This past Friday night I originally hadn’t planned on going anywhere so that I could stay home and get caught up on some things (my cat tried to tell me I had been falling behind on my petting quota, obviously), but Sparkledancer called me and said that a new pair of shoes she had ordered had come in at the Endless Dance Hall, and she was excited to go pick them up. There was a group class in American Foxtrot going on that night that she wanted to go to while out there, so she wanted to see if I would go to make sure there were enough men. The class was being taught by someone whose name I didn’t recognize, so I thought I might be able to pick up something new or different, so I agreed. This class did show me an interesting figure I had never done before in Foxtrot… but they were figures I had done lots and lots of times in Tango, believe it or not. The pattern we did (so you can try it for yourself) started out with a Twinkle into a Three Step with a turn for the ladies, followed by a Reverse Turn. Once through there we added on another Twinkle and a move that was a Natural Turn with passing feet on the end (I’m not sure if there’s a real name for it). That placed us with me facing Backing Line of Dance. We took one step forward and did an outside swiveling moves with the ladies, something I’ve done many times before in Tango. To get out of that, we did a Falling Feather Finish (like you see at the end of a normal Reverse Turn). That put us in place to start all over again if we wanted. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen random figures that I associate with Tango in Foxtrot (I had someone once go through doing a Corté in Foxtrot during a class). I wonder if one of the things that people who choreograph American Smooth styles do is borrow from other American Smooth styles. Maybe in the future all of these styles will be combined into one single dance style that will work for any song! One dance to rule them all! There can be only one! ‘Til all are one! Or something else nerdy like that!
But I digress…
When I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven this past weekend, he continued to push us to improve things with our International Standard routines. Since earlier in the week at the Standard Technique class I had gone to we had worked on heel turns for Foxtrot, when we went back to look at our Foxtrot routine I was feeling pretty solid going through those. We looked at adjusting the upper body shaping we were using during the Feather into the Reverse Heel Turn near the beginning to make the steps look a little more dynamic. We switched over to Waltz to try to apply the work we had done with the heel turns to the Double Reverse turns we have in our routine. While Sir Steven was going through the figure with Sparkledancer, he mentioned how in the latter half of the figure she would need to drive around me because I would be doing a turn that was kind of like a heel turn, except I wouldn’t be on my heels. Without thinking about it, I said out loud “well, I’ll just call it a ball turn then.” The two of them stopped what they were doing and looked at me, and then we all had to laugh about that. I got quite the ribbing for the rest of the hour because of that offhand remark. I guess I need to work on keeping that brain-mouth filter in place in the future.
I went to a 1920’s themed party on Saturday night. This is one of those classic party themes that you come across when you dance a lot, so I had an easy to throw together costume on hand to wear (as a side note: the other type of common dance theme party I hear about a lot is the disco-themed party, but I’ve never actually been to one of those for some reason). Being 1920’s themed, they were having a lesson on Quickstep before the dance party started that they had asked Lord Junior to come in and teach. I was a bit nervous walking into the lesson – with the number of people on the floor, and a large number of them claiming to have never done Quickstep before at all, I thought that there was a good chance that things could get out of control. It turned out that it did get out of control, but not in the way that I was thinking originally. We started off with Lord Junior emphasizing the same thing about Quickstep that he once told me about Viennese Waltz – it’s not really as fast as you would think. If you watch high level dancers bouncing around the floor almost like rabbits, Quickstep looks intimidating to many people, but if you listen to the music, the steady count that you use for the basic figures is not too bad and people shouldn’t be afraid of trying. With that speech out of the way, he got into showing everyone the basic chasses heading to the left. We spent a long time on just this figure to make sure that everyone could do it, and then he added on a Forward Lock Step at the end. We went through dancing two chasses followed by the Forward Lock until everyone seemed comfortable with it, and then Lord Junior added on a Natural Turn, which kind of involves the gentlemen doing a heel turn. That didn’t go so well for many of the people there, even though it’s a very early Bronze-level figure. When all the pieces were finally in place, we spent the last twenty minutes just running repetitions of the pattern down the floor. The guys lined up in four columns and the girls lined up along the wall next to the mirror and they were supposed to go four at a time, and if everyone stayed within their lines we could all practice quite a bit in twenty minutes. This is where things got out of control. The problem ended up being that many of the older men couldn’t run through everything in time to the music, and if the men were fumbling it made the women feel like they weren’t doing well, so people just started dropping out of practicing. By the end I couldn’t keep up with how fast I was needed, because I would dance down to the end of the floor, then had to run back to the column where I started because it was already my turn again. On the last time through, so many of the women had dropped out I was just standing at the back waiting for someone to dance with. Lord Junior ran up to dance down the floor with me because he thought it was funny, and when he and I got all the way down he called an end to the practice runs so that everyone could start the party.
The party was fun. The DJ stuck to the theme of the party, playing a lot of songs that were written back in the 1920s, though not songs recorded in the 1920s, and made sure to play a few more Quickstep songs than normal so that all the people who were in the class earlier could get out on the floor and try what they had picked up. Early on in the evening, the DJ said that we were going to do a Foxtrot mixer, but she really liked the way that Lord Junior had run the dance repetitions at the end of his lesson, so she asked everyone to do the mixer like that – four men to line up at the back, four women would join them, then they would dance down the floor simultaneously and split up to get back in line and start over. This… did not go well the first couple of rounds. After watching that, I didn’t actually join in the dancing. Instead, I ended up at the back of the floor directing the men to get them all to line up four at a time to dance with the ladies. I managed to keep them mostly in line (there were a few guys who just did whatever they wanted, no matter how many men were already on the floor), but the ladies started to have trouble figuring out where they should be so the DJ put on a second song and then came over to direct the ladies to go dance with the four men I had gotten to line up. By the end of the couple of songs that were played for the mixer, I was worn out, and I hadn’t even danced! I felt like I had just finished a training course in aircraft marshalling!
Standard Technique class this week was also an experience. We got in, and Lord Junior asked everyone there what they wanted to work on today. Bony said that she wanted to work on heel turns again, so Lord Junior decided that we should go through Quickstep because of how much fun we had at the party over the weekend. He wanted to look at a figure called the Running Right Turn. As we all went out to the floor and he started to show the pieces of the figure for us, a guy I had seen around a few times before came in for class and asked if we had just started. This guy I’m going to have to call Mr. Intensity, and he was (as you can probably guess) super critical about everything that was going on. For those of you who have never done Quickstep before, as Lord Junior told all of us, the Running Right Turn is a Silver-level figure that looks like a few different figures strung together – we started with a prep step and went into a Natural Turn to close so that the man is Backing Line of Dance. Then the turn portion is a 180° Natural Pivot followed by a 180° Natural Heel Turn for the lady, all followed by the Running Finish to close the figure. String all of those pieces together correctly and it becomes a Running Right Turn. Lord Junior went through the Lead’s part first, showing the figures in the way we should be doing them. Once he thought it looked like the two of us had things down, he told us to practice the figure while he went through the Follower’s part with the ladies. He walked through the step and then demonstrated the figure by attempting to lead one of the ladies through. Because the lady he was demonstrating with didn’t know the step well, her pivot didn’t turn a full 180°, so Lord Junior adjusted his own turn on the fly to compensate for that. Mr. Intensity just could not handle the turns not being a full 180°. He had been watching what Lord Junior was doing, and when his steps didn’t exactly match what he had told us our steps should look like, he thought that it meant that Lord Junior had taught him everything wrong. That turned into a ten minute discussion between the two of them where Lord Junior tried to tell him how there is a way that all books say the steps should be done, but a good Lead will have to adjust things based on what their partner can do. Sparkledancer was standing nearby me, so while Lord Junior was trying to set Mr. Intensity straight we decided to work on trying to get through the figure ourselves. It was crazy. We never got farther than looking at that one figure since much of Lord Junior’s time was spent trying to get Mr. Intensity to understand what was going on.
The funniest thing (to me, at least) was that we came to find out that Mr. Intensity had never actually done any Quickstep before that night. By the end of class, I’m not sure he really had that one figure we worked on down correctly, but if it’s the only figure he knows I don’t think he’ll be using it out on the floor anytime soon. He really should have come to the 1920s party! Then he would have at least been versed in some basics of the dance and gotten to add one high-level figure to the mix. Sigh… such a missed opportunity.