We went up to Atlanta last night to attend a dance at Academy Ballroom (home of our instructor Eddie and many of his talented brethren & sistren). At the dance, the hosts were putting on a Jack & Jill competition as part of their ongoing project to crown “Atlanta’s Best Social Dancer.” Jack & Jills are well known to West Coast Swing dancers but little practiced in the ballroom world. In a Jack & Jill, you dance with a randomly chosen partner rather than with your regular partner. There’s no choreography and no preparation time. The pair of you rely on your shared vocabulary of steps, musicality, and respective ability to lead and follow. The instructors are doing a Jack & Jill at each monthly dance between now and October. Those who place in the top five accumulate points toward being the overall winner, who gets a mini mirror-ball trophy à la Dancing with the Star. Cue Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction: “I want to dance. I want to win. I want that trophy.” The top three each month also get prizes: last night’s prizes were a free dance admission (3rd), a shoe bag (2nd), and a free private lesson (1st).
Last month, in the first installment of the J&J, the chosen dance was East Coast Swing. Our friend JoyDawn won the competition! Not surprising, because she is awesome. This month, the dance was the foxtrot—our nemesis. I did not have high hopes for Daniel or myself, especially when I noticed that nearly twice as many women as men had entered. In the first round, some of the men, including Daniel, danced twice so that all the ladies would have a chance to dance. Of course, I did not dance with Daniel since he is my regular partner. I was in the second group to dance and my partner knew a lot of steps that I didn’t know. I felt like I wasn’t following very well, but I tried to keep up while keeping my posture strong and my frame in position. Daniel danced with a couple of beginners and said later that he hadn’t felt very confident either. This is the challenge of Jack & Jill: unless you both happen to know a lot of the same steps, you have to rely on lead and follow.
I knew Daniel would get through to the final but I was surprised when I did, too. JoyDawn also made the cut and so did her partner Jim. Ten leads and ten follows were chosen and then randomly assigned to NEW partners. No one danced with the same person in both rounds. There were 2 or 3 husband-and-wife pairs in the final, which required some maneuvering so that no one got to dance with his or her spouse. Finally we were all paired up and off we went. Daniel was with Ann Yearian, an all-around superstar. She runs the consignment boutique at Academy, dances pro-am with Eddie, and regularly lays beat-downs on Daniel and me when dancing with her husband Thomas. My partner (whom I didn’t know at all—Hi, “Chad,” if that is your real name…) was really good. He asked me about what steps I knew and I just said I could fake a lot. Everyone knows steps by different names, and the truth is that I can follow steps I don’t technically know if I have a strong leader. He started out just doing basic Bronze steps for a couple of walls but then went into some Silver basics. We didn’t dance perfectly but we didn’t trip over each other’s feet, either. I just stayed left, stretched away, and smiled like a maniac till the song was over. It was fun!
After a few general dances they announced the top 5. Unlike in the semifinal, where they called back individuals, for the placements they placed couples. Daniel and Ann came in 5th, hooray! Jim and his partner came in first, which surprised me not at all because he is such a great technician. And Chad somehow led me into 2nd, at which I was surprised and quite pleased. So now I have 5 points toward this mini mirror-ball trophy, and I have a new shoe bag with the Bama Ballroom Classic logo on it. A triumphant night for team DLDancers. Next month is the cha-cha. Can’t wait!