The Two Of Us Ain’t Gonna Follow Your Rules

Not much to talk about from my dance adventures this past week, what with the holiday and everything. Let’s see, what is of note to remember…

This past Saturday I was supposed to have two lessons, one with Lord Dormamu and one with Sir Steven. I arrived at the studio early as usual, to give myself a chance to loosen up, stretch out my shoulders and get in a few rounds of dancing with Sparkledancer before we started working with anyone. Fifteen minutes prior to when our lesson with Lord Dormamu started, I saw him pull up along the curb in front of the studio in a pickup truck, with the back filled with tables. He began to try to unload them, while also trying to have a conversation on his phone and responding to all the people who would walk into or out of the Fancy Dance Hall and greet him.

He was… fairly unsuccessful. Lord Dormamu only managed to get one table into the building and one more down off the truck, then stopped inside the studio and waved Sparkledancer and I down. He wanted to apologize and say that the Fancy Dance Hall had been rented out that night for an event, and less than an hour ago the people who had rented out the hall had called him and told him that they were going to have a lot more guests than they had originally planned. Since the credit card for the studio’s expenses was in his name, Lord Dormamu had to go across town and pick up some extra tables and chairs to meet the extra demand for that night. He had thought that he would be done by the time our lesson was to take place, but obviously he was still unloading the tables, and still had to go back across town and pick up the chairs once he finished.

The reason he had been on the phone was to try to reschedule his other lessons from that morning, and now he was asking us if we could push things off until Sunday. We ended up taking the earliest slot he had available Sunday afternoon. He thanked us profusely, and headed back outside to start rolling in the second table he had unloaded from the truck. I felt bad after seeing how he had struggled to get the two tables out of the truck by himself, so I stepped outside and asked if he wanted any help unloading. After getting a vigorous acceptance of my offer, I changed into my street shoes and went out to help.

After Lord Dormamu and I got the next two tables down off the truck and rolled them inside, Sir Steven had finished teaching his lesson and came out to help as well. Sir Steven and I unloaded all the tables from the truck, and I leaned them up against a stone column near the curb so that Lord Dormamu could start rolling them inside. Once all the tables were on the ground, I found it easier (and faster) to just pick up the tables by the two wooden support beams that ran along the width of the underside of the table and carry them rather than rolling them. When I told Sir Steven as I passed him how much simpler carrying them was, he just laughed and told me that while it was easier for me, he didn’t think he could accomplish that.

The three of us managed to unload all the tables in about twenty minutes. Once done, Sir Steven and I headed back inside as Lord Dormamu headed off to pick up his next load of furniture. Sparkledancer was hanging out in front of one of the mirrors doing some kind of practice activity, so Sir Steven called her over to let both of us know that he didn’t have any lessons that hour when we would have otherwise been dancing with Lord Dormamu, so if Sparkledancer and I wanted to move up our lesson with him and get done earlier, he would be cool with that. I said that would be great, as long as they gave me just a few minutes to go wash all the table dirt off my hands. I didn’t want to get that all over Sparkledancer, after all. I’m nice like that. J

After a quick bit of scrubbing, I changed back into my dance shoes and was back out on the floor. The first thing that Sir Steven did as we got started was to ask Sparkledancer and me if we had any questions. I decided to ask about some of the things that the coach that we had met with the Tuesday before had told us. Sir Steven didn’t realize that we had met up with her that day. Apparently he didn’t really have a good impression of this lady – he had never worked with her personally, but had spoken to her on a few occasions while she was at the Fancy Dance Hall that week. There had been a couple of times when Lord Dormamu had been going over things with her in the office and Sir Steven needed to speak with Lord Dormamu about studio business things that required his input. From what Sir Steven tells me, the coach lady did not like the fact that he was interrupting her talks with Lord Dormamu for these paltry ‘business’ purposes.

After describing the major points that the coach brought up, Sir Steven was also confused, much like Lord Dormamu was, with the coach’s take on the starter step. He thought that coming out on a toe lead for that third step wasn’t right – he had never done it that way either. Sir Steven sided with Lord Dormamu and told me to just ignore that comment. The recommendation she gave for me to make a ‘W’ shape with my elbows when I got into frame was also thrown out. Sir Steven told me that until he or Lord Dormamu, or someone with more authority like the Princess or the King tells me otherwise, I should always make a straight line with my elbows and shoulders below my neck. Always, end of discussion. So, that comment of hers was also basically useless.

Based on all the stuff I’ve been told to ignore, I’m really starting to feel bad about agreeing to drop all of that money on that lesson with this lady. I don’t think I would do it again with her in the future if the opportunity presented itself. If I’m going to have to ignore half the things she tells me, and she isn’t going to charge half price for her time, is it a worthwhile experience? I’m leaning towards no…

As far as actual dancing goes, we spent time reviewing things in our Waltz routine, and then went over some things in our Quickstep routine. The big takeaways to remember from what we did in Quickstep were: the Natural Spin Turn is not under-turned, like in our Waltz routine. Because we did Quickstep after Waltz, this may have been throwing me off a bit, so I was coming out more toward backing diagonal center against line of dance, or even toward backing center, rather than backing diagonal center like I was supposed to. I was compensating for that when I would go into the Progressive Chasse that followed, but I shouldn’t be doing that. I just like making things harder on myself, apparently.

I was also told to stay down in the knees more than I was doing. Sir Steven said that while Quickstep is not totally like Foxtrot, I should aim to stay low like I would in a Foxtrot. Staying low also shouldn’t be because I am just bending my knees more, but because I am pushing from my standing leg enough with each step so that I have to lower as I reach farther. This will naturally make me travel more with each step, which may mean that I run out of room as I approach the far corner. I was given the option to throw out one or both of the Forward Locks that are in the routine if I run out of space. I guess that it’s not necessarily a bad problem to have, as long as it looks like everything is under control while I’m doing it.

Sunday rolls around. Sparkledancer and I had planned on arriving at the Fancy Dance Hall about an hour before our scheduled session with Lord Dormamu to both warm up before our lesson and get in our normal Sunday practice time. However, our plans were thrown for a loop when we found that the doors to the studio were still locked at that time of the afternoon. Being early afternoon, it was already quite warm outside, and we didn’t want to practice out in the heat and get all sweaty before our lesson, so we decided to wander over to a nearby restaurant, get some cold drinks, and sit at one of the tables out front where we could see the entrance to the studio to watch for someone who could unlock the door.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get in any practice time that day. Lord Dormamu was the first person to arrive with a key to the Fancy Dance Hall, and once he unlocked the door and we stepped inside we were all able to behold the mess that was left behind after the party the night before. The tables were still set out all over the place with only a small clear area in the center. The chairs were strewn about, with a set in the back that looked like someone had started to remove the chair covers and pile those on one of the tables, but quit halfway through. The floor had food and trash all over, and some of it looked like it was more than what a push broom could handle. The mess wasn’t quite as bad as when we had come in for a lesson after the random Salsa party that had trashed the dance hall, but it was still a mess.

Lord Dormamu and I started to pull the tables and chairs back against the wall to give us a good-sized area in the middle of the floor to dance. I was able to stretch out a little bit as Lord Dormamu gave the cleared-out section of the floor a once-over with a large push broom to sweep away the loose debris. All of us were walking around the floor at that point , and we each pointed out any sticky spots that we found so that everyone knew to avoid them when we started working. After about fifteen minutes we were set and ready to go. Lord Dormamu apologized for the state the place was in, saying that the unfortunate reality of any dance studio he’s ever been associated with is that the studio needs to rent itself out to keep the lights on year round, but it always means that the studio risks ending up in a state like this with each rental.

We started things off much like we did with Sir Steven by discussing our recent coaching session. Lord Dormamu knew the coach that we worked with much better than Sir Steven did, so he was able to explain her insights better. According to him, the lady that we had met with learned to dance overseas 70+ years ago, so much of what she sees as ‘right’ harkens back to that time of training. The comment she made about me making a ‘W’ with my elbows and using that for my frame is because that’s actually how men used to create their dance frame before people realized that you couldn’t get much of a connection with your partner like that. The same is true with her comments about me taking the toe lead when coming out of the starter step – what she learned was that every third step of a figure should be a toe lead, but our version of the starter step came later, and is essentially a prep step with some fancy stuff beforehand, so a heel lead is correct in that context.

The choreography option she gave us in the last corner is apparently also something that Lord Dormamu wouldn’t do. He understands why she thought it might be better, but by taking out the Natural Impetus, she is taking out one of the more challenging figures in the routine. He recommends keeping it in to really learn how to do a Natural Impetus correctly, because figures that come later in Silver and Gold will build on the technique needed to do a Natural Impetus correctly, and Lord Dormamu prefers setting us up for long-term success. The Natural Hesitation figure she offered as an option may be useful if the floorcraft of the situation calls for something of that nature, but he prefers to rotate the Natural Impetus more or less to come out at a different angle in order to get around people instead of hesitating to let them pass.

Unless I’m reading too much into things, based on that comment it sounds like Lord Dormamu trusts that he will be teaching us Silver and Gold at some point in the future. That’s promising.

We spent the rest of our time continuing to focus on our movement in the Foxtrot, because he thought that we still needed work on that aspect of the dance. According to him, when he is judging a competition, the way a couple looks when dancing is what gets them called back from a Semi-Final to a Final round, but the way that they move when dancing is what gets them to first place in a competition, so that is why he is spending so much time making sure we are moving correctly. A lot of his concern comes down to consistency – he can see us doing everything right, but there are points while dancing where we lose it temporarily. If he can get us to stop doing that, we will be great!

With so many people being out-of-town for the holiday, there was no Latin Technique class on Monday night, but there was still Standard Technique class on Wednesday, so that’s the only other thing I did this past week. Lord Junior wanted to have us work on some Tango. The studio was fairly quiet that night, as were the other businesses that are along the same stretch as the Electric Dance Hall. The other classes that usually go on over on the far side of the dance floor had relatively few attendees compared to what I usually see. Our class had a decent number of people show up, and the pattern we were doing traveled a fair distance if you did things correctly, so we might have been encroaching on the other class’ floor space just a little…

Lord Junior wanted to start off that night with a Progressive Link going into a Natural Twist Turn. He had us do a full turn on this one, so that we started and ended facing down the line of dance. I don’t think I’ve ever done a Natural Twist Turn that rotated that much before; the most I can think of that I’ve done is ¾ of a turn. At the end of the Natural Twist Turn we added on an Open Promenade and finished everything up with a Brush Tap. The Brush Tap is something I’d personally never seen before – it is a Silver-level step, but all it really does is have you take a side-step to the right and then bring your left foot in to meet your right quickly before putting it back out to the side. It’s a weird, fancy way to kill two beats of music to help put you back on phrase, Lord Junior told us. It’s not a step we would likely see (or use) all that often.

One big problem that Lord Junior kept running into when dancing with the ladies in class was that they were dancing through steps without actually being led to do them. This does happen a lot in group classes, but that night Lord Junior was pointing it out because the ladies kept taking steps before he did, and then they took really small steps, so they were essentially cutting his stride by doing so. At the end of class he made the ladies go through an exercise where they got into a two-hand hold with the guys and we walked the length of the floor. He told the guys to take every step and pause afterward, while varying our stride length. This was to force the ladies to really pay attention to what we were leading. I may have tried to throw a couple of ladies off by telling jokes while walking, but I do not regret that decision.

Let’s see… what do I have planned for this weekend? Holy cow, it’s almost the weekend already… mid-week holidays just mess everything up, don’t they? Well, what I know for sure is going to happen is another set of lessons, one with Sir Steven and one with Lord Dormamu. I’m sure I will be out practicing at some points too, but the time for those meetings varies from week to week. I think I heard that there is some kind of dance party going on at the City Dance Hall on Saturday night, so I might end up out there if I don’t get pulled away for something else. Do you want to come along as well? I’ll save you a dance if you do!

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