Six Weeks is the Mark to Beat

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Six weeks. That’s what Hilde leaned over to say to me at one point during group class. I was momentarily confused until she told me that’s how long she expects the new instructor to last. She also said OwnerGuy went too far in the other direction and hired someone too bland. She mentioned M-Dawg who was very personable and outgoing.

But, as I’ve said, Hilde is a classic extrovert and they do tend to overlook what we introverts have to offer. The idealist in me wants to believe that OwnerGuy recognized something or he wouldn’t have hired her so I’m not ready to start putting an over/under on her tenure.

Last night’s group was Fox Trot. There were four ladies and three guys and Kid T was teaching so they drafted the new instructor to be a guy. Z had a lesson and OwnerGuy was MIA. I don’t know when they allow a new instructor to teach a group class but we did have one really new lady so they could have broken off and done a beginners Fox Trot group, but, once again, they decided to toss us all into the same mix.

And the pattern that Kid T wanted to teach wasn’t a simple one. It started with a passing twinkle. I remember seeing that step way back in the day and thinking it looked easy until I tried it for the first time. So I knew what the new instructor was going through. She got partnered with the least experienced lady so it was kind of the blind leading the blind. And the pattern just got more complex from there. A couple of times she even asked me what her footwork was.

One of the issues with teaching a complex pattern is that you have to break it into pieces. But, and maybe this is just me, if you try to just execute the pieces, it often doesn’t make sense. How you end one section determines how you should best start the next. You really need to think about the whole and make adjustments all the way through. But you can’t do that if you are just thinking of each piece individually. It’s a little like the old story of five blind guys feeling pieces of an elephant and then trying to describe the animal and all of them having different views of the same beast. That may not be the best fit but the elephant story just popped into my head so I thought I’d use it. Anyway, everyone else was kind of getting lost but all at different places. It also didn’t help that Kid T has a habit of stopping or slowing down her count if she notices someone struggling. So you are dancing to slow, quick, quick and suddenly the last quick becomes a slow and the next slow is a hesitation.   The only thing to do in that situation is to abandon the count and just move forward. I danced with all the ladies and everyone more or less got it but the demo was a bit of a disaster.

I did tell Hilde that group classes like that were good for my ego. By that I mean that getting a step that others are struggling with does make you feel like an accomplished dancer. But I still feel bad for those who were having issues. After my lesson, I caught part of the conversation between the new instructor and another guy and she turned to me and said something like she wondered how I could get a step after seeing it just once. I had to tell her that I’ve seen most of these steps so they are in the memory banks somewhere. Then she said something about the student being the teacher. I wanted to say that at this point, there would be nothing wrong with that. She’s been doing this for two months. I’ve been doing this for years. I think it is fair to say I know more than she does at this point. If she sticks around, that won’t be the case, but, right now, I hope she isn’t expecting to be an expert.

There was one other little thing from group class. At one point, the power flickered. Z says in a very loud voice “Kid T, what did you do?” (Of course you know she didn’t say Kid T, but I’m not going to give you her real name. Just helping anyone who needs language precision). But, then she said, “I mean new girl, what did you do?”   From the new girl’s response, I don’t think she understood that Z was joking. I’ve had this problem before as well. There are some people I can say anything to and they’ll get when I’m joking. There are other personality types who always assume I’m serious so I’ve learned to watch what I’m saying around them. It is this kind of personality dynamic that may cause problems for the new instructor down the road. Not sure she’s truly prepared to deal with Z’s sense of humor. Well, Hilde has already set the marker at 6 weeks. I would take the over but that’s just because I do hope it works out.

Now, if group class was good for my ego, the lesson wasn’t the greatest. I think I’m suffering from a bit of burn out. Too much focus on technique without a clearly defined path or end goal. We did Peabody and Tango last night. The Peabody is still fun but I’ve let some of the routine slip from my mind so it takes a little bit of time for me to pull it from memory. That means we do a lot of work on the beginning and not so much on the end because we are always stopping to repeat. She wants to end with me doing it through twice but I have to get to the point where I can remember it all before I do that.

We had the same kind of things with Tango. To start, it is trying to remember the feel of the proper, twisted, knees slight bent Tango frame so she had to pose me a couple of times. And, there is whole, slightly less awkward feeling of having her glued to my side when we start. I will admit she drifted once and that sort of freaked me out so I made sure to pull my frame back to put her in the right place. Maybe that was planned…

And, after doing the Peabody, I had broken out into a little sweat. At one point during the Tango, I did a sharp head movement and I could feel a bead of sweat fly off my hair. I don’t know where it landed and I was afraid to ask. I definitely have to look into a head band. I mean it worked for Loverboy and Dire Straits, so why not for me. (You might have to look up their videos if you’re not a fan of 80’s music)

Got a little bit of a rant to close things out. There was an older student who enjoyed working with all the young, female instructors who used to come quite regularly. He’s been less active recently and he showed up for a group class. Was talking with him and he talked about how much fun it used to be. And he’s right. A studio that is active and hopping is just a fun place to be. It still is but with just a small core of students, it changes the dynamics. It was great to have a large group at Showcase and when parties and groups were packed.

One example is that we aren’t doing a formation for the next Showcase. I groused about the silliness of some of the formations but, in the end, it was still fun to do. There are probably lots of reasons but I can’t help but feel that the main one is that formation lessons were free. (They needed an incentive to get people to do it). With only one working instructor besides Z and OwnerGuy, I don’t know that they can afford to give up any time that can be paid for.

I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes but it is kind of a pattern with OwnerGuy. He sort of expects things to happen but if you want a more active studio, it does take some work. When the calendar for the year came out, there was a team match shown for early February. I asked him about it and he talked about one he judged in Chicago and how much fun it was. Since then, there has been nothing. There is no poster, no sign up sheet, no discussion. Maybe the other studio backed out or maybe they are focused on the event in Hawaii but it sure doesn’t look like this thing it going to happen. If it does, it is going to be OwnerGuy trying to round people up the last week in January. I know you are saying that I could ask and I could but I’ve got this stubborn streak in me. If it isn’t important enough for you to promote, then it isn’t important enough for me to ask about. But, if you want to create more buzz in the studio and get people more involved, you kind of have to promote these things. Otherwise, it will just be the same small core of people who do everything. Well, it will be one less because Hilde is unlikely to do it if there is an additional cost. Maybe they’ll be a big poster up tonight and I’ll have to take all this back.


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