New week, new week. What kind of fun things have I done this past week? Well, let’s see…
When I got together with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer this past Saturday, we started again (as we have been doing for the last few weeks) looking at our International Standard routines. On a positive note, I was told that with all the practice going on, the steps in Tango are looking much better than before. Much more split weight and staccato, that is. So that’s something to be happy about. We got stuck looking at a few repeat things in Quickstep again. That Running Finish in the one corner never seems to be quite what Sir Steven is looking for when we do things up to tempo, and Quickstep is one of those styles that is hard to practice at tempo, much like Viennese Waltz. So some work will have to go into making that better. Once we had gotten through the main routines for International Standard, we got to go back to working on American Smooth again. Since last week I had found the old recording we had made of our American Waltz routine to review. After watching a couple of times, it was easy enough to remember what I was supposed to be doing, especially since the routine was so much like our International Waltz routine to begin with. Sparkledancer and I stepped through the routine while Sir Steven watched to show him what it was supposed to look like. After we got all the way through once, Sir Steven stopped us and asked if we were sure that was the whole routine. Apparently what we found on video was nothing like he thought it would be. The biggest concern he had was that there really were no points in the routine where we broke frame, which is one of the big things that distinguishes American from International Waltz. So he decided to go back and start changing that right away with the first long wall. The first couple of figures are staying just like our International Waltz still – starter step to Natural Turn to Under-Turned Natural Spin Turn and closing with a Reverse Turn so that I am facing line of dance. The change starts next when we added on another Reverse Turn, and then a third Reverse Turn but this one with a Underarm Turn where she just walks straight down the line of dance. As she does that, I do another Change Step to come around her so that we are lined up to do Open Change Steps. These Open Change Steps were done with passing feet – I must say, I’ve been dancing Waltz for a long time, and I’ve never done Open Change Steps with passing feet before (that I can remember). I’m not sure why it took this long to get there. Then again, I don’t do Open Change Steps all that often anymore anyway, so that might be why. I will throw them out occasionally when dancing socially with newer dancers, since almost everyone seems to know this figure, but those are always done by closing my feet on the third step. Anyway, this time we are passing feet and doing some fancy arm motions – coming up and over the shoulder as opposed to just opening out to the side. After running through this a few times to get things down in memory, we ran out of time and left things there for the day.
Speaking of my shoulders… well, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, because of the flexibility I had lost when working to put on all that muscle mass, I was going to start doing Yoga again to see if I could regain some. The reduction in flexibility has had impacts on my dancing, so I wanted to work on getting at least some of what I had back. I decided to start by going back to a class where I already knew all the poses that would be used, since I wasn’t sure how well things would go so I didn’t want to throw in learning all new figures in the process yet. After a couple of times through the class now, I can tell you that I have lost a measurable amount of flexibility in the rear of my shoulders. Just to be clear – most of the figures were… OK, which was better than I thought it would be, and my balance is still rock solid, even when getting into complicated balance-testing poses on one foot. To give you a concrete example of how much has changed, the pose I can describe that demonstrated how much I lost the most (and the one where I almost hurt myself trying to force things) was a pose that I know as ‘Bound Warrior.’ For those of you who have never done Yoga and want to try the pose, it involves being in a lunge with your front leg at a 90° bend and your back leg straight, with the back heel down for balance. You then take the arm matching the side of your front leg (right leg front, right arm, or vice-versa) and wrap it underneath your front leg reaching upward, and drop your other arm behind your back reaching downward. Before, I could get into this pose and mostly clasp my hands, interlacing my fingers but not quite getting my palms to touch. It took me a long time to get to that point where I could get that far and not fall over, but I could get there. Now… now I can barely get the middle fingers on both hands to touch each other. They don’t even overlap up to the first knuckle. That shows just how much I can no longer bend my arms backwards. So I guess we’ll see if keeping up the flexibility training will help improve things, or if I just need to adjust my line of thinking to this new normal unless I decide to shed all the upper body mass I worked to put on.
What else did I do on Saturday… well, because my name has been on the list from the last couple of times I volunteered to help, I was asked to help again this past Saturday night chaperoning a high school prom. This time, prom had some kind of Hollywood-theme to it that I didn’t really understand completely. The decorations for the theme made dancing dangerous if you didn’t want to press yourself into the tightly compacted area where all of the young kids were crammed and grinding against each other. The dance floor was a square that couldn’t have been more than 20’ per side. There were poles set up at each corner and at the midpoint of the side that were wrapped in cloth and had drapes strung between, so overall the dancefloor seemed kind of like a cage in some ways. I didn’t get to do a lot of general dancing myself – with so many bodies crammed on the dance floor, I had a hard enough time standing alongside the dance floor and keeping an eye on what the kids in the middle were doing. The most dancing I did was when line dance songs would come on. The kids on the dance floor generally had no idea what the steps were to the song, and since I can’t stand still very well I would just start doing the steps in the back of the room. Well, when I was doing that, Sparkledancer would join in, and then other chaperones of the dance would join in if they knew the steps too, and then when they would see the adults doing things, the kids would come over and start trying to follow along with us. Hopefully they were able to learn something in the process that they can use in the future (line dances have a myriad of uses for all sorts of social occasions). The dance was an entertaining excuse to go out on a Saturday night and get dressed up. It was the perfect practice event for the formal party that I will be helping to host next weekend as well!
This week in Latin Technique class we ended up doing Samba. The amalgamation of figures we did wasn’t all that difficult, but it was a pretty long sequence to get down in memory in only an hour, so I will confess that I messed things up quite a bit as we were working through them. We started off with Open Rocks, which are a lot like the Progressive Rocks you’ve probably seen in Tango, except they are in open frame so the lady has let go of one of your hands and is opened out to one side of your body. The big difference between the Progressive Rocks you would do in Tango and the Open (or Closed) Rocks you do in Samba is that, since it’s Samba, you have a lot more of the hip action going on. Coming out of the Open Rocks we went into half of a Reverse Turn so that men were travelling backing line of dance. Next up we did a figure that apparently is fairly common but I had never done before called the Plait. It looks a lot like a Chicken Walk from Jive for the ladies in my opinion. We did these traveling backwards for two eight counts of music and then did the other half of the Reverse Turn so that we could travel forward again. From there we did a normal Botafogo ending in Promenade Position to go into some side-by-side walking steps. There was one normal Forward Samba Walk, and then the men did a Stationary Samba Walk while ladies did a solo Spot Volta to end in Sweetheart Position with their arms crossed around their torsos holding the men’s hands. In this tied-up position we did another Forward Samba Walk, then the men did a non-syncopated Whisk while the ladies unwound down our arms out to the right, striking a line at the end with their right hip out, their right arm up and their left foot collected next to the right. To get out of the line, the ladies would roll back in across our right arm while the men faked two steps and we ended up in Shadow Position for whatever came next. That was where we had to end due to class being over, but Lord Junior said that there was a good chance he would come back to Samba next week to pick up from where we left off, so hopefully you all will practice the steps between now and then if you want to join us.
Since this Saturday I will be spending much of the day either attending the formal party that the Royal Dance Court is throwing, or setting up everything for the party (that’s what much of my afternoon is blocked out for), Sparkledancer and I moved our next Saturday lesson over to this past Wednesday night at the Electric Dance Hall. Only being a few days since our last meeting, we decided to pick up right away and start where we left off with our American Waltz routine. We finalized the chunk of the long wall we had been working on previously where we had added in the Open Change Steps. On the last one we now use a Twinkle to come back together in Promenade Position, check forward on the inside foot, then slip that foot back underneath to change direction and turn down the short wall, going into a Progressive Chasse to the Right. Since there was a class going on using half the floor and I have long legs, we decided to leave things there to avoid running into people by working on the short wall, and go to working on the long wall of a different dance style. We moved on to International Foxtrot next. Since we had only a single lane down the long wall to work with, we spent our time going through slowly, making sure that our steps were really grounded into the floor as we moved from figure to figure, focusing on only varying between bending our knees farther down or coming up to neutral to exaggerate the rise and fall style of Foxtrot and differentiate it from rise and fall we do in Waltz. Once done with that, with only a short bit of time left we moved on to Tango. It was funny when we started – we had been having this problem with getting into dance position since Sparkledancer would always start on the wrong foot to walk toward me. I mentioned to her this time that she could watch me take the initial step forward, and then she could start her steps forward using the foot on the same side I started with so that she would always be right. She told me that thinking about things like that would always throw her off, but as we kept dancing I noticed she was looking down at my feet when I would step forward toward her and hold out my arms to take her into frame. At the end I kind of poked at her and said that she must have secretly liked my suggestion, since she kept looking at my feet, and she confessed that once she figured out what I meant that it totally made sense to her and was actually really helpful. Hooray! I really can be helpful sometimes!
So, this weekend is finally the formal, the last big event of this packed month of April. Hopefully things will be fun and everything will go smoothly. I have some work things that came up, so I might be getting there just as the pre-dancing dinner is being served, so I hope nothing interesting or funny happens while I am not there. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it next week!