Peace On Earth, Goodwill To All Starts Right Here Where We Are

It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is Christmas already! Where does the time go? And next week when I post something, it’s going to be New Year’s Eve! That means soon I’ll have to start a new folder to save all my 2016 pictures in. Whoa!

Since last I posted here, I have had the chance to attend many fun things. I started things out on Saturday afternoon when I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven to continue looking at making changes to our International Waltz routine. We replaced a couple more figures with something from the Silver-level syllabus so that all four of our walls would look different. Continuing from where we left off with the Progressive Chasse on the second long wall, we added in a Back Lock heading toward the corner, and then an Outside Spin to give us a more fancy way of rounding the corner. Coming out of the Outside Spin we go into a normal Natural Turn and then pause using a Hesitation. Coming out of the Hesitation we go into a Double Reverse Spin, followed with a normal Reverse Turn. After that turn we are lined up facing Center. We check backward and go straight into an Outside Change and a Progressive Chasse into the next corner, closing with a Natural Turn, starting us over back at the beginning of the whole routine. Easy, right? Do you have that all memorized now? Great, because I don’t quite yet. I’ve set aside some quiet time to step through things, both mentally and physically, but I don’t quite have enough space in my apartment to link every figure together, and it’s been raining pretty steadily here so going out in the street is a wet prospect. We’ll see how things look this Saturday. Once we had gone through all that, we had a bit of time left, so we changed gears and looked at some more things with International Foxtrot so that we would be more capable if we wanted to use that style socially. The abrupt switch between Waltz and Foxtrot is always a funny thing to try to do – you get so used to dancing in a three-count that it kind-of sticks with you for a while, which I guess is why I’ve heard the term ‘Waltztrot’ thrown around so many times. We also started looking at doing the Fallaway in Foxtrot, which is a figure that I’ve done lots of times before in Waltz, so that made switching over to dance in Foxtrot timing even harder. We eventually managed, but that was because I had started humming to myself a bit to switch things over internally.

Later that night there was a dance party going on, and this one was being presented by the Royal Dance Court that I was recently elected to be a member of. It was my first real chance to put a good foot forward, even before we had our official swearing-in meeting where I would get my name added to the roster. The dance party was also really interesting because it was a joint party where our group teamed up with one of the local West Coast Swing clubs to dance the night away. I made sure to arrive to the party early and bring an offering of Christmas cookies to share. They were offering a lesson in basic West Coast Swing right before the dance party got underway, and I wanted to be around to jump in on the lesson in case we ended up with more women than men. It turned out that they did need me to step in, so I got to help out with things. There was one younger couple who was there, members of the West Coast Swing club, and since they each already knew all the basic figures that would be taught that night they AyAyAyItsChristmas1decided to switch places so that they could each learn the opposite person’s part. Dancing with him was funny. He was ever-so-slightly taller than me, which was considerably taller than every one of the girls that was in the class. I got to make jokes with him whenever he passed through, which always makes me happy. After the class was over he told me that I was by far his favorite person to dance with in the class because I had the strongest lead, which made it easy for him to follow what he was supposed to be doing. I thought that was amusing since there were some of the higher-level West Coast Swing club members in the class with us, and I would have thought that their lead would be better than mine, since West Coast Swing is what they spend almost all their time on. I guess us ballroom kids care more about providing a strong lead than they do. I’ve heard similar stories about people who go out Salsa dancing at clubs – generally the lead is very loose, and if you’re used to dancing ballroom it just feels… sloppy. Anyway, we didn’t cover a whole lot of material in class, since it was beginner-level. We started with a simple Underarm Turn, then covered the Sugar Push (I was always told that the Sugar Push was the basic figure for West Coast Swing, so it was weird that the instructor did that second), then the Whip, and finally a Whip with Underarm Turn.

Once the lesson was over, they started the dance party. The format for this party was going to be different from things I normally go to – the evening started with the DJ playing a lot of ballroom-style songs that you could also dance West Coast Swing to if you were so inclined. The DJ pleaded with everyone that if they wanted to go out and try West Coast Swing during one of the traveling ballroom dances, that they stay in the middle so that everyone else could go counter-clockwise around them. For various Latin and Swing style dances mixing everyone together on the floor wasn’t so much of an issue. This seemed to work out pretty well for everyone… until we got to Viennese Waltz. They did two of them that evening, and both times the DJ told everyone that the song was only a Viennese Waltz, so people who didn’t know how to dance that style should stay off the floor. The first time through seemed to be OK, and everyone not dancing just hung out on the edge of the floor watching. The second time a Viennese Waltz was played, one of the West Coast Swing kids decided he wanted to try dancing about a minute into the song. He took the girl he was going to dance with and then tried to walk out to AyAyAyItsChristmas2the middle of the room. Sparkledancer and I were rounding the corner as he was doing that, and I had to pull up short to avoid crashing into them as they were walking onto the floor. The people behind me also had a near miss, having to stop to keep from crashing into that couple and into Sparkledancer and I. I don’t know why that guy thought it would be a good idea to try that… it’s a lot like trying to run across a highway when there are no crosswalks or stop lights to slow the cars down for you. Who does that? What other funny things happened during the party… well, HotDog spent a large portion of the evening trying to engage the girl who taught the West Coast Swing class in conversation. The more I see him out at these parties, the more I am able to look around the room and pick out the ladies who he will rotate through dancing throughout the night. He definitely has a type. The West Coast Swing club members were also much more fun to hang around with during this party than they were the last few times I was around them. None of them made snide comments about me doing ballroom-style West Coast Swing, and I even danced a West Coast Swing with one girl from the club who was super impressed that I slightly overturned a Whip to change our slot so that we were moving perpendicular to how we started. Apparently in all her time dancing West Coast Swing, she had never seen anyone do that before. I use that variation all the time as a fairly simple floorcraft maneuver to get away from people encroaching on my territory. I didn’t realize it wasn’t a widely known figure, so I’m glad I could impress someone a little (thank you for showing that to me Shawn!).

Monday night we kept up with the Swing theme that was started on Saturday night and we looked at Jive during Latin Technique class. There were a couple of people in class that didn’t do too much Jive (or even other forms of Swing, for that matter), so we ended up keeping the figures we did pretty simple and just worked on the important techniques that mattered for each. All the figures we used that night can be put together consecutively if you want to do them while out dancing yourself: we did the Tuck-In first (which apparently in the syllabus is called the “Change of Place – Left to Right” for some reason), then we did a normal Underarm Turn (also weirdly called “Change of Place – Right to Left” if you couldn’t guess). We followed that with a Waist Roll (or the “Change of Hands Behind Back”) which allowed us to get into Handshake Hold with our partner. From there we did an American Spin, got back into normal dance frame, and only then did we finally look at the Jive Basic. After doing one normal Basic we did a Whip (or a Lindy Whip, depending on what you call it) with a Throwaway at the end that we used to go AyAyAyItsChristmas3right into the Mooch. We spent most of our time looking at doing the leg flicking motion for the Mooch. I’ll admit, I cannot retract the lower half of my legs very far if I’m not pulling them up with my hands. In order to retract my legs quickly, I have to flex my hamstrings, and when doing so my range of motion is somewhat limited by the mass of muscle in my way (doing a lot of kickboxing lately has increased helped hone the musculature in my legs further). Jem was showing me how she could pull her lower leg up and make it almost weirdly flat against the back of her hamstring. Mine looks more like a ‘V’ when I do that. Also, while working on flicking our legs down sharply and bending our standing leg at the same time, I may have jammed my toes into the floor pretty hard. I don’t think anyone but me noticed (there was no way I could miss that), so luckily no one made fun of me that night for doing that. Luckily I didn’t bruise my toes doing that, although I worried that I had until I could get home and take my sock off to see the damage.

Since the holiday falls on a weird day this week and various people had plans or family coming in, all other classes got cancelled. Since I had a free night, I decided to check out the ballroom variety night that was being hosted out at the Dance Emporium on the south side of town. I’ve thought about going out there for a while, but this is the first chance I had to really make it there. Also, since everything else in town seemed to be cancelled, it was the only place open for dancing, so I could have either done this or stayed at home being lame, and I’m sure you all know by now that I am far from being lame (I like to believe that, at least). There was nothing fancy scheduled for this party, just one of the local ballroom DJs spinning tracks for dancing. Many of the songs were holiday-related, seeing as how it’s that time of year. The Dance Emporium is the home base of the local Shag club, so many of the songs played that night were some kind of Swing variety, which means that I got a good workout while I was there. Because I had just come to the club after working out on my own, it didn’t take long for me to work up a sweat again moving around. Sparkledancer met me out at the club, and we were a lot younger than everyone else who had come out that night, so we made sure to use our youthful enthusiasm to our advantage. There were a number of people out that night whom I had never met before who came to ask us about our dancing – where we learned everything, whether we were instructors, what dance halls we usually frequent. The dance floor was also much smaller than AyAyAyItsChristmas4your average dance studio’s floor, so with everyone out dancing for the Waltzes and Foxtrots, it was a crazy test of my floorcraft skills, which is always a fun thing to play around with. I was exhausted, so I didn’t stay out too late that night, but it was a good final holiday dance party to end the Christmas season on. Now there are just New Year’s dances to look forward to, and then there will be a whole new year of dancing to think about!

Well, I hope that everyone took a few minutes earlier today to remember the glorious birth of Salsa’s savior. Happy birthday to you today, Ricky. I watched people do a line dance to one of your songs last night in your honor. It was pretty amazing.

Ay, ay, ay… it’s Christmas tomorrow!

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