(Disclaimer – The quote above comes from the Karate Kid so it is presented as is. Not sure how this post is going to turn out. I’ve got multiple ideas flying around in my head but I’m not sure they can be tied together in a coherent thread. Guess we’ll see)
Let’s start with a premise. Who and what you like when watching various dancers is very subjective and our personal preferences can vary quite a bit. Put all of us at a comp and we are likely going to end up with different favorites. That is true of all creative endeavors like writing, art and music. After all, I’m sure there are some people who may not like YA novels, hair metal power ballads and impressionist paintings. I can’t understand why but I’m sure those people exist.
Art certainly impacts most people but I suspect there are some of us who feel it more deeply. Maybe not because I don’t really talk about these things with anyone because I don’t want to openly share how certain songs make me feel. How I can climb inside the music and just get wrapped up in it. How I can stare at a painting and actually be in the scene.
Here’s another thread that I’ll try to stitch together with the rest. (I’m sure right now that this feels more like a patchwork cloth than a tapestry) I am aware that others emotions can strongly impact me. According to all I’ve read about personality, I’m can tend to mirror others which just means I reach into my internal emotional database and pull out what I think the other person is feeling. It can certainly be overwhelming as well when I’m not prepared for it or have other things going on. My first comp was like that. I had my own nerves to deal with and just seeing all the stress and tension in the room and not having an outlet really got to me. This last one was better because I had my peeps from the studio to ground me.
But, when I’m watching other dancers, I tend to end up looking at their faces. In the studio last week, Z was working with a student who is going to a Dance Event in a couple of weeks. They were doing Viennese Waltz because you have to do that when you go to one of these events. And she was bragging to OwnerGuy about him being on time. And he certainly was on time but I looked at his face and you could read the concentration and focus as he struggled to stay with the beat. I felt for him just because I could see how hard he was working.
At the same time, there was a new couple working on a country two-step routine. Their form was terrible and the moves and transitions were rough and rocky. The timing wasn’t all there. But they both had huge smiles on their faces and were clearly enjoying themselves. Even though the quality of dancing wasn’t there, I preferred watching them because I could share in their joy. There is just something so new and innocent about watching couples who start dance lessons and are still in that giddy “this is so much fun phase!”
There was also a wedding couple working on their dance. They are doing a good job but you can read the strain and stress on her face. It was clear to me that she was expecting perfection and any little mistake was not being tolerated. I really just wanted to rush over to them and tell them to just relax and try to have fun. All couples eventually argue and the wedding dance can be stressful but it hurts to see someone just not having any fun at all.
Put me at a pro show and I tend to get so mesmerized by the pros that I’m sure I’m just sitting there staring with my mouth hanging open. Hope I don’t accidentally drool on myself. And most of the pros are really good at telling stories with their faces. It may be something they’ve learned or it may be more natural but you get a range of emotion. It is never that fake smile that I see plastered on some people at comps. And they know how to play to the audience. It has happened twice to me that I’m just staring at some couple and I catch the eye of the male pro and he’s given me a little wink. That’s kind of cool.
I know never to compare myself to a pro but I do hope to continue to get better at performing. Yes, the technical details are important as well but I don’t want to be technically perfect but emotionally cold. Dancing should evoke an emotional response. Getting comments that a routine was “beautiful” mean as much to me as good comments from a judge.
So that brings us to Thursday’s lesson which was Bolero and Mambo. Bolero is a problem for me. I love the music and I love the way it feels but I have real trouble trying to express the emotion and feeling of the dance. (Yeah, that’s probably not a shock given my Victorian tendencies) It is much easier to feel the romance of the Waltz and Viennese Waltz but that’s not really what Bolero is all about. The movements are tough for me as well since I can’t lower as much as I need to. I try to do some arm movements but nothing really seems to fit.
Mambo is very different though – at least the Mambo that I currently do. It continues to shock me that I go to comps and tend to get better marks in Mambo even though I’m sure I’m not doing enough hip movement. It probably does come down to timing which, for some reason, I seem to get better than others. But Mambo is mostly fast and fun and exciting. We do a spin whip which is always just a fun step – rock away and then close up and get her arm behind her back and just roll her back out. When you watch sports, the announcers will sometimes talk about a young player and how he’s gotten better because the “game has slowed down”. That never made any sense to me until I started doing dances like Mambo. The first time you try, it just feels like everything comes so fast. Over time, the moves just become natural and it doesn’t feel as fast. In fact, you sometimes have to slow down because you are trying to move so fast. The only thing about Mambo is I was still looking at Kid T’s eyes (Always Look Eye!!) which tends to be my safety net. I’ve had to learn to look away because I need to keep my head in a different position for most of the other dances and I suppose parts of Mambo will be the same. Then again, looking up and out does give you a chance to catch eyes in the audience which happened a couple of times at this last Showcase so that is something to shoot for.
Well, I’m not sure this made any sense or not. As I said, it was really just a collection of random thoughts and impressions from my last couple of lessons with a little personality stuff mixed in.