Ah, Halloween. The best holiday of the year, I would argue. Do you remember being a kid and getting all dressed up and going out to get free candy? That was super fun to me, and I’ve always loved Halloween ever since then. Sure, as an adult you tend to get less free candy from your neighbors, but you can still often get free candy from your coworkers or friends, or you go to a Halloween party and there is inevitably candy around that you are allowed to have. For me, over the last few years, all of the Halloween parties I have gone to have been dance related, so there is also a party activity that gives me an outlet to burn off the sugar rush gotten from eating a chocolate and peanut butter pumpkin. It’s a wonderful combination, and I hope everyone else had the same opportunities I had to go out and dance and eat some free candy. You know, to keep with the holiday spirit.
This past Friday night I went to the Halloween party at the Electric Dance Hall. Originally I was a bit worried about my chosen costume – I thought it might be a bit weird because it had a chest piece that was not entirely soft, and there was a back piece that hung down almost like a cape, but it turned out to be really good. The cape apparatus made it very dramatic when I did ballroom dances, especially when I did a Viennese Waltz and it flowed nicely around me as we turned about the floor. The only time it got a bit in the way was when I did a Hustle, and it kind of tangled around my arm a little, but it wasn’t so intrusive that it made me want to take it off. I danced with one girl at the party who was dressed up like what I would call a barbarian, and she had these shin guards on that had foam spikes on them. When we did a Rumba together, I could feel those spikes poking me. They weren’t sharp, but they did surprise me a little the first time they stabbed me. There had been a dance lesson before the party started where everyone who was there worked on learning a Halloween-themed line dance. They didn’t cover the one that most people do for Halloween (I’m sure you know the one I’m talking about), and I hadn’t been there for the class, so when they performed the formation later in the evening I got to stand off to the side and watch. That was a lot of fun for me, since I got to rhythmically shake in time with the music and be disruptive and obnoxious (all in good fun though) to try to get people to smile. Everyone was being so serious while trying to remember their steps! I just couldn’t let them stay like that. One of Lord Junior’s serious competitor students had come for the party. I don’t get to see her very often, so to be friendly I asked her to dance a couple of times – once for a Rumba, and another time for a Hustle. The Rumba that was played had a pretty fast clip to it (for a Rumba), so I asked her before we started if she knew American Rumba, since that’s what fit with the song. Turns out that she didn’t really know any American-style dances at all, so I talked her through things as we went along and tried to make sure to use figures that I knew were common for both American and International Rumba. The Hustle was a bit easier, since it is pretty easy for a guy to lead someone through almost any Hustle figure without them knowing the figure beforehand, so that one I didn’t have to tell her what I was going to do before I did it.
When I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven on Saturday afternoon to work on things, it was like a ghost town at the Endless Dance Hall, which is unusual. The front door looked barricaded shut, so I had to go around to the not-so-secret side door to get in. The lights were dimmed a bit, and with the front door blocked there was almost no natural light filtering into the building, so it was kind of creepy. We worked on our International Foxtrot and International Tango routines that day. I would say what we were doing was more-or-less successful. Sparkledancer had injured her back earlier in the week, so she was kind of gritting her teeth and just being there. Sir Steven had me spend a lot of time emphasizing the rotations in figures like the Reverse Turn in Tango, making sure that my first two steps would go straight forward, and as soon as both of my feet were planted after the second step I had to rotate almost half a turn on the balls of my foot so that my third step would go straight back. It was a bit of an over-exaggeration of what I should normally be doing, but the overcompensation drives the point in better. Much like how I was told to bend my legs even further when doing the Tango, and keep them bent that much the whole time so that my body stays level. I almost felt like if I had bent my legs just a bit farther, I would be dragging my butt on the ground while I danced, which is a pretty uncomfortable position to stay in for long periods of time. But me complaining about being uncomfortable is stupid. When we got done dancing that day, I could tell Sparkledancer was just making it through. I asked her how she was doing, and she said she was OK, but she almost broke down into tears a couple of times while we were working on things, and she was planning on going home and icing her back once we wrapped things up there. I felt super bad about that. Had I known it was that bad before we started, I would have told her to just stay home and take care of herself. There are plenty of things that I could work on by myself, and I really don’t want her to break herself trying to get through things with me.
Then Saturday night there was a bigger Halloween dance party being held at the Endless Dance Hall. This one was much different from the party the previous night. The event was being held as a fundraiser to support some scholarship funds in some upcoming dance competitions, so they were “selling” dances with some of the dance teachers in the area. For a nominal fee, you could pick out one of the teachers and pick out a dance style that you wanted to do. When the party started, each of those teachers had a dance card and they were only allowed to dance with the people who had signed up for dances by paying the fee. It was an interesting concept, one that I’ve never seen before. Due to the sign up allowing people to pick out a dance style, the playlist for the party had to be fixed for the evening to incorporate all the dance slots people signed up for, so they told everyone they wouldn’t be able to take requests for dance styles throughout the evening at all. Since I’m a guy, I didn’t ‘purchase’ any dances that night. In fact, they only had two female instructors who people could sign up to do a dance with, but there were over half-a-dozen male ones. Sir Steven was one of those on the menu that night. He was telling me about the preparation for this event, and it was funny because he said there were several of the other instructors who came to him because some people had signed up to do American-style dances (like Hustle and West Coast Swing), and they didn’t know any steps for those styles since they exclusively competed in International styles. So Sir Steven ended up giving mini-group classes to these instructors during the week leading up to this party on the basics of some of the American Rhythm styles so that they could have some tricks up their sleeves at the party.
During Monday night’s Latin Technique class we ended up doing Samba. I really wanted to look at either Jive or Pasodoble since it’s been a long time since I’ve gotten to work on either, but I was outvoted. Lord Junior pulled out a set of figures we could look at that worked on Samba Walks – not the Cruzados walks, but just normal, Bronze-level Samba walks of several flavors. Out little pattern started with Two Whisks just to get moving, then one Samba Walk forward and a second to the side. From there we started doing things where the lady wasn’t just a mirror of the guy anymore. The guys did a Stationary Samba Walk while turning the ladies in an underarm turn and catching her in sweetheart position. This was kind of awkwardly-amusing position to try to get into with a couple of the ladies in class that night. I am fairly tall, and three of the five ladies in class were rather short standing next to me. While in Sweetheart Position the guys were supposed to reach around and grab the lady’s left hand (which she was crossing across her chest) with our right. The trick with the shorter ladies that I ended up doing was to slide my hand across the back of their right shoulder so that when I reached around their side to where their hand was supposed to be, they would have their hand in the right place and I wouldn’t accidentally get a handful of… other parts of their body. We’re all friends in that class, but I wasn’t that close with any of them, so I wanted to make sure there were no awkward accidents (sometimes it’s hard being a boy…). Once we successfully linked up in Sweetheart Position, we did three more Forward Samba Walks together, then the guys did a Whisk and unrolled the ladies off of our right arm to get them out in a straight line with us. After that we were going to bring the ladies into Shadow Position, so we let the girls roll back into us with a Three-Step Turn while we just took two steps to put us both on the same foot. The ladies put their arms out in either direction, and we put one hand on their right shoulder and took their left forearm in our other hand. That was as far as we got with the pattern that night. Lord Junior said that we would be for sure adding on to this next week in class, so everyone who was there has to come back to see what we will add on next.
In Standard Technique class this week, we ended up working on Waltz at someone’s request. Lord Junior was excited to go over that style. He said he was watching one of the international competitions recently and he saw one of the professional couples doing a double Turning Lock to the Right, which he had never seen done before. He thought looked really cool, so he wanted to show us all how to do it. We started out by going through an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, which supposedly is what you would see most often to get into the double or single version of the Turning Lock to the Right, and then we did the single version just to make sure that everyone would know what was going on before we doubled the turns. Once everyone felt pretty comfortable running through the single Turning Lock to the Right with everyone else in class, we doubled the turn. The real difference (if you are a guy) is that instead of coming out of the first Lock into Promenade Position heading diagonal center, you would swing around the lady to get in front of her again, so that you’re heading backing line of dance. If you do things correctly, you should end up in the same position you started from as if you just finished the Overturned Natural Spin Turn. Then you just do a normal Turning Lock to the Right, ending as the book says in Promenade Position heading diagonal center. Give things a try yourself! Supposedly the normal Turning Lock to the Right is a Gold-level figure in International Waltz, so the double version would be considered open choreography, but once you have the feel for it there doesn’t really seem to be any reason you couldn’t get through it during a social dance. As long as you don’t turn into Promenade Position at the end of the first turn, the lady would know that something else is going on with the figure.
Sometimes I wonder if anyone else actually tries out any of the patterns or figures I list in these posts. I know I go back to refer to them later for my own memory, but do any of you find these useful? I’m just curious.