Turn And Face The Strange Changes

I don’t know about you, but so far 2017 appears to be shaping up to be an interesting year…

Early Saturday morning I got a text from Sparkledancer about meeting her a half-hour early at the Fancy Dance Hall so that we could run through some things she wanted to work on. When I got there, I found that not only was she waiting for me, but so were Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu. Sir Steven had told Lord Dormamu about the questions that we had asked him the previous Wednesday night, and he wanted to have a chance to go over our questions with us personally to make sure we were on board. So, Sir Steven excused himself to run out and grab a quick bite to eat, leaving the three of us all alone in the big empty ballroom to talk.

As Lord Dormamu sat there staring at the two of us expectantly, I racked my brain trying to remember what it was that we had asked Sir Steven on Wednesday. The most notable thing that I talked with him about was the issue with my upper body flexibility, and whether that was going to be something that held me back or not. He told me that right now I look like I spend a lot of time lifting heavy things, so that is all the flexibility my body thinks it needs. As we work to train for dancing, my body should naturally adapt over time so that I can more easily get into the shapes I need. He also said that as I go down this path, I should probably give up going to the gym and lifting weights, and instead take up exercise that would help with my dancing if I felt the need to exercise to stay in shape. His suggestions were to focus on Yoga and Pilates for flexibility, and running and swimming for cardio endurance.

So that’s already one piece of advice I think I am going to throw out. I happen to like being strong and solid, and my flexibility isn’t that terrible as long as people aren’t yanking my limbs in weird directions. I also happen to think that looking the way I do is an asset when I occasionally find time to go out to meet ladies in non-dance settings. Maybe this will be an issue in the future that holds me back, but I’m not going to sacrifice something I happen to enjoy for dancing. I already sacrifice a lot of other things for dancing, so I should be allowed to keep this one thing, right? Plus, having the upper body strength can be helpful in dancing when I get talked into doing showcase routines, since audiences love it when they see performers doing lifts during the routine. At the moment, that’s something I am quite good at. I’m sure any partner I have will really appreciate me continuing to do all sorts of resistance training when I reach over to lift her off the ground!

We talked for twenty minutes or so, and Sparkledancer and I were still feeling pretty good about giving this a try, so Lord Dormamu decided to take us one at a time into the back office to changes1draw up the dark manuscripts that need to be signed in blood which turn over all your spare cash, time, and I think maybe even the paperwork mentioned something about the rights to my first and second born children, to make all of this official. Now, as my bank card screamed in my ear about what it was just put through, he got Sparkledancer and I back together in the same room to schedule our first coaching session with him. We both didn’t have anything going on the following Saturday morning before our normal lesson with Sir Steven, so that’s when we set all this madness to begin.

No matter what happens, this will be another set of adventures to write about, right?

Once all the secretarial work was done and we were back on the dance floor, Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu had a short conversation out of my earshot, and then Sir Steven came over and we got to work. And we really crammed a lot of work in, I’m guessing because of whatever Lord Dormamu told him beforehand. We pulled out all of our International Standard routines and stripped out a lot of pieces so that they were back to being basic Bronze-level routines, and he also had us cut them in half so that they would repeat after the first long and short wall. The only one we didn’t go over was Viennese Waltz, but that’s because Bronze-level International Viennese Waltz is only the four figures (Natural Turn, Reverse Turn, Forward Change, Backward Change), and I was told that as long as I make sure to start with a Natural Turn and stick to those four figures, it could be left to my discretion. Yay me!

We went through Waltz, Tango and Quickstep first so that we could end with and spend the most time on Foxtrot. This also allowed us to continue working on the techniques that we had been going over the last couple of weeks, really putting emphasis on me being able to lead everything from just my core. At one point, I can’t decide if he thought I was doing pretty good changes2or really terribly with this, so he ran off into one of the back rooms and returned with a piece of paper in one hand and a small plastic cup in the other. He then proceeded to set Sparkledancer and I up so that the piece of paper was wedged underneath our ribs on the right side of our bodies, and the cup was pressed between my left hand and her right (not gripped, just pressed against our flat palms). With those tools in place, we then had to walk up and down the floor, moving between ‘normal’ frame and Outside Partner without losing either the paper of the cup. That was fairly easy to do when I was the one going forward, but was not quite as successful when I was the one moving backward since I generally avoid traveling that way if I can help it. Looks like I have the first thing on my list of ‘important stuff I have to start really focusing on.’

On Sunday afternoon I headed up to the White Dance Hall because there was going to be a combination open dance party and showcase going on there, and I wanted to go support the people I knew who would be performing that afternoon. At the beginning of the event, as I was sitting at one of the tables in the back talking with people, I began to hear Bony and Sparkledancer calling my name from the other side of the room. I turned around to see the two of them attempting to wave me over to where they were standing. Standing with them was (much to my surprise!) Lord Fabulous! Shocked by what I saw, I got up to head over to where they were and see what was going on.

When I got there, Lord Fabulous had a huge smile on his face and gave me a big hug. It was kind of an awkward hug, which lasted a lot longer than I was comfortable with, and I swear he was evaluating my back muscles with his hands while he was hugging me. Why do so many people like to feel me up? After I managed to disentangle myself from that, I asked what was up. Bony and Sparkledancer had called me over because Lord Fabulous was going to tell a story, and they brought me in so that he wouldn’t have to repeat himself later.

Since I had last seen Lord Fabulous (which was a while ago), so many things had happened. He changes3and Lord Scarry had finally settled down and gotten married (Lord Scarry was out on the dance floor entertaining some ladies while we were talking). Ownership of the two dance studios where both men used to teach primarily (the Land of the Loft and the Great Dance Hall by the Lake) had changed hands a few times, and no matter what the King tried to do he couldn’t get the owners to work out the issues. Finally in the last couple of weeks, both dance studios had been closed down and the doors were locked without any warning given to the staff and students beforehand. Supposedly there is some paperwork in the works to get the Land of the Loft yet another new owner and reopen it soon, but the Great Dance Hall by the Lake has no potential reopening yet on the horizon.

With nowhere else to go, Lord Fabulous and Lord Scarry started to look around for places to rent floor space so that they could continue teaching some of their longtime students. As you could probably guess, they found the Electric Dance Hall. After talking with Lord Junior and explaining the situation, Lord Junior was nice enough to let them rent floor space from him whenever they needed. Lord Fabulous evaluated his life during his time away from teaching dance as he looked for a new place to teach in, and decided to take this opportunity to work toward becoming full-time at his other career, and only teach dance part-time, rather than being a full-time dance instructor and a part-timer at his other job like he is now. Lord Scarry wants to remain a full-time instructor. So it sounds like there’s a chance I will start running into these two when I am out at the Electric Dance Hall if they happen to be teaching at the same time, or if they decide to come to other dance events that I am attending as they start wandering around the Dance Kingdom to pick up new students and forge new relationships with other dance halls where they could rent floor space.

That was a totally unexpected tale to hear that day.

The showcase event that I had actually come to attend was a lot of fun. Much like the others that Lord Junior has coordinated in the past, he kept the amount of acts down to a decent number so that people wouldn’t get bored just sitting and watching others dance. There were about six acts in the first half, then a break so that the audience could get up and do some dancing of their own, another six acts in the second half, and then the floor was opened up for another two hours of dancing for anyone who wanted to hang around. I spent much of the last couple of hours over on the side of the dance floor talking with Jem, who was back in town for a couple of weeks and had come out to the party. Her job has been keeping her overseas quite a bit lately, so no one gets to see her very often.

As the party was winding down, Lord Junior wandered over to where I was standing and started talking about how he had had a few drinks, and he just had a great idea about changing things up so that instead of doing Summer and Winter showcases, which a lot of studios seem to do and are often interrupted by weather extremes or have low attendance due to people taking vacations, he wants to push his back to be Spring and Fall. I told him if he did a showcase in the Fall a bit before Halloween, then he might be able to get people to do awesome Halloween-themed acts. He got excited about that and told me that if he finishes putting together a new building for the Electric Dance Hall at the end of summer, he would totally do the next showcase in the new building in October, and then I would have to come up with an “awesome and super funny” routine to perform.

Good thing I have some time between now and then to try to plan something that is both awesome and funny out, right?

Lucky for me, class on Monday night Latin Technique class was far more normal than anything that happened that weekend. We got to go through some Cha-Cha that night. What we did wasn’t anything overly fancy or complicated, but the ladies in class were being kind of funny, and that was exasperating Lord Junior in the process. As an example, right as we were supposed to be beginning class, I was standing on one side of the room with Lord Junior (the boy’s side of the room), and we were facing the ladies. He was trying to start showing them the initial figure to look at, but they all kept talking to each other, and any time one of them wanted to make a joke, she would say it loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, even if she was just talking to one specific person. After a couple of tries to get their attention, Lord Junior looked at me and rolled his eyes, and decided to start by looking at the guys steps instead, hoping that the ladies would be paying attention when we finished.

What we ended up putting together that night was a pretty simple pattern that revolved around working on doing New Yorkers. We began with a side step and rock step to the left before going into a normal chasse to the right. Then we did our first New Yorker, a basic one turning to the right, coming back with a Three Step Turn to the left. Next up the ladies got to do another New Yorker, this time on the left side, while men did a lunge to the right and reached over with our right hand to grasp the ladies left forearm. This kept her from falling forward if she pushed a lot when going into the New Yorker, since we could counterbalance her.  The guys would then stand back up from our lunge, pulling the ladies back onto her back leg in the process and turning her. Guys did a normal chasse back to the right side while the ladies did a second Three Step Turn.

Back on the right side we collected our partner’s hand, and then both of us did another basic New Yorker on the right side. We came out of this one by doing a Ronde into a Press Line, and then a three step change of direction that is a lot like the footwork you do at the end of a Hip Twist Chasse, before going back into another New Yorker on the right side. This one was not basic. We held that position for three beats, which is a long time when you are running the pattern to music that is slowed down, but only allows you to take a deep breath if the music is at normal tempo.

After the hold we released our partner and we both took two circular steps away from each other, which rotated us 180° in the process, and then we did a Lock Step heading to the left. Finally we took another two steps which turned so that we were heading back toward each other, after which the ladies would do a chasse forward, giving us their hand as they passed us by which we would use to turn them at the end, stopping them with our hand on their back. The men would just take two steps forward (no chasse) and hold in place as we turned and stopped the lady. We didn’t get any farther than that, since we needed to take some time to run things and get everything up to full speed before class was over.

This past Wednesday night we had a pretty large crowd for Standard Technique class. Luckily, we also had more men than usual turn out for class, so the ratio of men to women was pretty good. Since we had done Foxtrot and Waltz the last two weeks, we opted to look at some Tango this week. Lord Junior wanted to work on a figure that he had recently added into the routines he does with two of his students who were in class that night, a figure known as the Double Chase. The Double Chase is exactly what it sounds like, which is two of the Gold-level figure that is called ‘The Chase’ done back-to-back. We started class by looking at the original figure first, just to make sure the people who had never seen the figure before were on board with what we were going to attempt to double.

The whole progression we worked on that night could cover quite a bit of distance, which changes4makes things a lot more fun in my book. We started out already in Promenade Position and did a Promenade with the man closing, but added in a Natural Pivot at the end to flip us around to face the line of dance again. Then we did the Double Chase. The tricky part of the figure was the transition between the two, ending the first Chase by rotating slightly more than normal to face line of dance again, and making sure that you come out by stepping between the ladies feet as you start the second. Sometimes I would have to move my foot a bit weirdly around where the lady had left her foot to do this properly, but I never kicked or stepped on anyone so I count that as being successful.

After the Double Chase we ended facing center with two beats left in the measure, so we added on a Progressive Chasse to the Right to fill that time and continue traveling down the line of dance. We did this with the assumption that if you put this figure into some kind of routine, the end of the Progressive Chasse would put you into the corner, though when practicing that night, some people ended in the middle of the room based on how we were staggered. After the Progressive Chasse we used a Whisk to put us back into Promenade Position and rotate 90°, lining us up to head down the next wall. Here we did an Open Promenade in that direction, which is a Promenade that ends with the men passing their feet instead of closing them. We stopped our movement at the end with the men stepped forward in Outside Partner next to the lady. She flicked her leg up as the guy held there, then we led her to do an Outside Swivel before collecting her back into normal dance frame.

Well, hopefully this weekend turns out to be fun, and gives me an idea of what I’ve gotten myself into. I have two lessons scheduled for Saturday, the first in the morning with Lord Dormamu and then immediately after that another one with Sir Steven so that we can pick up where we left off last weekend, or change things to work on what Lord Dormamu thinks we should focus on after he sees us. Also this Saturday is the monthly dance party I help host as a member of the Royal Dance Court. We are planning on having someone teach a Foxtrot lesson beforehand, so fingers crossed that there are more Foxtrots played than anything else that night at the party afterward. I’ll let you know if that is true next week!

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2 Replies to “Turn And Face The Strange Changes”

  1. About your upper body strength–I have never seen you, but it is possible to work on both strength and flexibility at the same time–it just takes a little more commitment for the flexibility (usually stretching 3 times a day). It’s better to build both at the same time, but if you start working on the flexibility now, it could losen you up and avoid some grief from instructors. Having upper body strength is an asset in dance!

    Good luck!

    1. It is possible, and I do work on flexibility quite a bit, but there are limitations on what I think I will be able to really accomplish. I can still bend forward easily enough and touch my toes, and when sitting down I can reach over one leg and wrap my fingers around my heel, but the back of my shoulders have so much mass to them now they don’t bend well. I can’t pull my elbows backward like I once was able to, and I don’t know how much stretching would change that if there is just muscle mass in the way.

      Sigh… boy problems. 🙂

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