Have you ever been set up with someone. Not talking about a blind date but more like a friend inviting you to a party where there just happens to be someone they want you to meet? Yeah, that’s kind of what happened last night at the studio.
As a reminder, we have a new instructor who used to be DH’s partner and they competed for many years. She dances International Standard rather than American Smooth and Z let it drop to her that I’ve done a few Quicksteps in my time at the Famous Franchise. At one of the first parties she attended, we were dancing and she mentioned that.
I get to the studio yesterday and I’m looking around and I see a bunch of instructors on the floor but JoNY is nowhere to be found. This is unusual and my spidey senses start tingling just a bit. As other students come in, I hear that JoNY had to leave rather suddenly due to an illness. Now I’m sure they’ve got a “solution” in mind and are planning on springing it on me right before my lesson.
Like clockwork, OwnerGuy gets off his lesson and walks over to me to explain that JoNY had to leave (this I already knew). There was some comment about how they would have called me but figured I was already in traffic. That might certainly be true – I didn’t press. But it could also be the case that they knew if they called, then there would be a chance I would just stay home. Having already invested the time in driving to the studio, I’m less likely to turn down their plan. They are sneaky in that way.
So OwnerGuy tells me that if I was open to it, this new instructor would certainly love to work with me on some Quickstep. At this point, was there ever really a chance that I was going to say “no”. Of course not. I mean it would feel kind of rude to say no when someone seems to want to work with you. And, I really, really enjoyed the little bit of Quickstep I’ve done in the past.
I honestly have no idea why the faster traveling dances have so much appeal to me but they certainly do. Something about just flying around the floor I guess. There’s always that slight feeling of just being on the edge of disaster because you are moving so fast. But if you can control it and smooth out the transitions, the feeling is amazing.
Now, she’s a competitive International Standard dancer and I was doing Famous Franchise Quickstep and I was mostly limited to doing routines where the choreography mattered more than the technique. So we started slowly with just three prebronze steps – Quarter Turn to Right, Progressive Chasse and a Natural Spin Turn. Actually, I believe there was also a fourth since we were doing Forward Locks as well. I had done variations of all three in my past days so it wasn’t hard to pull them from their various memory locations.
Its a basic pattern but it does the job and gets you around the floor. We only had a half floor to start because there was also a group class going on but, once that ended, there was still a little time left on the lesson and so we did it to music, using the entire floor. Fortunately for me, she kind of called out the steps so I didn’t get stuck in the middle of being in a corner and realizing I should have started the natural spin turn. We did draw some attention because when you’ve got two people flying around the room, it gets noticed.
Since I have two lessons on Tuesday, after group class, we got right back to it. This time, she started in on some technique and things that are more important in Standard. Mostly keeping my head to the left while turning my body towards her so that our middles stay parallel to each other. On the outside partner steps, that creates some CBM which was not really something we touched on all that much in my previous Quickstep work.
So we tried it a couple of additional times on the second lesson. She was giving my shirt a little tug on those parts where I needed to remember to face her and giving my left hand a little squeeze when my head started to drift a bit. All while counting the timing of the steps. She can certainly multi task. But I will admit that I found that style worked for me really well. I mean it is better than having someone scream “head left” at you.
At the end of the lesson, we went briefly into International Waltz. There may be more differences but the main one for me is that you always close your feet. The first time we did a step that reminded me of an open box, I just naturally passed my feet because that’s what my body is used to. We only spent about 10 minutes on the Waltz just to give me a taste of other standard dances.
Now there are choices to be made because she mentioned at the end of the lesson that it would be nice to continue working on this. What to do, what to do?
On the plus side of the ledger is that I do love Quickstep. I’m at a place in my dance journey where I’m going to be better able to handle some of the technique stuff – including dancing more in closed position. I liked her teaching style. And, we are already starting in a pretty good place. If you can zoom around the floor on the first lesson, then we’re already in a pretty good place on the learning curve.
The negatives are primarily money and time. Since I’m not longer making an income, I’d have to look at the cost of adding extra lessons. It is possible that I could cut back with JoNY and pick up a lesson with her to remain cost and time neutral. That would probably be the ideal solution. I don’t know if that would create any studio drama though – I’d be taking money out of JoNY’s pocket but I also know she could easily pick it up with other students.
There is the obvious wear and tear on the body. Quickstep is more like running than other dances and running and my knees aren’t BFFs. I felt a little creaky this morning and I’m not sure what the long term prognosis would be. Another downside to standard is opportunities to dance it would be limited. If we were the only people in the studio doing it, then my only chances would be on lessons and I know that is not ideal.
And there is always the whole thing about establishing a relationship with another instructor. But I’m going to say my first impressions were good. Its an introvert thing but it is hard for me to feel comfortable with someone new and the whole student/teacher dynamic is really a big factor in success when you are doing pro/am.
Skipping back to the plus side of things, there is no question that she’s a very talented dancer. No offense meant to any previous partners, but I’ve only worked with two other competitive dancers in the past. I think your growth potential is better when working with a higher level dancer. Unless the interpersonal stuff gets in the way.
Maybe I should stop overthinking this. Do I like Quickstep? Yes. Would I like to pick it up again? Yes. So maybe we just find a way to make it happen.
I can actually say that since I switched over to studying Standard instead of Smooth, I haven’t had any issues when I dance with random ladies at social dances, so you should still be able to use what you are learning outside of your lessons as well. Most of the basic figures from Standard show up in Smooth at some point, so they won’t be out of sorts for your partner. Also, I have found that dancing without breaking frame like you do in Smooth actually makes my life easier when I dance with partners who are new to me. It gives me better control of what I am leading.
The only figures you really have to watch out for from the Standard syllabus are the ones where the lady has to do a Heel Turn, but since you already know the Smooth variations on those figures then you should have no issues working around that.