Heavy Metal Ballroom

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Last night was the Medal Ball.  I guess because the levels are Bronze, Silver and Gold, but, for some reason, there seems to be confusion over the name and a lot of people have mistakenly called it the Metal Ball.  Well, the organizers gave in to that and so the “theme” of this event was the Heavy Metal Ball.  This is the first time that this event has had a theme but it gave people who wanted to an excuse to wear something besides the normal suit/dress that goes with one of these events.

This was, of course, right up my alley.  If I haven’t already stated this, I’m a metal head from way back.  No, I never got into the look or the lifestyle because that’s not me but I was all about the music.  And, since I had done a West Coast Swing to Highway to Hell, I had a ready made costume.  OK, it’s nothing more than a jean vest, some acid washed jeans with rips and a newsboy cap but it fits what Brian Johnson wears (google it if you aren’t a fan).  I added an AC/DC shirt just to make it obvious and also cause I wasn’t going to go sleeveless like he does – my arms don’t compare to his.

I’ve mentioned before that I live in a bigger city.  We have a couple of professional sports teams so I guess that makes us a big city.  Well the event was downtown and I had to park a couple of block away but there was a comic convention in town and it was the Saturday night of St Patty’s weekend so I hardly looked out of place.  The strangest thing was carrying my shoe bag (dead giveaway for dancers going to an event).  There were a lot of different interpretations of “heavy metal” and most of the female instructors from our studio were more punk/goth than heavy metal but it is still fun to see them in something different.

They have changed how this event works.  It used to be that they’d go by level.  All those checking out of pre-bronze would dance and then get their awards and then they’d go up the levels.  There was always general dancing worked in between.  This time, they decided to just run heats like a comp or showcase but without numbers.  They limited it to four dances – waltz, fox trot, swing and rumba (maybe cha-cha but I can’t remember) and you could sign up for one smooth and one rhythm.  They had three franchisees on hand to offer feedback and critiques.  Perhaps this is just a clever way to get people used to a showcase so we get more participation there.  The awards then came at the end of the night.  Think it did flow a little better and it avoided the really scary part of people being the only couple on the floor.

So, why did I go when I’m not in a track to check out of levels?  Good question.  I’ll admit to having a lot of internal debate on whether to go.  I ended up going for a couple of reasons.  First, and this might just be pure nostalgia, but it is fun to go back and relive the early days of my dancing by watching people at the lower Bronze levels.  Back then, dance was so new and it was such a great accomplishment to complete a pattern and to finish a level that meant you were really a dancer.  You can see the pride most people have when they get their awards and when they are out on the floor.  As my dance career has evolved and I’m into the semi-competitive phase, there really isn’t that tangible accomplishment that finishing a level gives you.  Don’t get me wrong, the thrill of actually getting out on the floor and doing one of my routines for real and getting completely lost in the moment is much better now.  But the daily grind of lessons when we do the routine over and over again to polish up various bits and pieces of technique kind of takes the wonder out of it.  I look at those folks and they are mostly happy in their ignorance of how much they really don’t know about dancing.  This sport is the ultimate onion – there are so many layers to peel back that are only revealed after you’ve gotten proficient at one thing.  There is ALWAYS something that can be improved and those practice sessions are WORK.  As I said, this is probably nostalgia but it all seemed so simpler back then.  When you learned a new step like a back spot turn and you couldn’t wait to get on the floor and try it out and you felt like the cool kid when you finally got it down.  I go to relive that excitement through others.

The second reason is to show support.  Even as a committed introvert, you do establish connections with the other people in the studio. It is unavoidable as you see them a lot and there are just so many opportunities to interact.  That just makes it natural for me to root for them and want to see them succeed.  And, I’ve been doing this so long, I’m the grizzled veteran who can say “nice job kid” and I think people appreciate that.  (That’s a analogy by the way since some of these folks are older than me).

But there are parts I don’t like.  Since I’m one of Z’s only official students, we are typically the afterthought in seating.  They like to keep students near their primary instructors at events like this.  That way, when someone freaks out, there is a familiar person to talk them down.  But we usually don’t have enough to completely fill tables so they work the others in and then find a place for Z and I.  When I first got there, I was at a table with Z, 3 of 3 and the new girl (more about her later).  That would have been fine for the dinner but then Z was booked to judge and 3 of 3 was going to do the music so that would have left me isolated at a table.  Fortunately for me, a couple of people didn’t show up and Z and I got to move to one of the other tables.

The nice part of the new set up is that everyone got an opportunity to enter a heat even if you weren’t checking out.  The heats were limited to 6 or so couples so it wasn’t like a general dance where the floor was packed.  We did our Fox Trot routine and it was good practice to maneuver around the floor because we were doing the open routine which requires quite a bit of space.  The music was longer than a typical heat so we looped the thing several times and it was the longest we’ve ever danced it.  I didn’t notice but Z lost both shoes during the process.  She has some issues with her feet and dance shoes and so was wearing a pair of flats that weren’t true dance shoes and they didn’t stay on.  I was keeping my head up the entire time so I never saw anything fly off but I could sense a couple of places where something had happened but I didn’t find out until after that she ended up dancing with no shoes.  That was a new experience.

And, getting an opportunity to do the Fox Trot also gave me another reminder of how I look to others and how that is so much different than my own perceptions of my shortcomings.  On lessons, we do the routines but normally it is broken into pieces and it just doesn’t look the same as doing it on a whole floor when you can loop it a couple of times.  I don’t want this to sound like bragging but the honest truth is that a silver dancer is going to stand out in a room full of bronze dancers.  It is just the nature of the level. It also helps that I’m dancing with the best female dancer in the room so I think we just naturally draw a lot of attention and people then come up after to offer compliments.  Part of me thinks this is the reason they want me at an event like this.  I’m a moving billboard for the Famous Franchise – look what you can become!!  Of course, you have to invest the time and money (I’d hate to think about how much I’ve actually spent at this) and deal with the fact that things become much harder the higher you go.  That’s the part that’s not in the brochure.  But it is always nice to get positive feedback.

One other highlight of the night was doing a Viennese Waltz during a general dance.  3 of 3 decided to toss one on just for the heck of it.  I was standing near the other silver competitive dancer from our studio so we looked at each other and just said “Why the heck not?”.  I’ve never lead her through a Viennese Waltz so I stuck to the advanced left turn, box and some hesitations just to change direction from time to time.  We had to start and stop a few times but I managed to negotiate the floor with no collisions so that’s a victory for me!

I was also dancing with an instructor from another studio.  She has a couple of semi-competitive dancers as well so I’ve seen her at the Dance-o-Rama’s and somehow she always finds me for a dance at these events as well.  For some reason, it always seems like we end up doing swing and last night was no exception.  I decided to be brave and actually ask her later in the evening and, as luck would have it, it was another swing.  Someday, I may actually branch out and ask a student from another studio to dance.  It could happen.

I believe I’m going to have to come up with an appropriate name for the new girl.  Don’t mean for that to sound dismissive but she’s in her very early 20’s and she looks much younger than that.  She was actually dancing at the old studio when she was in her teens which is when I first met her.  She’s the receptionist but has just branched out into teaching and has gone through some training.  I don’t know if her goal is to be a dance instructor (her Mom is one and ironically, it was her Mom who choreographed my open Fox Trot routine – the dance universe is pretty small) but she’s been around dance her entire life so that wouldn’t shock me.

But I have a feeling she may become a part of this story.  First, in a studio full of unique personalities, she stands out which just makes her interesting.  Secondly, she’s been a fill in at many group classes when we have our shortage of ladies (and I still think we are probably the only studio in the country that has that problem).  Thirdly, she loves to dance and she’s totally not shy about grabbing anyone to dance.  That makes her a perfect fit for the Famous Franchise world as their theme song really should be “you should be dancing” because they don’t like it when people are sitting out.  I guess AM himself was something of a wallflower (maybe a fellow introvert??) and he felt awkward about it and so I think the studio mission is to make sure you are dancing all the time.  There are just times when I don’t feel like dancing – it might be the wrong song or a style that I’m just done with for the night, but she grabbed me on many of the occasions.  I don’t want to use “new girl” forever so I’m going to have to come up with an appropriate name.  Got to really think about this since flashes of creativity are rare for me.

All in all, it was a good time.  I’ve got a coaching lesson on Monday.  To be honest, I’m not all that excited about it.  I’ve worked with this guy a couple of times and there are just certain people you don’t click with and he’s one of them.  I guess we are going to give him a shot at our Quickstep and maybe the Argentine Tango.  I wonder that since I’m working with the Body Double, it might be different.  Sometimes, with Z, the coaching lessons devolve into discussions between her and the coach since she tends to know every coach and they know her.  Also, he came up with the original swing routine which really didn’t fit my skill set.  Oh well, I will spend all day tomorrow making sure I can open my mind and not come in expecting the worst.

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