Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dance Wars: Episode Two – The Clodhopper Strikes Back

When we last left our heroes (my feet) they were in dancing dress shoes, but still in severe danger of damaging each other irreparably.  

Week 6

Two Great Beginnings:

1) I finally made the brilliant decision to start the second half of the class without any foolish physical exertions of my knees and feet before arriving.

2) In a massive victory for my uncontrollable limbs, Tony remembered his class did not solely consist of expert hoofers.

The evening’s lessons were almost all step by step instruction, as opposed to, “Do this,” followed by obscene piles of craziness. 

Nearly the entire night was spent on Salsa. The combination of key point instructions and the Prodigal Five gave me the most successes I’d had.  That meant finding the beat was still a coincidence for the most part, but I managed not to fall down.

We did work a couple of new moves in, though turns still made me dizzy. I was forced to find alternate motions to prevent collapsing on my wife, which has been known to remove some grace and artistry from performances.

It was then time for our first exposure to Waltz.  Starting with alternating feet for every “One Two Three” remained problematic for much of the class.  (As in, I had a problem for much of the class time; the other dancers in the class all seemed fine with it.) However, with my white guy genetic advantage returning we did well overall, garnering several additional Phoebe compliments.

She taught us a couple of methods for various turns which we were able to perform gracefully by the end of the night.

When Phoebe was back leading me to show me the steps, I got quite a surprise.  I initially believed I was dancing with a tiny, waif like Asian woman, until I tried to lead her in an incorrect direction. Suddenly I learned I was actually Waltzing around the floor with a collection of rigidly anchored steel cables.

Week 7

Tony and Phoebe started off at odds trying to figure out how many weeks were left in the class, and stayed that way, often contradicting each other for most of the evening. This was a spectacular aid to their ability to impart the teamwork required for executing most dance moves.  At one point, in order for them to split a bit, we were all ordered to “change partners” confusing everyone simultaneously.

This was to be another Rumbarama, working in several new movements that could then be applied to other dances.  At the start Rosa and I reduced ourselves to hysterical laughter when we were unable to recreate the moves of the basic “back and forth” steps.  Phoebe (having higher estimations of my ability than is probably prudent) thought we were having issues with one of the new complex series of moves.  When she demonstrated the complicated steps, we remembered the basics and went on our dancing way.  

We were working on something called a “fan” that transitioned into a “hockey stick,” but which looked much prettier than a combination of HVAC equipment and violent sports gear.

Phoebe walked us through the step by steps of these complicated maneuvers, but didn’t know the male part, leading to my filling the tiny section of my brain that can hold dancing instruction with incorrect material.  She called Tony in to tweak the missing bits and we set to practicing. 

Unbeknownst to us, Tony went off to show an alternate, easier routine, one he’d introduced several weeks before. 

We finally got ours all down, and Phoebe yelled, “Way to go!” This prompted Tony to come over to see the miracle in progress.  Since he thought we were doing the simpler routine he had just demonstrated, he started yelling out steps that weren’t in our routine, or anywhere in my mind at that junction.

The miniscule, and already taxed, dance center of my brain seized up, stopping me cold. Tony stole my wife to demonstrate the whole older routine. (The one we did just fine earlier in the semester, thank you very much.)

Once I could get nerve signals to my feet again, we tried the fanning stick thingy a couple more times, and went home.

Week 7.5

Girl Scouts held the “Me and My Guy” dance.

Unless the DJ ordered them to come get their fathers it was remarkably like Junior High dances I remembered.  The guys all stood around the edges of the gym talking to each other, while the girls all danced together, and shooed us away if we approached.

Though they all did come running for us when the DJ asked them to identify what band the guy named in “Moves Like Jagger” played in.  My daughter shot over yelling, “You told me and I forgot!”

There were a couple of slow songs where they were forced to come and get us. One of those was Heartland’s “I Loved Her First,” a song which I can’t even type the title of without getting misty now…because I’m pathetic.

They also dragged us in for some whatever the proper word is now for fresh, hip or groovy group dances. I nearly killed everyone in a ten foot radius around me, and the less said about them the better.

The centerpiece of the time we actually got to dance with our daughters was “Dancing Through the Decades.” They played fast dance music starting at the forties, and increased a decade at a time up to the nineties.

I learned something very important about the dance lessons my wife and I were taking.  Even if the music is absolutely perfect (for Foxtrot or Cha Cha Cha for example) it is impossible to do any moves you know if your partner isn’t also doing that dance.

The DJ announced it would be a contest.  However, the winner wouldn’t be the greatest dancer, but the couple having the most fun. My daughter indicated her faith in my skills by proclaiming:
“It’s a good thing it isn’t the best dancer that wins, or we’d have no hope.”

Thanx kid. 

She did encourage me to smile more at the beginning, “So we can win.” However, she quickly just started enjoying herself as we goofed around.

The DJ stated that everyone had so much fun that we all were the winners.  (To paraphrase Dash Parr, that means nobody was.)

My little girl, though, gave me a big hug and beamed, “I think we won!”

That means I did!

I was able to sit with a goofy grin on my face to watch her and her friends go through the motions of the “Electric Slide” with looks of total apathy and boredom on their faces until the DJ wised up and gave them something more modern. 

There are few things in the world as surreal as a gym full of pre teen Girl Scouts doing “Gangnam Style.”

Final note to Mr. DJ.  My young daughter and her friends are still little girls. 
They are not sexy,
and they do not know it. 
Please remove that bit of pop culture foolishness from your playlist.

Week 8

Spring break was well timed allowing me to go on a rather pointless business trip to Buffalo and get yelled at by a doctor without missing class.

The break also allowed the two of us to forget darn near everything over the week off.

Week 9

Because of the skip week we began, after finding a space in the crazy full parking lot due to a ceremony, with a review.  “Merengue,” I thought, “Oh good! I know this one.”

That was followed by my thinking, “Oh bad!” when Tony told us to change partners to prove we knew what we were doing.

I first ended up with Phoebe, who showed me a pretzel arm thing I wouldn’t be able to teach to Rosa without major lessons in Yoga and chiropractic visits.

Then we switched again, and the new woman and I stared at each other a lot saying, “I don’t know. Is he talking to himself or giving all of us directions?”

Fortunately, we were both able to do much better with own partners.

We then returned to the ill remembered realm of Rumbaland.  We eventually pulled it together for some moves but were a step behind where we’d previously been when the music changed once again.

The review period was over when Tony hit us with new routines, new kicks and new “shakey-shakey-shakey”s in the Salsa.  Considering I had no hope of finding the beat between the week off, and the rapid transition between styles, I didn’t do too badly.

In case we had managed to get comfortable, he threw in some Tango in the last couple of minutes, for the first time since the last semester. 

We forgot the basic steps and nearly crashed into several other couples also trying to remember how it worked.  We finally worked out a few additions Phoebe walked us through. 

We learned open promenade, turns, and some kind of over and under walk that ended with toe pointing and saying, “Ha!”  (That last bit may be optional.)

Week 10

The again insanely full lot (this time due to a visiting youngsters’ band performance) returned.  This meant the beginners still had ten minutes of Tango when we arrived.

We tried to reconstruct much of the cool stuff we learned the week before, but it is excessively hard to stop and think in the middle of heavy Tango Traffic.

The official beginning of our class was the first time we were asked to Cha Cha Cha that calendar year.  Because of this we could be forgiven for forgetting which moves went on the “One Two” and which ones went on the “Cha Cha Cha.”  Once we could tell our numbers form our Cha Chas, it the basics came back.

An amazing epiphany occurred that night. We found out that the reason we had troubles with shoulder to shoulder was that Rosa was stepping forward instead of back!  Since I made over nine thousand mistakes per class evening it was cause for much celebration on my side of the dance floor.

Woo! One for me!

Sadly, once again the basics were short lived and Tony demonstrated a psychotic tap dance looking thing, and followed it by switching to Greg’s knee wiggle walk form the “Cold Spaghetti” portion of “Hot Potato.”

My problem with these suggestions, apart from an appalling lack of ability, was he changed his count from the familiar”
“One, Two, Cha Cha Cha.”
To one more akin to:
“One and Two and Four and Hold and Twelve and Thirty-Seven and a Half,”
Or something like that.

Finally, after greatly straining both knees and creating an imitation in tile shoe scuffing of a Jackson Pollack masterpiece, I made progress based on:

1) I figured out how to map the incomprehensible count on to “One…Two, Cha Cha Cha.”

2) I figured out that I could do the twist instead of stepping for the fast parts.

I do have the genetic background for the twist. (Thanx, Mom!)

Of course by the time I got it, he went back to demonstrating, and ludicrously expecting us to follow, the psychotic tap dance looking thing.

I was all set to go back to conquering the “Cold Spaghetti knee wiggle of doom” when he switched to Rumba again.  I think he wanted to squeeze in as many varieties as possible with the classes ending. Plus the combination of Intermediate and Advanced classes allowed him to ignore the clock to a greater extent than the previous semester. Considering he ignored it “completely” the previous semester, that’s saying a lot.

My brain was fried and my teeth ground down multiple levels from the knee wiggle adventures, leading me to completely forget the back and forth once more.  Having my bathroom break interrupted by an entire Junior High clarinet section’s visit to the rest room did not help my focus.

Yet again, as soon as Phoebe came by to walk us through nearly a million steps, the back and forth returned immediately.  We started working on a routine, and were doing relatively … OK.

Tony stopped by to see, telling us to start with the box, which he expressly told us not to do back in Week Two.

That was the final straw for my frayed neurons and my entire mind shut down completely.

Tony danced with Rosa for a bit, while I stared at my feet thinking, “Why can’t you guys do that?”

I made a few feeble attempts to replicate the steps, and we went home.

Week 11

The final session was for all the classes to have “fun,” and combine together. 

This meant a much more crowded dance floor, but also many people worse than me on that dance floor. That added to fun.

We started with Rumba (as per usual) with a little demonstration thrown in (as per usual) but he played the same song four times (not as per usual, and not all that fun either).

We then found out why he played that song over and over. The mix of songs he had was all different dance types.  Just as I’d remember how to do something, SWITCH! 

Oh yeah, having fun now.

Since it isn’t a Latin dance, and I carry the genes banned from performing it, we ignored the Hustle song to continue Rumbaing at first.

Tony went over the beginnings, which we’d never seen. Apparently there was a more basic four count way to do it, leaving out the “And One” that I could never find anyway.  I still sucked at it, but I was neither in excruciating pain nor in danger of toppling over at any minute.  Fun!

The Waltz was next. We got through the heavy traffic somewhat, but my inability to remember to alternate feet made it hard to merge successfully.  Somewhat less fun.

We half remembered the toe pointy, “Ha!” thing for the Tango, and may have even executed one before the music changed yet again.  I needed much longer musical selections to allow the underused, addled dance center of my brain to catch up and allow me to have fun.

Then, a song came on and Tony and Phoebe started encouraging all of us to Swing dance to it. This encouragement would have been much more effective if they had ever taught us Swing dancing.  It turned out to be a back step with sort of a double Cha Cha Cha. We tried adding in several moves we’d learned from other dances and were on the threshold of true fun, when the song changed yet again.

Rosa saw Tony and Phoebe do the “runaway” we’d often seen in Cha Cha Cha on Dancing with the Stars.  My wife wanted to try, and I did my best. (This, sadly, usually isn’t all that good to begin with.)  I think the problem stemmed from my doing one more Cha Cha Cha than she was doing. This yielded something more like, “Step turn, Cha Cha THUD.”

Phoebe came over to show me how to lead it. Followed by Tony, who told me it was supposed to be only a demonstration they did and was too advanced for the class.

I replied, “She started it, I’m just trying to figure out when to turn with her.”

They worked us through it, and when they complimented Rosa I told them she was from Peru.
“Ahh, Latin, very good,” was Tony’s all explaining reply.

One last switch came in to prevent us from cementing our “runaway” in the latest adventure into fun.  Unfortunately, my brain was three styles back, and I threw an extra step from the Tango into the Foxtrot. As it was solely my responsibility to know the white boy dances, I failed.

The music stopped for a raffle of a free personal hour lesson at Tony’s studio.  One of the Phake Phoebe’s quite deservedly won, after being used in multiple demonstrations for the rest of us.

The music never got started back up again, making it time to say our farewells, along with talks of cheap, local dancing locations. I was glad to see other couples cite the importance of low price for nights when they’d decide, “We did one dance, let’s go while we’re still married.”

Rosa and I stopped to say goodbye to Tony and Phoebe, and I apologized for looking pissed off all the time. I told them it was a lack of patience with myself because moving my feet to music (instead of my hands from juggling) was all very new to me and I had a lot of catching up to do after over a decade of letting my wife lead.

They complimented Rosa’s dancing skills again saying:

“You got a good one.”

I did not need to be told that.

Click here for what happened when we went back.

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