I know that I said last week that we were going to have everything completed by the time we got done meeting up this past Saturday afternoon, but we didn’t quite get there. As we were warming up, Sparkledancer kept coming back to an issue she was feeling with the Spin Turn in Quickstep, so when Sir Steven came to find us so we could get started, we started with working on her question. That devolved into going through Quickstep a fair number of times so that we could feel confident in everything, but that ate up our time. We still managed to finish up mapping out the short wall for our International Tango routine and right at the end we got through all of our International Waltz routine, but the short wall for our American Tango routine was left out due to us having to stop for Sir Steven’s next client. I must say that it is getting easier for me to tell that we’ve improved at filling our space. While practicing our routines at the Endless Dance Hall, with its immense dance floor, without even putting a lot of effort into things we are almost running the entire length from corner to corner. That may not sound like much if you’ve never seen the length of the floor at the Endless Dance Hall, but that’s something. If you had told me a year ago that I would be able to do that with so little effort, I would have laughed and thought you to be slightly mad. The short walls of our routines are able to do the same thing, though there is a part of me that feels like we are trying to cram too many figures into some of our short walls. The pattern works out fine while on a floor the size of the Endless Dance Hall, but when I tried practicing the figures over at a more normal sized floor like the Electric Dance Hall, I have to either cut figures or curve them awkwardly around the corner to keep from running into the mirrors. I guess having super long walls in your routines is easier to adjust than finding out that your routines are too short when you finally set foot on the competition floor, right?
Later that night I got talked into going out to a party at the Fellowship Dance Hall. I don’t usually go out there because the crowd is so much older than what I usually see. That’s weird to say, since in general the non-competitive ballroom dancing world tends to attract a crowd that is much older than me, but this place in particular has a crowd of regulars that is older than what I normally encounter when I’m out and about. There was a Cha-Cha lesson taught before the party by an instructor who liked to use weird names for figures. For instance, one of the things he had everyone do was a pair of Switch Turns. Pretty simple, I’ve done lots of those in various places throughout the years – but he kept referring to them as ‘Single-Time Turns’ for some reason. That was weird enough, but he also had everyone do Lock Steps going forward, but kept calling them ‘Forward Cha-Cha Walks’ and that one really threw me for a loop. Has that figure ever been called something other than Lock Steps before? No matter what dance style I’ve done, it’s always been Lock Steps, and they all move in the same general way. To call them something different just feels… wrong. I know, ‘A rose by any other name…’ and all that jazz, but it still feels wrong to me. During the party, they did have an interesting way of setting up a mixer dance. They had all the men line up on one side of the floor and all the ladies on the other. They put on a song that sounded right at home as a Pasodoble, and they had the lady and man at the front of the line meet in the middle and proceed down the floor. You were supposed to remember each person you paired up with during this process. When everyone had met at least three partners, they put on a song and you had to scramble to find the first person you had paired up with to dance. When that song was over, another song was put on and you had to find the second partner, and then the process was repeated for the third. It was an interesting way to carry out a mixer, and I can imagine it could be used as a game to help improve memory as well as get people to dance with some new faces.
At Latin Technique this week, we continued on in the same vein we had been using in the previous few weeks by going through a set of figures we could do on our own to warm up before a dance or as practice exercises to work on shaping. This week we did Samba. The pattern started out pretty simple, but ended on a much more challenging note. For those of you brave enough to try these patterns that I throw out there, here’s what we did: starting with your weight on your right foot and your left leg extended behind you, you do two Botafogos, moving right then left. After that, we did this figure I’ve done a couple of times that I don’t know the name of, but it involves doing something that looks kind of like a Volta, then crossing again and pointing your inside foot forward while twisting your body and extending your arms before going back to the other side and doing the same thing. Then we actually did some Voltas, specifically Spot Voltas with really tight turns to make it around 540° in three turns. Then we tried to do the Batucada. That figure, I must say, did not go well for me. It was like trying to move my pelvis back and forth, while also moving it side to side, while also rotating it ever so slightly as I stepped backward, but making sure to thrust forward on every downbeat of the music. My spectacular white boy hips did not make me proud during this process. I actually went home that night and looked the figure up online to watch videos of other people doing the same thing, and I briefly thought about trying to do it in front of my mirror at home, but I didn’t want to pass out from laughing so hard at myself. Maybe in the near future I will work on perfecting that step. Lord Junior said that if we could get the Batucada down, it would make most other Latin figures feel easy by comparison, which would be really helpful. But for now I will focus on getting through the stuff for the next competition and my West Coast Swing studies before I try to throw something like that into the mix.
Waltz class this week was a lot of fun. Just like we did last week, we worked on some things that one could do that started with a Spin Turn. This time the pattern felt a bit more complicated than the pattern we did last week. Like before we started with a Natural Turn to line up so that I was facing the back wall, then we went into an over-rotated Spin Turn, turning us all the way around in a complete circle. This was easy to do with some of the ladies, but not all of them could make the complete turn, so there was some adjusting done during the next step sometimes. The next step we did was something Lord Junior called a Turning Lock, which was exactly what it sounds like, a lock step that turns (in our case, we were turning to the right) and then ends with us in Promenade position. Lord Junior said that the step was a Gold-level figure, but it wasn’t too complicated to get down. I’m guessing it’s one of those figures that isn’t hard to figure out the footwork for, but making it look good is challenging, like the Hove Corte. After that, we did a Left Whisk to twist up our bodies. The ladies were given the option to do a foot flick at the end of the figure or leave their foot pointed against the floor. The foot flick gave the figure some extra fanciness, and I think most of the ladies went for it just for fun. To get out of the Left Whisk, the Leads just unwound without moving their feet while the ladies quickly walked around us. Since we managed to get through everything and still have some time left in class, Lord Junior decided to close out the pattern by tacking on an Outside Spin that ended with a normal Natural Turn. The Outside Spin seemed to turn around endlessly, which was fun to do, but I did hear a few grumbles from some of the ladies that it made them dizzy to turn so much and so quickly. Apparently most of the figures in that progression are above Bronze-level, so if I get stuck during the upcoming competition I won’t be able to pull any of them out to use, but I think I will work on practicing them to add them in to my International Waltz repertoire in case I decide to start making International Waltz something I do more regularly for social purposes. I can see many of these things being fun to throw out for some of the more advanced Followers that I dance with from time to time.
Other than that, this week’s been a lot of late night repetitions of our routines to try and make sure everything is committed to memory. Because of my work schedule, Sparkledancer and I have only been able to meet up after dark to practice. In order to let us run walls for their entire length without having to stop and reset over and over again, we have taken to running things in front of my house. I live on a dead-end street in a pretty quiet neighborhood, so there aren’t usually any cars to worry about while we’re outside. It would be nice if the end of the street had a bit more light on it (the street light is hidden by the foliage of several tall trees, so it feels pretty dark until you go to the other end of the road), but it’s not so dark that we can’t see what we’re doing after our eyes adjust. To make sure that Sparkledancer can feel the differences in the patterns as well as I can, we have been running the corresponding American Smooth and International Standard routines back to back so far: Waltz and Foxtrot routines one night, then the Tango routines and Quickstep the next, rinse and repeat. If we continue to feel good about things by the end of this week, next week I plan on mixing things up so that we run one of the Waltzes, Foxtrots and Tangos one night and the other the next, with Quickstep thrown in wherever we want. There will always be some trepidation about running routines over and over for ballroom style dances, since they are the most common styles that need to break routine to account for traffic, but I personally feel pretty good about adjusting things on the fly to accommodate. Floorcraft is one of those skills I practice every time I go out to a social dance which I feel translates nicely to the competition floor.
I hear that there’s a Cha-Cha Master class going on this weekend. Anyone else going? I may look into being there just for fun. We’ll have to see how everything else goes this weekend to know for sure. Maybe I’ll see you there!