Follow Me Into The Desert As Thirsty As You Are

After meeting up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer last Saturday afternoon to work on things, I was feeling pretty good about dance life. We had started out by discussing the things that Sparkledancer and I had worked on the previous weekend with Lord Dormamu so that Sir Steven would be on the same page with what we were told to do. Since a lot of what we discussed centered on the work we did on Foxtrot, that’s where Sir Steven had us start that afternoon.

I’m happy to say that Sir Steven said that he could see improvement in our Foxtrot over what he had seen the last time we had gotten together, so the practice time that Sparkledancer and I had put in working on the items that Lord Dormamu gave us for homework must have been paying off. Now even though Lord Dormamu had specifically told us while we were working on Foxtrot to just ignore everything else and focus on only the points he gave us, Sir Steven still told us that we should still be adding in some of the shaping and swing that he had been working on having us do. We don’t have to put a bunch of emphasis on shaping and swing, but Sir Steven didn’t want us to forget about it entirely despite what Lord Dormamu told us. So that’s something else I’ll have to keep in mind now during practice.

To switch things up when we finished up with Foxtrot, Sir Steven had us look at Viennese Waltz for a while. The big takeaway from this session was to fix a habit of mine with Change Steps, and there’s a bit of a story behind this habit: see, there are really only two people I will willingly dance a Viennese Waltz with outside of a group class situation. I’ve been asked by lots of people at social dances over the years, but most ladies asking I don’t know anything about how much they have worked on Viennese Waltz, so I beg out of the dance and wander off usually. As you can imagine, one of the two people I will dance Viennese Waltz with is Sparkledancer, since she’s been around for most of the formal training sessions I’ve had in the dance style.

In the beginning, as I was learning and working on building confidence in the dance, Sparkledancer and I had a hard time with Change Steps. For some reason whenever I did one, she couldn’t follow me. This led to me at first telling her when I was going to do one, which was a hard thing for her to miss. As I started to get better at Viennese Waltz, I worked to make sure that when I did a Change Step I really over-emphasized the side step portion of the figure, so that there was no mistaking what I was trying to lead her through. While that tactic also worked, that sort-of became a bad habit for me, and when I am not really thinking much about what I am doing, you can still see me do a Change Step with the energy going off to the side rather than continuing down the line of dance.

Sir Steven decided that now I really need to work on getting rid of that habit, because it’s just wrong for the level I am trying to work at now. I’m supposed to work on practicing Viennese Waltz turns, either Natural Turns or Reverse Turns, my choice, then put in a Change Step that moves down the line of dance without going off to the side at all, and then add a couple of the opposite turn from whatever I started with after the Change Step. This is a simple bit of homework to try to undo my bad habit. So, now that’s on my list. I’m starting to have more homework to work on than I have practice time each week!

I did make it out to a dance party at the City Dance Hall this past Saturday night. The advertisement for the party said that they would be having an American Foxtrot lesson before the party, given by some instructor whom I had never heard of before. This gentleman went through things in a bit of a strange way, using some variations on common figures that I can only describe as ‘overly simplistic’ when compared to the way I’ve seen things done everywhere else I’ve been. None of the figures or progressions covered that night really connected to each other, either. They were more like general knowledge figures or progressions to be used at any time, starting with simple figures at the beginning and ending with a more difficult progression of figures as class wrapped up.

To start with he covered the Forward Basic heading straight down the floor. When people told him that they had all danced Foxtrot at least a little in the past, he quickly moved on to show everyone a Simple Twinkle. To be honest with you, I know this version of the Twinkle is on the syllabus and everything, but I have never seen anyone use it in practice before. The Simple Twinkle is the version that covers two measures of music, where you take a step forward and then a side step to the right, turning to Promenade Position as you bring your feet together. During the second measure you take a side step in Promenade Position, then a side step to the left as you square up with your partner and bring your feet together. Do any of you know anyone who uses this version of the Twinkle rather than the version that is only four beats that uses continuity movement? I certainly don’t!

Next up we looked at two-figure combination. It involved doing the first half of the Simple Twinkle, then a basic Grapevine, finishing with the second half of the Simple Twinkle. The Grapevine that he walked through for everyone also felt fairly simplistic compared to what people have shown all the other times I’ve seen a Grapevine done, really emphasizing the side steps of the figure as it went on. Once everyone seemed to have mastered the Grapevine combination, the instructor showed everyone the first of two more advanced progressions he had for us that night.

This progression started off with a rotating Left Box Turn with the Lead traveling down the line of dance. After that, the Lead would do another rotating Left Box Turn while turning the lady through a natural turn, making sure to grab her left arm as she rotated so that when finished you would be in Sweetheart Position. The Lead would then take three steps forward (not a Three Step, just three slow steps forward) while turning the lady in a reverse turn to unwind her, stopping her as she finished the turn so that she ended in Promenade Position with you. The instructor had us finish by closing from Promenade Position using the second half of the Simple Twinkle just like he had used to finish the Grapevine earlier.

The final progression also started out with a rotating Left Box Turn with the Lead heading down the line of dance. Rather than turning around right away, this time the instructor had us stay facing this direction for a bit and take three slow steps traveling backwards down the line of dance. After that the Lead did a second rotating Left Box Turn while the Follower was led through a reverse turn, ending in Promenade Position before closing with the second half of the Simple Twinkle again. The two progressions, if you noticed, begin and end the same way, with only a few figures in the middle being different. If you can pick up and get through one, you could easily do both.

I tried my best to dance every ballroom-style dance that night with Sparkledancer… when I could find her amongst the crowd, that is. That way the party was kind of like practice time, right? There were a fair number of people at the party that night though, so sometimes I had a hard time finding myself during the party, let alone a specific partner to dance with when a song came on. I made do as best I could. There was one lady that I met that night who was sitting against the back wall by herself. I had asked her to dance for one song, and during the dance I was making small talk, asking if she had ever danced that dance style before. She said that she had once upon a time, but it had been many years before. Being the nice (and charming!!!) guy that I am, I told her that it couldn’t have been that many years ago because there was no way she could be that old. Then she laughs at me and tells me her exact age. I honestly was not expecting a lady to confess to me how old she was, so that kind of tripped me up in my banter for a few seconds. Ladies really seem to like to throw these random curveballs at me to keep me on my toes…

Class on Monday night was probably the most fun thing that I got to do all week. There were six ladies who showed up for Latin Technique class that night, and as usual I was the only guy besides Lord Junior. As we were all gathering on the dance floor to get started, no one really had any strong feelings about what to go through that night, so Lord Junior said he would put it up for a vote. I just laughed at that, and said that everyone already knows what my vote is for (what other Latin dance do you want to dance so late at night?). Several of the ladies shook their heads and said that they agreed with me, so in the end I got enough votes to win, and we went over some Pasodoble that night.

Paso is… so… metal…!

We were originally going to start with a Promenade and Counter Promenade, and Lord Junior even went so far as to step through the Lead’s half of the step. As he began to step through the Follower’s part of the figure to show the ladies, he changed his mind and decided that we were going to start with a Twist Turn instead. The Twist Turn in Pasodoble is essentially the same as the Twist Turn from Tango, except the Tango figure does not start with an Appel, as you can imagine. We started the Twist Turn with the Lead facing the wall and ended by facing down the line of dance.

Next up we went through an Open Telemark. To make the turn a bit easier, we used the Appel at the beginning to rotate about an eighth of a turn so that the next step began facing diagonal center. When we finished the Open Telemark we were back to facing wall again after we closed the Promenade. There was a figure I believe was called an Ecart next, or a Fallaway Whisk. The figure was basically like a Whisk that you would see in International Waltz, where you cross your outside foot behind the other to turn you into Promenade Position. Over the next four-count in the music, we traveled down the line of dance, rotating the Follower around us on the second step so that we finished with the Follower facing wall and the Lead facing center.

That set us up to do a variation of the Coup de Pique to finish things off. A normal Coup de Pique has you twist and point your right foot forward once before taking a step backward down the line of dance on your left and then doing a chasse-like movement to continue traveling in that direction. The variation we did (and apparently the way Lord Junior prefers to do the figure every time) had us twist and point our right foot through, then twist and take a step backward down the line of dance with our left, and then do another twist and point with our right foot and finishing by twisting and stepping back on the left. This variation still has you ending the whole figure with your left foot free, which is the wrong foot to start the majority of Pasodoble figures with. There are a few that do require you to start with your other leg, but since we had been having so much fun in class we ran out of time to add anything else to the progression so we finished up there for the night.

Two nights ago I had a meeting to attend for my Royal Dance Court group to discuss upcoming events that we have been planning, as well as various other items in dance politics that have been floating around recently. You might be interested to know that as of that meeting, I am now the official Keeper Of Records for the Royal Dance Court. I guess the old Keeper Of Records wanted to give up the responsibilities of the position, probably to spend more time writing or something. I did not volunteer for the position, I was just told that I was going to do it, and I didn’t have any good reason not to at the time, so the nomination carried. I started my tenure on the Royal Dance Court by bringing my laptop to the meetings so that I can take notes. A couple of people started copying me after they saw me doing it, but I think that might be why I was nominated to be the Keeper Of Records. Little do they know that I mostly brought my laptop to take notes that I can share on this site! Now I will also be sharing the notes with any people interested in the business of the Royal Dance Court. So… yay? Is this the next step to me seizing the power at the top of the Royal Dance Court? We’ll have to see!

As far as interesting things that were discussed… well, if you aren’t a member of the Royal Dance Court with me, there probably isn’t much. We spent a fair amount of time discussing the formal party that we hosted, and how our financial intakes from ticket sales compared with our expenses. An idea has already been proposed, and it looks like accepted, for the theme of the formal we will host next year, so there was initial talk underway about purchasing decorations for that party. There was some talk about the dance cruise we are looking to host in a few months, like the one I went on a year-and-a-half ago, and the initial cost projections that we’ve received for that. As you can see, much of the discussion was kind of boring overall, so I won’t waste much space here on any of that.

One of the other interesting items that were discussed was when we were all told that a couple of the Royal Viziers who consult the King have resigned for various reasons. Being a member of the Royal Dance Court, I had received emails about these positions earlier in the day where they were looking for applicants to submit resumes for consideration if you are interested in moving up in the world. I toyed with the idea for a few minutes when I saw the email in the afternoon, but I dismissed it since the amount of time they were looking for people to commit would interfere with my actual job, and the position doesn’t pay nearly as well. So for the time being, if we have issues that need to move up the chain from our Royal Dance Court, we don’t know who we can contact right now. It’s usually frowned upon to call up the King directly (that’s how beheadings happen, if history has taught me anything), so we’ll have to solve any potential problems ourselves until new Royal Viziers can be brought in.

And finally there was Standard Technique class this week. No one had any specific things they wanted to work on when class started, much like Monday’s class, so Lord Junior went with the idea that he had gotten earlier in the day for class: having us work on the Double Reverse Spin and Double Natural Spin in Foxtrot. I’m sure that statement set off all sorts of red flags in your mind, since the Double Reverse Spin is a syllabus figure only in Waltz and Quickstep, and the Double Natural Spin is not on the syllabus for any dance style! But these figures do work in Foxtrot without any weird changes needed. Because you can do the Double Reverse Spin in Quickstep, you can easily make it work in a Foxtrot (it’s just slower), and a Double Natural Spin is a figure that is just the natural opposite* of a Double Reverse Spin, so you can use it in any dance style where a Double Reverse Spin works.

(Note: there is one difference between the two when done in Foxtrot… more on that in a minute)

The progression used wasn’t that difficult per se, but it does travel the floor quite a bit, so make sure you give yourself plenty of space before you start. We began with a normal opening for many Foxtrot routines I’ve seen in my lifetime – facing diagonal center, take a prep step and go into a Feather. Next came the Double Reverse Spin, done with the same timing you have in a Quickstep Double Reverse Spin, but since this is Foxtrot you have to add on a Feather Ending at the end. That has you coming out heading toward diagonal wall. Then we did a Three Step, and finally we finished with the Double Natural Spin. The Double Natural Spin has to end with a full Feather instead of just a Feather Ending like the Double Reverse Spin has. Because you are on the opposite foot when you start, you also finish on the opposite foot, so you must have one additional step to make the ending work. Turning the Feather Ending into a full Feather step just makes sense in that situation.

Most of the ladies had some trouble with the Double Natural Spin when Lord Junior was going through their part with them and they were dancing the steps by themselves. I watched as several of them turned themselves the wrong way a few times, and then had to stop and think about things because suddenly they were trying to cross the wrong foot in front. It was an amusing problem to watch from the sidelines, but that issue cleared itself right up when they danced with a partner. There were a few other notable issues that I ran into while dancing with people that night:

  • Veep constantly rotated her Double Natural Spin too much
  • Bony seemed to like taking tiny steps even after she was asked to reach further by both myself and Lord Junior, so I kept kicking her feet accidentally when I tried to move
  • there was one older lady who had joined us for class that didn’t like crossing her foot in front of the other in either the Double Reverse Spin or Double Natural Spin, so she would end up on the wrong foot for the next step

In the end, it ended up being a rather amusing night. Lord Junior had so much fun that he told us all that we should look forward to next week’s class, when he’ll make us do the same two spins in the Waltz, and hope that we all can get through them without the same issues. So that’s something to look forward to. Hooray!

This weekend I have the monthly party that my Royal Dance Court group hosts to help put on. I think we are having some sort of Waltz theme this month, but I am terrible at remembering things like that, so don’t quote me on it. Hopefully it will be fun, and lots of people will turn out to attend. For some reason I have this weird feeling that we are going to end up with a small turnout, and I can’t place why. I hope I’m wrong about that. Do you want to come to the party for me to make sure that there are a lot of people there? Please?

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