Take A Moment To Think Of Just Flexibility, Love And Trust

So Saturday started out with me meeting up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for a while to continue to work on our American Smooth routines. We only actually got to work on one of them (Tango), but we did review the other two we had also started last week right at the end. After we wrapped things up that afternoon, we had something that makes it about two-thirds of the way around the floor, so maybe this weekend we will finish the Tango completely and have one of the routines ready to go. There was one part that we did have to go back and change, however, which was only sort of amusing. Right after the Viennese Crosses that we looked at last week, there is this section where we do a Reverse Turn that ends with me lunging next to Sparkledancer. She then does a Developé-esque kick with her right leg before hooking it around mine. Then I was supposed to shift my weight back to my left leg and hook my right leg around hers, then she would hook hers around mine again before we start moved on and began traveling down the floor once more. Well, Sir Steven wanted me to do a more dramatic-looking hook and raise my leg up higher, but I was not able to bend the way he wanted without rotating my body. I can bend my leg at the knee easy enough, but I cannot bring my leg out to the side very high, which is what he was trying to get me to do. He even went so far as to pull my leg upward at one point to try to show me what I should be doing, but that was rather painful so they stopped.

He ended up throwing out the section where I would have been hooking my leg altogether rather than try and make me do something I was not physically capable of. Instead, Sparkledancer will still do her kick with the first hook, but then we will do some in place rocking motions before I rotate her body so that she can do something that looks like a slow Ronde with her outside leg. After that we will close back into dance frame and go into a Progressive Link to start moving down the floor again. The timing matches the previously attempted steps, but it is much easier for me to accomplish without looking weird, so that makes me happy. Who would have thought that having huge legs would cause so many problems? Well, it turns out that wasn’t the only bad news about my lack of flexibility that I would receive that day…

After we wrapped things up with Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I got to work with the Princess… and I have mixed feelings about how that went. Why mixed feelings, you ask? Isn’t coaching supposed to be great, and help you fix all sorts of things to make the world better? Well, some things that the Princess said to me really make me question what I am working toward as I dance. How do I best explain this…?

The Princess mostly wanted to work with us on our posture and frame and the like, and we used just the first four figures from our International Waltz routine for the process. After dancing through the first few figures so that she could see what they were, she had us stop and just stand there in dance frame. Then, for the second time that day, I was having someone try to bend me into uncomfortable and somewhat painful positions. The Princess seemed really herecomesathought1surprised as she tried to position my arms when I told her that I just could not bend certain ways because of the muscle mass around my shoulders. This led to her making several comments about how fit I was, and how she wished she was that fit (in case you are wondering, she is in fact a tiny, gorgeous blonde thing [as I’m sure you picture a princess to be] so she really doesn’t have much to worry about). She did tell me that despite what many others have said about needing to pull my elbows backward (which is something I can’t do much of), the correct position she was taught had me putting my hands flat in front of my chest and touching my middle fingers together. That is all the farther back that I should ever need to bring my elbows, as far as she was concerned. As for my other problems with contorting my body, she told me that I should consider losing some of my hard-earned muscle so that I would be more flexible. She even told me a story of some professional dancer who had wanted to do some competitions with her, who was a big, muscular fellow as well. She flat-out told him he needed to lose the muscle before she would even consider working with him.

This is the part that really left me feeling uneasy. Should I really have to choose one or the other? Should any potential judge be able to mark me down because I am physically unable to bend in certain ways? Would they mark down a one-legged man for having his fake foot in weird positions? Or do they accept what he can do based on his physical limitations? I realize that is a bit of an extreme comparison, but hopefully it sheds some light on my point. Should all of us have to fit into some kind of pre-defined body type in order to dance, so that we all become as interchangeable as franchise-studio instructors (I couldn’t resist that joke)? It’s a tough question. I worked really hard to make these strength gains because I wanted to see if I could do it. I happen to like the results (and the attention I get from ladies isn’t all that bad either). I don’t want to have to undo the gains I’ve made on the off chance I’d want to do a dance competition. Also, I find things like my last showcase routine really satisfying since I can easily pick up my dance partner over and over again, getting considerable height each time I do. So what, do I need to lose the muscle any time I consider competing, and then work on rebuilding it any time I want to do a showcase performance and throw my partner around?

There’s no good answer. That’s part of the problem I have with ballroom competitions, and why I am reluctant to view them as anything more than a tool to focus my practicing. Some judge who has never met me before will spend ten seconds looking at me out on the floor and mark me down because his first thought is that my shoulders are sticking up, so my frame is off. He won’t consider that I actually do have large trapezius muscles, so my shoulders do stick up slightly no matter how much I pull them downward. Hmm… maybe… maybe I should only compete with my shirt off, so that they can see that for themselves! Then again, that would require me to go out and get a tan, which is something I don’t really have time for. And it would also put my tattoos on display. So maybe being shirtless would be cause more problems than it would solve. I guess more brainstorming is needed…

Ok, on to something more fun: Monday night Latin Technique class. We ended up doing Cha-Cha, since Ms. Possible really wanted to do that during the last class but opted for something slower instead to appease the other ladies. None of us complained about things this time, so she got her wish. We ended up doing some solo work – things that could be done without partners. With five ladies and two men in the building, this was a way to make sure that everyone got to dance the whole time. We worked through the pattern itself fairly quickly before adding a piece on at the end that gave me trouble. There were three Forward Lock Steps, then two Stationary Chasses (one on each side) and then two Hip Twist Chasses (also so we could do one on each side). Before moving into some quick footwork, Lord Junior put in one normal Chasse to give us a chance to prepare ourselves, and then we went on to do Cuban Breaks on the right side.

After a couple of those, we actually took a step forward on the left foot and held ourselves there for two beats before doing a Body Roll. This was the part that gave me trouble. I have never done a Body Roll before, if you can believe that. I don’t know why, but it’s just never come up. So there I was, trying to roll my spine around without looking too awkward in the process. Turns out that I didn’t do too terrible. There were a few times that I moved too quickly for some reason, but overall I managed to get through without making a fool of myself. At the end of class, we lined up facing the mirrors and then went through the pattern with music for practice. herecomesathought2After a few times through, just to make things harder, Lord Junior had two of us move up so that three people were facing the mirrors and two of us facing the others, and then we tried things again. Let me tell you, changing what wall you are facing is trippy. I was used to watching my steps in the mirror to make sure I did everything right. Now, if I watched the people coming toward me, it really messed up what I thought my steps should be. I actually needed a few repetitions to get things right.

This past Tuesday night I attended a quarterly meeting of the Royal Dance Court to talk about all sorts of dance related things. We discussed a large number of topics, which is probably why I got home much later than I had originally planned. As of this moment, unless something comes up that sounds like a better idea, I think we have all the themes for our monthly parties for 2017 picked out, as well as accompanying dance styles that we would like to have taught at the lesson before the party. We wrote down a list of the dance instructors whom we would like to have come teach those lessons, but we didn’t call anyone that night to get their confirmation so those names are subject to change if anyone tells us they would be unavailable.

Another item that came up was that there is going to be some sort of meeting for the district that my Royal Dance Court is a part of coming up in about a month. Our current leader asked if any of us were interested in attending this larger meeting with her, and I raised my hand. I think that of all the people who could possibly join her on this excursion, I am the one who would be the most interesting since I am A) considerably under the age of 50 and B) male. Based on the pictures I’ve seen of these other district courts, that makes me pretty unique. Plus, there’s a chance I could learn some interesting things about the inner workings of the dance world. Two other people at the table also decided they wanted to tag along (Sparkledancer being one of them), so we should have a pretty big group. Maybe then we can get all the others to agree with what we want based on overwhelming force. So, that’s something to look forward to taking part in. The world of dance politics is kind of fascinating, isn’t it?

There was one other item that we discussed that constituted probably the largest chunk of our time (and also created most of the jokes that evening): Samba. Apparently there is a ‘feud’ herecomesathought3between the people who like dancing the line dance during parties, and those who prefer to dance with partners. After we got talking about the issue, it was clarified that it was just one person in particular has an issue, and had complained loudly about things. Nevertheless, this Samba discussion was added to our agenda. The story I heard was that there was one dance party that we held a while back where this gentleman was dancing a Samba with a partner, and a lady doing the line dance in the middle of the room ran into them. The lady tried to make a joke about it afterward as an apology, but this guy was incensed and didn’t think it was funny. So, the Royal Dance Court had to come to the rescue and discuss a way to be able to accommodate both the line dance people and the people who danced with partners in a manner that would avoid them coming into conflict.

Sparkledancer brought forth a pretty brilliant idea that we actually all agreed to. Her idea is to start having multiple Sambas played in a row, or maybe separated by one song. The first one would be exclusively for the line dance. Since there are a large number of single ladies that come to dance parties, the line dance gives them something that they can get out and dance without having to worry about whether some guy will ask them or not, which is why the floor always gets packed whenever any sort of line dance comes on. We will always do the line dance first so that the ladies can be happy, then have the DJ play another Samba shortly afterward exclusively for those people who want to dance with partners. This seemed like a pretty simple and elegant solution to everyone else, so we voted to adopt this for our next dance party in a few weeks and see how things go.

OK, just one last thing to keep this from getting super long: Standard Technique class this week. I got lucky this week because Jack and Diane decided to come join us for class. The two of them have been noticeably absent from the dance world for some time now, so it was good to see them again first off, and secondly having another male in class to help even out the ratio is just awesome. We went through Waltz, and Lord Junior said initially he wasn’t going to put in anything terribly crazy so that Jack and Diane could ease back into the groove. However, he really wanted to work on the Turning Lock to the Right, which is a Gold-level syllabus figure, so easing back into things wasn’t really on the menu for the two of them. Things started out simply enough with a normal Natural Turn going into an Overturned Natural Spin Turn (that’s an easy way to start in my opinion at least), which lined us up backing line of dance with our weight on the left foot.

Now we did the Turning Lock to the Right. But wait! Why do just one Turning Lock to the Right, herecomesathought4when you can do two? Silly question… we did the first Turning Lock to the Right and ended it using a pivot on the last step, turning us around so that we were back to facing backing line of dance. That let us do a second Turning Lock to the Right! Yay, two for one! After the second one we ended up in Promenade Position facing diagonal center. We were going to leave it at that, but after running through things a few times Lord Junior decided that it felt funny just to stop there, so we tacked on a normal Progressive Chasse at the end, closing to dance frame in Outside Partner.

So, some crazy stuff this week, right? And that’s not even all the dancing I did, but just the most notable dance-related things! I wonder what kind of craziness is in store for this next week now…

4 thoughts on “Take A Moment To Think Of Just Flexibility, Love And Trust

  1. Unfortunately, I suspect the Princess is correct. There are likely judges who would mark you down if your shoulders look up to him regardless of the reason. Certain things have to fit the same mold. Of course, on any given night, with any give judging panel, who knows. I’d say if you are happy, then don’t change to please judges.

  2. I think you know where I stand on changing physical appearance to appease ballroom judges! 😉 My teacher is a bigger guy too, used to play football, and he’s gotten feedback about looking bulky or even fat at pro comps. Part of the issue was his comp suit, the jacket just needed to be tailored differently to compliment his shape. But I think the other issue is judges are used to skinny bean pole European guys! I wouldn’t change. Though I don’t see why you couldn’t work to increase your flexibility without losing muscle. My shoulders are pretty muscular so it’s more obvious when I let them come up. Similar issue with my big booty, haha! It’s just a matter of training the muscles I have to work in a different direction.

    1. My problem is one of mass being in the way. I can bend, but now there is just muscle occupying more space than it used to. A perfect example is when I do quad stretches on one foot. I used to be able to bring the heel of the leg I was stretching up and touch my butt with it. Now that I’ve spent so much time bulking up my legs, my calf muscles and hamstrings are so much bigger that they run into each other before my heel comes anywhere close to my butt like it used to. I don’t know if any type of stretching would help with that issue, so as long as I like having strong thighs and calves, I have to sacrifice that bit of flexibility. I can still fold myself in half though. My stomach is still flat, so bending over to touch my toes or sitting on the ground and leaning over to wrap my hands around my heels is still easy. There’s no extra muscle mass in the way when I bend in that direction. But I can no longer grasp my hands behind my back and bring my palms together comfortably. So… meh.

      I know this is a problem a lot of men wish they had, so I’m sure I’ll be fine. I just found the Princess’s comments about it interesting.

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