It Looks Like You Might Be One Of Us

Happy December everyone!

I don’t know about you, but my holiday weekend was full of lots of dancing! That was kind of a surprise to me, since so many people had said that they would be out of town for the holidays. Plus there was the disappointment of the class I had wanted to go to last Wednesday being mysteriously cancelled, so I had prepared myself to face some disappointment over the weekend. Lucky for me, all the things that I had thought about going to do still happened, so I got to participate in everything. Hooray! So, where should I start?

Friday night I ended up out at the Fancy Dance Hall. Sir Steven had been giving both Sparkledancer and I a hard time over the last couple of weeks since neither one of us comes out to their Friday parties very often. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve been to any of the parties out at the Fancy Dance Hall since the last showcase when I performed at that venue. So, since everywhere else near my house was closed for the holiday weekend, I made the trek over to the far side of the city from me for the party at the Fancy Dance Hall. They had a class scheduled for the hour before the party as well, and I even managed to get out there in time to attend that too. Sometimes I can be really on top of things, can’t you tell?

The class was a bit unexpected, since Sir Steven used the time to go over a number of line dances rather than figures from a specific dance style. All but one of the line dances were tied heathens1to a specific song, fairly common line dance songs that I’m sure you would hear in any dance club or wedding that you might attend. The one line dance we looked at that wasn’t tied to a specific song was the Samba line dance. Now, I’ve seen a couple of different varieties of Samba line dances in my travels, but we looked at the one that is most commonly used in the Dance Kingdom. For those who don’t see this variation in their neck of the woods, it breaks down to four Samba forward and back Basic Movements, four Whisks, four Traveling Bota Fogos Forward, four Volta Movements to the right that rotate you 90° counter-clockwise and finally four Volta Movements to the left before starting over. Memorize this progression – there will be a test later!

Once Sir Steven was fairly certain that everyone had the basic pattern down, he wanted to show us all a few variations that we could use to spice up our line dancing. For a second I thought he was going to go through the same variations that Lord Junior had shown a group of us in a Latin Technique class I attended a while back, but the variations Sir Steven did turned out to be different. The four Basic Movements at the beginning were left untouched, so that’s fairly easy. We replaced the first and fourth Whisk with Spot Voltas, and then all four of the Traveling Bota Fogos Forward with Forward and Side Samba Walks. At the end he had us swap out the first four Volta Movements to the right with a Maypole that was overturned enough to rotate us the necessary 90° counter-clockwise, and the four Volta Movements to the left were left alone before we repeated. So, you can take these variations, or the variations that Lord Junior taught me (or both, if you really like to be different) and impress everyone the next time you are out doing the Samba line dance. Let me know how it works out for you!

Once the class finished up, we got to dancing. The party was small, with lots of people being out of town for the weekend. We had a pretty even ratio of men to women in attendance, so no one had to sit out unless they really wanted to. Even though there was an entire class on line dances before the dance party got underway, the DJ didn’t seem to play all that many line dance heathens2songs throughout the night so that the newcomers in the class could practice the things they learned. The DJ also wanted to do this weird mixer where we had all the men form a circle in the middle of the dance floor, and all the women form another circle outside of the men, and then all the men were told to march around the circle clockwise while the women marched counter-clockwise. At four different points in the song the DJ stopped the music and then you were told to make note of the person standing across from you. That gave us dance partners for the next four songs (a Foxtrot, East Coast Swing, Waltz and Rumba).

Of those four random partners I was paired with, the first one stands out the most in my mind. As we waited for the first song to start, I asked her if she preferred to do either American or International Foxtrot, as I often do when I dance ballroom-style dances with people I’ve never met before. She told me that she preferred American Foxtrot, and then she said that she really only wanted to do Silver-level figures, not boring Bronze-level figures like everyone else was going to do. That kind of surprised me for a second, but it was a request I could comply with, so that’s what I tried to do.

It did not go well, not at all. I ended up slowly backing off what I was doing as I discovered that she didn’t really know things. Even the most simple of Silver-level techniques, such as using continuity endings on all the figures rather than closing our feet, seemed to throw her off when I did things. I ended up going against her request and mostly doing Bronze-level figures and techniques by the end, and that seemed to be what she was comfortable following. She had a big smile on her face and thanked me at the end before wandering off to find her next randomly assigned partner, so I’m not entirely sure if she knew the difference or not, and I wasn’t going to ask her about it to give away what I did, so this will remain a secret between me and whomever reads this. I’m counting on you not to tell!

On Saturday afternoon I got together with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. While we were waiting for Sir Steven to finish up the lesson he was giving to another student, Sparkledancer and I were working on our Viennese Waltz. We had tried a few things the night before during one Viennese Waltz song at the party, but one of the turns did not go very well at all, so we were walking through things slowly. We also spent a bit of time working on the Canter Pivots, but neither one of us agreed on how to get into or out of them. I wanted to just go from a normal Natural Turn, but Sparkledancer said that felt wrong to her.

When Sir Steven came over to join us, we asked him about getting into the Canter Pivots, since that’s what we were looking at. I also might have told him roughly how long ago it was that the Canter Pivots had been shown to us the first time. I didn’t tell him how I figured out how long ago it was; I just gave a rough number and glossed over the rest. He was really surprised that anyone would have thought it was a good idea to have us try that move out as such young dancers. Getting back to the lesson, we decided that we could do the Canter Pivots with two Natural Turns beforehand (one full rotation), then two Canter Pivots, then coming out back into a Natural Turn, just to keep things simple when we wanted to practice.

Finishing those, we also looked at our American Waltz routine again. As we walked through the routine from start to finish using the changes we had made a couple of weeks ago, Sir Steven said that he didn’t like the way that the Progressive Chasse to the Left looked during the first long wall, so he decided to replace that figure with several different figures that are much more complex. As we were going through the new changes, I just had to ask Sir Steven if there was anyone else using these routines at all, since we were told that these would be the ‘standard’ Silver-level American Smooth routines for the Fancy Dance Hall students, but we’ve been making a lot of changes to them. He told us that aside from a few students at the studio who dance super-advanced Open-level American Smooth routines, most everyone else either does International Standard or is only Bronze level in American Smooth, so right now these really are ‘our’ routines to do with as we please. So… yay for us?

On Saturday night I made my way out to the Cherished Dance Hall for an open dance party that was being held there. The same DJ who had played all the music on Friday night at the Fancy Dance Hall had orchestrated this open dance party, and there was nothing really crazy planned, just a couple of hours of open dancing for anyone who was interested. A lot of the people who had attended the dance party I went to on Friday night were also in attendance for this party, which wasn’t surprising since these were the only dance events held on both Friday and Saturday night. President Porpoise was there, offering his presidentially porpoise-ful lead to all the ladies. Ms. Possible showed up to the party a bit late, much to my chagrin. She wasn’t at the party the night before, which was good, and she told me that she had gone so far as to take the last six days off from dancing, which helped her injured left shoulder feel a lot better. But since her shoulder sort of felt better, she needed to get her dance fix in, so she came by – which ended up being a terrible idea. By the end of the night she was back to clutching her shoulder and grimacing. At the rate she’s going, I’m afraid she’s going to end up with permanent damage!

I had originally planned on spending most of the evening working with Sparkledancer, getting in some practice time on various things, and for the most part I was able to stick to that plan. heathens3Because the same DJ who had spun tracks at the previous night’s dance was playing at this party, we ended up doing the same weird four-dance mixer that we had done the night before, so during that ballyhoo I didn’t get to practice with Sparkledancer. At one point during the evening I was also asked to do a Rumba by the same ‘Silver-level’ dancer that I danced with the night before, and that Rumba also did not go spectacularly, which amused me to no end. The night was a lot of fun for me, and was a great way to wrap up the holiday weekend that didn’t involve any commercial endeavors. I hope all of you got to have as much dance fun as I did to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Last night I went out to Standard Technique class. There were only a couple of us who showed up this week. Some of the other regulars for class stayed home – Ms. Possible decided to continue giving her shoulder a break (good choice!) and Bony sent Sparkledancer a text to say she was staying home but would come out Friday for sure. With only the three of us, Lord Junior offered to look at some American Smooth with us if we wanted. He is studying to take his certification exam in American Smooth like he has already finished in International Standard and Latin, so he said it would help him study if we wanted to do it. We all jumped at the chance, and decided to look at Foxtrot that night.

Lord Junior said that the big problem he is having studying the syllabus figures in American Smooth is that some of them are really long. They are all just progressions of much simpler figures, but you have to know them all in the correct order with the correct techniques, and since he is learning this from the instructor’s perspective he has to know both the full progression of the Lead’s part and then the same full progression from the Follower’s point of view as well. One of the ‘figures’ he gave us in class to work on he said covered four pages of the book he is using to study with (it’s a big book, with pages that are almost 8.5 x 11 and a pretty standard font size used. I saw the book when he pulled it out to confirm a question we had asked).

So what we did began with a prep step into a Feather Step, then we did a syncopated Fallaway Reverse with Slip Pivot. Next we added on a syncopated Curved Three-Step, ending with a Contra Check that moved against line of dance. We came out moving backward and turning into a Feather Finish. From there we did one of those figures that is actually just a bunch of other figures mashed together:  first was a Twinkle going into an Open Natural Turn, followed by an Open Impetus Turn (yes, there apparently are heel turns in American style – I was shocked by this too), followed by a Grapevine action for four steps. After the first Grapevine action we did another Open Natural Turn, then another Grapevine action for four steps and finally another Open Impetus Turn to end things. That whole thing was one figure by the book. After that we went into four Passing Twinkles (or Promenade and Counter-Promenade Runs, as the syllabus Lord Junior is studying calls them).

Next up, we did some work that put us in Shadow Position for a few figures, just for fun. To start this section we under-turned the last Passing Twinkle to collect back in Promenade heathens4Position before leading the lady in a Underarm Turn while the man faked a step (or did a Progressive Chasse, either works). Faking the step gets you into Shadow Position with both partners on the same foot. From there we did three figures while in Shadow Position: a Forward Run (which is basically a Three Step), an Open Reverse Turn, and another Forward Run. To finish everything we led the ladies through another Underarm Turn for the ladies while the man did another fake step (or Progressive Chasse) to get back into dance position. Whew! That whole thing from start to finish could basically be a Silver-level American Foxtrot competition routine if you wanted to put in a connecting figure to loop it at the end.

So far I may have a quiet dance weekend ahead. The only things I’ve committed to are a dance party on Friday night and my normal coaching session on Saturday. I may leave Saturday night open so that I can go out and do other things. Maybe I’ll even find some lady interested in going out on a non-dance related date with me, if I’m lucky. Hey – weirder things have happened in my life, though most of those weirder things are dance related… we’ll have to see what kind of things come to mind that are worth writing about next week. Until then, keep dancing!

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