Dancing with Alec the Bard - Alec Lachman

Samantha StoutJune 28, 2023Ballroom Chat: Episode #67
alec lachman ballroom chat

In Episode 67 of Ballroom Chat, Alec Lachman, aka Alec the Bard, explores the connection between ballroom dance and TTRPGs. Samantha and Alec discuss the process behind creating a mask or character, tips for improvisational storytelling, the importance of failing epically, and how to navigation conflict resolution.

Alec Lachman is a professional ballroom dancer and TTRPG content creator.

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:00] Samantha: Welcome back to another episode of Ballroom Chat, the podcast dedicated to sharing the dance journey. I'm your host Samantha with Love Live Dance. Today on the podcast we have Alec Lachman. He is a professional ballroom dancer, and he's also a TTRPG content creator. Uh, if you're not sure what TTRPG stands for, that is tabletop role playing games. Uh, if you wanna think about Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, uh, he creates content related to those both on social media and, uh, live play through Twitch and YouTube.

Today we got to talk about the overlap between the ballroom dance community and the tabletop role playing community. Um, there are a lot of through lines that we see both in performance and storytelling, conflict resolution, inner party, uh, management or partnership communication. And it was just fun to get to talk to someone that is passionate about both of those worlds. Um, I myself have been a TTRPG player since college, and I can see. How impactful and how important it is to have a little bit of that theater improv role playing, uh, background in ballroom dancing and how well the two overlap.

So just a really fun conversation with Alec the Bard, uh, today. So I hope you enjoy our conversation.

Well, thank you Alec, so much for being a guest on today's podcast.

[00:01:42] Alec: Thank you so much for having me. I'm excited to be here.

[00:01:44] Samantha: Yeah. So I mentioned in the intro that you are part professional ballroom dancer and part TTRPG DM extraordinaire. Um, I like to start off all of these episodes normally saying, how did you get into the ballroom dance industry? But I think because we've kind of got these two sides of your professional career, um, which came first, the dancing or the role play gaming.

[00:02:14] Alec: Well, so I've always been playing, I've been playing Dungeons and Dragons since I was a kid. Um, but, uh, as far as like doing it professionally, ballroom dancing came first. Um, I started, uh, professionally ballroom dancing in 2017 for Fred Astaire, uh, after I was conned into it. Um, and uh, then when Covid hit, that's when I started, um, like making content online because the dance studio was closed. So I had nothing else to do.

[00:02:41] Samantha: Yeah. Okay. So, so let's talk then about the dancing first.

[00:02:45] Alec: Mm-hmm.

[00:02:46] Samantha: Um, so you said you were conned into it. Tell me

[00:02:48] Alec: Yes.

[00:02:49] Samantha: Take me back to that moment. Did you dance beforehand or was this just like, Hey, I've got a job for you and I think this might be cool.

[00:02:55] Alec: So I have been like dancing and performing since I figured out I was bad at sports, uh, back in the day. Uh, and my, uh, one of my closest friends, um, he had started working for Fred Astaire when I went off to college and he had always been trying to get me to come in. He's like, you'd be really great at this. You know, you know how to dance, you know, from, you know, all of the theater and everything like that.

You should come in and try this. And I was, I was like, no, I'm gonna go do this and that and the other thing. And then, uh, I had left college. Um, I had finished my acting program and I had no idea what I was gonna do. And, um, he had called me one night and was like, Hey, you should come to karaoke with me and my Fred Astaire friends.

And I was like, they sound weird, but, all right. Um, and so I went and truly it was a setup. Because like the, the boss of the studio was there and all the other dancers were there, and they were all there telling me how much fun it was and this and that, the other thing. And it was basically a job interview that I didn't know I was having.

Um, and then they were like, all right, we'll see you at the studio next week. And I was like, what?

[00:03:59] Samantha: Wait a second.

[00:04:00] Alec: You got the job. And I was like, um, okay. Like I had, I didn't have a job, like right out of school, you know, I was like bus, like serving tables and bussing and bussing and stuff like that. But like, I was like, this could be fun. And that's literally how I kind of got conned into it. Fell into the job. Um, they lured me out with karaoke and drinks and then I ended up being a dance instructor.

[00:04:21] Samantha: That's amazing. That's, that's fantastic. But obviously it was a good fit and it wasn't like,

[00:04:28] Alec: yes.

[00:04:29] Samantha: Oh, what have I done? How can I get out of this now? It was like, okay, well I guess we're going this direction.

[00:04:35] Alec: Yes. That's kind of how I took it. Is it, it was, it was very much like I walked in my first day and they set down a manual about like, you know, this big in front of me and they're like, good luck. And so I was like, you know what? I got nothing else going on.

And then it turned into I was, uh, with them for six, almost seven years. Um, so yeah, I mean, I loved it. Uh, I loved the teaching, I loved the dancing. The whole, like, business of Fred Astaire as a whole was amazing to be a part of. So it, it, it, it seemed to work out. The con worked out.

[00:05:07] Samantha: There you go. There you go. Well, and having that, you know, theater performance background obviously lends itself incredibly well to what we do every day as professional ballroom dancers. Um, how did you find the teaching aspect? Were there any moments where you were like, oh, I, I need to draw on this past experience that I had in order to better connect with this student?

Or were there ever moments where you reached out to someone to be like, okay, how do I actually teach or communicate this concept to the student in this moment?

[00:05:39] Alec: Yeah. Uh, teaching was a, um, I'll ar I'll, I'll honestly say it was bumpy in the beginning because it was like I was teaching, you know, a lot of, um, these days it's a little bit different, but back in like 2017, a lot of the students were like my parents' age.

[00:05:54] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[00:05:55] Alec: Um, and so like being okay with telling people that, look, look at our, like your parents' age, what to do was like a, was a hurdle in the beginning. Um, because you needed to demand respect, you know, and like get them to respect you. Um, and so something I kind of pulled upon was from my directing experience in the theater world is like, you know, cause I had actors of all ages and shows, so just, you know, you pulling on that experience and using it to be like, Hey, I do know what I'm talking about. Um, helps quite a bit. Um, and also just being honest with your students. I, I felt like I, I never felt like I had to do like this whole kind of used car salesman kind of thing to get them to do what I wanted. Like I could just be honest with them and tell them like, what they're doing is not going to help and they need to listen to what I'm saying.

Um, but I was the squeaky wheel in my studio. I was always in my manager's office being like, how do I teach this step? I do not understand why they cannot get it. Please watch my lesson next time to see what I'm doing wrong. Uh, I, there was always a joke in the studio that like if she saw me walk by her window, she knew I was gonna turn around and come right back in cuz I was only walking by to see if she was in there so I could ask her a question.

So I very much all the time, uh, I had no problem asking for help, um, because it only improved what I was doing and improved the studio overall.

[00:07:14] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. And, and kind of going back to the, the comment that you made about, you know, being a director and kind of being into that similar situation. I have to imagine that walking in as a young director with older actors, maybe more experienced actors, you still are kind of put in that position of like, okay, I'm gonna walk in with confidence.

I'm gonna tell you what I do know, but I'm also gonna leave the door open for this to be a two-way conversation with the proper amount of respect so that we can all make this process work as, as seamlessly and smoothly as possible.

[00:07:48] Alec: Right. Right. And I think the major difference between that, it, it helped, but the major difference between it was in the a in the acting space, like everybody's there because they know, like you're the director. I'm in this show. With when in the ballroom space people are like, I'm paying for lessons. You're here to do a service for me. So like getting that same level of respect, respect between the two was kind of a, a juggling act, you know what I mean?

To try to like get them to understand. Um, but I mean, generally, I honestly over the years didn't run into that many like stinkers, you know, people who like, you know, it took some people a little bit to trust you. Especially like the husbands who had, they had, they did not want to be there. They did not, their wives dragged them in. You could see their nail marks along the side of the door. Um, but like even then, it just takes, it takes a little bit of time and for you to prove that you know what you're talking about. Like, I don't think anybody was ever antagonistic to me over the years. I was pretty lucky in that sense. Yeah. Um, but yeah.

[00:08:44] Samantha: That's good. That's, that's good though, that the majority of your experience thus far teaching has been positive and that you've had, it sounds like you had a really good support network around you that was willing to answer those questions and kind of jump in when they saw that you were, you were needing a little bit of extra help or guidance.

[00:09:00] Alec: Oh, yeah. Much to their, uh, chagrin. I was always asking questions. I was always like, all right, these are the things I, messed up this week. Please, uh, help me with this all the time. All the time.

[00:09:13] Samantha: Yeah. So, okay, so we have theater background, we have dance background because of theater background. We get pulled into karaoke. We're teaching, we're performing, we're, we're doing the dance thing, and then 20 20 hits.

[00:09:30] Alec: Yep.

[00:09:31] Samantha: I imagine, I, I think you mentioned at the beginning that D and D and kind of the, the RPG thing was happening in the background as a hobby.

[00:09:41] Alec: Mm-hmm.

[00:09:41] Samantha: So what was, was it really just a matter of the world is shut down, I can't teach, I've got this other thing on the back burner, like maybe I can make content out of it? Or was there something else that was happening behind the scenes?

[00:09:55] Alec: So it was very much like, I've been playing with the same group of people like every Sunday, like for the last, over a decade now. You know what I mean? So it's like, I've always been playing, but I never really. Considered it like a possibility. And then Covid happened and the studio was shut down for, uh, an extended period of time because by the state we were classified as a gym.

[00:10:17] Samantha: Yep.

[00:10:17] Alec: So gyms, you know, were shut down for longer. And so until we got our classification change, we couldn't open. And, uh, my roommate was constantly like poking me. Like, I need to send you this TikTok. I need to send you this TikTok. You need to download TikTok. And I was like, I don't wanna, I don't wanna download TikTok. I don't know what that is.

[00:10:33] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:10:33] Alec: Like, I, I'm an old man, leave me alone. Like, um, and then one day I just downloaded it, you know, and I was like, sure. And I, you know, like everyone else fell into the abyss of scrolling and, um, I like was, you know, talking to my therapist and I was like, I need like an outlet.

I am stuck inside. I can't dance. Like, you know, I'm trying, we teach, we taught these like online lessons, but like being at home and the dogs jumping everywhere and stuff, like, it just wasn't working. And my, um, I had told them about, like, I had been following these D and D creators on TikTok and they're like, why don't you do that?

Why don't you try to make some d d videos? You're funny. And I was like, I guess. And so I tried it. Um, and then I really enjoyed like making the videos and you know, obviously in the beginning they didn't really go anywhere. Um, but then it kind of, uh, snowballed and brought me to kind of where I am today, now three years later.

[00:11:31] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:11:31] Alec: Um, yeah.

[00:11:33] Samantha: That's awesome. Um, I know that there is going to be a segment of our listeners that have somehow gotten this far and are like, what in the world are TT RPGs? So tabletop role playing games. The most famous is Dungeons and Dragons, but there are, there's Pathfinder, there's a bunch of different indie games. There's all sorts of stuff.

[00:11:54] Alec: Mm-hmm.

[00:11:55] Samantha: The fact that you said you had a regular game with the same party for a decade is incredible. Like that, that does not happen.

[00:12:07] Alec: No, it doesn't happen. No. Very, very, very, uh, rarely does it happen, but we always kept, it was always, it's always Sunday at 7:00 PM and whether we're playing in person at my house or we're playing on, uh, like Discord or Zoom or something like that. Like we get together on Sundays. That's just the way it has been and we've missed one or two here and there.

[00:12:26] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:12:27] Alec: Um, but like, it's always been that way.

[00:12:29] Samantha: That's incredible. And did you start back in the 3.5 or even earlier days?

[00:12:34] Alec: 3.5.

[00:12:35] Samantha: Okay.

[00:12:36] Alec: Three point, 3.5. We, we played around with like 3.5 and we tried Pathfinder when it came out and stuff like that. And then we switched over to 5E. Um, and we've played a couple other games, like in the interim.

[00:12:46] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:12:47] Alec: Um, but every Sunday,

[00:12:49] Samantha: that's amazing.

[00:12:49] Alec: Like clockwork.

[00:12:50] Samantha: That's amazing. So you start producing content. Um, I also am an old person by today's standard. Uh, so I don't have TikTok, so I only know you through the Instagram space.

Um, the algorithm is creepy some days where it was like, oh, you're a ballroom dancer and on your personal page you also talk about Dungeons and Dragons, so here's this page that we really think you're gonna appreciate. Um, and that's how I kind of got introduced to you. And then it was suddenly, you know, after a couple of your, um, DM uh, themed reels, it was like, oh, and by the way, he also ballroom dances. It's like, Wait a second. What?

[00:13:36] Alec: What?

[00:13:39] Samantha: Which was great because at that point I was working in Utah. I was teaching in Utah and my current dance partner and I were playing Dungeons and Dragons together.

[00:13:49] Alec: Nice.

[00:13:49] Samantha: We have some students that are also in the T T R P G space and that was, that was a just a thing, which was strange that so many of us were in the same combined, like dual hobby space.

[00:14:02] Alec: Right, right.

[00:14:03] Samantha: So I guess my question to you is, do you have a, a leading theory, do you have an idea of why there is so much overlap between the ballroom dancing community or the dancer community at large and the role playing improv theater end of the world?

[00:14:23] Alec: Well, I think it's, I think it's because we all like to play, pretend, you know what I mean? And we all like to like get that. That feeling of stepping into someone else's shoes. You know, it's, it's very similar with dancing, with acting, those types of things. It's like you get to kind of put on this mask for X amount of time and go do this thing. Um, and I think it's, so, it's a very easy transition, you know, once you learn the rules, of course.

But the rules are more like guidelines than actual rules. Um, but like, once you learn the rules, it's a very easy transition to kind of go into it. And because of 2020 and because of Covid, D and D and tabletop games saw like a resurgence mm-hmm. Because people were bored out of their minds. They've watched everything on Netflix.

They were looking for someone like something to do. And so, um, D and D blew up, tabletop, uh, games blew up because people had access to their computers and could video call with their friends and play. And so I think those, it was kind of a perfect storm, um, because they, even within my region of Fred Astaire here in Wisconsin, Um, there is like a, like a core group of like 10 dancers from the different studios and we'll all get together, you know, not all 10 at once, but here and there, uh, to play d and d together.

So it's very much like that same kind of vibe as we all get to, like, to put on a mask and be somebody else for like two hours or what have you. Um, but also just, um, enjoying telling a good story cuz dancing's all about telling a story. Acting and performing's all about telling a story and tabletop RPGs are the same thing you're just doing it with dice.

[00:15:51] Samantha: Yeah, for sure. And I, I wanna kind of dive a little bit deeper into that. So some of the advice that I've given students over the years that are looking to start competing, and it's something that, um, even, you know, past coaches that have been on the podcast have mentioned is like, go take an improv class because if you're having trouble performing on a competition stage or performing in a showcase like, just taking a couple of theater classes, a couple of improv classes really will elevate your ability to go there super quickly. Um, and I think anyone that's played D and D knows that that's what you do every single week, just on a smaller scale. So what are some of the lessons that you've learned over the years that you can immediately tie to o either your own experience performing or you can see the growth in students that have tried it?

[00:16:41] Alec: So the, the, I think the biggest thing, like the biggest tip I had for students when it came to performing, and it's something that kind of worked the most, it seems really silly. Um, but, you know, I would have specifically, I have this example of this one guy who was former like semi-professional football player, like big dude.

And he just could not get into the headspace of like where he wanted to be to dance with his, with his, uh, wife when they were dancing Chacha or Rumba and stuff like that. And what I told him, and I was like, all right, what movies do you like? And he listed off this bunch of movies and I was like, I want you to pick a character from each of those movies that has like, what you believe, not what I believe, because the way I view Chacha and Rumba is different from the way you view Chacha and Rumba. Pick a character from, uh, like those movies and like, that's who you're gonna be for this minute and a half when you're out there dancing Chacha with your wife.

And he picked, uh, Daniel Craig, um, as James Bond specifically for Chacha. And like he wa he had this, this different swagger when he walked in. He was trying to do his best Bond walk. But like, and then I, I kind of kept repeating that process with students is like picking the, giving them, uh, giving them the mask, giving them a screen to pull in front of themselves. And that just kind of gives people a little bit of extra freedom from kind of their own judgment. Cuz you know, you're, you're a teacher, you know, they put so much judgment on themselves all the time through all of their lessons, their performances, everything like that. So kind of taking that away, like they're kind of taking their identity a little bit out of it and putting a character in front of it, um, helped so much. And I mean, that's exactly what acting is. You know, that's exactly what TT RPGs are, is you're, you're playing this character opposed to just being yourself out there.

[00:18:20] Samantha: Absolutely.

[00:18:20] Alec: That makes sense.

[00:18:21] Samantha: Absolutely. And, and I love that you're using that as like, uh, a helpful rail for them to kind of hold onto as like, okay, we're gonna put this mask over. And then I think with experience and time, just like at the D and D table, you start to realize, okay, this villain that I'm playing, maybe I'm not a hundred percent like them. I hope I'm not a hundred percent like them, but there's a little nugget of truth in there. There's like something about my own personality that I'm trying to explore or, you know,

[00:18:59] Alec: mm-hmm.

[00:18:59] Samantha: The, the lawful good Paladin, like, maybe I'm not that extreme, but there's this little nugget of my personality that I'm putting in there to be able to flush out, and you can do the same thing and dance. Maybe I'm not, you know, Daniel Craig or Harrison Ford when I'm dancing with my wife, but maybe there's a little bit in there that I can see, okay, what, what can I learn from this experience that I can pull into my own life? Or what am I put, what am from my own life am I putting into this mask when I'm on the dance floor?

[00:19:33] Alec: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I mean, it, it's like you said, it gives them like the space so that they can express themselves, but it's like gives them that little bit of distance. So it's like, you know, even if, you know Mr. Mr. Jones overhears moves his hips more than he's used to, cuz he is a little bit more comfortable, he doesn't kind of judge himself for it. Um, you know, it just gives them a little bit more freedom and space. And then eventually they kind of develop their own, you know, character while they're out on the floor as well.

Because like you said, they, they, there's this nugget of themselves that they want to put into it. Um, but they need that kind of excuse to pretend to be someone else in the beginning.

[00:20:10] Samantha: For sure. And I think, you know, the dances have these archetypical characters that I think we're kind of trained to look for when we're watching someone to perform.

So as teachers, it's very easy for us to be like, okay, these are the colors and themes of rumba, or these are the colors of themes of chacha. How do you interpret the same music? How do you interpret the same move? And then what can we kind of create around what we're expecting to see? And also what you feel comfortable like per presenting.

[00:20:43] Alec: Right, right. And it, and it's, and it's, for me personally as a teacher, it was, I, of course, have my own ideas of these dances and my own, and like what I've been trained and what my coaches have said and all these things. Like I, in what I, you know, the, the dancers that I watch and I really enjoy, like I know what they do.

But at the end of the day, it's like, it was maybe like a year into my teaching career where I, like, I. I couldn't get this one particular student to kind of like, move in the way that I wanted them to like, and like to kind of show it. And I was like, because that doesn't, and it, I reached this conclusion that I was like, it doesn't work for them.

That's just not their vibe. And like we, together, the two of us, kind of found a way for them to perform that was much more them. And they, and they looked better than I could have ever, like you thought they would because they were comfortable, you know? And so that was a, that was a harder lesson to learn in the beginning to just kind of like let go, you know what I mean?

Because you wanna do, well, you wanna help your students, you wanna make sure them the best they could be. But sometimes you just kind of, kind of back off a bit and let them do their thing. And you, I was so surprised, like numerous times where they would show you, they would impress me and show me something that I didn't even expect to happen.

And so it's that, it's that playing the, the, the another balancing game of like, I'm gonna help you, but I have to make sure that I'm not trying to make you, me. You know what I mean? Because you will not, you'll not look, you won't look like me. You won't look like them or them. You're gonna look like you when you're dancing. And so we wanna make sure that you're not trying to be somebody else.

[00:22:14] Samantha: Yeah. Well, and that has such then overlapped to what we see at the table, right? Like as a dm, you're, you're, you've got a world that you're building and you've got a story that you're trying to tell. But if you present the players with a scenario, you then have to be like, all right, what do you guys wanna make of this? I've got ideas of where I want you to go with it, but maybe you're just gonna take a left turn and that's your story then to tell.

[00:22:42] Alec: Undoubtedly they'll make a left turn. Undoubtedly that's, there's, I've given up on planning. Planning doesn't exist anymore. Um, but yeah, it's that, it's having that flexibility and that kind of improvisation kind of chops to be able to just roll with it because I can put a dragon in front of you, but you're probably gonna become his friend. And then find out it has lost children. And then you're gonna, you're not gonna save the town from the dragon. You're gonna save the baby dragons. It's. You can never, you can never paint everybody with the same brush.

You might as well just like sit there and watch them paint for a bit, and it's much more entertaining. You just put the canvas up and let 'em go.

[00:23:17] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. And, and I think, you know, I'm, I, I'm gonna circle back to kind of the archetypes that you and I think of when we think of dances. But I'm also gonna put the caveat out there that some of the best movie performances or some of the best theater performances are when actors decide to go against type.

Right? When they're presented with a character that you're like, okay, I know what to expect from this character. And then they flip the script and turn their performance in a completely different direction. It's like, oh, that was interesting.

[00:23:50] Alec: That was cool. Yeah.

[00:23:51] Samantha: Yeah. So, um, you did a, uh, series, a short series on, um, Ballroom dances as D and D characters.

[00:24:01] Alec: Oh, yes, yes,

[00:24:03] Samantha: Yes. And some of them I agree with. Some of them, you know, maybe not so much. Um, but yeah, so for, I, I imagine that most of the listeners at this point are sticking around because they are also a T T R P G nerd like we are. So, um, let's, let's start at the top. You said Paladin as waltz. Why?

[00:24:29] Alec: Yes.

[00:24:30] Samantha: So what about waltz and Paladin make sense to go together for you?

[00:24:35] Alec: So for me it was, it was not only like the. Mainly cuz for when I think of waltz, I think of reverence.

[00:24:43] Samantha: Mm.

[00:24:43] Alec: There's like a certain level of reverence to waltz for me personally. And so, like, when I think of a Paladin and a Paladin is a, uh, is a warrior of a certain God. You know what I mean? They are connected through a, a, not a deal, not like a warlock, but you know what I mean. They're connected to a, a, a deity and typically they are the good guys. Some people like to take 'em a little dark, but typically they're the power rangers, you know, they're the superman, they're like the, the good boys who's gonna get the job done right? And, uh, and so that level of reverence that I feel like a Paladin player has and the level of reverence that a, that the waltz has kind of matches. But also because usually, at least in my experience, the paladins are kind of like the gentle giants of the group.

[00:25:23] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[00:25:23] Alec: Like, they'll, they'll kick butt when they need to, but in the meantime they're like amongst their friends and amongst the the party. They're the, they're the healers, they're the gentle giants. And so that kind of. Gentleness that I also feel from waltz, that reverence and that gentleness together is kind of why I picked Paladin mostly.

[00:25:40] Samantha: Yeah. I, I would a thousand percent agree with that. And I think especially if you're looking at International Waltz versus American Waltz, I feel like yeah, it's the classic. It's, it's, it, it is the most, um, foundational dance that we all come back to, to say like, okay, this is, this is the through line that you're gonna see in all of the other dances that we go to. Um, so having it kind of be that, like holier than thou like point of truth and purity, I think.

[00:26:15] Alec: Right.

[00:26:15] Samantha: I think makes a lot of sense. Um, Bolero

[00:26:20] Alec: mm-hmm.

[00:26:20] Samantha: I think you went with Druid, this is, this is where we're gonna start to switch paths a little bit.

[00:26:28] Alec: Okay. So, okay.

[00:26:29] Samantha: So defend Druid as Bolero or Bolero as Druid.

[00:26:33] Alec: Oh God. Uh, I have to check the description of why I picked up one off the top of my head. I'm like, I'm like, oh. Um, I believe it. It was because, um, it was, it's kind of a jump, it's kind of a reach, but it, because of the way that druids, it's lend themselves to, uh, being like a support caster, but also an aggressive caster.

[00:26:56] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[00:26:56] Alec: Um, and I also have the ability to perform or not perform, uh, to, um, transform, right.

[00:27:01] Samantha: Shape shift. Yeah.

[00:27:02] Alec: Bolero is a fusion in my, I've always said of two dances.

[00:27:05] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[00:27:05] Alec: Boleros very much a, you take Rumba and Walt and you kind of put 'em in a jar and you shake it up, you get Bolero, you know, and so it's like having those kind of two very stark differences like the Rumba and the waltz. You know, we have the reverence of the waltz, and we have the, the sexiness and the romance of Rumba. We put 'em together. We have the support of the druid and the combat nature of the druid. We put 'em together. You gotta druid. So, uh, that's, that was kind of where I was going with it. Why do you disagree? I would, I would like to know.

[00:27:34] Samantha: So I, when I look at Bolero, I see exactly what you're saying. You, you have the, the two worlds colliding. You have this Latin and you've got this, um, smooth kind of making this weird love child that is bolero that I love and adore. But on the other end of it, It is in my mind, one of the more athletically demanding dances to dance at a very high level, especially in the rhythm syllabus. Like, yes, you have chacha and mambo that are fast. You have east coast swing that has a lot of pendular actions, so you're, you know, you're getting into your knees and your ankles a lot. Um, but for me, bolero, I like to joke, is like the, the StairMaster of the dance world.

[00:28:21] Alec: That's great.

[00:28:21] Samantha: So I immediately go like, monk, especially when you're thinking about that, like the deep sliding side step.

[00:28:29] Alec: Mm-hmm.

[00:28:29] Samantha: Like the movement of the dance itself to me leans more monk like almost tai chi esque aspects to the movement.

[00:28:40] Alec: Right, right. So you're looking at more kind of like the athleticism that's involved in bolero.

[00:28:45] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:28:46] Alec: Got it.

[00:28:46] Samantha: Yeah. The athletic, the elastic athleticism and the dexterity. Absolutely. so you then had some, you had a different dance for Monk originally, correct?

[00:28:57] Alec: Yes. Oh God, what did I have for it? Oh my gosh. Oh my God.

[00:29:02] Samantha: Was it east Coast Swing?

[00:29:02] Alec: hold on

[00:29:03] Samantha: or jive, was it a swing dance?

[00:29:05] Alec: Hold, hold on. Let me just go to the Instagram and let me get it. Let me take a look. It's, it's, you know, when you make so many videos, they all kind of blur together.

[00:29:15] Samantha: I know. And I'm kind of putting you on the spot for like what you decided six months ago.

[00:29:19] Alec: Defend my stance six months ago. Hold on, let me, I'll find them. Um, let's see. I think you're right. I think I did pick swing, uh, I think I picked specifically East Coast Swing for Monk. But let me, let me triple check. Um, before I defend a position that I didn't take, if I didn't

[00:29:41] Samantha: Or, or just sitting here now, what would you think, thinking about the dances and thinking about like the Monk as a class, what would you go with? Because it changes and adapts depending on how you see players, you know, take the class or, or what you learn about the dances.

[00:29:56] Alec: So I, I think I'm gonna stand by my original position, which is East Coast swing with Monk, mainly because the, the athleticism of the swing of that particular swing dance, you know, like West coast swing obviously is a little bit more laid back. East Coast swing is very upbeat, very lots, like you said, lots of pendular action.

Like you're moving like typically very quickly, but it's laid back at the same time. And most of my, like my, in my history playing D and D and playing Ttrp ts my monk friends, my friends who like main monks are typically the most laid back and chill of the group.

[00:30:28] Samantha: Mm.

[00:30:29] Alec: You know what I mean? So I very much was pulling on kind of my personal experience with like, playing with people who play monks cuz they're typically kind of the more go with the flow. And for me, east Coast swing was always, even though it was like one of the faster ones, it was always the dance. Like when I was in a championship where it was kind of the chill. It was like, I was like, ah, I could just kind of mess around. And this one, this one's a little bit more relaxed. Yeah. A little more like it's less,

[00:30:52] Samantha: It's less serious,

[00:30:52] Alec: obviously still has technique. Yeah, yeah. Right. It's less strict, you know, in that sense. And so for monks, because these days, you know, people interpret monks every which way. You know, you'll get the traditional martial artist. Uh, I was just playing with a friend who, like, we played the, he, they played the monk class, but they skinned it as a boxer.

So instead of, instead of it being like a traditional like Buddhist monk kind of vibe, they did it more kind of a Muhammad Ali kind of, um, playing as a boxer. And so it's, it's just very laid back and it's very, it can shift from thing to thing. You know, there isn't very like a strict form for it.

[00:31:27] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[00:31:27] Alec: So that's why, that's why I picked East Coast swing from Monk.

[00:31:30] Samantha: Okay. I can see that. I, I have difficulty as like assigning a class to East coast swing. Um, for me it's like anybody that plays a Gnome, you're do, you're like, gnomes and East Coast swing go together in my brain. Cuz it's just like this bouncy, joyful, like

[00:31:47] Alec: Right.

[00:31:47] Samantha: You never know what you're gonna get.

[00:31:48] Alec: Right, right, right. Gnome players are typically the happy ones.

[00:31:53] Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. For sure.

[00:31:54] Alec: Or the most tragic. It's the, it's either one or the other.

[00:31:56] Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. They're going for the, the extremes, uh, of the spectrum for sure.

[00:32:01] Alec: Right, right.

[00:32:02] Samantha: Um, You, you didn't put Bard as rumba, I think you put it as foxtrot.

[00:32:11] Alec: Yes. I, I did pick, uh, Foxtrot for the bard because, so as much as I like to, all right, I'm gonna out myself here as much as I like to indulge in the E, like low hanging fruit jokes of the bard where it's like, you know, the sleeping with the monsters, those types of things, and being like promiscuous, what have you, in my opinion, like they're, they like what I have seen at least from playing alongside them or playing them themselves, or DMing people who are playing bars, typically, they're more of the like the classy ones, you know what I mean?

And like that's kind of how I view Bard as well. It's like Foxtrot for me is like the blend of that kind of sexiness that you get from some of the rhythm dances, but also the elegance that you get from smooth. And you kind of put those two together. So you've got the charisma. Of like the bard in, very much in Fox Ride, in my opinion, but also kind of that, that elevated elegance, um, in it and Rumba for me, I believe I picked Warlock.

[00:33:10] Samantha: I think so. And I think, uh, specifically you were talking about American Rumba in that context, correct?

[00:33:15] Alec: Yes. Yes. Yeah. I think all of the dances I specifically picked, like the American styles.

[00:33:20] Samantha: Mm-hmm. Yeah. I, I can under, I can completely understand the logic behind like Warlock being more American Rumba. You've kind of made this pact. There's a little bit of like Tide, um,

[00:33:35] Alec: That kind of push and pull that ca ga ca game of cat and mouse, that very, very often happens in like the American Rumba dances or American Rumba in particular.

[00:33:43] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. And I, I can understand kind of that refined elegance, but still playfulness being more bard and foxtrot. I can, I can see that. I can see that,

[00:33:52] Alec: right. And everybody, everybody, if you watch somebody dance Foxtrot, right? Everybody has a smolder. Everybody makes, does that like kind of squinty smolder Yeah. When they dance it. So it's like, it just kind of connects for me.

[00:34:02] Samantha: Yeah, for sure. Um, what are, what's a dance or a class that you have not yet paired up that kind of thinking about it on, in the spot in the moment you're like, huh, I wonder if this class could fit with this dance.

[00:34:18] Alec: I think the first thing that kind of jumped to my mind immediately was pairing specifically paso doble with, um, barbarian.

[00:34:28] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:34:28] Alec: Or Yeah.

[00:34:29] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:34:30] Alec: That, I mean, that one's kind of, that one's kind of on the nose and obvious, but that was the kind of the first thing that kind of jumped to my mind is that kind of aggressiveness of the Paso Doble. Uh, I used to joke with my students that I'd call it aggressive walking.

[00:34:42] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[00:34:43] Alec: Um, like it's just mostly aggressive walking. Uh, um, and that's Paso Doble.

[00:34:47] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:34:48] Alec: Uh, just pairs with the traditionally like archetype of like the aggressive barbarian, you know, I mean, they literally have an ability called rage.

[00:34:56] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:34:57] Alec: So it's, it kind of just connects for the two of, for, for those two.

[00:35:01] Samantha: Absolutely. I think it would be hard to, to justify pairing barbarian with anything else. So I feel like that's like,

[00:35:07] Alec: yeah.

[00:35:08] Samantha: There's nothing else that it could really possibly go with.

[00:35:11] Alec: No.

[00:35:12] Samantha: And it makes sense to kind of lean into that fighting aggressive, like bull fighting aspect of Paso.

[00:35:18] Alec: Yeah. I'm going through like my Rolodex, trying to figure out what other dance might fit, but everything else would be a reach, I think every, anything. Anything else would you like? Would be just like too off kilter of like what a barbarian typically is, you know? Cause I've also seen the gentle giant barbarians. I've seen like calm barbarians, you know, but that kind of standard I would like to rage just I don't think would fit, you're right with anything else.

[00:35:45] Samantha: Yeah. Yeah. The, the Grog Strongjaw portrayal,

[00:35:48] Alec: right?

[00:35:48] Samantha: Of a barbarian,

[00:35:49] Alec: right.

[00:35:50] Samantha: You're gonna put it with a paso doble. Absolutely.

[00:35:52] Alec: Right. Yeah. I don't think, I don't think it would fit anywhere else. Um, and then if I would like say another one, I would probably, let's say Fighter would probably be, I wanna, this is gonna be a weird one. I think what would probably be. I wanna go with West Coast Swing and it's weird. Hold on, let me elaborate. Um, mainly like, kind of what I said earlier is like West Coast swing kind of can be anything. You know, it it very, it's the, when you are looking at dance videos on, on TikTok, nine times outta 10 you're gonna get a video from a improv West Coast swing competition, something like that.

Like it always, those are always the first ones that I see when I'm, when I'm looking up that stuff. And Fighter for me is very much like, it ke you could be kind of a jack of all trades. Um, you know, you, you're not just a standard guy with a sword and you just hit stuff. Like you can use a bunch of different abilities and weapons and things like that and you can kind of fit different roles and kind of have that flexibility. So I think if I'm reaching for another one, it would be West Coast Swing.

[00:37:09] Samantha: So I'm gonna throw these two at you.

[00:37:12] Alec: Okay.

[00:37:13] Samantha: Fighter as American Tango for similar reasons that you just threw out. Because if we're looking at the trajectory of American Tango, some of it's very international, some of it's very Argentine, some of it's very Paso. So depending on which subclass you go with in fighter, you're gonna tailor your tango to maybe be more barbar, you know, more barbaric, more like, use a bunch of action action surges to get the job done, which is gonna lean more into that Paso feel. Or maybe you're more battle master and you're using

[00:37:48] Alec: mm-hmm.

[00:37:49] Samantha: Argentine tango as like floor craft. Um, so that would be my take on fighter.

[00:37:55] Alec: That's,

[00:37:55] Samantha: but I also understand.

[00:37:56] Alec: Yeah, that's better. That's better. Okay. I, I redact what I said. Yours is better.

[00:38:01] Samantha: Okay. And then circling back to Druid, if, if I'm putting Monk as my Bolero match, I think I would put Druid as samba. Because you get that animalistic like

[00:38:15] Alec: mm-hmm.

[00:38:16] Samantha: Earthiness groundedness of beast shape. And then you also have like the fast, quick movements of Chacha where they're like light on their feet. I think that would be, that would be my druid match is, is more of the Samba end of the world.

[00:38:31] Alec: I like that. I like that very much. What, you know what? I'm just gonna contact you next time I have to make these videos. Your choices are way better than mine

[00:38:38] Samantha: Oh, oh, don't do that. Um, but yeah, I, and I think it's, it's a fun exercise for folks that do have kind of this overlap between Dungeons and Dragons and Ballroom Dance to go through and be like, okay, what, what, how do I interpret the way that character classes are played? And how do I see that as movements tied to music on the dance floor? Like, where can I find that overlap and

[00:39:10] Alec: Right.

[00:39:10] Samantha: Is there something that just maybe doesn't fit, or doesn't fit as well as I'd like it to? And, and how can I kind of tweak that?

[00:39:18] Alec: Right. Right. And it's kind of, it's, and it's kind of like how we've been kind of going back and forth. Like, this could be this, this could be this. Everybody kind of has their own take and perspective on it. And, but like, like you said, like defining that story and like where it kind of connects like very much I think is important not only to play Dungeons and Dragons and TT RPGs, but like any sort of performing arts, whether it's dancing or acting, it's like finding the overlap between the character and you know, yourself or your character in the dance or whatever it may be, is like finding that overlap that you can actually like look at and be like, that makes sense to me, uh, is important.

Instead of me trying to look at something and be like, that makes sense to them. But I don't see it like finding that, uh, that character overlap is very, very important.

[00:40:04] Samantha: Yeah. So when you are sitting down at a table and deciding to create a character for the first time, um, what is your process like? Cuz I imagine we're gonna find some through lines to stepping out on a dance floor and charting a showcase or getting ready for, for competitive performance.

[00:40:24] Alec: So I always start with music. Um, music is the first thing. Um, like if I am gonna be in a new campaign or I'm gonna be on a show or one shot or whatever it is, it's, I always try, basically I open up my Spotify and I start clicking through playlists and I have a Library of Alexandria level of playlists, like just so many dang playlists. And I start clicking through and like trying to find the, the vibe that I am looking for. Um, and once I find that kind of first song, then I throw it on loop, and then I open up, you know, D&D Beyond, or the rule books or whatever, whatever game I'm playing. And then I'm like, okay, so what class in here fits this song?

And then once I've got that, and then I can kind of continue to take it from there. Um, but I always start with the music. I always start like, what is like the vibe that I want and what does it sound like?

[00:41:20] Samantha: Mm.

[00:41:20] Alec: You know what I mean? Because I'm very, like, even before I was a dancer, like music was always in it, like a part of my process, even as an actor, it was like I always made a playlist for the character first and try to find what, what they'd be listening to. You know what I mean? And like what kind of music gave me the feeling that I wanted to either impart or have in that character.

[00:41:41] Samantha: Yeah. So not, not necessarily figuring out like the music of their arc or of their journey, but like if they're sitting down at home and they're turning on the radio, like what are they gonna be drawn to? What's gonna make them happy? What's gonna make them sad? What's gonna make them angry? What's gonna make them thoughtful or pensive?

[00:42:02] Alec: Right. Right. And finding that, like finding that feeling of them and kind of like what they're, I guess trajectory with music is like, you know, that kind of comes later. It's like doing the arc through the playlist that, you know, obviously that comes later cause the character will change as you play them over the game, the campaign.

But like finding that starting point, it's always, I always just start with one song and I literally just put it on loop and I listen to it for however long it takes. Typically I'm sick of the song by the time it's over with, but like it helps so much kind of keep me in that head space that I wanna be for that character.

[00:42:35] Samantha: Nice. And how much, how much of that kind of wants, desires, like growth potential? Do you pre-ap, pre map out for your characters? Like do you go in with an idea of this is their history and this is their starting point and whatever comes next, just comes next or this is their history, this is where I'm at with them, this is where I would like them to potentially get to over the course of the campaign.

[00:43:03] Alec: So I think it depends on the campaign. It depends on the project and on the campaign, because, um, sometimes I'll go in very like, lackadaisical, like, this is the character, this is, you know, the one two page backstory or whatever. So I, I typically don't write a ton of backstory, kind of write like a one or two page and that's it.

And then I'm just gonna kind of roll with it and see where we go from there. And then, like, you know, when I've been on, um, like a show, you know, where it's an actual play, it's recorded, we only have a certain amount of time, then I'll kind of maybe like make character point here and there where I'll talk to the DM and I'll be like, this is something I want to incorporate into this character. I think it would be good, da da da da. And then I work it out with them. Um, so it depends, like, if I'm playing casually, I'm probably just gonna kind of go with the flow. But even when I do plan, I. Generally things change. You know, things come up that are better ideas or, you know, a romance plot you didn't expect, or a revenge plot you didn't expect.

And like things just kind of sneak their way in and you're like, well, this thing that I had planned kind of dumb. And you throw it away and you grab the new things, the new things, you know, shinier and more fun. So I think the, the long story short is I do minimal kind of character planning at this point in my career. Also. I don't play that much these days. I'm mostly a dm. Um, so when I do, I just like to kind of have fun so I don't try to put too much like, pressure on getting things to happen.

[00:44:34] Samantha: Yeah. I, and I think, you know, tying that back into the dance world, like having the pump up playlist or having the go-to version of a tango that you like to listen to or the go-to version of a foxtrot that can kind of get you into that head space. Having the themes that you want to portray in your dancing, the story that you kind of wanna tell. But then when you get on a competition floor and suddenly it's a different piece of music, being like, okay, I've got these pieces, like these tenets that I can fall back on.

[00:45:06] Alec: Mm-hmm.

[00:45:06] Samantha: But I'm gonna make it up now as I go. Like, maybe I feel sassy now. Okay. How can I make sure that this isn't totally out of left field from the last performance that I gave in front of these judges? But it still feels right in the moment with the music.

[00:45:24] Alec: Right. And it, it's at least in that sense, because I was very much sometimes to my, my partner's dismay, I was a, I was a, a chronic in improviser, uh, where like things like, same thing, like the song would come on and it's like not the regular chacha vibe. It maybe has this kind of more poppy vibe to it, or his goofy vibe to it, or whatever it may be. It's like I would kind of go with whatever was playing. Um, you know, uh, I obviously, I'd still do the routine, how the routine was supposed to be done, but that's a little bit more loosey-goosey sometimes than I, than maybe it should have been.

But, because for me personally, as like a, and like, you know, we, we have seen chacha a thousand million times. I, I know what Chacha looks like. I know what it's supposed to look like. I know what really good chacha looks like, and I look, I know what really not so good with chacha looks like. So when I'm watching, uh, I, I want to see something different.

You know, I want to see something that like catches my eye in the sense of like, they may not have the best hip action, but the faces they're making is hilarious. You know what I mean? Or, so whatever it is, or like that thing they just did was, was interesting to watch. Um, And like I apply that same principle to when I'm dancing. It's like I, I have danced this routine a thousand times if I'm not interested in doing it because it's the same thing every single time. How are the judges gonna be interested? How is the audience gonna be interested? So I would very much just kind of go with the flow and what I'm feeling.

And it was, um, it was Hikar Shakian who came up to me after my first performance ever. It was like December, 2017. I did this little swing showcase thing at, at the trophy ball. And, um, they're like, you know, that was the most entertaining number of the night because I like literally what I just said. Like they've seen good swing their entire career. But watching somebody just like tell a story and have fun was way more entertaining than the perfect steps, the perfect this and that and the other thing. And you so often see that on the competition floor, it's like the people who look like they're enjoying themselves the most. Typically are the ones who are sitting up on that p pedestal afterwards

[00:47:27] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:47:27] Alec: Are just ahead of the person with the perfect hip action.

[00:47:30] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. It, it, uh, last, the last episode that we had was with JT Thomas. And, you know, I asked her, when she's judging, do you wanna see perfection or do you wanna see imperfection? And she said, I wanna see something that makes me go, ooh. Right. Like, I, I wanna, I wanna see how you react to getting bumped in the middle of the dance floor or your partner just completely went blank. Like, how do you react? Because I want to know that you're actually dancing in the moment, not just robotically going through things.

[00:47:59] Alec: Right. Right.

[00:48:00] Samantha: Um, and I think that's really important too, at the table to, you know, have a plan in place, but be willing to throw the plan out. Whether, whether you're the PC or the dm, you know, how am I authentically going to inhabit this character that I've created? I know, I know what they will do. I know what they won't do, but how can I make sure that in this, you know, conversation with the big bad, that I'm reacting properly at level four versus if I'm level 14.

[00:48:35] Alec: Right, right. I think it's, it's where, it's where that kind of like, that mask kind of has gotta kind of come aside just a little bit where it's like, and you, like, you also want to put a little bit of yourself in there and understand your circumstances because you'll get those players that no matter what level they are, they're gonna trash talk, they're gonna do whatever they're gonna do because it is, but like, as a dm, the way I've kind of, what's the best way to put this?

I don't, I wanna say enforced, but enforced is probably the strong word. And I don't know if I wanna use that one, but like, consequences, um, you know what I mean? Like, like there are consequences to kind of not playing to the story.

[00:49:19] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:49:19] Alec: You know what I mean? If you're gonna play just the fast and loose because you wanna, and I'm rambling now, but like, if you, I'm gonna backtrack just two seconds. Yeah. If you wanna have a meme game in a funny game, it's like, that's typically something that you should discuss beforehand with your dm.

[00:49:33] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:49:33] Alec: But if it's not that case, then it's like you have to suspend your disbelief for, you know, like my student was, wasn't James Bond when they were dancing Chacha, but they suspended their disbelief for that minute and a half and it allowed them to be more comfortable in that space.

And it's the same thing at the table. It suspended your disbelief, um, that, you know, you could always make a new character, you could always do this, but suspend your disbelief that, oh God, this is the villain who we have to fight. And I am vastly underpowered. Like, I should be scared or I shouldn't go up to them and slap them in the face.

You know what I mean? Um, because there will be consequences. Right. So spending your disbelief at the table, I think is very important.

[00:50:17] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. And, and I, I like, I like the comments about, like, remember that there are consequences. Like I I, you know, there your decisions have impacts and that doesn't mean like, don't make decisions because you're afraid of the consequences, but be emboldened that you have the power of choice. Not every choice that we make as humans in the world is the right choice.

[00:50:47] Alec: Correct. Right.

[00:50:49] Samantha: Yeah.

[00:50:49] Alec: And, and I, and it's, I want to, I want to clarify with like consequences. It's not so much like punishing the players. Like I don't, I, I don't like to come down on players for their choices, but it, but it's making them authentic in the story because if, if player number two over here murders a merchant, You know what I mean?

That merchant had a family, that merchant, uh, had a business, and also you just murdered a citizen for no good reason in the middle of broad daylight, of course, the guards are going to come, you're going to fight the guards, of course you're gonna get in trouble with the royalty. It's like, it's just like those things would make sense if you could just murder somebody in the street and there'd be no consequences, it would be chaos.

[00:51:27] Samantha: Yep.

[00:51:27] Alec: Right.

[00:51:28] Samantha: Absolutely.

[00:51:28] Alec: And it, I, and I think it helps ground players in the world that, okay, I'm, I messed up, and now there's something that's, there's an action. Now there's a reaction. It helps ground the story and ground the players.

[00:51:40] Samantha: Yeah. And, and on the flip side of that, like maybe not murdering the merchant, but

[00:51:47] Alec: Right.

[00:51:47] Samantha: Um, okay. You're a highly skilled monk. You've got insane athletics. You've got a hundred feet of rope and there's a 50 foot chasm in front of you. And that the only, like, there's no bridge. You're gonna have to go miles or days to track to find an easy crossing. Do you say, Hey dm, I'd like to try and sprint and make the jump, and you're just, you know, the whole table is just crossing their fingers and hoping that you get that natural 20 and, and you make it right.

[00:52:17] Alec: Right.

[00:52:17] Samantha: If you don't make it, well, someone's got the end of the rope and they can pull you back up in dance. If you don't go for the big swings, if you don't push yourself, if you don't like see, okay, maybe I'm gonna go for a double this time in my spin. I've never done a double before, but I've been working on it. Let's see if I can nail it or I wanna have, you know, the high kick or, or something. If you don't go for it, you don't know if you can do it and if you succeed, that's incredible. If you fail, okay, now I know next time what I need to do to get to that point.

[00:52:53] Alec: Right. Right. It's failing gloriously, that's what I always used to tell my students is fail gloriously. Like I don't. I never judged. I always told my students, I'll never judge you for making mistakes. What I'll be watching is how you recover. You know what I mean? Because even, like, I can't tell you how many times I got out on the floor over these past like six, seven years, and I got out there and when my routine went whoop, I was like, I just practiced in the hallway, come back, you know?

And like, or messed up a step or tripped or fell or did a thousand mistakes. But it's, you'd never know because I'm not gonna show you. Right. You know what I mean? And then I'm gonna go back to the studio on Monday and I'm gonna be like, all right, this is what happened. How do we work on it? So it's like I never judge mistakes.

Um, I, I look at how you recover from them, because failing is human. Messing up is human, you know? And, and that is sometimes where you see the greatest stuff come from is like not getting everything right, but screwing it up so many times that like something great comes out of it or you learn something from it. You know, so always fail gloriously, always go for broke.

[00:54:00] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. Um, you had mentioned kind of the rise of actual play games. Um, and I, I'm an OG critter. I've, I've been watching Critical Role since, since the early, early days. Um, but coming across things like Dimension 20 and Matt Colville streams and, um, Acquisition Inc. And, and there are a myriad, right, a very

[00:54:27] Alec: right.

[00:54:27] Samantha: high level actual play games that folks can now tune into, um, and actual play games at every single level.

[00:54:34] Alec: Mm-hmm.

[00:54:35] Samantha: Similar to that, with YouTube and the rise of social media, we now have instant access to everything that Ricardo and Yulia ever performed, or everything that Troels and Ina are currently performing. Or, you know, name your high level pro here. Um, what can we take as inspiration dancers and players from having now access to see it done at a really high level? And what can we remind ourselves to kind of ground our expectations so we're not constantly in that comparison game?

[00:55:09] Alec: So I ga I gave this advice to my students and I gave, I give this advice to my friends who ask for DM advice is Steal everything. Steal it all. You see something you like, you see, like for dancing, like I, um, there was, I had watched, oh God, who was it? I can't remember who it was. I was watching a, uh, I was watching a, um, afin, a rhythm final at, for Ohio, and there was somebody doing swivels and they got down, like their, their partner was doing the swivels, and the guy got down to like watch them, you know, he was like, basically like crawling almost backwards, doing swivels.

I stole that the next competition, you know what I mean? Like, I, I did that and it was, it looked kind of weird at the beginning, but it, I kind of made it work. But like, you look at things that you like and you try them and see if they fit for you. And it's the same thing with DMing. It's like, you will, you will not be Matt Mercer, you will not be Brendan Lee Mulligan. You'll not be Matt Coville. Like you won't be. But there are things that they do that you can try to take and steal. You know, like I stole the, the box of doom kind of concept when I'm playing virtual games and an important role comes up, you know, I'll let my players use physical dice, but when an important role comes up, they roll it where we can all see it. You know what I mean? Or like, if I have an important role, like roll it where we can all see it. Um, the way certain like dms have descriptions or do certain things or character voices, it's like steal them. Try them for yourselves, and if they don't work, that doesn't make you any less of a dm. That just means like, that's just not your vibe. It's just not what works for you. Same thing with dancing. This dancing guy over here looks super cool when he does this arm styling thing, but I can't get it. It just doesn't look right for me. Then it doesn't look right for you. Maybe this style over here will, it's kind of this comparison is the death of all progress.

You can look at other things and other people in the way they're working, the way they're dancing, the way they're DMing, and be like, oh, that's really neat, but I don't do that. You know, like if you start comparing yourself to them, you know, like Matt Mercer is on a pedestal. Obviously, I will not be Matt Mercer ever in my life.

Right. But I can appreciate what he does and steal things from him that I like about the way he does it. But if I start being like, well, why aren't my games like him?

[00:57:19] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[00:57:20] Alec: I'm gonna go, I'm gonna crash and burn so quickly. And it's the same thing with dancing. I can look at Ricardo and be like, why don't my hips move like Ricardo's? They just don't, and that's okay. Um, but like, I can appreciate the way he moves without being like, well, I'm not Ricardo, so why am I even doing this?

[00:57:38] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. And I think also like setting the tone at the table of like, okay, we, we've all been, we've all been watching all of these games and they're all exciting, but like, this is the story that we're gonna tell and we all need to be at the same place in the room of like, are we gonna be murder hobos? Are we gonna go for like deep emotional, we're all sobbing at the ends, like role play. Conversational. So like, what are we trying to do in this room?

And I think setting those expectations with students as well is like, I know that you're watching, uh, Victor Fung and I know that you want to be him. You're a bronze student that's only been dancing for a year. So like, if you miss a couple of your heel leads, that's okay. Right's.

[00:58:25] Alec: Alright. It's alright. We all wanna be Victor Fung. We get it. Yeah. Um, yeah. Yeah. And in, in that like, setting the expectations, like before an event I was found was like really important, um, with students because I didn't do it in the beginning and it caused so, so much drama, you know what I mean? Like, you didn't set, you know, you didn't set expectations or you set them too high, you know? Um, but like having a realistic conversation with your students always yielded like honest, open conversation. Like you've been dancing for a year, you're the people that are out there on the floor with you have been dancing for three. Go out there and like give it your all and give it your best. And then you have nothing to to be upset about.

And with players and Dungeons and Dragons, it's, that's where the session Zero comes in. You know, before the game has even started, before a single dice has been rolled. It's sitting down with all of the players. Like even when I do a one shot, I do like a mini session, zero, like a half an hour beforehand, and set expectations and talk about, okay, so what kind of game do we wanna have? What are we feeling? What do we want in the game? What do we not want in the game? Because then if anything comes up later on, you can like reference what we had talked about in the beginning of the game if something comes up that you didn't expect and be like, okay, we never talked about that, but let's go back. And it's just, it makes everybody feel a little bit more comfortable, but also feel like they have ownership over the story as well. Because if this person over here wants fast-paced and this person wants mystery, okay, I know that now is a dm. Let me put both of those themes into the campaign.

[01:00:00] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and yeah, yeah. Goal setting, communication, making sure that everybody's on the same page. Absolutely.

[01:00:08] Alec: Right, right.

[01:00:09] Samantha: Um, can we talk a little bit about conflict resolution?

[01:00:14] Alec: Yeah, absolutely.

[01:00:15] Samantha: So ballroom dancing is such a partner activity. It's like

[01:00:20] Alec: mm-hmm.

[01:00:21] Samantha: One of the only forms of dance where you have to communicate effectively with another partner. It, it relies

[01:00:27] Alec: right

[01:00:27] Samantha: on that communication. Um, so both as someone that is in a dance partnership or as a teacher that is coaching a couple, conflict resolution constantly comes up as like, how can we make sure that we are communicating effectively so that we aren't in conflict with each other?

Or if there is a friction point, how do we talk through that? And I think, at least in some of the games that I've played, you know, PC/PC, conflict resolution can also be a big. Factor because it, it can make for interesting storytelling if you don't have an entire group that's uniform and you know, all buddy-buddy,

[01:01:07] Alec: right

[01:01:07] Samantha: that's, it works for some campaigns, for other campaigns. That's, that's not, you know, the interesting part of it, um, the home game that I'm in at the moment, I'm playing a lawful evil sorcerer and we've got a lawful good paladin at the table.

[01:01:22] Alec: Oh boy. Oh boy. That's tension.

[01:01:23] Samantha: It's, but it's fantastic.

[01:01:26] Alec: Right?

[01:01:26] Samantha: Um, and it makes you really interesting character moments between the two of us of like, okay, how are we gonna navigate this together and make sure that we're still moving as a group progressing forward? So, um, what, what tips or what experiences have you had managing conflict, either that you've learned in the studio, that you've taken to your table, or vice versa that you've learned at the table and taken to the studio?

[01:01:51] Alec: So it's actually something that I learned at the table that I took to my lessons was that, Regardless of the PVP combat or the, the, um, you know, the conflict resolution is like reminding like your friends afterwards that were friends. You know what I mean? Because things can get very tense, uh, not only at the table, but in the dance, you know, in, in the dance studio when it's um, you know, a husband and wife and the wife is used to telling the husband what to do and this, that, and the other thing. And he finally kind of snaps back and being like, you know, let me do this, is reminding them that they're doing this together. That this isn't a com this, it is competitive when you go to a competition, but truly this is their hobby. They're doing a hobby together. This is the only hobby that they could do together where they're not probably competing in some way, shape, or form.

[01:02:43] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[01:02:43] Alec: So reminding them that they're doing it together and that they both have kind of their own individual experiences, which are important, but that they're still a team at the end of the day. Um, and sometimes you just gotta have those where dance teachers kind of switch from being just dance teachers to kind of

[01:03:00] Samantha: couples therapists.

[01:03:02] Alec: Yeah, a little bit. You know, where it switches into that, where sometimes you gotta pull 'em apart and like, you know, have a talk with them one-on-one, especially when you get those couples who love to tell each other what to do. Uh, there was a couple where it, it was like nonstop, all day, every day, they were yelling at each other and arguing with each other, and it, it, then the conflict resolution was, I made them do pushups every time they told each other what to do, and eventually they stopped. But that is an extreme case. But generally it was always just reminding them that they're doing this together and they're here together to either rekindle like a physical relationship or have a hobby together and stuff like that. Remind them of why they came in.

You know, we always had, they, we, I ga I would always give my students homework in the beginning. And it would kind of ta they have them like, write down why they were here. And I would always bring that out and be like, look, remember this, this is why you're here. So stop telling Mr. Johnson how to take his step and just look him in the eyes while he turns you, or whatever, you know, whatever the situation was. So just reminding them why they're start, why they started and that their friend or you know, at the table that they're friends and then on the dance floor that they're in this together was always kind of the best way, you know, like there were extreme cases where it didn't work, but generally that that always worked.

[01:04:16] Samantha: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and and it comes down to trust, right? Trust at the table, trust in your friends, trust in the studio, trust in your instructor and your partner,

[01:04:26] Alec: right.

[01:04:26] Samantha: And all of that. And you know, taking that moment to, like you said, we're all friends here, we're working together, right.

[01:04:33] Alec: Right, right. And like checking, and specifically if we're talking to the table is then checking in, like after a really intense moment, I'll pause the recording or I'll pause whatever it is. I'll be like, how we doing? We good? You gonna, you gonna, you're gonna cut, you gonna slash his tires in the parking lot? No. Okay. Cool. All right. And start it over again. You know? Yeah. Um, because I think it's also important as the, the person who's in charge to let, um, not in charge, but like, you know what I mean? Yeah. Like the dm, the gm, whatever, or the dance instructor to check in. Because then it lets the people, the players or the students know that like, you are watching and you care.

[01:05:09] Samantha: Yeah.

[01:05:09] Alec: You know what I mean? Not that like I'm gonna sit there and watch Mr. And Mrs. Johnson fight for 10 minutes cause I'm still getting paid. You know what I mean? But like showing them that you care about what they're doing and showing your players that you care about what's happening at the table helps so much more.

[01:05:25] Samantha: For sure, for sure. Yeah. Hold holding the space to let them express their feelings, but also know like when to come in, when to jump in and be like, okay, now let's, let's dissect everything that just happened here.

[01:05:37] Alec: Right.

[01:05:37] Samantha: And figure out how we can move forward in a, in a positive way together.

[01:05:40] Alec: Right.

[01:05:41] Samantha: Yeah, for sure.

[01:05:41] Alec: Right.

[01:05:42] Samantha: Has there ever been either a character that you've been playing at the table, an npc perhaps, that you, that you have when you're DMing, um, or a mask or persona that you've put on for dance that you've had trouble shaking yourself out of? And if so, what was your process of like washing the character off of you?

[01:06:05] Alec: That's a great question. Um, so I would say, hmm. So there's a character in, uh, particularly in a show, uh, that is on my YouTube channel, Heroes of Bastion. It's an npc. Uh, his name's Blue. Or, well, that's his nickname. It's Ervin and he's this kind of like cocky, very like bad boy-esque NPC. Right? And so like having that kind of attitude of like just kind of being a, excuse my French, like a jerk or a dick or whatever, you know. Um, I didn't know if I could swear on this podcast, so if you have to bleep me, bleep me. Okay. Um, you know, being a jerk is like having that kind of lackadaisical kind of, I don't, I don't give a rip kind of attitude. Was a little bit hard to like, step out of.

But if we're talking like emotional weight, um, there was a character I played in a campaign, um, it's still going on. Um, He was a high elf, um, Paladin, and like he just had a lot of emotional weight to him all the time. I don't know what it was, but the DM just constantly threw curve balls at me. And so, like, stepping out of the game, I would always still feel that weight. Um, and I would just hearken back to my acting training cuz you know, I, I played, you know, Romeo, I played Macbeth. Like I played these super heavy characters with these really heavy, um, consequences and actions that they would have to do.

And it all for me, goes back to music. Cause I, I had a playlist that I would listen to when it was character time. And I have a playlist I will listen to when it's Alec, you know what I mean? I have Alec Jams and I have Valerian's Jams, I have Romeo Jams and I have Macbeth Jams. You know, like I would have this music just have me step in and then I would use the music to help me step out. So after a show, you know, a, a stream or a performance or a dance or whatever it is, I would always take a three minutes to listen to like one, one or two songs to just get all of that out, you know. Typically while I'm writing my notes or whatever for the session, what have you, and just step out of it that way using music, uh, because there's always gonna be character bleed, especially when you get re when you find a character, you really kind of can sink your teeth into.

Um, there's always gonna be bleed where like, you know, you had a bad day, so this character's having a bad day, or that character had a great day, now you have a great day.

[01:08:20] Samantha: Yeah.

[01:08:21] Alec: Or that character's really mad at so-and-so. I'm gonna be mad at so-and-so. You know, there's always gonna be a bit of character bleed, but understanding your own method to back, back to yourself, I think is always important. And for me, that's music.

[01:08:35] Samantha: Yeah. I, I love that. And as you were talking through that, I was just, the way my brain was going was like, oh, that's interesting. So maybe like, historically, the way that I have taught and the way that I have personally interpreted goes back to, you know what D and D character, what class works with what dance and having a different character for, or a different mask that you're putting on for each dance style, well, that doesn't really let you fully wash off the first before you're going into the second if you're doing a multi dance. Right?

[01:09:14] Alec: Right.

[01:09:14] Samantha: So maybe possibly the approach would be better to have a character and have shades of that character throughout the course of the dances that you're doing.

[01:09:27] Alec: Right. And it, and it's, it's very much like you can pick a character for each individual dance and like, I think that's good when you're dancing them on your own too, or like on their own.

[01:09:36] Samantha: Yeah.

[01:09:36] Alec: You know, like single dances. Right. But when, like you're saying with multi dance is, it's like, then pick a. A story, an arc.

[01:09:43] Samantha: Yeah.

[01:09:43] Alec: You know what I mean? Um, like the relationship between these two people.

[01:09:47] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[01:09:48] Alec: You know what I mean? That starts in Chacha, which is fun, flirty, and yada, yada, yada. But then when we get to Bolero, it's like I was, for me, I always said Bolero was the first like romantic experience a couple had after their first big fight.

[01:10:00] Samantha: Yes.

[01:10:01] Alec: You know, they have that first huge knockout fight that's a make or break time to ru like to break up the couple or whatever. But then they make it through and then they like have that first romantic moment afterwards. That's how I always viewed Bolero. It ha always had that kind of weight to it. So it's like, how do we get there through Rumba and swing?

[01:10:19] Samantha: Mm-hmm.

[01:10:19] Alec: You know? And then to Mabo, which. Mabo, I'll leave up to your interpretation.

[01:10:23] Samantha: Mambo's just Mambo. Yeah, yeah.

[01:10:27] Alec: Right, right. It's just kind of whatever.

[01:10:29] Samantha: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For, from the smooth end of the world, it's like the joy of waltz into the first fight of tango into

[01:10:39] Alec: mm-hmm.

[01:10:39] Samantha: The playfulness of foxtrot into whatever deep, like, unresolved issues you wanna tap into in Viennese Waltz. Um, and, and figuring out like how do you chart that as a, like, as an individual, but also the interpersonal dynamic between the two.

[01:10:58] Alec: Right.

[01:10:58] Samantha: In a story that makes sense throughout and it's always

[01:11:03] Alec: right.

[01:11:03] Samantha: Interesting to explore.

[01:11:05] Alec: Yeah. And I think it comes down to communication between yourself because like, I can decide a story, but if my partner, if she's not on board that it's gotta be weird. It's not gonna work, right?

[01:11:15] Samantha: Yeah.

[01:11:15] Alec: And so it's like, like with everything we've been talking about today is like, it comes down to communication and just like talking to your dm, talking to your dance partner, and like talking to yourself a little bit, you know, and like finding what works and what doesn't work and making sure everyone's on the same page and then everyone's gonna have a great time.

[01:11:32] Samantha: Yeah. Awesome. Um, well thank you Alec so much.

[01:11:37] Alec: Thank you so much for having me

[01:11:38] Samantha: for being a guest. Um, where can folks find you after this if they want to follow along with either your dance or probably more accurately your TTRRPG journey?

[01:11:49] Alec: Yeah, you can follow me on pretty much any social media platform, uh, whether that is TikTok, Instagram, uh, YouTube, Twitch, uh, under Alec the Bard. Um, that's where you can find all of my things. Uh, you can find my actual plays, which are my, um, produced. D and D TTRPG Games. You can find those on my YouTube channel. You can find the goofy videos we talked about today on my Instagram or my TikTok, and you can find random 3:00 AM thoughts on my Twitter. So whatever is your vibe. I I'm on all of those platforms under the same name on Alec the Bard.

[01:12:22] Samantha: Awesome. Well, and we'll have those links, uh, as always in the description box below. So definitely follow them and give Alec some love. Um, and yeah, once again, thank you so much for chatting with me today.

[01:12:35] Alec: Thank you so much for having me. It was a blast, truly.

[01:12:38] Samantha: Thank you once again to Alec for being a guest on today's podcast. If you want to support him, if you want to learn more about his, uh, actual play, or if you wanna follow along with his fun, uh, reels and content for social media, you can do so using the link in the description box below.

As always, I'm Samantha. I've been your host with Love Live Dance. You can follow Ballroom Chat on social media at Ballroom Chat. You can also support our Patreon by searching Ballroom Chat on Patreon. Um, if you have not already done so, please do all of the things like, subscribe, share, follow. Post in the comment section if you are also a Dungeons and Dragons player or enjoy indie T T RPGs. Um, I'm sure there's a large community of us that do that, so it would be nice to see folks sharing their stories, maybe what they've learned playing TTRPGs and taken into the ballroom dance or what they've learned dancing that they've maybe taken in to influence a character or character decisions. Um, so yeah, definitely post those in the comments below.

With that, stay safe, stay positive, and we hope to see you dancing very soon.