Do you ever feel like sometimes, even when you are not doing anything out of the ordinary, your schedule is still overly full? I’ve had that feeling all week, even though I haven’t been doing anything crazy. I get up at the same time every morning, but this past week I have felt like I don’t have enough time to get everything done before I have to leave the house. I leave the office at the same time every day, but all this week I’ve felt super rushed to try to get home and accomplish basic life things before I have to leave the house again. Hopefully this weekend I will have a chance to spend an hour or two to just unwind a bit. Right now, sitting on the floor and staring at a wall for a while sounds like a lot of fun.
Also, I really need a haircut. I know! Maybe if I go out for a haircut, I’ll find out that there are a lot of people signed up to get their hair cut in front of me. Then I could just sit quietly in the waiting room for a while. That sounds like a pretty good deal to me. I would even hazard to count that as multitasking.
I am so smart sometimes.
This past Saturday I had another two lessons scheduled, first one with Sir Steven and then one with Lord Dormamu. With Sir Steven, we picked up where we left off the week before looking at Tango. After dancing through the routine once, Sir Steven seemed pleased enough with how the section that we had looked at last week looked, so we moved on to look at the figures from a different section. This time around, Sir Steven wanted to look at the figures in the corner connecting the first long wall and the first short wall.
Starting with the Promenade Pivot, he wanted us to make sure that we did a couple of things differently. First off, once the pivot comes around and we are back to Promenade Position facing diagonal center, he wants us to be sure and stop completely. No pivoting and then floating through until the momentum dies on the turn, but a distinct stop once we are facing the right direction. Next, Sparkledancer was told to really throw herself around me as we pivot. I obviously have to be sure to keep her in place and stop her, but in order to make the transition from the Promenade to the Pivot and then back to Promenade again look good, it has to move with power. Finally, as we close the Promenade that exits the pivot, he wants to have us close with me facing more toward diagonal wall instead of facing wall like I am doing now.
This set us up to look at the next Progressive Link that goes into a Promenade with Right Lunge in the corner. Here, instead of lunging out far, he wanted me to bring my legs slightly closer together as I step into the lunge, and then once I have landed solidly on both feet I will drive my right hip toward Sparkledancer. Pushing forward in this way will allow me to be more grounded between my feet, and allow Sparkledancer to work on extending herself away from me even more. This should have the effect of making the lunge appear more voluminous without me having to make it bigger by widening the space between my feet.
We finished off that afternoon by looking at Viennese Waltz. We didn’t actually do much dancing in Viennese Waltz – instead, Sir Steven wanted to look at how we started out Viennese Waltz routine. Rather than get into dance frame like we do for every other dance style and then do some sort of starter step before dancing, Sir Steven wanted us to start doing this funny three measure sequence to get into frame before our first Natural Turn. This is a sequence I will have to try my best to remember. I prefer to start dancing Viennese Waltz with a Reverse Turn if left to my own devices, so anything that leads me into a Natural Turn to start just feels wrong in my opinion.
The pattern starts with me taking a step forward on my right leg for a three-count, with my left leg pointed to the side, extending my left hand. Sparkledancer will then step forward on her left leg for another three-count, with her right leg pointed to the side and taking my extended hand with her right. On the next count of three we both take a step to the side with a bit of a flourish, and on the next three-count I do a small bow while Sparkledancer does a courtesy. The next three count has us coming up and taking a step toward each other to get closer and start to take frame, and the final three-count has us in dance frame, taking a step to my left/her right and winding up a bit so that we can start the next measure of music with a Natural Turn.
OK, so writing it down like that makes it seem less funny and more straightforward. Now all I need to do is remember to do this sequence anytime I want to start a Viennese Waltz, and I will be good. We’ll have to see how that goes for me…
Sparkledancer and I got about an hour break between lessons that afternoon and then we got into things with Lord Dormamu to work on Foxtrot again. He put on some music for us and then had us dance through the entirety of our routine so that he could see how our practice was coming along. After the first runthrough, he turned the music down and came over to where we had ended up on the floor to talk about what it is that he saw during our first try. Nothing was overly terrible that time he said, and our movement is looking much better overall. Because his work with us on Foxtrot has really been to focus on the movement of the dance, that was good to hear!
After giving us his overall impression, he wanted to go over the routine with each of us individually. I got to go first, so he had me get into position, took my elbows, and then had me lead him through the figures up until we finished the first Three Step. As we were heading back, he told me that he could really tell when he danced with me that my consistency of movement was much better – overall, I had smoothed everything out so that the dance was flowing continuously, without any of the stuttering, choppy feeling that I had back when we had started working on Foxtrot. Hearing that gave me a definite sense of accomplishment. Yay me!
There were a couple of points he still wasn’t completely enthused about, because they gave the illusion that the movement wasn’t completely smooth even if it felt that way when he danced with me. The transition from the end of the Reverse Turn with Feather Finish into the Three Step was the big one he wanted to start with. Watching from the outside, he said it looked to him like I was coming up quite a bit at the end of the Feather Finish and then trying to lower back into the Three Step abruptly, making the first step of the Three Step appear to bounce. He told me that to learn what I should be doing, he wanted me to practice staying low in my knees during the Feather Finish and then try to lower even more going into the Three Step.
He pointed out before I gave it a try that dancing this way would make me look like I was stuttering during the transition between the two figures, but the stutter that I would be intentionally introducing this time around would bounce the opposite direction – falling instead of rising. If I could practice the exercise enough to help me get used to canceling out the rise I was unintentionally putting into the Feather Finish, I would hopefully cure my problem and then I would be golden.
I tried it out once on my own, and afterward he just stared at me and told me that doing it like that actually made it look exactly like how he wanted – smooth and even the whole time while I was traveling. He had me try doing it again just to verify that what I did the first time wasn’t a fluke, and sure enough he saw the same results. I then had to try it once with Sparkledancer just to make sure that she was comfortable with the change and everything still looked right with her in the mix. So, since that seemed to fix everything, from now on that is how I am supposed to think about moving through that section. Weird.
We also looked at the Reverse Turn in the corner for a few minutes. At first he wanted to make sure that when we did the check in the corner where I am supposed to rotate my head to look over Sparkledancer that we weren’t ‘breaking’ our sides as we did the necessary shaping. Then he got on my case to make sure that I was moving through the step using my standing leg to drive, but that I wasn’t rotating my body with such force that it would throw Sparkledancer off balance during the turn. I am so much heavier than Sparkledancer that if I put any sort of power into rotating my body, she just kind of goes along for the ride whether she is supposed to or not.
His exact words to me were: “Drive with power, but softly. Like a gentleman.” That right there is a quote to remember for life.
Before finishing that day, Lord Dormamu wanted to spend time going through the figures on the short wall, since we usually only spend time working on the long wall. The only point that he really had a problem with was the Natural Closed Impetus with Feather Finish. He thought that the footwork we much better, but from where he had watched us go through it the first time it looked like my head was bending toward the right when I went through the figure. I didn’t think I had moved my head at all, since I had spent so long working on fixing that issue, so I was disappointed to hear that he thought I had done that.
When we danced through the figure again and I made sure that I didn’t move my head at all, he told me that it still looked wrong. I told him that I was focusing specifically on keeping my head in the same place this time through, so I knew that it didn’t move that time. He had us dance the figure again, but this time he moved to watch what I was doing from a different angle. From that vantage point, he could see that my head wasn’t moving at all, but it still looked wrong, so that meant that I needed to change things in my body to fix the problem.
So for the time being he told me that when I take my step backward to go into the Natural Closed Impetus, I need to make a point of leaning my upper body to the left as I go through the figure. If I keep my head where it should be and lean my upper body to the left, that will make it look like my head is leaning to the left if you are watching me from the outside. At this time, I was told to make the lean pretty extreme to really get the feeling into memory, but next time I see Lord Dormamu he will evaluate how I am doing and (assuming things are better) I will start to ease back on the leaning a bit. So we’ll see how that goes this week!
Monday night’s Latin Technique class was a rough night for me. Based on how things have been arranged on my calendar, it just so happens that this week and last week, and for at least the next couple of weeks as well, my normal leg workouts will end up on Monday. So after I finish up pushing myself to lift heavy weights with my legs for about an hour, then I only take a short break before heading off again to do some heavy Latin dancing for another hour. This is not the most pleasant thing to do on a Monday night, especially this past Monday night when we worked on Samba.
This class on Samba wasn’t about going over some progression of higher-level figures to help us improve, or working on a section from one of his students’ routines either. This week we worked on drilling in the technique for a basic Samba movement that everyone knows and loves: the Volta. Apparently Lord Junior often sees people doing Voltas wrong, so he wanted to make all of us shining examples of how to do them right. We mixed in all kinds of Volta movements for practice that night – some that traveled straight, some that curved, some that rotated, some that were continuous, some that paused, etc. etc.. At the end of class we also worked on doing some with a partner, and since we had twice as many women as men that night I got to do twice as many steps as the ladies. By the time I climbed into my car to head home, my legs were just worn out.
We started with a progression of simple Voltas that used the basic timing that most everyone will recognize. There were four of the original recipe Voltas that moved in a straight line, then four more that curved a total of 90° by the time you finished the fourth, and finally four Spot Voltas to finish things up. We were told to shoot for turning at least 180° for each Spot Volta, but Lord Junior encouraged us to turn more if we could do more. We did this pattern several times going to both the left and the right, ensuring we could do all of these different Volta movements starting from both feet.
The second pattern of Voltas we did all traveled in a straight line. This time we focused on variations in the timing of the figure. We once again started off with four normal Voltas using the basic timing. Next up we did two Voltas where the first two steps used the basic timing but then we held ourselves in place for the remainder of the measure of music, making these Voltas super slow moving. Lastly we did these four step pseudo-Voltas that moved very quickly and had a lot of rotation in the body. If you are traveling to the left, you would take a step and then cross your right foot behind the left, rotating your body to face diagonal wall against the line of dance, and then step out of that on the left foot and finish by crossing your right foot in front in a Cuban Cross, with your body now facing diagonal wall. We did four sets of these, covering another two measures of music.
At the end of class Lord Junior had us do some practice dancing together with a partner. We kept going with the final pattern of Volta movements that had the differing timings, but added on beforehand to give us a nice transition into the pattern. The whole thing started out with the lady standing in front of the guy, with our left hand taking her right hand and our right leg back while her left leg was forward. We then went into three Promenade and Counter Promenade Runs, the first one having the lady come around the guy. At the end of the third run, rather than hold the final step for a moment the guys would slide their hand down from the lady’s shoulder to grasp her forearm and we would go right into a Volta, using that to transition into the pattern of Volta movements discussed previously.
Finally this week, last night was Standard Technique class, and I got to work on Tango again (deja vu?). I kind of co-opted the class to try to get more practice in on something that I have been working on as soon as Tango was brought up. All of us who had shown up for class that night had congregated in one corner while Lord Junior was finishing up the paperwork for the private lesson he just finished teaching. When he came to join us in the corner and asked us what we wanted to work on that night, Sparkledancer said that it had been a while since we had done Tango in class. I didn’t think it had been all that long, but then I remembered that Sparkledancer wasn’t in class three weeks ago when we last covered Tango, and then it made sense.
When Lord Junior asked if there was anything specific in Tango that anyone wanted to work on, no one else brought anything up, so I asked if we could work on making sure our Tango actually looked like Tango. He looked at me quizzically for a moment, so I explained that a complaint that I had gotten last week from Sir Steven was that my Tango moved a lot like a Foxtrot, so I had been trying to make the two dance styles more distinct. He laughed at my confession, but agreed to putting some Tango figures together that could help me out.
We started with a simple Progressive Link, because Lord Junior said that there aren’t many other steps in the syllabus that really embody International Tango quite so well. We worked on making our Progressive Link sharp and precise for a while, using a basic Closed Promenade afterward to end a little more naturally. Satisfied with how we looked, Lord Junior had us add on a Back Corte to the progression. We rotated the last three steps of the Back Corte enough so that we could move around a corner from where we started. Now facing diagonal center on our imaginary new wall, we added on the first half of an Open Reverse Turn with Lady In Line. This is the less common variation of the Open Reverse Turn – most of the time you will see people doing the Pre-Bronze version that has the lady in outside partner. In the middle of the Open Reverse Turn we put in a set of Left Foot and Right Foot Rocks just for fun, and closed with the second half of the Open Reverse Turn.
We spent the majority of the class practicing that full progression. The figures themselves were fairly basic, so to end class Lord Junior wanted to give us all something a bit more challenging to close out the night. We looked at an Open-level choreography figure that he called the Promenade Step Taps. This is a figure that I’ve seen before a couple of times that travels pretty quickly down the floor. In Promenade Position, after taking the first slow step with your outside leg, you then take a quick step onto the other foot and then bring your outside leg up and rotate it so that you can tap the point of your shoe onto the floor for half a quick, before bringing the foot back down and repeating the process. For our practice we did two taps before we closed the Promenade by squaring up with our partner.
My night magically cleared up. I had a lesson planned for tonight, but then it had to be rescheduled. I had everything all ready to go with this so that I could post it quick when I got home but now… I feel like I should go back and rewrite sections of it, but I don’t think I’m going to. Maybe I’ll go back and edit it later, but probably not.
There’s a wall calling to me. Time to get some staring in before bed. 🙂