Oh, But Don’t Bowl Me Over

The Waltz workshop I went to was less about technique than I had expected. We had a definite pattern to work through that was challenging, and everything we did definitely cemented for me the fact that International Waltz never breaks frame. Looking back at my last competition routine in International Waltz, this fact means that most of the figures we did in the routine was… well, just plain wrong. I don’t even know how to justify them at this point, so I’m going to chalk things up to my own ignorance and remember that lesson the next time someone tries to help me choreograph an International Standard routine where we use figures that break frame. During the workshop there were two fancy figures that we went through Push1that I had never seen before: the double-reverse spin, and the hover corte. The spin wasn’t bad for me, and in fact we have a figure that is almost the same stuck into the American Waltz routine we are working on completing. The only difference is that in the workshop we ended the spin with feet together, and in the routine we are going from the spin right into promenade position and taking a checkas the next step, but the fancy spinning part is the same for both. The hover corte is slightly more of a mystery to me. As we were told when we started looking at the figure, the steps are not difficult at all, but making it look good while you do it is incredibly tricky. For me though, as I look back on the figure I keep wondering where in the world I would ever use something like that. It seems best suited as a corner piece, allowing you to change directions quickly, but even then I feel there would be better figures that could be used. I imagine though that it’s not the type of thing that people often throw in while social dancing, so the only place I’ll probably ever see it is during choreographed routines like what we were working on that day. Still, maybe I’ll cram it in my back pocket to look at later, in case I start to feel like all the other figures I know are not enough for me to worry about.

This week we were also having a lot of fun this week in the Pasodoble class. I know it sounds weird to say that, but I can’t pretend to be angry very well – trying to act angry makes me laugh, which breaks the illusion that I have any anger while dancing this style. At the beginning of the class, there was this pair of dancers working with their instructor on a Salsa routine that they would be performing in a few days off to one side, and as they finished up for the day they were sitting in the back watching what we were doing Push2quite intently. I imagine from the outside, when you watch people practicing their manly strutting techniques like we all were it must look even sillier than how I felt while actually doing the strutting. Plus, I have more trouble trying not to laugh while there is an audience than I did after they left. This week only two people returned from the previous week’s class, so we worked on a different configuration of figures that we hadn’t done before. By the end, we were focusing more on the shapes that we are supposed to be making with our bodies while moving, less on the footwork that is actually required. If we keep up at this rate, maybe by the end of the month I could actually look rather impressive while doing a Pasodoble routine. Sure, it probably won’t be a fancy dance-around-with-your-shirt-off type of routine (I am also way too pale to pull that look off), but it will be a vast improvement over the performance I had during the Pasodoble heats in the last competition I did. And that’s no bull!

Man I think I’m funny. I wish other people thought so too…
Push3 The last two coaching sessions I’ve had with Sir Steven have been productive as well. Foxtrot and Samba have been complete for a while, though we still go back to them to work on improving technical things that help make them look better. Last time I saw him, we worked on adding some fancy arm movements while we do the Samba rolls, which I must say makes me feel like my limbs don’t know what they are doing (I’m sure anyone watching me from the outside would say it probably looks… even worse than I think). The arm motions are one of those things that seem like they should be so easy when I watch Sir Steven move his the way they are supposed to move, yet I just seem incapable of pulling it off gracefully. Alas, I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever be able to perform graceful looking arm motions. So many years of my life have been spent trying to train my arms to lift heavy objects, and now I just don’t know if they are capable of moving in an elegant yet masculine manner. On top of that, when dancing things with people, sometimes no matter how hard I try to use the lightest of touches while leading, I know that I still exert too much force with my arms, using them to drive the figures rather than using my whole body. It’s a challenge I guess I have to deal with now that there seems to be so much more arm movement being added into everything that I do in dance.

We also finished putting together the Rumba and started in on the Cha-Cha, and looked at the Waltz for a bit. The Waltz routine may or may not actually be finished at this point. We have gone through the first long wall and short wall, and the routine is easy enough to loop in that manner, so we don’t necessarily need to create another long and short wall. We may, if we finish up everything and want to get crazy with the choreography, but then we may keep things conservative and leave the routine how it is now. Only time will tell what we end up with in the end. Working on the Rumba has been very interesting over these last two weeks. We’ve been spending a lot of time discussing the theory of, and working on implementing the connection you should have with your partner while dancing Rumba – taking the concept of always having pressure with the other person and moving beyond to really understanding the specific kind of pressure you should be feeling during each movement. For example – when in dance Push4frame, the pressure should actually feel like you are pressing against the other person, but if you move over to something like fan position it should feel more like you are pulling away from each other. Sounds pretty simple conceptually, right? Now try thinking about how that pressure changes with every movement you make. You’re out in fan position, pulling away from each other, but then you do a rock step (ladies bring their feet together, if I remember correctly) the pressure should subtly change to being moving in toward each other as you step forward, but back to moving away from each other as you replace your feet. Thinking about how each movement should change the way you’re feeling your dance partner is a lot of effort. During these sessions with Sir Steven, we’ve spent a lot of time practicing figures where Sparkledancer and I won’t even really be holding on to each other, but we’ll just make our hands into hooks like monkeys from a barrel and use the pressure from the hooks to feel what we’re supposed to be doing. Up to this point in my dance career, I think I was just using the pressure of the connection in a more instinctual manner, mostly with the ‘together’ kind of pressure, to let my dance partners know what they should be doing. Now that I have to put some thought into it, my brain kind of hurts. Luckily, the Rumba is a nice slow dance, so we are able to really think about what we’re doing while we try and do them. Next up though, we will be starting to put the same concepts to use in the Cha-Cha, and that terrifies me a little.

Then again, all the work on focusing on the pressure changes while dancing could fly out the window when I dance socially with ladies whom I only see occasionally. This coming Friday I’ll be attending another social dance, so I might actually get a chance to try things out and see if I can really make the concept work with more than just Sparkledancer, who happens to be learning the concept with me, or if such subtle changes would throw off people who don’t know what’s going on. Sounds like a scientific experiment, doesn’t it?

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