Joshua Kronengold (mneme) wrote,
Joshua Kronengold

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Nocturne Blues, and a weekend

Ok, so, this was a weekend:

Friday: Skipped the class (a shame; a great switch class I'm sure we'd have enjoyed, but timing), had some fun dances (and a lot of dancing with Lisa). Also, Nocturne Blues had a -great- code of conduct this year, full of goodness. The band was amazing, and we got their CD.

Saturday: Slept in and hit up Mishacon instead of classes, which was sad because we didn't make classes, but fun because social and mischacon. Unfortunately, our timing wasn't ideal, so instead of playing a bunch of small to medium games, I chatted a bunch (fun), and learned Brass (which was fun, but too long for the slot). And then, 3 hours into the game, disaster struck -- a player left their drink on the table; I noticed it was too close but put it back down where it had been when I left, and then knocked it over on my way back in. Game ruined; game itself damaged, and sadness. Then, of course [after "helping" with cleanup of the game and related sadness], we went back to Nocturne and had more dancing, we'd decided this would be our late night, so we left after 2. It was "polka-dots, pearls and bow ties" night, so I wore a dotted ascot tie as a bow tie and got some nice comments on same.

Sunday: The only day we attended any classes; we obviously slept in a bit, but still made the last third of the second session, the third session, and the 5 minute feedback sessions (which were amazing, and we should totally start doing occasional privates). Second session was "step ninja", (a "wide" class; what we'd intended to do, and almost certainly right for showing up late, as we weren't too far behind, while with a "deep" class we might very well have been), where we played with not-exactly-crossover steps (basically rotational basics plus variations). There was more earlier which I may see if someone posted a video of.

Third session was the unclearly named "blues dances" class, which we mostly signed up for because it was taught by Julie Brown. As it turned out, this was a wide class on dances of the blues era beyond the ones experienced modern blues dancers are likely to know -- blackbottom, serptentine, shimmy, and camel walk. Fun stuff, and entirely useful. Julie taught the camel walk, first teaching it solo, then going through a couple of ways it could be done backwards [as it happens, I don't think I agree with either of those for it partnered; I -think- the only way it works well partnered is to step backwards with a flat foot and your toe off the ground, then close putting weight on the returning foot and pulling up your heel, then shifting weight and positions; she taught it instead trying to maintain the upwards heel for all three steps going backwards, which either means you reverse the feet, generally moving the planted foot, not the free one (which means your weight is opposite from your partner's), or you try to move a foot backwards and -then- pull the weight off the front foot while raising the heel, which is awkward and still doesn't shift weight in time with your partner). And then, of course, we tried it in zig zags and partnered, with the leads going forward and the follows going backwards -- which as mentioned, was rather awkward on the follows, although good practice.

Then I had the enjoyment of showing that there are advantages to having a broader ragtime and vintage dance background when studying dances of this era -- she'd mentioned that it was related to the foxtrot [which she admitted not knowing; my modern foxtrot is weak but existent, and 1920s foxtrot is somewhat better], so I'd asked about turning it and gotten a non-committal answer. So after the class, I suggested to Julie that it could be done with -both- partners going forward if you turned it (using standard rotary stepwork; after all, it's a "step, close, step" pattern, which is exactly what you use in a rotary dance). She stared at me, then asked me to demonstrate -- and after I'd done so, announced that she'd be teaching it this way from now on, as it's easier to teach, easier on the dancers (after all, they only need to learn one step), and almost certainly [I agree] how it was done in period (they also zig-zagged, although that was a later invention; I'd love to see some research results on how this was done; I'm guessing it was either flat for the backwards step or my "heel, toe, toe" pattern for the unweighted foot).

After that, there were basic and intermediate competitions, which we sort watched (I alternated watching and catching up on social/internet stuff). Followed by private 5 minute feedback sessions, which were amazing -- the one with Flouer was mostly incremental, plus some good advice on how to predict momentum and in specific what I should expect the follow to be doing with a particular move I was playing with. But the one with another female dance instructor in the same room [nicole, I think?] had her critiquing my dance posture in all the right ways--opening up my frame, relaxing my arms, not only leading from the core (which was my primary takeaway from the far less well organized feedback sessions two years ago at the first Noctunre), but avoiding extending the lead -into- my shoulders, which apparently I'm doing. Good stuff, but I'd love to have more and regular feedback for a while so I could more easily correct it, as it's somewhat subtle posture stuff.

Before dinner (Korean), I let some gears finish turning from my feedback with Flouer, and either came up with or re-visted my thoughts on how partner dancing is like a two player RPG.

Why traditional (lead/follow) Partner Dance is like a RPG

So, the thing about comparing partner dancing to RPGs is that a naive approach would be that the lead is the GM, and the follow is the player. This is, it turns out, exactly wrong.

The follow in partner dance is the GM, with a role that encompasses pretty much everything a GM does in an RPG except for scene-setting (which is handled by whoever chooses the music). The lead's role, by contrast, is pretty much exactly like that of a player in an RPG.

The follow's job is to maintain the physics model of the dance, to add styling, and to respond to what the lead does -- but not to make directional choices in the dance itself -- just like the GM's job is to maintain the physics mode of the game, to add flavor text, and to respond to what the players do, but not, generally to set narrative direction (except by picking the scenario, which as I mentioned, is much like picking the music in that it sets the scenes, but doesn't determine character choices). A good follow will maintain a consistent physics model (momentum, etc) commensurate with the style of the dance, except when they choose to creatively depart from it or when safety becomes a factor -- just like a good GM will keep the narrative and physical logic of the game world consistent unless they have a good reason to depart from them.

The lead's job is to make clear creative choices, and to communicate them clearly and directly--just like a player's job is to make clear narrative and strategic choices for their character. In both cases, the rule is "have a plan, but be prepared to improvise."

The reason it's possible (or even likely) that people will reverse these is the assumption that both the GM and the lead are "in charge". But, of course, neither the GM nor the lead are really in charge; what people do in a group or paired activity for pleasure is a matter of consensus, however roles are divided up.

The dinner break was long, which was good, becasue it meant we got to spend some time hanging out in the park, and got dinner, and bad, because it meant that dancing started late. I'm guessing this was because the site for the evening dance was only available at 10, but I'm guessing there were also other logistical constraints I'm not privy to. In any cases, we got there a half hour early, decided we didn't want to sit through a half hour of very loud salsa music, and returned in time to get a bunch of dances in (well, I got a bunch of dances in; [personal profile] drcpunk was taking it easy and danced a few times), and watch the prelims for the switch contest.

And, since unlike Friday and Saturday (when were at the YMHA, meaning that it took us a couple of hours to get home on Friday and we took a cab on Saturday), Sunday was in lower midtown, we were able to get home pretty quickly via the N to the 7. Although there were still substantial waits for the N and the 7, alas.

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Tags: dancing
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