Progress is Closer Than You Think

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I know sometimes I get into a mode where I’ve got lots to say and the posts come fast and furious.  This is the problem when you’re mostly wired to listen because sometimes, as Toby Keith said, I want to talk about ME!  Of course, if you get me talking about dancing, I’d ramble on forever and I’d be greeted with blank stares and glazed over looks.  This way, I can say whatever is on my mind and you can choose to read it.

Yesterday, I’m sitting at home and the phone rings and it is Kid T.  There is an opening with the coach that they couldn’t fill so would I be willing to take a double coaching lesson.  I was also meeting with Mindy at Studio B to plan out our post Showcase future so that would mean three lessons the day after Showcase.  Despite the tired feet and achy knee, I agreed because we were going to work on lead/follow and then tackle the awful open Cha-Cha routine which was the only thing that totally bombed on Sunday.

At Studio B, we sort of agreed to do a Tango and a Hustle for their next Showcase.  We had the super awkward moment where I had to lead her through what I know so she can assess my skill level.  The problem with that is that the only Tango I really know is my Famous Franchise patterns and they don’t often translate well.  I guess she recognized some of what I was doing although it had different names so we started there and she showed me a few different things than I was getting at the Famous Franchise.

With Hustle, I told her I basically stand in the middle and spin the lady but when I showed her what I could do, she tells me that I know more than I let on.  Think she actually said I was a liar and then called it a defense mechanism.  Partially true.  I’m so hardwired against self promotion that I always understate my abilities when talking to someone else.  But the other problem is that I don’t really know the names of any of the Hustle steps.  I just dance them.  Again, we did a few things to build off of what I know so we are off and running towards the next Showcase.  I did find out later that I’m out of lessons there so now comes the decision.  If I want to continue, then I need to re-enlist.

Fortunately, there was plenty of time to get across town from Studio B to the Famous Franchise.  Even had time to stop for some coffee.  Holiday spice Flat White if you must know.  I actually got to the studio about 20 minutes early but that gave me time to finish my coffee.

And it gave me a little time to talk with Kid T about the Showcase and how it felt.  I told her that I had a lot of fun and that it went well.  Then, she says something like she could feel that I was more confident.  Which was true but it kind of freaked me out that she could feel that from the dancing.  I forget that there is a lot of non verbal communication that goes on and I guess I can hide my feelings and not talk about them but my body betrays me.  I was curious as to what confident vs non confident felt like but I decided not to ask.

So the coach comes over and she tells me how much she enjoyed coming back.  I honestly didn’t remember them from the last Fall Showcase but I guess they were judges as well.  And then she says that she could see a lot of improvement in a year.

Well the first theme was lead/follow and specifically in the smooth dances Waltz and Fox Trot.  She first started with a comment I’ve heard before and that is that I need to take bigger steps.  I get that a lot.  “You’re tall.  Dance bigger!  More movement!”  We talked about head position a lot and she said when I’m looking at Kid T then it looks like I’m unsure and the judges know that.  I just thought I was being social.  But, she finally gave me a tip I could use which was to sight off my left elbow and keep it there.  There was something about certain figures where I needed to make my elbow the first thing that reaches the new spot (but keeping the frame so it naturally rotates me where I need to be).  We tried what had been an awkward pick up in the Fox Trot and it totally smoothed out.  I mean it was instantly and obviously better in so many ways and it wasn’t anything more than a minor adjustment.

Had the same experience with Waltz.  We had a different type of figure and she said it should always go towards the wall.  That means to set it up, I have to rotate my foot more which brings the rest of me around.  We had this series of passes where I come around her and then another awkward pick up at the end.  Once I aimed where she told me, it instantly smoothed out and the pick up was no problem and we were perfectly angled for the next pattern.  Same thing on a spiral that followed.  She had me do the same type of rotation and it moved directly down the floor and not across the floor.  Plus, there was a whole bunch more power and momentum.  Plus, plus, it FELT so much different and so much better.

There are no words to really describe how completely my mind was blown.  She took a break between our lessons and I’m kind of stammering and sputtering and trying to find words to explain this to Kid T.  What I finally came up with was that I really felt like I had plateaued and that there was no progress and that the next level in my dancing was so far away.  With a couple of very minor tweaks, she vastly improved the quality and feel of what I was doing in both Waltz and Fox Trot.  Suddenly, the next level seemed to be clearly within reach.  Holy Crap, maybe I really can do this!  It was just the right combination of the right person saying something that clicked in the right way and boom there was instant improvement.  I’m not going to discount the fact that I might have been in a more open minded place than I’ve been recently but, whatever the reasons, this was an exciting coaching lesson and really gave me some hope that I can move forward.

Then, we tried to tackle the Cha-Cha.  Right away, she told me not to drop my heels on the syncopated steps at the beginning because there isn’t time and that helped a great deal.  There is a telemark that I’ve hated since the get go but she broke it down into two steps and a rock turn and also told me to keep my head to the left and it all clicked.  There were other parts where she changed our hand hold so we could work off each other better and do the twists that are supposed to happen.  And she changed another part to keep more active in place.  Oh, and she added some flair to one step – just the two of us pointing as we lock step back in the other direction.  Of course, she wanted more hip out of me so she tried to show me how to create it which just made me feel awkward and silly.  All in all, there was also significant improvement but I think it will take longer for the rhythm stuff to sink in.

On the way home, some of the excitement dimmed a bit.  I realized that the Cha-Cha routine was like a house of cards.  OwnerGuy had slapped some choreography together with Kid T and presented it to me in a couple of lessons but never went over some of the important technique things.  When you don’t have a good foundation, the house is easy to topple and I think that is what was happening because I was just trying to make my best guess about what I was supposed to do in places and it just caused the whole thing to feel off and rotten.

And that is the problem with me at the Famous Franchise.  OwnerGuy doesn’t spend enough time going over the finer points so I get a rough picture of what I’m supposed to do and then it is just repeating it enough times hoping for it to sink in.  But, if I’m not doing something right, then all that happens is I lock the wrong thing into my muscle memory.  So when I’m told I need to twist more to create a more cha-cha like look, it is hard to rewire my mind and body to do things the right way.  I think OwnerGuy had a vision of what he wanted me to learn from this routine but he never followed up with it so it was like leaving someone in the middle of the woods without a map or compass and just hoping they can find their way out.  He may have expected Kid T to follow up but, when she’s dancing with me, she can’t watch what I’m doing.

I’m not totally down here.  I saw some real progress just with some very minor tweaks and that tells me that I’m closer than I think to being able to take the next step.  That part is exciting.  But if I have to rely on coaches because I won’t get it from Z or OwnerGuy, then it gets frustrating to think about.  Guess we cross that bridge when we come to it.

Last random note – for some reason, I’ve got some rough spots on my left palm right at the base of the first two fingers.  I’m hoping that means we just had a real solid connection and maybe created too much friction when we were dancing.  All I know is that they weren’t there before Showcase and now they are there.  Dancing does strange things to your body.

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