This semester I’m taking Ballroom I and II (first and second seven weeks). I had my performance final on Tuesday, and thought I’d make a few remarks.
I wanted to take the class for a few reasons:
1) If someone can get the award for awkward homeschool dancer of the year, it’s me.
2) I discovered I love dance when I took Dance Improv a year or two ago. During the class, I not only learned to embrace my awkwardness, I grew more confident in my own skin and had a lot less stress in general. I wanted to try to capture that again in a more structured dance class.
3) There are a few vital scenes in my current WIP, Blessings, where two characters have to dance. As I wrote the scenes, I found myself wishing I actually had some experience to draw on. So technically the classes are story research.
In the end, I decided to challenge myself to overcome that awkwardness and embrace dance because, darn it, my characters needed me to. And the experience had been quite interesting.
Not going to lie, it took me a very hard time to learn how to follow–if I’ve learned it yet. Several of my partners in class would tell me after we finished, “You just need to relax and you’ll do fine.” One went so far as to say, “Tell yourself you’re a good dancer–you are–and take a deep breath. You do great when you’re relaxed.”
Well it’s pretty hard to relax when a guy’s got a hand on your scapula and is breathing in your face (occasionally with a trace of the lunch he just ate) and you’re not sure if the next step is going to get your feet squashed or if you’re going to make a fool of yourself and mess up and he’s going to judge you. I mean, I’m just saying.
One thing I learned when I started going to the swing/ballroom club to practice was that I feel more comfortable dancing with guys who know just as little or less than what I know. Dancing with the experts is fun, but it freaks me out because I always am compulsively apologizing. It’s funner to have guy that will occasionally mess up and laugh with you.
I also discovered I like the waltz a lot. It’s like ballet–smooth and evenly paced. Surprisingly, I found myself falling in love with cha-cha, too, despite the Latin motion (i.e. lots of hip swayin’, lots of it) which I sucked at in Dance Improv. I found I stink at swing because I can’t keep beat (especially not with triple step). Fox trot is okay as long as I know what’s happening.
At first, I was paired with a really great dancer for the final. But a few disastrous attempts at swing and fox trot left me feeling way out of my depth. I ended up paired with another guy closer to my skill level when it was time to practice the actual dances we’d be performing (waltz and cha-cha) and almost immediately I felt more relaxed. We got a few hours of practice in during the weekend, and then it was time to perform.
One thing I’ve never understood about fencing, fighting or dancing is how one person can anticipate a move and counter it before it’s even done. This might go back to my homeschooled background, which sometimes makes it hard for me understand social cues and respond quickly. (Though my INFJ telepathic/”mystic” thought-reader empathy link normally makes up for this.)
Our group went last on performance day, which gave me the chance to watch everyone else. I started noticing that no matter how good the guy was, if the girl was tense and nervous the whole thing looked off. But if the girl had fun and smiled, it made the couple look great even if they were stepping all over each other.
When our turn came, I said to my partner, “Well, the time for worrying is over, I guess. It’s time to have fun.”
We took position and began. Now, I don’t know how we looked, but I do know that for the first time so far this semester it finally clicked. We had arranged a general choreography, but once we started I did my best to be a good follower and forget everything. About halfway through the first waltz, I started to feel when he was getting ready for a turn. By the time we got to cha-cha, I didn’t even have to wonder–I just knew which turn he was going for, what I needed to do even before I knew what I was doing. We goofed off, had a lot of fun…
And I can’t say for sure yet, but I’m pretty sure we pwned it.
Up next: Tango. Speaking of getting over homeschool awkwardness… Well, challenge accepted.