I want to muse a bit about the lesson next. This post will be, well, significantly less glowing. I don’t think the teaching was bad, just that I learned to dance in a very different way, from very different teachers, and so found myself highly critical of their style. Fair warning, this is a very long post, because I have a lot to say, and the most important bits are at the end, so if this looks like a tl;dr kind of post, skip down to the last three paragraphs and peruse those at least.
The class started late, and ended late, but no one except me seemed to mind. The lesson was extremely fast paced, which caught me off guard. It was fascinating to watch. As a dancer that already knew a basic 3-count hustle step, I was able to figure things out pretty quickly I felt (although I did take their styling and throw it unceremoniously out the nearest window). A step might be demonstrated once, walked through once and then considered learned. Styling would be mentioned once, almost in passing, and things would move on. I felt like the teacher was a professional dancer, acting like he was teaching professionals a choreography. Not a professional teacher, teaching beginners how to dance. But people seemed able to keep up, more or less.
Except they weren’t keeping up. They forgot steps, misremembered important details, confused styling, and mixed up the names of the steps. The teacher would call one, and someone would mix them up and do another, and the teacher would stop the whole class to say “no, no, no. Do X not Y”. At one point one of the students got fed up enough to respond with “I don’t remember what X was.” The teacher took it with grace enough and demonstrated the step again with an air of “duh”.
Other than that, we spent a lot more time dancing individually rather than in couples. Because in ballroom hustle at least, the lead doesn’t really lead apparently. As the teacher put it, “Men’s hand’s are a teacup. Ladies have their fingers in the teacup just to test the temperature.” I assume he meant a sentiment along the lines of “don’t break the teacup, don’t make him pull you anywhere.” I found it an overly flowery way to say “the follows are self powered.” Not a bad way to dance, just not one i’m used to, especially for a dance as fast as Hustle.
One of the big differences between ballroom and social dancing is who’s to blame for a mistake. For example, in the footwork for an inside turn, a lot of follows were getting confused and turning more than they should. So the teacher explained that if you turned too much, you’d end up with your chest in your lead’s hand. And it was clearly the follow’s fault for over turning. Which of course makes sense, given that the lead doesn’t actually lead the whole move, just the beginning, and the follow finishes it without his help; so she has to know when and how to end up where.
It was just a different style up to that point. But then, towards the end of class, the teacher was rotating partners so fast that I felt like a machine lever. My partners were just going from one follow to the next and executing a pattern of motions. Hell most of them didn’t even look me in the eye. It made ballroom dancing feel like your partner doesn’t matter. If you could dance with a robot, so much the better because then you would be utterly free of worry about your partner messing you up. After all, the dancing is about you, not about you and your partner sharing a dance together.
And then, in the midst of it all came a moment that might have ruined my evening. In all the teaching, there was some little mention of there being a very light lead, but nothing about loose fingertips, or being gentle, or the awareness that in such close contact someone could potentially get hurt. In the middle of a whirl of partners and double outside turns, one gentleman moved his hands very quickly, so I attempted to turn just as quickly (being accustomed to turning as fast as i’m turned), but the gentleman retained a clamping hold on my hand such that it couldn’t rotate in his, which torqued my arm out, and back over my shoulder into such a position as to potentially cause damage. My friends says I could have ended up in the emergency room. I disagree, I don’t think the lead was actually applying enough force to dislocate my shoulder or tear anything. but then human biology is not my strong point.
It did in fact hurt however. So I stopped turning, and i took my hands away from my lead. He informed me that I “turned too fast” and moved on to the next follow. I was a little stunned. My shoulder hurt. He had no inclination that he’d done anything wrong. In fact, he hadn’t done anything wrong. I’d turned to fast. It was my fault my shoulder hurt. I felt stupid. I felt like a spoiled brat who’d been called out for it.
That, I didn’t like. I did not like that part of ballroom dancing one little bit.