First off, as promised, the part that upset me towards the end of the Rhythm section. Here are the empirical facts. I submitted a question (yes, for those of you there, the anonymous question was in fact me), where I asked the following: "Is it ever technically correct to step forward on a press line in the rumba/cha cha basic, or should you get to a flat foot as soon as you arrive?" The question was met with some hostility not only from members of the panel but also coaches in the audience, and after some belittling (John DePalma noted that "the panel wants to know if whoever asked this question missed every lecture today"), the only answer that was given was "No" without specifying what part of the question that "No" was aimed at.
Some disclaimers from me: my understanding of a press line is that you step forward onto the ball of your foot but you're still split weight, which I thought was in keeping with Bob Powers' talk on how to transfer your weight. This is how I was taught, what was drilled into my body, during my private lessons with an Arthur Murray a year and a half ago, and it's the technique that I've been developing ever since. In the rumba and cha, I step forward in a press line, then use the "and" count to lower the heel and straighten the leg. If this is just blatantly incorrect according to every coach that ever existed in Rhythm and I was led astray by a rogue teacher, then that's fine. I'm totally willing to accept that.
I posed the question after Bob Powers' talk because it was a point I needed clarification on. Taliat Tarsinov sort of answered it in his talk after I had submitted the question (by saying that it's a legitimate option), but at that point I couldn't take the question back.
I could have accepted being told I was wrong if it had come with an explanation of why it was wrong and what a better way of looking at it would have been. But what really hurt was that I'm a student. I've only been dancing for two and a half years, and I came to this Congress to learn from the best of the best who've been at it for far longer than I have. I posed that question because I needed clarification, but all I got in return was hostility and a brusque "No" from professionals who I had hoped would help me, and now I'm even more confused than before. What was the "No" for, whether it's ever technically correct or whether you should arrive on a flat foot as soon as you get there? What's wrong about arriving on a press line with split weight if you follow it up with a lowering of the heel and a straightening of the leg after that delayed hip action? I came away from that question and answer session feeling confused, belittled and a bit stupid, and to make it worse, all because of professional dancers that I looked up to. Not a great feeling.
After that, a question was posed about who teaches the SAM technique, at which point Sam Sodano, the leading proponent of the technique, took the floor, explaining how unfair it was to ask the panel that question when he was the one who came up with the methodology. He was a bit heavy-handed in his answer, to the point where he made it almost sound like "you're either with me or against me." It was just a bit much, especially when the intention behind the creation of the technique was so good (to help unify a style that was previously rather scattershot and looked down upon). Again, perhaps I came in biased because of the discussion on the Facebook group, but any interest I might have had in his technique, he kind of scared away with his forceful response.
Aside from these two points, the day overall was fantastic. It reaffirmed my love for Smooth and Rhythm and my identity as an American dancer, and it made me eager not only to get back into the studio and work on my own growth as a dancer, but also to help share what I learned and inspire interest and excitement in my fellow collegiate amateur ballroom dancers. That's why I wrote these blogs, to help share some of the things that I know will help me in my own journey as a ballroom dancer, with all of this amazing advice from folks at the absolute top of their games.
If I know you in person, I'll see you at the studio or on the competition floor, hopefully as a better dancer and partner for all of the amazing advice I received from my idols today. Thank you to all of the wonderful lecturers and demonstrators -- I hope to make you proud as a dancer someday.