Confession time – I started writing a post and then I got distracted. I came back to it and decided to just scrap the whole thing and start over.
Yesterday, I got the scores back from my check out along with a small amount of feedback. The positive about doing something like this is you get to see someone’s else perspective of your dancing. And there are always a few unexpected things that pop up.
The problem is that I have this nasty habit of finding ways to minimize or discount data that goes against my image of myself as a dancer. And I started to do that in this post. I’ve always considered myself more of a smooth dancer than a rhythm dancer. Something about hips and movement in the rhythm or Latin dances that seems to be beyond me. So, even though I got some positive feedback, I started writing a whole bunch of reasons why that couldn’t be right or to explain why the judge/reviewer might have been fooled. Just a little bit of self sabotage. Which is why I consigned that post to the recycle bin and I’m starting over.
I’m not going to give you the actual numbers because they are of less value. In theory, it is on a 100 point scale but I strongly suspect that the real scale is compressed (maybe like 90-100). After all, they aren’t trying to crush your soul with the check out and, besides, the points are based on how you compare in the level you are dancing. Which would mean that two people could get the same scores even if one is a “better” dancer. But, what I do think is real and legitimate is to compare scores among the dances.
Ballroom is subjective and you have to consider that in evaluating the scores. Even if you are primarily looking at mastery of the steps, I suspect it would be difficult to take the emotion out of the picture. One thing that I think can say with high confidence is that dancers like to watch other dancers. And you’ll get an emotional reaction to something whether you want to or not. (Or maybe that’s just us overly emotional types) So maybe she just saw a little extra in some of the dances.
Does it sound like I’m making excuses? I hope not because that’s not intent. The point I was trying to make is that this is one data point at a point in time. It isn’t enough to conclusively “prove” anything about the relative strengths of my various dances. Still, it is a data point and it conveys some useful information about what one person saw when watching me and so you have to give it some credence.
Now that I’ve given you way too much background, the punchline is that the three rhythm dances (Cha-Cha, Rumba and Swing) were given higher scores than any of the smooth dances (Waltz, Fox Trot, Tango and Viennese Waltz). On that day, a person with some ability to judge dances looked at me and felt my rhythm dances were stronger than my smooth dances. It is a bit of a surprise and not what I expected. I’m better at the rhythm dances than I’ve given myself credit for.
The Waltz actually got the lowest score. There is possibly an extenuating circumstance there because it was the first dance we did and the butterflies had not settled down yet. The feedback I got was to lead with my body more and that theme came up again in the coaching lesson.
The Fox Trot had a similar theme but she also wanted me to lower more. That’s not an unexpected comment. But, she liked how I danced Tango. I think she said something about lowering but I think it was in reference to dancing Tango with the knees slightly bent. That’s taken some getting used to and my knees aren’t always real happy with me when I do it. For Viennese Waltz, the comment was to finish my arm lines. Guess I had a tendency to stop short and not stretch all the way out so I’m not creating the top line they want. On the other hand, my arms are at least doing something so that’s a good thing.
For the Rumba, she wanted to see more Cuban motion and for the Swing, she wanted to see more of the “bounce” that gives East Coast Swing that certain look. These are not unexpected comments either and kind of at the root of why I’ve had a hard time giving myself credit for the Rhythm dances. The thing about Cuban motion is that, like all technique things, you have to repeat it over and over again until it becomes something you can without thinking about it. But every time I’ve tried to just focus on that, it makes my knee hurt like hell. I’ve walked off two Master Classes because I couldn’t take it anymore. People keep telling me that it shouldn’t hurt but my knee disagrees with them. Have no idea why that particular motion causes so many problems but I also have no idea why might right knee is much worse than my left when the x-rays show them looking similar.
But, despite those comments on technique, I got the highest scores on Rumba and Swing. Have to tell you that the Rumba blew me away. A week ago Tuesday I had totally blanked on the routine and I was seriously close to melting down and running off the dance floor in frustration. We came back to get it on Thursday but I didn’t feel totally confident and yet the reviewer liked the way it looked and moved – like I really knew what I was doing.
With the Swing, I got a “Cool” with a Smiley Face. Now, I’m not making an excuse here but I have a thought as to why that one went so well. First, it was the last dance I was doing so all the butterflies had landed and stopped flapping their stupid wings. And OwnerGuy had cued up some ZZTop and I was seriously into the music. Lastly, it was the very last dance of the Check Out and we were all alone on the floor. Must have flipped a mental switch and gone into full Performance Mode. One thing about Performance Mode is that I dance more confidently and I don’t hold a lot back and, if I’m feeling the music, I can just go with it without really having to think about anything. Clearly, that makes a difference.
Bottom line is I did very well. There are things to work on but I’ve long since accepted that there is never really a finished product in Ballroom. There is always something that can be worked on.
Speaking of that, we had a coaching lesson right after that and Kid T had previously decided to work on the Waltz. It was another one of those moments when some small change made a big change in how the dance felt. There were a couple of places where I wasn’t turning fully to face her and it made the steps a little harder to do so we worked on making sure are bodies were aligned when we weren’t in closed frame. There’s a step where I lead a twinkle and then pick her up and I noticed she was getting away from me and the coach stops us and tells me that if I keep my arm closer, then it keeps her closer. I was making a bigger movement and it was causing her to end up farther away. In other words, I was kind of actually leading that step and just making a small adjustment got her to end up where I wanted. What he actually had me do was lead a hover corte with my arms folded in front of my chest which kind of forced me to lead more through body movement and not just arms.
The biggest thing he wanted was bigger steps and more drive. I’ve heard this before but he talked about how taking smaller steps makes me look tentative like I’m afraid I’ll run her over. And, that’s actually the case so I think I’ve been afraid to really go all out. And the drive needs to happen on every “1” even when we are moving backwards. Gave it a shot and suddenly we had chewed up the entire long side of the dance floor. When we started, we had just barely gone beyond half way. Drive and push off one leg. Guess that means I’ll have to get the trainers working on my legs as well as everything else.
He also looked at the Cha-Cha and he made a comment about how you hear the term “light on your feet” which is really not what you want in the rhythm dances. You need to be more grounded and get the heels on the floor. I have this tendency to stay up and he started talking about how that happens because the dance feels fast and you think you won’t be able to keep up. (Now, I’m thinking he’s part mind reader) Then, he tells me that you keep up because you make certain steps smaller. Again, I’ve heard this but it hasn’t sunk in and I was making the faster parts be the bigger steps which meant I was up in my toes to make sure I could stay with the music. He said there are many problems with that. First, by staying up, you don’t create the motion that they expect to see. Secondly, you have balance issues and you aren’t steady which makes it harder to follow.
I will say that I started to really overthink things a bit. It was another way for me to minimize the score I got. I mean, this felt like kind of basic stuff so how could I get a high score if I was failing to do something that was so basic. But the reality is that it does sometimes take a different pair of eyes and a new pair of eyes to come in and see something. Maybe I’ve been getting back into old habits and didn’t realize it and he picked up on it. It doesn’t discount the score I received; it just points out an area we can work on to make the Cha-Cha even better. I’m writing this down just to reinforce it.
Back at it tonight to go over the Waltz stuff.