Figures Dancing Gracefully Across My Memory

The year is drawing to a close now. Only a few hours left to go. How are you spending the rest of your year? I’m going to be dancing for the end of mine! But first, since it’s that day of the week again, I thought I would post my dance notes for the week before I get caught up doing something else and forget all about them…

I did end up meeting up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven the day after Christmas, late in the afternoon, to continue going over things. Ashamedly, I will admit to not spending a lot of time practicing my Waltz routine like I had planned on doing over the holiday break I had, so when Sparkledancer and I tried to go through it initially from start to finish, things didn’t really go as well as I had hoped. There were a few parts I kept getting mixed up and tried to revert back to how it was in our original version of the routine, only to catch myself halfway through the error and try to correct things, which ended up making a mess of what we were doing. I really should just get a piece of paper and write down all the steps in order somewhere so that I have a cheat sheet I can look at until things become muscle memory. The Spin Turn with Reverse Pivot always seems to surprise me when I get to the point where it should be added in. I don’t know why that is, but I keep forgetting that I should be doing that pivot at the end, and instead just doing a normal under-turned Spin Turn and closing my feet together before going into the Double Reverse Spin. Both sets of figures get me to roughly the same place, so it’s not terrible if I forget and use one in place of the other, but the one is obviously not correct for what I’m supposed to be doing. Sigh… I’ll get it down eventually, I hope. After we picked through the Waltz routine to look at all the things I didn’t do correctly, we spent the rest of our time looking at Viennese Waltz. Since there wasn’t many other people using the floor at the Endless Dance Hall, we had lots of room to go back and continue working on using the Reverse Turn to turn corners. This has gotten a lot better for me lately, and I’ve been trying to work at turning corners with Reverse Turns during dance parties when a Viennese Waltz comes on – practicing under pressure, as it were. Sometimes I still wait too long to begin turning the corner, so the arc of the Reverse Turns brings me pretty close to the wall, but that’s more of a floorcraft issue on my part rather than a technical issue.

This weekend the only dance party in town was being held at the City Dance Hall. It was billed as a ‘post-Christmas, pre-New Year’s’ semi-formal studio party. I always hear semi-formal and think that means I don’t have to wear a tie, but for a lot of people at this party I don’t think there is much distinction between semi-formal and formal, so I felt a bit underdressed when walking amongst the crowd. They did have a brief lesson before the party got underway, and it was interesting in the sense that the person teaching took the opportunity to show the basic steps for both Foxtrot and East Coast Swing, and how both of those styles of dance could be applied to the same song. While this was good information for any dancer to have, my biggest complaint about the message she was trying to give everyone was that she didn’t talk about the etiquette of using multiple dance styles to dance to the same song. For the final ten minutes of class, she had the DJ put the same song they had been using during the class on repeat, and told the people to just work through what they knew and to change up the dance style from time to time to see how easy it was, and that if they were really good they could also try American Rumba to the same song if they wanted. She didn’t mention that people switching to East Coast Swing or Rumba should be polite and move toward the center of the room so that the people doing Foxtrot could travel around them safely. There were a number of near collisions that I witnessed as couples would stop using Foxtrot in the middle of the line of dance and switch over to OnceUponADecember1a non-travelling dance style when someone was right behind them. I ended up stopping and standing off in a corner for a while to just watch. It made me want to stop people and talk to them about dance safety. Maybe I could put together a pamphlet or something that I can start handing out at parties for these sorts of situations. Luckily for the actual dance afterward, they didn’t have too many selections where they gave people alternative dance styles to do, so the threat of collision for the rest of the night diminished significantly.

We had a couple of new faces in Latin Technique class with us this week, so we returned to Rumba to help ease them into the classwork. One of the new girls had only been dancing for several months, and had done Rumba before but from the way she described things it sounded like she had only ever looked at American-style. The other lady was adamant that she had worked on International Rumba quite a bit, but Lord Junior kept stopping her during class to point out that she needed to straighten her legs. She also looked very confused when we started talking about going into Fan Position, which I had thought was a pretty common thing that anyone who looks at International Rumba or Cha-Cha has to learn. Then again, I suppose different chains of dance studios play by different syllabuses (syllabi? Both are correct ways to pluralize that word, but I’m not sure which sounds better to me, so I’ll use both), so she just might not have gotten to that figure yet. We spent the first ten minutes or so warming up by reviewing the Rumba basic to make sure everyone was on the same page, really emphasizing the need to keep one’s legs straight unless you are moving it, and dragging the foot underneath you as you took the side step after the rock step, to make sure your basic was shaped more like a ‘Z’ and less like a rhombus (rhombus is a funny word. Try using it in conversation with someone!). The pattern that we looked at ended up being nothing really fancy, but I got a lot of practice with it since there were five Followers and only Lord Junior and I dancing the Lead part that night. We started things off doing an open basic moving diagonally, with a prep step beforehand to help ease us into things. After some rock steps and a check, all syncopated, we turned the lady using a Hip Twist while we lunged out to the left, and then brought them over into Fan Position. That was as far as we made it that night. Nothing overly complicated, but we still worked at things enough to work up a sweat. Well, at least Lord Junior and I worked at things enough to do that – the ladies got to take breaks if they wanted to. Boys don’t get breaks very often. After class was over, all of us ended up outside for a OnceUponADecember2good forty-five minutes just talking about dancing and the various dance-related things that we have gotten to do during our career. The girl who had only been dancing several months was really interested in hearing our dance stories, and I hope we intrigued her enough to get her to come back and dance with us again. She even mentioned bringing her boyfriend to dance with her next time, which would be really awesome since we could always use more men on the dance floor. We’ll have to see.

(I know that if I take the plunge and give her a name and pick out a Lego figure to represent her, we’ll never see her again, so I’m holding back on that step for the time being…)

Since it was raining (it’s been raining pretty much all week), only Sparkledancer and I made it to Standard Technique class this past week. The Electric Dance Hall was pretty dead that night – there were the three of us (Sparkledancer, Lord Junior and I) for class, and Sir Steven was there working with a different couple on some kind of showcase routine they are doing soon, but the rain kept everyone else at home. I will admit that I almost didn’t make it out either, since I got home from work super late and was crunched for time. Lord Junior asked us what we wanted to work on that night, and since we had been spending so much time on Waltz lately (and also because my body was pretty thrashed from working out earlier in the day), I put my vote for that. Sparkledancer agreed with me, so Lord Junior had us look at our current International Waltz routine from the beginning rather than pick some other random figures to work on. There were some really interesting things that I got out of this from a few questions we asked him. We started out talking about Spin Turns, since that is a figure we’ve added a lot of variations of to our routine, but once we got to the point on the first long wall where we have a Double Reverse Spin, Sparkledancer asked Lord Junior, hypothetically, how should she know if someone was leading a Double Reverse Spin versus a normal Reverse Turn when dancing International Waltz socially. This took us off on a fascinating tangent for a while, pointing out things I hadn’t heard yet. Do you know what the technical difference is between a normal Reverse Turn and a Double Reverse Spin? It seems obvious when someone tells you, but it’s hard to think of on your own. A Reverse Turn (by the book) usually rotates left about three-eighths of a turn, while a Double Reverse Spin rotates to the left a full turn (or about ‘double’ what a normal Reverse Turn rotates). Because of the increased rotation, the lead for both steps is subtly different. Reverse Turns normally travel down the floor quite a bit, so when doing one you’re supposed to lower and reach out your leg for the first step. A Double Reverse mostly rotates instead of travels, so it starts with a smaller step, and you have to use almost a straight leg when taking that step. Lord Junior called that type OnceUponADecember3of step an ‘early quick rise’ or ‘immediate rise’ – which is what signals to the Follower that this will be a Double Reverse Spin instead of a normal Reverse Turn. Did you know all that? I did not. Hopefully someone else finds this information as useful as I do. I also found it funny that when Lord Junior would stop us to adjust our frame, he wouldn’t hesitate to move me into position, but he stopped to ask Sparkledancer permission before he adjusted her head. Apparently some ladies don’t like people moving their head around for them.

Well, that almost wraps up this year quite nicely, don’t you think? I am packing things up here to head out to the Electric Dance Hall to dance the remainder of the year away and start the next year on the dance floor as well. There were quite a few options available for New Year’s Eve dance parties, but this one is where many of the people I know will be congregating, so I thought it best to spend the evening with them. I hope all of you other dancers out there are also able to spend the night out on the floor to ring in 2016 properly. We’ll see what kind of crazy dance adventures this new year will bring us!

One final, closing thought for 2015: yes, I fully realize (especially when reading back through my weekly notes on this site) that ballroom dancing is a fancy and expensive hobby. For some people, it is a super-intense pastime and passion, so much so that they never really look like they are having fun while dancing because they are taking things so seriously. I have tried my best to portray the opposite side of that coin, especially on this site, to show that dancing can be a lot of fun and also somewhat absurd if you take a step back and look at it objectively, and it is OK to laugh (a lot) while you do it. I do take dancing seriously, and have my own dance-related challenges I work through. I am lucky though that this is what I use as a challenge in my life, and I try to keep that in perspective. I personally know many people who struggle to match their desired state of ballroom dancing with their current reality. They get sad because sometimes, things like having to buy a new washing machine means that you cannot take lessons for a while (even though having clean clothes is a really, really important for dancing). But you know what? Dancing doesn’t have to be limited to being done in a dance studio, or done with just a single dance partner or dance teacher. Dancing can be done anywhere! Sometimes you get to put on a fancy outfit and dance in a huge competition or showcase, and other times you just turn on some music on your computer and wiggle a bit while sitting on the couch to make yourself smile (and make your cat or dog look at you funny). If you need a dance partner when doing that, just give me a call. I’m really good at wiggling, I promise.

I heard a wise poet of our time once say “Just dance. It’ll be OK.”

Da da doo doo, indeed. I’ll see you all in 2016! J


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