I don’t know about you, but my hopes for doing things this weekend were dashed by a relatively minor amount of snowfall. Seemingly everything in the area got shut down shortly after noon on Friday, even though it didn’t seem to be all that bad outside to me. Lord Junior did put out a note that he would still try and be open on Friday night for a dance party, so I went out to try and dance to warm up from the cold, but only a couple of us showed up there. The little tiger Tanya had come earlier in the night because she had a private lesson with Lord Junior, but she had called her dad up to give her a ride since she had never really driven in the snow before (she’s only a couple of years younger than me). Sparkledancer showed up too, but when there were no signs of any further life on the roads, we all just talked for a bit and then decided to head back home for the night. There was also a notice sent out that evening to everyone that all the planned dance parties for Saturday night were being cancelled because of the weather, so I wouldn’t even get to go out and do anything fun that night either. Sigh… I guess that’s the small price I have to pay for living in a warmer climate. When it does snow, no one knows how to deal with it, so everything shuts down for longer than you would expect, leaving us all just wiggling by ourselves in our own living rooms to get our dance fix. I hope none of the neighbors walked by and looked through my windows!
Luckily, after juuuuuust long enough for cabin fever to start to set in (people I talked to were admittedly sick of being stuck at home, locked indoors with their families), there was a dance workshop scheduled for Sunday afternoon, and lots of people made it out to attend that event. This workshop was being put on by Lord Junior’s professional dance partner Lady Lovelylocks at the Electric Dance Hall, and the topic of discussion for the day was International Cha-Cha. The entire time was spent working on basic technique using solo choreography, because as Lady Lovelylocks said, whether you’ve been dancing for thirty days or thirty years, improving your technique is a good idea, and at some point in the process better technique will make dancing Cha-Cha easier. The solo choreography wasn’t too difficult, and if you have about ten feet of clear floor space you can try it out: For starters we just took a step to the left and then rocked back on the right foot (fun note: that’s how I normally start any Cha-Cha). From there we did three Progressive Lock Steps going forward, and then three going back to bring us to where we started. After the Lock Steps we did a Hip Twist Chasse followed by a couple of Outside Checks to the right. The first Check was slow, the next two were twice as fast as the first, finishing up with a side step so that we were standing on the left leg when we were done. After the Checks we did two stationary chasses, the first with a side step to the right and the second with a step to the left. I always feel weird doing stationary chasses like that, where they ask you to bend your knees and settle your hips so the bent knee crosses over your straight leg. That motion feels weird to me. I’d much rather just do a Time Step instead. After that, Lady Lovelylocks wanted to do a strange circle motion, using four side steps to go around in a circle. While doing that, she told the ladies in class that they could also move their hips in a circular motion, creating circles inside their circle. She gave the men in the class an out and said we didn’t have to do that, we could just move our hips from side to side as we took the side steps to the right, because that was a more manly-looking action. We were told that if we saw this figure performed by a couple of high-level dancers, it is likely that the guy would just march in place with his hands down, maybe motioning with his fingers, showcasing the lady as she really exaggerated her hip rolls. After we got all the way around the circle, we did one last stationary chasse with a side step to the left, putting us into position so we could start the whole thing over if we wanted to. Fun stuff, right? A good way to add some spice to an otherwise cold weekend (relatively speaking – it wasn’t that cold outside if I compare where I live to Antarctica, after all).
Continuing with the spicy theme that we started on Sunday, Latin Technique class on Monday night covered Samba. There wasn’t really a lot covered, only about three figures, and all of them Bronze-level. There were a couple of people in class who hadn’t really done Samba before (Merlot being in that group), and one person who had never been to the Latin Technique class before (Hips McGee, but he had come to Standard Technique the week before, so he had an idea of how things worked). We started by looking at Reverse Turns, which are a lot like Reverse Turns in Viennese Waltz, complete with the foot crosses, if that helps you picture the step I’m talking about. A couple of people in class were struggling with the movement while we were practicing things, so to change things up we switched over to look at Whisks for a while. This brought about a long discussion of how the Rhythm Bounce was supposed to look when added into Samba, and the Rhythm Bounce is something I will probably always need to spend time working on (curse you, white boy hips!). What we ended up with by the end of the night was a pattern where we would do four Whisks, then Reverse Turns for a full 360° followed by two Samba Basics. First we started out doing the pattern without worrying about the Rhythm Bounce, but once we had gone through enough repetitions that everyone there seemed pretty comfortable with the pattern, he wanted us to try adding the Rhythm Bounce back in – but not for everything. To add a more dynamic look to the movements during our short pattern, we were to use the Rhythm Bounce during the Whisks, then do the Reverse Turns without any Rhythm Bounce so that it looked much smoother, and then put the Rhythm Bounce back in when we got to the Samba Basic step.
My usual Saturday lesson with Sir Steven actually took place on Tuesday night because of the snow. I thought it was funny that when I got to the Endless Dance Hall that evening, there were tons of people there, with a class going on and lots of people taking private lessons with some dance teacher or another, and even one girl who just seemed to be dancing on her own, spreading her arms out really wide and floating through the middle of the room to whatever song was playing in her head I guess. After Sparkledancer arrived, we had trouble finding enough space on the floor to practice our routines since people kept crossing through our dance lines, so I had to keep hesitating and restarting to avoid running into anyone. But about twenty minutes into our coaching session with Sir Steven, everyone had disappeared, and then there was only the three of us and one other couple dancing. Even though the floor is huge and everyone else had left, the other couple still seemed to feel the need to dance right next to wherever we were. They even went to the office near the end and grabbed a third person, asking him to record them dancing, and they had to do that right next to where we were standing so that we ended up in their video. They could have just rotated everything 90° and not had to worry about anyone else but themselves. Sometimes I scratch my head and wonder if people think about the things they are going to do before they do them. We spent about half our time that night working through our Waltz routine. After going through the entire thing one time around the floor to start with, we looked at strengthening the action I am doing in the second half of the Spin Turns, which makes me swing through as I come around Sparkledancer. Getting that action to be more prominent will allow our Spin Turns to travel more down the line of dance, in theory. The second part of our session was spent looking at Tango, looking at a few steps where I need to focus on staying more in the middle between my feet as opposed to over one leg or the other. At the end of the lesson, Sir Steven told the two of us that things were looking better. We had apparently gotten to a point recently where we seemed to plateau for a while, but now the new techniques and points he has been throwing at us are starting to seem more natural, so we are progressing again. I guess it’s good to hear that we managed to break through where we were sitting before. Hopefully we can keep the progress up! We were told that next time we meet, we would be going over Foxtrot and Quickstep, so if we got the chance before next Saturday we should review those to make sure we haven’t forgotten anything.
The next night at Standard Technique class I was lucky enough to get to go through Tango again. We did a couple of interesting figures that I had never seen before during the class, which is always a fun thing to go through. Class that night was larger than I’m used to, with more than twice as many women as men, so when we practiced the figures and techniques we did it more like a mixer dance, with the ladies lining up along the side and then three of them coming over to dance with us guys before moving down the line. Also, right when the class started and Lord Junior was showing the ladies their footwork for the first figure, the older gentleman who had joined us for class that night told me that right before class he had walked over to the pub across the street and had several drinks, so he was feeling pretty good about dancing that night. I laughed awkwardly at that – I’m not quite sure that it’s funny when someone admits something like that to me, and I also didn’t have to dance with him, so it wouldn’t directly impact me that he did that before class. Our pattern that night started with a Five Step. I was told that the Five Step is really not that different from a Four Step, and the way we did the figure with two quick steps followed by a slow step and then a Link to get into Promenade Position, there were really only four steps taken, so the name ‘Five Step’ seems to be misleading to me. Anyway… the Five Step left us in Promenade Position, so then we did a Promenade with a Lock Step at the end, which is basically a normal Promenade that takes one extra step at the end to cross your back foot behind the front. Stepping out of the Lock Step we went directly into a syncopated Reverse Turn, which we did using the same Viennese Cross action that we saw earlier in the week (weird how all these things blend together, right?). In a normal Reverse Turn your timing for the first three steps goes quick, quick, slow – with the slow count being a step back (for the guy). This one we did quick, quick, AND – with that ‘and’ count being the place where we crossed our foot in front of the standing leg, before coming out of the Reverse Turn normally, ending up facing diagonal wall with our feet together. To give us something fancy at the end we did a Contra Check coming out of the Reverse Turn which we closed by bringing the lady back into Promenade Position to go into whatever we wanted next. I got a lot of practice with the steps that night since there were so many ladies. It was just like I’m always told: boys don’t get breaks!
Well, hopefully last weekend marks our only real excursion into Winter for the year, and now we can get back to being warm. The days are already noticeably longer, since I’m able to get home from work when I leave on time and get the mail when it is still light outside, so that’s a good sign that Spring is not far too off. Hopefully the roads stay clear so that I can go out and do some dancing this weekend. Rumor has it that the Prime Dance Hall is having open dances on both Friday and Saturday nights this weekend, which is interesting. It’s been a while since I’ve gone out there for dancing, so maybe that’s where I’ll end up. We’ll have to see!