I mentioned last week that my ballroom shoes were dying. Well, I am happy to report that I have successfully procured a replacement pair. Hooray for me! I have to say, there wasn’t much in the way of variety when I was looking at shoes at Ye Olde Dance Shoe Store. As a boy, I could pretty much choose from shiny black or matte black shoes. There was the one pair that was both black and white (scandalous!), but I couldn’t see myself wearing those shoes. I can barely see myself wearing shiny black shoes, which is why I stuck with the matte black ones like my old shoes. Also, there is not much in the way of diversity when it comes to style for men’s shoes. They all pretty much look the same to me. That’s problematic if someone tries to get you to buy their more expensive pair of shoes – if it looks practically the same yet costs $40 more, but you can’t give me any points on what is better about those shoes versus the less expensive pair, then don’t expect to get that extra $40 from me. Both pairs would look the same on my feet, so why wouldn’t I get the least expensive pair? I know, way back in the day when I worked in retail, the people who worked in the shoe department nearby told me that they got some commission on their sales, so I understand trying to push the most expensive pair of shoes possible from that perspective, but I can’t say for certain anyone would be getting commission on my latest purchase. When I finally got home and sat my new shoes side by side with my old ones, I could barely tell the differences between them (other than the obvious wear on my old shoes). I didn’t think they were the same model of shoe since I didn’t recognize the model name when I got bought these new shoes, but now I’m wondering if they might be. They don’t feel quite the same when I wear them as my old shoes did, but they also haven’t been completely broken in yet either. My shoes are brand new, but I don’t think I could tell them apart easily if they got thrown into a pile with a bunch of other male dance shoes at a studio somewhere. That’s why I tend to put my keys in my shoes when I’m not wearing them in a dance studio, so that I know for sure they are mine even if some other gentleman put his shoes right next to mine. Sigh… I don’t even know how ladies handle getting new shoes. They have so many more colors and styles to choose from, I just think that trying to pick something would make my head explode. And then when one girl has a really cool pair of shoes, their friends want to get new cool shoes too. I felt stressed just trying to get a pair of shoes that were plain and black. Too much more to consider before choosing would give me a headache.
I know, I know… first-world problems, right?
When I got together this past weekend with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for coaching, the first thing that Sir Steven wanted to look at was the figure that we had started in on last week for American Foxtrot. I guess he had pulled out a different copy of the Silver-level rule book, and that told him that if you did this particular figure, the lady had to use both feet when turning while at Silver-level, and could go up on one foot (which is what he had originally shown Sparkledancer) only when competing in Gold or higher. Everything for me was pretty much the same, but now Sparkledancer is using her other foot almost like you would for Voltas in Samba, pushing herself around in the spin. I’m not entirely clear as to why there is a need for a rule that says you can’t stand on one foot during this spin if you are not competing at or above a certain level, but I’m sure someone will have some kind of technical reason that will be way over my head. After we spent some time getting that all straightened out, we went back and looked at the new figure that we started in Waltz last week. I found out that what we are doing is actually called a ‘Same Foot Lunge’ since we are both doing a lunge on the same foot. There was no distinction in the name for the portion of the figure where Sparkledancer is doing her Double Developé (I’m going to keep calling that kick by that name until it catches on), he used Same Foot Lunge as the name for the whole sequence. I’m going to call the figure the ‘Same Foot Lunge with Double Developé’ whenever I talk about it, so that’s what you are going to have to put up with. It’s a more apt description. After we got done looking at these two new figures, Sir Steven wanted to go back to the Foxtrot again and run through the second long wall with the syncopated Open Change Steps and Turn and Ronde. By the time we got to this part of our lesson, the Princess had shown up and had begun stretching out on the dance floor. She had some high-level dancer in American Smooth there as well, and the two of them were going to be working on putting together some fancy performance routine. Since no one else was really using the dance floor at the Fancy Dance Hall during the time that Sparkledancer and I were working with Sir Steven, they chose to take advantage of the open floor space for their brainstorming session. Anyway… while they were stretching, they were watching us dance. A few of the times when we were stopped abruptly to go back over a step, the Princess and her dance friend would cheer for us and tell us that we looked good, at the same time Sir Steven was telling us all the things we needed to fix about the steps we had just done (which is why he had stopped us). That was a strange mixed message to listen to. Luckily, by the time we go through American Foxtrot and moved on to running through our International Standard routines, the two of them had begun working on their own dancing, so we didn’t have to worry about any extra comments. Then we just had to worry about running into them as they took up the whole floor with their choreography.
During Latin Technique class this week, Lord Junior wanted to work on some things in Cha-Cha to help improve our speed. This means that a lot of the figures that we used were syncopated, and almost impossibly fast if we were attempting to dance at tempo with music. As it was, we started with songs playing at 60% of tempo and still struggled with getting all the steps done correctly and on time, let alone with good technique in the process. By the end of class, I was feeling better about my own footwork than most of the ladies were, but that was solely because there was only myself and Lord Junior dancing the Lead part, and there were five ladies to dance with. Several of the moves were hard to pull off without a partner to dance with, so as we rotated through at the end I got a lot of practice runs in, but the ladies did not get nearly as many. So, what did we do? Well, it started with a normal New Yorker to my right. When we shifted our weight back out of the New Yorker, we did a Ronde with our inside leg (which was my left leg) and shifted our weight back onto that leg to do a Press Line before dropping the pressed foot and step to the side (those three moves were essentially our chasse for that measure). As we stepped to the side we went into a second Ronde with our other foot that turned into something that resembled a Ronde Chasse, but using the opposite leg from every other Ronde Chasse I’ve ever done. Maybe you can do a Ronde Chasse or Hip Twist Chasse on both sides of your body, but I’ve only ever done them with the left and right legs respectively, until this class. At the end of that ‘chasse’ we stepped forward to something sort-of like a New Yorker, but we didn’t do a checking motion with our feet. As we shifted out of that, the ladies did a Three Step Turn to their right while I just stepped to my left. We didn’t join back up in dance frame at the end, allowing the ladies to go into a New Yorker to their right while I did a lunge to my right side, reaching across with my right hand to grasp the lady’s left bicep and stop their movement. Next I transferred my weight back to my left leg and stood back up from my lunge and gave the lady a nudge to get her to turn to her left while I did a normal chasse to my right. At the end we would catch hands again in a position that would let us start the whole thing over. Seems simple, right? Well, it felt pretty good when we were moving at only 60% of normal tempo, but as we sped the music up it got progressively harder. For the first several rounds I also kept trying to do the Three Step Turn with the ladies for some reason. It took me a few tries to break that compulsion (I just want to turn too!), but I managed with enough repetition. And trust me, there was a lot of repetition for me to go through that night.
Standard Technique class this week had even more ladies than we had in Latin Technique (the ratio was 3:1, women to men). Even crazier! Is it because it is now summer here, and everyone has the free time to come out to dance classes in the evenings? I know that one of the ladies that showed up for class was a college student who is home for the summer, so that’s why she has been around recently and wasn’t a month ago. As for the rest of the ladies… I don’t know what is drawing them all in for class this recently. I’m starting to feel bad since I get to dance a lot while they sit out and watch most of the hour. If anyone knows any available semi-high-level men who would like to come and jump in for classes on dance techniques, I would be really appreciative! Have them give me a call! For this class we went through Waltz. We started with a simple warm-up that focused on our rise and fall. It was basically doing standard, non-rotating box steps for a slow six count – stepping normally for counts one and two, and then slowly bringing the feet together while rising up on your toes over counts three through six before lowering at the end of the sixth count to take the next step. We spent a good ten minutes on just this. I had just got done working out my legs right before I went to class, so rising up on my toes slowly was making my calf muscles even more tired than they were after I got done working out. We had a small pattern of figures that we went over in class that we used to really showcase our rise and fall. The pattern could have included more figures, but we struggled to use just the ones we did include and give the ladies a chance to dance through them several times over the course of the hour. What we did was a basic Natural Turn, then an Overturned Natural Spin Turn that we rotated enough so we started and ended facing the same direction (which for me was backing line of dance). Coming out of that we did a Turning Lock to Right which we ended in Promenade Position traveling toward diagonal center. At the end we did a normal Basic Weave. The Turning Lock to Right was the only non-Bronze level figure we did, but it is something I have seen before so it wasn’t too bad for me. I personally had fun in class, but I think that some of the ladies I danced with were a bit frustrated with things. Our new friend, the refugee from that most famous of franchises (a.k.a. the Dance Citadel, for those of you in the know) seemed to be struggling since this was all stuff that the franchise instructors hadn’t covered with her. I couldn’t really tell if she was upset because things were over her head, or because she had spent tons of money on her previous dance lessons and had never even gotten close to covering the level of things we were looking at during this class. Or maybe she was worried that spies from the so-called Dance Citadel were taking notes of her activities and she would face punishment for straying! You never know when those dance ninjas are watching…
This weekend is going to be a busy dance weekend for me, to make up for not going out most of last weekend. There are a couple of dance parties on my list to attend, a workshop that I’m interested in going to, along with my regular coaching session with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. It will be a good weekend for making sure my new dance shoes are properly broken in, wouldn’t you say? If you see me out on the dance floor, maybe I will show them to you!