Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire

As there was only one option in the Dance Kingdom open for dancing on Friday night, I ended up out at the Fancy Dance Hall for their weekly dance party / pre-Christmas shindig. I didn’t expect there to be a huge turnout with the holidays right around the corner, but there ended up being a fair number of people at the party. You just can’t keep dance people away, even when there are silly things like ‘holidays’ and ‘friends’ and ‘family’ to deal with! Dancing is really important!

The party was nice and low-key though, which I enjoyed. They played an appropriate mixture of popular songs and holiday songs, so it didn’t feel like you were hanging out in a shopping mall all night. There were fun Christmas-shaped cookies for everyone to munch on in order to keep their energy up as well. Only a few of my normal dance friends came out for the party, so I managed to get in some practice time working with Sparkledancer on some of our routines and danced with other random ladies when I didn’t feel like practicing specific things. I was also able to avoid dancing with any instructors that night, which I see as a victory for me.

The funniest part of the night, to me at least, helped to reinforce a point that I have been trying to tell people about dance parties for quite a while: someone had put quite a lot of effort into the decorations for the evening. One of the features was that there were real candles out at every table. The candles that they used that night were just the little tea light type, small and very low profile, and they had put between one and three on each table, all of them lit. While I appreciate the ambiance that using real candles can give to a dance party, it always makes me wary to see lit candles. I have lost count of the number of times I have been to a dance where they had lit candles and something bad has happened to at least one of them. This party was no different.

No one quite knows what happened that night in particular, but somehow one of the candles thechristmassong1on a table in the back got flipped, and the tablecloth caught fire. Luckily someone noticed before the flames got too out of hand, so the fire was easily doused with a glass of water and the damage was limited to a decent-sized hole being burned into the middle of the tablecloth. Flipping the tea light candle is kind of impressive – usually the problems I see involve parties where they put out tall lit candlesticks that get knocked over when someone accidentally bumps the table. Take this as a lesson: even if they don’t give off the atmosphere you are looking for, please, please, please don’t use lit candles at dance parties!

None of us had plans on Christmas Eve until late afternoon or evening, so Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I got together for our normal early afternoon coaching session this past Saturday to work on some things. We started with a review of what we had so far in our American Tango routine. There were no changes made to the routine that day, so we still end in the same spot. Sir Steven said that he is still thinking of what he wants to do to replace the next section, and should have it figured out for us soon. Next we switched over to look at American Viennese Waltz for a bit. Sir Steven went over the theoretical layout of the routine again with us, which ended up being a bit different from the last time we talked about things. The Canter Pivots we had started working on were left out for now, and the actual count of where the figures line up will still be up to my discretion based on who is doing what out on the floor.

Talking about the layout of the Viennese Waltz routine led Sir Steven and I into a brief side discussion about the best place to do any figures that stop in one place for periods of time – thechristmassong2either in the middle of the floor or in a corner. I personally prefer to do things that stand in one place in the middle of the room, keeping ourselves out of the way and safe. Sir Steven said that he prefers to do figures like that in a corner. At the level we are dancing, he said, there wouldn’t be any newcomers to Viennese Waltz on the floor, so stopping in a corner to do something elaborate would just cause anyone else on the floor to do a minor correction on their course to go around us. It’s much more complicated, he said, for me to try to direct myself into the middle of the room safely and then exit the middle once I finish whatever it is I was doing. So, there’s a philosophical thought to ponder: do you think it’s better to do American Viennese Waltz figures that stay in one place in the middle, or in a corner? Discuss.

Wrapping up our dance philosophy discussion, we switched over to looking at a couple of our International Standard routines, starting with our Quickstep. Last week we had talked about a variation of what we could do for the entire long wall of the routine, and this time we looked at replacing the short wall. At this point, Sir Steven told us to just throw out our old Quickstep routine entirely and start using these new variations instead, and we’ll look at creating the second half of the routine later so we end up with different figures on all four walls. Right before we finished up, he asked us to show him the few things we just changed in our International Tango routine. Sparkledancer and I looked at each other quizzically, and we both told him we didn’t remember changing anything recently. He laughed and said that he thought he had told us what he wanted changed already, but he must have just imagined that lesson (I went back and checked my notes for the last few months, and didn’t find any mention of changes, so I know I’m not crazy). The changes ended up being the entire second half of the first long wall, which is not a ‘few things’ changed, in my opinion. So, we’ll have to work on getting those memorized now.

As a humorous aside, while we were dancing that afternoon we went by the table where the tablecloth had been on fire the night before. All they did was to fold the tablecloth over itself to hide the hole burned in the middle. As a result, if you looked along the wall at all the tables lined up near the mirrors, the one table where the tablecloth doesn’t hang down to the floor really stands out. Sir Steven said that folding it was good for the time being, and they would worry about replacing it at some point in the future. I got a good chuckle out of seeing it like that, remembering what happened the night before.

The only class that I went to this past week was to Standard Technique class on Wednesday night. There were only a handful of us to show up again, so we were again given the option to look at some of the new things that Lord Junior has been studying for his certification test in American Smooth. We chose to go over some American Viennese Waltz for fun. At least, I thought it was fun. Maybe some people think that American Viennese Waltz is work, but those people are silly and you shouldn’t listen to them. Listen to me instead!

We covered a few figures that night, spending the first half of class learning things and the second half working on doing everything at Viennese Waltz tempo. Only some of the figures have names that I know, but I’ll do my best: we started with two normal Reverse Turns, going around in a whole circle. As you finish up the second half of the turn, the guys back away from our partner a bit to make some space between us and roll our left hand around her right. Then we go into something that is kind of like Passing Twinkles, but the guys are actually releasing the ladies briefly, pulling them across our bodies before they open out to the side, and changing our hands to grasp her nearest forearm with our opposite arm. The men are just stepping and hesitating, pointing their outside leg as she does the work. After two of those we should have our right hand on her left forearm, so we lift it up slightly to put it on our right shoulder as we come around her to go back into a Reverse Turn, catching her back into dance frame in the process. Don’t lift her arm up too high, or else she’ll try and do a Underarm Turn (that’s something I can tell you from experience)!

Coming out of that we do one Reverse Turn normally, and on the second Reverse Turn we come out in Promenade Position. Here we traveled straight down the line of dance in thechristmassong3Promenade Position for a bit. There is one Hesitation for a three count, then a three-step run down the line of dance, then one last Hesitation for another three count before we bring the lady around to close back into normal dance frame for the final three count (the progression should take two full six-count measures). Next we do another Hesitation forward in dance frame, bringing the arms down as we hold the Hesitation, before going into an Explosion (both partners opening up to the side) and hold for another three count. The ladies then do a Three-Step Turn toward the men while we shifted our weight in Canter timing to put us into Shadow Position with our partner. We both take one Hesitation step backward to wind up a bit, and then we are off!

Note: somehow, it seems like all the classes that Lord Junior has taught on any American Smooth style over the last few weeks always seem to involve being in Shadow Position. I wonder if that will be a big emphasis during his certification exam…

In Shadow Position we did four Open Natural Turns in a row. I don’t know if I’ve ever done non-Open Natural Turns while in Shadow Position, so maybe that’s something that goes without saying. Because of the nature of the Open Natural Turn, the progression naturally curves around a corner (you really can’t do the steps straight down the line of dance very well). At the end of those the men had to take another two steps forward in Canter timing again to get us back on the correct foot while we turned the ladies to get her back facing us, allowing us to collect back into dance frame with a Reverse Turn. That’s where we ended things for the night, but the progression of figures are set up so that you could repeat them again starting with the Reverse Turn if you wanted to practice things.

Well, this weekend marks the end of 2016. And I don’t know about you, but I plan on finishing out the year by dancing! Whooo! That also means that when I write it all down next week, it will be 2017! How crazy is that? Hopefully it also means that things can start getting back to normal around my life. There have been too many people out of the office on vacation, and too many things getting rescheduled or cancelled due to the holidays. It will be nice to have some stability once more. Plus, I’m certain that we have lots of dancing to look forward to in 2017, so stick with me and we’ll have some fun!

One thought on “Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire

  1. FWIW – Our Viennese Waltz routine has a part where I roll her in and we hold for a bit and then move on and it does happen in the middle of the floor. Wouldn’t really fit in a corner. Maybe it depends on the move and what your next piece is.

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