Christmas of the Subs

As I’ve mentioned before, I love substitute teachers. Y. is going on vacation before Christmas, so the last two jazz classes of the year will be taught by Frodo and Jay respectively, both of whom we’ve had before. Today, Y. called in sick but managed to find a replacement. She always does – she’s great.

I have never had class with this particular sub, whom I’ll call Opal. She was great. I always enjoy doing things differently in class and so I liked her quite a bit.

I don’t think she liked me back.

I am, have always been and am likely to remain, a mouthy bastard. Not in a confrontational way – it’s just when something interesting occurs to me, I feel an urge to share it with the world because it’s, well, interesting.

In dancing, most interesting things that manifest in my head belong to the category of verbal descriptions of moves, steps and techniques. I cannot, for the life of me, learn anything by seeing it done. I have to have it explained to me, do it myself, understand it and, if appropriate, explain it back at the person who explained it to me so that they can confirm that I have, indeed, understood it. I realise this can be annoying. My teachers realise it’s essential to my own understanding and not an attempt to undermine their authority. I probably should’ve explained myself to Opal, though.

It was the pas-de-bourrées that did it. In Regular Jazz Class with Y., we usually do them in one spot. Opal did them across the floor, moving forward quite a bit. I was able to follow, but it felt weirdly different. After trampling around in the corner while the other group was having at it, I figured out the exact difference in the execution of the step. It was simple: we usually pull the front leg back to stay in place and Opal had us pulling the back leg towards the front to move. Once I got it, I could do the step reliably because I knew what I was doing instead of just running on instinct.

Having made this admittedly brilliant discovery (step forward = going forward is mind-blowing, frankly), I had to share it. A couple of others actually found it helpful. Opal, however, told me that we just had to learn to do the steps in different ways and the fact that we usually didn’t do it in this particular way excused us from precisely nothing. And she insisted on telling me that again after every following exercise.

She was right, of course. I’m sure it sounded a lot like an accusatory «But we don’t usually do it this way!». I expressed myself inadequately (if I had a penny…) and she probably took it personally. If I see her again, I’ll apologise. Or maybe she’ll meet the other subs one day and complain about me and they’ll tell her that the way to deal with annoying dorks is to tell them to shut up at their own leisure and just do the damn exercise.

Or maybe, you know, she’ll have forgotten me and all my dorksplaining by now.

Have you ever accidentally or purposefully antagonise a teacher?

4 thoughts on “Christmas of the Subs

  1. Never purposefully, but accidentally quite a few times. I am a mouthy bastard, too. I do not want to annoy people, but I often need to get things straight in my head, before I can actually do them. Telling myself how to do a certain step can be helpful if I am practising on my own, but I agree that it can be annoying in class.

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  2. We’re currently getting a different sub every class. Last night’s is German and insisted on doing a full révérence to finish the class. Also called me out for “trying everything and giving everything”, which I would take as an insult from a Brit but maybe not from a German.

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  3. À YR: the Germans I’ve known have definitely been the sort say “trying everything and giving everything” as a compliment (rather than that strange, backhanded, “Well, he *tried* hard…” sort of sense)!

    Also a mouthy bastard, here, and I never think to just tape my mouth shut or what have you before class. I need it for breathing, anyway, because of my stupid nose and it’s stupid congestion.

    Anyway, I’m forever asking questions that seem dumb after I ask them (DanseurIgnoble, incredulously: “Wait, it’s balancé *under?!*”) and announcing things to myself out loud (“Oh! It’s to fifth and then chasée to fourth, not just straight tombé to fourth!” or “Oh! There’s a little glissade changée! Got it!” or “Argh! The feet DON’T CHANGE!” after I change them automatically for the third time).

    I also turn choreography into little songs and find myself singing them *sotto voce* as I’m running through the combinations.

    I suspect that in my case this is because I’m largely a non-verbal thinker, so I’m forever translating non-verbal thoughts into verbal thoughts, but I tend to do so by actually talking. This helps with abstractions and sometimes helps crystallize fine details. The songs come about because I’m terrible at remembering words *unless* they’re set to music, in which case I’ll never forget them even if I have no idea what they mean (and even if I have them wrong, “gaudent in coelis *omnivar* sanctorum,” frealz?).

    Regardless, I’m sure my running commentary is probably intensely annoying at times.

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  4. Yes, I do those little comments, too! Fortunately for my classmates, *if* I recite something, I do it under my breath, which makes me screw up my face in funny ways but is at least soundless.
    I can remember words well, but translating them into dancing, not so much. I can memorise a combination verbally and still have absolutely no idea how to do it. The positions will be correct, but my ways of getting from one to another will get ever more creative – or I’ll just stop dancing altogether in order to figure out how exactly I was supposed to get from tendu into the pirouette preparation in fourth… A proper description, a verbal breakdown of a single step is very useful for me to understand it. But to remember a series of steps after understanding each one, I have to do them or imagine myself doing them and no amount of words helps. It seems my dance memory is pretty much uncoupled from my verbal one. Which is a pity, because my verbal memory is good and I’m very much a verbal thinker… so just the opposite from you! All the words in normal life, no words in ballet. Sigh.
    At least Opal doesn’t hate me anymore, as I’ve found out.


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