Friday nights this month we get to do Hustle again at the Electric Dance Hall. Hooray! Have I mentioned that I enjoy this style of dance? Because I do. It may not be one of those dance styles that I will ever spend much time working on technique for, or competing with, but along with Cha-Cha it can be pulled out for use with songs that you might hear at a nightclub (or any sort of non-ballroom dance club), so knowing it is handy. Since last weekend was a holiday weekend and all sorts of people were out-of-town, we had a guest instructor in to teach the class. It was the same guy that was teaching the Shag class at the beach party I attended a couple of weeks ago. I have seen him around quite a bit lately, so I think he probably should have a name at this point. We’ll call him Sir Digler. I was kind of excited to be going through Hustle with a different instructor, because different instructors know different figures, and I am always looking to pick up new Hustle figures. This class did not disappoint. There were two people in class with us that night who didn’t know much Hustle, so we started things off pretty simply, but since so many of us knew the basics already, we managed to cover a lot more in the class than Sir Digler had anticipated we’d get to, so by the end we got to do two figures that were new for me (I guess it’s really one new figure and one variation on a figure that I knew if you want to get technical). The variation figure we did was the closed-position Grapevine. It wasn’t really a difficult figure to go through in theory, but the trick was to make sure on the second step to cross your outside leg behind instead of in front of the inside leg. If the lady I was dancing with decided to try to move away from me, crossing in front to keep close to her just happened naturally, which then threw off the rest of my footwork when I realized what I had done and tried to compensate. At the very end of class with only minutes to spare, Sir Digler threw in a figure that he called the ‘New York Walks’ – which looked and felt a lot like a Cross Body Lead like you would see in Rumba or Cha-Cha. The lead for this figure, we were told, involves doing a forward rock step when you start, which is what signals the Follower that you are going to do this. I’m not sure how you would get that point across to someone who has never gone through it once before, but I’ll make sure to give it a try one day and see what happens.
Latin Technique class on Monday was more work than fun. One of the ladies that has decided to start coming to class I’m going to call Ms. Possible. She did a Samba performance during the showcase that I also performed during a couple of weekends ago. Because she was in class with us, Lord Junior decided to go through some Samba that evening. Abracadaniel was a bit afraid, since the only Samba he has ever done has been the Samba line dance that’s popular in this area. To keep things simple for his sake, and to get us all warmed up, Lord Junior wanted to start us out doing Cruzado Walks, but we actually spent half the class working on those, both regular Cruzado Walks and ones with a lock-step during every third beat. After we walked the length of the dance floor and back more times than I could count, we got to the meat of what Lord Junior actually wanted to work on that night: Promenade Runs. They seem to come up a lot during this class when we work on Samba for some reason. I’ll admit that I was worried when class started and he decided to do Samba – I have changed up my workout routine to something new starting this week, so my body is still in that first-week adjustment period, and I was feeling pretty thrashed before I even got to the studio that night. Even with that hanging over me, I feel like I managed to do the Promenade Runs pretty well, at least with most of the Followers that were there. Bony is quite a bit shorter than me, so the first couple of times we did things together we had to figure out how to adjust our strides properly. Lord Junior kept telling me not to take much smaller steps for her, rather he goaded her into pushing off her standing leg more to fit to my stride better. That was a nice change of pace for once. A lot of times when I’m in classes and dancing with Followers who are a lot shorter than me, I end up taking tiny steps to accommodate them rather than try to push them to stretch their legs more. By the end of class Ms. Possible was super amped up about going through things, and when we danced together she managed to smack me on the back pretty hard a couple of times as she traded the hand on my back when she came around. She felt bad about doing it, but I just thought it was funny when her hand made a thwacking noise as it hit me. I promised her that I was pretty durable, so she didn’t need to worry about breaking me. That seemed to ease her mind a bit.
Wednesday night I met up with Sir Steven to work on some things. When I got there, he and Chanel were finishing up their coaching session. She came over to talk a bit while Sir Steven was off doing paperwork, and I jokingly asked her if she was going to stick around for the next hour or so to be the Follower for me during my session since Sparkledancer was on vacation. She laughed and said that no one had asked her to stay, but if I had asked her a few days ago she would have been able to. Instead, she had to leave to go meet up with some other people. I was just kidding initially when I asked her about staying, but as we started working on things, I kind of wished she had stayed around. Sir Steven wanted to start by working on a technique I could use to control my Follower when dancing most of the American Smooth styles (everything except Tango). When we do a rotation, like a Natural Turn in Waltz, as a Leader I need to make sure that my Follower knows to expand her body away from me. Since we are dancing in close contact, with the right-side of my abdominal area against her left, I’m supposed to press forward into her with that part of my body. Essentially it’s like a weird, almost pelvic thrust into her. Really it involves rolling the hips forward and pressing with everything from the ribs down to the upper thigh, but I could see myself in the mirror, so I know for sure it looks like a pelvic thrust when I’m doing it without a partner. It was a funny thing to watch myself do. This is where having Chanel around would have been helpful. As Sir Steven was showing it to me and I did it alone, it was OK, but when he took dance position with me so I could feel what it would be like with an actual body to press against, it got a bit awkward. I have come a long way with letting people into my personal space since the days of my youth, but this is the kind of maneuver that I never pictured I would ever be attempting with another guy, even if I know him really well. I’m not sure how I would even feel about doing it with Sparkledancer. I’d have to at least warn her about it first. Hopefully she and I are good enough friends at this point in our dance journey together that it will be cool.
After we went through that enough to realize that neither one of us wanted to spend the whole time working on the technique without at least somebody buying the other one dinner, we moved on to some Tango to go through the same rotations and emphasize that the forward motion isn’t included. When we finished up there, we moved on to Cha-Cha. Sir Steven specifically wanted to work on me moving my hips back and forth as I slowly walked through the basic figure. Once again, that sort of movement really showcased my debilitating White Boy Hip Syndrome. While we were working on trying to get my hips to move like they actually had purpose, Sir Steven kept getting on me about dropping my head down when I was thinking more about my lower body. He actually took me over to a wall to work on getting my head in line for a while – specifically with making my neck as long as possible while driving my occipital protuberance (that bump at the back of the skull, for those that don’t know) into the wall to help align my head. We worked for a while at wandering around the floor with my head in that position, and he told me this was something I really needed to work on more often. His recommendation was to try holding my head like that while in the car. Sir Steven said that back in his formative dance years, he would practice things like this and upper body isolation movements while driving from one place to another. Because your lower body generally can’t move while driving, it’s a good time to get in some practice with the upper body isolations. The only time he said he ran into complications with that was back when he owned a car that was a stick shift – moving your upper body around in strange manners while trying to shift gears is not one of the recommendations. I guess if any of you see me driving around, you’ll know it’s me because I’ll be moving my upper body around weirdly in the car for a while…
There’s a tough choice to be made this weekend. On one side of town, the City Dance Hall is having a dance party and they are doing a West Coast Swing lesson beforehand. I love me some ballroom-style West Coast Swing, so I am super tempted to go there just for that. Then again, on the other side of town, there is going to be a White Party, where everyone is supposed to wear all white (I’ll have to wear black dance shoes though). That could be a lot of fun, and I know a lot of people going to that event. I could pull off white to cover my upper body pretty easily, but I don’t own any white pants. I’m not even sure where to find white pants. It might be really fun to see everyone dressed in all white and dancing all night. Choices, choices… either one would be a fun adventure, so which one should I go to?