Throw The Switch, Get Ready For Some Turbulence

When I got together this weekend with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer, I was in for a bit of a shock. For the last couple of weeks, we had been discussing an upcoming competition in October. Since we have been working almost exclusively on American Smooth, I had thought that would be all that we would sign up for if we decided to do October. Last week Sparkledancer mentioned that she didn’t want to just throw together something for American Rhythm or International Latin, since we wouldn’t have much time to work on that if we did. However, adding in International Standard didn’t seem like that much of a stretch. When discussing the possibility, Sir Steven said that a lot of the techniques we had been working on for Smooth would carry over into Standard. I was a bit more cautious, saying that it had been a SetYourControls1long enough time since I had really put any study into Standard, so we would definitely have to review the Bronze syllabus for everything before I would be comfortable competing at Silver like we had talked about doing for Smooth. Well, this week once Sparkledancer and I both got to the Endless Dance Hall and started changing our shoes, Sir Steven rushed over to see us. He said that he had been putting together some Bronze-level International Standard routines for us to use for the upcoming competition, so we were going to spend our time that day going over as much of the choreography as we could fit in before his next lesson showed up.

Gulp. Wasn’t expecting that when I woke up that morning.

With that, the decision as to whether or not we were going to do the competition in October seemed to be pretty much made for us. We got started right away with going over the Foxtrot. Since we are going to do Bronze syllabus rounds, the routine wasn’t terrible. We spent most of the time on that style going over doing Heel Turns for Sparkledancer, and the corresponding Impetus Turn for me. I got the better end of the bargain though, since I only have to do two Impetus Turns during the entire loop around the floor while Sparkledancer will have to do four Reverse Heel Turns and four Natural Heel Turns. Once we covered everything a couple of times, I recorded Sir Steven dancing the routine with Sparkledancer so that she and I could work on getting it into memory later. Then we moved on to Quickstep. This is probably the one I am the most nervous about at this point, since I haven’t done Quickstep (even socially) in a really long time. Much like the Foxtrot, the Quickstep is not a complicated routine by any means – the most difficult figure I think we are doing is the Double Reverse Turn – but feeling comfortable at speed is going to take a bit. I love Viennese Waltz, so there is a part of me that believes that once I get the Quickstep up to tempo I will have a lot of fun doing it anytime a Quickstep comes on in any dance situation, but I’m not there quite yet. I’ll need at least a couple of weeks before I feel like that. And last before we ran out of time, we looked at Tango. We only managed to cover and record the first long wall before we had to stop, so we’ll have to finish that next week. I was initially skeptical about the Tango, since the figures I already knew for International Tango were so different from American Tango, but it turned out the routine was just a slight modification of our existing routine for American Tango, so I’m not feeling as bad about things now. Next week we plan on finishing the Tango and going through the Waltz, and then we’ll have to go through the entirety of our American-style routines to see if any changes are needed. After that, it’s just repetition until competition time.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?

Right after our lesson was over, Sparkledancer and I went out to lunch together to discuss and then actually register for the competition, since it felt like we had better make it official if we are SetYourControls2putting all this work into learning these routines. She and I went through the categories available and chose to do Silver American Smooth (Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango) and Silver American Viennese Waltz (for fun), and then Bronze International Standard (Waltz, Quickstep) and Bronze International Standard (Foxtrot, Tango). Our places are now purchased so we’re on the list. There’s no turning back now! We slotted out two nights for working on each style this week so that we could for sure have everything memorized before the next time we see Sir Steven. That means she and I got together for some practice time every day since Saturday. Since the competition is so soon, I imagine we will be spending a whole lot of nights this month getting together to practice things. Things are going to be rough for a bit, since there’s a feeling of pressure hanging overhead during our practice sessions now that we are officially on the list for the competition, but it should be good. Pressure makes sure that I actually do things. Like practicing…

The only night we didn’t get together to practice our new routines for at least a few minutes was the Saturday night after we learned all the choreography, and that was because we had both promised to attend a social dance with a bunch of people at the Electric Dance Hall. It was a party that Lord Junior put together at the last-minute as a celebration of the end of summer. He gave a short lesson before the dance to cover American Rumba, which ended up being some pretty basic steps since there were a lot of new dancers in the crowd who had never done American Rumba before. After the lesson was over and the floor opened up, we had fun. I had asked Sparkledancer before we started about how she felt trying some International Standard in place of American Smooth during the night. I wasn’t going to try to pull out our new routines, since we had only gone through them the first time earlier that day and I didn’t have them committed to memory yet, but I knew we could switch the way we danced to be more International style by swapping out a few moves (like using Heel Turns in Foxtrot in place of Reverse Turns or using the Whisk in Waltz in place of Twinkles) and by not doing anything that would break frame. She said as long as we committed to Standard or Smooth when we started and didn’t switch halfway through a song it would be OK, otherwise it would get too confusing, so we did that a couple of times. My top point of pride from the evening was when we got to dance West Coast Swing. We have been working really hard on getting more comfortable using all the new and varied figures we’ve been studying, and that night the DJ put on several slow SetYourControls3Swing songs that gave us a great opportunity to pull those things out to play with. We were the only ones there that night that were dancing West Coast Swing, even during the slowest Swing songs, so we usually went to dance in the middle of the floor so we could show off. I don’t know if anyone was impressed by that, but I felt good about it, and that’s really all that matters. I do know that we managed to impress some people who night with something else… Sparkledancer and I had decided to dance a Tango that night (I’ve really been trying not to avoid doing Tango so much lately). The way we were dancing was noticeably different from everyone else on the floor – much more staccato, more grounded to the floor, with our knees bent considerably, and doing a lot of crazy figures that we knew that look a lot different from what people normally do during a social Tango. At one point we went past a group of young girls sitting on the side of the room chatting. As we went by, we could hear one girl ask the other “What are they doing?” to which her friend replied “That’s what Tango looks like eventually.” That also made me feel good about things. Hooray!

While at Latin Technique this week, we worked on putting together a Cha-Cha routine that anyone could work on individually to practice with – no partner required. The routine was fairly simply: starting with your weight on your left leg and your right foot pointed forward, do a rock step with your right foot and then go into a Hip Twist Chasse. From there you would do two Stationary Chasses, first on the right side then on the left. Next you would do two syncopated Forward Checks, left foot forward first then right foot. After that, to finish things off, you do a normal tempo forward check with your left foot and a Ronde Chasse, but with a forward step at the end instead of a side step. By the time you finish, you should essentially be two steps forward and slightly to the right of where you started, and you can go back to the Hip Twist Chasse right away to repeat things. Once we were all relatively comfortable with the steps, we started putting it to music. Lord Junior started with a song at 75% normal tempo, and we worked our way up 5% at a time until we got to full speed. He also divided the class into two groups. He took me, Abracadaniel and Sparkledancer (since we were the ‘tall kids’) and put us in the second group, and had everyone else in the first group go to the front of the room to run through the routine in front of everyone to music while we watched and evaluated. We then switched places so that they could watch us. After both groups did it once, he would turn the tempo up 5% and we would go again. Having people watch was like a little added pressure to make us work harder. During the last run through at full speed, a bunch of people from the first group messed things up, so Lord Junior said if they wanted another shot at things they could join the second group and try again. All but one person took that chance. It was a good time.

This week was also the first week that I switched out going to Salsa class for going to Lord Junior’s Advanced-level Standard class. This month he was working on Waltz. I have to admit, this was definitely the right choice – my white boy hips just fit in so much better when doing Waltz, it’s like they aren’t a hindrance anymore while I’m there! This class, Lord Junior wanted to specifically work on the Spin Turn. He said that while it is a Bronze-level step, getting it to look SetYourControls4good is more than most Bronze-level dancers can handle. We built a little pattern of figures so that we could practice. With Lord Junior dancing, there were only three Leads in class to work with six Follows, so boys didn’t get breaks that night. After going through the Spin Turn with everyone, we added in a back Turning Lock with a Natural Turn to close. We made the rounds through all the partners again, then added in an Open Impetus that went into a Basic Weave and we ended with this weird foot cross that looked like what you would do in a Viennese Waltz Reverse Turn. He said that we could use that to continue next week, or if he found something better we would start with the Spin Turn again and then do something completely different.

There’s really only one place to go on a dance field trip this weekend, so I think that’s where I’ll probably be. If I can get Sparkledancer to go, it will allow us to use a real dance floor to practice some things, so that is something to look forward to. I’m sure we can round-up a few other people to go as well, just to make sure it’s a party. If you’ll be there too, come say hi!

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