When There Is Reason, Tonight I’m Awake

To close out 2016 on a high note, this New Year’s Eve I went out to the dance party being held at the Electric Dance Hall, much like I did last year. There were a couple of tempting options to choose from that night, but since the Electric Dance Hall was the closest to my house and the party was slated to go into the wee hours of the morning, that’s where I choose to go. Plus, a lot of people I knew were going to be there as well, which always helps to make parties more fun. I decided that I wasn’t going to get all dressed up for the event that night before I left the house – I was going to be out dancing, so I wanted to be comfortable, and I didn’t have a date to try to impress (plus I would hope to have impressed her with my dance skills anyway), so I was free to dress however I wanted.

Lord Junior began the night by giving a short lesson covering a fairly simple Cha-Cha amalgamation. There were a number of people who came to the party that looked like they had never had any dance experience before, so while the combination seemed pretty simple to me, there were a number of people who struggled to get it down. The pattern began with a starter thesilentman1step to the left, then a basic chasse to the right, a normal New Yorker on the right side with a basic chasse to the left, and then Solo Spot Turns on the left side. After we did another chasse to the right and linked with our partner again, we did another New Yorker to the right, turned back to our partner and put up our hand to stop them from moving and hold for a beat, and then did a second New Yorker to the right. I had learned this figure in the past and vaguely remember it being called a Snap, but I could be wrong about that so don’t quote me on it. After the second New Yorker we did a chasse to the left and then led the ladies through a Spot Turn. Lord Junior gave the guys the option to turn at the same time like they did earlier or not, depending on how they were feeling.

After we finished up going through the pattern several times to make sure everyone was relatively comfortable with the steps, we were released to begin general dancing. Lord Junior warned us to pace ourselves, since there were several hours to go before the end of the party. So I tried to intersperse my dancing with periods of talking, to not burn all of my calories off early on in the evening. The DJ played plenty of Cha-Cha numbers to allow people to practice what they had learned earlier. I spent some time listening to HotDog describe his latest plan to get rich (every few months he has a new idea about how he can make tons of money, but never does any of the hard work to make things happen). This particular plan involved becoming some sort of online video game star, where people would watch his exploits, and if he racked up enough regular viewers the site would begin to pay him for it for some reason. It sounded kind of sketchy to me, because I don’t really understand the appeal of paying to watch someone else play video games, but I tried to humor him and ask questions to get him to tell me more throughout the night.
thesilentman2 Around 10:30, we decided to play another rousing game of musical chairs to help wake everyone up a bit, just like we did last year. I got to be the designated chair handler, so I wasn’t in on the game. It’s probably for the best though, since I am so much bigger than all the people who were playing. Unlike last year, this time around things were a bit more civil, with only one person getting shoved onto the floor by someone who really wanted their chair. This time around we had two guys who made it all the way to the final round, and they both seemed dead set on getting the prize for winning. The problem was that we were using the metal folding chairs that are in the studio to play, so as the players circled the chair, one person had the disadvantage of being behind the chair with no safe way to sit down when the music stopped. That’s why last year the two finalists both got a prize. This year the guys wanted there to be a winner, so they circled that chair until the DJ stopped the music with her eyes closed so that she couldn’t be accused of picking a winner by seeing who was behind the chair. Fun times!

There were many people who started out the night with us that didn’t make it even to midnight. A lot of the older folks took off well before then, and even HotDog cut out around 11:30 claiming he was super tired and needed to go get some sleep. I was one of the last people to leave, hanging around even after the DJ left to help clean up after all the other revelers. I figure if someone is nice enough to let you come to their place for a party, the least you can do when the party is over is help to get things back into the state they were when before the party started. Being a good guest is just as important as being a good host, right? All in all it was a fitting end to the year, and I hoped it helped set things up for a good start to the next year.

Speaking of which, now we get to start talking about dance classes in 2017! First off, Monday night of this week was Latin Technique class for me. Before class started, we were all sitting around the lounge area of the dance hall discussing what we wanted to work on that night. Everyone turned to Bony to ask her what she wanted to do. Bony is a strange dancer, who always claims that she dislikes all dance styles when she is asked what her favorite is, and yet she continues to come to classes and take private lessons anyway. That night we were trying to get her to tell us which International Latin style she disliked the least, so that we could do that style for her benefit. She made a comment about how at her last private lesson her instructor mentioned that after getting back from vacation, her movements looked all stiff, and she really needed to loosen up, so that’s what she wanted to work on that night. We decided to have Lord Junior focus the class on helping her with that issue, using Rumba as the tool to get the job done.

To begin class, Lord Junior wanted to have everyone warm up by doing some Rumba Walks across the short length of the dance floor. These were done at an almost painfully slow pace, moving both forward and backward. When Lord Junior felt that we were sufficiently warm from that, we put together a short pattern of figures to work on that consisted mostly of Rumba thesilentman3Walks so that we could continue working on the basic technique for those for the entire class. The pattern we used had the boys and girls starting on opposite sides of the room, and then over the course of two measures of music we walked toward each other, linking up into dance frame on beat four of the second measure as both partners took a side step, rotating 90° clockwise in the process. This side step with rotation led us smoothly into a Natural Top, where we rotated in frame for another two measures of music. At the end we led the ladies through a Underarm Turn, sending them out in front of us as the men took a step forward.

Next up was a Forward Check for the guys and a Back Check for the ladies, after which the guys brought our feet together as the ladies took a step forward towards us. We led the ladies through a slow Curl as they landed, bringing them out of it to now head 90° counter-clockwise from where we were just facing and going into an Aida. Rather than doing the Aida that night like you would see in the International Rumba syllabus, we didn’t stop doing Rumba Walks backward where you normally would. We added on an extra measure of backward walks, which had us ending with the opposite foot pointed forward. Here we abruptly changed directions and did a set of syncopated Rumba Walks moving forward toward where we just came from. After the syncopated walks Lord Junior decided to add in something more difficult to finish things up with, having us do two solo Spot Turns which together would turn you 180°, then both partners would take another step forward, do a Spiral Turn, and  come out with a side step to line up facing your partner once more.

The whole pattern is mostly fairly simple, and can be done with or without a partner if you want to work on practicing your Rumba Walks on your own time. I would caution that it does covers a big ‘T’ shaped area of the floor, so give yourself plenty of room if you want to try it out.

I got to work on International Foxtrot this week in Standard Technique class. Much like we did during Latin Technique on Monday night, we started out the night working on basic walking techniques that everyone can always use more practice on. We did repeating Three Step and Feather Step combinations down the length of the dance floor, starting out with everyone traveling backward separately before pairing up. The focus was on making sure that the movements were constant during the slow steps, flowing from one step to the next without stopping. I chuckled to myself because it reminded me of something I had read earlier in the day about someone else practicing basically the same technique with his instructor. Is there a memo that goes out weekly to all dance instructors telling them what their students should be working on each week? That’s an amusing conspiracy theory.

Finishing that up, Lord Junior put us together a pattern that used a number of traveling steps like our warm up to emphasize the continuity movement point. However, about halfway through the progression, he added in a figure that really gave the ladies trouble, so the end of the class was really focused more on helping the ladies get through that figure successfully. The sequence can be divided into three sections. The first section was fairly easy and used all Bronze-level figures. Starting with a prep step, we did one Feather Step, then one Double Reverse Spin that came out with a Feather Finish. This section started out traveling toward diagonal center and finished up heading toward diagonal wall.

Section two was what caused all the trouble. After the Feather Finish we went straight into a Three Step going diagonal wall, and then we did a Double Natural Spin. This was the figure that really wreaked havoc with the ladies for the rest of the night. In theory it sounds pretty easy, since it’s basically a Double Reverse Spin that spins in the opposite direction. If all you’ve ever done is the Double Reverse Spin though, the Double Natural Spin just feels super wrong. All of the ladies seemed to either not take the step coming out of the spin, causing their partner to kick their feet when he tried to move, or they took the step with the wrong leg, which messes everything up for the next figure. It took me a few times to get the feeling right myself so that I would consistently come out with the right foot. To come out of the figure, we needed to take three steps (not a Three Step, but three steps) to do a Feather Finish, much like we did at the end of the Double Reverse Spin. You’re on the wrong foot at the end of the Double Natural Spin, so we took an extra slow step forward to set us up for the Feather Finish. Coming out should line you up to travel diagonal center once more.
thesilentman4  The third section was much easier by comparison, starting off with a familiar Gold-level figure that I’ve done a few times now, a Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot. Doing the figure while traveling more toward diagonal center than down the line of dance makes the amount of rotation you needed to do in the pivot much easier to accomplish, plus it kept up the zig-zag pattern we had been doing down the floor. At the end we put in an Open Telemark and Feather Ending to flip us around and get us moving toward diagonal wall once more. With everything in place, we started to run the progression from beginning to end to practice, stopping a few times to go back and look at the Double Natural Spin because it continued to be the problem figure for everyone. At the end of the night Lord Junior said that it was a good start to look at that, and if he remembers then next week we will look at something in Waltz that also uses the Double Natural Spin to give people some more practice until we can get through the figure more naturally (ha! See what I did there?).

There are so many dance-related things to look forward to in 2017! Just this month there will be a host of dance parties, a council meeting to discuss dance-related things, lots of work on continuous improvement in my dancing, and I’m sure there will be many new faces to meet on the dance floor (the turn of the year always brings people in who received dance lessons as gifts for the holidays). This month also marks my transition back to serious weight training for my non-dance workouts. I was sad to find that after a couple of months off that I dropped a little below 200lbs, so now I have to do a lot of hard work to build things back up. And that switch is sure to bring about more challenges with my level of flexibility in the process. I’m sticking with that plan though, because I like it. What kind of things will this month bring you? I hope they are all going to be super fun. If not, then come on down here and you can join me for some carousing around to various dance halls to make things fun. I hope to see you out on the dance floor at some point in 2017!

However, there may not be much dancing for me this weekend. The forecasters have been predicting snowfall starting tomorrow night, and around here that shuts the whole world down. I am hopeful that not everything will get cancelled, but there is that possibility. So, we’ll have to see what I manage to get into next week. Wish me luck!

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