Where Have All The Good Men Gone?

This weekend when I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer, we abruptly changed pace from everything we had been looking at the past few weeks to look at something completely different. Apparently we are going to seriously look at doing the showcase performance, and we have to start getting things into gear so that we can put everything together into some sort of functional state before the first weekend in August, which would be the first performance of the number. The song that I had thrown out as something that would be funny to do as a Foxtrot and Quickstep mashup didn’t sound like Foxtrot to Sir Steven. He hears it as more of a combination Quickstep/Lindy Hop/Samba piece, so that’s what we are going to go ahead and do. We spent the hour on Saturday starting in on the most exciting and difficult pieces that will be put in the routine, which are basically the parts where one of us gets to leave the ground during the dance. That’s right: one of us. I had made some comments to Sir Steven in the past about wanting to do a showcase where I get to pick Sparkledancer up and ‘throw her around’ (that might have been the exact phrase I used). But instead of doing just that, Sir Steven had a different take on things to present to us. He wanted to do something where I would pivot away behind Sparkledancer for a few steps, then she would duck down and I would step back toward her and jump over her as if we were playing leap-frog. Once I land on the floor in front of her, I cross my arms (left over right) and bend over to reach between my own legs, take her hands and pull her through so that she comes out in front of me. My arms have to be crossed because as she swings forward through my legs, I can untwist my arms and rotate her around to land on her feet facing me when all is said and done. So that, we were told, was going to be probably the most difficult piece to nail down. We will also end up doing some assisted leaps for HoldingOutForAHero1Sparkledancer, which I have seen (and maybe even done) before a long time ago. That’s where I would put my hands underneath Sparkledancer’s hand and give her an upward push as she jumps off the floor, giving her more height in her leap as well as helping her maintain longer airtime, since she can lock her elbows and I can hold her off the ground. There was also a different lift that he mentioned doing before we started, but I’m not sure if he was just using it to help describe pieces of what we were going to look at or if we would be putting that lift in as well later. We’ll have to see what we end up with as the choreography gets outlined further next week!

Later that evening I was excited to go out to a dance party that was being held at the City Dance Dall, hosted by none-other than everyone’s favorite dance host: President Porpoise. Not only that, but they were having a Hustle lesson before the social dance, and that was being taught by my friend Indiana, which was exciting to me because I hadn’t seen her around in a while. Things got weird at the party though, and I’m not really sure why. It’s like… no one wanted to pay attention to what else was going on while on the dance floor, and just wanted to do their own thing no matter what anyone else was doing on at the time. Case and point (and the thing that sort of sums up the night better than anything else): early on in the evening the DJ put on a Samba. She tried to let people know that if they were going to do the Samba line dance they should stay on the far side of the floor near the windows, and people dancing with partners should stay near the DJ booth, just to keep things safe. Most of the people refused to listen to the instructions, so we ended up with two competing line dances going on at the same time. The two groups were never facing the same wall, and were only separated by about five feet. The people who wanted to dance Samba with partners ended up careening all over the place, weaving in and out and all around the floor between the two groups of people doing the line dance and not even trying to stay to the half of the floor that had been left free for them. I just stood on the edge of the floor and watched all this with an amused smirk on my face. Also, a few times throughout the night I even saw one guy who thought it was cool to travel against the line of dance during ballroom-style dances (everybody needs a hobby, right?). From the way he moved his body, it appeared as though he had gone through some dance training before, but it’s hard to say for sure since one of the first things you are taught anywhere you take lessons is to make sure you are traveling counterclockwise around the room. He was definitely moving clockwise, and getting a lot of angry stares from other dancers as he would sail by. None of that phased him, however – he seemed to be in his own little world. He had shown up to the dance with two ladies whom I had never met before, and only really danced with them that night. Those ladies didn’t try and stop him from leading them against traffic, so either it was something that they had planned on specifically doing when out on the floor, or none of them knew any better. I never asked, so I guess I can only speculate.

As an added bonus this past weekend, on Sunday afternoon I got to go to a Waltz workshop at the Electric Dance Hall. Like we had done in Standard Technique class the week prior, this workshop really pushed everyone to work on having proper rise and fall with every step that we did. Unlike the previous Wednesday night’s class though, I hadn’t worked out my legs just before heading to the dance hall, so my calves were much happier with doing all the rising this time around. Hooray for me! We also had one other guy show up that I haven’t seen in class in a few weeks, so the ratio of men to women was better than it had been up until that point. Still not the best, but not terrible. We started out the class with the same basic warm-up that we had used the previous Wednesday – a simple box step where the first two steps were normal but the rise over the third step was stretched out over four beats, so that each half of the box step took a six count instead of three. A couple of stragglers showed up to the class in the middle of the warm up and took forever putting their dance shoes on, so they didn’t have to work on that like everyone else did. Did they do that on purpose, or were they really that slow? Once we were done warming up, we started looking at a figure where the rise and fall is important – the Double Reverse Spin. Most of the talk about the rise and fall in this figure centered on the way that it is needed to properly lead a heel turn. The term that once again came up was ‘early quick rise’ which is something that the ladies didn’t have to memorize to get through the class. Once we had done the Double Reverse Spin enough times so that most of the ladies felt semi-confident doing one, we added on a couple of other pieces before that to get into the figure more gracefully than just starting there. At first we just used a prep step followed by a Natural Turn and then a Natural Spin Turn, which worked out pretty well. A couple of the ladies had never done any Spin Turns before, so we got hung up for a while going over that figure rather than moving on. Finally, Lord Junior decided to do away with the prep step and start the progression off straight away with an Outside Spin. Much like the Spin Turn, a few of the ladies HoldingOutForAHero2had never seen an Outside Spin before. Because we were running low on time, we couldn’t spend as much time on this figure as we had on the Spin Turn, so we got them through it the best we could so that we could spend a few minutes at the end running through the whole progression to music. Since there were four men in class, Lord Junior had each of us take a corner so we could practice dancing the pattern down the line of dance as the ladies rotated around the room a few times.

Last Monday night at Latin Technique class we ended up doing Samba because Merlot was able to stick around for class that night, and she wanted to work on some things that were in her own Samba routine. Seeing as how she hadn’t joined us in several weeks, we all acquiesced to HoldingOutForAHero3her request. Nothing that we ended up looking at were things I hadn’t seen before, which was good since once again it was just Lord Junior and I as the only Leads to dance with all the ladies that had come to class. We began by warming up with some basic Whisks, dancing without partners. When we were all ready, we partnered up and ran through a Samba pattern that is coming to be fairly familiar to me, with only the last bit after getting into Shadow Position being some on-the-spot improvisation for fun. The sequence we went through started with four Whisks, and on the last one we rotated slightly to open up into Promenade Position. We did a series of Samba Walks next to travel down the floor – a Forward Samba Walk, then a Side Samba Walk, another Forward Samba Walk, and the last was a Side Samba Walk where we released the right arm in the process. Next we would turn the ladies to do a Spot Volta while men did Stationary Samba Walk. The Spot Volta was slightly overturned so that, if the ladies allowed their arm to move freely as they turned, their left arm would wrap around their torso allowing the men to take the left hand with our right hand, putting us into Sweetheart Position. In that position we would do one Forward Samba Walk together, then the ladies would roll off the man’s arm out to the right and tap their feet together while the men did a Whisk going to the left. From there we would turn the ladies to roll back in toward us while we did a fake (taking two steps while the ladies took three) so that we could link up behind them in Shadow Position. With a bit of time left in class, from here we went into some Cruzados Walks and Locks just for fun. First we did two Cruzados Walks and a Lock Step in normal timing. Coming out of that we did two syncopated Lock Steps back-to-back, ending in Shadow Position with our weight on the left foot, ready to go into something else.

Here’s a slightly funny personal note about my Wednesday night for your amusement: when I went to Standard Technique class this week, I got made fun of a bit for a new admirer I have seemingly acquired. The young college girl who has been joining us for class lately while home from school (you know what, let’s just call her Miss ShortDress) has the hots for me, so I’m told. HoldingOutForAHero4Sparkledancer was actually the first person to bring it to my attention, and then on Wednesday when Miss ShortDress arrived at the studio and I was sitting along in a chair just on the edge of the dance floor putting on my shoes and talking to the others sitting on the other furniture nearby, she grabbed another chair from farther away and pulled it right alongside of mine to sit nearby, and kept glancing at me when she thought I wasn’t looking. I did see this however, and was trying not to acknowledge anything. I don’t know if she realizes that I’m probably at least ten years older than her… aside from the casual ribbing I got after class was over for that incident, we worked on Foxtrot that night. There seems to be a theme going with what Lord Junior has been choosing to work on in Standard lately, as we continued with rise and fall practice like we had worked on last week and on Sunday in the Waltz. Lord Junior even wanted to throw together something that used the Double Reverse Spin in Foxtrot like we had done in the Waltz workshop on Sunday. We ended up with a short pattern that could be used for practice, and could also stretch from one end of the floor to the other if you give yourself a good push off of your standing leg as you travel. We began with a simple prep step and then went into a basic Feather and a Three Step combination. These two basic steps are really good for practicing footwork and rise and fall, and you could travel around a whole room with just these two figures to practice your basic techniques if you want to. Lucky for us, we used a couple more figures than that to keep life interesting. After the Three Step we went into a Natural Twist Turn followed by a Hover Feather. Interesting note: The Natural Twist Turn is something you’ve probably seen before in Tango. For some reason it is a Bronze-level Tango figure, but a Gold-level figure in Foxtrot. I’m not sure why that is, but if you look at the syllabus you’ll see the same thing. Weird, huh? Coming out of the Hover Feather was when we finally went into the Double Reverse Spin as promised at the start of the evening, and we ended with a basic Feather Finish. As it was just Lord Junior and I dancing the Lead part with the five ladies that had joined class, I got lots of practice in with this sequence before I went home that evening.

One final thought for this week to leave you on: I’ve mentioned recently that since summer has started, it seems like there have been a lot of ladies showing up for group classes, but even fewer men than usual. Well, apparently it is a problem that is happening all over the Dance Kingdom. I saw an item in the local dance newsletter that came out this week that said this Friday night (tomorrow!) there was going to be a social dance at the Prime Dance Hall… and men get into the party for free! It’s like you would see advertised on posters for lady’s night at bars that are near college campuses. I guess the problem is pretty widespread. Have all the other men who dance disappeared? Hmm… if it wasn’t for other commitments I have tomorrow night, I would be out there for sure. You really can’t beat a free dance party, right?

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