Friday night dance events are always my favorite. This past Friday I decided to head down to another Fred Astaire in the Chicago Region... the Michigan Avenue studio to be exact. I decided to head down there because I have a friend that is a student there (here fore and forever nicknamed ETP...a nickname he uses for himself quite often :-) ), RTS works and competes out of there, and Bonnie's Belle Gowns was having their trunk show for all the students wishing to compete in the next few months. One reason was enough to go, but three.. that just means I can't stay away!
Getting there is really easy and not very expensive, I just hop on the commuter train from my town to Chicago (about a 30 mile distance) and walk the mile from the train station to the studio. I'd been there before, so that made it easier. They are on the 2nd floor at 200 N. Michigan Avenue if you're standing on the street you can look up and likely see the dancing and fun through their windows.
I had made arrangements to meet Bonnie and Michael for a bit of pre-party fun. My timing couldn't have been better, because as I was approaching the building I saw all the Bonnie's Belle Gowns in the street being wheeled through the door. (I do love it when a plan comes together!) After a bit of chatting as we got the clothing racks we headed out for some dinner and ETP decided to join us. (Yes in this dance world we ALL know each other!) Dinner over we headed back to the studio to watch some lessons and wait for the fun to begin.
Michigan Avenue does what a lot of studios do.. they have a group lesson for about 30 minutes before the party begins. What they do that I find fascinating and VERY useful is that they break apart the groups by skill level. Brand new people in one group, beginners, intermediate and advanced into their own groups. On this night Michael and I joined the advanced group...which was learning SALSA as taught by RTS' partner. I have to say I was really impressed by the organization and obvious thought that went into this little lesson... the instructor and Michael were the only leads... and there were three of us gals to follow... so we did a lot of rotating which was great! The steps being reviewed were things I had absolutely been over before either with RT or with fellow students from my own studio so I already knew how to follow them. All that means is that I can't do them by myself too well. Somehow in all of my dancing I've become a very proficient follower, which is great for the art of ballroom, harder when you want to practice things on your own.
As our instructor of the moment was asking us to follow along with him by ourselves I just kind of stood and watched... for which I was singled out.
"Kat do you know this already?"
"Yeah, I kinda do.. I've been lead through it before, and I can't dance independently of that... I follow..." I sheepishly reply.
"Oh ok then good!"
I also quickly find out that the student next to me who is on about my level dance wise from what I could see.. is the exact opposite and wants to do everything by herself and THEN be lead through it... hmmm... k.. different learning styles for everyone I guess!
Once we were finished with the combo, it was my turn with the instructor... and he's leading slowly... so I make the comment that this is great, if only real salsa music was this slow... Dance instructors are quick, let me tell you. Combine that with the fact that I'm a smart ass on a fairly regular basis, it can get me in a lot of trouble. :-)
"Ok then lets do this faster for Kat." I hear... and he picks up the speed of his counting.
Well it was faster, but still not quite salsa speed so I followed it well.. and not to his specifications either... we were doing a cross body lead into a guy grabs gal's hips and spins her to the left back to basic step... when the guy goes for the gal's hips the gal is supposed to raise both her arms... Well I only like to raise the one all the way, because otherwise my balance is likely to be off for the spin. At least I didn't get corrected.
It was a lot of fun and a nice way to meet a few of the students... once that was over the party began.
The theme I guess... which had anyone told me I would have participated... was a bit of a celebration of their Mini Match team from the previous week. They did come in second after all, less than a full point behind my team, something to absolutely be proud of. Anyway, I danced with Michael a lot as Bonnie was busy with dresses... which is great... he is a lot of fun to dance with! I like dancing with him too because he is comfortable leading much more than just the basic basics that most students stick to at parties. I also danced hustle with RTS' partner, where he singled every one of the turns I'm used to doing as a double... when I questioned it he said "Well then it's no fun for me... I just get to stand there!" Never thought of what the guy does when I'm spinning... I'll keep that in mind. :-)
I got a remarkable two dances in with ETP... Rumba and a Salsa that I nearly wiped out on.... the two is remarkable because usually when he's around I only get one dance. Dang it if these studios weren't so heavy on the girls! Another highlight of the evening was that Michael was very pleased with the steps we learned in our Salsa class... and asked me to demonstrate with him for ETP. I'm learning that Michael may be beginning to learn and appreciate the value of a good Salsa. :-)
The performances for the evening were a real treat! First, they were pointing out the first timers... and a student who would be joining them after her transfer to Chicago was complete. I thought that was nice... then Bonnie pipes up "And Kat's here!" which made me want to crawl back into the office area I was standing in front of...I simply replied "Yes, but I'm not transferring studios." in a there was no reason to call me out...tone of voice. I certainly didn't expect to be called out... when I go to these parties it's for the love of dance... not to draw attention to myself.
It was then mentioned to the entire audience that I was there, and I was also a member of the red team from the Mini Match... to which I received some good natured "boo"ing... I actually thought that was kinda cute.
Then we got down to business with the show... first up was the hands down MOST AMAZING wedding dance I have ever seen... it was a great Ballroom/Argentine Tango that will just blow the reception's socks off! Next up was RTS and her partner with their Fox trot show dance... someone is going to have to explain to me how I just saw that routine a week ago...and it was even BETTER this week!!! Every time I see them they just get better and better....
Then the GRAND finale... and it is grand... the Theatre Arts couple that I've mentioned before currently in their first year of competing and already top 3 or 4 in the country... They did their routine too... one of the hottest things in Theatre Arts I'm telling you! I love that routine!!! Sadly that may be the last time I see it as I know they are in the beginning stages of working on a new one.
After the show I got a few nice dances in with one of the studio's newest students... he said he'd had about 7 lessons... I can already tell he's been bitten by the bug and is in love with dancing for all the right reasons. As I was talking with him about this... ETP approached me to let me know he was leaving for the train station... and since I was informed that having someone to walk with on the way back would be a wise decision, I quickly made my goodbye's to a few key folks and away we went.
I had a lovely time at the Michigan Avenue studio.. and I wouldn't be surprised if they see me pop in again sometime in the future. :-)