So. Much. Samba. This. Week.
I went to the intensive Samba workshop last weekend at the Electric Dance Hall. These white boy hips I’ve got really need all the help they can get if I ever hope to do Samba. The workshop was built on the Samba line dance that is well known in dance halls around the Dance Kingdom, so walking into the class I already had a good baseline to start from. I can’t say that by the time I got out of the workshop I looked like a Samba master, able to shimmy my way out of any dangerous situation… but I did pick up a few things that should make my Samba look at least a little better. There were a lot of subtle fixes that I picked up going through the workshop, like one about my foot placement during a volta. Apparently I have been doing it wrong this whole time by not turning my back foot to point in the direction I am traveling. Sounds like a simple fix, but it will probably take me weeks to rewrite that bad habit in my brain so that I don’t do it any longer. The hardest thing is going to be that, while it all seems to make sense when I slowly step through the figures, as the tempo increases I tend to lose focus and only can do one new technical item at a time. Since I’m sure you’re all aware that Samba is not exactly a dance at slow tempos, this presents some real challenges if I ever hope to overcome my dance-debilitating white boy hip syndrome.
Can a person overwork their IT Band by overemphasizing the hip action? I certainly felt like I had done that by the time we finished.
The workshop also proved interesting because when I arrived I found that Mister was also attending, someone you might remember from a dance field trip that I went on last February. Turns out he is still dancing, and is studying at the Prime Dance Hall of all places. The Dance Lady he takes lessons from recently convinced him to sign up to do a showcase dance that is going to be some kind of crazy combination of Quickstep, Samba and Salsa. If you’re anything like me, you are probably scratching your head trying to figure out how that combination of styles would actually look when done together in the same two-minute dance routine. When I asked about that, Mister got really excited and ran out to his car and brought back in his tablet to show me the recording he had made of the Prime Dance Hall’s choreographer and his instructor going through the showcase number together. He said that Samba was not something he was very good at, so he had decided to join this workshop to get some pointers on the style to help him prepare for the showcase number. Diane, Sparkledancer and Jack had also come along to join the party, so we all took over a large section of the far side of the dance floor so that we could learn things together. Grouping together like that also allowed all the males to find solace together over the fact that we will never look quite as good as the women when doing these figures.
Not a whole lot of the figures we did from the line dance are a part of the next Samba routine that I would use for competition. We actually pretty much finished putting it together on Tuesday night while working with Sir Steven. There are a couple of spots that may still end up getting changed, because Sparkledancer and I were not able to do some of the figures as fast as he wanted our first few times running through them. To make things simpler while learning the new figures, we stretched them out over twice as many measures of the song. I imagine that if she and I can get together and practice, we can get comfortable enough with the new figures to do them in half the time, but it will still take some work. Believe it or not, the Samba rolls that I mentioned last week ended up being one of the easier things we went over for the routine. They aren’t perfect by any means, but I was told they were pretty good. When the tempo of the music goes up, she and I have a tendency to bump our knees together, and since we both have to be on our toes for most of the figure, small bumps like that cause a bit of a stumble. But rolling my body around is a much easier movement for me to understand than the other figure we tried to learn where I’m supposed to move my arms around, but not to move them together. I mean, seriously? You expect my arms to do two different things at the same time while not forgetting what my feet are trying to do? They’re going to end up looking like crazy noodles attached to my shoulders! Luckily, the routine is at a point where we can go all the way around the room and start over from the top, so Sparkledancer and I can just start running it in loops when we find time, and drill it until it looks a lot better. Or maybe I’ll just have crazy noodle arms forever… we’ll have to see, I guess.
I met up with Sparkledancer this past Sunday to have lunch and get some practice in. That is the nice thing about having dance friends who are at the same level as you – you can get together to practice, and it doesn’t cost anything, like practicing with a Dance Lord or Lady would. As the days are getting to be really nice, we are opting to spend time practicing things outdoors rather than cooped up in a dance hall somewhere. Back when we were training for the competition we did back in September, we found a spot near a mixed use commons area where there are a bunch of shops and apartments, but in the middle of the walkways they have these sections of grass with large trees planted every so often. The trees are spaced out enough to approximate where the corners of a large competition ballroom floor would be, so in September when we had to practice our ballroom routines that were too big for any dance hall besides the Endless Dance Hall, we ended up going there. The trees are big enough that they keep most of the area we were dancing in under the shade, and generally the people walking amidst the shops will just keep walking past without stopping to ask us what the heck we’re up to. Unbeknownst to us before we arrived, this weekend there was also some kind of art fair going on around the development. The little patch between the trees near the end of the road we usually claim was free, but going down the road into the commons area there were all kinds of people milling about, and all these tents set up with things for people to peruse. Even with all the activity, Sparkledancer and I decided we had already shown up, so leaving would be dumb. We started working on our Waltz and Foxtrot figures that we had gone over with Sir Steven earlier in the week. It didn’t take long before people were actually stopping to watch. We had one older lady in particular who stood behind one of the trees and was cheering for us when we did things that thrilled her for almost the entire time we were out there practicing. I didn’t think we were all that interesting, since we were running the same figures over and over again, but she stuck around. Most people would watch for a moment and then move on somewhere else. If Sparkledancer and I had had more time during the week to practice, I would have stopped and offered to dance with our new, biggest fan behind the bush, but since practice time was limited I didn’t think about it until after I had left. Ah well, I can always see if we can do it again next Sunday.
I think the thing I have most enjoyed this week however was Viennese Waltz class Wednesday night. It seems a bit silly, but it was a nice break from doing all that Samba. More and more, while working on things with Lord Junior, I am finding the best way to get through Viennese Waltz without making the dance more difficult than it needs to be is just to relax. For so long, I always thought that Viennese Waltz was crazy, and the dance was (and still is) terrifying. With the fast tempo of the music and the speed of each rotation, oftentimes I would work really hard at holding my dance frame by flexing most of the muscles in my upper body before taking off down the floor. Lord Junior has said time and again in the class that people are often trying too hard to dance well, and working too hard actually works against you in Viennese Waltz. This week he told me that he has been able to see a notable improvement between how I was doing things on the first class of the month and now. Sure, there are still some things to work on. I still have a hard time keeping my head left and not looking at my dance partner as we start moving, and I am really working on making sure that every travelling movement comes not from taking a step with my outside leg, but from pushing off with my standing leg. Lucky for me, because this class started on the last day of April, we still have two more weeks that I can use to work on improving things even more.
The last day of this month there is going to be a formal dinner and dance field trip at the Endless Ballroom that I have signed up to attend. A whole host of dance halls from across the Dance Kingdom are sending emissaries to this event, and many Dance Lords and Ladies are going to be performing for our entertainment. I know that Lord Junior and his partner will be performing, and Sir Steven actually surprised me and told me that he is going to be doing a performance with Indiana that night. Also, I’m going to get spinach ravioli for dinner, so I can’t wait!