What’s The Lesson? What Is The Takeaway?

For those of you interested in how thing went for HotDog on his hot date he set up with that girl he met at the dance party, I must unfortunately tell you that he did not fare well enough to get a second date. I guess that even though she told him that things were only supposed to be light and fun, and from his account of the situation, they did a lot of making out like teenagers along the nature hike they took, he was apparently not a good enough kisser to interest her in a second encounter. Also there was some comments about HotDog not being ‘family oriented’ and ‘not having any long-term goals in life’ that I heard. I’m getting all of this third-hand, since HotDog was texting Sparkledancer about it as this all went down, and she told me all about it when we met up to practice our dances. So, is this a strike against people finding love on the dance floor? Or is it a strike against HotDog’s qualifications as a boyfriend? I’ll leave that judgment to you.

I did manage to make it out to the Cherished Dance Hall this past Saturday night for their open dance party, which was exciting because it felt like forever since I had been out there. I think it had actually only been a couple of months, but it feels like it was forever. The Cherished Dance Hall is on the complete opposite end of the Dance Kingdom from where I live, so there is usually a very different crowd of people who attend their parties. Based on the way that the Dance Kingdom is set up, there are a number of people who tend to only go to dance events that are held in certain parts of town, with the major subdivision being the ‘northern’ parties vs. the ‘southern’ parties. I actually live more on the north side, but being full of youthful enthusiasm like I am, I will go to parties and events all over the place. The Cherished Dance Hall is more on the southern end, so it tends to draw the south-side dancers, and I was excited to get to see them again after being away for so long.

But before we got into the open dancing, there was a dance lesson lined up to go through. I also like the dance parties at the Cherished Dance Hall because of the dance lessons they hold before their parties. Lady Gusto, the owner of the Cherished Dance Hall, really likes to set up lessons that cover dance styles that many other people don’t really do much during normal social dances, because it makes her happy to cover these underused dance styles. This time around she had brought someone in to teach a lesson on Quickstep. Teaching Quickstep during a class like this, much like choosing to teach Viennese Waltz, is ambitious. Not because of the figures used that night, since there was only one figure that was technically a Silver-level step, but is pretty simple aside from being fast. Everything else we did was Pre-Bronze or Bronze. No, the real issue is that if you say Quickstep out loud in front of some people, it freaks them out and they have a hard time handling it because they imagine that Quickstep is sooooooooo fast. So that was what was working against us that night.

As for what we covered, there were two variations of the progression: one was fairly simple, the other slightly longer, but not necessarily more challenging. In the simpler version, we started with a basic Quarter Turn to the Right followed by a Backward Lock. From here we took a slow step backward and then added on the one Silver-level figure, the Four Quick Run. Basically all it involves is one slow step backward, one quick step to the left and then three quick steps forward that amount to the footwork in a Forward Lock (ladies are the natural opposite). Not terribly difficult, just a faster set of steps when done to tempo. The end of the Four Quick Run set us up to repeat everything as desired. Fairly simple, right?
yourewelcome1  The arguably more complex version added in two more Bronze-level figures right in the middle, replacing the Four Quick Run. You start out the same, doing the Quarter Turn to the Right followed by a Backward Lock. Here you change things up and take two slow steps backward instead of one and then do a Reverse Pivot. The pivot should turn you around to face line of dance, setting you up to do a Double Reverse Spin. Coming out of the Double Reverse Spin we did an actual Forward Lock to simulate the ending of the Four Quick Run, which once again set us up to repeat everything as desired.

Dance parties at the Cherished Dance Hall always seem to amuse me quite a bit. This time around, much like the last few times I have gone to parties hosted there, they would only allow the songs to play for 90 to 120 seconds before switching over to another song. Unlike the last time I was there, this time they didn’t fade directly from one song to another. Instead they had a few seconds of silence in between, allowing everyone to catch their breath and to change partners for the next number. Last time I was there the songs just faded into each other, so there was almost no switching of partners because there wasn’t time. This time around was a lot better. You still had to be on top of your game, because if you tried to go and grab a lady who was all the way on the other side of the room from where you ended the last song, you would miss a large chunk of the next song just weaving through the crowd to grab your new partner, but there was considerably more switching of partners going on this time around. It was a fun night out.

This past Sunday afternoon I was supposed to spend the day out at the Fancy Dance Hall, first for my normal coaching session with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven, and then a few hours later to work with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu. My first lesson ended up being great, but the second didn’t happen. Lord Dormamu got caught up at the competition he was participating in that morning, and ended up having to reschedule with us. We attempted to reschedule things for this past Monday night, but had to cancel that session as well since he got caught up that night working with a bunch of people to prepare for a big competition he will be attending with them this coming weekend. So we have a tentative slot on the books for next Sunday as of the time of this writing. We’ll have to see if that holds.

In the lesson that I did get to have, we did make some noticeable changes to things which will make for some interesting practice sessions until the changes begin to feel more natural. That day Sir Steven addressed the comments that the judges gave us at the competition a few weekends ago about Sparkledancer’s arm “breaking” as we danced. This item is one that Sparkledancer and I have discussed at a couple of our practice sessions, trying to figure out exactly what it meant. Without further details, we couldn’t figure out exactly if they were talking about her right arm or left arm, if it was because the hand was dropping or the elbow dropping, or if her left arm was too crunched in on itself, etc..

To set some things up, I have to tell you that what I imagine a big part of the problem to be comes down to the fact that Sparkledancer’s arms are much smaller than mine. I could probably easily touch my middle finger and thumb together around her wrist with room to spare, and then slide them all the way up to her elbow. So even though she is quite strong, there is an extreme difference in the amount of muscle available to the two of us, and as I rotate my upper body, if she is not pushing back against me with an inordinate amount of her strength, she can lose the fight. Sometimes I think that is why I see her right elbow back behind her shoulder when I look down at her arm in front of my face.

In order to work on fixing this, Sir Steven actually had Sparkledancer change the position that yourewelcome2she puts her body in when we come into dance frame. Before she would be in front of my right side, and her upper body would be pulled to the left, as if we were standing in a doorway trying to touch one side with my left hip and the other with her shoulder, with a slight curl of her upper body backward as if she was pole vaulting over my arm that was behind her back. That’s an interesting way to describe things, right? Well, now we have kept her in the same shape, but rotated her around my right side slightly. Not as much of a rotation as if she were in Promenade Position, but enough so that we are no longer like a closed book. Essentially this pulls her right shoulder farther away from me, rounding out the shape between us farther so that her elbow is completely unable to end up behind her shoulder. Now when I look from my perspective at her position, it looks very concave and if I see us in the mirror it really gives us that voluminous look that I keep hearing people talk about.

We spent our time working back and forth between Tango and Foxtrot using this new position to try to get comfortable with the change. We would do some things in Foxtrot, cleaning up pieces, working on stretching out the ending of all our figures so that the distance covered matched what we were doing at the beginning, and trying to dance without breaking anything in our frame. Whenever something we were doing tied in to something that we also did in Tango, we would switch gears and look at that for a while until we hit on a piece that allowed us to transition back smoothly. Things were going pretty good by the end, but obviously the changes will take more than an hour to become habit, so we’ll continue to work on it during our practice sessions to improve.

I did get out to practice with Sparkledancer this past week both on Saturday during what would have been my regular lesson time and also on Tuesday night. I was tempted to call up Sparkledancer and tell her that we would have our practice session on Saturday late in the afternoon, but I figured it was better to keep on a somewhat consistent schedule otherwise I wouldn’t get out of bed at all that day. Mornings are stupid, after all, and my cat tells me that staying in bed and pretending mornings don’t exist is a good thing to do. My cat would never lie to me, right? She’s super trustworthy.

Anyway, here’s the interesting thing from my practice session on Saturday. When we got to the Electric Dance Hall, there were a few people hanging around. Lord Junior was working on routines with his student Merlot, as they were getting ready to be in that competition this yourewelcome3coming weekend, and Lord Fabulous was finishing up a lesson with one of his students. As Lord Fabulous’ student left, he came over to where Sparkledancer and I were getting our dance shoes on to ask us about the formal dance that our Royal Dance Court will be putting on at the end of April. He had found a copy of the flyer for the event on the counter at the Electric Dance Hall, and told us that it sounded super exciting, and that he was getting together a bunch of people who would probably take up two tables, so he just wanted to get some general information about signing up. He also asked us whether or not we knew of any upcoming showcase events that were open for people to perform in. I guess he has some students that are looking to perform showcase numbers that they have been practicing for a while, but they don’t know any events they could enter. I didn’t know anything off the top of my head, but I said that I would ask around to see if anyone else I knew had heard of anything. So if any of you know of something, let me know so that I can tell him!

Otherwise, practice with Sparkledancer went well this week. We have added Quickstep into our normal practice sessions to start covering it like we have been doing with Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot. Originally I had thought we would spend our first couple of months just working on those big three, which should greatly improve the quality of everything else we do, but since our talk with Sir Steven last week about Tango and Quickstep being our weak points I figured that it would be good for us to start covering it a little bit every time we meet up. We haven’t done anything with Viennese Waltz yet, but I don’t think it will be too long before we start adding that in as well so that every time we practice, unless we have a specific item that we are having a lot of trouble with that needs work, we can spend time on all five of the International Standard dance styles in each session.

Yesterday night I was out at the Electric Dance Hall to work on some Tango in Standard Technique class. Much like we have done the last couple of weeks, this time around we looked at a set of figures that was half from the International Standard syllabus and half from the American Smooth syllabus so that Lord Junior could practice the things he is studying for his American Smooth certification test. This mixing has made for some interesting combinations, so if you’re into that sort of thing, I would recommend giving the pattern a try, and maybe using it while you are out and about in the dance world. You know, just for fun, or to help you study for your own dance certification tests…

OK, I have to say when I thought of this picture it was super funny in my head, but it looks a bit creepy if you don’t read the story behind it. So… I’m leaving it here anyway.

For the first half of our progression using International Standard figures, you are in Promenade Position for most of the first half. Lord Junior was picking on Prez that night because she kept turning her head out of Promenade Position during the wrong moments. At one point he made her hold onto his left wrist when they were in dance frame so that he could hold his left hand up in front of her like a puppet, telling her to watch the puppet the whole time. He didn’t go so far as to get a marker and draw a face on his palm, but he threatened her saying that if she couldn’t keep her head watching the puppet he would draw a scowling face on his hand to watch her as they danced. That was pretty funny.

We started out right away in Promenade Position and went into a Fallaway Promenade, ending without closing back to normal dance frame so that we could go right into a Natural Twist Turn. Because of the order of figures we were doing, the Fallaway Promenade would start facing the line of dance and end with you facing diagonal wall to start the Natural Twist Turn, which would rotate you to end facing line of dance again. Then we did a Reverse Promenade Link, which is exactly like it sounds – two steps that shift you from Promenade Position back to normal dance frame (the reverse of what a Promenade Link does). Next we did two curved Tango Walking steps forward, which you could look at as either the end of the International Tango section or the beginning of the American Tango section, since the walking steps are in both.

After the Curved Walk we did a Reverse Pivot, took one step backward and then went into a backward lunge-like move with the left leg (forward on the right for the ladies). This allowed the men to flick their right leg up behind the lady’s knee, then we shifted our weight forward onto the other leg so that the lady could flick her leg up behind the man’s knee, then we shifted again so that the men could do one last leg flick. After all the flicking, we shifted forward again and led the ladies to do a slow Ronde over two beats of music, then we released them with the right arm and led the ladies through an inside turn for one-and-a-half rotations as they traveled down the line of dance. The men did a turning chasse-like movement involving a quick step back, then to the side, then forward twice to keep up with them. When the men finished the quick steps and the ladies finished turning, we took two slow steps down the line of dance together holding onto one hand, then did the American Tango close step and joined back up to dance frame at the same time.

This weekend should be fairly quiet for me, compared to how things usually go. Friday and Saturday night it seems like a lot of people are going to be off at that big competition I mentioned already, which is a couple of hours away from where I live. With so many people being out to compete (and several dance halls being closed Friday and Saturday because of that), there are no exciting parties or activities going on that I know of. Instead, I think Sparkledancer and I are going to try to put in some practice time at the Electric Dance Hall while most other people are gone, continuing to work on our own material while the floor is fairly empty. Depending on how the competition goes this weekend, we may get a chance to meet up with Lord Dormamu on Sunday as I mentioned earlier, but that hasn’t been completely confirmed yet. We’ll have to see what happens!

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