Category Archives: Dancing

Plateau

At the risk of sounding like a braggart, I have always been a very quick learner. Moreover, I’ve always felt that I can excel at anything into which I put my mental and physical energy. With very few exceptions in my life, that’s been true: my biggest obstacle is overcoming the fear of the initial failure. It’s a useful gift to have for someone whose interests are so varied.

But there comes a point in every training cycle where your upward progress stalls. This is called a plateau, and it can be very frustrating. It’s often the place where folks give up, because they are no longer seeing the results they once did. They might even feel like they’re going backwards. The only way through it is to keep working through it, increasing the energy you put into it until the breakthrough comes and the improvement (however that might be measured) becomes exponential. Oh how difficult it is though, when you are doing the cost/benefit analysis, to decide that your goals are worth your effort!

I have recently come to a place where I’ve arrived at a few plateaus simultaneously. For example, I love doing improv, it’s so exhilarating to jump up on stage and make a scene work with your partner. Considering that I started with no stage experience whatsoever, I’ve come a long way. But I see how amazing and talented my improv friends are, and I know I’m not at their level. I know I can get there if I work hard at it, but right now I am where I am. To get to the next level will take time and effort. Frankly, I have too much other stuff going on. I’ll still do improv, take a few classes here and there where I can fit it in, but I’ll always be a hobbyist because it is not a priority for me the way that some other things are. That feels a bit like dishonoring the craft, but I will neither leave it nor embrace it so that’s the choice I make.

The same is true for guitar. After five years, I am learning how much I still don’t know. My progress has stalled because I won’t commit the time to practice. With visual arts, I haven’t even begun. There’s a huge commitment I am not making, although if I jumped into it I’d have that initial learning curve to guide me.

On the other hand, I feel like I’m still learning and growing in my dancing. I was worried I was hitting a plateau in tango, but I stayed with it and I’m on a learning curve again. Not that I’m some great tanguero, but I feel like I’m becoming a solid lead.

Writing, of course, has remained a priority. Every time I pick up the pen I learn something about that craft. It keeps me going, seeing what else is in my head, what is next. I am still wanting to get better, to keep exploring, keep taking chances. So many times the plateau is all about the complacency of competence. You have to find the place where you fail in order to improve. It takes effort, it takes time. So this writing thing had better pan out, because that’s where I’m investing.

Moving On

As long-time readers may recall, I have been doing a weekly writing prompt for about a year now with several of my friends. However, their participation has been dwindling for one reason or another over the past few months, and so has my energy for it. Plus, it does not fit with the direction I want to go with my writing, which is toward longer pieces and series. So, after the 52nd weekly prompt, I decided to put an end to that little project. I have not yet decided what if anything will replace it. Fear not, however: The Haiku Project rolls on unabated.

Speaking of projects, I started my Level 4 Improv class last night. Boy did I suck! I just couldn’t seem to get out of my own way to let things flow. I’ll do better, I’m sure of that, because I have to. My classmates are all so amazing and talented, and that can be either intimidating or easier to do scenes. I’ll try for the latter.

Sales of both Tango Girls and Folly Beach Love Story continue to trickle. I haven’t put much effort into promoting them, so what do I expect, right? Do I even want to put in that effort? Perhaps it’s just time to look ahead.

Speaking of looking ahead, this weekend I’ll be at Table Rock State Park for Moondance 2012, a contra dance weekend. The girlfriend and I will spend the weekend doing contra and waltz, and sleeping in a cabin. That’s as much of a vacation as I need, and about all I can afford, too.

That’s all for now folks. Thanks for listening, and I’ll talk to you soon.

Updates and a New Poem

Tango Girls is available at Amazon, but still pending review at Smashwords. This is the last step that’s needed before it gets distributed to the big non-Amazon booksellers (Apple, Barnes & Noble, etc). You can buy it at Smashwords for any of those devices (and the Kindle), but I know that’s not how the market works these days. So, I wait, and watch my anemic sales. This part is anticlimactic.

So I press on with other projects. Most notably, I sent my current work-in-progress, Dresden Valentine, to a writing group of which I am a part. The feedback was generally pretty positive, especially considering it’s only half-done (not even a full first draft). Still, there was some good advice I will take to heart when the editing process begins in earnest.

I did read one of the new Dresden Valentine poems at East Bay Meeting House last night. Too bad if you missed open mic: I’m not posting any of those poems until the collection is done. But I will share the other poem I read, “Afternoon Nap.”

Afternoon Nap

I am not sleepy
But I lay beside her
As the afternoon revolves around us.
Her head a precious weight
on my shoulder.

I drift through thought,
Assembling a puzzle in my head.
Is this the only time she can rest,
When I am here to keep her safe
Through hypnogagic spasms?

The night before,
We had meddled with the clocks.
They took their revenge
By disrupting our rhythms
Then vanishing from sight.

Time dissolves,
Daylight is ignored.
She murmurs
Wraps her arms tighter
As I stroke her hair.

I know she must get up soon
To start a new pattern
Reestablish a cycle.
Time is not our ally,
But I am letting her sleep.

This weekend I’ll be in Lake Wylie, SC, for the Gypsy Meltdown. Three days of contra dancing, no phone or computer. Sounds like a good time.

Trepidation and other updates

Tango Girls has been out for a few days now, and today I finally had my first honest-to-goodness sale. I have to admit I was a little nervous waiting. That was in the Smashwords store, which is my preferred venue even though it is relatively obscure as a retail outlet. I haven’t sold any on Amazon’s Kindle Store, even though that was the source of almost half my sales for Folly Beach Love Story.

Looking at this optimistically, it should be noted that the book has yet to be approved by Smashwords (they have had some larger concerns this past week, what with PayPal threatening to cut them off). What this means is that the book is not promoted on Smashwords. More importantly, it is not yet made available to the other big retailers,  most notably Apple and Barnes and Noble (the latter had as many sales for me as did Amazon). In the internet age, you have to give people what they want in the format they want from the store they want, so I need to wait until it hits those retailers before I really push hard in marketing. But, I remind you that it is half off if you buy it directly from Smashwords.

Now, there are other projects afoot. In addition to the Haiku Project (which I finally got around to posting updates for today) I am working on a very short collection of poems about the bombing of Dresden in WWII. I have that song that I’ve pledged to write by the end of this month, and I have my regular writing prompt group to curate.

If that’s not enough, next weekend I am going to Gypsy Meltdown for three days of Contra dancing. If you’re going, leave me a comment. Perhaps we can find each other in line.

Post-Game Show

Last night was my poetry reading, and it went great. Although there was some mix-up with the timing, so I didn’t get to read as many as I’d hoped to. But what I did read was very well received, and in that packed house I think I might have picked up a couple of new fans. I read a bunch of old favorites:

And I read two new pieces “Contra” and “Shack Life.”

I’ve got a couple more announcements that I’ll be posting tomorrow or Thursday. But for now, here’s a little surprise treat for you. I’ve been contra dancing, and the weekend before last, some of the contra folks did a flash mob-style gathering downtown. And there’s video! And guess who’s in it! (Hint: you might see someone familiar at about the 20-second mark.)

Check out the other two vids as well.

Talk soon!

 

 

Writing Prompt, 11/7

For this week’s prompt, I bent the rules a little in my favor. See, usually I try to make the prompt something completely random, so that we are all working from the same base. It was one year ago yesterday that I arrived here in Charleston, and I felt like I was not taking the time to fully appreciate that. So I set the prompt to force myself to do so.

Hence, our prompt for this week is

Anniversary

I also have some new stuff to post, including one that might be my favorite thing I’ve written. Since I’m all about branding and building traffic and networks, and to give each thing it’s own chance to shine, I’ll post those over the next few days. So stay tuned.

In other news, I went contra dancing last Friday. It was an absolute fucking blast! I highly recommend it to anyone. It’s extremely friendly to newcomers, and the music at its base is infectious to say the least. Try it!

Tango, or tan-stop?

I told you before that I wanted to try tango, and Saturday was the day. In the morning, I took a tango fundamentals class (two actually), where I learned the basic 8-count of tango, as well as the ocho and how to do a turn. All fun stuff, and it seemed like I picked it up quickly. I was told that I had two things going for me that a lot of beginners do not: I have a good sense of rhythm, and I have good leg strength.

The latter is important because in order to make things look smooth in tango, you are putting most of your weight on the ball of one foot. If your legs aren’t strong, you step flat-footed, or distribute weight between two feet, which makes it harder to pivot or transition between positions. At any rate, after 3 hours of lessons I felt like I really had a handle on the basics.

Then on Saturday night I went to the milonga.

It is hard to explain how clumsy and inept I felt at times. I thought I knew what I was doing, but often I would put my partner on the wrong foot, or just generally frustrate them with my hesitancy or plain old lack of skill. Other times, with people that were in my class, I felt like I was teaching my partner, like I knew what I was doing or something. But there were one or two times, when I had a good, experienced partner, where everything fell into place and it seemed like magic and elation.

Last night my friend Glenda asked me if I was going to stick with tango. I had to think about that answer. The people at the milonga all told me I should keep practicing with it, go to the Tuesday lessons. That could be because there are not many men at those things, and almost none that are my age (or whatever age they perceive me to be). I will definitely keep pursuing it, but right now that is more from a desire to master the skill than for pure love of the art form. But I also wonder what will happen when I do develop some mastery, and some comfort: will the love come once I reach the place where I no longer have to think about what I’m doing? What will I receive when I am ready to let go and feel my way through the dance, and can connect with and guide my partner without words?

I am curious to found out.

Milonga!

This weekend I had the great pleasure of hosting two Tango Girls J and Z (Jenn and Zoe), the later of whom I had not met before. They took over my place with the most delightful chaos, as Tango Girls are prone to do.

There were here to go to a milonga, which is a tango party. And they invited me to tag along even though I know nothing about dancing tango. But Zoe said to me: “if you can walk, you can tango.” She told me that tango is much like pushing a wheelbarrow. You lean in, and walk, and the woman follows.

So we get there, and there’s about 25 people, mostly women. I watched for a bit, Jenn and Zoe introduced me to some people, letting them know I hadn’t ever danced tango before. And then a woman named Ann asked me if I wanted to dance. I said, I’ve never done it and she replied, “Do you know how to walk?”

“I do,” I replied, “and quite well.”

“Then you can do this.”

And with that, we proceeded around the dance floor. She give me a few pointers (keep your feet close together but don’t look down, steer by leaning with your chest…) and off we went in an open embrace (hands on elbows). We made it all the way around the floor without incident or injury.

It’s traditional in a milonga to dance three-to-four songs (which is called a tonda), but Ann and I only danced the one, as the cortina (the song between tondas, which indicates it’s time to change partners) began. I took a seat with Jenn and Zoe, and pointed out a woman across the room who I knew vaguely from open mic. She came over and said hello, and we repeated the lines about walking.

At that point however, there was a demonstration by a very experienced couple. It was interesting to watch. And after, I danced with Zoe. She was an instructor, and it showed: she covered up my clumsiness, and gave me a lot of good tips. And she deftly found a way to lead while I guided her. Usually the man takes a step and the woman steps backwards in response. But she took the steps backward first, so I followed to fill the void left by her step. It was so subtle I didn’t even realize it at first. By the end of that song, I was leading her around the floor. (And there’s a poem or essay or something brewing in response to that.)

When that song was done, she told me “You should ask the poetry person.” So I went over, and asked her if she wanted to walk with me. She did, and we did, and I discovered that she’s a big fan of my poetry, especially “Verdant.” She encouraged me to keep practicing, because I was able to walk on the beat, something not too many first-timers can do. (Hey, just telling you what she told me!)

I danced a couple more times with Zoe, and then it was time to go. I didn’t dance with Jenn, she was pretty much always on the floor with someone else. But it fascinating to see her out there: her expression and movement was so serious, which is completely the opposite of her outside of a dance.

So, anyway, I danced. In public. With women. And I think I’ll do it again. The place has lessons on Tuesdays, so maybe I’ll look into that after improv class is done. I’ll keep you posted.

This is How I Fail

When I started this blog, the intent was to share both the triumphs and the failures of this experiment. And I’ve been fortunate enough that things I’ve had to share have been more of the former than the latter. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t some failures, and I’d like to relate one right now.

Last night, Lynn and I went to a party. A big party, easily 50+ people inside this massive, sprawling house in Mt. Pleasant. Now, just going, for me, is a bold action. Big crowds like that, where I need to interact instead of entertain, is not my milieu at all. So right off I was outside of my comfort zone, and I am going use that as something of an excuse for what followed.

It turned out that I actually knew quite a few of the people from various meet-ups I have been to. Dawn was there, which was an unexpected treat: we hadn’t had a chance to discuss her trip to Haiti, and I was very curious to hear about it. She was the first of several people to ask me if I wanted to dance, and the first to whom I lied about it. (Or perhaps the second, after myself.)

I don’t dance. Or I don’t like dancing. Or that doesn’t look like fun to me.

I don’t? Why the fuck not? How the hell do I even know I don’t like it? Those people sure looked like they were having fun.

I even told myself another lie: I can’t dance. There’s that word: can’t. I may not have known the actual dances those people were doing, because they were doing some group things with specific steps. But that doesn’t mean that I physically cannot do it, or even that I don’t know how to dance.

I simply chose not to, because I was afraid.

As I said before, I was already outside of my comfort zone, and stepping further away seemed too daunting at the time. But I am disappointed in myself, which tells me that I failed to live my truth. I let my vanity get the better of me: ego won out over appropriate action. Fear of embarrassment overruled my sense for adventure.

Therefore, my next challenge is to dance. I don’t yet know the shape or form, but it has to be in public. Party, club, bar, whatever. It has to be a mix of people I know and people I don’t.

I will keep you posted.