Helpless To The Bass And The Fading Light

Last Friday night I went out to the bi-weekly social dance at the Electric Dance Hall. Normally I can use these dances as an opportunity to work with Sparkledancer and practice our routines pretty exclusively, but this time around I didn’t get to do that. For some reason, there only ended up being four men at this party, while there were a lot more than four women who showed up that night. It felt like one of the weekly technique classes I usually go to… except it shutupanddance1was a social dance. All of the men got put through their paces throughout the evening. Luckily, the DJ took pity on us and put on a number of line dances to give the guys a break, allowing us to catch our breaths and rest our legs for a few minutes. As the night wore on though, we all started to tire out though, so we started to switch on and off, with three men out dancing while one guy got to sit out. Boys need to take care of each other, as I’m sure you know. There are so few of us out on the dance floor even on good nights. We have to do everything in our power to keep as many men around as we can.

My normal coaching session with Sir Steven this past Saturday started out with him grilling Sparkledancer and I about how our lesson with the Princess went. I mentioned the comments about my flexibility, but didn’t go into as much detail with him as I went into here, as I’m sure you can imagine. He had actually seen most of our session with the Princess, since he had been teaching a lesson elsewhere on the floor (you could see that from my picture last week!), but he wanted to get our feedback on what she had said to go along with the notes she had given him. Sneaky, sneaky man…

With the discussion out of the way, we began dancing. Just like we had done the prior week, the first thing we did was run through all of our International Standard routines back to back in competition order (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot and finally Quickstep). Next up, we moved on to finish going over all the choreography for our American Tango routine, just like I had hoped we would do when we finished getting as far as we did the last week. There are a couple of parts in the routine that I found rather funny after we were shown the figures. To set the scene: the majority of this last section we spend in Shadow Position, right? However, for some reason I don’t understand, after we do a Oversway in Shadow Position I’m supposed to roll Sparkledancer out into Fan Position (Fan Position in Tango is where we stand side by side facing the same wall), and then I immediately roll her back in to Shadow Position again. After Sir Steven showed that to me, I started laughing and asked if that was a fancy way to give me an opportunity to show off my chest to the audience for a moment. I can’t think of any other reason we would go through a move like that.
shutupanddance2  The second thing I found funny was a move that got dubbed ‘the Reverse Bicycle Kick.’ Basically, while we are in Shadow Position (after the part where I roll Sparkledancer out and back in), we will be doing a kicking motion with the free leg, much like you would see in Jive, but then bringing the knee up and around before putting the foot back on the floor. Sir Steven compared the leg movement to pedaling a bicycle, and I started laughing because the movement of our legs would cause us to pedal backwards. He stopped for a second to think about that, and then started laughing about it too because it was the best analogy he had thought of for the footwork, but he didn’t actually think about what would happen if he did that while riding a bike. So ‘Reverse Bicycle Kick’ it is. I’m sure there’s an actual name for the figure somewhere, but I like this one better, so that’s probably what I will call it from now until the end of time.

Humor aside, we mostly ran out the clock working on the Tango choreography, but we managed to go over everything all the way up to where the routine would begin to loop. I will probably need a week or so to get the whole of it memorized before I can do it without stopping to think about the figures. Before letting us walk out the door, Sir Steven asked Sparkledancer and I to go through the pieces of our American Waltz and Foxtrot routines to review what we had done already in preparation for next week. I mixed up some pieces of those two routines, I will admit, before I managed to remember what I should have been doing for each. So, I will have to set aside some time to walk through those again before next weekend, since I imagine we’ll begin adding on to those now that the Tango is complete.

Latin Technique this week was a bit of a treat because we got to look at Pasodoble. I feel like it has been forever and a day since the last time we have covered that particular International Latin dance style, but I’m not going to go pawing through all my dance notes to find out for sure when the last time was, so we’ll just say it’s been a while. We really only do the dance styles that I think are more fun (i.e. Jive and Pasodoble) when there aren’t that many people in class. This week there were only three of us who came. Nothing that we did was overly crazy, since Ms. Possible had never looked at Pasodoble before. There were a handful of Silver-level steps, some of which I had seen before, but none of them were terribly hard footwork in my personal opinion.

Since Lord Junior was also playing the music for us in class, he designed the choreography we used so that we stood in place for the first eight beats of the song. That gave him a few seconds to make it out to the floor once the song began. The second eight-count had us doing a Sur Place and then a Promenade and Counter Promenade run, ending with everyone having turned around facing the opposite direction from where we had started. From here we did a variation on the Coup de Pique where we still pointed the right foot forward, but then only took a single step back on the left, and then repeated those two steps a second time, covering the third eight count. Next up we did a Left Foot Variation. Yes, that is the actual name of the figure – I also went home after class to look it up just to make sure I hadn’t been hearing things. The figure is there to give you an option that can be used when your left foot is free at the beginning or the measure rather than your right – it’s three steps forward, with the third shifting the lady to Outside Partner. You then point your right foot across in front of you (which is why you have to be in Outside Partner, so you don’t kick someone), replace, then point the left foot to the side, replace, and finish with a side step to the right.

Next up we added in an Open Telemark (yes, just like you’d see in International Standard dances), opening up to a Spanish Line. Our variation of the Spanish Line had the outside arm shutupanddance3raised over our head, to add some drama or something. From there we did Flamenco Taps before crossing over to do another Spanish Line on the opposite foot with the opposite arm raised. To end things, we just whipped around to face one another and took one last side step in Counter Promenade position, closing to dance frame at the same time. At the end of class, we ran through everything in order, starting at 80% tempo and slowly moving upward until we got to do things a few times at full speed before we ended class.

The plan was to do pivots during Standard Technique class this week. I’m not sure why, but as soon as class started that’s what Lord Junior said we were going to do. To keep things from getting out of hand, we used Waltz to practice our pivots, since the music is generally slower even when played at full tempo. To get an idea of what he would be working with, Lord Junior had all of us line up in the front of the room with some space in between (for safety), and had us attempt to do pivots on our own all the way across the floor to the opposite wall. We were supposed to turn each pivot a full 180° (which I found easy enough), and try to hold our bodies in CBMP the whole time (which was harder to do). A few people couldn’t do the full half turn, so instead of pivoting along a straight line they were drifting to one side. I guess this was amusing to watch, because I could hear Lord Junior chuckling to himself from the front of the room.

Once we had gone through that enough times that he had a good grasp of where we all stood, Lord Junior started to put people together to do pivots with partners. We used a couple of Waltz figures to accomplish this. Beginning by facing diagonal wall, we did a prep step into a normal Natural Turn. Then we did three consecutive Natural Pivots that were supposed to travel straight down the line of dance, if you managed to do the full half-turn with each pivot, or else the movement would curve slightly toward center if you couldn’t. After that we did a Quick Open Impetus, which is the same as a normal Open Impetus except it starts out with another Natural Pivot on the first half of beat one because we were facing the wrong direction to do a normal Open Impetus. At the end, since it was hard for most people to fully stop their momentum after all the movement, we took the first side step in Promenade Position, using that leg like a brake to come to a halt.

The big things that help with pivoting like this, as I found through many repetitions, are definitely staying in CBMP the whole time, relaxing as you turn (tensing up tends to cause you to use your arms to ‘help’ the rotation instead of your body), and having both partners drive whenever they are the outside of the spin. If one person didn’t drive using their standing leg, there was no way the turn would rotate as much as needed. Lord Junior made a comment about how he wanted everyone to do their part, so the other partner shouldn’t try to compensate for their lack of effort. If the ladies didn’t want to push off enough to turn the pivot a full half turn, then the next pivot when it was my turn to drive would turn 180° from wherever I was facing when I started rather than force things to travel down the line of dance. This did lead to the pivots curving inward when we danced with certain partners, but there were no collisions, so it was totally fine. Hooray!
shutupanddance4  There’s a free dance party going on Friday night at the Endless Dance Hall. Are you going to be there? I think that’s where most people in the area will end up (free parties tend to have that effect). There’s also going to be a Disco party that I will be helping to run on Saturday night, if you’re more interested in that kind of atmosphere. Era-appropriate costumes are not required, but they will be appreciated. I think I’m going to get stuck in some all-day training things for work on both Friday and Saturday, so I’ll be eager to get out of the office both of those nights and onto the dance floor. Maybe I’ll see you somewhere!

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