During Salsa class last Thursday, we only really covered two things that we hadn’t gone through the previous week. We started with a really long warm-up, where she had us following her lead for two pretty long songs, doing some basic movements. Some of the things she had us doing during the warm-up I couldn’t figure out how you would ever dance with a partner without smacking your knees together or running into each other. I was told later that there are times in Salsa where the Lead and Follow actually dance apart, without coordinating their movements. Those sorts of pieces would work during that type of solo work. Not realizing that was an option was totally my fault – I have been so engrossed in partner dancing like I do now, I totally forgot what it is like to just go to a dance club and dance with random ladies who have no idea what I’m doing, and don’t take any cues about what they should be doing from me. I don’t know if I could ever easily go back to dancing like that. I forget that this class isn’t geared toward teaching me to dance in a ballroom – it’s geared toward teaching me to dance in Latin clubs downtown. Anyhow… when we did finally move into dancing with partners, we went back to review a lot of the figures we had done the prior week. When we finally got to something new, it turned out to be not that new to me at all. She called the figure a ‘360°’ after thinking about what the English translation would be. It was really just a Natural Top, something I have done lots of time in Rumba or Cha-Cha. Once she showed us the basics of how to do it, I defaulted to doing it like I would do in Rumba, except much faster. Abracadaniel was struggling to figure out how to get all the way around, so at one point I told him to think back to the Latin Technique class we were in where he had first done the Natural Top and remember that his first step needs to start him rotating about 90°, otherwise he would never make it all the way around. That seemed to help him get most of the way, and I’m sure with practice he will be able to get all the way.
While thinking about Salsa: after several weeks of trying, I have come to the conclusion that Salsa class is not for me. Once upon a time I was told that Salsa is essentially ‘sloppy Mambo’ and after going to these classes, I can really see why people would say that. It is much more challenging to lead someone to do what I want them to when holding on in a two-hand hold down around our waists. I’ve found that I will often switch to using a closed-frame hold to do things, to ensure there is no confusion over what I want the lady to do. So if I keep doing that, I’m essentially just dancing Mambo on the wrong beat of the music. So, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and I think I’m going to switch over to go to Lord Junior’s advanced International Standard classes instead. Next month I was told they will be doing International Waltz. I have some obvious reservations about going to the class, seeing as how I really focus on American Smooth, but the techniques they work on should work for both Smooth and Standard, which will be nice. I’ll have to do some review if International Tango ever comes up, seeing as how that style is significantly different from American Tango. Also, it’s been over a year since the last time I even thought of doing Quickstep, so that might be a challenge as well. I’ll just take things one month at a time and ask Lord Junior about things I would need to know before going if those particular styles come up. It will be fun!
Friday night I went out to the open dance at the Electric Dance Hall. I didn’t go to the class beforehand, but I caught the end of it as I came in to change my shoes, so I still got to talk to everyone in class, and most of them stuck around for the dance as well. HotDog showed up for the dance late, and brought a lady with him. I’m not sure what the story was between the two of them – at first I thought it was like a date, but then he left her sitting out on the side a lot as he danced with this other new girl who had been there for the class beforehand and had stayed for the dance. It might have been because the ‘friend’ HotDog brought had never danced before, so she didn’t know what to do, but the other new girl was also pretty new and had only started on the basics of a few different dance styles that same week. At one point during the evening, I was standing by the front counter with a glass of water, taking a break for a moment, and a Hustle came on. HotDog called to me and tried to wave me over onto the floor, telling his friend that I was some kind of Hustle master. I deflected the first time, but he was insistent that I come out there, so I set down my water and grabbed his friend for a dance. She had never done Hustle before, so I kept things pretty simple for her sake while HotDog went off to dance with Sparkledancer. After the dance was over, I went back to my water. Sparkledancer came by and told me that it was good that I went out to entertain HotDog’s friend because when she danced with him, she could tell he was really unsure about what he was doing, and he probably didn’t want to look so unsure while dancing with his lady friend. I thought that was funny. Men will do all sorts of crazy things to look impressive in front of ladies.
There was another pair of workshops being given by Judge Dread this weekend. Unfortunately, due to another commitment that I had to meet, I was only able to stay for the first one. This time we covered Viennese Waltz. When Judge Dread started talking about Viennese Waltz, he gave a speech that was in the same vein as what Lord Junior told me in the very first class I ever took from him. Basically, what he said boils down to: Viennese Waltz is what people think about when they think of ballroom dancing, because it is featured prominently in animated fairy tale movies of old – ladies wearing big, poofy ball gowns being spun around the floor by princes wearing their finest dress uniforms. People want to dance Viennese Waltz and have that feeling, with all the smiles and freedom that comes from spinning around the floor that quickly. What ends up happening in most social dances is that a Viennese Waltz comes on, and as people pair up to dance a look of terror sets in on their faces just as they take off down the line of dance. He reminded us all that the music was never as fast as we convinced ourselves it was, and that if we just took a couple of deep breaths and relaxed, the dance could be as fun as we all wanted it to be. To practice we did a simple pattern: four Natural rotations, one forward Change Step, four Reverse rotations and then another forward Change Step to start over. As we worked through things, I was surprised at the number of people who didn’t really know this dance style that had shown up for a Silver-level workshop. One girl I danced with told me that the class was the first time she had ever tried Viennese Waltz before. As we finished up working on practicing things, Judge Dread gathered us all back around to talk about what we’d done. He mentioned that what we had looked at that day would have been classified as International Viennese Waltz, but going out and learning American Viennese Waltz would be good for everyone. For the time, he said that there were only a handful of figures for all of International Viennese Waltz, and then asked if anyone knew how many there were. When no one else spoke up after a few seconds, I said “Seven” loud enough for everyone to hear. After figuring out who it was that said that, Judge Dread looked straight at me and asked if I could name them all. On the spot, I managed to remember all but one (stupid Contra Check…), so I felt kind of stupid the rest of the afternoon for forgetting that. The interesting thing he said is that the people in charge of the great dance competitions around the world are looking at whether to allow some figures from American Style to be used during International Viennese Waltz in competitions, to open up the choreography a bit more and allow people to do some more exciting and different things. It would only be American-style figures where the partners don’t separate completely to keep with the spirit of International-style, but he said that would be another good reason for people to study both American and International styles so they can be ready.
The thing I am majorly excited about this week is how nicely Sparkledancer and I have been coming along in our ‘West Coast Wednesdays’ studies. We’ve made lots of progress covering and memorizing six-count figures, and now we are starting to work on doing Whips. Depending on who you listen to, it appears that a Whip in West Coast Swing can either be a specific type of figure, or some people refer to any eight-count figure as a Whip. I like to think of the Whip as its own figure, and not lump all eight-count figures in with it or its variations. For instance, a move I’ve known for a long time that I always referred to as a Cradle (since it resembles various Cradle moves I’ve done in other dance styles) I’ve seen called just the Cradle, like I call it, but also the Basket Whip. I like to think of it as a different figure than the normal Whip, but that’s just me. Some of the other things we went through were the basic Open and Closed Whip movements, the Whip with Inside or Outside turns, a Left-Side Walk-around (which is basically a Whip where the lady goes around the other side of the gentleman), and for fun we looked at a Continuous Whip, which is the same as a normal Whip except you spin around in the middle more than 180° (you can keep spinning until you feel dizzy) and then release. Next week I think we plan to go back and review all of these and maybe look at some more variations on these existing figures for fun. I’m hoping that at the dance party I plan on going to this Saturday night, there will be a West Coast Swing played so that I can try these new figures out in public to see how they go.
It’s hard to believe it’s almost September already! By the time I look at posting things next week, we’ll already be well on our way into the new month. Time sure flies when you’re having fun. I hope you’re all having fun too. As I mentioned, there’s a dance party that I’m going to this coming Saturday. If you’re around, you should totally come along. If you know West Coast Swing, you can help me work on the new things I’ve learned, and then someday when I get to be a West Coast Master, you can tell everyone that you totally knew me back when I was only a West Coast Undergrad.