Friday, August 5, 2011

"Are you a Dancer?"

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1

I was in for a rude surprise yesterday when Jeff informed me that the weight routine for the day involved not only arms and back (which I can sort of do), but also chest and shoulders, which are always the worst for me. This was because he wasn't going to make it on Friday night, so that meant extra work Thursday. Jeff doesn't seem to understand sometimes why I even bother with the whole workout thing at all when I don't get excited about it or actually enjoy it as he does. For me it's just one of those things you have to do...not the most fun thing ever, but worth the trouble because of how much better you feel when you do, plus how much it helps the dancing. It's like taking your vitamins or eating your salad when you're a kid so you can get dessert; working out is very much a proximate end for me.

As I was entering the practice room, two Indian guys were leaving and one of them approached me and asked, ever so politely with that awesome accent,
"Excuse me...may I ask you a question?"
"Yes, of course!" I replied.
"Are you a dancer?"
I hesitated for a second. This is something I've had mixed ideas about from the get go...when do you get to call yourself a dancer? For me it's not as simple as being a person who dances, or even who is taking the time to learn. I wouldn't feel right calling myself a dancer until at least I could do something that looked like real dancing. Yet the question forced me to answer this question about myself, and I found myself nodding and saying, "Well, yes...yes, we are." I had suddenly realized that we aren't beginners any more, and that I really am a dancer, albeit one with far to go, yet one who has enough skill at this point to have earned that classification.
Again, very politely, "And...and...may I ask another question?"
"Why yes...of course."
"Are you getting ready for a competition?"
Jeff walks into the room. "Eventually, yes...but not a specific one at the moment."
"Well...I've seen you dance somteimes and it is very beautiful."
I thanked him.
Sometimes amid all the frustrations and doubts, these moments come that drive home that it's not just about me, about us and our goals. It's also about sharing something beautiful that we've found with others, to bring joy, beauty, and inspiration to the world, as with any of the arts. And so although I was tired and frustrated...somehow that exchange changed my entire frame of mind going into practice last night.

Since we finished up with the workout kind of late, we ended up practicing a bit shorter than usual and maybe were less focused. We did a bit more tango bar work, as we continue to see steady improvement there. Jeff is straightening out all right. I noticed too that our fallaways aren't bouncing up anymore, which was a problem we'd been having in tango...definitely a big no no.

We also attacked quickstep again, with the metronome and slowly. The troublesome parts were much smoother slow, so we need to do more slow practice and gradually work it up to full speed, just like we used to do with piano pieces that are supposed to be fast but tend to run together unless you learn to isolate the notes to some degree for clarity by practicing at painfully slow tempos. It's the same idea here. One thing I'd like some feedback on and will probably ask about in our next lesson is how my shapes are matching up with his. I know in quickstep I've often kind of overdone my shaping or broken it from the lead's; causing a disjointed look in the frame. I've been thinking about it, but it's a hard thing for me to feel.

Foxtrot we just danced to music, and I continue to love foxtrot the most. It feels amazing; our coach was right when he said once that while foxtrot is not the most impressive looking dance, it's definitely the most awesome feeling one of the lot. We still need to work on that connection though; we're gaping pretty badly in the hips and arching backs at some parts; I'm thinking particularly of the natural twist turn and the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivot. I love the reverse wave, if I have not mentioned that before, though Jeff sometimes unintentionally reverses the shaping, which can be pretty funny.

That was essentially it for practice; we did run the waltz once, I think, but didn't really practice it per se. This weekend is one of the largest, if not the largest, Seattle area ballroom dance competition, Seattle Star Ball, which was actually my very first competition last year. We're not competing yet, but I might stop by to cheer on our friends, especially our daily practice buddies. They've worked so hard for this. If any dancing happens between us over the weekend, we'll post another update; otherwise, we'll be back to the drawing board on Monday.

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