Frantic Actions Of Insanity

Let’s have a conversation about technique today. Don’t worry, I promise not to make it totally boring…

We’ll start with something I do that people seem to find funny: lately, there have been a lot of technical things that I have been told that I really need to be working on. One in particular is stranger than all the others. Travel with me back to Monday night, when I was out at the Latin Technique class that I usually go to on Mondays. Since many people didn’t show up this week for one reason or another, it was a quiet night with just Sparkledancer, Lord Junior and I, and he let us decide what we wanted to work on rather than coming up with something himself. Sparkledancer and I talked about it for a few minutes and picked Bolero, because we have just started getting back into dancing that style and wanted to see if he could help us be better at it. Fast forward to the latter part of the class, and we were working on doing New Yorkers slowly (as a side note, whenever I am working on technique with Lord Junior, for some reason it always ends up devolving into doing New Yorkers slowly for long periods of time, no matter what dance style we start with…), and Lord Junior had to stop me to tell me all about when I throw my arm out during the figure. Specifically, how I seem to make a little circle with my arm before putting it out straight. I had never really noticed that before, but he told me that he sees me do it all the time during social dances – it’s like a little extra loop as the arm goes out, he said. For the rest of the class, whenever I would put my arm out, he would point it out to me if I did it again. He even thought it was funny to call me ‘Loops’ while we were working. I saw what he ConstantMotion1was talking about in the mirror, and it looks almost like I am winding my arm up right before I open it out to whatever position I am going for. I had never noticed that I do that before, and now I feel really self-conscious about having this weird ingrained habit that I have to somehow break. Things got to a point during class after that looping action had been pointed out repeatedly that rather than put my arm out straight to the side, I would try to leave my arm down at my side, or put my hand on my hip to have the arm like a chicken wing. I have no idea where I would have picked up this habit, but now that it’s been pointed out to me, it’s going to be the only thing I will be able to think about whenever I do New Yorkers. I barely remember the other technical things he was trying to show me when we were working on them because all I could think about was what to do with my arm!

(Another side note: as I have been sitting here proofreading that last paragraph, I have been slowly straightening my right arm out to the side, to see if I can do it without any extraneous movements. It’s an easy thing to do when no one else is watching and I’m thinking about it. Sigh…)

I do actually remember what else he was telling me to work on while we did New Yorkers: foot placement. While doing the crossover, Lord Junior would come over and kick my toe to let me know that my foot wasn’t turned out far enough for his liking. This was difficult – even when I put effort into turning out my foot as far as my leg will let me, it still looks like my foot is pointing straight ahead when I view ConstantMotion2what I’m doing in a mirror. The only way I could turn my foot out farther was to actually bend my knee slightly, which for some strange reason allowed my foot to rotate farther than it would with my leg straight. Sounds strange, right? In reflection, this habit I think is mostly because of techniques I have been working on when I work out. I have been doing work lately to try to strengthen my hip flexors, which involves rotating my foot inward. I pushed myself really hard to get better at lifting my legs with my heel pointed toward the ceiling and my toes pointing toward the floor. As you can imagine, this works contrarily to what Lord Junior was trying to get my foot to do when doing the cross overs. I guess I’m going to have to go back and have some serious reflection on whether I need to work so hard at rotating my foot inward as opposed to outward while doing this exercise. Is it better to have that added strain as I work on my hip flexor, which helps build strength? Or do I need to abandon that to help myself work on having my toes pointed outward more? That’s a tough call.

At the level I’ve been working at in dance, I’ve also reached that point in my training where I now have to move up from just having good posture to having the best posture, and every little thing I do seems to be wrong while working on that. Seriously, I can’t even accidentally flex the muscles on top of my shoulders without someone telling me that it looks wrong. In order to work on her own posture, Sparkledancer recently got this fancy electronic device that she showed me. I guess it clips onto your clothes, and when attached you set it when standing with your best posture, and once setup the device will vibrate whenever you move in such a way that causes you to lose that level of posture. It must use some kind of magic to sense that, because it’s a tiny little device and it has no sensors to attach to your skin anywhere, so I have no idea how it knows when you would be slumping forward. Seeing the device did get me wondering though – would it be really helpful to me to have some kind of posture brace to wear to help train me to stand up even better? I’ve never spent much time thinking about that before, but I can see merits to having something like that device which would tell me when I’m slacking off. I think I would prefer something more low-tech though; a nice harness that would fit over my chest and shoulders underneath my normal clothing would be just fine. Something buzzing at me all the time would probably be turned off while I was at work (or thrown across a room), which wouldn’t help me much then. I have seen crazier contraptions – once I was at a Waltz workshop that was also attended by Mister, and during our break halfway through the workshop he went out to his car and came back with what looked like a bent metal bar that fit over his neck and shoulders, kind of like a yoke, and extended out so that his arms also rested on the bar to keep them in the proper place. Based on the design, I’m sure it did wonders for helping him hold his upper body in the right place and keep things steady, but it seemed a bit unwieldy to be wearing something like that while dancing with a partner. Maybe I should ask around and see if any other dancers have used a posture brace to help them condition their body to be better, and see what their recommendations are. Have any of you ever used something to help improve your posture specifically for dance? Personally, I know I can look like I have the best posture in the world if I flatten my back against a wall, but then it becomes very hard to move around…

No one wants to dance with me when I stand like this... :(
No one wants to dance with me when I stand like this… 😦

OK, that’s enough technical talk for now. I think I’ve gotten my plans for New Year’s Eve worked out. Hooray! I had so much fun last year at the formal dance party at the Endless Dance Hall that I have paid for a ticket to do it all over again. That’s less than three weeks away now! Can you believe it? If you don’t have plans, you might still be able to go to that party with me. I don’t think that the tickets are completely sold out quite yet, but there weren’t many to start with so you’d better get one fast. Otherwise I can recommend other parties that I’ve heard about to you, but then you wouldn’t get to come dance with me, and I’m sure that would make you a little sad. After all, how else would you get to see if I am still doing weird arm loops if you aren’t there?

2 thoughts on “Frantic Actions Of Insanity

  1. I’ve seen the yoke thing but have never been forced to use it. They do have me back up against a wall to feel what it is supposed to feel like and then you walk away trying to hold that feeling. My usual training aid though is Z screaming “head” at me about 50 times per lesson to keep me focused on posture.

    1. I never thought about just hiring someone to yell at me if I do it wrong. I don’t know if that would be more or less annoying than an electronic device buzzing at me when I’m standing wrong. Hmm…

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