This Story Ends Where It Began

This weekend when I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer, we did finally put the finishing touches on our American Tango routine. That means everything is all lined up and ready to go, with time left to spare to work on getting everything to flow more happily than it currently does. Once that first bit of business was completed, we got into running all of the International Standard routines to music to make sure all the timing felt good for all the pieces. We ran them in order to line up with how we would be doing things at the competition: Waltz and Quickstep, then Foxtrot and Tango. The Waltz went fine – the routine in places isn’t a huge step away from our American Waltz routine, so there weren’t any glaring things that needed to be adjusted, or steps that I forgot. Quickstep was a whole different story… this was the first time I had tried to do any sort of Quickstep to music in a long, long, long time, so it just seemed kind of chaotic when we started. I don’t really even know why. After a pretty miserable attempt, Octavarium1I actually stopped to mentally lecture myself about how Quickstep is a lot like Viennese Waltz: sure, it seems really fast, but if you take a step back and actually listen to the music and breathe a bit, it’s not as fast as it seems. After telling that to Sparkledancer, closing my eyes, taking a deep breath and relaxing, things seemed to work out a lot better. Of course, by that point someone else at the Endless Dance Hall had taken over the music so we were only dancing in time to my mental metronome, but it still seemed to go better (at least to me). After Sir Steven was satisfied with what we were doing with the Quickstep, we moved on to look at Foxtrot. We took some time during that routine to make sure that the Natural Weave and the Natural Heel Turn we do within the routine actually look like to different steps. We had been doing the Natural Weave as essentially two figures: a Natural Heel Turn followed by a number of quick steps, instead of making it seem like it was all one item. After straightening that out, we also reduced the amount of rotation I was trying to do with the Impetus Turn I have on the short wall. I had been trying to turn in a half circle, when I really only needed to rotate about 90°. At the end, we looked at our International Tango for a bit. Believe it or not, that routine actually went the best that day, despite the fact that Tango is not something I consider one of my strengths.

As I mentioned last week, there was a Cha-Cha Master Class going on this past weekend and I ended up there (I mentioned it, so you had to know there was a pretty good chance that I would be there). When I got to the dance hall, I was surprised to see Mister getting his shoes on. It had been quite a while since I last seen him around. We talked for a bit, and he told me that work had been driving him nuts lately, plus he had another side business that he was working on most nights lately, so it had actually been about six weeks for him since he was last in any kind of dance class. Now that things were starting to clear out he was looking to get himself back on the dance floor more often, which is why he had come out to class that day. The class was being led by Lady Lovelylocks, Lord Junior’s professional partner. Much like other high-level workshops I have gone to, we started off by going back to do Cha-Cha basics for a while. No matter how high level things get, it always seems to come back around to grinding out how to do the basic figures really slowly to make them better. We did turn it into a pattern of sorts to allow us to do more than just chasse back and forth (we actually spent most of the class working on this non-partnered pattern). The pattern started with some Time Steps, then a normal Chasse to the right, then some more Time Steps with a Chasse back to the left. Then we did an actual rock step before moving into some Progressive Locks. After the third one, we did a forward rock step and then a Ronde Chasse, coming out at a diagonal angle, which allowed us to go into Cuban Breaks. I think the last time I saw anyone do Cuban Breaks was in a dance fitness class somewhere, so I thought it was funny to go through them in a non-exercise related context. Anyway… after a quick rotation to the left, we ended with some continuous Lock Steps on the right leg. After Octavarium2all that, we finally got into working with partners for a while. Lady Lovelylocks really wanted to work on the connection between partners, so there we were, back doing the basic steps again while connecting with each other by pressing our palms together in front of our chests. For a cooldown, we worked on spins and turns, using a semi-choreographed routine that Lady Lovelylocks likes to do. I’ve seen her doing it in other classes she’s taught, so I had a decent idea of how things went for that part.

We had a small class for Latin Technique this week. It ended up being just me, Abracadaniel and Sparkledancer. Lord Junior had expected a few other people to join us, but we made it all the way through class without anyone else showing up. Because Lord Junior was expecting some new people, he had wanted to go through Rumba and work on a figure that started with a Reverse Top. To get into that figure, we used a Side Break for the Leads, pushing the Follower into an Opening Out position before stepping forward to begin turning. After two full measures of turning, we stopped and led the Octavarium3Follower into a Spiral before walking back into an Aida. Every other time I’ve done the Aida, it’s always involved a musical measure of hip movements followed by squaring back up with your partner and closing with a Spot Turn to get back into frame. Lord Junior showed Abracadaniel how that normally works (since Abracadaniel had never done an Aida before), but he wanted to close things out by doing something different to make things more interesting, so we took out the hip movements and did two Solo Turns in a row, with the second turn ending in a side step so that we were facing our partners again. When we started doing things to music, it kind of fell apart for Abracadaniel. He was having trouble with the timing of International Rumba, since every other dance style he likes to do starts on beat one of the music. Lord Junior went off on a tangent for a bit relating the difference in timing of International and American Rumba to the difference in timing of Mambo and Salsa. There was some counting and clapping along with some music being played (both Salsa and Rumba music), and then we got back into things to finish out class with Abracadaniel being more on time with the song.

It was also a small class for Waltz this week, although the male/female ratio was better than it was in Latin Technique. At the start of class, Lord Junior mentioned that he had heard that Bony had recently been taught the Double Reverse in Waltz, so he wanted to start with that figure for her benefit. Since we were doing this in an advanced class and the Double Reverse is a Bronze-level figure, Lord Junior told us that we were going to do it as a full turn – I would start facing the line of dance, and when we finished the figure I would be back facing the line of dance again. One of the two Double Reverse Turns that I have in my current International Waltz routine rotates this much already, so it was nice to work on doing the same thing in a slightly different context. The other Double Reverse I have in Waltz starts from a Hesitation where my back is to the wall, and then comes around to go down the line of dance, so it’s only slightly more than a 90° turn. Once we all managed to get through the Double Reverse well enough to make Lord Junior happy, we added in a Chasse to the right, ending so that we could take a step back on the left leg in good-ole Contra Body Movement Position. From there, he added in an open figure that was like a four-step Waltz run going backward (something you normally shouldn’t try without using a figure beforehand that allows you to scope out where you’re going, to make sure it’s safe). At the end of the run, we tacked on an Outside Spin like we had done last week in class, just to give us a fun piece that could be used to turn corners, and closed with a regular Natural Turn. We spent a lot of time Octavarium4at the end focusing on keeping everything to our left. Since a lot of what we were doing that night was figures that turned to the right, staying to the left is something that feels unnatural for most human beings, so we worked hard on overcoming that natural tendency and making sure that we stayed to the left anyway. Lord Junior said that if we took nothing else away from what we did that night, it would be the importance of keeping everything to the left to not kill the momentum of the rotation. According to him, that single fact was more important than any of the other technique we talked about that night, so we needed to take notes and get it tattooed on our arms so that we would see it all the time while dancing.

That’s all I did last week. This weekend should be busier. There’s a free dance party going on at a dance hall Friday night, and then another dance party I think I’ll end up at on Saturday night, so it should be fun. I think at this point I feel comfortable enough running all my competition routines (both American and International), so it is time to start running them on the floor with other people around to make sure that I can break routine and get back into it when people get in the way without throwing Sparkledancer for a loop. The only way to really test that is with other bodies on the floor, so these two dances should be good for that. There may even be some Quickstep in my future this weekend with other people on the floor if I feel as confident as I do now when I actually get out there. I’ll let you know next week how things go!

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