My coaching session last Saturday with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer offered a brief change of pace from what we’ve been doing lately. Sir Steven had been looking at the figure syllabus for various dance styles for some reason, and told us that while we had been focusing so much on getting our technique up to Silver-level for both Standard and Smooth, we hadn’t really looked at many of the Silver-level figures on the syllabus outside of the ones that we already knew to accompany that technique. So he picked a few of them off the syllabus to go over with us for fun, things that we were told may or may not end up in our routines in the future if we wanted. We looked at some new things in Waltz first. The figures he picked out to cover that afternoon were ones that would work for both Standard or Smooth since we never broke frame. We did a move involving a sort of fancy right-side lunge with an advanced leg kick for Sparkledancer (these are very technical figure names that I’m sure will come up in any online search). It looked kind of like a double-sided Developé since she flicked her foot behind her before extending the leg forward. I’m sure this move will come in handy if we get double flanked by those devious dance ninjas that I often worry about. Seeing these kinds of figures makes me think that maybe I should work on creating a ‘ballroom boxing’ class to teach people how to really fight for their floor space during dance events, while also teaching dancers how to make sure their arm movements are originating in their back muscles… anyway, coming out of the kick we went into a syncopated Fallaway Reverse Slip Pivot (a figure both Sparkledancer and I had only seen in Foxtrot previously). Next time I see Sir Steven I will have to ask about the actual names of these figures so that I can write them down for future reference. We next switched over to Foxtrot and looked at something Sir Steven called a Standing Spin or “Horse and Cart” depending on who is talking about it. It’s kind of like this run-around move I’ve learned before, where you and your partner shift your right arms down around the top part of your partner’s torso and circle each other, but this time only one person is doing the moving while the other person is rotating around on one foot (hence the ‘Standing’ part of the Standing Spin). After spending most of our time looking at these new figures, right at the end we ran through all of our International Standard routines once before calling it a day.
Later that night I went out to a dance party being held at the Cherished Dance Hall. It had been quite a while since I had gotten a chance to go out there, and it’s one of those fun dance halls that I really enjoy going to, so I was excited to head there for the night. Also, it helped that just prior to the open dance party they were having, Judge Dread was slated to teach a class, and he was covering Viennese Waltz. So that was exciting for me too. The first half of the class was devoted to over the basic Reverse and Natural Turns since there were many people who had joined us that had learned Viennese Waltz in the past but didn’t ever practice the style, and also many newcomers who had never even seen the dance before who decided to jump in with everyone else. As I’ve seen lately when attending classes that are covering these less-used dance styles, the longer the class went on, the more people started to drop out and take up seats along the side of the room instead of dancing to the end. I thought that the way Judge Dread covered the material was really easy to follow, and even when he started covering a few figures that weren’t just the basic Reverse and Natural Turns he made sure everyone knew that they weren’t going to master the dance in the hour we worked on things, but they would have a good idea of what they needed to practice to become socially adept at the dance. Aside from the Reverse and Natural Turns that we started with he had us look at three other figures, figures he said could be helpful in a social situation to help you pause your movement and turn a corner when coming from either a Reverse Turn or a Natural Turn. The first one we looked at come out of a Reverse Turn and looked a lot like a Throwaway Oversway. After you finish a Reverse Turn and the man is facing down the line of dance, you do a Change Step toward the corner and then immediately go into a lunge on the right leg – the change step should flow smoothly into the lunge, kind of like doing a chasse. You could then hold this figure for either three beats or six beats of the music. We were holding it for six, and it was really tempting for the second count of three to rotate the lady into the Oversway position while holding so we weren’t just sitting still the whole time. Some ladies let me do that, others didn’t understand why I was moving. After you were done holding the lunge, we would push back up onto our other leg for a three count and then do a Reverse Change Step with the men moving slightly backward, which turns the corner and lines us up to start doing Reverse Turns down the new line of dance. The second corner figure we looked at came out of a Natural Turn, and was a simple Drag Hesitation – I’m sure many of you have probably seen something similar before in Tango. If done correctly this would also have you turn the corner and come out using Reverse Turns down the new line of dance just like the previous figure we looked at. The last thing he had us all cover that night was normal Change Steps. I’m not sure why he left these for last, but he did. To wrap up for the night, he talked with everyone and gave a quick history lesson about how Viennese Waltz was the first and oldest of the ballroom dances we know today, so all the other ballroom styles we do owe their existence to this style catching on, otherwise we would all only be doing call-out styles of dance (like Square Dancing) which was the popular style beforehand. That is why he thought that everyone should learn to do Viennese Waltz, and not be afraid to spend some time practicing and getting the movements in muscle memory so that they could go out and dance the style socially.
(Side note: his history lesson did not touch on Latin styles at all, which have a very different track through history, as I’m sure you can imagine)
Monday night at Latin Technique we had a couple of new ladies I had never met before join us for class. One of the ladies was a member of this famous franchise dance chain that you may have heard of, and she was looking around for something that would teach her more than she was getting from her current instructor and also cost her less money at the same time. The Electric Dance Hall was close to her house, so she had decided to give the class a try. The other lady looked to be a bit younger than me, and based on the way she moved when I danced with her you could tell that she had done Salsa dancing before, but it felt like this was her first time looking at any different Latin dance styles. Because there were newcomers to International Latin among us, we decided to look at Rumba, and Lord Junior tried his best to only use figures that would work in both American Rumba and International Rumba since the franchisee had only ever seen American style before. He thought it would be a good way to ease her into the style by using steps that would look vaguely familiar. We did make a point of sticking with International Rumba timing and tempo though, so we could still keep to the spirit of the class. A few minutes at the beginning were given over to a basic warm up exercise for everyone, focusing on reviewing the initial basic step for International Rumba and Cucarachas for a while, just to get used to the tempo and timing (Lord Junior tried to compare the tempo to Bolero, but neither of the new girls had ever done that style before either, so that’s what prompted the basic warm-up moment). After we were all ready to move on, we started off our figure progression in dance frame and went into a Cross Body Lead. Once facing the other direction, we did some syncopated Cucarachas, which allowed us to end with our weight over the same leg as we had started on. The ladies did some side-to-side Swivels next, while I just shifted my weight from one foot to the other leading them through their steps. On the third Swivel we would stop the lady before she switched her feet and rotate her to send her back the way she came. We traveled to the Lead’s left – the ladies did a Grapevine action as we traveled and I just took two normal steps (sometimes the Lead’s part is so hard!). At the end of our travels, we both did a check to the man’s left side, kind of like we would do in a New Yorker but still in dance frame. Right at the end of class we added on a Three-Step Turn for the ladies while moving back to the Lead’s right, but that was just an afterthought figure that Lord Junior threw in there for fun. It didn’t end the progression very cleanly, so if you are trying this progression at home I would leave that figure off.
The franchisee came back and joined us again for Standard Technique class as well. I talked to her a bit at the end of class, and it sounds like she has already made the decision to break away from the famous franchise world (she mentioned that they were looking to get her to buy another lesson block, but that the price had gone up so it was going to be close to four thousand dollars for a block of ten. That’s crazy!), but she had five lessons left to use up before she would be done completely. She still wanted to start joining us for the technique classes twice a week though, so it sounds like we’ll start seeing her semi-frequently. Does that mean that I’ll have to give her a name eventually? Hmm…
We had a lot of people in class that night, and Lord Junior wanted to go through some Quickstep. There were times that the class felt a bit dangerous. We did some really fast-moving figures, and even though we never got up to more than 75% of Quickstep tempo, the guy who always started out on my left side kept getting really close to me as we danced. We were supposed to be traveling toward diagonal center as we did the figures, but it felt like he was just moving straight down the line of dance, which put him on a path for collision with me since I was going diagonal center to avoid being run into by the guy starting on my right side who was also traveling diagonal center. Next time I will make a point of being next to the wall, that way I only have to worry about someone on my left side (and avoiding the wall obviously, but that would be all on me if I couldn’t do that). The figures that we did were, in essence, rather simple (many Bronze-level even), but we did a lot of syncopated steps during them which made them much more challenging if you were to try to do them up to tempo. We started out with a prep step going into a syncopated Forward Lock. Coming out of that we did a figure called a Natural Turn and Back Lock, but we also syncopated this Lock Step as well. The Natural Turn we did here also turned a full 180° so that we continued to travel toward diagonal center even after the turn was complete. We put in a simple Quarter Turn to the Right next so that we could flip around and the men would be moving forward again, this time toward diagonal wall. We shifted from that quickly into Promenade Position (it’s a good thing we weren’t doing this to anywhere near full speed – I thought a lady might snap her neck by rotating her head so fast) so that we could do a syncopated Progressive Chasse in Promenade Position to finish things up. Once we had the whole thing down, we had the men line up along the back wall and the women line up along the side wall so that they could work their way through the line of men, dancing several times in a row before stepping out to the back of the line. Lord Junior put on some music for us to use to help keep time, and turned the tempo way down to 55% of normal for us to start with. It felt like we were dancing Quickstep figures to a Foxtrot song at that speed. As we worked through the line of partners so that everyone had a chance to practice, Lord Junior started to increase the tempo of the music in 5% increments after every full rotation of partners. We ran out the time in class this way, and sadly we only got up to 75% of normal tempo when that happened. To give us a demonstration of full speed, Lord Junior showed us that to make all the syncopated steps fast enough we would almost be hopping up and down off the floor the whole time. I thought it looked fun, and maybe next time the whole class will be able to do things fast enough that we can get to at least 90%.
One last thought: I think my dance shoes are dying. It’s probably time to do something about that.