This Romance Is From Afar Calling Me Silently

Early Saturday afternoon I arrived at the Fancy Dance Hall to meet up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for our regularly scheduled coaching session. We started things off that day by running through all our International Standard competition routines aside from Viennese Waltz once, just to get started. Before our lesson had started, Sparkledancer and I had been warming up on our own and had been repeatedly running through the Progressive Chasses in our Waltz routine, since that is a place I know that I mess up the footwork when I am not thinking about what I’m supposed to be doing. Well, so much repetition that day meant that Progressive Chasses were on my mind, so when we did our Waltz routine while Sir Steven was watching, I totally replaced the normal Reverse Turn on the short wall with a Progressive Chasse to the Right. That made me feel a bit dumb, but he didn’t call me out for doing the footwork wrong when I did it, so then I felt good about that. I was very conflicted on how to feel about that figure.

Once we got past the opening, we spent a bit of time talking about things, referring to the notes that we had gotten back about our competition heats. Sir Steven told us that people who dance ballroom dances tend to fall into one of two categories: those that are better at Waltz and Foxtrot, and those that are better at Tango and Quickstep. He said that Sparkledancer and I together look like we fall into the first category, which is generally where most people place Sir Steven as well. Lord Dormamu on the other hand was ranked among the best in the world in Tango and Quickstep, so he would be in the second category. Sparkledancer and I don’t do Quickstep all that often, so that explains that one, and according to Sir Steven, it’s not that our Tango is bad, but the characterization of the dance doesn’t always look like Tango. As you can imagine, when our characterization gets off, it starts to look more smooth, like a Waltz of Foxtrot.

Based on that short discussion, Sir Steven said we would focus on Tango that day, and he would be talking to Lord Dormamu about him spending more time on that style with us as well. After all, working on our weakest points should help improve everything overall in theory. We started out with looking at the Promenade Pivot that we do, trying to really nail it down so that the rotation happened quickly and stopped exactly where it should immediately, instead of floating around like a Waltz pivot.

We also went back and looked at the Open Reverse Turn that happened before the Promenade Pivot. That day Sir Steven said that there was something that looked off about what we were doing, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Each of us dancing it independently with him soshedances1seemed to be able to do things appropriately, but there was something that bugged him about us doing the figure together. There were two other instructors that also happened to be practicing on the floor that afternoon, and he called them over to watch what we were doing together. Then he had the two of them do the figure so we could try to find out what was different. I thought that the other two were doing a lot of excess movement in their upper bodies compared to what Sparkledancer and I were doing, but no one said anything about that. In the end we didn’t really change much other than to make sure we were rotated more in CBMP and that we were reaching our legs out of the way more when each of us was moving backward. It didn’t feel any different to me, but I guess that was enough to make Sir Steven happy that afternoon.

Don’t you hate it when one thing you do is bad, and the next thing you do is acceptable, but they don’t actually feel any different to you? It makes it hard to be sure you’re repeating what’s good. Grrr…

As I mentioned last week, this weekend I was helping to host the monthly dance party with my Royal Dance Court gang. Being February, we were having a Valentine’s Day themed party, and had chosen to have someone come in and teach some West Coast Swing to all of our guests to coincide with the big West Coast Swing gathering that occurred at the beginning of this month. Surprisingly enough, I did not really have to participate in the dance lesson this time around, because when the class was starting out we actually had an even number of men and women there. Crazy, right? I hung out in the back of the room watching things to make sure I knew what they had done, so that I would know what figures everyone would know if I danced a West Coast Swing later that night during the party. The class ended up being only an introductory lesson, covering the Sugar Push, Right-Side Pass, Left-Side Pass and a basic Whip – stuff that I’ve done lots of times before.

Hotdog showed up to the party about fifteen minutes into the lesson, and decided to come sit down near where I was standing rather than jump in and learn something new. He had never done West Coast Swing before, but after watching the class for a few minutes, he was telling me all about how he could totally do everything they were doing easily. I just smiled at him and told him he should jump into line then and prove it. He moaned a bit, giving me some excuse about how he had just got done working all day and he wanted to spend a few minutes sitting down before dancing all night. I just smiled at him and rolled my eyes after turning my head back toward the class.

(You can see where I’m going with this, right?)

Halfway through class a couple of new ladies showed up. After fiddling around on the couch to get their dance shoes on, one of the two ladies decides that she wants to participate in the soshedances2class. She came over to where Hotdog and I were and asked if one of us would go out there with her to keep the ratio even. Being the nice guy that I am, I ‘volunteered’ Hotdog, telling him that it was time to put his money where his mouth was. He managed to make it through the Sugar Push and Left-Side Pass with no trouble, but could not figure out the Right-Side Pass. After both he and the lady he was dancing with couldn’t figure out what was wrong, the two of them finally looked over to where I was standing (and chuckling), and gestured me over to help them. Let that be a lesson to you: never make big claims that you can totally do everything after watching it a few times if there is a chance you’ll have to prove yourself and you’re going to fail. Then you just look silly.

The party afterward was fun. Since most of the men hung around after the lesson, I didn’t have to work quite so hard that night entertaining ladies, so I got to walk around and talk to people from time to time. I heard an interesting tidbit from Sparkledancer while I was there – apparently, in the few days before the dance party, Hotdog had been texting Sparkledancer and complaining about being lonely. It was just after Valentine’s Day, after all. He was also asking her if she had any single female friends that she could introduce him to, which she never confirmed or denied. Well as luck would have it, that night at the dance party there was a new girl who showed up, someone roughly our age and apparently single. As you might guess, Hotdog met her during rotation in the group class, and then remained hovering near her side most of the night, as much as he was able at least.

At one point when this new girl was out dancing with some other gentleman who had asked her out to the dance floor, Sparkledancer went over to where Hotdog was sitting and told him that she was watching how he was hanging around with this girl all night, so if he didn’t man up and get her phone number or something by the end of the party than he was not allowed to complain about being lonely any more. Well Sparkledancer throwing down the gauntlet was good for him, and by the end of the night he did manage to get her phone number. Hooray Hotdog! Sparkledancer updated me about the situation before class last night: when he finally called her a few days after the dance party, they set up a date to meet for coffee and some kind of nature walk this coming Saturday afternoon. Apparently, you can find love at a Valentine’s Day dance party. Maybe that means there’s hope for me yet!

I had some amusing thoughts during my practice session this past Sunday afternoon with Sparkledancer at the Electric Dance Hall. I thought they were amusing, so I wrote them down. These are my dance notes to reflect on, so I can do whatever I want. So there.

I met up with Sparkledancer as is becoming normal this past Sunday afternoon at the Electric Dance Hall just for practice. Normally it is pretty quiet on Sunday afternoons, but this past weekend there were quite a few people hanging out there when I showed up. Besides Sparkledancer, I saw Lord Junior working with a couple of his students, running heats of their routines for a competition that they will be attending over the first weekend in March. Lord Fabulous was in a different corner of the room giving a lesson to an amateur couple that I had never seen before, and Lord Scarry was in the middle of the room giving what looked like a group class in Salsa to a bunch of teenagers. Sparkledancer and I did our best to carve out a line we could use to practice going down the farthest long wall from the door, away from everyone else.

While I was practicing, as I would be walking back to the corner so that Sparkledancer and I soshedances3could start over the wall we were running through, I would be watching what everyone else on the floor was doing. I’m naturally curious, so I couldn’t help doing that. Lord Fabulous’ couple especially caught my interest. The male partner was a larger gentleman, who looked like he greatly enjoyed partaking in carbohydrate-laden adult beverages. What I realized though is that this gave him a distinct advantage – he managed to quite easily maintain body contact with his partner, no matter what he was doing. That is something that I struggle with doing during some figures that I dance, because if I am not totally in sync with Sparkledancer and one of us moves more or less than the other, it causes us to break apart briefly. But this gentleman was maintaining contact with ease, and I’m sure he wasn’t even thinking about it!

Is that really the key that I am missing? A big belly? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am quite fond of my low body fat percentage and the strength in my core that I achieved over years of training. Plus, when I actually have time to go out on dates with ladies, I think that is a point in my favor. But does having washboard abs actually work against me when it comes to maintaining body contact while dancing? Would I be better off if I started going to bars with my friends and actually drinking with them, instead of ordering plain water? Should I be eating more greasy foods or snack cakes to make me a better dancer? After all, I have been told that my upper-body musculature is detrimental to my dancing success, so if I go down the complete opposite route, does that turn it into an advantage?

Note: I have no plans currently to head in that direction, but this was the conversation I had with myself mentally when I was watching that guy dance. Maybe someday if I become independently wealthy and don’t have to work a real job anymore, I will have free time to give this idea of getting a huge belly a try to then I can spend all kinds of time after the experiment is over working off said belly. For science!

This past Monday night during Latin Technique class we worked on some Cha-Cha. This week we didn’t do anything overly fancy, we just did some hard work. We began facing our partner in normal dance frame, doing a starter step to the left into a basic chasse to the right. On the right side we did a Hand-to-Hand that did not rotate at the end, instead turning into three Forward Lock Steps. At the end of the third we rotated quickly, switching hands with our partner to do another Hand-to-Hand on the left side and going into four beats of syncopated Forward Lock Steps. At the end we stopped and held in place on our right leg (the lady on her left) before stepping forward and rotating sharply for one final Hand-to-Hand on the right that squared up with our partner into a basic chasse to the left.

Once we made it back to the left side, both partners did a solo Switch Turn, coming back together afterward for another basic chasse to the right. For our final section of the progression, we added on four Split Cuban Breaks (two moving in each direction), using the variation of the figure where you actually change hands as you would in a New Yorker. This was probably the section where you were moving the fastest in time with the music if you rotated properly for the figure. After all four of those were done we did an actual New Yorker with normal timing on the right side, ending with just a basic chasse to the left.

Wednesday night at Standard Technique class we got to do some Viennese Waltz, and much like we did with Foxtrot last week, we looked at things from both International Viennese Waltz and American Viennese Waltz. The figures that we were shown from the American Viennese Waltz syllabus were actually really fun, so I’m writing them down here to remember them for later in life. We started out by practicing our Reverse Turns, lining up at one end of the floor and heading down alone one at a time until we got to the other side. After each person got through that a couple of times, we partnered up and did the same thing. Next we switched over and went through the same exercise while doing Natural Turns. I focused on making sure that I was putting in the appropriate sway during the turns, and completely forgot about keeping my head in the right place a few times, so I may have gotten made fun of for that. Sigh…

Once we finished up these exercises, we switched over to working on a progression of figures that fell into the American Viennese Waltz tent. It started off with three normal Reverse Turns, and in place of the fourth turn the men squared up with the wall and led the lady through a Cross Body Lead and Underarm Turn. That opened up into what I’ve always called an Explosion, which is just the two partners leaning toward each other (sometimes touching their outside hands together) before pushing away and curving their arms up and around to the outside. You know, like an explosion. I’m sure there’s an actual technical name for the figure, but that’s what I like.

From there we did two Cantor Lilts with the first one passing the lady in front of the man and the second passing her behind. This was a bit weird for me the first couple of times I tried. I’ve done Cantor Lilts before, but I’ve always passed the lady in front of me going in both directions soshedances4so that I can easily keep an eye on her and line myself up accordingly. Passing her behind forces you to travel in a bit of an arc to make room for her, and everyone but Lord Junior struggled to catch hands with their partner at the end. I guess that will require some more practice. Once we did catch hands, we led the lady to step forward with us and rotate, kicking our outside leg upward from the knee as we did so before taking three steps back in the direction we came from, turning around in the process. We did that twice, and after the second one the men took a step forward, leading the lady to step with us before leading her into an Outside Turn and ending with a Hesitation. The Hesitation isn’t completely necessary, but it’s useful to make sure you’re back in proper dance frame before moving into another Reverse Turn, or whatever else you wanted.

So, that was my week! Lord Dormamu is back in action this weekend. I guess he went to have his old injury looked at, and there is a possibility that he may need to have another surgery to fix things. But he’s back to teaching for the time being, and this weekend I’ll get to have my normal lesson with Sir Steven, and then two hours later a lesson with Lord Dormamu so that he can see what we need to work on next. There is also a dance party Saturday night at the Cherished Dance Hall that I think I am going to attend, to make sure that I get to have some fun as well. Are you going to be there? I hope so. Maybe I’ll see you then!

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