Last week I had my last lesson with RT before my self imposed "break from Ballroom." I'll admit to being a bit sad about it... although over the previous days of coming to terms with my decision and my reasons for making it I was much less the sobbing mess I had been previously.
Driving to the studio still felt sad though, and because of all of my anticipation I got there really early. Upon my arrival I slowly changed into my practice skirt and shoes and waited, watching the few lessons on the floor. I was also for whatever reason, reminiscing about all the events of the past three years. Images of the studio that evening I first walked in flashed across my mind as fresh as if they had happened yesterday, but I wasn't reminiscing in a sad way... I was reminiscing in a very at peace way.
RT picked me up for my lesson and walked me over to where the students books are kept, (every Fred Astaire student has a binder with the syllabus, notes, and test scores in it). I asked him why he was looking for my book, I didn't understand...
"Why are we looking for my book..when was the last time we pulled that out to use it?"
He chuckled, "Probably about three months ago." he responded as he reached for it.
"Why on today of all days do we need that?" I was very confused. I didn't want this to be an all technique, lets learn new steps, kind of lesson... I just wanted to dance.
After grabbing my book we walked over to one of the benches that are under the mirrors and he opened the book, smiled and then began reading.
"Kat...Kat...Kat... I am looking forward to working with you..." he began.
OH NO! I immediately began to tear up... I hadn't read that paragraph since he first wrote it to me... three years ago. I responded in a very mature manner too.. I immediately covered my ears like a petulant child and began walking back and forth pretty much yelling "You're NOT helping! This is not helpful at all!!!"
"I admire your determination...." He continued, getting louder so I could still hear him over my own voice.
It's a short paragraph... I don't have it memorized, in fact, I wouldn't have remembered a thing about it had he not pulled out my book. But it is very complimentary of what he thought of me and my becoming his student all those ages ago... while I was pacing back and forth, half yelling, half listening... the old me flashed in my mind...standing in the EXACT SAME SPOT, RT with the book reviewing what new step he was going to teach me. It was very sweet of him to do that.
Once he was finished he put the book down, and it was forgotten for the rest of my lesson.
We opened with Salsa, our steadfast tradition... only this time it was to a song from his own personal collection, another quiet RT touch to make this lesson stand out. It was a slow salsa.. lots of time for hip action and slow spins. It was a lot of fun and I was smiling by the end of it...
Next on RT's agenda was to work on my over turning problem... See when I spin 99% of the time I over rotate which leads me to have a lot of trouble squaring my shoulders to my partner when I'm finished. We started with the "Coca-cola" spin... aka.. left turn and RT broke it down in a new way for me. I FINALLY got it.. I understood what he wanted me to do and showed nearly immediate improvement to my turn... I may have only wanted to dance, but if the technique portion of today's lesson was going to go this well.. BRING IT ON! I was starting to get that old feeling of inspiration again... oh I missed that feeling!
After I showed marked improvement in the "Coca-cola" turn, we moved on to my right spins...which are notably harder for me to finish correctly. We'd touched on this SEVERAL times in the last year... and nothing ever seemed to click... I understand the words RT uses to describe what I should have been doing, but I couldn't translate it into something my body would understand. Well, he must have picked up a new way to describe it because I'd never heard this before...
"Don't use too much power," he stated "And keep your right shoulder in front all the time."
Ok.. so I stood there processing what he wanted me to do... which means I was imagining what that would feel like within my spin. I think I understood it, so I tried.... and failed. So I tried again...and didn't over turn quite as much... and so began the "Better...one more time" mantra that I think we all have in our lessons.
I am pleased to report that this whole "Keep your right shoulder in front" thing works! Nearly every time I went into a spin, if I was thinking about my shoulder, it would stay in front and my turn would end more squarely! YAY!!! New problem for me was that doing this made me hold my right arm in what felt like a very unattractive way.. which I mentioned.
"It's ok.. it's not that bad and you can make it better as you keep practicing." RT informed me.
Great... I probably felt (and currently feel) more like a dancer than I EVER had before!!! WHY did I have to have such amazing progression on my last lesson! GRRRR... but we danced on. Next up was a bit of East Coast Swing, because that's what was playing. I remember how much I loved that dance when I started, it was the first real dance that I felt I could do and understand... now, to be honest... I really only like it with a few partners (RT being one of them of course)... but it will always have a sentimental meaning to me. What was nice was that RT would remind me about my shoulder in EVERY turn...proving that I could work on this in any dance.
We then went to the music machine and RT wanted to Rumba "We have to Rumba, what would a lesson be without a Rumba?" He asked, actually referencing my joke from a year ago, AND wanting an answer to that question.
"We do Rumba in every lesson, because if you have a good solid Rumba you can take the elements into all the other rhythm dances." I reply wondering if he was really looking for an answer that basic.
He was... I got a surprised look and a high five.
"Yeah... I listen to you... sometimes." I smiled back.
"Ok...lets do this." He said as he grabbed my hand to return to the floor.
I was thinking cool, I'll get to dance a Rumba.. like really dance it.. oh this will be fun!
It was fun, but can't really develop that performance connection with RT...when once again I was dancing with his ear...he was watching our profiles in the mirror. A good Rumba requires some level of eye contact... ear contact does NOT count. But I let it go, because once again I was improving.
As our lesson was about to end, and honestly RT did a fantastic job of making it feel like a really REALLY good regular lesson, not the "last one". RT had one more thing, a Cha Cha... to one of the songs in his own collection... it was a FAST club style Cha Cha and very hard for me to pick out the rhythm... gotta tell ya, trying to execute ballroom style Cha to a song that fast is HARD.. well for me anyway... we were dancing a bit of basic in frame and from the bottom of my peripheral vision I see he's actually managing to get every bit of his Cuban motion into this song.... figures... and if you'd ever seen his Cuban motion, and how HARD he works on it... you'd know why it just figures he can do it nearly perfectly at light speed.
"Is this Cha to see how fast you can do the Cuban motion stuff? I know if I can see your hips moving in my peripheral vision they've got to be doing some crazy things!" Yes, even during a super fast dance..I'll find a way to talk. :-)
He just smiled and continued to help me with the beat... seriously hard song for me! He also reminded me about my shoulder in every spin... some of them, like when a few of the higher level bronze steps have their spins...need to be fast at normal speed... one in particular that I've worked on a lot, but never seems to quite be on time was asked of me... I came back to frame and RT reminds me again about my shoulder.
"You can not possibly ask me to control my spin when it's THAT fast yet! I'm lucky I can finish it and still stand!"
"Leave your right shoulder in front." he says as he nods. Classic RT I'm not putting up with your BS no matter how funny it is response.
*sigh* Of course he's going to ask me to control it... don't know quite what I was thinking there.
Shortly thereafter the lesson ended... it really did feel like a REALLY good regular lesson... RT put his arm around me, and said "There see? Like it wasn't even your last one."
We then chatted for a bit about what my dance related plans were for the next couple of weeks and I thanked him...and that was it.
I was feeling really good, and then got sad again... went in back to change, came back up front, and sat on the couch slowly changing my shoes... more memory flashes in my mind. Just trying to drink up the atmosphere when one of the other students that I am very friendly with sat down next to me. She's one of the ladies that has always been very kind, she's sort of like a studio mom of sorts.
"You know you can't go away... I don't know what I'd do if I couldn't see your face at least sometimes."
I thought that was very sweet of her to say...
"Oh, I'm not going to disappear off the face of the planet... I'll be spectating at the next regional competition, and flitting around I'm sure." I reply.
"I can't tell you what an inspiration you have been to me every time I walk in here, you can't not be here." She stated simply.
.....and cue the tears....
"Thank you! I just hope I get to come back!" I say quietly as tears are just flowing... (I so didn't want to cry!)
"You will, I will pray for it every day." She told me.
"Thank you, that means so much!"
"I think you inspire [RT] too." She tells me.
"Well I wouldn't go quite as far as that...but he has definitely inspired me to be better, at everything." I reply..thankfully my eyes are starting to dry up.
"I would, you do." She stated, as if it were a known fact..so there was clearly no arguing.
"Thank you very much! I'll see you at the regional ok?" I said as she got up for her next lesson.
I sat on the couch for a minute more, kind of absorbing everything... I was watching RT teach his next lesson... over by my book that had been left abandoned on the bench. I don't know what it was about it just sitting there that annoyed me... but the idea of it carelessly being picked up with any others that had been strewn about and placed anywhere on the shelves really bothered me. So I got up, grabbed my book, closed it gently...and placed it on one of the shelves in a spot where I knew I could find it again. One last glance at the dance floor where images of lessons past Waltzed, Rumbaed, and Cha Chaed in front of me... and I was on the way to my car to head home.
I don't think I have ever been though such a roller coaster of emotion in such a short period of time! The lingering feeling, thankfully, is the one of pure inspiration... I cannot believe it! It's a very powerful thing, and I need to do whatever I can to hang on to it!