I’m A Leading Man, And The Steps I Weave Are Oh So Intricate

I got to go out to a couple of social dances this past weekend, which was nice since this coming weekend I will probably end up at the office pretty much the whole time to take care of things. Last Friday night there was a party at the Eclectic Dance Hall. I got there a bit early while they were wrapping up the group class, and was seated along the windows putting my shoes on. Sparkledancer came over to talk to me while I was there, and while we were talking HotDog showed up. He didn’t come to dance at the dance party, since he said he was trying to save some money for something else, but he stopped by the studio after he left work to say hello to everyone. Things then got a little weird as he first hugged ThisAintAScene1Sparkledancer, and then wanted to hug me for some reason. He told me that people loved hugging him because he was cuddly and warm, which I thought was a really weird thing to tell another guy. After he left to go say hello to other people, I just looked at Sparkledancer quizzically, and she just laughed at me. Abracadaniel came over as well, and he laughed at me too. Some friends, right? Abracadaniel told me that he would hug me as well, but since we “weren’t that close” it would just be a quick side-hug, which is much less awkward. At that point, I’m sure my face was just beet red from being the center of all the excitement, and only part of that could be blamed on me laughing so hard. Once all that hilarity was over, we got to have fun dancing the rest of the night away.

Saturday night there was an open dance party at the City Dance Hall. A little bird had initially told me that the dance party that night was going to be somewhere else, somewhere much farther away, so I wasn’t originally planning on going out that night, but then I got a call telling me that things would actually be at the City Dance Hall (which is much, much closer to me), so I grabbed my dance shoes and headed out the door. There was a Cha-Cha lesson being held before the party, and I was pretty surprised to see that Lord Orange was the one teaching class. For those of you that may not remember, Lord Orange normally spends his time over at the Prime Dance Hall, and he has been known do some… interesting dance moves, even with his sister. Luckily, the Cha-Cha figures he went over were nothing like that. The crowd that arrived early enough to attend the lesson was very sedate for some reason, and no matter how much Lord Orange tried to get everyone ThisAintAScene2excited, he just wasn’t getting through to people. He even tried to have the ladies do Cha-Cha walks and locks in a Conga line to get people excited, but that didn’t really work either. The most complicated thing that he tried to have everyone do during his lesson was the Grapevine in Cha-Cha. I’ve seen the Grapevine in numerous other dance styles, and seeing it in Cha-Cha now just lends itself as more evidence that eventually all the different dance styles are just going to be blended together into one super dance style to rule them all. The trick with doing the Grapevine in Cha-Cha (and the reason so many people in the class were struggling to get it to work) was that several of the steps are done in the timing of the Cha-Cha chasse, so you had to move your feet pretty quick. He had us doing the Grapevine for twelve beats of the music, then we would go into a Cucaracha on the Lead’s left side, and then a basic chasse to the right. Even though we were doing Cha-Cha, and normally you don’t take huge steps (because you just can’t and still expect to move your legs fast enough), we could cover a good distance in twelve beats with the Grapevine figure. Some of the people standing near me kept stopping whenever they messed up, which would grind what I was doing to a halt to keep from running into them. After they did that to me a couple of times, I moved up to the front of the room so I could have some more space on either side of me. Most people in group classes don’t like standing in the front for some reason. Obviously I normally fall into that category. I wonder why that is…

When we wrapped up class and the dancing began, I ran over to go talk to someone who had shown up late to the party – the Heartbreak Kid had come, and brought along a date. I haven’t seen him in quite a while, so it was good to see how he was doing and get caught up on life with him. They also had deviled eggs as one of the snacks someone had brought for the dance. Normally I wouldn’t recommend eating something like that during an activity where you’re going to be getting into close contact with someone else (especially a member of the opposite sex who you may or may not know very well), but they looked so ThisAintAScene3good, and it had been so long since the last time I had had a deviled egg, I just couldn’t resist. I snuck away to a corner to have one, and then after sighing deeply in enjoyment from eating it, I stuffed several mints in my mouth at once and drank a bunch of water to cleanse my palate. It was totally worth it! During the evening, Sparkledancer and I tried again a couple of times to dance International Foxtrot socially. It’s still not as easy to navigate around people using the figures I know from the International Foxtrot syllabus, and you obviously can’t throw out figures like Passing Twinkles to weave through people, but it’s getting better. We are starting to stick with using International style longer before switching over to American style when we get stuck and can’t figure out how to get around people. International Waltz for some reason is much easier for me to use socially right now, so as long as I warn my partner beforehand whether we are doing American or International, I can choose one or the other and stick with it for the entire song. I hope to be able to do the same with Foxtrot someday soon.

This past Monday night at Latin Technique class was like a blast from the past, focusing on something that I hadn’t done or even thought of in a long, long, long time. As I’ve mentioned before, Lord Junior has been studying to get some kind of super high-level dance instructor certifications, so a lot of the things we have done recently in both of the technique classes I normally go to have been figures and techniques that Lord Junior is studying that week for those tests. Tonight he wanted to look at a figure in Cha-Cha that he said he never really liked – the Cha-Cha Chases. You’ve probably done them before if you do American Cha-Cha (it’s a Bronze-level figure in that style), or Mambo/Salsa. In the International Latin syllabus for Cha-Cha the Chase is actually a Silver-level figure. The big reason for the difference, as we were all told, is because in International Cha-Cha if you are doing the Chase according to the book, the Lead is doing a Fake right after the first Switch Turn, and then again before the last Switch Turn. In American Cha-Cha, the Leader and Follower are on opposite feet when they are doing the Chase, but in International style the Fake allows the Leader and Follower to be on the same foot while they are moving. That one little difference is enough to change things from Bronze-level to Silver-level somehow. For anyone who may not know, a Fake is basically when you either hold your motion for an extra beat of the music (or do some other kind of fancy foot thing for one beat) instead of taking a step like you normally would, allowing you to do the next movement on the same foot. It’s something you have probably seen Leaders doing as they go into Shadow Position with their Follower so that they end up on the same foot (so they can shadow their partner’s steps, as the position’s name suggests). This is not something that Followers have to worry about in International Latin styles. Since there is no way for a Follower to know that the Leader is trying to get on the same foot as them unless they have choreographed the movements beforehand, the Leader is always the one who will do the Fake to change feet. In class that night, our Fake was pretty simple – after we did the Switch Turn, we just tapped our foot on the floor to count the held beat before moving on to the next step. Not too fancy, but it got the job done.

For this week I actually met up for coaching with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer on Tuesday night because of all the work-related things I have going on this weekend. When we got together, we actually discussed how we were doing trying to use International Foxtrot in a social setting, and how we struggled with getting around people and often had to switch over to American-style figures and break frame. Sir Steven said that our last International Foxtrot routine used all the Bronze syllabus figures, but to help diversify things a bit he would start working with us on some of the Silver syllabus figures to give us some more weapons in our International arsenal that will hopefully allow us to more easily weave around people on the floor. The first thing we looked at was the Open Telemark. The Open Telemark is a lot like doing a Reverse Heel Turn, except instead of moving Backing ThisAintAScene4Line-of-Dance after coming around the lady for her Heel Turn, I rotate slightly less and we come out facing Diagonal Wall in Promenade Position and then finish with a Feather Ending. Sir Steven said this was a good way to smoothly change direction if there were people in front of us, so it should come in handy. But, we weren’t done there! He showed us one more Silver-level figure that was related to the Open Telemark. The figure we did was called (I am not making this up) an “Open Telemark, Natural Turn to Outside Swivel and Feather Ending.” I had to look things up online just to make sure Sir Steven wasn’t pulling my leg with that name, but that is actually what the figure is called in the book! You can probably guess how the figure goes – you do an Open Telemark and then go into a Natural Turn (not a Natural Heel Turn, but a normal rotation with passing feet at the end so that you come out with your right leg back). The Outside Swivel is probably the hardest part. I was pivoting around on my left leg to come out facing Diagonal Center, and Sparkledancer would come all the way around outside of me to end up in Promenade Position. The figure’s close is a normal Feather Ending, with the lady rotating back from Promenade Position on the second step to return to normal dance frame. If you can do all those pieces in that order, that is one Silver-level International Foxtrot figure. I was told that most of the pieces you could do separately in open choreography, except for the Natural Turn. Outside of this figure, you supposed to always use a Natural Heel Turn. Just something to keep in mind if you want to try this yourself.

So… I was hoping to have exciting news this week, but so far I haven’t heard anything about what I have been waiting for. You would think that they should have been able to get their act together by now. Hopefully I will find out soon, and then you will all find out soon as well! I’m still excited, if you couldn’t tell!!!

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