I wore my dress shoes and there was significant improvement. Shortly into the class, during the still confusing but non painful Merengue, he reminded us to stay on the balls of our feet and I improved further.
Then Tony turned on a Fox Trot tune, and my feet got as excited over hearing white people music as Navin Johnson did at the start of The Jerk. Rosa had lost her genetic advantage!
We were doing pretty well, I was actually leading the whole time, and I even was able to explain some steps to my wife.
Sadly, it was short lived as we switched back to Cha Cha Cha and I fell down.
And- it really wasn’t my fault.
What usually caused me to fall down was when Tony started with:
“Do this: Two, three, four, And… Oh wait, don’t forget to also do something else.
Now: Two, three…”
My problem was I would be still on “And” when he restarted and fall down trying to get back to “Two” without killing myself.
Still, I was much better in the good shoes and managed to progress to the point I had been six weeks before, which considering the pain in my knees and the three weeks without class wasn’t too bad.
I finally figured out the language issues as well. It came from a combination of
A) Having the answer to:
“Where do I put my left foot on this step?”
End up being a complete routine taught to both me and Rosa by both Tony and Phoebe.
(Luckily, by this point I realized that not only was my wife light years ahead of me at the Latin steps, but also doing the opposite of what I was. Therefore, I watched her on the “One-Two” and knew what I needed to do on the “Three-Four”. Cha cha cha!)
B) Tony’s story about a competition in Miami where his partner only knew Japanese, but they were able to communicate.
Tony and Phoebe SOUNDED like they spoke perfect, if accented, English when in fact, they really only spoke DANCE.
We went to the Lake Clubhouse Christmas dinner dance with my sister and her husband. It was the first test drive of our newly acquired skills outside the laboratory environment.
Sadly, the DJ had almost no Latin songs. When he did play a couple, it was safest for me to get out of my wife’s way while doing whatever combination of steps I could remember to stay somewhere near her.
Having seen enough Dancing with the Stars we (mostly she) were able to figure out where Cha Cha Cha and Rumba steps fit in with other music.
Amazingly, there are many Hard Rock and Metal songs that Tango works for. Unfortunately the small dance floor and our minimal practice time didn’t really work out in the space provided. After I nearly Tangoed us into the active fireplace, we gave up on that idea.
I found myself unpleasantly tired and sweaty after a while. This was something I was not used to as it never happened when I stood mostly still on the dance floor.
People who knew us commented on my dance skills.
Not like one would expect to hear comments on an athlete who has upped their game…
Not even like one would expect to hear comments on a child displaying a new skill in order to encourage them despite the lack of proficiency…
No, these were much more like one would expect to hear comments on a rock that had sat on a stream bed for years that suddenly got up and walked to Sheboygan.
Back to the big two, Rumba and Cha Cha Cha.
Every time they would mention the trophies, I would start over thinking my next move and completely lose timing. I do not have a strong competitive streak. (Though I would learn in a month, I did have slightly more of one than the Intermediate Class.)
The Cha Cha Cha was better than past efforts, but my knees were still sore from the Christmas dance.
At one point, I felt I was doing really well in the Rumba, but perhaps I was concentrating a bit too hard on the steps, as I managed not to notice when the music ended.
Based on information from the school’s office that there was no way the class could extend into January to make up the lost weeks, Rosa made a procedure appointment for the day after New Year’s. We should have known better after seeing Tony keep our room and force everyone coming to the High School’s Winter Concert eat in the hallway. Maybe not Time Management, but General Management skills were apparently very high with our instructor. My wife moved her appointment, refusing to miss the finale we were working towards. (And one of us was dreading.)
His assistant couldn’t make the first of our rescheduled weeks, causing Tony to bring in a pair of Substitute Phoebes. They were women from the Advanced Class who filled the same role, except they smiled more when dancing. Phoebe kept a straight game face for most dances, which looked somewhat out of place with certain Latin styles. Honestly though, I think the smiles on the substitutes were more out of nervousness. Phoebe always looked like the dancing came so easy to her; it didn’t require all of her mind at once.
The final teaching night was designed to be a Latin review, and we started with Merengue, which I was surprisingly doing…fairly OK at. He then split us up into our male and female rows for some reminders and I managed to Merengue into a table again. You’d think after all those weeks I would have worked out a way not to be all the way on one side for the lineup.
Next it was time for the Rumba, and not only did we remember the diagonal step from the Cha Cha Cha, but we used it to do the rock at the same time, and more importantly, in the same direction. Doing the move in that manner looked much more like the “dance of love” and less like the “dance imitating a traffic accident”.
The good news was that my orthopedist told me taking ibuprofen before class would help my knees immeasurably.
The bad news was that I never like to take medicine before exercising, and completely forgot.
That meant, while the remembered move helped the Rumba, the Cha Cha Cha itself was plagued with more timing troubles and aches. Tony and Phake Phoebe’s super advanced demo didn’t help my confidence much. I think it was kind of like when you walk with a toddler for a long time and need to really stretch your legs at full speed afterward to loosen up. Every so often, Tony really needed to dance way better than we were allowing him.
With almost no time left he tossed in a lightning fast Salsa refresher, counting out:
“Two, Three, Four! Six, Seven, Eight!” as his feet did things mine could only imagine.
I was left making pathetic stutter steps, imploring, “What happened to five? I like five!”
WEEK 13 AND 14
We vowed to practice every day over Christmas & New Year’s break. Instead we shoveled, roof raked and generally hurt ourselves with other methods of snow removal.
I did talk to a friend of ours, who is a dance instructor, at a Christmas party. Hearing my various issues, she mentioned that one of the hardest things to get people to learn is they can’t move a leg that has all their weight on it.
I corrected her:
“Yes, you certainly can move it.
You immediately plummet to the floor.
But you definitely can move it.”
WEEK 15 – THE COMPETITION
We arrived along with much of the rest of our group to find a Zumba Class in our room. The janitor said Tony had been there an hour before, but was nowhere to be found five minutes after our scheduled time.
Yes, it was a terrible tragedy.
By that I mean - he showed up.
The lateness was because the soda, sandwiches and trophies were locked up in the office. He got us settled into another cafeteria and had the tables moved away. The floor felt newly waxed, and I think that contributed to our performance since, for a change, I wasn’t the only one who almost fell down.
We had tried a little practice before leaving and there was very little Rumba in me after the two week break. Perhaps my daughter laughing at my attempts had a negative effect.
However, once we got to class, I started to remember, but Rosa went completely blank. Possibly it was the confusion of getting to our eventual room. I’m not sure, but I was able to remind her of the steps if not the soul of the dance. It may be that lapse; coupled with Tony coming over to give her some “How to Be Lead” lessons (after watching me desperately try not to step on her during practice time) helped us to dance together more as a unit.
During the practice time for the Merengue, the other “competition” dance, Tony came over again, likely due to the Peruvian genes making my wife awesome at that one. He showed her some crazy double turn thing where they ended side by side holding shoulders. She and I tried it several times, and after nearly hanging each other repeatedly, decided maybe we should skip that move for the competition.
I was very lucky that there was no Salsa in the competition. There was a little of it during the practice time, and I felt like I was completely off beat. This would be when Rosa told me I was doing the best I had done so far.
We started way late competing for the trophies. It turned out it wasn’t a time management problem, though. Phoebe informed us the entire intermediate class was Asian, was not happy about competing and was not coming. Therefore we had a bit of a gap before the Advanced Class. That worked out as the entire atmosphere could be much lighter and more relaxed. Even Pheobe was all smiles.
Tony separated us into two groups. Our group danced first and the other group voted on who they liked best after we did two short Rumbas and Merengues.
I was kind of surprised when we tied with another couple and had to Rerumba.
I was completely floored when the other group unanimously picked us after the dance off.
I think it was a combination of:
A) As Phoebe put it, “Your wife is an excellent dancer,” and I’m sure no one noticed I was even there for the Merengue.
B) Unlike many of the other husbands, I actually tried to lead, making us rotate a bit in the Rumba instead of doing a straight box. Our New York’s also worked, and we miraculously got the rock step correct again, without smashing into each other.
The second group was three couples, and the two women who came without partners. Phoebe drafted me and another husband to dance with them, and the rest of our group were told only to judge them and not us.
Considering how much focus it required not to fall down, I hadn’t said two words to almost any of the others. I think we were equally uncomfortable, causing me to still lead, but stick very much to the basics. Both of us were used to far more able partners that we could lean on (for her, the instructors, for me, my wife), and also more similarly sized partners. (Tony and Phoebe were shorter than Rosa, if I put my arm in its normal hold position it would have been well above the woman’s head.) We got one vote, meaning I didn’t totally suck enough to completely ruin her chances.
Luckily, the other solo was an excellent dancer, and she led her draftee, who was even more unsure and unprepared than I was. (Let that sink in a minute.) She ended up tying another couple, and I apologized and went to rest my knees.
They had a dance off, and the solo woman won in a split decision. Tony gave her a trophy and then handed another to the “runner up couple” in group two. Basically, he completely forgot our group. Phoebe called him the “Worst Host Ever”, but the lack of the intermediate class meant all three of us got trophies without another dance off.
We hung around to dance more with the Advanced Class, which were four very fun couples.
There was time for a little of several types. In another moment of triumph, we worked out the multiple Cha Cha Cha in a row thing we kept screwing up. Turns out we didn’t agree on what “three” meant.
During the Rumba we tried the “new very cool thing” Tony showed Rosa back in Week 4.
Phoebe saw us, split us up and told me:
“I’m going to back lead you so you can see how to lead your wife into the hand out.”
“OK,” I replied nodding seriously, “I’m going to pretend I understood any of what you just said.”
Rosa and I managed to do it together afterwards though, with only some minor stumbles, despite the slick floor.
We stopped dancing when the advanced group was going to compete, but they were having too much fun to stop and reset. Tony just gave them all trophies and started expanding on the hustle stuff they’d already learned, as it’s making a comeback. (Spooky.)
Rosa watched attentively and I looked on, searching for anything remotely familiar. Then we left them to their fun and drove home to greatly impress our daughter, my mom, and pretty much anyone who ever saw me attempt to dance.
As we were leaving, one of the advanced students told us that we were definitely the best ones in the Beginner’s Class.
Both Phoebe and Tony told us to sign up for Intermediate Class next semester to allow us to continue to grow our skills.
And the Mayans came back and said, “See, told you so!”