Stumbling Blocks

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Well the week at the Famous Franchise didn’t exactly end on a high note.  Let me start with something that will appear random but I may be able to weave it into the bigger story.  I was early (I always am) and so I was watching the other things going on.  NewestGirl was on a lesson with a new couple and OwnerGuy was doing a progress check because, naturally he can find the time to do a progress check with everyone else except me.  In this case, it was a couple nearing the end of their initial enrollment so they were trying to set the hook to reel them in for a larger package.  See, it is just assumed I’m always going to be there and forking money over so why bother with a progress check.  (Ooh, I’m just a little bitter here)

So, as part of the progress check, he’s asking what they like and pointing out what he saw.  And then, he splits them up and he dances with the lady to let her feel a better lead and then he works with the guy to give him some pointers.  Then, he puts them back together and starts to rave about how much better it looks.  He asks her if it felt different and on and on.  Think he set the hook but he’s got to come up with the next step and then see if he can reel them in.  That’s where you get the sticker shock.

Now, this is part of the problem of being somewhat idealistic like I am but a not totally head in the clouds kind of person.  I understand that a dance studio is a business and they have to sell lessons to stay in business.  But that doesn’t mean I have to like the process.  I would love to assume that the guy had really shown an improvement from the couple of minutes spent with OwnerGuy but the lady wasn’t feeling it.  So was what he was saying to them (a) real or (b) a sales pitch.  Give him the benefit of the doubt because it could be both.

But it made me sensitive to one thing.  There are very few objective measures to gauge improvement in dancing.  So you have to rely on the subjective opinions of the various instructors who happen to have a strong incentive to keep you buying lessons which gives them an incentive to tell you that you are getting better.  And, most people really are.  It is just when you hit a wall and can’t get over it that the words just sound empty.  And I’m left wondering what is real and what is talk to keep me on the line.

Well, that was a bit more than I expected to say so let’s now segue into the lesson.  It was more rounds only this time it was the smooth so it was Waltz, Tango, Fox Trot and Viennese Waltz.  Waltz and Fox Trot presented no problems.  They mostly flow and there aren’t places that feel awful.  The other two not so much.

We spent a lot of time on Tango as I tried to verbalize what my issue was.  But all I know is that it feels sloppy and out of control in parts and I can tell you but I have no idea why.  So I need you to fix it.  Tango is supposed to be this staccato dance and I know what staccato means but I’ve lost how it feels.  I need to know how it feels so I can recognize what it should feel like.  I did get that out and she said that was something she could work with.

We did attempt to fix one thing on some fans where my fanning foot was wandering when it should have just been stuck in place after the fan.  So I focused on that and then she gives me the “that one was so much better” comment.  You would think I would like that comment but, most of the time, I don’t.  If I notice a 200% improvement in how the step feels, then I’m open to believing it.  If not, then the logical part of my brain starts asking “how could it possibly be that much better”

Now, I know what you may be thinking (especially if you happen to be a dance instructor reading this) and that is that they are the experts and know more than I do.  So shouldn’t I be trusting them?  Sounds like you might have some trust issues.  Yeah, that’s entirely possible.  And, again, it not that I think Kid T or OwnerGuy are running some kind of scam but it certainly seems possible that they are overstating the level of improvement.  There are a lot of reasons why they would stretch the truth a bit not the least of which would be to keep me feeling good about myself and my dancing.  But what’s real?

Yes, this is the endless struggle between what I feel and what others may or may not perceive.  To some extent, I do trust Kid T but, to be honest, I’ve seen her use that approach multiple times on other lessons.  Remember, I observe and I see a lot more than people think.  The pattern of making a minor tweak and then telling the person that there was a major improvement.  Again, it could all be true but I’m just cynical enough to have to entertain other possibilities.

Well, I really got off on a tangent there.  Guess I’ve got a lot more stuff rattling around in my head than I thought.

The issue with the Viennese Waltz is that I get stuck in the same place.  There is a step where I’m supposed to roll around her and then pick her up for an advanced left turn.  But it relies on me getting the proper alignment and I’m just not capable of thinking three steps ahead so I don’t know when I’m getting into trouble and we’ve ended up going towards the edge of the floor rather than back down line of dance too many time.  Or, I have to torque the rotation and then I’m in a funky angle so I don’t get the momentum we need to keep the step going and the loop just becomes clumsy and it feels like total crap.

This is more frustrating than the Tango in many ways.  I keep expecting to be able to work through this but I just keep doing the step over and over and my batting average ain’t great.  So what am I screwing up?  Shouldn’t we be able to fix this?  Then, all the ugly stuff starts to come in.  If I’m just screwing the same thing up over and over again, then I’m not making any progress.  And if I’m just spinning my wheels in the mud while everyone is driving by me, then what’s the fracking point?

I stayed through group and a bit of the party but I was kind of down on myself by then so I ended up leaving.  Kid T was asking me on the lesson what was going on.  I couldn’t really verbalize everything.  I did manage to get out the frustration on the Viennese Waltz and she is going to try to see if OwnerGuy can come look at it.  If not him, then she’s going to talk to the coach who will be in next week.

I guess this is the downside of doing the same routines for many years.  The new stuff we are learning is keeping me excited and interested.  It is a challenge but not an impossible one and at least when you are learning new choreography, there is something tangible you can point to to illustrate progress.  When you’ve done something hundreds of times and it still doesn’t feel right or you are still messing up one spot more often than not, it becomes super frustrating – at least for me.  Why can’t I get these things right since we’ve been working on them for years??

Since I don’t want you to think that I’m totally in the pit of despair, I do realize that of those nine routines, there are 6 that I’m really comfortable with and that generally feel good each time we do them.  Bolero is bolero.  I can do it and it feels OK but that one is just in my head about trying to capture and express what a bolero should look like.  And parts of the Viennese Waltz and Tango are really just fine.  I just can get into these perfectionist places where everything needs to feel great and there can be no mistakes.

And the other good news is that we are supposed to have a lovely Easter weekend so I can be out enjoying spring weather and all the flowers.  That may help me clear my head so I can take on next week in a better place.

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