Test Your Might

Last Friday was kind of a rough day for me, and I still went out dancing Friday night anyway. Does that mean I have a problem? There were some planned changes that needed to be made at work, so I was going to be staying at the office late to assist with those. Because of that, and because going out Friday night to dance would be my last chance to get some practice time in with my competition partner, I got up at butt-crack o’clock in the morning to work out. I hate morning workouts. My body feels all wobbly and slow the whole time. Plus it was leg day, so any exercises I did where I had to take steps just felt off balance. I am NOT a morning person. Really truly.

And yet, despite having already been up and running for sixteen hours, I met up with Sparkledancer Friday night at the Electric Dance Hall to do some dancing. This would be our last chance to have any real practicing before Saturday morning’s competition, and just like any good college student you might know, I wanted to do some final cramming before the next day’s test. When I got to the Electric Dance Hall, the crowd was fairly small. Lord Junior came over to say hi when I walked in, and told me that since he was holding a big Valentine’s themed party on Saturday night and not a lot of people had shown up for this bi-weekly Friday night party, he was letting people dance for free for a couple of hours. So not only did I get to do some practicing that night, but I got to do it for free. How awesome is that?

We got to run through almost everything at least once that night. Lord Junior did not play any Quickstep numbers while I was there, and there was only one Viennese Waltz, but there were plenty of Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango numbers to use for practice. The Viennese Waltz was actually funny that night. There were only four of us there who knew Viennese Waltz at the time he played the song – Sparkledancer and I, and the two Dance Robots. As he was putting on the song, Lord Junior made a joke about this being a five minute Viennese Waltz so that everyone could watch how well the four of us performed.

The song was an American Viennese Waltz number, which would work out for practice, but any Viennese Waltzes I did the next day would be faster… or so I thought. After the first minute or so, Lord Junior laughed and called out that there were four minutes left, but then he started to technosyndrome1increase the tempo on the song. First he turned it up just to International Viennese Waltz tempo, and then after Sparkledancer and I made it around the floor a couple of times he began increasing it further. The dance robots kept going, but stopped trying to keep up with the music when things got too fast. Sparkledancer and I tried to keep up, but it finally got to a point when it was just too funny, so we had to quit because we were both laughing so hard. Which was probably a good thing, because if we had gone too much faster I’m sure we would have broken the space-time continuum. That was a lot of fun, and the other people at the dance gave the four of us a nice round of applause as we walked off the floor.

I knew going into the competition on Saturday that the estimate that I was given by Lord Dormamu about being in and out of there in an hour was highly unlikely, because it just sounded too good to be true. As you can guess, I was right. I arrived early to get a chance to warm up, so that added on a half hour for me anyway, but then I got my heat list to look at. The first heat I was in was heat number three, but my last one was 119! By my math, even if they had managed to keep each heat to 90 seconds and run those with no lag in between that was going to take at least three hours. Since they didn’t run all the heats at 90 seconds when starting out, and they took a few breaks to let the judges get up and stretch, my one-hour competition turned into over four hours. Let that be a lesson to everyone – if someone tells you that you can participate in a dance competition and be in and out in an hour, just smile and nod and prepare to spend a large portion of your day there anyway.

Lord Dormamu had pulled out all the stops for this event, since it was the first competition to be held at the Fancy Dance Hall. He had actually brought in three judges from places near his home country to sit and watch the competitors. There was no point or scoring system set up, but rather each judge would be giving you real notes and feedback on your dancing in every heat you were in. Yes, that’s right – EVERY HEAT. I thought that was pretty awesome when they told us that. The one downside was that, in order to give the judges a chance to view and make notes about everyone in the heat, the heats were limited in the number of competitors on the floor. The largest number of competitors I saw in one heat while I was there had only four couples dancing. So that’s a big reason why there were so many heats that day. I also imagine that some of the breaks that they took were just to let the judges rest their writing hands a bit from all the furious scribbling they were doing at the judges’ table.

Overall, I felt really good about how things went that day, other than the long periods of sitting around I had to endure. I think the biggest gap I had to wait between my heats was when I technosyndrome2danced heat 35 and then didn’t have to dance again until heat 70. Sparkledancer and I ended up being signed up for ten normal heats, two in each of the International Standard styles (Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep and Viennese Waltz). They decided not to put us into any of the multi-dance championship rounds since those were scheduled to be after the planned lunch and Sparkledancer had to leave at that time to make it to her other event that afternoon.

I also think that the overall winners of the competition had to be Lord Latin and Sir Steven. From what I was told, Lord Latin had been scheduled to dance in all but three of the heats that whole day in both the Standard and Latin sections. Whoa. In fact, they had to schedule some heats where it was only Lord Latin and his student out on the floor so that he could get through all of the heats his students had scheduled to do that day. Sir Steven was a distant second place to Lord Latin, being scheduled to only dance somewhere north of 100 heats. None of the other instructors had anywhere near that many students dancing in so many heats, and the two amateur couples competing (Sparkledancer and I were one of those) didn’t even come close. So no matter how well all the students did that day, those two guys should get some kind of prize for all of their hard work, because I don’t think there would have been much of a competition without them.

While we’re thinking about the competition, let’s fast forward now to Tuesday night. I had originally had a lesson scheduled with Lord Dormamu for that evening, but I got a text from Sir Steven that afternoon letting me know that Lord Dormamu had to cancel because he had an injury in one of his hip flexors flare up that he went to have looked at. I guess years ago he had surgery to have something repaired in both his hip flexors, which is why he had to stop competing professionally for several years, and that same area was causing him pain again on Monday so he wanted to get it looked at just in case. Luckily Sir Steven said that he had an opening at the same time as my scheduled lesson with Lord Dormamu, and he had our results from the competition, so he told me that if I still wanted to come in that night it would be a good chance to go over our results. Sparkledancer had already told him that she was up for it, so I said I’d be there too.

The notes we got back were actually useful, though many of them pointed out things that we are already actively working on. Some of the common notes were about making sure to hold my posture and frame through the whole dance – I had several heats where the judges commented about how it looked good and other heats where I got notes saying either my posture or frame had slipped during the dance. There were several notes about making sure to watch my footwork – I guess it must have looked like I was doing either a heel or toe step when I should have been doing the opposite. And obviously there were plenty of places they said I should push off my standing leg more. So those are just reinforcements of things that I have been working on during practice sessions already.

There were two comment pages that really stuck out to me, since they mentioned things that were unlike all the others. The first was a comment from one of the judges about my second technosyndrome3Waltz heat. The page read “Try not to work so hard.” Sir Steven said that he didn’t remember seeing us in that heat, but one of the things that Waltz is supposed to portray is being totally effortless, and if we were out there thinking a lot about all of the things we were supposed to be doing (which I know I was during that whole day), then it probably didn’t look effortless by any stretch of the imagination. So this was a comment more on the overall performance of the style as opposed to some specific technical point to fix. I’m not even sure how I could practice Waltz to fix that if the judge thought it was enough of an issue to point out. I’ll have to think about that for a while to see what I can come up with.

The second note was regarding a Viennese Waltz heat, where the judge “Use more sway.” This is something I know I have actually been working to actively do the opposite of lately. Back when I first learned Viennese Waltz, someone incorrectly taught me that there should be a lot of shaping in all the movement, and distinct rise and fall. Since then, both Lord Junior and Sir Steven told me that was absolutely wrong, and that in the real world of high-level dancers, Viennese Waltz should have absolutely no rise and fall, and while there is sway in the Natural Turns, there shouldn’t be any in the Reverse Turns. They said the most important thing to work on is to keep my Viennese Waltz down and level the whole time, and to imagine it traveling more in a straight line rather than think about it constantly spinning. I was told that once I am able to do that consistently, then they could go back and work on adding back some sway. So I’m sure that when I danced those two Viennese Waltz heats that I was pretty much level the whole time. That comment made a lot of sense to me.

Having looked through all of the notes, Sir Steven had some points that he picked out which he wanted to work on with us that night. The first thing he actually wanted to start on was that comment about adding more sway into our Viennese Waltz. I guess he figured that if the judge made a point of mentioning it, then we must be ready to start adding it in. To give us something to compare to, we looked at the sway we normally used in the Waltz during the Natural Turns, and tried to get almost the same feeling with the sway during the Natural Turns for Viennese Waltz. The sway in Viennese Waltz is bit less exaggerated, simply because we are moving so much faster so there isn’t as much time to make the movement look as dramatic, but the overall feeling we were going for is the same in both styles.

We also spent time working further on the comment about driving more from the standing leg, specifically using Foxtrot and having me moving backward and Sparkledancer moving forward. I think this is just going to be a struggle for a while, seeing as how my normal state is to be moving forward and that’s what I am most familiar with. Looking at the beginning of our routine, we look good when going through the starter step into the Feather Step and the first half of the Reverse Turn. The second half though is when I am moving backward out of the step before rotating into the Feather Finish, and that’s the part we focused on to make sure it looked like it has as much power there as it did in the steps leading into that section. We did have to cut our angles slightly different every time we went through the figure, since the group class that was going on was a bit rowdy and was not staying in a single area on the floor, but that really just adds a floorcraft challenge into the mix to make it more exciting, right?

Since we skipped ahead to Tuesday, we might as well move right on to Wednesday now. I realize that my notes about things I need to remember have been super long the last couple of weeks, so I’ll try and keep this one a bit shorter. Wednesday night I headed out to Standard Technique class and we got to look at Foxtrot. Lord Junior gave us a progression to work on that was mostly International Foxtrot, but used a Curved Three Step for fun which really only exists in the American Foxtrot syllabus. Silly Americans, curving all the things. What’s up with that?

The set of figures is fairly simple to get through: starting in the corner facing diagonal center, we did a prep step into a Feather Step, moving into a Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot. The timing we used for the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot was all quick rather than starting with a slow step, just to give us some variation on the figure to work with. Next we did a syncopated Curved Three Step (does that make it a Four Step?), adding in that extra step at the end to come out on our right leg (left for the ladies) so that we could do a Contra Check next. If done correctly, the Curved Three Step should rotate you almost 180° so that the Contra Check is actually done against the line of dance, though the amount of rotation is entirely dependent on where you come out facing at the end of the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot.

Because we were facing the wrong way, we backed out of the Contra Check for two steps before rotating into a Feather Finish that moved toward diagonal wall. Here we added in a non-curved Three Step, and then we did a figure that I had never seen before: a Natural Telemark. This figure is interesting because it is basically two turns right on top of each other, ending with a Feather Finish. Starting toward diagonal wall we would come around the lady like technosyndrome4a Natural Heel Turn, with the guy doing his first rotation, a quarter of a turn, to be backing diagonal center. As you brought your feet together but before taking the next step, you do the second turn which is a half of a turn, to end up facing diagonal center for the Feather Finish. You can get a lot of movement doing these turns right on top of each other, so it is important to hold your frame properly. I accidentally let mine slip a couple of times, and the lady I was dancing with interpreted that as me opening her up to go into Promenade Position. It wasn’t a huge deal, as I could just close her during the Feather Finish, but it wasn’t what we were trying to do so it was wrong.

I think I only have a couple of dance things on my list to accomplish this weekend. Saturday afternoon I have a lesson to get to, and I’ll be helping to host a dance party with the rest of my Royal Dance Court friends on Saturday night. Sunday will probably have a couple of hours of practice time worked in during the afternoon as well. Maybe I’ll have some time to get my hair cut too. It has been feeling really long, so I’d like to get it cut back down if possible. Hmm… I’ll work that in. It’s important, so I can make time to get it done. I hope your upcoming weekend is as fun and dance filled as mine’s going to be!

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One Reply to “Test Your Might”

  1. It’s nice to hear about your competition. A few things: I wonder if the comment about your Waltz was because you’ve been working on driving from your standing leg. Meaning, you were working! It takes a while to make that look natural. Second, sway in VW is second to getting yourself level to the ground and your feet going in the correct direction. So you were doing what you’re supposed to and now you can progress to sway. There’s my two cents for what it’s worth. I love reading all your adventures.

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