Not a lot going on so far this week, which in some ways is nice. I haven’t really slept much, so having some free nights to just sit and relax has been nice. This coming weekend should more than make up for the quietness.
I didn’t stay away from dancing entirely this past week though. Monday night I still went out to Latin Technique class, and we did some Samba. It’s been a long time since I’ve even thought about Samba, outside of the occasional Samba line dance that would come up while I’ve been out and about, so I may have been a little apprehensive at the start of class. We began by looking at Promenade Runs. This is not the first time I’ve gone through this figure specifically in Samba, but it’s the first time I’ve done them in this class with so many ladies in attendance (there were four, and if you include Lord Junior, there were only two Leads, so I got to go through the figure a lot). We tacked on a couple of closed-frame pivots after the initial set of Promenade Runs. The pivots were actually really challenging for me to pull off with everyone except Sparkledancer. Since she and I have worked together so much, I guess it was easy for her to tell how high up my arms were. Two of the other ladies kept trying to put their arms around me way too high – I’m not sure if they were trying to go over my shoulder instead of around my rib cage, but several times I had to bring my arm up and over in an arc to get it to where it was supposed to be without getting tangled up with my partner’s arm. I got scratched pretty hard by one lady’s long fingernails on the underside of my left forearm on one practice run. I’m not even sure how her arm managed to be in that spot, but it left a mark that has finally faded away today. One should expect the occasional dance battle wound, I guess.
Then on Wednesday we officially finished putting together all the choreography for our Pasodoble performance routine. Hooray! There was another class going on at the Electric Dance Hall while we were working on things, so to make sure no one ran into anyone else I got moved around the floor a lot. I think I have a pretty good idea about what parts should face the audience and what parts face away, but I will have to pick a wall and run things from start to finish to make sure that the direction I’m going ends up the same as I’m picturing it in my head. The strange three-step box figure that we had gone over a few times when we had initially started looking at the routine finally made its return, so it was nice to see where that all fit into the final product. I have set aside some time this weekend to run through things with Sparkledancer to make sure that we can perform the piece from start to finish from memory before the next time we meet with Sir Steven, because the faster I can get this memorized and up to tempo, the more time we can spend on cleaning up all the little things that will make it look as good as it can get. On top of that, Lord Junior is really eager to go over things with us as well so that he can tell me what I can do better, so if I want to fit that in and then have time to correct everything in my muscle memory before the date of performance, I really have to step things up a bit. It’s hard to believe there’s less than a month left now! Sparkledancer and I agreed to meet up with Sir Steven on two different days next week to knock out all the big things that need to be cleaned up after we get everything memorized, so that should be fun. The biggest concern I have now is where we can practice this routine if we don’t have floor space booked at a dance hall. During the opening section, there is a part where I drop down and “walk” along the floor on my knees, so I won’t really be able to go through things outdoors unless I plan on wrecking a pair of pants in the process, and I don’t quite have a big enough room in my apartment to go through some sections without stopping and backing up away from the wall. I’m sure I’ll figure something out this weekend. Necessity, mother of invention, all that jazz, right?
On to another matter…
I did promise way back when to put some thoughts down about the phrase I was told at a workshop I went to a while ago: “The devotion to the motion creates the emotion.” That phrase has been rolling around in my head for a while, and I’ve had a couple of long conversations about it to try to figure out how I can apply it to my own dancing. The phrase attempts to answer a question about how we as dancers portray emotion during our performances so that everyone else can understand. Great athletes (I’m going to lead with the idea that all dancers are athletes at least to some extent, depending on how much time you want to put into dancing) enjoy the actual feeling of what they are doing. That’s part of the draw that keeps them coming back to do the same physical activity over and over again, I imagine. I may not be a great athlete, but I spend a fair amount of time working out because I like the feeling. Though I don’t always look forward to doing things like crunches before I get down on the floor to do them, I do enjoy the feeling I get in the muscles in my core while I’m doing them (except for dolphin hops – those are a tool of the devil, and I can’t imagine I will ever enjoy that). So if dancers love the feeling they get from dancing, they should be able to show their audience through their movements. Plastering on a huge, fake, cheesy smile during a Foxtrot might give your face the appearance of enjoyment, but if you are taking tiny shuffle steps while slouching with droopy arms, your body language is going to contradict what your face is trying to convey. If you’re out at a dance party, people who watch you dance like that may avoid you the rest of the night so that they can dance with people who actually look like they are having fun.
But imagine you really enjoy Foxtrot. A song comes on, some silly, lounge version of a pop song that causes you to snap your fingers along with the beat. You pick up a dance partner and take to the floor. If you are enjoying the dance, you work a little harder, stretch your legs a bit longer with every step, use figures that allow you to weave through the crowd on the dance floor playfully, or kick your leg up so your foot is in line with your face during your Developés. Other people in the crowd see and feel the energy that you exude during the dance, even if you are not really smiling during it (probably because, if you’re like me, you may be singing along with the music at the same time). They can feel the theatricality that true Foxtrot exudes just by watching your movement around the room, and it causes them to smile as well. You don’t need to fake the smile to make the ‘audience’ happy, the way you are dancing makes them happy by allowing them to vicariously share your happiness. And if that audience is other dancers at a social gathering, many of them are going to add their names to your dance card that night so they can partake of some of the enjoyment you are sharing.
The part of that phrase I struggled with figuring out was the emotion one would be attempting to create. I have heard two different ideas about where the emotion portrayed in your dances should come from. On one hand. I’ve been told that the emotion for the dance is dictated by the dance style itself. If you are doing a Bolero for instance, it’s supposed to be a sensual slow dance, so you should dance like you are in love with your dance partner (for three to five minutes, at least). The other hand says that the feeling of the dance should be dictated by the song that you are dancing to. To throw a bit of music theory at you with a generic example, think about how listening to a Waltz song in a minor key can have a very different impact on you than a Waltz song you might play in a major key. Even if you kept the tempo the same for both songs, the first is going to have that “sad” feeling to it, while the second will feel “happy” to the average person.
(Note: yes, I have had the long arguments in music theory classes about the ‘sadness’ of minor key songs and the ‘happiness’ of major key songs. I know that is really over-generalizing the supposed feel of them to call songs sad or happy just based on the key, but I’m shooting for a very generic example here. We can further discuss such things later, if you want…)
I think I’ve come to the conclusion that the emotion of the dance performance should be determined by the song playing… if you’re someone who has some musical background. Obviously if you struggle just to keep time in a song, I can totally understand just fitting a general emotional context to the specific dance style and then using that every time you do that style. If you know enough about music to feel comfortable listening to the song and interpreting things accordingly, then using the song for cues on the portrayal during a performance seems like the better option.
So that’s the train of thought I have on this quote that I was told to memorize. I could be wrong, and I’m always open to discussing and refining my understanding of things if anyone wants to throw out a counterpoint to my ideas.
Lots of crazy dance things going on this next week! I hope I can fit in some time to breathe during everything else. I might have time to go to another dance fitness class Saturday morning! Maybe this time it will be me and fifty women, instead of only forty like there were last time I went. There’s even a secret dance party in honor of some people going on Friday night that I was invited to! I’m supposed to bring a dessert item to the party, but then I heard that everyone else is bringing desserts as well, and since I don’t eat much dessert when I’m home on my own I need to bring something that is better than everyone else’s desserts so that it will be eaten first and I don’t have to deal with leftovers. Hmm… finding something that good is going to be tough. Wish me luck on that pursuit!