If It Looks Like This Then You’re Doing It Right

As I mentioned in my last post, last Thursday night I had to attend my first rehearsal for the upcoming showcase performance. This is a very different setup than any other showcase I’ve ever done. Because the show is designed as a continuous story, we had to actually walk through the show to make sure that everyone knew where there entrances and exits were going to be. Along with that, there was a stage manager on hand who was making notes on all the props that were needed for each scene, and how to get those items to the dancers before they had to have them.

This blocking rehearsal was… well, it was really chaotic. No one stepped forward to take charge and keep everyone on task, so oftentimes there were several different groups getting in each other’s way, and they were playing the soundtrack for the show really loudly, so you could barely hear the instructions and comments when the music was playing. I am slated to be in a couple of scenes in the first act, so I was hanging around in the back watching everything until I needed to be onstage. As I watched, I couldn’t really make out what was supposed to be going on in the scenes they were trying to put together… and that’s bad because I know the story that this production is based on!

Sparkledancer and I are entering the set during a scene where there is a party going on in the background behind the main cast. We’re supposed to act like party goers, being happy and excited, and then we were told to freeze for the rest of the main cast’s scene. At a point in the dialogue, the lead male makes a reference to me, and that’s the cue for Sparkledancer and I to start moving and make our way to our starting position. When our song starts, we dance. After we finish up, we exit toward stage right and the lights will shift back to the main cast.

We were then told the part that we will play in the next scene. This one has no dancing for me, just acting. Sparkledancer and I are supposed to act like there has been some kind of fight, and she yells at me (silently) and storms off the stage toward stage left. I am supposed to be sad and dejected, and sit myself down on a bench in the back of the set, next to the lead male. He and I share an understanding look, another dance number takes place in front of us, and then I exit through the curtains in the back when the lights go down enough for me to sneak off.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Those were all the notes that I took about what needed to happen. We were told before the walk-through started that we could step through our dances as the music played, but we weren’t really practicing, so we didn’t have to dance full-on that night. I didn’t even change out of my sneakers, so I faked a lot of the dance just to make sure I could hit the points on the floor I needed with the set props in place. The few times I tried to turn that night were not pretty, because my sneakers have rubber soles and they stuck to the wood floor pretty solidly.

As I found out later though, I should have done more than fake it that night, because unbeknownst to me, there was a big problem that the music editor had created that I didn’t find out about until Saturday morning…

I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer on Saturday to look at our showcase routine. We started of discussing the things that we were told during the blocking rehearsal, to make sure that everything was clear for all three of us. Everyone seemed to be on the same page as we started, so with all of those notes in mind, we got started dancing through the routine to look at everything critically and clean up anything that was out of sorts.

Because there were so many other people at the Fancy Dance Hall that day who were also preparing for the upcoming showcase, we didn’t get a chance to try anything out using the music the first half-dozen times that we danced through things. The routine went fairly well, all things considered – I had to fudge the angles a bit to avoid running into other people on the floor, but people were nice enough to get out of my way as soon as I picked Sparkledancer up off the ground and started moving.

We went through the lift at the end several times to make some adjustments to the final piece of it. Once I bring Sparkledancer down from over my head, I was supposed to get her to be in front of my chest and then curl her like a barbell. Sir Steven was trying to get her to keep her core more solid while I did that, because initially she was mostly relaxed and he thought it looked funny. This was really the only issue that he found with the ending, and as it turns out, it would be totally irrelevant by the end of our lesson.

Finally, with only a little time left before Sir Steven’s next lesson, we got a chance to try out our performance with the music. The main computer in the Fancy Dance Hall had a copy of the soundtrack that was cut together for the show, so Sir Steven picked through the music file until he found the beginning of our number. We practiced the entrance piece, hitting the cues for all our marks, and then got all the way to the end… and then the dialogue that was recorded in the soundtrack kicked in before we finished our lift and did the ending piece that was a huge part of the story!

Thinking there might have been a fluke, we tried it again, and got the same result. Sir Steven had told the person splicing the music together that we would be doing the lift at the end without following the timing of the music, but didn’t tell them how much time to give us to get through everything. After timing everything out based on the way the music is cut, our piece is roughly 1:35. When we practiced everything from the start of our dance until the ending that comes after the lift finishes, we were running right around 2:00. So now we had to eliminate twenty-five seconds of what we had practiced to make everything fit..

There were a couple of parts that Sir Steven told us to try to speed up, and he said to just get rid of the part of the lift where I curl Sparkledancer in front of my chest, but even without those pieces we are still over the amount of time we have in the soundtrack. To make matters worse, we had to stop there for the day since Sparkledancer and I had a coaching session with Lord Dormamu immediately following our lesson with Sir Steven. We all planned on meeting up on Wednesday evening to go over things and try to get the timing issue worked out before Thursday night’s dress rehearsal.

Sparkledancer and I got a few minutes to compare notes as Lord Dormamu finished up the lesson he was teaching before we dove into things. The first order of business that Lord Dormamu brought up was the coaching that we had gone through last Wednesday. The discussion that we had about everything that transpired was probably the most interesting and enlightening thing that I went through on Saturday.

I brought up several points that had been discussed with this coach that were either in direct conflict with things that Lord Dormamu had told me to be doing, or just seemed questionable based on what we were working on currently. Most of what we discussed related to the Tango, since that is what Sparkledancer and I are currently working on with Lord Dormamu. I told Lord Dormamu that we looked at Tango during the coaching session because we got through Waltz and Foxtrot rather quickly, and he was both surprised and pleased that the coach didn’t have much to say about our Foxtrot. I guess normally that style is one that coaches pick apart quite a bit, especially for dancers who are dancing syllabus routines.

The first thing that we discussed was the coach’s advice for Tango that Sparkledancer and I come up more in our frame rather than be so low to the ground that our knees get into each other’s way. I also told him about how the coach told me specifically that I should be leading my partner to rotate to Promenade Position with my hip in Tango, but if I were to get into frame the way Lord Dormamu wanted me to, there was really no way that my right hip could make contact with Sparkledancer at all.

Lord Dormamu’s answer to me was that this coach, like many others that I will end up meeting in my future dance journey, learned to dance (and became dance champions) a long time ago. The way that they learned to dance many figures is not the way that those figures are done any longer. When they judge dancers in Tango for instance, the way that Lord Dormamu is teaching me to do things is the way that will look the best to them and be scored the highest… but those same judges will not know how to teach someone to dance like that since they no longer compete, so they will just fall back to teaching things the way they learned to dance long ago.

And apparently this is normal and expected when any high level dancer works with one of these older judges. The coaching session that Lord Dormamu insisted that we take with this gentleman was mostly to get him to meet us and have some experience with how we dance. In the future, if this coach is judging a competition that Sparkledancer and I are competing in, he will likely remember more about how we danced during the coaching session that we had with him than he will about the few seconds that he sees of us on a competition floor, and his judging will reflect that. That is the real reason that Lord Dormamu wants us to work with some of these judges when they are available in our area.

Some of the advice that the coach gave us, like the concept of using my arms to lead while I dance, is apparently ideas that Lord Dormamu and I will work on in the future. They are concepts that are important, but not important for the level that I am currently competing in right now. Lord Dormamu’s plan, as I officially found out, is to keep Sparkledancer and I dancing in Bronze for another year as he finishes cleaning up all of our dances, and then start us on the track to move up the ranks.

If we have done everything correctly, according to him it shouldn’t take long for us to compete and win significant competitions in Silver and Gold, and he’ll get us to started working on Open-level routines before long. These advanced concepts that the coach mentioned, like leading with the arms and relaxing the position of my shoulders somewhat, will be incorporated into my dancing along the way. But not now, so I shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about them.

That was the first time that I had ever really heard Lord Dormamu verbalize my long-term dance plan. I guess he thinks that I am doing well enough to meet these objectives. Yay me!

Also on Saturday, I went out to what I think is going to be the only holiday dance party that I attend this year. Seeing as how my next weekend is dedicated to performing in a showcase, and the weekend after that I will have family holiday events to attend, there’s a good chance that the next dance party I go to will have to be New Year’s Eve. So I made time to go to this semi-formal affair being held at the Endless Dance Hall, which included dinner and some entertainment along with a chance to dance the night away.

The dinner was a buffet-style meal that they actually served in two different rooms. One room was opened up as soon as guests started arriving, and had a couple of tables full of appetizers that people could stop by and pick at. Then the second room opened and dinner was served. This meal seemed to mostly contain dishes that were made by the event organizers, which gave it a warm, personal feeling as opposed to a catered meal. As people were making their way through the line to get dinner, the first room that had the appetizers had a couple more tables full of desserts added to the mix, just in case you weren’t completely full from eating the other courses.

Once everyone had gotten something to eat and made their way to a table to sit down, the organizers brought out two dancers that are members of one of the local youth dance troupes to perform. I recognized the two of them, and also the routines that they were dancing, because they practice with their instructor at the Fancy Dance Hall on Saturdays during the time that I am normally there for my own lessons, so that was entertaining. They performed a Waltz number and a Cha-Cha, with a short break in between so that they could change costumes.

After the performances and dinner finished up, the DJ started to play music so that everyone else could dance. But more interesting than the dancing was getting a chance to see what all the attendees were wearing to the dance party. Several people who were at the table I was sitting at were pointing out various people on the dance floor, and it turned out to be a really fun game to see who had the best outfit on to show off their holiday spirit.

I think that the winner ended up being, hands down, the gentleman who wore a metallic silver outfit. Everything was metallic and silver, even his dance shoes! He looked kind of like he had just arrived from outer space! Personally I think that the runner-up was the gentleman who was wearing a tuxedo with a cumberbund and bow tie that were pastel orange in color. On a dance floor full of people sporting holiday colors, the pastel orange really stuck out and made him… unique. Close to that would have had to be the lady who was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and a string of battery-powered Christmas lights in her hair. C’est magnifique!

Wednesday night had more than usual going on for me this week. I for one am looking forward to being done with the showcase after this weekend, so that my weeks can get back to some degree of normality. Skipping my nightly workouts for all this extra dance practice is really throwing me for a loop!

Sir Steven had agreed to meet up with Sparkledancer and I at the Electric Dance Hall the hour before Standard Technique class to go over our showcase routine. We talked about how the music was cut so short for our performance, and what we could eliminate in order to give us enough time to cover the key elements before we had to get off stage for the next dancers. Unfortunately, everything that got changed involved the lift at the end, which is the only part of the whole routine that I actually felt excited about doing.

Now what we have is a lift that moves very quickly – almost recklessly – from start to finish. I roll her out, I hold until the end of the measure as she gets into place, and then I head over to her. Crouching down, Sparkledancer hops up to sit on my shoulder, I stand up and rotate myself to take position back toward the center of the stage a bit. Instead of rotating several times, I am now only rotating one and a quarter turns to save time. Once I am facing the audience, I reposition my hands to lift Sparkledancer up over my head, and then I immediately bring her down in front of me, and then I rotate back the way I came to roll her out for the finish.

All the other pieces that used to be in the lift, including the dramatic effect of doing the whole thing slowly in front of the audience, have been removed. There’s no time any more. We have just barely enough time now for Sparkledancer to walk away from me and then for us to do the final piece of acting to connect our dance to the larger story of the show before the dialogue kicks in and the lights will shift to the next set of performers.

The way that this show turned out… I don’t know if I really feel like it is worth the amount of money I paid to be a part of the show. I guess I was hoping for something… more. I still feel really disconnected from the whole performance, and it’s only a few days away! There’s a good chance that it would take a whole lot of convincing to get me to agree to do another one of these staged showcases in the future.

Once Sparkledancer and I finished up with Sir Steven, we ran over to the other side of the dance floor to join Lord Junior for Standard Technique class. The class felt nice and relaxed that night, which was nice since I have been feeling a bit frazzled lately trying to get everything else done as the holidays approach.

Lord Junior and one of his high-level students had met up with the same coach that Sparkledancer and I had taken that lessons from last week, so we started off class with him and I sharing some of the pointers that we had each talked about with the coach. One of the things that the coach had specifically pointed out about how Lord Junior dances was the positioning of his right arm. He and the coach had talked about how many people have trouble keeping that arm in the right position.

We worked on a figure in Foxtrot that allowed him and I to focus on keeping our arms in the right place. The figure was an Open-level figure called Three Fallaways. My footwork for the figure basically had me doing the first half of an Open Reverse Turn, but then had me do the lady’s part for the second half instead of my normal footwork. Once I crossed my right foot behind my left, I repeated the first part of my footwork again, and then ended the figure with a basic Feather Ending. Seems pretty simple, right?

Broken down like that, the figure is fairly simple and is something that could be lead, but it moved quickly and covered quite a bit of distance down the floor, so you have to be aware of what’s going on before you start. After practicing the figure alone with each lady in class several times, we added on a figure to lead into the Three Fallaways. Lord Junior had us start out with an Open Impetus and Feather Finish. Starting right on an Open Impetus is a bit tricky, but we managed to get through with minimal difficulty.

Dress rehearsal for the showcase was tonight, and the performances are this weekend. It will be nice to finally put this behind me and get back to my normal training for a while. I also have a coaching session with Lord Dormamu on Saturday, so my weekend already feels super busy. Are you going to come watch the show? I’ll try my best not to disappoint if you’re in the audience!

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You Put Your Arms Around Me And I’m Home

I had thought that my life would relax a little as the holidays drew closer. It seems like I was totally wrong in that assumption…

When I got together with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer on Saturday morning, everything seemed to have finally fallen into place. Sparkledancer and I had been given the entire choreography for our showcase less than a week beforehand, and had only managed to meet up for an hour on the Thursday evening beforehand to run through the sequence to try to memorize everything, but we managed to get it all down. It helped that I had gotten a video of Sparkledancer and Sir Steven dancing through the routine from start to finish the night we got the routine. I watched that over and over again, which helped me know which figures I needed to lead in the right order. Hooray!

I also think that I have my costume done. To keep things rather simple and inexpensive, large chunks of what I am wearing are items that I already had at home. For instance, I am just planning on wearing a pair of my dance practice pants during the performance. The look I was told to go for was semi-formal, but I need to have full range of motion for my legs to be able to squat down far enough so that Sparkledancer can hop up on my shoulder. Normal dress slack have the right look, but are too stiff for me to bend down like that. My dance practice slacks do flex in that manner, so they are a great choice.

Also, I actually saw the Artistic Director at the Fancy Dance Hall this weekend! We didn’t really get a chance to talk much though… she came walking through right at the end as we were finishing up our lesson. Sir Steven had her stop to take a look at what the lift which ends our performance, to help her figure out how to cut the music and give us enough time to draw the lift out dramatically. I wanted to ask her about all kinds of things related to the acting pieces that I’m going to have to do, but I was told that those questions would be answered during the blocking rehearsal that was scheduled for Thursday night.

So much for getting any time to practice that part of the show…

All that remains now is to continue practicing the routine to make sure it is comfortable and hits the few marks on the floor that I have. The performances are a little over a week away now. I am feeling pretty good about how things are going, but I’ll admit that I still feel no attachment to this performance. I guess that it’s good that I’ll be portraying a specific character, rather than trying to play myself while dancing. Having to give up all my ideas for this performance really disconnected me from the dance, and I don’t think anything is going to change in that regard between now and the first performance date.

I also managed to make it out to the Waltz workshop that was being held at the Electric Dance Hall on Saturday afternoon. This workshop was being put on by Lady Lovelylocks, who is Lord Junior’s professional partner. Lord Junior was also there milling about in the back of the studio, practicing some choreography from the looks of things. He jumped in near the end of the workshop when we started dancing with partners. There were quite a bit more women than men, so it was nice of him to help even out the ratio a little bit.

It felt like we spent most of the workshop on just stretching. Lady Lovelylocks wanted us to all get warmed up and work on using all the various parts of our bodies isometrically, so she showed us all sorts of different stretches to help with that. First we did all the stretches slowly, so that everyone could learn what they were supposed to do. Next she put them into a pattern so that we could all do them in the same order with some rhythm. Finally, we did the pattern with some Waltz music playing. That sequence lasted for multiple songs.

When we were finally all super warm, Lady Lovelylocks got down to business and had us focus on our rise and fall. To do this, we started with normal rotating box steps on our own. The points we were given to work on while doing these box steps were to make sure that we kept things slow and use all of the music, and to make sure that we didn’t come crashing down from our rise on beat three. I had somehow gotten stuck in the middle of the floor with people all around me that took tiny steps, so I felt like my box steps didn’t move a whole lot while I was practicing them.

There was only a little choreography used at the end of class that we danced with a partner. We looked at some Open Natural and Open Reverse Turns in Shadow Position, and the Change Step to switch between the two. I think I’ve mentioned this before at some point, but the Change Steps that you do while in Shadow Position are actually just three steps forward or backward.

These are not like a Three Step in Foxtrot, however. Lord Junior yelled at me from across the room because he saw me at one point doing my footwork like a Foxtrot Three Step. I didn’t even realize that I had done it until he said something, so it was totally my fault. Slightly embarrassing! The footwork should be like a normal Waltz Change Step, so make sure not to do a heel lead on the second step, or else you’ll get yelled at like I did…

The remainder of the class was spent switching through partners and dancing through these figures. We started off in Shadow Position already and did two Open Reverse Turns, then a Change Step followed by two Open Natural Turns, and we could finish with another Change Step if we had the room before we hit the wall. As the ladies were asked to rotate through the guys to practice, I seemed to be forgotten quite a bit. I was in the front of the room, because I didn’t want to get stuck behind anyone while I was traveling down the floor. When we all lined up on one end of the room and the ladies paired off with a guy, I was constantly having to wave my arms at them to have a lady come dance with me. Were they afraid of me or something?

Last Monday night at Latin Technique class I got to work on Rumba. We started off the class by warming up using Lord Junior’s new favorite Rumba exercise that involves doing Three Step Turns from side-to-side. Once we had gone through that enough times to make him happy, he had us do some work looking at basic Rumba walks. We used four types of Rumba Walks to start with, which were: the Forward Walk, the Checked Walk (which is what everyone does when they do the basic Rumba movement), the Turning Walk (which has you take a step forward and then turn 180° without moving your feet), and finally the Backward Walk.

Lord Junior wanted to build us a sequence of figures that night that focused on all of these walking movements, plus the Delayed Walk, which is basically just a normal walk but with some different (i.e. ‘delayed’) timing. We started things off facing our partner with our weight on the left leg and our right leg pointed back, ladies on their right leg with the left pointed forward. Our starter step was a step forward on beat four. Next we did a delayed Check forward, holding the check until just before the next beat four, when the ladies then would step toward us while the men just switched their weight to the right leg and pointed the left behind them.

Next we wanted to get the ladies out to Fan Position, so the men would lunge off to the left while twisting their upper bodies to press forward with the left arm, which would lead the ladies to collect and turn 90° clockwise, and then the men did a chasse to the right as the ladies did a Turning Walk to get into Fan Position. To give the ladies even more practice with their Turning Walks, we next led the ladies to do an Alemana. The men would shift slightly to the left as the ladies did this so that we could close with the ladies on our right side.

The last thing that we did was to lead the ladies through Opening Outs. Making things more difficult, Lord Junior asked the ladies to do these using the Delayed Walk action, where after doing the rock step backward, they would point their leg forward without moving until the absolute last second, and then step and turn to go into an Opening Out on the other side.

This was probably the most difficult thing we did that night. As a guy, you had to be careful not to push the lady forward too much after letting her open out. It had to be a balance of pushing enough so she came forward to get on her leg and point her other toe, but not enough to actually step forward through both legs. We did two Opening Outs with this delayed action, and then a third where we brought the lady forward as normal and then led her into a Spiral Turn before sending her back out into Fan Position.

The last thing that I want to talk about this week was the coaching that I got signed up for last night. Lord Dormamu had a good friend of his, who much like Lord Dormamu is also a world-famous International Standard coach that many of you have probably heard of, in town on Wednesday. They were meeting up to discuss some business propositions about putting together a new competition in the Dance Kingdom. I’m sure this means that Lord Dormamu will tell me that I’m going to be competing in this event when they get it all up and running.

Since there was some extra time in the schedule between and after their business discussions, this gentleman offered to hold some coaching sessions for any students that were interested, and Lord Dormamu signed Sparkledancer and I up. Because I had things going on at work yesterday, I could only get to the Fancy Dance Hall late in the evening, so I ended up getting the coach’s last time slot of the day. In a way this worked out very nicely because there was no rush for us to complete our session so that he could move on to other students after us. Our lesson went waaaaay over the time it should have as we looked over all sorts of material together.

Once Lord Dormamu introduced us, he asked that we spend our time having the coach look over our Waltz and Foxtrot. With those marching orders, we got started, though we didn’t stick to the script we were given for the entire session. The lesson basically went like this: the coach had us dance through our routines once for him with music, and when we finished up we would talk about what he saw us doing through his adjudicator eyes. Throughout the night we were given specific notes about each dance style we completed, and by the end of the session I also had several overall takeaways that covered all dance styles universally that he wanted me to think about.

Let me start with the notes on the individual dance styles. Though we were told by Lord Dormamu to work on Waltz and Foxtrot, apparently our Foxtrot was pretty good so we didn’t spend much time going over it, and had time left over to look at Tango as well. Sparkledancer chose to start with the Waltz, so that’s what we received notes on first.

There were really only a couple of things specific to the Waltz that he picked on, and some of these may just be his particular preferences when he judges competitions. These were his notes:

  • He wanted to see us doing more distinct rise and fall during the Progressive Chasses throughout the routine. As we tried it out, I thought that it felt overdone, but he said that it looked better from where he was standing.
  • Next up, he thought that I was taking far too small of a step going into the Double Reverse Spins. I asked him about how I’d always been told to take small steps with early quick rise to lead a Double Reverse Spin, and he said that by the book that’s what I should do, but it looked like I wasn’t traveling anywhere on my first step when I did that.
  • The final thing he wanted to talk about was when going into the Whisk, it didn’t look to him like I was taking a complete step onto my left foot before rising up and taking a step to the side and slightly back onto my right foot. To make sure it looked the way it should, he wanted me to take the first step and have all of my weight over my left leg (almost to the point where I could stand on one foot) before moving to my right leg.

Foxtrot was definitely where I felt the strongest that night, and there were only a couple of items that he said looked out-of-place in his eyes (the last one is definitely a personal preference of his, since I have been specifically told by Lord Dormamu to do it differently):

  • I was told to put more emphasis on moving slower during the slow steps. He wanted me to really extend my legs and push myself as far as possible during those two beats before putting my foot down and going into the quick steps. It wasn’t that I was rushing when I danced it as he watched, he said, but I wasn’t using my timing to its full potential.
  • There were a few points, like on the first Feather in the routine, where he said that it seemed like I was rotating too much and Sparkledancer was ending up beside me rather than in front of me. He wanted me to lessen the rotation through my body to avoid that, and instead change the placement of where my steps were going to help keep her in front. If I feel like she is ending up beside me on my right instead of in front of me, I need to take my step slightly more to the left to compensate.
  • During the Weaves that we do, he wanted me to add shaping through the progression. On the Natural Weave for instance, Lord Dormamu has always told me that I would be shaping with the left side through the Natural Turn, then level out through the actual Weave, and then shape to the left again through the Feather Finish. The coach wanted me to shape to the right through the Weave to emphasize the difference in those steps. This I think may just be a personal preference thing, so I’ll run this item by Lord Dormamu before I work on adding it into my practice.

With some time left, the coach wanted to keep going and switch over to the Tango. Before we got started, Sparkledancer and I warned him that our Tango was still a work in progress, and it was what we considered the weakest of our dances. After we finished dancing through the routine once, he stopped us and said that he thought our Tango actually looked fairly good, which was nice to hear. There were a few points that we managed to talk about that he suggested we change:

  • He thought that we were too low in our Tango frame, which he said explained why we always had to air close our feet because our partner’s knee was between our own. I was told to bring my legs together and stand with Sparkledancer in front of me, with her legs also together. We then bent at the knees until we met resistance from each other’s legs. That was as far down he said we should be while dancing.
  • The coach specifically mentioned leading my partner to roll into Promenade Position through rolling my right hip forward slightly. This goes directly against what Lord Dormamu said last time we got together when he told me to stop doing exactly that. What…??? This is definitely something that I am going to have to discuss with Lord Dormamu.
  • We spent a bit of time looking at the Right Lunge in the corner. He wanted me to adjust the rotation in my upper body so that as my legs are lunging toward diagonal wall, my upper body is pointing more line of dance, and thus is pushing Sparkledancer to shape out more line of dance with her upper body as well.
  • Much like with the Foxtrot steps, he wanted me to make sure to slow down when bringing my feet together at the end of a figure. Usually the close happens over two beats in the music, but I am closing my feet immediately and then just hanging out. He prefers that I hang out with my legs still in their previous position and my body split-weight between them, and then close my feet at the end of the two beats.

There were some additional comments he made about our overall dancing as competitors that he’d like to see us work on. One note he told each of us was based on our positioning when dancing together. He told me that I needed to watch my right elbow, to make sure that I was not pulling it back too far. I was told to think about when dancing with a partner that there is essentially one-and-a-half people for my arms to get around. There’s the front half of my body, and then my partner’s body. To ensure that my right arm is capable of covering this distance, my arm needs to be bent enough so that my elbow is out in front of the front half of my body. I had never heard it described like that before, and I thought that was an interesting way of looking at things.

Sparkledancer was told that her upper body needs to lean on an angle more to the left. She has been working a lot lately on bending herself back to create more volume, but not as much on leaning herself to the left side at the same time. Leaning in this direction essentially presses her left lat muscle into my right hand as we stand in frame. This will probably be something that we will have to focus specifically on during practice, to move while having her lean to the left while bending backward instead of just one direction at a time.

The last thing that we talked about last night went off on a weird tangent that I had never heard anyone talk about before. It came up while we were looking at the Right Lunge in the Tango. At one point he wanted me to lead him through the figure. When I got into frame with him, he said that I was not holding him tightly enough with my right hand. Afterward, when I got back into frame with Sparkledancer, he said that I was also not holding her tightly enough as well. What gives?

He told us a story about how he once had a coach work with him back when he was competing. This coach wanted to have him demonstrate a figure with her, so she asked him to lead her through it and got into frame with her with a considerable gap between their bodies. This made him uncomfortable, as he had been told over and over again that the lead should come through his body, so having to lead her through the figure without body contact felt wrong to him. Then she asked him: why should it be a problem?

This coach explained to him that we need to use our arms to lead our partners properly, even in International Standard. They are an important tool that should be used to communicate with our partner. People who dance American Smooth have to lead like this all the time, because many of their figures obviously break body contact. Why should people who dance International Standard handicap themselves by trying to only lead with the body, she asked him. The trick is to learn to lead with your arms correctly, so that you can do it without your partner complaining that it feels like you are pushing and pulling her all over the place.

His suggestion for me was to get into the habit of having a more firm hold on any partner that I danced with. This would allow them to clearly feel what my right arm is doing around their back, and take away any confusion that could arise from the leads with my body. While I should be leading my partner to turn to Promenade Position through a roll of the hip, for instance, I should also be pulling back slightly with my right arm to make the implication for her to turn to Promenade Position unmistakable.

Learning to lead like this will be challenging after being told for so long to lead solely through my body. Even the coach admitted that it took him quite a while to learn how to lead certain figures after his coach told him to start using his arms. He said that as he started to lead like this, whenever he had a partner complain that they felt like he was pulling or pushing them with his arms, he would take that as a sign that he was doing it wrong and then have to reevaluate what his arms were doing and try again.

That was quite an interesting concept to end the night with, and I have been thinking about it on and off ever since. I’m not sure what exactly I would have to change to use my arms more in this manner, but it might be helpful that I started out dancing doing only American Smooth, so maybe some of that training will be useful here? I guess I’ll have to talk it over with Sparkledancer the next time we meet up to practice to see what she thinks too. After all, this will probably affect her more than it affects me.

It’s been a long night. I had the blocking rehearsal for the showcase performance tonight, to get everything mapped out before dress rehearsal next Thursday. I haven’t really had time to process that yet, so maybe I will talk about it next time. I have another super busy week ahead of me with all sorts of dance-related activities, so I’m going to leave it here for now, take a deep breath, and get some rest before jumping into it. I hope your week is just as fun!

Oh No, I Can’t Slow Down, I Can’t Hold Back

Early Saturday afternoon, I got to meet up with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu for some coaching. Sir Steven had sent me a message earlier in the morning letting me know that he was sick and wouldn’t be in the studio, so this turned out to be my only lesson on Saturday.

The first thing that I did was talk with Lord Dormamu about our results from the competition on the 18th. If you remember, mentioned last week that I got a copy of my scores from all the individual judges, and it looked like one judge just scored us way off from where all the others did. To get some perspective on what I was seeing, I brought in my printout of the score sheet to show to Lord Dormamu and get his take on the matter.

Lord Dormamu flipped through the results for a minute, and then pointed to a different number than mine on the list and said that the person who had that number must be the outlier judge’s student. He made the case that outlier-judge had marked this other couple first, but every other judge had marked them either last or second-to-last, so it is entirely likely that he knew this couple well and could overlook their faults in a way that the other judges could not. That was an interesting way to look at the results.
Unfortunately, Lord Dormamu then told me that there really wasn’t a way to fix a situation like this. In smaller competitions like this one, there are no rules that say a judge can’t mark a student he/she has taught better than everyone else on the floor. There is also no rule that says he shouldn’t do something sinister like mark the best couples on the floor really low to try to eliminate the strongest competitors of any couples that had taken coaching from him. The scoring rank is all subjective based on the whims of the judge.

(Note: this is the major problem that you’ve probably heard the International Olympic Committee voice when talking about why they are still wary of allowing DanceSport in as an Olympic sport)

Lord Dormamu’s solution? He told me to get better overall. If I can improve enough so that I start getting first place in everything from all the other judges, then one judge marking me so different will get their score questioned by the organization running the competition. That is really the only good way to prevent this from happening to me in the future. Also, I have to get first place to make this effective. If I improve and get marked second place by all the other judges and last place by one, while it may still look abnormal to me, the organizers won’t question the decision nearly as much.

This is the crux of why I had been reluctant to really jump into competing seriously for many years. I was told something similar when I first started dancing back in the franchise world – that the scores I got for all the heats I danced were pretty relative and subjective, and finding out a reason why I was scored a certain way was next to impossible. Now that I’ve finally dived into this serious competitor pond, that same advice I was given years ago is still relevant, and it still makes me feel uneasy about being ‘judged’ on how I dance. What’s the point if there’s a chance that the judge can mark me poorly just because I’ve never taken a coaching lesson from them?

I have no good thoughts on how to fix it though. With ballroom dancing being a visual sport, and the need to have so many couples on the floor at once in order to A) keep the competition time to a minimum and B) evaluate the floorcraft of couples, implementing strict sets of criteria for each judge to evaluate each couple on becomes a daunting task for even seasoned judges. I guess I’ll have to live with this situation while I’m competing until someone or some group (or me) thinks of a more fair system to use for scoring these competitions.

Finished discussing the results, we turned back to the Tango. I got chastised by Lord Dormamu after our first run-through. He could tell that Sparkledancer and I hadn’t spent much time practicing the items that we had talked about during our last coaching session. I told him that once the competition had finished, I had dropped everything else on my practice list to focus on learning my showcase routine, but that wasn’t a good enough reason for not practicing what he told us to do in his mind.

Because of that, I spent a lot of time going over things that we had reviewed two weeks ago. There were only a couple of points that we talked about that were new this time around. The most painful one was the placement of my hip while I am in Promenade Position. I was trying to lead my partner to rotate to Promenade Position by rolling my right hip forward, which should theoretically turn my partner. Some coach that I can’t remember the name of told me to do that long ago, and I’ve done it ever since.

Lord Dormamu noticed because there was no space between my hip and my partner while we stood unmoving in Promenade Position. He told me to pull my hip back, so I stopped to ask him about how I was told to lead my partner to Promenade Position by rolling my hip. He watched as I demonstrated what I was told (Sparkledancer was nice enough to help), and then told me that while the lead through rolling forward was correct, I had been told to use the wrong part of my body to do it.

Now that I am dancing with much more advanced technique, I should be able to lead an experienced partner to Promenade Position solely through the slight roll of my body, and leave my hips out of the mix. Especially in the Tango, where I am trying to compress myself and I need to have my hips back, trying to lead by using my hips will cause real problems when I get to even more advanced figures than what is currently in my routine.

So from now on he said, when I am in normal dance position I need to have my hips back and my chest forward, and when I rotate to Promenade Position I need to emphasize pulling my right hip backward to maintain the space in that area. And let me tell you, trying to pull my right hip back as far back as Lord Dormamu wants is a fairly painful endeavor for me. My hips just don’t like bending like that!

…except when I shouldn’t keep my hip back, as I found out. There is a Right Lunge in the first corner of our routine, and in this particular lunge (and only that lunge – I asked just to make sure) I should be driving my right hip slightly forward to help Sparkledancer create the shape that she needs. Along with me leaning my upper body back a bit, this should help create the illusion of a massive amount of volume between the two of us, which is obviously more impressive. So right hip back, except in that corner where it is forward and then goes back again once I start moving. No problem, right?

We also spent some time looking over the Reverse Turn near the end. I had thought that I was doing better about taking the second half of the figure straight down the line of dance rather than curving myself toward the center of the floor to get out of my partner’s way, but Lord Dormamu thought that it looked like I was drifting toward the wall while I moved. To fix that issue, he gave me two suggestions. First, he said that I should think about aiming myself about 45° inward. Aiming more inward should help prevent me from drifting outward, in theory.

Second, he said that as I take the third step of the first half of the figure, I should be placing my left foot in line with my right one. I had been taking my leg straight back, which put my left foot on the outside. If I didn’t do this carefully and I end up with any space between my legs, that action would naturally pull me more toward the wall as I shift my weight onto that leg. If I crossed my left leg over slightly to line my feet up, that would prevent that portion of the outward drift from happening.

I got a change of pace on Monday night during Latin Technique class when someone suggested that we work on Jive, and things got a bit weird at the end… weird for me, but not for anyone else. I’ll get to that in a second though.

We began warming up by going through the basic steps really slowly, exaggerating the movements while moving so slow so that when we sped things up they would still happen as noticeably as possible. I remember back in the day, early on in my dance journey, when I used to think that Rhythm and Latin dances were really my forte. Now that I spend all my time working on ballroom dance styles, I personally think that I look like an awkward baby giraffe fumbling about when I try to dance Rhythm or Latin dances. Apparently other people think that I am pretty good at it, but I don’t feel that way.

Because we had one lady with us in class that night who had never danced Jive before, Lord Junior kept the actual choreography that we worked on fairly simple. I think the only figure that we did that was outside of the Bronze syllabus was the Miami Special, but that figure seems pretty simple to me since I’ve done variations of it in several different dance styles over the years.

What we ended up with started out with the partners already in Handshake Hold. From there we did one American Spin, catching the lady in Handshake Hold again at the end. We then went into the previously mentioned Miami Special. As the men came around the lady in that turn, we switched places so that when the arm slide was completed, the men were standing where the women started. For a little bit of fun, Lord Junior had us add in a Hip Bump here before having us continue on.

Once we finished up bumping hips, we did a Link to get back into dance position and then went into some Walks down the floor. We covered an eight-count with our walks – two triple-step movements, and four quick single steps. After the last Walk we skipped the rock step to go right into a basic movement with a Whip action, which is how we finished things off that night.

What was weird about this class was what I found out afterward. Sparkledancer and the Gatekeeper had been standing next to each other in class that night, chatting away when the guys were dancing with other ladies. As I was heading out to my car after class, Sparkledancer stopped me in the parking lot to tell me that the Gatekeeper had mentioned to her several times that she thought I was really good at leading in the Jive, and wanted to know if I had ever mentioned to Sparkledancer any interest in competing in International Latin at all.

Sparkledancer’s take on it was that the Gatekeeper was interested in asking me if I would compete with her, though she hadn’t come out and said that directly. I was a bit shocked by this, what with the whole looking like an awkward baby giraffe thing going on. Also, with my busy work schedule, and the amount of time I already spend practicing to compete with Sparkledancer, I don’t think I would have the time to bring my Latin Dancing up to a level worthy of competition. I guess if the Gatekeeper actually asks me about competing with her, I’ll have to think of a good way to decline politely.

I know… being in demand as an amateur dance partner is such a burden that a lot of people probably wish they would have. I shouldn’t complain. First-world problems, and all that jazz.

Tuesday night Sir Steven was feeling better, so Sparkledancer and I met up at the Fancy Dance Hall with him that night to work on our showcase. I’m happy to report that we have all of the important parts of the showcase mapped out now. Hooray! Now I just need to find enough matching free time in both Sparkledancer’s and my schedules so that she and I can practice the choreography until it is memorized. That shouldn’t be too hard, right?

Sir Steven spent the first few minutes of the evening talking about the ‘scene’ of the story that our dance number would be portraying. I didn’t realize before when he mentioned putting us in this scene how important to the storyline it actually was. Basically, the story centers around a character who is played by Sir Bread, a staff member of the Fancy Dance Hall. In this particular scene, he is recalling an event that happened when he was a young man, so what Sparkledancer and I are portraying is actually his flashback sequence.

Sir Steven already told me that when they discussed the story in their recent staff meeting, that someone pointed out just how much of a size difference there was between Sir Bread and I. He’s got to be at least six inches shorter than me, and he looks like… well, like a male dance instructor, which is a nice way of saying that he looks really scrawny when standing next to me.

I guess after they discussed the size difference between the two of us, they couldn’t figure out a way to fix the problem, so they decided to just make it obvious and crack a joke about it for the audience’s sake. Sir Bread will be discussing this flashback with another character in the next scene after Sparkledancer and I get done dancing, and that character is going to ask him why he remembers himself being so much taller in his youth. That should be good for a chuckle, I hope.
The parts that we didn’t go through that night were the pieces that are going to involve actual acting. Sparkledancer and I are supposed to enter the set during the previous dance number and mill about with the other people on stage, working our way toward our starting position. Then as the previous music fades and our song starts we would begin dancing. Our choreography now seems like it is twice as long with all the new material and changes to the existing material that Sir Steven gave us during our lesson, so I have quite a bit to try and memorize over the next couple of days.

At the end of the routine, I roll Sparkledancer out just slightly off-center of the middle of the room (to avoid being under the chandelier) so that we can do our fancy lift. I put her back on the ground, and the dancing is done. The next scene should start, and apparently Sparkledancer and I have to be on stage during part of that scene to do some more acting to finish up the flashback before we are finally allowed to make our way off the stage.

So that’s the actual plan! Doesn’t sound too hard, right? Well, what if I told you that the first blocking rehearsal with the full cast was going to be a week from tonight? How would you feel about it then? That’s the part that is making me a bit nervous. I think my entire weekend is going to be devoted to practicing Tango and making sure that I have this routine down. No time for fun for this guy…

The last non-practice thing I did this week was Standard Technique class yesterday. As we started class, Lord Junior said that he wanted to have us work on some Waltz, and do a Turning Lock. But since he normally has us look at the Gold-level figure (Turning Lock to the Right), this time he was going to go easy on us and have us do the Silver-level Turning Lock to the Left instead. That was so nice of him, don’t you think?

The configuration of figures we did was pretty easy to remember. Starting with some kind of starter step, you then go into a Natural Turn, followed by a Natural Spin Turn, and then add in the Turning Lock to the Left. Coming out of that, we did a Checked Natural Turn, which ends with a tiny Slip Pivot that would line you back up either facing line of dance or diagonal center, depending on where you feel comfortable starting a Double Reverse Spin..

Next up we did what was probably the most difficult figure of the night, which was a Double Reverse Overspin. This is an Open-level figure that is basically a Double Reverse Spin with an extra 180° pivot added on at the end. Turning so much over a three-count caused a lot of stumbling and bumbling the first few times through the turn with each partner as we got used to the spin. Obviously it’s slightly easier if you start this facing diagonal center, and slightly more difficult if starting line of dance, but both are possible. At the end, if we made it through successfully and maintained our balance, we would go right into a Throwaway Oversway to finish the progression in a fancy manner.

Do you ever feel like your weekends are already gone before they have even started? I’m feeling that way about this coming weekend. Let’s see… I promised to try to make it out to a dance party on Friday night, and I have a lesson on Saturday morning. There is a Waltz workshop that I was interested in attending happening on Saturday afternoon, but most of my free time on Saturday and Sunday will likely be filled with practicing my showcase routine and my Tango.

And that’s just this weekend! Next week feels crazy too! Aside from the classes I usually take on Monday and Wednesday, I have my initial blocking rehearsal for the showcase next Thursday night. I was also told that there might be a dance coach (whose name I actually recognized for once) coming in to teach at the Fancy Dance Hall on Wednesday night, and I might be able to get a coaching session with him. That could be interesting if it works out… but I would have to skip class for that.

So many things! I thought that December was going to be a quiet month with all the holiday stuff going on, but so far it looks like I will be totally wrong. If I don’t survive this month, someone should make sure to stop by my apartment and feed my cat for me. She would appreciate that.

Banging On A Kettledrum Won’t Make You Notice Me

I know you’re probably mostly interested this week in hearing about the competition that I just finished, so I promise that I’ll talk about that first…

Last Saturday was a busy day for me. I spent most of the day out at the Dance Death Arena to compete. This was another one of those competitions where, as an amateur, once I paid the entry fee I could register to dance in as many different rounds as I wanted. I signed up to take part in the same rounds that I had done during the last competition I had gone to the Dance Death Arena for back in the beginning of October. That meant I would be doing four different two-dance rounds that day.

Also just like the last competition that I did at the Dance Death Arena, two of the rounds that I danced in had practically no competition, and the other two were super contested. This time around, Sparkledancer and I had only one person dancing against us in the low turnout rounds. With only two couples registered and a big floor, they put in dancers from a couple of other categories to make better use of the space (and the judge’s time).

The other two rounds I did though… those were nuts. When the rounds finally showed up on the board listing the numbers of all the competitors, I think there were twenty-four couples listed in one, and twenty in the other. Because the rounds were so big, they had been divided up into Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and Finals, and then the Quarter-Final round also had to be split in half to give the judges a chance to see and evaluate everyone properly.

One thing that they offered at this competition that I had not seen before, was the ability for people to sign up to dance in a category without a registered partner. There were a number of people registered that had a partner listing of “TBA” and it took me a bit to figure out what that was all about. These individuals weren’t allowed to dance solo, since no solo proficiency rounds were offered during this competition, but anyone who wanted to compete could find a partner just before taking the floor and dance if they wanted to.

President Porpoise was actually at this competition offering his services throughout the day for any ladies that needed a last-minute partner. Being the experienced dance host that he is, he thought it would be a nice way to volunteer to help out at the competition. The last competition I saw him volunteering at, he was stuck at a table checking people in. This job seemed to suit him much better. He’s such a presidential guy… this is why everyone votes for him.

Let’s get this out of the way before I get any farther – I did very well at the competition, even better than I did at the last competition I did at the Dance Death Arena. They gave out ribbons at this competition for everyone that was sixth place or above, so I got four ribbons to take home as a souvenir. Good job me!

I mention the ribbons because they are kind of funny… I noticed the day after the competition that half the ribbons that I received had the name of a completely different competition printed on the front of them. When I saw that, I took a picture and sent it over to Sparkledancer to show her. Turns out that three of the four ribbons she took home had the name of this other competition too! I can’t find any information online about this other competition, so I wonder if these are just recycled ribbons from an old competition that no longer exists? That struck me as funny for some reason.

There are a couple of interesting points of note I want to mention about this competition so I can reflect on them later. First off, a serious note about my scores: I managed to see the breakdown of how I scored with each judge. For the most part, all the judges rated Sparkledancer and I the same as the place that we got at the end of the day, which explains why we took home ribbons with those place numbers when we left. However, there was one judge that rated us last in every round we danced, which is a huge discrepancy when compared with all the other scores we got.

Since finding that out, I’ve been wracking my brain to try to figure out why this judge would do that. Did the judge just not like the way that I looked? Did I offend him in some way early on in the day, and thus he always rated me last? Was there something technical about my dancing that he thought I was doing wrong compared to everyone else?  It’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to ask the judge (if they would have allowed me to do that). I would have loved to know the reason why his marks were so different from all the other judges’ marks.

Funny note now: in between every few adult rounds they would do a round of junior dancers, which is always fun to watch. Many of these kids are barely half my height, and they are already way better than me at dancing. It makes me wish that I had started out at that age…

Anyway, I was in line waiting for one of my heats to begin when they had these little kids out doing a four dance International Latin final. They started out with a Cha-Cha, then did a Samba. Next up, the emcee announced that all of these young dancers would do “the dance of friendship.” When the DJ put on a Rumba, the whole crowd started to laugh. Apparently when you are that young, judges don’t expect to see any romance in your Rumba. Too funny. I’m going to start referring to Rumba as the dance of friendship whenever it comes up in conversation to see if anyone notices.

After driving back home, unpacking all my stuff from my car and sitting down momentarily to take a few deep breaths, I left the house again to head out to a dance party. My Royal Dance Court group was putting on an event that night, and though I was tired out from driving all over the place all day, I knew that I would be needed for a short while at this party.

I got to the venue a few minutes after the lesson we had planned had started. The big reason that I thought it would be good for me to be there was that my Royal Dance Court group had planned on bringing in someone to teach a lesson on American Viennese Waltz. Knowing that not many people feel comfortable with Viennese Waltz at first because they think it is so fast, I thought it would be prudent for me to jump into the lesson to help guide any ladies who were struggling through the footwork.

As I walked through the door and took a moment to assess the situation, I was pulled into a different problem that had nothing to do with the group class that was going on. The DJ was having trouble getting the equipment that they had brought in hooked up into the existing sound system at the venue. Apparently the DJ had played at this venue before and had no trouble, but that was because a specific cable had been plugged into the back of the sound system control box that would easily plug everything into the DJ’s setup. That cable as nowhere to be found.

Being male, and having plugged in enough stereo equipment in my youth to know a thing or two, I went over to see if I could help. I had already arrived late, I figured that if I could get the DJ to tell me what kind of cable was missing, I could run out and pick one up if needed. The problem with that plan was that the DJ couldn’t give me a good description of what the end of the cable looked like, so I had to wedge myself behind the stereo cabinet and look at all the inputs myself.

While back there, I found one cable lying along the floor that wasn’t plugged into anything. I moved it out of the way to avoid accidentally stepping on the cord and breaking it while I looked at the inputs. When I did that, the DJ reached down and picked it up. There was some sort of adapter on both ends of this cable, and when those were pulled off, it turned out to be the type input plug that was needed.

Once I was told that was what everyone had been looking for, I helped get the cable plugged into the back of the stereo system, since I was already wedged back there anyway. When the DJ plugged in the other end, we were able to test everything and verify that we were getting sound from the speakers. First crisis of the night averted! Hooray!

After extracting myself from behind the cabinet, I finally managed to get my dance shoes on. I surveyed the group class again. Sparkledancer had been watching the class while I was helping out with the sound system, and she pointed out to me that there were several ladies that didn’t have partners in the back corner of the room that were struggling with getting their footwork right.

The instructor was just going through the basic Reverse and Natural Turns at the moment, so I jumped in and worked with a couple of the ladies in practice frame to help them get their steps down. Prez told me later that she thought that I had the patience of a saint for working through the figures slowly with those ladies who were struggling.

Most of the lesson centered around just doing Reverse and Natural Turns and Change Steps, since those figures are pretty much a requirement for getting around the room. In the last ten minutes, the instructor went over a figure that would actually be considered American Viennese Waltz. After a half Reverse Turn, we would then do a Cross Body Lead with Underarm Turn, releasing the lady to open up into Side-by-Side Fan Position.

Next he had everyone do that classic move where you bring the lady back toward you so that you can meet up in the middle palm-to-palm – or you could rub noses, or kiss (if you were really good friends) – before opening back up to Side-by-Side Fan again. In place of the standard ending, the instructor had us do something more like Tango Swivels, where we would turn to face each other and point the right leg (left leg for the ladies) to the side, then step forward, collect the lady back into frame and point the left leg (right leg for ladies) to the side, and then we could start up with the Reverse Turns again.

This last piece seems fairly simple if you’ve done any American Viennese Waltz before… based on my description, you may be able to picture exactly what it looks like in your head. They are fairly common movements. However, when we were all given the last part of class to practice, I found even more ladies that were struggling to figure out what their footwork should be. I did my best to try to help out as many as I could, but I didn’t manage to get to all of them before class was over unfortunately.

The DJ didn’t play many more Viennese Waltz songs than normal than night – maybe one or two extra over the two or three you would hear at an average party – so there wasn’t really much opportunity for people to practice what they learned. One of the first songs that the DJ did play was a super slow Viennese Waltz, which everyone got out on the floor to do, but the later songs that were more normal tempo didn’t see as many participants. Ah well, hopefully this class took some of the fear out of the dance style for these people.

Sunday afternoon I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for our normal weekend lesson. With the competition over, it is time to buckle down and get super-serious about the showcase performance coming up. After all, it is less than a month away to opening night!

Before we even started to go over the choreography, Sir Steven had to talk with us about the show. It turns out that one of the instructors from the Fancy Dance Hall had some kind of project at their day job that had to be scheduled for the performance weekend, so he wasn’t going to be able to dance in the production! The other male instructors were going to take over dancing the routines that had been prepared with his female students, but there were a few holes in the storyline of the show where this instructor was going to be performing with one of the females on staff.

That was where Sparkledancer and I would come in. The Artistic Director of the show had asked Sir Steven if we could move our performance to fill in one of those holes in the plot. They had a different act that could easily take over the spot where we were going to be originally plus the next plot point, so one number could be eliminated. However, there was a pivotal moment in the story that was still missing which our number could be used for without changing too much of the choreography.

This would mean that other things about the act would have to change though… our costumes, for one, are going to have to be  completely different. I had only gotten two pieces for mine so far, so that wouldn’t be too hard for me to accommodate. The portrayal is the other thing though. Sparkledancer and I had talked about doing this number to work on portraying an emotion during our dancing. Since I am generally a happy and comedic person, we had wanted to try dancing something somber and sad.

Taking our routine and moving it to this new slot means that it is no longer going to portray a sad part of the story. In fact, the part that it fits now would be mostly happy, with a bittersweet ending. Still… I said that moving the routine would be fine, and Sparkledancer agreed as well, so for now that’s the new, new plan. One of these days I hope to actually get to talk to the Artistic Director, but we haven’t both been at the Fancy Dance Hall at the same time in quite a while, so that just hasn’t happened.

By the time we finished our lesson that day, Sir Steven had mapped out what he said would be the first half of the routine. There is a bit of an intro that still needs to be put together, but that piece will involve knowing where one of the set pieces will be placed, and no one has marked that spot on the dance floor yet. Combined with the section that uses that ‘Horse and Cart’ figure and the ending with the big lift, I’m not sure how much of the choreography we still have left to learn.

Sparkledancer and I actually timed out what we have already during our practice session earlier this week, and from that clock it feels like we still have a lot more that needs to be added. The big piece that Sir Steven gave us that he said comprised ‘the first half’ of the routine is barely 42 seconds when danced to the tempo of the song. That seems… short.

The ‘Horse and Cart’ piece doesn’t seem to be safely workable to the song’s tempo, with the number of steps we were given and the way Sparkledancer was told to stretch her arms… it feels too frantic, and trying to move my feet so fast involves me taking tiny steps. However, if we manage to use the figure as I was told it should be, that only adds another eight seconds. Unless we are looking for our routine to be only a minute and-a-half, it feels like we need quite a bit more.

We’ll talk about it with Sir Steven come Saturday and see what his vision for the rest of the choreography looks like…

Because of the holiday this week, the group class that I normally go to on Wednesday night was cancelled, so the last thing that I did this week was go out to Monday night’s Latin Technique class. As class was getting started, Lord Junior gave us all the option to do either Samba or Cha-Cha, and I was the most vocal in my choice of doing Cha-Cha, so that’s what we did. Before I went to class, I had gone to work out and done mostly plyometric exercises, so while neither Samba or Cha-Cha sounded particularly ideal to me, Cha-Cha seemed like the least-worst choice to me.

We warmed up by practicing Lock Steps slowly. After some explanation about the specific things that Lord Junior wanted each of us to focus on (for me it was making sure to put my heels down at the right time), we did sets of three going forward and backward on our own. Next we partnered up and did the same thing, with the men traveling backward for the first set of three and forward for the second, and the women doing the opposite.

After Lord Junior felt like we had warmed up sufficiently with Lock Steps, he wanted to have us all go through an exercise that he had been doing with a student of his right before class started. This exercise had us doing Three-Step Turns to the right and then back to the left on our own. This was a figure he wanted to use in the choreography we would do during class, so he wanted to make sure everyone could do it well before we started on that.

The final bit of choreography mostly consisted of adding together our Lock Step practice with the Three-Step Turn. With both partners facing each other and our weight on the right leg (ladies on their left), we did one Hand To Hand and then did three Lock Steps with both partners traveling forward. At the end of those three we changed sides and did another Hand To Hand. Coming back we only did two Lock Steps traveling forward and then squared up with our partner to do a basic chasse to the right (ladies to the left).

At the end of the chasse we did a New Yorker to the man’s right side, then pivoted back 180° to go right into a Three-Step Turn. At the end we would catch hands with our partner, do a New Yorker to the man’s left side, pivot around again and finish with another Three-Step Turn. The goal was to make sure at the end that we finished up being solid and balanced and on time with the music.

Most of the class was spent rotating partners and just practicing this simple choreography with the music. However, the first time that Lord Junior rotated through the ladies to dance with Bony, something funny happened… I was dancing, so I didn’t see what actually happened, but suddenly from the other side of the room I hear Bony yell out “Turn!” Lord Junior starts laughing then and says really loudly “Bony! You’re supposed to actually turn there, not just yell ‘Turn!’”

That made the whole class break out into laughter for a little while. Lord Junior ended up telling us all that we needed to go through that round again with the same partners so that he could see if his partner could turn correctly on her second try. Good times.

Look at me, posting things on a holiday! I must be really dedicated to this, or something. I hope that everyone manages to get out dancing this weekend to burn off all those extra calories. I know that I’ll be out somewhere this weekend. There is at least one dance party I know about going on, and I think I have some dance lessons scheduled, and for sure I’ll be getting in some practice time. The dancing never ends!