For the first time in a long time, I ventured farther away from my home to go out dancing on a Friday night. I got a call as I was on my way home from work that night from Sparkledancer, telling me that the Prime Dance Hall was going to have a Hustle lesson, and that we should go and see if we could learn any new Hustle figures. It’s rare for places to have classes on Hustle for some reason, even though it is a super fun dance style. So with hope in my heart that I could pick up something new, I headed out there to see what was going on.
I wish I had gotten more information about what was going on before I ended up on the other side of town. The class was really below what I was expecting, and the instructor that they had teaching the class at the Prime Dance Hall barely knew the steps he was trying to show everyone else. So that’s $10 I will never get back. There was a big clue about how the class was going to go right at the beginning: the instructor came into the room and looked all of us over. He told us that he was going to put on a Hustle song, and everyone in the room would be able to dance some Hustle (whatever they knew) so that he could assess our skill level with the dance style. Since Sparkledancer was standing in front of me, we just started screwing around when the music began playing. After only a few steps, the room got really quiet, and I glanced around while I was dancing to see that everyone else (including the instructor) had stopped what they were doing to watch Sparkledancer and I dance. So… that was weird. Afterward, the instructor split the men and women up on opposite sides of the room and told everyone that Sparkledancer and I would be able to help everyone out before getting started. Nothing like getting volunteered to do someone else’s job, right?
The instructor tried to cover an awful lot of figures in the hour, way more than was probably good if he hoped to have everyone remember things afterward. We did a weird four-count basic step that involved rocking forward toward your partner and then backward. This is probably what threw me off the most for this class (other than just doing four-count Hustle, which I never do any more), since normally I either rock back only, or just point my free leg to the side while I dance Hustle. After the basic step, the instructor showed everyone how to do a “Tummy Turn” – every other time I’ve ever done this step in various Swing styles, this has been called a Waist Roll, but for some reason this guy kept calling it a Tummy Turn. I really tried not to laugh when I heard him call it that, but there were times I just couldn’t help myself. Then we looked at a Lady’s Underarm Turn, the Man’s Underarm Pass, and switching between Open and Closed Dance Position. At the end he tried to show everyone how to do the Hammerlock, but this was only mildly successful in the little time remaining.
Since I had other things planned for the evening, I didn’t end up sticking around after the class was over for the social dance they offered, so I bid Sparkledancer farewell and took off into the night. Based on the comments I got from all the other ladies who were in that class with us, I don’t think I would have gotten to dance with her much at the party anyway if I had stuck around – all the ladies were super eager to do more dancing with me, and I kind of felt bad disappointing everyone. But I had said I was going to try to spend some time on other things, so it was good that I left to get some of that work done. Plus I was super hungry, and assorted dance party snacks just weren’t going to cut it for me that night, so I also left to find some food before I got home.
This past Saturday ended up being a busy dance day for me. First stop was my normal coaching session with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven. We began by going back to our American Waltz routine to start cleaning some things up. There were still points that I would draw blanks on as I danced through the routine, so I might not have the pattern as committed to memory as I would like, but I feel like I have the majority of it down. Really it’s the last short wall that constantly seems to elude me when I get there. Next we went back to look at the new figures that we started working on in Viennese Waltz. Since these figures are not really connected in any way, I have a feeling that mastering them will mean that I can throw them in any time that I dance a Viennese Waltz, even before we finish up the actual routine. That’s exciting to me, since I feel like I don’t know much in the way of Viennese Waltz figures.
We finished up the hour by looking at the American Foxtrot. This routine is still rough, because even though Sir Steven, Lord Latin and Lord Dormamu worked out the choreography together one afternoon and wrote things down, the sheet of notes isn’t entirely clear on what they were thinking, and the group never got back together to discuss the choreography. Sir Steven told us that he had gone through and worked out most of the choreography on his own earlier in the week, but even so there are still parts that he doesn’t feel that flow together as well as he would like, so he’s going to end up changing things. Based on how we were stepping through things and how much Sir Steven relies on the sheet of notes while we are working, it feels like we are the first people who this routine is (really all of these new American Smooth routines are) being taught to. We got through three chunks of the Foxtrot that are not connected together before Sir Steven said he would have to put some thought into the rest. After recording the pieces that we did work on so that Sparkledancer and I could practice them, we all headed out for the day.
Last Saturday night I got to host another dance party with my fellow Royal Dance Court members. I got there super early to help clean up and set up the venue before the party started, so I had a lot of time to kill before people began showing up. The party we had planned gave the whole evening a Tango theme, and we were lucky enough to have the famous Judge Dread come and teach some American Tango to everyone before the party started. We asked everyone to come dressed in black and red, and once the lesson was over we turned the room lights down really low to set the mood.
Unlike the Hustle class I did yesterday, Judge Dread was a master at going over a lot of information on Tango with everyone, but doing so in such a way that everyone picked it up well and was able to perform things successfully throughout the class. The figures that we covered in the Tango weren’t all that difficult, but there were a lot of people who came to listen to Judge Dread’s wisdom, so finding enough space to move around on the floor was. He had us start off already in Promenade Position and take one slow step forward. The men then took two quick steps while coming around and cutting the lady off while she just continued walking forward. We would then lead the lady to lunge out to our right side, heading toward diagonal center. The lunge was meant to be done in the corner of the floor, so the rest of the figures are used to turn and go down the next wall. Three rocking turns were used to turn us back around so that the men were facing wall again, and then we went into a syncopated Backward Lock Step which traveled toward diagonal center on the new wall. At the end of the Lock Step we did a Chasse to the Left, pointing our left foot at the end which set us up in Promenade Position for whatever we wanted to do next. Easy enough, right?
After we had made it through that harder part of the Tango figure, Judge Dread had us add on to the beginning and ending so that we didn’t have to just start awkwardly in Promenade Position nor end that way either. At the beginning we put on a simple American Tango basic (two slow steps forward followed by the three steps to close), and turning into Promenade Position and doing a normal Promenade with Ladies Close at the end without using a Link. The whole shebang became our ‘Pattern #1’ for the night, and Judge Dread wasn’t going to stop there. Judge Dread provided everyone with one variation on the pattern, just to keep things interesting. He knew that the Backward Lock Step was a tricky figure to use in social situations, because you never know who might pop up behind you. He showed everyone that you could abandon the Backward Lock Step in favor of just doing a backward basic close figure. We all did that a few times just to make sure everyone knew how to do that well. And things didn’t even stop there!
Next up we looked at boxes, much like we did in Samba the last time I saw Judge Dread. We started with box steps where we closed our feet at the end, and then did a box step where we passed our feet at the end instead. Obviously boxes are not exactly the safest thing to be doing in one place while everyone else is traveling the room around you, so Judge Dread had us do the box steps with passing feet while moving down the line of dance. Turns out this is a pretty tricky way of showing people how to do the Reverse Turn in Tango. We used this as our ‘Pattern #2’ for the night – a normal American Tango basic with two slow steps forward and then the three quick steps to close. Then the box steps with passing feet moving down the line of dance (a Reverse Turn with open ending, if you want to be technical), then another where you closed your feet at the end. That was all that Judge Dread managed to get through before we ran out of time for the class.
We did a lot of Tango at the dance party afterward, to give people a chance to really work on practicing the figures they learned. First off, before too many people wandered off after the lesson was over, the DJ called for us to have a Tango mixer, and because there were so many people out on the floor, to try to give everyone as many chances as possible the DJ wanted to have us do it using three couples going down the floor at a time. I put myself at the head of the line of men so that everyone else could line up behind me, and Sparkledancer did the same for the ladies. Because I have long legs, I managed to get down to the end of the floor pretty quickly. When I looked back, I could see that the people in the lines were struggling to figure out what to do. The DJ was in the back trying to direct things and get all the men to loop back around in line to keep things moving. I stopped her for a second and told her to grab Sparkledancer when she got down to the end and have her direct the women up front to keep things in order. That made a huge difference.
The party was really good. Having Judge Dread come in certainly brought a lot more people out to the party than I had expected, and almost all of them hung around for quite a while to dance even though Judge Dread had to leave early in the party to go catch a flight. I danced with a lot of people that night, but only got to work with Sparkledancer a couple of times to practice the material we were supposed to be working on. She was very popular with all the older men that night – I think it was because she wore some sort of crop-top to the party, which is not something a lot of older ladies would do. At the end of the night, as the few remaining members of the Royal Dance Court and I were cleaning things up, we wandered around munching on all the broken pieces of cookies that were left over. All the non-broken cookies got put away for someone to take home, but there was almost a whole plate full of broken chunks for some reason, so we all decided to eat them as we cleaned up. It was a delicious way to end the evening.
When I got to Latin Technique class on Monday night, no one had any strong feelings about what they wanted to work on. We decided on our dance style that night through silent voting. I of course voted to do Pasodoble, because it is my favorite Latin dance style, and it turned out that what I voted for won. Hooray!
Our pattern was pretty straight forward for the evening. Much like the other times we’ve done Pasodoble lately, we started in frame and holding the first eight count so that whoever started the music could make it out to the floor. After the Appel we did a Promenade into a Counter Promenade, passing our feet at the end rather than closing them, ending with us facing diagonal center. Next up the men took one step forward and led the ladies through a Grand Circle, bringing us all the way around to face the wall once more as we closed. Then we did an Ecart, which is a figure similar to a Whisk from International Waltz, putting us back into Promenade Position.
From here we took a break from syllabus figures for a bit to work on something harder. The next eight count involved the guys coming around the lady to cut her off so we could go into three pivots down the line of dance. The ladies were holding on around our chests during that movement, to make us as small as possible so that the pivots moved easier. It was kind of like getting a hug, except we were spinning. We came out of the pivots by splitting apart and taking one step forward into a lunge, with the men on the left side and the ladies on the right, our hands on the back of our partner’s nearest shoulder and the other arm spread wide. That movement looked kind of like a bird of prey landing. After a brief pause in that position, we pushed off the front leg, leaping forward a bit and landing in a standing position facing one another with our back leg crossed behind the front. We balanced on our toes like that for two beats, and then we would unwind our legs, finishing the spin so that we were facing down the line of dance with the man’s weight on the right foot and the lady’s on the left. There was one last dramatic push out of the standing leg from there to go into a side step, back to facing one another, slowly dragging the other leg inward.
Apparently this past week was the week of Tango, because we also looked at that style during Standard Technique class. Lord Junior was working on Tango with a student of his when we all started showing up for class, so before that private lesson was over he called over to those of us who had gathered and asked if we minded working on Tango so that his student could continue practicing some things.
We worked on a Gold-level figure known as The Chase – the whole pattern that we used during class was built around that. We started out in Promenade Position and took one slow step forward, and then two quick steps where the man cuts around the woman, adding on a Natural Pivot on the end. After the Natural Pivot we went right into The Chase. After going through the figure by the book a couple of times, we then overturned the last step so that we ended up facing center to do a Progressive Chasse to the Right that traveled down the line of dance. After the Progressive Chasse we did a Whisk to flick the lady dramatically back to Promenade Position.
If you’re following the alignment, you will see that we were facing the wrong way down the floor at this point. Rather than fix that immediately, we just went with it and continued on in that direction. Here we did a Promenade against the line of dance that had two Natural Pivots in the middle. After the last Natural Pivot we came out with a side step to the right, putting us back into Promenade Position facing the correct way down the line of dance once more. If done right, you could do this whole pattern and end up basically where you started, allowing you to do the whole pattern all over again, all without actually traveling anywhere.
This weekend is going to be one of my favorite dance events of the year – once again it is time for the Grand Dance Hall’s annual weekend ballroom dancing extravaganza! There will be formal dance parties on Friday and Saturday night with the live orchestra playing all the music, and I think the rumor I heard was that the workshops they are running Saturday during the day will cover Waltz, Rumba and East Coast Swing (they seem to do East Coast Swing every year though, so that one is no surprise). Are you planning on coming out for the event? If so, stop by and say hi to me while you are there. It should be a lot of fun!