Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dancing on Top of the World!

....Or at least as geographically close to the top of the world as I will probably get!
Welcome to one of my best dance adventures yet! The new job I started back in June requires that I travel around the country to train clients. Well, I haven't done much traveling until recently when our client up in Anchorage Alaska of all places needed some refresher training. I decided to use the opportunity to see what kind of dancing happens in other parts of the country. I'm hoping to be able to do this in most areas of the country I travel to... but this one was especially important... come on it's ALASKA!!!

I started trying to contact the Fred Astaire in Anchorage a few weeks before I left... sadly they didn't return my calls, but I can be rather persistent when it comes to things that are important to me... such as dancing. I also looked about for any Salsa that might be had... I may have found one club, but my work schedule wouldn't permit me to do something like that (reporting to work at 7:30 am when your body has NO IDEA what time it is limits one's social opportunities). Alaska is 3 hours behind Chicago time so it makes the whole figuring out business hours when calling a little math intensive, so I decided to try and call the Fred Astaire once I actually arrived in Anchorage.

What luck! I got a very nice gentleman on the phone Monday night... my original goal was to try and have a pick up lesson of sorts with one of their instructors. I didn't even think that they would have a party of any sort as I was only in town from Monday night to Friday morning. When I spoke with him he stated that they only had the one teacher right now, and that a lesson wouldn't be possible. He then asked me to call back when the manager was available (in about an hour) so I did. I spoke to a lovely sounding gal who let me know the particulars. She confirmed that I wouldn't be able to have a lesson, but that they were having a practice party from 8-9pm on that Thursday night. She too sounded a bit anxious about my attending the party. I knew exactly how to solve that problem!

"I know, I dance at Fred Astaire Chicago North... Top Studio and all that, but seriously I'm not one of their competitive students or anything... I can prove it.. I dance ballroom in jazz shoes. My whole goal with dancing is self improvement and to get on as many dance floors as I can!"

I was advised that most of the students would be newer and hadn't been taking lessons as long as I have... which I was actually excited about.

"No worries," I tell her "Newbies are my specialty! I'd love to attend!"
Instantly all the apprehension was gone from her voice and I got all the particulars for the party. YEA!!! Something to look forward to, which actually ended up being perfect because my work week was one of the most stressful I've ever had.

Thursday night rolled around and it was my most stressful work day yet... 10 hours, no lunch, late back to the hotel... just enough time to grab a quick snack and change. I arrived at the studio a bit early, in time to catch the tail end of a beginner group class of about 12 people, all couples from what I could tell, and they were learning Night Club Two Step. They were so adorable! I personally didn't know this dance so I was watching to see if I'd be able to follow it ok... it seemed pretty straight forward. It got me to thinking though... if this studio was doing Night Club Two Step...what other social dances were they learning that I didn't even know!

I took a moment to absorb my surroundings... the studio had a very classroom feel to it. The dance floor was about the same size as my home studio, they had one mirror, and another that appeared to be set up for picture taking, rather than the wood floor that I'm more accustomed to they had a tile floor that was the same type you'd find in a grade school... I quickly tested the friction with my shoes, this wasn't going to go well at all if I was going to be sticking for the whole party! Not that I even expected to dance much, I know how this works... new person to an established social group, I'd be lucky to get one or two dances in. Still I was glad to be in a dance studio I instantly felt less stressed than I was earlier that day.

I had run to the washroom and then to chat with the gentleman I had spoken to on the phone while class was wrapping up. Upon my return the class was writing what they had learned into their dance binders. (Another new observation for me, as my instructors are the only two that have ever written in my binder). I was in the process of moving my belongings from being in a student's way when the instructor/manager stopped me.

"No don't run away now!" She stated excitedly!

"No... I wasn't... I just....I wanted to move my... (she hangs on to my arm)..ok I'm not going anywhere then." I was a little embarrassed that she was making an example out of me in front of everyone... I really didn't know what to expect!

"Everyone, this is Kat." She announces "She dances at a Fred Astaire in Chicago, so see when you all travel you can look to see if there is a Fred Astaire in the area and call to see if you can dance there. Now she's been taking lessons for a while..but don't be afraid to ask her to dance." This gal is still hanging on to my arm and I realize that the whole class is suddenly very keyed into what I have to say.

So I follow up with "Hi everyone! Yes, I've been dancing for a while, but I have to be honest...I've never done that two-step ya'll were I'm excited to see if I can follow that!"

Oh dear oh dear! Where I was hoping I could blend into the crowd, I was instead made an example of... here we go... not only am I representing myself, but I'm now representing my studio... and in fact helping everyone here develop an opinion about ballroom dancers from Chicago too! No pressure...

The instructor then turned on the party lights, which was dimmed lighting and a disco ball... cool! Our studio doesn't have a disco ball! The gentleman from behind the desk had put on some dance shoes and turns out he's one of the more advanced students! He picked me up first for a Fox Trot... ok.. that's pretty much the same everywhere you go so we did that... I think he was maybe used to leading the gals that knew a certain pattern because I missed some of his leads, and they don't do the same types of steps I had learned...maybe Fred Astaire has a separate syllabus for studios that do social dancing exclusively. I didn't know... I was just happy to dance.

Then there was Waltz...that was VERY different... where I'm used to the basic box getting us around the floor, here they primarily keep in place and use a specific step, that I've never been very good at, to travel around the floor... it took me a second, but I got the hang of it!
And then we hit the scary part of the evening... Night Club Two-Step... I was shown and thankfully could follow...I even managed to pick up timing on the turns without any help! RT and Largo would have been proud. I don't usually pick up on stuff that fast, but I guess when I'm forced to be left up to my own learning devices I'm not such a slow learner for the basic stuff!

Following Night Club Two-step was Country Two-Step...which I had done before, but it's been more than a year, so I tried to pick up on that... basic went ok... turns were a little harder...they have to be QUICK! And the more advanced student who was kind enough to walk me through this stuff was pulling some more advanced, but followable stuff... I would get almost to the end of the sequence and even I was almost convinced I had it right...and THEN I would screw it all up. But it was so much fun!

They also played some East Coast Swing... here's where I became the knowledgeable one... I can swing with just about anyone and back lead into two or three steps that really make the newer leaders feel pretty good about their dancing. I loved that! I had one leader in particular that was very interested in what he was supposed to do during all of my back leading, so I told him "Just keep your triple step and your rock step going, I only know how to back lead the steps where I do all the work!" He found that very amusing.

Third new to me dance was Polka... uh oh... I remember MSU telling me it was easy a long time ago... just triple step, no rock step...but I'd never actually done it before! Thankfully MSU was right...and Polka is easy, I'm really glad I can say that I know how to do it now!

I tried to get pictures of folks dancing, I did... I must have picked up my camera half a dozen times trying to get some shots of the students doing their thing, and as soon as I'd have it turned on another gentleman would ask me for a dance. WAY too much fun!! Not to mention EXACTLY what I needed, without that I would have had no stress relief from my week before my long flight home!

After the party I was talking with some of the students and explained my personal reasons for dancing, and why I thought it so important to look them up so I could try and see about other studios and the more variety to my dancing the better I get! Not to mention that the happiest people I've ever met are on a dance floor!

Thank you Fred Astaire Anchorage for a lovely time! If you're ever in my neck of the woods be sure to let me know!


Aunt Bonnie said...

Glad you are back in a writing fram of mind . I missed your musings!

Miss Kitty said...

Thanks! Yeah I have to make this a little more of a priority... but I do have 4 total writing projects. :-)If only my day job didn't get in the way!!!