Partnering a dance class is something I have only done once before. I’ve taught a couple of times, but always small classes. I had the opportunity last week to partner Mirage for social dance 1 and 2 at Stanford. Lets start with the fact that i was honored to be asked. Sure I’ve taken these classes so many times I can mouth many of Richard Power’s talks along with him, but so can most of the dancers at Stanford. But Mirage asked me. *Fan girl moment*
But surprise, or maybe not so surprising, having taken the class a bunch of times, having danced the dances countless nights, having given impromptu lessons many times, none of it prepared me to stand in the middle of Roble 38 and have more than a hundred people watching me. Waiting for me to screw up.
Every step was so very much thought. “God am I doing it right? Like actually right? or am I just on autopilot, doing my version of what works?” Watching Mirage and trying to guess at when she needed me to partner someone in the class and when I needed to stay in the middle. Trying to exaggerate things so they are easier to see. Figuring out what to do with my hands while I stood awkwardly by myself in the middle. Funny how in so many years I never really noticed what Mirage did. Of course, I was at the undeniable disadvantage that Mirage normally partners. She has so much experience, and makes such amazing faces, and is so good at exaggerating things for demonstration purposes, I really had no chance of competing. Not that I wanted to compete, just to come up as competent against that measuring stick.
And then there was all the strangeness of being the teacher (kind of) instead of a student or a dancer. I am so used to teaching one on one. I am used to improving someone’s dancing by dancing with them. Feeling what they are doing, where they step, how they carry their weight. See how much we can fix just by having a partner who knows what I’m doing so they can concentrate on what they are doing. But in partnering the class, I had to stand in the middle, and look around at so many couples and see whether things were working or not. And if they weren’t, figure out why, and decide if there were patterns in what wasn’t working. And then figure out how to verbally recommend a fix. I know I was just partnering, but it turns out that in partnering, like in following, there is not “just” about it.
And as for making faces, standing in the middle of that room I wished I had a degree in acting. How the hell was I supposed to make sure the students around us could tell when I was giving enough weight? How were they supposed to tell when Mirage was making something easy or hard for me? Well, I tried my best. And it was definitely the thing I got the most comments on. Just about everyone who came up to say something to me after the class mentioned that I need to work on my facial expressions. More of them, more exaggerated, etc.
It was an awesome experience to partner the classes for a few days. I don’t think I’ve learned so much in a dance class since the last time I took a particular class for the first time. (Which was technically last quarter when I took History of Waltz. But that aside, it’s been 2 years). It was fun, but I was so glad to have Richard back, if for no other reason than it got me out of the spotlight.