Everyone’s Dancing Merrily In A New Old Fashioned Way

Last Friday night I went out to meet up with a bunch of people I know at the dance party going on at the Electric Dance Hall. It was fun to be out again – it felt like I hadn’t gotten to go out and do anything that wasn’t work related in quite a while. There was plenty of things going on to entertain me while out of the house. HotDog was there, and he was up to his old tricks of spending most of his time dancing with the young, single ladies that had come to the party. I had to go rescue Jem from him at one point since I could see the look of distress in her eyes when she couldn’t find an escape from him. He had taken to going off and finding her to dance probably every third song or so. She mentioned that night that she was trying to be nice, but her big problem was that he had been off time during almost every song that he danced with her, and it was messing up her inner metronome to keep doing that. I thought that was kind of funny, but it’s not really a problem I worry about too much since I can control the rhythm of what I do when dancing. There were a bunch of newer dancers there at the beginning of the evening, all of whom had only gone through a handful of lessons and classes, so they knew just enough to be out on the floor for about half the songs. Lord Junior made sure to put on several RockinAroundTheChristmasTree1line dances while they were at the party, and one of the ladies was brave enough to come out and try things with the rest of us, so we all helped her figure out the steps for things like the Samba line dance that she had never seen before. Lord Junior had also brought in a bunch of holiday cookies that were big and soft and had festively-colored frosting all over them. Not too many people took to eating them during the party, so at the end when there were only a few of us left and we were all standing around the front desk talking, he was trying to get someone to take a whole package of them home so that they wouldn’t end up at his house where he would end up eating them all. I had one, trying to be nice. Obviously someone twisted my arm pretty painfully to get me to eat that cookie…

There was a lot of dancing done on Saturday, and it all began with my coaching session with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. We spent the whole time focused on International Waltz, working on expanding our existing routine from just the two wall choreography that we had which repeated halfway around the room so that now we would have different things to do for all four walls. We started working on this by looking at a couple of Spin Turn variations that he wanted us to put into the routine. We pretty much left the routine that we had before as the basis for the first two walls, looking to change things up starting after that. As we come around the corner going into the second long wall, we put in an Overturned Spin Turn going into a Back Lock in outside partner. We come out of that using a regular Natural Turn, and then go into a normal Spin Turn. We come out of that by closing our feet together when facing Diagonal Center, and then he has us doing a Back Whisk that moves Diagonal Wall Against Line-of-Dance, and then closing by retracing those steps forward again. Once we get back to the point where we started that figure, we go into a Double Reverse Turn that moves into a Chasse to the Right. From there we moved away from the long wall to look at the second short wall with another Spin Turn variation. This wall has a Spin Turn with Reverse Pivot, which is basically a normal Spin Turn that comes out with a backward step that pivots around to have us facing Diagonal Center again. From there we are going into another Double Reverse Turn and then two normal Reverse Turns. Based on everything we’ve done so far, I bet I could almost find a way to make it all the way around a room using just Spin Turn variations and Double Reverse Turns. It probably wouldn’t travel very fast, and I might get dizzy in the process, but I think I could pull it off.

Immediately after we finished up working on things with Sir Steven, the Endless Dance Hall was hosting a pair of workshops led by Judge Dread, so Sparkledancer and I jumped over to the other side of the floor to join in. The first workshop was on Quickstep. One of the big things that Judge Dread wanted to have us work on that day was being in Outside Partner during the Quickstep. Because of the speed with which you can get moving during RockinAroundTheChristmasTree2a Quickstep, he said that it was important to make sure that we went into Outside Partner only from the knees down. Moving the body too much when you go into that position could possibly cause problems because it takes longer to set that position and reset yourself out of it. If you make sure to only go outside with the lower half of your legs, you don’t have that problem. We looked at a basic set of figures (what is essentially THE basic amalgamation of figures for Quickstep) to practice this: after a prep step to get on the right leg, we did a Quarter Turn to the Right, then a Progressive Chasse, and finally a Forward Lock Step. This combination of figures will get anyone and everyone around the floor successfully, and involves being in Outside Partner quite a bit. Since the idea of traveling around successfully using this sequence without running into anyone really only works if the floor is clear, Judge Dread showed everyone a couple of ways to upgrade the pattern to allow you to go around other dancers on the floor if needed. The first upgraded still started with a Quarter Turn to the Right, but then we added in a Heel Pivot (or Quarter Turn to the Left, depending on who you ask) followed by a Chasse Reverse Turn, and then we went back into the normal sequence with a Progressive Chasse and Forward Lock Step. The two turns would allow you to basically circle around someone without breaking things up too much. Good to know, but that wasn’t enough for him! He threw one more upgrade to the sequence at us just to keep things fun. We again started with a Quarter Turn to the Right and the Heel Pivot, but then we went into a Progressive Chasse to the Right, then a Back Lock, finishing things up with a Running Finish and Forward Lock that essentially turned the corner to put us on the next wall. With just a few minutes left in the workshop, we looked at doing Progressive Chasses in Promenade Position, much like you would see in Waltz or Foxtrot, allowing us to travel down the line of dance in almost a completely straight line if needed. That is a weirdly fun thing to do in Quickstep.

The second workshop of the day was listed as ‘Swing’ but we actually looked at Jive. This workshop focused less on technical points for Jive, and more on looking at some figures that we could do to add some fun into the dance. Much like the Quickstep workshop in the previous hour, we started out simple and worked our way up through things. Judge Dread wanted to look at a fun figure that most people call the Chicken Walk. He started us out by going through the most basic form just to get everyone on the same page: we did a single basic, then a Throwout, then the Chicken Walk for six steps (two slow and four quick). After mastering this, we upgraded the pattern to use an Overturned Fallaway Throwaway, which is a lot like a Throwout but you lead the lady to do a Spiral Turn for the second triple-step. Once they turned back to face the Leader after the Spiral, we went into the Chicken Walk again, using the same six-step pattern. This time we had the lady pass across our left side to do another Overturned Fallaway Throwaway and another Chicken Walk before returning to closed hold. The key to make the second set work was to not lead the lady to do any foot turn for the last step of the first Chicken Walk. If she turns her foot, coming across to go into the Spiral Turn becomes much more difficult for her. Also, for those of you who haven’t led the Chicken Walk before, keep in mind that it is really easy to over-lead the figure. You really only need a slight turn of the lady’s arm to get her RockinAroundTheChristmasTree3to understand what you need her to do. Turning her more than that runs the risk of twisting her arm out of the socket. The final upgrade we did for this pattern was to add in Forward and Back Lock Steps for the man while the lady does the Fallaway Throwaway. Basically, when you turn her away from you to do her Spiral Turn you do a Forward Lock toward her, then when you turn her back to face you, you do a Backward Lock, then you can turn her to go into the Spiral Turn again while doing a Forward Lock and repeat as many times as you like. We did three of these in a row, turning the lady to go back and forth in the same spot before moving her to come forward in the Chicken Walk. I can see this being an amusing thing to do to someone during a social dance if they aren’t expecting it. As the workshop was ending, we got an introduction to Jive Pivots. They are kind of like a Whip with the Leader moving forward: there’s a Chasse, then two rotating forward steps, then another Chasse, and so on and so forth to turn as much as you want. To come out of the Pivot, you just do a chasse that doesn’t turn to go into a normal Jive basic step. Judge Dread said that he’d try to make a note to come back and look at these again when he is back in town next month.

Saturday night I went to what is probably the biggest holiday party I will end up going to this year. It was a formal party with dinner included in the price of the ticket. They didn’t really call it dinner though… people kept referring to it as “heavy hors d’oeuvres” but what they had lain out for people was more than enough to make a full meal out of. The first hour or so was set aside for people to just socialize and eat delicious things. Once RockinAroundTheChristmasTree4everyone was mostly sated, the DJ put on some music and people began to make their way out to the dance floor. Since this was billed as a holiday party, all of the music was holiday music. I know we’ve all been suffering under the oppression of these songs in every store that we’ve set foot in since well before Thanksgiving this year, but it’s quite a bit better to have them playing while you’re out and dancing. And it wasn’t just Christmas songs that were being spun by the DJ that night, no sir! I have to put this down as the first time in my life I have ever danced to a Hanukah-themed West Coast Swing song, and that makes me happy. One more thing to cross off my bucket list for life, right? The group sponsoring this holiday party had also invited some top-level champion pair in American Smooth to come and perform for us during the night. They did three numbers – one in Foxtrot, one in Tango and the final in Waltz. During the Waltz number the lady performing had a wardrobe malfunction as the heel of her left shoe got caught on the edge of her dress. Her partner waited patiently for the half-minute or so that it took for her to dislodge her foot, and once free she laughed about it and winked at the audience before gliding over to where her partner was so that he could spin her around while she stood on one leg. Its times like that which make me really glad that I don’t have pointy heels on my shoes. Sure, I may crush any toes that accidentally I step on with my heels, rather than stabbing them, but I don’t get the heels caught in too many dresses… J

This week’s Standard Technique class had us back to looking at Waltz. Lord Junior was interested in looking at something a bit different today, which was a Right-side Lunge. It’s not a figure that you’ll find on the syllabus exactly – apparently things like this lunge and the Throwaway Oversway we looked at a couple of weeks ago are classified as ‘Picture Lines’ rather than figures. See? I learn something new every day. Anyway, to get into the lunge we went through a couple of figures first: he had us starting with a Fallaway Reverse Slip Pivot, and then go into an Open Telemark. Once in Promenade Position he had us do a Turning Lock, which was probably the hardest part of what we were doing. I don’t say that because the Turning Lock is really that complicated of a figure to do, but because of how all of us in class were clustered together and lined up on the floor. People kept turning into one another, so it got to be messy sometimes. We would come out of the Turning Lock and go right into the Right-side Lunge, which could only lunge pretty shallowly if there was someone standing right there in front of you. Sometimes I could get out in front of people and lunge out dramatically and allow the lady to extend herself more fully over the next two beats, but other times I had to reign in how far back she bent herself to keep her from hitting her head on someone else. We turned this line into a full six-count piece – beat one we would do the actual lunge to the right, beats two and three would see the lady extending herself and bending backward (Lord Junior said that someday he would see the day when a professional lady would extend and bend herself back so much that her hair would hit the floor behind her), beat four we transferred weight to our other leg to get back up, beat five saw us rotation to my right so that the lady could extend herself one last time, going in a different direction, and we finally came out of things on beat six by stepping backward and pivoting around to go into whatever else we wanted next. My upper back muscles ache just thinking about all the extensions that I didn’t even have to do for this! Time to start going to Yoga class again…

More fun things going on this weekend! I’m not sure what all will be happening at the end of next week, since Friday is pretty much closed for dance parties. I don’t know if there will be many options for Saturday either if everyone is out with family, but we’ll have to see. That means I have to get most of my dancing in this weekend to make up for it. Let’s see what’s on the menu next!

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