Can’t keep em on the Farm

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I’m going to wrap several idea around social dancing and why it is a hit or miss thing for me now.  Tried to come up with several themes around knowing what you don’t know and toyed with the idea of using a red pill thing but that didn’t seem appropriate.  Thought about something with Tao which is appropriate only in parts so I was left with a song title from World War I (how do I know this stuff?).  It fits in part because it is about adjusting back to the life you had after being exposed to something new and different.

There is so much to know in dancing.  It is the infinite onion where you can continue to peel layers and never seem to make any progress.  For couples who come for pure social dancing, there is that moment when you’ve learned enough to get out on the floor but you have no idea what you don’t know.  I can watch them at parties.  A lot of times you see couples with poor posture, atrocious frames, totally off time and with mushy lead/follow but they are smiling and happy and beautiful in their own way.   They simply don’t know any better.

At some point, they start getting into fancier steps and the cracks start to show.   Most of the couples I’ve seen at the studio go through a phase where they argue about lead/follow.  A step that seems so easier to lead on a lesson or in a group class when the follow knows its coming becomes a mess when trying to lead it at a party.

But, if you keep dancing and if you show an interest in comps or start doing other events, things start to change.  They start pushing things like frame, posture, timing, connection, lead/follow more so than they do when you are just advancing up the medal ladder.  If you are in to that kind of thing, it is probably a great time.  For me, it can turn into tedious drudgery that seems pointless.  Until it isn’t ….

I’ve described many times that I dance because of how it makes me feel.  It is those brief moments of flow state when the moves just come and the dance just moves.  Dance is a conversation without words that takes place between two people on the dance floor.  When you start, it is like you are that married couple that argues about everything.  But, you can reach a state where it is like having a conversation with that person who knows you so well that you can complete each other’s sentences.  When you say “hey can you get me” and they have it handed to you before you finish the sentence.  I’ve also described it as a race car hitting on all cylinders and just smoothly negotiating the track.  Whatever metaphor you want to use, I think this is the thing that must light up some section of brain and leaving me wanting more.  If dance is addictive, it is this part of it that I’m addicted to.

And, I have figured out that most of that helps you get into the flow state.  If your frame is strong and solid and she is in the right spot, it makes the moves easier.  If you have the right forward poise and a strong connection, then it makes things easier.  If you are dancing with someone with a strong sense of music and you (as the lead) are on time, then it makes things easier.  I say this because I know it is very hard for some ladies to dance off time so it sets up a bit of an argument (not a literal one but just one that you can see and feel).  Oh, and even though I can’t consistently create these things, I’ve reached a point where I recognize them when they are there and can feel when they are missing.

There was an episode of Star Trek the Next Generation (yes, I watched it but I wouldn’t call myself a Trekkie) where Counselor Troi briefly lost her empathic abilities.  In one scene, she complained to Riker about how people no longer seemed real to her.  That they were all two dimensional because she couldn’t read their feelings.  Not quite the same thing but it is similar to how social dancing with the wrong partner can feel.

Now, I need to say up front that I’m not talking about dancing with newbies.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love dancing with newbies.  They are in that stage where it is all exciting and different and even doing something as simple as keeping a Fox Trot moving around the room is fun for them.  Besides, I can live off their excitement and happiness.  I guess technically as an INFP, I’m not absorbing their emotions like other types but more mirroring them meaning that I’m supposed to be able to reach inside myself and pull out happy feelings to match what they are feeling.  (Off topic, but I wonder if you carried that analogy out it would mean that those who absorb like a sponge still have residuals left while those of us who mirror don’t since the reflection disappears one the person moves away from the mirror).  Sorry, not going to get in depth into personality stuff here and it may sound like bunk to you but that’s OK.  I know I’m capable of it.  That’s not the only reason I like dancing with newbies but it is always nice to see someone’s eyes light up.

No, I’m mainly talking about the dancers at our studio who would be considered SINO’s (Silver in Name Only).  I supposed I could also use ABINO for Advanced Bronze in Name Only.  And, I really can’t blame them because they only dance how they’ve been taught.  (I suppose I could blame them because maybe they’ve been taught and just don’t get it)  But you get into frame and you feel nothing.  You start to move and they start doing whatever strikes their fancy.  Its been said to me that the man suggests and the lady decides whether to accept the suggestion.  Maybe, but ignore all my suggestions and I’m going to start to get ticked off.

To be fair, I’m sure there are plenty of guys at the studio who fall into this category as well.  Since I’ve never danced with any of them, I can only speak to my experiences.  So it may seem like I’m coming down a little hard on the ladies but that isn’t my intent.

And that isn’t all the ladies at our studio.  It might be about a 50/50 mix.  There are a couple that I really enjoy dancing with because there is enough true lead/follow that things start to flow.

Oh, and I have to offer another disclaimer.  I know I’m not perfect and I know there is always more to learn about lead/follow and connection.  Trust me, I’ve still got Kid T and Mindy pounding on me about those topics so I know that particular onion has a whole bunch more layers to get through.  On the other hand, I do know I have some talent here.  I got done dancing with Tex’s wife and she was telling me that my leads were great.  (You want to inflate the ego of a male dancer, tell him he’s a good leader)  The real point is that the two of us have to compliment each other.  And, once you’ve started to get a feel for that, it is hard to go back to the farm and dance with someone who is going to argue with you up and down the floor (again, not a literal argument and did you like how I combined my metaphors?)

A couple of other interesting notes from the party on Thursday.  I was actually more in the zone than I’ve been – at least when dancing with certain partners.  They played a really fast swing that was more of a single time swing.  I hate it when they do that.  I know the song fits the party theme but tempo matters.  I know we all start out learning single time but, once you’ve trained yourself to do the stupid triple steps, it is hard to take them out.  Except this time it wasn’t.  I wasn’t trying a lot of material but it was more than just rock steps and turn.  Even ended up trying to do toe/heel swivels which was quite the adventure.  We had a little audience of newer students for that one who were trying to figure out what we were doing.

There was also a painfully slow Fox Trot.  It was kind of hard to follow but I think we were on time even though it meant really holding the slows.  At one point, I made a comment to my dance partner about how slow it was.  Z was dancing with someone else and said to us that we could be like Tex and not care about timing.  He happened to be passing us at that time and dancing at what seemed like light speed compared to us.  There is a point to these two paragraphs.  In both dances, I was really able to feel the music and the timing which is a big thing for me.

One last vignette from Thursday although this one is from group class.  The class was Fox Trot and it was a full class for our studio (six couples).  The couple I’ve mentioned before were there and, because they are Kid T’s students and because he is really in way over his head, she was focusing on him a lot.  At one point, his partner was with me for the rotation and was talking about how lost he was and I think she really wanted there to be an actual beginning Bronze class but, because we are so bimodal and don’t have a lot of instructors, they either get stuff they already know or stuff that is way beyond them.  Not a good situation.  Anyway, one part was a Corkscrew where the guy take a step but then just rotates his upper body to bring the lady back into frame while she is taking three steps.  The key appears to be that the lady really only takes two steps.  On the second, there is a slight rise and she rotates and then lands back on her other foot in the right position with her legs crossed. It is the man’s rotation that is supposed to leave her in the right position.  And, all I know about the ladies part is what I saw Kid T teach that night but I guess I was paying attention since I caught that.  The trick with a step like that is that it is easy for the lady to take three steps which just messes everything up.  Because Kid T was spending so much time fixing the guy, she wasn’t focused on her and she wasn’t getting it.  So, I tried to show her what I saw Kid T do and emphasized not taking the third step.  She tried it and it sort of worked for her.  At least it felt better to her than what she had been doing.  Maybe I’ll start paying more attention.  Who knows when it could be helpful.

Sorry, longer post than I expected.  Just in a rambling mood I guess.  Had that stuff rattling around inside my head since Thursday so it just had to come out.





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