Doubts and Demons

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Well, it has been awhile since I’ve had a lesson as bad as last night.

Let me set the stage for the day.  I do a session with my trainer every Friday but TrainerGuy is on vacation so he asked if I would work with someone else so we keep moving forward.  Makes sense to me on the surface but you know how I feel about change especially when this is someone I don’t know all that well.  These sessions always require some vulnerability because they are pushing me to my physical limits in a lot of cases.  Well it is one thing to do that with TrainerGuy but the back up was some very young lady.  Yes, the male ego is present in me and no guy wants to look like the 98 pound weakling in front of any lady.  But she probably pushed a little too hard because my shoulder is killing me today (and it was last night on the lesson).

I’ve got a double on Friday night and I’m expecting OwnerGuy to show up on the second lesson to work on Quickstep.  I know we are going back through the dances and starting to work on the feedback we received from Showcase.  But here’s the problem.  Some of these are very subtle little differences and so I can’t “feel” the difference between what is “right ” and what I was doing.  This is where I start to struggle and get frustrated because someone is telling me what to do but I need to know HOW to do it.  As a segue to the previous paragraph, this happens to me on training sessions as well when they want to isolate a particular muscle group and I can’t quite get what they are wanting me to do.

So we started with Rumba and the one thing they wanted more of was forward poise.  They made a comment about it being good in one heat but said they wanted more in another so I’ve got the issue of inconsistency which happens when I can’t feel the difference between “right” and “wrong” so I can’t lock into what is the right way.  Kid T eventually brought a beach ball as a teaching aide to emphasize the round frame and also as a way of demonstrating the position since we had to keep pressure on the beach ball while dancing.  But this involves leaning over while keeping the head straight and it is an awkward thing but, as a concept, it it something that I could sort of grasp and should be able to get with time.

Then, we moved on to swing and what they want to see involves more knee action.  This automatically triggers a warning light in my head.  I don’t like using the knee as an excuse but the painful reality is that some dances and motions make it hurt like hell the next day (and sometimes the next couple).  And all I get is “well just don’t bend so much”.  So much of this technical stuff is freaking Goldilocks – you have to find the thing that is “just right” but it is so hard to figure that out.  I have to bend in order to feel it and I usually have to exaggerate when I’m first learning something so my body can figure out what I’m supposed to do and then I can dial it back.

The other thing that was really getting frustrating to me was that she’d tell me what to do and I’d attempt to do it and she’d say “did you feel the difference?”.  Nine times out of ten, the honest answer was “no”.  So what was I supposed to do, just lie and pretend like I did.  I opted for the truth and I could see this puzzled her like “how could you not”.  Some of this is also that the Famous Franchise seems to have one playbook for teaching certain things and if the student doesn’t get it, then the instructor doesn’t always have a plan B and that’s when things go bad.

But after much awkward conversation and observation, she finally hit on the main issue which is that I need to keep weight on one foot for the triples and then shift and settle into the other leg.  Which sounds easy until I’m doing the routine and I can’t keep track of whether I’m moving to the right or to the left so I lose track of which foot I’m supposed to be settled into. Anyway, we worked through the swing but it was awkward and painful and I serious hate the whole “awkward learning” phase.  I know I often set up unrealistic expectations so I was figuring I should get this down and when I couldn’t then it set off the whole “you’ve gone as far as you can” thought bouncing around my head.  Which is never good because that always leads to more doubt and more demons and other bad things.

Mambo was next and my brain was starting to get fried and various parts of me were hurting.  She said we got a mixed bag on timing and that I needed to watch my timing.  She did acknowledge that some of the songs were harder to hear.  I could tell I was not in a great place because my inner sarcasm started to fill my head with all kinds of snappy one liners about how it is so helpful to say “watch your timing”.  Fortunately, I did not verbalize any of them but even thinking them puts me in a bad place.

The other part of the Mambo we had to correct was keeping square in a certain part.  This was another episode in frustration since I couldn’t tell good from bad.  At one point, she says to me “Did you see how you opened out there”.  Again, I was fully into my sarcastic self and the thought that instantly leaped into my head was “Well of course not, or I wouldn’t have done it”.  I know she’s just trying to help but I may have been a little beyond help then.  But, I think I got what she was talking about and we were actually laughing towards the end of the Mambo so it wasn’t all bad.

The Quickstep is the disaster that pushed me over the edge.  She counts so much differently than the Body Double who used numbers in places where Kid T is using “slows” and “quicks”.  There is part of me that just wants to tell her to knock off the counting because it is just confusing me.  There is a part at the end that I really have no idea what I’m supposed to do and we’d get there and it just wouldn’t work.  But the entire dance feels herky-jerky and forced and just not fun at all.

To top if off, OwnerGuy is on a lesson with another couple and he shows no signs of stopping.  Kid T goes over to him to find out that while he agreed to help on Friday night, it never got booked and so he got booked on another lesson.  I’ll admit that pushed me deeper into the bad place.  I just kept replaying in my head the number of times he told me that he’d be there to help us get started and the reality is that we’ve had one progress check with him.  There’s not a lot that sets me off but don’t make vague promises and then fail to come through because that seriously pisses me off.

Anyway, we kept trying but at one point I told Kid T that I didn’t want to keep practicing something wrong because what’s the point in that.  We couldn’t even really get the intro right even though it was on video with the counts.  Part of the problem seems to be that even when I do remember parts, she doesn’t trust me and we end up messing something up until she realizes I was right in the first place.  I got to a place where I felt that Quickstep just wasn’t our dance and that it probably wasn’t fair to ask her to come in on a piece that was choreographed for another instructor with a different body style.  I told her I was skeptical about this routine which was my indirect way of saying I didn’t want to do it.

We got done and OwnerGuy comes over and they had a little conversation about the mix up.  And he asks about the Quickstep and tells me that when he was watching, that it looked a little tentative like I didn’t know where I was going.  At this point, the inner sarcastic child was in full gear.  But then there was another part that took over because it started to look like all of this was on me.  And, in the end, it might be, but if I can dance it with the Body Double and have it flow nicely but then it is like a kid driving a stick shift for the first time with Kid T, do ya think there might be more to the problem than just me??

He did mention something about the frame and I wanted to scream “THAT’S IT”.  I’ve held this inside because I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but our smooth frame sucks and that is not just me.  She doesn’t keep her arm straight and she doesn’t always stay in the pocket.  I know I can drop my frame and have other problems as well but the main issue is that I don’t feel her so I don’t know where she is and when that happens, I get tentative because she doesn’t move as much as she needs to and we’ve run into each other.  I know I’m supposed to just be powering through but when I don’t feel the connection and when we have a little collision, it just makes me super cautious and things get smaller.  This happens in our Viennese Waltz as well.  But OwnerGuy is all about fixing our frame and I’m like “make sure you fix BOTH of us”.  (Didn’t say it of course)  Did tell him that I was skeptical about this routine.  And I’m also seriously skeptical that he’ll even find the time to work with us even though he said things should settle down now.

I think I’m going to need to be more forceful.  Basically, they’ve got one lesson to fix this.  If I don’t feel serious improvement next week, then there is no way in hell I’m going out there to make an idiot of myself trying to struggle through a Quickstep that I know is going to look like crap.  That’s not what I signed up for.

They were both taking it as good sign that this was really the only thing that we are struggling with.  Objectively, I get that but I want this fixed and I’m not about to devote any more time and energy to something that doesn’t seem to be getting any better.

Don’t get me wrong, we are doing the steps but that’s not enough.  Several times, I got feedback about flow of the moves and that’s what I’m all about.  In both smooth and rhythm, things have to move effortlessly from one pattern to the next to the next.  That’s my gauge for something that is done well.  If you are having to start/stop and reset and do other things then it doesn’t matter if you know the steps.  Oh well, end of rant.

Thursday night was actually a very good night.  I stayed a little longer at party and this was one of the few times when guys were outnumbered so I danced with most of the ladies at the party.  There is one newbie who is much younger but seems to enjoy dancing.  She said Tango was her favorite so I made sure to dance Tango with her (twice).  Kid T and I got to do the Viennese Waltz and the Peabody so that was fun.  I got roped into doing a Two-Step with another student and I had kind of given up on country dancing when 3 of 3 left but I can still do the basic and a couple of turns.

Our Showcase is three weeks from tomorrow.  Right now, the Quickstep is still up in the air.  Even though I paid for the solo, I’d eat the cost rather than make a fool of myself and do something i know I would hate.  That’s how strongly I feel about this.  We’ll see how next week goes.


  1. I’ve heard everything you’re saying about KidT’s frame from my own teacher. He can’t lead me if he doesn’t feel the connection. And he’s a pro! So if a pro can’t power through it, how can you expect yourself to be able to?
    Have you tried telling KidT that part of your struggle is you can’t feel her in frame? I know it’s awkward, but how is she going to know if you don’t say anything? Fixing her own errors will only help you, her student. Good luck!

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