Two Days in the Studio

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The continuing saga of the ups and downs of ballroom dancing.  One day your down wondering why you continue to do this and wondering why you ever thought you could dance and questioning everything.  Then, in just one day with a different lesson and a different dynamic you get a short glance of what you can do and suddenly the potential that others sees becomes obvious and you get a fleeting glimpse of what you can be.  In other words, just a typical Tuesday/Wednesday.

Are you intrigued?  Do you want to read further?  Well I had to start there because I’m going to deal with this in chronological order and the bad stuff was on Tuesday.  Then we’ll get to the shiny, happy stuff.


Tuesday was my progress check with OwnerGuy as he made good on his promise to sit in on a lesson.  We decided to focus on the open Cha-Cha and he was trying to convey his “vision” for me which involves doing more things that will draw attention to me.  He made it sound like he had talked with others and that’s what is needed.  I always get a little bit unnerved when I think about people discussing me.  Like there is some top secret meeting of dance instructors in a darkened room where the speak in hushed tones about students.  “Yes, the force is strong with this one but we must get him to dance bigger”.  Actually, it is probably more like the Animal House scene when they all throw beer cans when my face shows up on the screen.  Well, whatever, there is some consensus that I need to do more things to draw attention to me.  Maybe I should just get a giant red flag and wave it to say “Hey Judges, look at me!!”


The problem was that he’s doing my routine and just flying through it with his perfect feet and his perfect positions and his perfect timing and then I’m supposed to do that?!?  Yeah, I’ll eventually be able to do a version of it but it will be like getting instant Folgers when you want Starbucks.  They are both coffee but one is a very pale imitation of the other.  And, yes, I know that I am currently violating one of the ten commandments of a dance student “Thou shall not compare thyself to an instructor.”  (Wonder if I really could come up with ten statements like that.  It might be interesting to try)


There’s one part that I always hated and he modified it once and when I was trying the modification, he pauses and says “You almost did something else which would be cool but I’ll come back to that”.  Turns out that my flailing away looked vaguely like another step and he decided that would work better in the routine.  So he basically discarded that part and added this new thing and that required further changes.  This is at least the second time that I’ve screwed something up but my mistake triggers a change to the choreography.  I feel like some kind of dance savant.  “I’m a very excellent dancer.”  “Yes you are Wall man.”


At the end of the day, I’m still concerned about all the fast footwork and making it look like a cha-cha.  I think I can do a version of it but it scares me to think about taking it on to a floor. Then again, a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are built for.  So an open cha-cha is safe in the studio but that’s not why you learn an open cha-cha.  Doesn’t have the same snappiness to it but there you go.  It is a good thing I didn’t do a post right after that lesson because it would have been much darker than this one.  I’m still coming down from the high last night which colors this with some optimism (And I promise to get to last night but I must be true to myself and get there in my own way)


I did also realize that I miss a lot by not working with a man.  There are so many little things beyond the steps.  Just how he positions himself.  There’s a place where we are in shadow position and he corrected what we were doing because he wanted us closer and he wanted me to have her waist when we did the next step.  But just the way he stood oozed confidence and it would be nice to replicate it.  Little details like that are things that I miss.  There are advantages to working with someone who’s done a lot of competitive dancing because they just learn what the judges want to see and it is all these little things that they may not even be aware that they are doing but it becomes part of the total package.  I previously told him that I needed his help to get where I wanted to go and that was not a slam on Kid T but she lacks the competitive experience and the male perspective on things.  She can correct basic things like posture but the little details that make all the difference are things she is not going to see.  So I’m going to have to be more vocal with him and make sure he doesn’t abandon me completely again.  Despite the nagging doubt about being able to do this, I did get a lot out of the lesson.


Yesterday was my second lesson with Sunny and this time the focus was on Argentine Tango.  I’m going to go “meh” on the whole experience.  There were steps I remembered doing with the Body Double but she and Kid T changed them enough so that they aren’t really recognizable and don’t feel the same.  I do have to continue to give her credit because I can really sense that this is something she wants and wants to do well.  I’ll have to give it time to see how it plays out but, for now, I’m not going to spend a lot of time discussing it.  It was OK but not really exciting.


The coaching was fantastic despite my anxiety about being watching leading to some wonder flop sweat.  But there was so much that we worked on.  There is a turn at the beginning that she completely changed and then she gave me a little tip on what to do with my arms (keeping them low and across my body) which just smoothed it out so I no longer felt off balance.  She also did an amazing job with arm styling.  Part of the reason that I hated the opening is because we are apart and I’m supposed to stand there and look “big” but I just felt stupid standing there.  She gave me some things to do with the arms – not only in the opening stance but how to move them as we do the first two steps apart.  The great thing is that the movement fits with the dance so it looks organic and natural and not like someone just going “stick arm out now”.  Or at least that is how I think it looks.  But even having an idea of how to stand at the beginning and having some place to put my arms to strike the right pose just makes all the difference.  It no longer felt strange to try and stretch and take up space.  Not sure why but since my arms now had a purpose it just felt better.


And she gave me some real simple things to do with the arms for other parts of the routine.  Nothing really complicated but just going from having them out to having them in on “slows” so it creates a natural contrast and highlights parts of the music because now there is something moving with the music.  I had my moments of trying to move arms and legs at the same time but it is something I can get with time.  There is another part where Kid T walks around me and she came up with some great things to do with my arms and even gave me some direction to look at Kid T as she walks around.  It didn’t change the step but just having some purpose for my arms made it feel less awkward to just stand there.


Near the end of the lesson, she wanted to focus on a couple of areas to improve my technique.  We started doing something strange with pointing my feet and I guess I have more flexible ankles than they expected so we started working on how to actually walk like a Rumba with more foot movement.  It was a simple technique and it was something that had been explained to me before but something finally clicked and she also stressed that it was designed to help us be more together as a couple.  If I think about it now, I’m not sure how it does that but last night I wasn’t questioning it.  We also worked on settling which was another concept that had been discussed but it started to click last night as well.  As I was doing these things, it started to “feel” a lot more like a Rumba – or how I imagine a Rumba should feel.  This is where I got that brief glimpse of the future and something in me said “I can do this”.  I haven’t reached a wall.  There is still more I can do.  There is more room to grow.  I can make that next step and get to that next level.


Now, I don’t know if I was channeling her excitement or she was channeling mine but she was really geeked up about this.  And it wasn’t the fake “nice job” that I’ve gotten from other coaches.  It felt real and genuine and a sign that I was actually doing something that made a difference.  Either way, I built off her enthusiasm because I was super pumped and excited when I got off the lesson.  My head was ready to explode from all the stuff she poured into me but I’ll take that.  Felt like I was ready to go out and conquer the world.  I know it won’t be easy but I can do this and, for the first time in a long time, I’m actually excited about doing one of my dances.  I want to get on the floor and do this Rumba routine and say to the world “Look at what I can do!!”.  Yeah, I know that will fade when the hard work starts because this was just the opening chapter.  But I really want to read this book and see how it ends.


Oh, and I suppose I should give you the next installment of Z and I.  The other day, I came into the studio and she was behind the desk and she looked up because that’s what you do when someone walks in.  And I was looking at the desk because that’s what you do when you walk in so the eye contact was unavoidable.  Left without another option, I just smiled and said “hello” because that’s the polite thing to do.

Happened again yesterday so that’s two in a row.  In a sign that there are cracks in the permafrost, I was also in her group last night and she was targeting me for more barbs than usual.  Tex was still her main target which is expected because he is her student but I got more than my share.  It still feels a little weird but maybe we’ll just end up acting like nothing ever happened and if it gets things back to some reasonable sense of normalcy then I’m cool with that.


Last note, because of some schedule things, there is no dance date on Friday but I was able to get another session with this coach.  Seriously wishing it was Friday already and not because that means the work week would be over.  (I am a little sore this morning – think we were working things I don’t normally work)


Who know what the next two days will bring.

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