I remember a long time ago being in a class some night during the week, and there was this mysterious guy with legs that moved like rubber who was practicing Shag in the back corner of the Electric Dance Hall. Watching him that night was a rather fascinating experience (and quite distracting from what I was supposed to be watching during class). Well, this past Saturday night I helped to host another social dance with the Royal Dance Court of which I am a member, and it was beach party time! Someone had managed to get Mr. Rubber-legs to come in and teach some Shag before the open dance, since that’s what I’m told people like to dance when they are out on the beach. I had planned on just hanging out in the back of the room to watch the guy dance as he demonstrated the steps during class, but once again we ended up with more women than men attending the party, so I needed to jump in to help even out the numbers. My spot ended up being right in the middle of the room, right next to where Mr. Rubber-legs was doing all his teaching, so joining class got me a much better vantage point to watch things from than I would have had otherwise. The basic step that he showed everyone for the class was a lot different from what I had been shown every other time I had ever been shown the Shag basic – it was a lot more complicated, and moved more like something out of West Coast Swing rather than the shuffle-y East Coast Swing variation I had been taught in the past. In fact, Mr. Rubber-legs even described the version of Shag that he did as a slot dance, just like West Coast Swing. Since he holds multiple national titles for being super-awesome in Shag (I think that is in fact one of the names of a title he holds), I question whether the things I learned in the past were valid. Getting the basic step down was what took the crowd of people the longest to work through. This basic was a six-count pattern that used eight steps, so it was a lot for some people to think about. The lady that I was paired to dance with during the lesson had trouble with the concept that we were supposed to stretch away from each other like a rubber band, so for half the class she would take a step backward when I stepped forward, or step forward when I stepped backward. It took me some effort to convince her that wasn’t quite right. Once most everyone had the basic footwork down, Mr. Rubber-legs showed everyone how to do a Underarm Turn for the ladies. He did this in an interesting way by having everyone line up really close to each other, and then having everyone stop halfway through the turn. If everyone did the turn right, when stopping halfway we all ended up in a single-file line facing the same direction, with the Leads holding their arms up in front of the Follower’s forehead. Following the turn, Mr. Rubber-legs showed everyone a cooler starting step for Shag that reminds me a lot of the starter step I use for West Coast Swing, where you begin in closed hold and then split apart. With only a few minutes left, he gave everyone one last fancier figure he called a Leash before sending us all on our way.
As you can imagine, the DJ made sure to include plenty of song choices that night where Shag would be a style option for those brave enough to try it out. Mr. Rubber-legs stuck around, and spent most of the night in one of the back corners again, kind of like I had seen him do back in March, though this time we were in a different building and he also had plenty of ladies come over to dance with him when a Shag song was played, so he wasn’t dancing all alone this time. Ms. Possible spent much of the night over in the corner talking with him. I guess he told her that night that she should consider ditching ballroom and become his pupil, because she would be an awesome competitive Shagger… or something (I know, ‘competitive Shagger’ huh huh huh huh… let’s all put our 15-year-old minds away now). I’m not sure how much stock I put into that claim, since he already took HotDog on as his disciple a few months ago and told him the same thing, so it sounds a lot like a sales line when you hear more than one person relay the same story. And HotDog… well, he was all starry-eyed and full of bravado that night since his sensei was teaching class and he already knew all the moves. He even brought out his spiffy new Shag shoes to wear that night. Apparently he was surprised to find out that leather bottomed shoes, while good for Shag, are pretty terrible for dancing most other styles of dance that were played that night. I actually did a lot less dancing than I usually end up doing this month for this Royal Dance Court party. Once the lesson was over, and the people who had only shown up to attend the lesson took off, our numbers of men and women evened out pretty well, so I didn’t have to entertain so many ladies throughout the evening. I actually got to spend some time chatting with people for a change. Yay! Overall it was a good night. There were fewer people at this party than there have been in the past months, but I think that with all the schools in the area being out for summer vacation now, people were probably out at a real beach somewhere, rather than attending a beach party somewhere where there was no sand. At least, that’s what I’m going to believe.
Speaking of summer: did you know there are some places where there are no dance parties during the summer? Up where my parents live this is the case. I was thinking of going to visit them over the summer, and was looking for dance parties I could attend while I was in the area. You know, to see what dancing is like in the area where I grew up, and whatnot. Alas, apparently not all places have multiple open dance parties available every Friday and Saturday night. Who knew? I guess I can never leave the Dance Kingdom and move back near them. I’ve been spoiled by having so many options available to me for using my dance skills every weekend, and it would take a lot to make me want to give that up.
Monday night at Latin Technique was an interesting affair. Word on the street is that for the upcoming showcase in August, there is a formation team being put together and many of the ladies that had shown up for the class that night were members of this new team. The idea for the formation team was thought up by Lord Junior’s professional partner, Lady Lovelylocks. The ladies all met up for the first practice last weekend, and Lord Junior happened to be around for a little while as they started working out the choreography. After watching what they had practiced (and because there were so many women in our Latin Technique class and very few boys), Lord Junior wanted to work on some solo pieces in Cha-Cha that the ladies had used in their formation team choreography to help them improve their speed (and obviously the technique) for the upcoming performance. I just got to go along for the ride. Supposedly the formation team isn’t just for women, but right now there are only women signed up, so if I joined I would just be that creepy guy who would have to hang out in the middle, and the ladies would probably choreograph something scandalous to try to make me blush during the performance. I know how these things work, so practicing their choreography in a technique class is enough for me. The things we worked on were similar to other solo pieces I’ve been given in the past to work on for Cha-Cha. We started with our weight on the left leg and our right foot pointed forward and went into a back rock step with the right foot and then a Forward Lock Step to travel down the floor. At the end of the Lock Step we did two Hip Twist Chasses, one with each leg. Next up we did Cuban Checks, first with the right foot and then with the left. At the end of the second set, rather than stepping to the side we took a step backward on the right leg and then did a quick change of direction turn in place of a chasse, rotating us about 90° in the process. That was all, nothing too crazy… until we started turning up the speed of the music. I have to say, there’s this fine line where things feel good when working with Cha-Cha – somewhere around 80% of tempo or so. In Cha-Cha if you try to do things with the tempo turned down super slow, it makes everything really hard. Conversely if you try to do things at full speed, it’s still really hard to nail down the technique (though you have less time to think about everything, so you mostly run on auto-pilot). But moving at about 80% feels pretty good. It gives you enough time to think about the all the techniques you’ve been told to work on with every step you take, but isn’t slow enough to be a painful experience trying to dance. That’s my $0.02, at least.
It was a nice change of pace this week for Standard Technique class in the sense that we actually ended up with an even number of men and women in class. Hooray! Well, I guess that’s only sort of exciting. Without so many women to pay attention to, Lord Junior was actually able to spend time watching what the men were doing, so I got called out for a number of things that night. Mostly in relation to where my head was, as I’m sure you could guess. I don’t know why I can never seem to have my head in the right place… I do my best to keep the knot in the back of my skull over my standing leg and to keep my neck as long as possible, but it always seems to be tilting to one side or another when I’m not paying attention. Is my brain too heavy for my neck to hold up or something? We decided to look at some Waltz this time around, and Lord Junior wanted to look at the Outside Spin figure that he had been going over with one of the guys right before class started, to help give the guy some more practice with the technique for the figure since he had stuck around for the class. Lord Junior set things up so that we would use a couple of figures to travel down the short wall of the ballroom, use the Outside Spin to turn the corner, and then we could do a couple of figures to begin traveling down the long wall just for fun. We started down the short wall using a simple Progressive Chasse to the Right. From there, Lord Junior started to tell us that we should go into a Back Lock Step, but changed his mind and had us do a Back Run instead, which is essentially just ‘running’ backwards, using the same timing as you would for the steps of a Back Lock Step. At the end of our short run we were all pretty much on the other side of the floor already, so this was where he threw in the Outside Spin to have us turn the corner. Coming from that Back Run to transition into the Outside Spin requires you to be able to gracefully bleed your momentum rather quickly, so make sure you don’t go super crazy as you’re running or else you’ll risk toppling over. Coming out of the Outside Spin we went into a normal Natural Turn to place ourselves facing backing line of dance on the long wall. We went from there into what Lord Junior called a ‘Running Spin Turn’ (so much running in this class!), which is the same as a normal Natural Spin Turn except the first two steps are syncopated. To finish things up, we added on an Open Impetus at the end, coming out in Promenade Position traveling toward diagonal center.
This weekend I heard there was an open dance going on at the Cherished Dance Hall, and they are planning on having a lesson in West Coast Swing. I’m pretty excited about that, so you’ll probably find me there unless an emergency keeps me away. Will I see you there? I hope so!