When I got together with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer this weekend, we got right to work on our choreography for the upcoming showcase performance. We actually got a large part of it done, and I think (though I’m not entirely certain) that we should have the entire thing mapped out next weekend, which will give us just over a month then to fine-tune everything and make the sequence look as snazzy as possible. As it turns out, the impressive fancy lift that we had started working on isn’t going to be in the closing piece for this routine. The other showcases I’ve done have saved the lifts for right near the end, so that becomes the part that most people will remember when they walk away. This choreography so far puts the lift in when the song hits the first chorus, and then as soon as I get Sparkledancer back on her feet we continue on into some more dancing. Since we are performing this routine twice, and the first showcase where we will perform this there will be a large number of acts and each one is supposed to fade seamlessly from one to the other, right now there is about eight counts of music that is left open before we start our choreography. Sir Steven said he will change that as we get a better idea of what we will be coming in after, so right now we are starting things by just standing there and waiting, looking awkwardly off into the distance. There are several different dance styles that we are using in just the section we’ve done so far – we start off with a bit of Samba, some Botafogos in Shadow Position, then Sparkledancer does a turn and we end up going into Promenade Position for a Quickstep Progressive Chasse to the Left. That’s our first change of dance style. Once we shift, we go through a bunch of Quickstep figures for the rest of the verse in the song, and as we get to the end we are starting to run around in toward the center of the floor. When the chorus hits I do a forward check to stop our movement and then help Sparkledancer through an assisted jump, and as she touches the ground again we transition into Lindy Hop, and that’s what we stick with through the chorus. This includes the whole leapfrog-fancy lift-thingy somewhere in the middle of that. After the chorus we transition back into Quickstep as the song moves back to another verse, and based on the length of the song I believe that might be the last dance style transition that we do, but I don’t know for sure yet. Sound crazy enough? I hope so. I recorded everything we had gone through so far, so right now it’s been a lot of memorization of the basic figures rather than worrying about any of the technique. Hopefully we really will have the rest of it down by this weekend so that I can get together with Sparkledancer and just run through everything from top to bottom for a month, covering it enough times to feel comfortable doing the routine by the time the performance comes around. Nothing like a little pressure to help you focus, right?
As I mentioned previously, this weekend I went out to a Saturday night party at the Cherished Dance Hall. They had advertised an Intermediate/Advanced West Coast Swing lesson before the party, which definitely peaked my interest. When I got to the Cherished Dance Hall I found out that the lesson was being taught by the same instructor that told me the last time I saw her that I shouldn’t be wasting my time with ballroom-style West Coast Swing. That set off a big red flag for me as soon as I saw her. Since I had met up with both Miss Possible and Sparkledancer to come to this party though, I decided I would just stick things out, do everything my own way, and maybe I’d get to pick up some new moves in the process. It turns out that I didn’t actually need to stick around for anything, other than to help even out the male to female ratio in the class. There were a bunch of people who showed up that night who had never done West Coast Swing before, so instead of an Intermediate/Advanced class, it turned into an Introductory-level class. We managed to make it through just two figures – the Sugar Push basic, and an Underarm Turn/Right-Side Pass (depending on what you like to call that step). The lady teaching did give a few more obscure styling pointers for both steps, but it was nothing that I think I would find myself using when left to my own devices. The first styling note she gave was for the Sugar Push, and the suggestion seemed to really perplex many of the people I danced with, so as the class proceeded and we moved on to different things, I gave up using it to avoid causing confusion. What the styling point came down to was that she wanted to have the men take their forward step with the knee bent, basically like a forward lunge so that you could slowly rise up over counts five and six. This would indicate to the ladies that as they did their Anchor Step they should be up on their toes, lowering the heel only moments before they start walking forward for the next Sugar Push (assuming that you did two of those in a row, that is). In reality, as long as you weren’t putting weird pressure on your partner’s arm while you were doing your portion of the styling, you could be fancy and your partner could continue to dance normally, and no one would notice. The second styling pointer she gave was for the Underarm Turn. This one involved both parties basically stopping your movement and holding on beat three of the figure, taking out the first triple step. I was struck when watching other couples do this variation that it made the Underarm Turn seem disjointed if both partners are pausing in the middle. If only one or the other person held their step, then it would look pretty neat, but with both people doing it you see the figure stop altogether before moving again, which really breaks the smooth flow that West Coast Swing is supposed to have.
The class wrapped up and that left us to dancing for the night. Things were pretty calm once that started. There was a group of teenage girls who had come out for the West Coast Swing lesson and had never really done any other dancing, so luckily they stayed off the floor for much of the rest of the night. They had all gathered around the one teenage boy who had also shown up (or had come with them – I’m not entirely sure), and they spent their time in the back corner of the room talking to each other for most of the night. I spent the majority of my night dancing with either Miss Possible and Sparkledancer. When a Viennese Waltz came on and both ladies got up to find a partner, I briefly toyed with the idea of dancing with Miss Possible, but since we had never even done Viennese Waltz together, even in a class setting, I didn’t think it would be the safest idea to try it out for the first time with so many other people on the floor. Maybe next time I am out someplace when she is around and the floor is a bit quieter we could give it a try. Sadly, about an hour into the dance party Sparkledancer popped her knee somehow, so she mostly gave up dancing at that point because it was hurting her to do certain movements (don’t worry, she’s fine now). Miss Possible and I continued dancing for a while after Sparkledancer went to sit down, but when it got to be time that I had to take off to go take care of some work-related things that night, the two ladies decided that they were going to head on home as well. This was Miss Possible’s first dance party outside of the Electric Dance Hall where she usually hangs out, and it seems like she had a lot of fun. I’ll have to try to get her to come along whenever I decide to go to the other studios around town, to introduce her to the wider world of dance in the Dance Kingdom. After all, dance parties are more fun with more friends tagging along, and a lot of my other dance compatriots who used to go on dance adventures with me have decided they don’t like doing that anymore, preferring to stay closer to home instead. Slackers.
This week for Latin Technique night we worked on a single figure in Rumba – the Sliding Doors. You have probably seen some version of this before. It is a Gold-level figure, and to start things off Lord Junior wanted to look at the figure based on how it was written in the book. He admitted to us that he himself had never done it by the book in any of his or his student’s routines before, so we were all going to give it a try and then change things up once we got that version down. I had learned this figure a long time ago for an International Rumba routine I did waaaaaaaay back in the day, but the version I had done had little in common with the figure we started with here. We began with the lady already out in Fan Position. Closing from that, the first few steps were just like what you would do to go into a Hockey Stick, where the Leads do a forward rock and then bring their feet together as the ladies close Fan Position and step forward across the Lead’s body, then the men do a small back rock step, like a Cuban Cross as we lead the ladies to do an eighth of a turn. Here’s where things break off from what you would do in a Hockey Stick – from here, the Lead would take the lady’s left hand in his right and then take a step to the side and slightly forward while the lady steps backward, ending up with your arms wrapped up like Sweetheart Position with both partners facing forward an eighth of a turn from where you started, like you were doing an Opening Out action. From here, the Leads just does Cucarachas from side to side (we have it easy). The lady does a Cucaracha when stepping across the Lead’s body, but on the right side she steps backward like she did when you got into the figure. The whole time you maintain the hand hold with the lady’s arms crossed, so you can’t get too far from each other. I’ve never seen it done like that before. In the version I originally learned the Lead isn’t holding onto the Follower at all. We did go through some variations at the end, one of which had the Leader releasing the lady’s right hand with his left as he did a lunge to the right, but we didn’t go through anything where we would release both hands. We had a new guy who I had never seen before who joined us for class that night. He said he had studied ballroom dancing in England while he lived overseas and knew a lot about dance, but he had given it up for about fifteen years and was now trying to get back into things. From what Sparkledancer told me after class, he was really lost on how to do his steps, but still felt the need to correct her on what he thought she was doing wrong. I thought that was funny. As for me, I hadn’t thought of this Rumba figure in a long time, so now that I’ve had a refresher, I will actually remember how it works if I want to go through it at some party.
During Standard Technique class this week we went through some Quickstep at Miss Shortdress’ request. Apparently it was her birthday this past Monday, so Lord Junior allowed her to choose what she wanted to do. She admitted to all of us that she was terrible at Quickstep, so that’s why she wanted to spend some time working on it to get better. Also, I found out that Miss Shortdress just turned nineteen on this birthday, so if she really does have some kind of crush on me like everyone says she does, that gets into creepy territory as I’m almost fifteen years older than her. I really have to blame my parents for my youthful-looking genetics getting me into these sorts of situations… Lord Junior decided to go easy on Miss Shortdress and start off the class with some easy steps and work his way up to hard material by the end. The first couple of steps we did were a Natural Turn followed by a Natural Spin Turn, which I believe are Bronze-level figures if I remember correctly. Next up we did a figure that Lord Junior called a ‘V6’ which is supposedly a Silver-level figure. I had never seen this step before, but it is essentially a Back Lock Step followed by an Outside Change followed by a Forward Lock Step which moves you in a V pattern (hence the name). After that we did syncopated Forward Lock Steps in Pepperpot timing that would end with us doing a Natural Turn in the far corner at the end of the room if we really stretched our legs. These syncopated Lock Steps kept throwing me off – for some reason, after going through the steps a couple of times, I kept getting told that I wasn’t getting it right. I thought that I was, but I guess that what they were seeing my feet do didn’t look right. By the time it seemed that everyone was happy with how my steps looked, it didn’t feel like I had changed anything about what I was doing, but I can’t watch myself from the outside so I can’t tell you that for sure. Lord Junior had wanted to go into some Rumba Crosses once we got all the way to that end of the floor, just to keep up with the progression of difficulty of the steps (Rumba Crosses are a Gold-level figure), but we ran out of time for him to really introduce that step to the people in class who had never seen it before (I’ve only seen it once myself), so he decided to leave that for another time. We spent the last five minutes just running through everything repeatedly to lock it into memory before calling it quits for the night.
It’s a holiday weekend, so the choices of dance events available are slim this week. That’s OK for me though. I think my body is just exhausted, and I may decide to take the weekend off from most physical activity and just be lazy for a change. Maybe I’ll find a date and take her to a movie. That could be fun, right? Avoiding physical activity isn’t something that I do very often, but maybe this will be a good weekend for some real rest. We’ll have to see!