So Cups In The Air…

Last Friday night I was asked to go out to an open dance party at the Electric Dance Hall, and to bring a snack item along. Well, it wasn’t that I was ‘asked’ so much as ‘threatened’ to ensure that I would show up and bring a very specific food item with me. See, Bony was arranging a birthday extravaganza to happen at this particular social dance, and all week she had been asking various people to attend, and to bring some things along to help her out. The big problem I had with what she asked me to bring was that I couldn’t for the life of me find a place that sold the snacks she wanted, so I ended up having to make them myself. I’m a fairly OK cook, but I’m a terrible artist, so what I made tasted great from what I was told, but I thought they looked less-than presentable when I loaded them into a case to take them to the dance party. Lucky for me, every last one of the snacks were eaten by someone that night, so I didn’t have to see them again once I put them on the table and went off to dance.

So many ladies!

As I walked through the door and made my way to the front desk to plop down some cash for my entry fee, Lord Junior stopped by to tell me that he was really glad I had shown up. There were actually two different ladies that had their birthdays that weekend, and both had decided to come out to the dance party and celebrate. One of the ladies had brought almost a dozen people with her, and almost all of them were women. So there was a major shortage of men when I got there. Lord Junior spent a minute pointing out some of the rookies to me as we were up at the desk, giving me some names in the process (I’m terrible with names though, so I’m pretty sure I forgot them all before I finished changing my shoes). Once I stood up, I took a look around the room to assess the situation, and then I got to work.

Luckily most of the newcomers that I had never met before weren’t really interested in small talk when I danced with them, so I didn’t have to try to be super charming all night. One of the two ladies whose birthday was being celebrated was probably the most talkative of my partners. She told me a story all about how she was just turning fifty, and decided that she was bored with sitting around at home doing nothing after work, so she decided to take up ballroom dancing a couple of weeks ago. By the time we were dancing together, she had gotten through two private lessons with Lord Junior earlier in the week, the Salsa group class that had been right before the party, and then the party, and she was really enjoying dancing so far. Maybe this is a good sign that she’ll stick with it for a while? It’s hard to tell with people. I guess time will tell if I end up seeing her again around the Dance Kingdom.

Saturday morning I headed out to meet up with Sparkledancer at the Fancy Dance Hall early on so that we could warm up together before our scheduled session with Lord Dormamu. It turned out that we didn’t really need to do that. He was teaching someone else when Sparkledancer and I arrived, and he ran that lesson so far over its time limit, that if Sparkledancer and I had shown up right on time for our lesson we would have had just as much time to work on warming up as we had shown up early to get in. As you can imagine, that also meant that he ran our session way over its time to make up for it. We worked on things with him for close to ninety minutes once we finally got started. My normally punctual brain may just go crazy having to adjust to such a fluid schedule!

We spent the entire time working on International Waltz with him that day. There are a couple of interesting notes that I jotted down during the session to remember. The first thing happened as he had us show him the box steps that we had been doing to warm up, which apparently he was watching out of the corner of his eye while he was teaching his other lesson. As he was going over something about how we should be dragging out feet together, he lifted his foot to rub his hand against the inside edge of his shoe, to emphasize dragging that portion of the foot. I noticed that on his shoes, the suede that covers the bottom was actually wrapped up and over the inside edge of his foot, so that he could use the suede on the floor as he dragged his feet together. I thought that was a really neat thing, and I had never seen shoes like that before, so I made a note about those shoes so I could remember.

The next, and probably most important thing for me, involved Lord Dormamu fixing my posture. We had been working on dancing the figures in the beginning of the Waltz routine, and he said part of my problem was that I was letting my frame get out of alignment sometimes as I moved, and that coming out of alignment was the root of my problem with my head and shoulders being in the wrong place. He had me dance the first half of the Waltz routine by myself so that he could watch and think of a way to fix things. After a few figures, he ran off to the back room and came back a few minutes later with two clear plastic cups. Calling me back down to where he and Sparkledancer were, he had me open up my arms like you would in a topas stretch (i.e. pulling my arms out to the side, expanding my chest, and pointing my palms upward). Then in each hand I got a plastic cup. He told me to hold the cups like that and dance the same portion of the Waltz.

Yes, these are the actual cups he gave me. I kept them. That's not weird, is it?
Yes, these are the actual cups he gave me. I kept them. That’s not weird, is it?

I guess that did the trick. As I danced like that, I was able to keep myself in position without focusing on where each individual part of my body was. Apparently Lord Dormamu was super impressed by the change as well. Sparkledancer told me that as he stood near her watching me, he was talking to himself about how much better I looked, that there was the dancer he saw the potential in, about how smart he was for figuring things out, and various other things in his native tongue that she couldn’t understand. With that, my new homework became to work on dancing like that for fifteen minutes whenever I practice. Sparkledancer can dance with me if she wants to get into the weird hugging dance frame, but it works if I dance by myself too.

As a side note, keeping my arms in that position for long periods of time is not a very nice feeling…

There were a few other notes we fixed, like making sure that my early quick rise before a Double Reverse Spin is not so early or quick, and making sure that I’m not doing anything funny to lead Sparkledancer into Promenade Position. I was told that since I work with Sparkledancer so much, I don’t need to worry about doing anything overly crazy with my hips or body to turn her to Promenade Position, I just need to turn my nose and toes in the right direction and that should move my body enough and she should just know. That seems to be a little too easy in my mind, but I’ll give it a try to see what happens. Sparkledancer was also told that she needs to work on how to go forward and not be shy when in Promenade Position as well, so we should add that to the list of things to do in our practice sessions.

Our lesson that afternoon with Sir Steven was supposed to begin well before our lesson with Lord Dormamu had ended, so obviously we started a bit late. To make up for that, and since Sir Steven wasn’t paying attention as he was having us work on some things, this lesson also ran way over the time it was supposed to end, even if you adjusted the end time for the late start time. I ended up being in these two lessons for slightly less than three hours that day. I guess that means I definitely got my money’s worth? Either that or neither of these guys had anyone else on their schedules to teach that day, so they spent so much time working with me to keep from being bored.

We started out by continuing to work on Foxtrot, picking up where we had left off last weekend. Nothing really new there, we just spent more time ironing things out and repeating things until they felt natural. Then we switched over to look at our Tango routine. Since this was the first time in several weeks that Sir Steven had looked at our International Tango routine with us, I took the first couple of minutes to walk through the changes that Lord Dormamu had told us to make to the alignments on several of the figures, so that everyone was on the same page before we started. Then we talked about Sparkledancer’s head for a while. At the beginning of our routine, and a couple of places in the middle, Sparkledancer is supposed to do a flick of her head. Right at the first figure it happens when we do a Corte – as we are taking the step for the Corte her head turns quickly from one side to the other. Sir Steven asked me how it was that Sparkledancer was supposed to know she should be doing that.

Being full of hilarious logic, my first answer was obviously “because you told her to.” While funny, that was not the answer he was looking for. I was told that there was a way that I could be the one leading that movement, though it was something I would need to do carefully because Sparkledancer is so much smaller than me. There is supposed to be this light body flick action that I give her as we go back for the Corte. If she feels the body flick, her head should move. No body flick, no head movement. Seems simple, right? Well, try flicking someone’s body who weighs so little as you are moving your own body at the same time. There is a lot of potential to put way more energy into that flick than needed, and cause her to have whiplash. OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but it’s a scary thought. So we worked on that for quite a while, and since it still didn’t look natural by the end of our lesson, it was added to our homework to work on during our practice time. We were also told to focus on making sure that most of our steps during Tango are done split weight, because when we are thinking about other things (like flicking bodies to move heads) our Tango starts to look too much like Foxtrot.

I personally like Foxtrot more than I like Tango, so I don’t see this as a real problem, but I guess it’s frowned upon by people outside of my own head. Silly people, they should just get on board with my way of seeing things!

Back to the dance shoes I made a note about earlier that day… as we left the Fancy Dance Hall after our marathon lessons were over, I mentioned to Sparkledancer how cool I thought Lord Dormamu’s dance shoes were, with the fancy wrap-around suede sides. My theory was that the shoes probably came from one particular shoe manufacturer, since there are boxes of dance shoes floating around the studio all from one particular company. Sparkledancer told me that several of her pairs of dance shoes come from that company as well, and she loves them since they make shoes that actually fit her feet. My ballroom shoes are starting to get a little beat up, so when I got home I looked up this shoe company online. I found that they had a couple of different pairs of shoes that had the wrap-around suede on the sides, and they apparently also wrap the suede around the back of the heel to make sliding along the floor during heel steps smoother as well. How fun is that?

These fun and fancy shoes didn’t seem to cost all that much more than my last pair of dance shoes did (I had to use a conversion tool to get the cost into a currency I know to be sure), so I ended up ordering a pair. New dance shoes for me! Surprisingly enough, even though they were shipped from someplace overseas, they actually showed up today! That was really fast! I’ll probably wear them to my next lesson this weekend to start breaking them in, and hopefully they will be as awesome on the floor as they are in my head.

Look at that fancy heel!
Look at that fancy heel!

Now for a funny story from practice this week: on Sunday afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer out at the Electric Dance Hall to work on our homework for a couple of hours. I spent quite a bit of time again this weekend helping her out when she was dancing our routines by herself. Two of the thing that Sparkledancer struggles with is the order of the figures in our routines, and the alignments on the floor in ballroom dances. These are things that she hasn’t really had to worry about before, since ever since we decided we would compete together back in the day, I have worked on learning how to keep figures and alignments straight in my head, and she has learned to just follow and trust me as I do that. Now that she’s been told that part of her homework is to be able to dance through the routines by herself, she’s had a hard time getting through the figures and facing the right direction, so I have been helping her try to master these skills.

The last routine we were walking through separately during our practice time on Sunday was our International Foxtrot routine. In the routine, coming out of the first corner there is a Basic Weave followed by a Three Step. The Basic Weave travels toward diagonal center and the Feather Finish at the end lines her up backing diagonal wall for the Three Step that travels toward diagonal wall. I was standing in the middle of the room watching her go through the steps, and at the end of the Basic Weave she rotated her Feather Finish so that she was backing line of dance. I called out to her that she should be backing diagonal wall, so she looks over at me and then hops up in place and lands backing diagonal center. I chuckle and say “Nope, backing diagonal wall.” so she hops up again and lands backing wall, then looks at me and sees me shaking my head and turns so that she is facing diagonal center.

I finally walk over and put my hands on her shoulders to rotate her to face the right direction. She laughs and says that she was totally facing that direction before, but since she has scoliosis it just looked like her back was turned in the wrong direction. I stare at her open-mouthed for a bit, not knowing what to say to that as she just stands there giggling, and then she shrugs and tells me that she really was diagnosed with a minor case of scoliosis several years ago, so her spine really is bent a bit, and it’s totally a legitimate excuse. At that point I broke down laughing and had to walk away for a while.

Sigh… does anyone want a competitive partner with a bent spine who tells bad jokes? I’m willing to trade!

On Wednesday night out at Standard Technique class, we opted to go through some Waltz. Much like we did the last week in class, Lord Junior wanted to have us look at a progression of figures that he uses with some of his more advanced students in their routines since they were in class with us that night. That way those two ladies could get in some extra practice on the figures, and the rest of us would get a chance to try them out as well. All but one of the figures were ones that I had done before at some point in my life, so things went pretty well for me overall. I still got caught sometimes taking a toe step instead of a heel step on the second half of my Spin Turns if the lady wasn’t moving a whole lot, but I think that could be fixed with some more repetitions with those partners. I think. I’m pretty sure.

The pattern we ended up with that night is pretty easy to get through slowly, but there are a lot of syncopated steps so you’ll be moving quickly if you dance at tempo. We started off facing diagonal wall and taking a prep step before going into a Natural Turn. From there we did an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, which has you coming out in the same direction you started in (which was backing line of dance for the men). Then we did a Turning Lock to the Right to put us into Promenade Position facing diagonal center. Next we did the figure I had never seen before, which was a Running Weave. It’s basically taking four steps heading toward diagonal center, changing from facing diagonal center to backing diagonal center halfway through. At the end we put in a Side Cross, which is basically like a Change Step except at the end the guy crosses his right foot behind his left while the lady crosses her left foot in front of her right, which also turned us to start heading down the line of dance for the next step.

We danced in a chain so no one worried about running into someone else.
We danced in a chain so no one worried about running into someone else.

Another busy week for me! What’s next? Supposedly there is a big ballroom dance night this coming Saturday night at some festival the local West Coast Swing enthusiasts group is putting on. There’s a good chance I will head out to attend that, depending on what time I finish up the things I have to do for work that night. I was told that since this shindig is being run by the West Coast Swingers the party will be running possibly very late into the night, so even if work stuff takes me a long time I could still probably make it. We’ll have to see what happens though. It may be nice to have a quiet night at home with my cat instead, resting up my legs for all the dance practice I’ll be doing next week.

Man, does saying that mean I’m getting old? I better go find a mirror and check for any gray hairs…

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