Category Archives: Partnering

There are no mistakes on the dance floor

For real. I really mean it. I see you not believing me. That's why I also wrote WORDS. Ha hah!

For real. I really mean it. I see you not believing me. That’s why I also wrote WORDS. Ha hah!

There are no mistakes on the dance floor. What we think of as a “mistake” is really an shortcoming in perception, a failure to perceive what someone else is putting out there.

Hey, here’s a crazy idea. What would happen if we started to really BELIEVE that about our dancing?

Well, instead of starting every conversation with, “here’s what went wrong,” we might get to really appreciate our own and our partner’s creativity. We might be more open to new ideas, to new ways of doing things. We might dance in and with our bodies instead of getting mad at them for betraying us at the crucial moment. (Et tu, corpus?) We might listen to the music.

The really nutball thing is, we all know how freakin’ awesome those states of being are. We’ve all experienced them, at some time or another, even if only for a few seconds. It’s why we keep dancing!¬†

But what if we really BELIEVED that there are no mistakes on the dance floor? I mean, it sounds good and all, and it’s a nice thought, but who really BELIEVES it?

This cat does. Stefon Harris is a slammin’ jazz musician – he plays the vibraphone. Dude, anybody who literally PLAYS VIBES knows good vibes when he lays ’em down. And he gave a really great TED talk about this very idea. There are no mistakes on the bandstand, he said, and then he goes on to prove it.

There are a lot of excuses we can all make about why that might be true for Stefon but not for us, but here’s my challenge: try it.

Seriously. What are you out? It’s free (recession friendly!), it’s totally internal (you don’t even have to TELL anybody you’re changing your perspective), and if it sucks, you can blow it off and go back to rolling along how you usually do. But try it. Go into your next lesson, your next social dance, your next comp, or just your next practice in front of a mirror and say, “hey, there are no mistakes here, just chances to be better at perception. Rock on.”

I’m here to say: I’m a believer.

Tagged ,

Ask A Ballroom Dancer: The Unbearable Lameness of Partnering Edition

I am a Masters 2 Lady (meaning I’m over 50 ūüėČ ), married to a non-dancer¬† and¬† over the last 2 years have been trying to move up the ranks with relatively minor success, although I can dance, I think,¬†I have been having lessons with a proper dancesport coaches for 4 years now… In addtion to constantly training¬†new partners from beginner to¬†first and only¬†comp as so far they’ve all bailed¬†out on me,¬†I have been doing medals (up to¬†gold now in¬†all 3 styles – we also have¬†so called New¬†Vogue here [Ed: Australia], which is kind of¬†like smooth but¬†same choreo for all couples, dancing in a circle), so I can¬†dance with my coach and keep up the skill level.¬†I have done a few comps but not able to elevate cos have to go back to square 1 every time I find some guy that let’s me talk him into doing a comp – bahahaha!

Just wanted to check with you re: male dancers and their arogance/fragile ego syndrome – is it the same everwhere or is it only here where there are about 4 studios that train people for competitions and they all hate each others guts, which makes it hard for us dancers to find partners as you are considered to be unloyal, teachers constantly worry that you are going to take your money to the other guy…

Example –¬†yesterday whilst I was waiting for my lesson I was observing a male being coached – he was OK but nothing that spectacular. As he was¬†leaving¬†he said¬†good-bye and indicated that he might come in the next day for a group class – this is where my coach jumped in¬†with “Do you want me to tee you up someone?”… well he never “teed up” anyone for me,¬†all my partners so far although¬†not the best were¬†brought to the studio and the lessons by myself.¬† Getting cheesed off with this nonsense, I am quite a tough cookie myself but very bored with the same old routines that I have been doing with these dudes for 2 years now. I know that reasons is obvious – there isn’t that many dudes that want to do comps, however do the teachers need to encourage it and¬†let their heads grow so big just because they have a penis and at times no musicality or skill for that matter?

Despite my frustration I decided to take this current partner of mine (who cannot keep up the timing for shit) to the nationals in 2 weeks time, who cares, at least I will be able to dance!!

The other issue I am finding that¬†as a married person¬†my chances of finding someone who just wants to dance are even smaller¬†cos the dudes want the whole package most of the time, and only are prepared to dance what you want if you are into them…¬†The gay guys like to dance with each other, there are same sex comps here, there is only a couple of them¬†that I know that they dance with women in the usual dancesport comps. Would love to do coach and student or pro/am but nobody to dance with at my current studio, I think I need¬† to make some changes – again!

Just venting mainly but if you could reply that would be great ūüôā

– todanceornot

Yep. That is definitely some bullshit right there. First things first; change your frame of reference. As you know, BALLROOM IS NOT A MERITOCRACY. People make decisions about partnering for all kinds of emotional or irrational or stupid or just plain batshit crazy reasons that have zero, zip, nada to do with how well someone dances. So you basically have to accept that and decide to play the game anyway.

Is it the same everywhere? Yes. Sorry. The demographics of ballroom mean that you can be a super lousy dude and STILL have way more pull than a lady who is ten times better than you, whether you’re a teacher or a student. It’s some sexist bullshit.

So you basically have a couple issues going on:

  1. It’s really hard for you as an amateur dancer to find a good male partner.
  2. The studios in your town are fraught with petty infighting.
  3. You see men who are not as good as you being handed opportunities you would never get in a million years, and you are cheesed about that.
  4. The partnering issue is complicated by the fact that you don’t want to have to romantic involvement with any of the dudes, which means they either aren’t interested in dancing with you, or aren’t interested in dancing with ladies period.
  5. You feel that these dudebros are being special snowflakes and are way too fragile compared to your tough warrior princess-ness.

All of these suck in different ways. My short answer? This is why pro-am was invented.

Okay, long answer.

(1) It’s really hard for you as an amateur dancer to find a good amateur male partner. Yes. It’s hard for EVERY lady to find a partner, unless you are atypically beautiful or talented, and then you wander around saying dumbass things like, “I can’t understand why it’s so hard for you to find a partner!” which makes everybody want to punch you in the face. It’s even harder for amateurs because unless you are (a) under the age of 16, (b) in college, or (c) in possession of a spouse/girlfriend/boyfriend/whoever also wants to dance with you, you’re basically screwed. Sorry. I know it’s not kosher to say that, but it’s true. Is it possible that you will find a partner who really suits you as a regular amateur lady? Maybe! It is also possible that you will win the lottery or that my dressmaker will decide that my dress will be free this time because I’m so damn charming. Don’t bet on it.

(2) The studios in your town are fraught with petty infighting. Fuck these local bullshit studios; you need to jump up to the next level. Find the absolute best person(s) for what you want to dance (Ballroom, Latin, New Vogue, whatever) in Australia and figure out how to work with that person or people. Create and curate your own team. This is something that is workable if you are willing to put in the time and effort, and if you have the money to do it. You will probably need to travel, and you will certainly need to work with coaches who cost more. But if you are EVER going to find a decent partner, you need the best kind of dude available, and the best coaches out there are more likely to have a lead on that dude. If your coach does not support this, then you need to find someone who does. You should absolutely have a coaching team who encourages and pushes you to get the best instruction and opportunities that will help you meet your goals.

(3)¬†You see men who are not as good as you being handed opportunities you would never get in a million years, and you are cheesed about that. Yes. Yes yes yes yes yes. Do you know how goddamn much money I would make if I were a man in this business? It’s unreal. It is a contributing reason to why I am poor. I hear you. On the other hand, there is a lot to be said for making your own luck and remembering that you love to dance, rather than railing against the Dance Fates.

(4)¬†The partnering issue is complicated by the fact that you don’t want to have to romantic involvement with any of the dudes, which means they either aren’t interested in dancing with you, or aren’t interested in dancing with ladies period. Yeah…that’s one of the big challenge of amateur dancing. It can be difficult to find compatible partners at all, much less compatible partners who are looking for exactly what you are (just dancing, that’s it, thanks so much, go home by yourself at the end of the night). It might help you to be really clear about what your goals are exactly and what you will and won’t accept. By goals I don’t mean, “I want to find a dance partner,” but rather, “I want to place in the top three of my competitive age category at [some significant comp]” or “I want to practice at least three days a week with an acceptable human,” or “I want a warm body to attend coaching sessions with me.” Also, if you are really serious about dancing with a legit partner, prepare to get rejected. A lot. You are going to have to just ask people, cold-call style, “hey, so, you’re an awesome dancer, would you be interested in working with me? I am trying to [your goal].” A bunch of people will say no. Some will be dicks about it. But one of your gay guys out there is your best hope, Obi Wan Kenobi, and one of them may well say yes. But nobody is ever going to approach you and kneel at your feet and beg you to dance with them. Sorry! I wish that would happen, it would be really awesome.

(5)¬†You feel that these dudebros are being special snowflakes and are way too fragile compared to your tough warrior princess-ness. Yeah, well, maybe. Turns out that one of the sacrifices of partner dancing is the necessity of dancing with a goddamn partner. If your current partner can’t count, well, don’t just blow him off. You know the saying – don’t quit your job until you have a better one. Keep your off-time partner and figure out if you guys even have the same goals. You’ll both be happier if you’re clear about what you do and don’t want.

Here’s the reality of the situtation, honey bee: you have to deal with male dancers if you want to compete in straight competitions. They are a huge pain in the ass, they are sensitive as all get-out, the unfair advantage they enjoy has them all convinced that they’re God’s gift to dance, and that’s just how it goes. And hey, guess what? VIRTUALLY THE SAME IS TRUE OF THE WOMEN. You still need a boy. So either deal with the unfair yet constant realities of that situation and put up with some bullshit from an amateur boy, or pay a professional boy to dance with you. (He’ll have the same bullshit, but you won’t have to deal with it; that’s what you’re paying for.)

And don’t give up hope. There are some AWESOME amateur male dancers out there who are awesome solid cool dudes, and there are some great professionals who might work out as well. These dudes are real, and they are great. I’m sorry that the majority of dudes you’re dealing with are tools, but there are some excellent men floating around. You just need to find one. And you will! Start with the pros…they have websites, usually, so it’s easier.

I would recommend that you find a really good pro-am teacher and work with him to see if it’s even a sustainable option for you. There may not be one in your town, but I know that there are some in Australia, somewhere. (That’s specific.) Google that shit and look up the comps and see whose students are placing well. Talk to that dude. Pay him a shit ton of money to dance with you. Be happy that you are finally getting to focus on your own dancing instead of the other BS.

Good luck!

Have a question? Ask a ballroom dancer! Submit your questions in the comments or email to againstlineofdance@gmail.com. I can’t be much help on your taxes, legal problems, or math homework, but anything else should be cool.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Gross.

I hate being sick.

I almost never get sick – I don’t have allergies, I have a super tough immune system, and I can eat like basically anything and be good. I am kind of like a goat.

Gregory Goat, you are such a terrible eater!

But every once in awhile, I get legit sick. And the problem is, you absolutely CANNOT go to work at a studio and dance with people if you are sick. Why? Well, DUH:

  1. it’s disgusting
  2. you will probably get your students and co-workers sick too
  3. it’s SOOOOOO GROSS to dance with somebody who’s sniffly and dripping mucus
  4. there’s no way you can have good energy and what not if you are trying to focus all your effort on breathing without coughing like a TB ward

Yet people will come to work sick. And come in for lessons sick. Uncool, people! Very uncool!

(I felt bad that I had to go in for half an hour to pick up work and call my students to clear my schedule for the day. I was all, please swab down everything I touched with some Clorox wipes, I am such a Typhoid Mary.)

Don’t be that monkey from Outbreak. Stay home. For real.

Maybe if I bedazzled one of these it would work…

*     *     *

In other news, I have a partner! Or, I should say, more accurately, I have a person who wants to dance with me and with whom I also want to dance and if everything goes properly and neither of us gets hit by a bus or fired or has a foot spontaneously fall off, then by November/December-ish it should be happening. It’s super exciting!

But I am trying to not get too far ahead of myself – it’s not a thing until it’s a thing, you know? Like, I keep telling myself, don’t go picking out costumes before we’ve even had our first session with our coach. But it’s the best news in forever on the partner front, and I’m really pleased about it. Yay! So that makes being sick more palatable, I guess!

*     *     *

Next time: I review fake nails from the drugstore that cost way less than getting those bitches done at a salon! (I have to do my nails for a little comp on Saturday so I might as well take some pictures and SAY MY OPINIONS, right?)

 

 

Tagged , , , , ,

It’s chickpeas? Shut up.

(presented in no particular order)

*     *     *

So the potential partner definitely blew me off. That’s par for the course. At least this time I actually danced with the dude before the blow off! Although, of course, this being ballroom, I just haven’t gotten a call back for two weeks. That qualifies as a Not Happening in my book.

I really wish DudeBro McLeaderson would’ve had the cojones to just call me and say, listen, you’re great, it’s not gonna work, thanks so much have a nice liiiiiife…

But no. Instead I am going to have to track his lazy ass down and make him actually say it so that there is closure and it’s not weird the next time I see him which will inevitably happen given that the ballroom community has like twelve people in it, half of whom are mad at/screwing/screwing OVER/have been screwed over by the other half.

It’s fine if you don’t want to dance with me. That’s super valid. But don’t be a tool. Just fucking man up and call me.

But then, if you could do that you could probably show up to a rehearsal on time (or at all) which is also not a strength. So that’s a whole thing. Whatever.

*     *     *

I made these weird cookies. I don’t know, I kind of like them. But they’re legit weird. So they were a thing I found on the internet¬†(she said with trepidation) and it seemed like a SUPER GOOD IDEA at the time and I just happened to have 100% of the necessary foo-foo gluten free fancy schmancy ass ingredients in my kitchen. And to the credit of the nice lady who put up all the pretty pictures, they seem like a fantastic idea. THIS IS WHY I WAS SUCKED IN.

Do mine look like this? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA, no.

Right? But, so, yeah. These “cookies” (or whatever, baked good kind of deal) are chickpeas, natural peanut butter, agave syrup, vanilla, and baking powder. You toss all that in a food processor and blend the shit out of it.

So, it turns out I am not really 100% sure how to use my food processor? I bought it once and used it immediately (probably with the benefit of the goddamn instructions, which are now LONG GONE) and so I had to use a lot of trial and error. Mostly error. Because this dough shit is basically cement – at one point there was literally smoke coming out of the motor. This, I thought, was probably not a good sign.

But eventually I figured it out using my ape-brain and opposable thumbs and managed to blend together all the shit into a dough-like substance which was sticky as hell. And in the recipe the internet lady put in chocolate chips but it turned out that all I had were milk chocolate chips which I HATE so I had to find the only dark chocolate in my house which was half a bag of dark chocolate Hershey’s kisses. Right?

So I unwrap some of those bastards and throw them in, thinking (like a dumbass) that if I hit pulse they will get chopped up into chocolate chip type things. Uh, no. That is not how food processors work (see above). Turns out it just blended the shit out of the couple of kisses I did science with and turned the whole chickpea cement kind of chocolatey.

(ALLITERATION! Not just for foods with gluten.)

At which point I said, Fuck this, this whole experiment has ceased to be entertaining plus now I am realizing that I have to clean my goddamn food processor and remembering why I sometimes just give up and buy plastic silverware instead of, you know, doing dishes…. so I slapped those bitches onto a pan and threw a Hershey’s kiss on top of each one, reckoning that even if the cookie things were a total loss, at least I would get a warm Hershey’s kiss out of the operation.

Chocolate chickpea peanut butter goddamn pain in my ass cement cookie things…

And IN THE END, they were actually pretty fucking tasty. For a cement chickpea cookie thing. Don’t get crazy, it’s not foie gras or anything. But still. Fuck food processors and fuck me for occasionally thinking that I can actually do things that I have NO BUSINESS DOING.

*     *     *

I really want this dress from Espen Salberg. Which is stupid, I have no dollars and no business buying a super cute dress but it is calling to me! It is saying BUY ME YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO MAYBE YOU WILL LOOK LIKE THIS COOL CHICA IN THE PICTURE IF YOU DOOOOO….

Espen Salberg Leopard Cowl Dress

Psssht, dress, you crazy. I don’t even have bangs!

*     *     *

Maybe I should get BANGS. I need a haircut, for reals.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Eggs, baskets

I have a try out set up with a potential competitive partner. I am trying really hard to stay reasonable and sanguine about it but this is the best lead I’ve had in a few years and has potential to really work.

At the same time I know that the disappointment will be even more sharp if this prospect crashes and burns. Everything in my experience tells me that it’s likely to… but here’s to hoping anyway.

I just want to be on the floor so badly. So fingers crossed!

Tagged , ,

Finding a dance partner

…is like all the bad parts of dating with none of the good parts.

Truly, in many ways, the bitch about partner dancing is the necessity of having a partner. I think that the amateurs have it the toughest; at least as a pro you are around a whole bunch of ridiculous idiots who might conceivably be looking for partners on any given Sunday.  As a pro-am dancer, you can keep rolling through pros till you find one you like, or until you have to give your house back to the bank because you spent all your money on lessons.

No matter what your status, what discipline you compete in, or what style you dance, there’s no denying that finding a partner is an epic pain in the ass.

So. There are a couple ways to go about it:

  1. Be born into a family of ballroom dancers/Russians/whatever and get set up with one from the age of 4.
  2. Be stunningly beautiful or otherwise physically extraordinary.
  3. Be a dude. (There are always extra ladies and even shit male dancers are spoiled for choice in the partner department.)
  4. Be a big-deal champion.

Are you any of those things? NO? That is very careless of you.

If you are not, then you have to rely on a couple other venues. As a pro, the easiest and best possible thing is to partner with someone who teaches in your proximity (either in your actual studio or at one of your regular haunts). It’s simple to set up practices and you are guaranteed to see each other every day. Great.

Did you manage that?

No?

Everybody you work with is either already partnered or not interested in dancing with you or actively despises you or is an unbearable ass or is just honestly terrible at dancing or does not dance the style you want?

CARELESS.

You can throw some ads up on the internets – http://www.dancepartner.com and http://www.ballroomdancers.com are the most common, and although you might think that sounds like a great idea, I am here to tell you from extensive personal experience that you are not going to be turning up a high percentage of winners.

Why? Because the best place to find a serious competitive partner is on the competition floor, but you, because you are NOT TRYING HARD ENOUGH, have not managed to GET on the competition floor recently because…why? Because you do not have a partner. Careless.

So. You have one other option.

Find yourself a Yente and hope she sends up something useful. You put the word out EVERYWHERE – but most especially through coaches and judges – and you hope that people like you well enough to send someone decent your way.

Even if you do manage to find a prospect who is viable, there’s all the regular negotiation bullshit that one would have to do in dating.

Can you get along, do you have similar goals, can you work productively? Added to which are the essential questions you aren’t supposed to ask (out loud, to someone’s face) in dating: do you look good together, are your body types compatible, will you look ridiculous standing to next to one another? Is this someone you can actually invest in, or will he flake the minute someone/something better/more shiny/a squirrel comes along?

Needle, meet haystack. Haystack, needle.

Needle: “Haystack, you are too tall / too short / too old / too full of hay / don’t have enough hay / have terrible leg action / trained with the wrong coaches / don’t sufficiently appreciate my amazingness.”

Haystack: “I just feel like you’re really pointy? And I am just really looking for something less pointy right now…”

It sucks. I have begun my legit appeasls to Yente; it should be completely meshuggeneh. But it will be 100% worth if I can find even one mensch. And by that, I mean: someone tall enough, not acutely horrible, who will dance with me.

(It’s a low bar.)

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Rejection!

I just got turned down again by another prospective partner. This happens a lot. (Like, a lot a lot. Like, literally a total of zero people want to dance with me professionally. That feels pretty much like shit.*) It sucks every time. At least this time the dude was nice about it (to be fair to him; to be fair to me, he blew me off for like two weeks and then was nice about saying no, which is still an uncool way to go).

When life gives you lemons, draw an angry face on one because it will  totally make you laugh.

It’s better than the time a dude said, sure, let’s set up a tryout and then texted me the morning of said tryout, saying, sorry, but I just now bothered to look for a picture of you on the internets and now that I’ve found one, well, don’t bother driving over…¬†

Getting rejected is part of the business. You get turned down all the time. Students tell you no, prospective employers tell you no, people booking jobs tell you no. But also sometimes they say yes. I am really hoping that eventually someone in the partnering department will say yes.

At least I am getting better about putting my shit out there. I used to be a seventh grade girl about it, swanning around being hurt that nobody was asking me. Now I straight up proposition people. They still tell me no, but at least now I’m not wasting as much of my time.

Uggggggggghhh, it still feels like crap to be turned down, though.

It’s amazing how this job finds all the things I am super insecure about and then just slams me over the head with them again and again.

I guess it’s cheaper than therapy?

* It might be less than zero, because at least a few people have expressed a desire to NEVER dance with me, even in the case of, e.g., aliens attack the earth and transport me and said person to their alien spacecraft and then blow up the Earth and all its denizens, leaving us as literally the only two ballroom dancers in the universe. Even in that situation:¬†um, yeah, I’m going to just see what my options are? Soooo, no.

Tagged , , ,

Respect.

My students often observe on their first or second lessons (especially when I teach couples) that learning to dance is a lot like therapy. Actually, they usually say that it’s harder than therapy!

My job is super awesome, even when I’m doing more marriage counseling than dance teaching. Sometimes you need an external mediator and observer – especially when the pattern of behavior in a relationship has calcified. The most typical thing I see is a couple (usually a long-married straight couple) where one is always on the other’s case about some damn thing or another. It’s so unproductive, especially because the conversations usually go like this:

Blamer: Well, I just can’t ¬†do my steps right because s/he’s doing *this* (demonstrates hyper-exaggerated version of some minor flaw).

Blame-ee: (silence)

Me: Well, maybe the reason s/he’s doing that is because you’re doing x, y, and z, which makes it very difficult for the step to happen. Try this.

Blamer: Oh, wow, that worked so much better!

The default assumption tends to be, I am doing my part just right and trying hard and this person I am dancing with is DELIBERATELY messing up and trying to make it harder for me ON PURPOSE and now I can’t do my part properly.

No. No, that is not what is happening. Stop it. Please stop it, you are not helping. It boils down to this:

You cannot dance the other person’s part.

I think that a lot of partnering issues can be resolved with the following four guidelines:

  1. Give your partner the benefit of the doubt. Assume that they are trying their best and that the efforts they are making are in good faith.
  2. Value what they are contributing to the partnership. Turns out you cannot do partner dancing by yourself! Even if you are awesome and amazing and free of any fault ever, you need them.
  3. Accept it. (This is a rule of improv, but it works for partner dancing, too). Rather than trying to argue when your partner says, I think you are doing x, or I feel like y is happening at this point, just accept it. Say, okay! What can we do about that? (Even if you think they are wrong. Even if you KNOW they are wrong.)
  4. Solve the problem, not the relationship. Is he getting in your way on the second half of that turn? Are you pulling him off balance with your spiral? Maybe! You know what that is? It’s a discrete and specific problem, not a verdict on your entire history and interaction with that person. Yes, I know. He always does this, that, or some other damn thing. Get over it and fix your turn. Have drinks and bitch at each other later, or go complain to your friends, but keep that shit off the floor.

In thinking about prospective partners, the biggest criterion for me is RESPECT. Namely: will this person treat me with respect, will he value what I do and what I bring to the partnership? A coach once said to me – and this is probably my favorite thing ever –

You can make somebody a better dancer, but you can’t make them not an asshole.

So. True. I have danced with enough people who don’t respect me to know that it makes a HUGE difference. Things will not always go well. You will have good days and bad days, you will fuck up sometimes and they will fuck up sometimes and everybody will have their feelings hurt. But if there is a fundamental respect for each other, that is not the end of the world, and it will not make you feel like the bottom of someone’s shoe.

In other words, we need to take a fucking cue from what happens here at 0:38:

Let’s all try to be more like Riccardo, please! How great is he??

Tagged , , , , , ,