once in a while, right?

At the beginning we got to warm up a little by practicing different types of Latin dance turning movements on both legs. We started off by going through a basic Spot Turn, which is the normal type of turn you see in Rumba or Cha-Cha, and then we looked at a Switch Turn, which you can do in Rumba but most of the time you only see people doing in Cha-Cha. After that Lord Junior had us look at the turn that the ladies do in an Alemana. Guys don’t usually do a lot while ladies are going through an Alemana, so I got to try the lady’s footwork for this turn. I think I did pretty OK, if I do say so myself.

Lord Junior wanted to work with the class on Samba that night, so right from the get-go I knew this class wasn’t going to cover material that I liked. I don’t know why, but Samba just isn’t something I’m fond of. Lord Junior told us that recently he had been working with several of his competitive ladies on Solo Spot Voltas, and based on how that was going he wanted to give this class a chance to practice them as well. To begin this section, he gave us a basic combination of Volta movements to work on so that we could all make sure we got the Cuban Cross action correct.

We did four Voltas going straight to the side, four that continued in that direction but curved widely for half a circle, then four Spot Voltas that turned 180° each. By the time you finished, you were supposed to be on the other side of the dance floor (depending on how much you could travel) facing the opposite direction from where you started. Then we repeated all of those steps going the other way, to put us right back where we started. This part of class was easy enough, and I managed to get through all the figures just fine.

After that we paired off to do Solo Spot Voltas, and here is where things went downhill. To start, the Leader stood in front of his partner with our left hand flat against their right, and our feet in a Cuban Cross (left foot behind). We did four Solo Spot Voltas that also turned 180° each going to the left (Follow’s right) first. After the fourth, the Lead would bring up their right hand to stop their partner, then we would do another four going the other way. Sounds simple enough, right?

I think the thing that was throwing me off was the first action that you do. As you start turning for the first Spot Volta, your feet should just stay on the floor and you rotate. The next Volta action is where one foot has to move while the other stays planted on the floor as your pivot point. This worked great for the first four, but when you stop turning one way and change directions, if you forget to just leave your feet down and rotate, moving your legs throws everything off. All of us in class seemed to have trouble with this action at first, but it took me the longest to actually get it into my brain to do it correctly.

To finish out the class, Lord Junior gave us a simple progression to work on. He had us do the four and four Solo Spot Voltas in two directions, then two slow Voltas that traveled down the line of dance, and we finished with four Samba Locks. As we started this progression, I was still having trouble getting my feet to do the right actions with the Solo Spot Voltas, so I was flailing around a bit, which Lord Junior thought was funny.

Eventually he had us start doing the progression with music. I could do it correctly when the music was really slow, but when it sped up to like 85% my footwork just fell apart. Right before letting us go Lord Junior decided to amuse himself by having us do things to full speed. Suddenly, when the music was fast and I didn’t have time to think, I could do the footwork right every time. That made me feel kind of dumb, to be honest. I guess that I am just not a medium speed kind of person when it comes to Samba. Slow or fast only is what makes it work for me.

On Wednesday night I was back out at the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class to look at some Waltz. Much like last week’s class on Tango, this week we also looked at a little bit of American Waltz and a little bit of International Waltz. Lord Junior is still working on studying for his certification tests for American Smooth, which is why he goes through these things with us. He admitted to all of us last night though that the studying is going slowly for him, because he cares so little for American Smooth it just doesn’t hold his interest. He did say that it is going better than his study of American Rhythm, which he cares for even less. Poor guy…

The first figure we looked at was from the American syllabus, called an Open Right Turn. It’s a misleading figure though, because it’s actually three different figures strung together and given an all new name. By the book the Open Right Turn is a Basic Twinkle into an Open Natural Turn, finishing with an Open Impetus and Feather Ending. Yeah, if you read that list it does sound a lot like Foxtrot, doesn’t it? Would you be surprised if I told you that you could also do this Open Right Turn in Foxtrot with a slight change in the timing and rise-and-fall? Because you can.

After we all seemed to have the figure down, Lord Junior changed it up to give us a second variation of the Open Right Turn. Pulling out the Open Impetus and Feather Ending, we replaced it with a Progressive Chasse to the Right while turning the lady to the outside, and finishing with a Développé. To close, the guys would step back onto their right leg and finish a normal box step while turning the ladies in front of us.

At the end of the Open Right Turn (whichever variation you so desire), we added on a couple more figures to keep the fun going. We did a Syncopated Fallaway next, which if you did the Open Right Turn variation and were still apart from your partner you would close back to dance position during. Following the Fallaway we did an Outside Spin from International Waltz, and to close we did a basic Natural Turn. The ending was a lot of fun, because you could get a lot of rotation going through the Outside Spin which would almost throw you through the Natural Turn. I thought that was the most exciting part.

That’s all the notes I have for this past week. As for this upcoming week, I think that most of it is going to be focused on practice. After all, the weekend after next I will be competing, so I have to make sure I’m ready. However… I heard of this class on West Coast Swing moves being offered this weekend, and I think I’m going to go to that. It’s been a long time since I’ve put any focus into West Coast Swing, and I do like that dance style a lot, so I’m going to mix things up a bit and try to pick up something new. That should be fun, right? Or at least different. We’ll see what happens!

From The Back To The Middle And Around Again

I did a lot of things last Saturday to make up for not having any actual dance lessons the Saturday prior. For some reason I decided that having a double lesson with Lord Dormamu first thing in the morning was a good idea, and then when that was done I was talked into going to a double lesson with Lady Tella as well. Not content with just having that much on my plate for the day, I also went to a dance party that night! I feel like I wasn’t actually home at all that day..

Because of all the things I had planned to do that day, I ended up waking up early on Saturday morning to meet with Lord Dormamu. We had arranged to get together at such an early time that the Endless Dance Hall was still locked when I showed up. So much for getting there a little before my lesson to warm up. As I sat in the parking lot waiting for someone to show up and let me in, I watched a bunch of people running along the sidewalk in front of the studio, many of them wearing weighted vests. I’m pretty sure that there is some kind of fitness studio near the Endless Dance Hall that was putting on this running… thing, that was going on, because these people would run by, then run back, then run by again, then run back again, over and over.

Both Lord Dormamu and Sparkledancer showed up after I had been sitting there for ten minutes or so and I finally got to go inside. After a quicker than planned warm-up, we got started by looking over our Waltz routine. Overall Lord Dormamu was pleased with how well the Waltz looked after watching what was essentially a cold run-through. He felt better about how our rising action was looking, telling us that we had definitely managed to get rid of the ‘popping’ that we had been previously been doing, but now that we have fixed that problem he wanted to see us work on the lower half of our swing through the steps.

The way that he explained it to us was like this: imagine that your height is split into ten equal sections from the floor up to your head. When we took frame at the beginning of the routine, before we even started moving with the music, the height we were holding would be the neutral or resting point, which he said was a five. If we went through the first Natural Turn in the routine, the apex of the Natural Turn would be considered a seven. Our problem was that the lowering action he was seeing from across the room was only going down to a four, so there wasn’t enough of a change between the lowest point in the figure and the apex.

What he wanted us to start working on to fix this was not just lowering more into the figures. While that would make the height of the rise versus the fall look more dynamic, Sparkledancer and I are not exactly the same height, so we would run the risk of lowering different amounts. Lord Dormamu told me that this is one of those rare instances where I actually have to adjust the action in my body slightly to press downward against Sparkledancer from my midsection, allowing me to control how much she lowers.

If I am doing this correctly, the amount that we both lower will look equal. That will prevent what he sees couples doing sometimes when he is judging, where one partner is essentially sliding their body down the front of the other because they are lowering more than their partner is. By putting me in control of how far down we go, telling Sparkledancer how far she should lower by pressing her downward with my body, she will always stay connected to me at the same point. Therefore, no risk of sliding. Pus, I’m much heavier than Sparkledancer, so there’s very little chance that she could fight against me pressing down on her, meaning that I will always get my way.

Of course, this means that from now on, if we don’t lower enough it’s going to be all my fault. No pressure there, right?

After Waltz we spent a bit of time looking over the Foxtrot. There were a few specific points that I took away from this section to focus on during practice this week. The big positive note that I was told was that my leg action is looking smoother, so the work that I have been doing during practice has been paying off. However, overall I was told that I could be keeping it lower, so that is something to spend more time working on. Then there is the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish again, which I was told was looking like it popped up a lot during the times I was going through it. I may have been rushing the first step of the figure for some reason, because if I think about it and take it slower, the issue doesn’t happen.

We also spent a bit of time looking at the Natural Weave as well, though that wasn’t for me. Lord Dormamu wasn’t happy about how Sparkledancer’s positioning looked while we were going through the figure. He gave her a few pointers to try to help, but rather than spend a whole lot of time trying to fix her himself he asked her to spend some time working with Lady Tella specifically on that figure since we were going to see her later that day. Aside from that one figure in Foxtrot, he said that we should spend the rest of our time with her having her look at Sparkledancer in the Quickstep. Our Quickstep routine is relatively simple, and we usually score extremely well in that style, so having Sparkledancer look as best as possible should keep us on top he said.

After finishing up paperwork with Lord Dormamu, we got a half-hour break and then we met up with Lady Tella. For much of this lesson, just like last time the two of them got together, I was mostly used as a male body for Lady Tella to demonstrate with or for Sparkledancer to practice with. It is good for me to be there, since the changes that Lady Tella is working with Sparkledancer on implementing end up slightly changing our center of balance, so it is good for me to be able to feel that and get used to it as it is happening, but not a whole lot of information they discuss is actually directed toward me.

When we started, Sparkledancer explained to Lady Tella that Lord Dormamu specifically wanted her to look at the Natural Weave in the Foxtrot, and then once that was done to start looking at her overall shape in the Quickstep. Lady Tella wanted to start us off by watching us go through the entire Foxtrot routine so that she could see everything in context before we pulled out just one small section to look at. After the initial run-through, I walked through the figures in the section in question with Lady Tella in practice hold, telling her the name of each figure before stepping through it. Apparently knowing the names of the figures that are in your routine is a skill most people don’t have, because Lady Tella told me that she wouldn’t have known the names if I hadn’t told her.

The ladies spent quite a bit of time working through Sparkledancer’s body position in the Natural Weave, trying to get it to look better. There wasn’t actually much there for me to do, other than stand where I was told and lead one or the other of them through the figures when needed. The only real comment that I got was that Lady Tella preferred that I put slightly more emphasis on the right-side sway during the Weave-portion of the Natural Weave. Doing so, she told me, made the movement of Sparkledancer’s head seem more natural. If I didn’t emphasize the sway enough, she said that from the outside it looks like Sparkledancer is just moving her head because she was told to, not because she is being led to.

Once everyone was happy with the way that section of Foxtrot looked and felt, we switched over to Quickstep for a bit. The girls talked through all the points where Lady Tella saw that Sparkledancer was losing her position, and parts where she wanted her to emphasize her stretch outward even more as we traveled. A couple of places we spent a lot of time on were the two Natural Spin Turns in the routine, particularly the second one. In the first corner, we have that strange, not-quite-Bronze amalgamation that Lord Dormamu gave us of a Natural Spin Turn with a Slip Pivot that has never really felt in control. Lady Tella could see that during our initial run-through, so she worked with Sparkledancer to see if she could help.

While the two of them were discussing her part, I decided to focus on keeping my third step in line with the line of dance. When we were originally taught the figure, I was coming around Sparkledancer much more on that third step, more toward diagonal wall. That meant that the Slip Pivot would have to turn 90° to finish pointing diagonal center before going into a Double Reverse Spin. That much rotation in two different directions in such a short amount of time is what causes the feeling of being out-of-control. If I reduce the step I take to go toward line of dance, the Slip Pivot only has to turn 45°, which gives Sparkledancer much more time to prepare her leg to go backward into the Heel Turn for the Double Reverse Spin. I think it helps a lot, so I’m going to keep doing it unless I’m told otherwise.

To cap things off on Saturday, I went out that night to a party being hosted at the Electric Dance Hall. Lord Junior had put together something fancy to celebrate the holiday weekend, and had booked a local jazz band to come play music throughout the evening. That sounded like a particularly fun and interesting event to attend, so I headed out there. This also happened to be the only dance party in the whole Dance Kingdom scheduled for that night, so this is where everyone else ended up for dancing, too.

There was some time set aside right at the beginning of the night where Lord Junior planned on teaching a beginner Foxtrot lesson while the band was getting their equipment setup. I hadn’t planned on participating, so I didn’t arrive until about ten minutes after the class started. Lord Junior had a whole bunch of people in the class though, with several more women than men, so as soon as I walked in the door he called me out in the middle of whatever he was teaching and told me to put my shoes on and jump in to help.

The figures that Lord Junior was showing everyone were just the absolute basics for American Foxtrot – just the Forward Basic and Left Rock Turn. As he explained, this was only supposed to be a short beginner class and he just wanted to give all the newcomers the ability to get around the floor during a song if they wanted to give it a try. Most of the second-half of class was spent with the men rotating through partners to allow everyone to practice what they learned. When I would change partners, if I came across any lady that I didn’t recognize I would take a second to introduce myself and ask them if they had ever done this before. I had quite a few women tell me that this was their first time ever dancing Foxtrot, so this party that Lord Junior had put together obviously attracted quite a few newcomers.

During the last few rotations that Lord Junior had the class go through with the music that he was playing from his sound system, the drummer and the bass player from the band started to play along with the song that Lord Junior had chosen. He took that as a signal from the band letting him know that they were ready to go, so he wrapped up the class and turned the night over to them.

I thought that the party was fun. I spent more time just listening to the band play than I did dancing, and I’m OK with that turn of events. Most of the dancing that I did was during the few breaks that the band got throughout the evening, where Lord Junior would plug his phone into the sound system and play some songs that he thought were fun, in dance styles that the band didn’t play much, like Quickstep, Viennese Waltz or West Coast Swing.

There was one lady that was at the party though that kind of made me uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure that I danced with her once in the group class as we were rotating through partners, but then I felt like she was watching me the rest of the night. Maybe she wanted to dance with me, but I was always talking to other people who I knew. Maybe she thought I was funny looking. Maybe I had something on my shirt and she really just wanted to point it out to me. I don’t know. Sparkledancer also caught her watching me, and came over to tell me at one point during the party. Of course, her take on the situation was that the lady was looking at me with “hungry eyes” because I was a single male who had some moderate skill in dance. Weird.

Aside from avoiding “hungry eyes” lady that evening, I also spent some time talking with one older gentleman during the course of the party. He was telling me a fascinating tale about two other dancers who had come to the party that night. The lady in his story was someone who is well-known in the social dance community, having been part of it for many years and serving on the boards of various dance clubs in the area during that time. The gentleman in question is a relatively recent addition to the social dance scene here. He moved to the area from somewhere else, knowing a bit about dance when he arrived, but with so many instructors and classes in the area to work with this guy has really blossomed as a social dancer.

At some point in the last year these two people started dating, and now they go out to almost every dance party in the area together. The older gentleman I was talking to told me that many of the social dancers now refer to them as the ‘Ballroom Power Couple’ because they think these two are such good dancers. Older gentleman was quick to tell me that these two were not good in the same way that I am, since he has been around when Sparkledancer and I have been practicing so he’s seen how I can dance, but this ‘Ballroom Power Couple’ is good enough to impress all the social dancers they spend time around.

Maybe I’ll have to check in on these two as time goes on… you know, to see if all that power goes to their head. That could be interesting and amusing to keep notes about, right?

Here’s a funny thing that also happened this weekend…

Last Sunday afternoon I had gone out to the Electric Dance Hall to meet up with Sparkledancer for our regular Sunday practice time. This particular Sunday afternoon, the studio was practically empty, I’m guessing because of the holiday weekend. The only people who I saw in the studio when I got there was Lord Junior and a young couple he was working with on what looked like a wedding dance, and then Sparkledancer who was sitting in a chair against the back wall putting on her shoes.

I waved hello to Lord Junior and then wandered over to put on my own dance shoes and stretch out a bit before we got started. When I stood up and looked back toward the front of the building, I caught sight of a tiny body running out toward the dance floor, yelling something to Lord Junior. It turns out that he had brought his young daughter, who I think isn’t even three years old yet, along with him that afternoon.

Since Lord Junior was teaching, he told his daughter that he was busy with the couple that he was teaching, then told her to go say hi to Sparkledancer and I instead. This excited the little girl immensely, so she turned to look over at where I was standing and stretching out my shoulders, then ran as fast as she could over to say hello. The conversation I had with her was amusing. First of all, she is super young, so her command of the English language was very basic. Secondly, she was really quiet, so even though she laughed loudly when excited, I had to lean over or crouch down near her to understand half the words coming out of her mouth.

What I learned in my conversation with this young lady is that she wants to be the Ballerina Princess. Not a Princess Ballerina – I asked to make sure I had that right, and apparently Ballerina Princess is correct, and Princess Ballerina is wrong. When Sparkledancer asked her if she knew how to dance, she told us that she really was taking ballet classes, then she showed us her best dance moves. I swear this child is already a better dancer than I am. Must be nice growing up with a parent who owns a dance studio, right?

Things got even funnier after that though. I’m not sure how it happened, but after talking about becoming the Ballerina Princess then she started talking about her dog at home… then she was telling me about the dog digging holes in the yard… then she got down on her hands and knees to show me how the dog dug holes so it could sniff worms, because apparently that’s what dogs do once the hole is dug. After that, she told me that she was a puppy, so she started crawling around the dance studio like a puppy, digging holes, sniffing worms and barking occasionally. When she came back around to Sparkledancer and I, she told us that we could play puppies with her, but since we were bigger she would be the baby puppy while Sparkledancer was the mommy puppy and I had to be the daddy puppy.

I’m not sure how we were able to be puppies and also somehow able to have her as a puppy, but I never questioned her on that. Funny. So yeah. That’s a true story that happened during dance practice this weekend.

Skipping ahead for brevity, on Wednesday night I was back out at the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class. When I got there that night the Ballerina Princess was back, and this time she had her older sister with her. Sister is only a year older, so both of these girls are tiny. Their mom (Lord Junior’s wife) was wandering around the studio talking to people, so the two girls were just running around being silly. When I sat down to change into my dance shoes, both of the girls ran over to talk. The older girl was telling all of us sitting in that area all about her ballet recital over the weekend, and how she danced all by herself on stage in front of everyone while her mom was in the back. Ballerina Princess was talking about… something, but she was talking so fast and so quietly that I didn’t catch any of it, so I just smiled and nodded.

Eventually the girls got tired of standing around talking and they started running around in circles. Being the accommodating adults that we are, Sparkledancer, Veep and I, who were all sitting along the back wall, would hold out our hands so that they could high-five us as they ran by. I’m kind of jealous of how much energy that these two small girls had stored up inside them, because they just kept running as fast as their tiny legs would carry them for ten minutes straight, laughing the whole time.

When it was time for them to leave with their mother, Lord Junior came over and crouched down in the middle of the floor and held up his hands for high-fives like Sparkledancer, Veep and I. However, this was all a trick, because as soon as the girls changed direction to run over and slap his hands, he grabbed them both up and picked them up off the ground to carry them out to the car. So tricky! That meant play time was over, and it was time for class to start.

We looked at some Foxtrot this week in class, with all figures in the progression we were given coming straight from the Bronze and Silver syllabus. Starting out heading toward diagonal center, we did a Feather and then added on an Open Telemark, Natural Turn, Outside Swivel, Feather Ending. I know that sounds like four different figures, but it is actually the name of one figure in the Silver-level syllabus for International Foxtrot. Go ahead, look it up! See what I mean?

When we finished the Open Telemark, Natural Turn, Outside Swivel, Feather Ending we were back traveling toward diagonal center once more. Here we added on a basic Three Step and then went into a Natural Telemark to finish. I don’t think I’ve ever done a Natural Telemark before that night. It’s another figure from the Silver-level syllabus, and this one is all rotational so you don’t have to worry about traveling anywhere. There’s a spot in the middle where you take a small side-step as the lady is turning around you, and the trick I was told here was to lower even further into my legs briefly before coming up for the Feather Finish. That slight lowering should help stop the lady’s turn so that she can prepare to start moving in a new direction for the next steps.

That’s all I want to make notes about this week. There were other things that I did, but none of them are important or amusing enough for me to care to write down. Plus, this is already long enough as-is. I hope that your week of dancing has gone as well as mine. Until next time!

Do The Dance Sensation That’s Sweepin’ The Nation

I am happy to report that I actually took a day off from dancing for once! I mean, it was only Easter Sunday, so I kind of cheated by using the holiday to my advantage so that I could relax and rest a little bit, but it felt great. Also, my cat enjoyed having me around so that she could curl up on me and fall asleep. Plus I managed to get my taxes all done that day too! Man, I was totally restful and also productive! That’s a pretty awesome day, isn’t it?

But I did do a lot of dancing on Saturday in order to prepare for my day off on Sunday, because I can’t just take a whole weekend off. That would be way too much time without dancing, and I have a schedule to keep. It isn’t a schedule of my own creation either, which makes it all the more strange that I am trying so hard to keep it, right? So… Saturday I had scheduled times set up to meet with both Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu for lessons.

First up that day: Sir Steven. Sparkledancer was already waiting for me when I got to the Fancy Dance Hall, and on top of that there was some sort of dance fitness class going on that was being led by Lady Tella. The class wasn’t super huge, so there was space on the edge of the dance floor that Sparkledancer and I could use to warm up, but the music was loud, so it made it hard to hear anything Sparkledancer and I said to one another.

The class was attended by all women that morning, and they made a point to gently chide Sparkledancer for not showing up early enough to join them. Of course, then I showed up and they started giving me a hard time for not being in class as well, but I think it would be a little weird to be the only male in a class like that. Also, I’m not a morning person, so getting up early to exercise is not my favorite thing to do. I always thought that those people who jumped on the trend of getting up at 5:00AM to work out were crazy! Even 10:00AM feels too early to me. I prefer to work out after I get done with work for the day, which guarantees that I am fully awake and ready to go. But that’s just my personal preference.

Anyway… we started off with Sir Steven that morning looking at Viennese Waltz. Most of that period was spent looking at the Natural Turn, making sure that both Sparkledancer and I got the swing through motion correct as we went into the second step. Sir Steven wanted me to keep my upper body rotated more to my left as I took the first step, but I was already turning myself as much as I could on my own. He could yank my upper body into the position he wanted (it’s not a pleasant feeling to be rotated that much), but I couldn’t turn myself enough to get there without help. Ah well, maybe someday, right?

Next we spent some time looking at the slower Waltz for a change. Here we also started off by looking at the Natural Turn, but we got slightly farther in this version of Waltz by also adding on the Natural Spin Turn,  Reverse Turn and Double Reverse Spin that come afterward. The hardest thing that Sir Steven asked me to change with that whole amalgamation of steps was to put back in the action where I turn my head and look over top of Sparkledancer’s head at the height of the Natural Turn. I don’t know what it is about turning my head in figures, but it really throws me off for some reason if I turn my head to look further to the right. Looking further to the left is no problem for me – I go into Promenade Position often enough, so I know that works fine. Weird, huh?

Once past the initial Natural Turn and all the head movement that threatened to drive me crazy, we went into the Natural Spin Turn. Here was another point where Sir Steven wanted me to attempt to rotate my upper body even more than I was already trying to, which meant trying to turn more than my range of motion allowed me to turn on my own. I don’t even know a good way to try to stretch to increase my flexibility in that manner that isn’t awkward. What if I glue some shoes to a wall to put my feet in, and then lie on the floor and try to roll my upper body around? As long as I only do that when I am home alone, then no one else would see me being weird, right? And eventually it would help… probably. Maybe I should think about this a bit more before getting out the glue.

We finished up that morning by running through our Quickstep routine a couple of times. Just as we were about to close out for the day, Sir Steven told us to be careful in our Quickstep because it wasn’t looking as grounded as he would like. That’s probably my fault. Lately in practice I have been so focused on Foxtrot and Tango that Quickstep has just kind of taken a back seat. I should find some time to go back to it and try to apply some of the things I am working on in Foxtrot, which I know would help fix this issue with the Quickstep.

After wrapping up my session with Sir Steven that morning, I only got about fifteen minutes to catch my breath and make my way over to the Endless Dance Hall before starting up a session with Lord Dormamu. Rest is for the weak, right? Something like that.

Just like the weeks prior, we started out by looking at Foxtrot. Lord Dormamu had us dance through the routine with music when we started so that he could get an idea of how our practice has been coming along. Things are looking better, but it is still not where he would like us to be (though I’m not sure we will be where he really wants us to be until we win some sort of World Champion title somewhere). Lord Dormamu told us that for the time being, when we practice Foxtrot he thinks that we should do it slowly and without worrying about music. Staying on time with music is not an issue that we have (Yay!), so he isn’t worried about us missing out on things by practicing without music for a few weeks.

Obviously we went back to looking at the Three Step again. All of our practice that involved pausing after the second step of the Three Step to check our shaping has improved the way our Three Step looks immensely according to Lord Dormamu, so he wants us to keep pausing there for the time being. However, he wasn’t too happy with the way the third step of our Three Step going into the first step of whatever figure comes next looked. As we worked through the steps so that he could figure out what we were doing wrong, what he found that he wanted us to change led to an interesting discussion about the next upgrade for the way our Foxtrot moves around the floor.

What I was asked to do (since I am the one moving forward most of the time) was to start incorporating both legs into my movement for Foxtrot. Because the idea of Foxtrot is to move more smoothly around a room than a Greaser trying to pick up ladies at a doo-wop concert, just driving yourself around by pushing off of the standing leg isn’t enough. That will get you by in Waltz, Quickstep, Tango and Viennese Waltz, but Foxtrot requires you to add in the other leg to the mix. As you move from one leg to another, even before you finish pushing off from your standing leg completely, your other leg should start pulling you forward.

It’s a weird thing to try to explain, especially if you’re a Follower who doesn’t travel forward all that often. If you can picture what I’m talking about, you might be able to see in your mind how this action of pulling yourself with the front leg before you finish pushing yourself with the back leg will help you smooth out the transition as you switch from one leg to the other. I was told that this is one of the most advanced concepts for Foxtrot movement to work on, but if we are able to start planting the seeds for this now then by the time Sparkledancer and I finish competing in syllabus then we should be pretty good at it when we move to Open-level routines. I’ll just have to practice. A lot. More than a lot. And then probably even more than that.

For the second half of our coaching session we switched over to Tango to give ourselves a short break from Foxtrot. Per usual, to begin with Lord Dormamu queued up a Tango song and had us dance through our routine first so that he could take a look at everything before going over specific points with us. As we got down to the end of the first long wall in our Tango routine, I heard Lord Dormamu calling to us, so I stopped and stood up to turn around and see what was going on. He was waving his arms for Sparkledancer and I to come back down to where he was standing, so we trekked back down that way.

He had stopped us to tell me that he was actually impressed with something that we had done. For those of you that have never been there, I’ll tell you something about the Endless Dance Hall: it’s big, sporting the largest dance floor I have ever had the privilege to dance on. The ‘short’ wall on this floor is fifty-five feet in width, and the long wall is easily two-and-a-half times that. Lord Dormamu was impressed that, without taking huge steps that looked awkward for a Tango or changing any of the angles of the figures, I had easily covered the entire length of the long wall, and still had to pull back the size of the steps I took on the last couple of figures in the far corner to avoid bashing Sparkledancer’s head into the wall. All that time we have been spending on improving the movement in our dances seems to really be paying off, I guess.
Of course, it also leaves me with a huge problem – no competition venue that I will be on in the near future will be anywhere near the full size of the Endless Dance Hall. Even in the recent past when I’ve been to competitions that are actually hosted at the Endless Dance Hall, they usually set up tables and chairs and a stage around the outside of the floor, which greatly reduces the area that competitors get to dance in. So moving that much in a competition means that I will drive myself right off the floor if I’m not careful. Lord Dormamu seems to think that is something to be proud of, but I am worried about it!

Now for the specific points that Lord Dormamu wanted us to work on in practice: first off, I was told that I am still turning too fast during the Natural Promenade Turn. I have slowed the turn down a lot, but he wants it to be even slower still. That will give a greater dynamic between the movements of the Promenades going into and coming out of the turn, and the turn itself. In conjunction with that, when I am getting into Promenade Position, Lord Dormamu wanted me to work on using my legs even more during the Progressive Links.

After one of the Progressive Links that we do, we then go into a Natural Twist Turn. Lord Dormamu wanted Sparledancer to use that figure to work on the position of her body when she is in Promenade Position. According to him, when he is judging couples in competition and he sees them going into a Promenade in Tango, he wants to see both people’s heads from two angles, otherwise he will mark them lower. If he is looking at them from the front, there needs to be enough volume between the partners so that both of their heads are visible and separated. If he is viewing them from the side, the lady needs to be offset enough to that her whole head is visible over the man’s right shoulder. If there is overlap, then he will mark the couple lower.

(Obviously that is only the case for people with normal size heads. If one member of the competitive couple has a giant head, then overlap is bound to happen. There will probably be a host of other issues as well if one person has a giant head, so a little overlap would be the least of that couple’s worries.)

Finally for Tango, we spent some time looking at the Right-side Lunge that is in one of the corners. Lord Dormamu told me to watch the timing on when I move my head as I enter the lunge – I need to make sure that the head movement happens at the same time as when my right foot reaches its destination; I was moving it too early when he was watching. He also told me to work on raising my left side further to create even more of a downward slope across my shoulders from elbow to elbow, which will put me in a better position for Sparkledancer to work off of. She needs me to do that because he then asked her to try to create even more volume between the two of us during the lunge, but to make sure not to accidentally rotate her chest away from me while doing so.

The class that I normally attend on Monday night was cancelled this week due to the holiday over the weekend. I did end up going out to the Electric Dance Hall anyway that night to meet Sparkledancer for some extra practice, since Lord Junior had said that the studio would be open if people wanted to use the floor. Besides practice, the only other thing of note that I did this week was to attend Standard Technique class on Wednesday night. Many of the schools around the Electric Dance Hall have been closed for Spring Break this week, so a lot of people who would normally attend class had gone off on vacations with their kids. That meant that there were only a few of us brave souls who were in class that night.

Lord Junior gave us some fun things to look at in the Waltz that night, giving us some figures to do that were intended to get us running. We started off pretty basically with a Natural Turn, but then took that into an Overturned Running Spin Turn which had us coming out backing line of dance rather than backing diagonal center. To change direction, he then had us then do an Open Impetus and come out into a Running Weave from Promenade Position. The Running Weave figure ends with three steps that are like a Reverse Turn, except you cross your right foot behind the left (or left in front of the right if you are a Follower). Finally we closed up the progression with a Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot.

And I’ll just leave it there! Look at that, I kept things sort of shorter this week. Yay me! I can’t promise that next week will be this short, since there won’t be a holiday for me to use as an excuse to take time off, but I will try my best.

On an out-of-the-ordinary note, Lord Dormamu is going to be out at a competition this coming weekend, but while he is gone he set up a session for Sparkledancer to work with Lady Tella, who in addition to leading dance fitness classes also happens to be one of his Professional female students (i.e. an instructor who competes with another instructor, and together they have forsaken the world of Amatuer competitions to move up to the Professional level). The plan is for the two of them to talk about girl things. This was something that Lord Dormamu had discussed with us months ago, but we hadn’t actually set up until now. Surprise!

I was asked to be there to give Sparkledancer someone to work with. I’ve met Lady Tella before, and also her Professional partner, and the two of them are considerably shorter than Sparkledancer. I think Lord Dormamu wants me to be there because I’m taller. At least, that’s what I have been telling myself.

It should be fun, and if I hear any interesting notes, I’ll be sure to jot them down.