Performance Mode

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Taken from something Kid T said to be on our Rumba coaching lesson and it kind of stuck in my head.  I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m filled with doubts when it comes to dancing and that there are many times when I way overthink things.  And how I can be resistant to things because I get so for in my head thinking about how stupid I must look that I don’t go all out.

But one of the best and probably most surprising parts of my evolution in dance is that I’m able to be a lot freer during performances.  Something about putting on the dance clothes or the costume and having an audience brings out a different side of me.  Yes, you could say that I switch into Performance Mode.

To be clear, this didn’t happen right away because I used to be the same bundle of nerves and insecurities at these events.  And I’m not saying I’m Joe Cool right now but things have certainly evolved to a point where the nerves usually don’t get the best of me.  Mistakes I would obsess over on lessons can be laughed off during Showcase.  Moves in routines that feel silly on lessons are places where I can overact during Showcases.

Where am I going with this?  Well, over the last two lessons, I’ve had little bits of Performance Mode come out and that is new.  I suppose it makes sense.  Yes, a lesson is about learning footwork and choreography and working on technical things but there are also plenty of times when we dance to see how it all comes together.  Why not use those opportunities to practice like it is a Showcase.  To worry less about how it looks and just try to go all out.

Monday, we again had an opportunity to work with another instructor at Studio B.  He had to back out of our last lesson but was feeling better so we took the opportunity to get 30 minutes for him to add some additional Tango choreography to what we have.  (I haven’t mentioned this before but I do have to pay him for these opportunities but, so far, it has been well worth it)

This guy seems to move at light speed.  He’s going through the various steps with Mindy talking all the time.  Talking about the timing about how it fits to the music about what she can work on with me what her part is what my part is and so on.  Yes, it is a lot to take in when he turns to me to get me to work through it as well.  But, here’s the thing, the guy knows his stuff and he is super enthused about this.  He’s not training me to compete.  This is just a Showcase for fun but he’s really in to the whole idea of teaching dance.  At least that’s what he projects and what vibe I get from him and it is really infectious.

Part of the lesson was just me watching him and Mindy go through the new parts.  I’m pretty sure I had this silly grin on my face the entire time because it was just fun to watch the process work.  There was just something about watching steps come together and then trying to picture me doing the same things.  The weird thing is that there are times when I see OwnerGuy do a step and I just picture myself doing a pale imitation and the insecurities rise to the surface.  That never happened here.  Can’t really explain why the circumstances were different enough that I was just able to jump in and try and not worry as much about how I looked.

That part was definitely the learning zone.  But he wanted to see us dance the whole thing to music so he could see where we stopped and then he could plan out the next steps better.  Actually, it was like a relay race.  I danced the beginning with Mindy and then he jumped in and did the new parts to see how they fit to the music and where they left off so he knew how much additional Tango was needed.  But the times we were doing the parts to the music gave me a chance to try and find a character for certain parts and to throw myself more into some parts without worrying about how I looked.  I won’t lie, it was fun.

There was another guy working with Mindy when I got there.  We’ve talked before.  I guess he’s arranged to take some private lessons in both Fox Trot and Tango just to get a baseline that he really couldn’t get from a group class.  And, he’s working with another instructor.  He said that he’d be in the studio every night if he could afford it.  Another one who has fallen under the spell of ballroom.

Yesterday, Kid T also wanted to work on our closed Tango.  She had put some rock turns in a spot but said they were just a placeholder until she go to the step she wanted which is some Quick Pivots.  Basically, the routine is the same until we hit a part where we are in promenade.  Then, I do a Tango basic just to mark time and then hit another promenade – quick and sharp.  Then, I come around her on the slows and do pivots on the quicks and end up backing line of dance on the last slow.  Then, we have some quick lock steps before I rotate to the right to bring her back in front of me and to get back facing line of dance and then we do another tango close and then launch into the rest of the routine.

The pivot part was actually pretty easy to pick up as we’ve done something similar before.  With the lock steps, I just had to remember that Tango is danced down because I was going into my toes like you would for a Cha-Cha.  That and keeping my frame up in the back lock steps.  But we did a couple of pivots that felt amazing.

Then, she started playing with other parts to follow up on a concept another coach gave us which he called “fire dancing”.  Basically, it changes a little bit of the timing and creates some more contrast in the dance.  It really just involves pushing out more on the quicks when we are in promenade.  So it sharpens the contrast between the quicks and the slows and adds to the look and feel of the Tango.

We’ve got a whisk in the beginning which Kid T said was counter promenade so she wanted me to do the “fire dancing” to start the dance and then also when I bring her back around after the whisk and before the next step.  I’m sure I’m not explaining this sufficiently because I can’t really tell you what I did differently but it sure felt different.  It kind of felt like I was slinging Kid T around since she’s like feather but doing it with the body and not arms so she was never off balance and the whole thing was smooth.

For some reason, it felt so amazing that I could just feel this stupid grin spreading across my face and I couldn’t stop it.  I was remembering some of the things she said about Tango being a good dance for me and it was like I was able to channel some part of me that is a Tango dancer.  Does that sound weird?  It was just one of those great little moments that ballroom provides.  The little high that keeps you coming back for more.

Well we put it all together and danced the routine to music a few times.  I was seriously in Performance Mode because we were moving.  More than normal.  There’s one part where we both do forward and back fans and that has always been a part where I’ve felt her slip out of my frame and felt like I was losing control.  And it seems counter intuitive to me but when we danced it in the “fire dance” style, it moved faster in parts but was much more in control.   Can’t really explain it but just know I felt it.

It was like I’ve mentioned before.  There are times when dances feel flat and colorless.  This one didn’t.  And it was steps I’ve done for years but some very minor tweaks made a world of difference in how it felt.  Maybe also because I was just going for it without worrying about what it might look like.


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