Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Last month, I took a break from work and returned to my recent home of Atlanta to visit friends and participate in one of my newest hobbies: ballroom dancing. I had virtually no skill at dancing prior to February of 2009, and the argument could be made that I had virtually no skill at dancing for several months afterward.
It all started in January of 2009 when I joined a singles' activity group called Events and Adventures. The first event that I did with this group was a tango lesson at a local ballroom dance studio. My prior dancing attempts had mostly involved swing, and for some reason I had a mental block about how to do the steps because the pattern didn't (in my mind) fit the music. Tango, however, was more like the marching band-type of regimented movement that I was used to and I picked it up much more quickly. I suppose I should note that I got into ballroom for the same reason that many men do: it is a very good way to meet women.
Another E&A event a few weeks later was at another studio near Roswell, the Daza Dance Studio. It is much nicer than the other studio, and they hold dance parties every Friday and Saturday night. Also...lots of attractive women teach and study there. After a couple of visits to Daza, I decided that it was time to take some lessons and actually learn how to lead. Like many things in life, dancing is more fun if you actually know something about what you are doing. I was fortunate to have a teacher named Natalie; she has several wonderful traits, namely she is sweet, beautiful, and demanding. Also, she used to live in Nashville like I did, so we had that in common. Over the course of the next few months, my regular lessons and party attendance began to pay off and I made a lot of progress. Natalie encouraged me to enter a competition, and after a couple of false starts I managed to commit to the Hotlanta competition in October. The big obstacle, of course, was my untimely relocation to upstate New York in early September, but I managed to take some personal leave and return to Atlanta for a couple of days of intense "re-learning" and rehearsal before the competition started.
I competed in the Pro/Am Bronze phase on the mornings of Thursday and Friday, October 15 and 16. Natalie convinced me to enter 18 different events: bronze-level is divided into beginner, intermediate, and full categories and we would dance six styles in each of those. Thursday was "rhythm day" and involved cha-cha, rumba, and east-coast swing. (Yes...swing.) Friday was "smooth day" and the steps were waltz, tango, and foxtrot. It was a bit odd being judged on the dance floor and having to move around with a giant number pinned to the back of my shirt, but I suppose my training as a performing musician helped not only with my sense of pulse but learning to deal with performance anxiety. The results were better than I expected: I placed 2nd in six categories (all at the intermediate level) and 1st in the remaining 12 categories, beginner/intermediate/full. (I should remind you that this was the lowest level of the competition..no big trophies or recognition. The awards were discount vouchers for next year's competition!) Still, I did well in my first ballroom dance competition, something I could not have even imagined happening eight months ago. Of course, it wasn't just about doing the steps and getting certificates. It was also about spending time with some great friends that I've made over the past few months and having fun on the dance floor. A big thanks to the people at the Daza studio for providing such a welcoming environment, and especially to Natalie for convincing me that I could do it. It was fun!
Note: more pictures can be found on my Facebook page.