Most of what I did this week involved practice. I won’t bore you with practice stories, since they are boring, but it was something that I had to put in time for. After all, I am competing again next weekend, and this time around it looks like there will actually be other people on the floor with me. Hooray…?!? I mean, that does mean that whatever results that I get will be earned, but it also means that I will actually have to earn my results.
On top of that, so many people who I know seem super interested in knowing how well I do at this competition. That makes it feel like there is a lot more pressure to do well than there was when I used to just compete for fun years ago. I have a few people who have already asked me to send them a text message with my results as soon as I get them the day of the competition (Lord Dormamu and Sir Steven were the first two to ask for that, obviously), and others who will want to see or hear some sort of update from me before the day is out.
Here’s hoping that I will have good news for them come this Saturday…
Flashing back to last Saturday, my day started out meeting up with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu for coaching, and we spent our time continuing to work on the Tango. I’m actually starting to believe that Tango could improve from being my worst dance to actually being passable on a competitive stage. Granted, there is still a lot of work to do, but I’m starting to feel hopeful.
There were a couple of interesting points that Lord Dormamu told me about while we worked on Tango that morning. First of all, the issue of our frame never came up during our lesson. I specifically asked him about how it looked as we were finishing up our paperwork when we were all done, and he said that it had looked good the whole time, so he hadn’t needed to comment on the frame at all. Yay! I guess the strange comparison to an accordion actually works for me, because that’s all I was thinking about whenever I got into frame.
One thing that we did spend a bit of time discussing was moving in Promenade Position. Lord Dormamu wanted us to drive into Promenade Position much more like an attack than what we had been doing. During the Progressive Link, he made sure that Sparkledancer was coming around me more so that she was offset from me, with our front legs bent inward so that our knees were almost touching. As we compressed into the back leg to begin the drive forward, he wanted our front knees to open out, turning the foot at the same time so that we could power forward.
I stopped to ask about that foot turn. Up until this point, I had heard the official description of the footwork as being a “side-step in Promenade Position” and was taught to take the step with the foot slightly turned inward. He told me that I should never drive forward with my feet like that. According to Lord Dormamu, I can only create real power while moving if I am moving my legs forward or backward, and my toes should always point in the direction (or backing the direction) that my leg is moving. If I am trying to move to the side, I cannot create true power.
Side steps are fine if you are doing something like a box step in Waltz, since the initial step is either forward or backward and then the side step carries through on the momentum. If I want power on my initial step in Promenade Position, I have to rotate my hips and feet to drive myself forward.. The body remains turned toward my partner, so it gives the illusion that I am moving sideways, but my feet are not.
I had never thought about it like that before… once again, this shows why he was a world champion. He knows all the things!
The next big thing we looked at was the Promenade Pivot. Lord Dormamu thought that we looked like we were working way too hard to get around in our pivoting action. He had us go back and step through the figure slowly, and told me to make sure to come around Sparkledancer a lot on my third step. Once again, I had to stop here and ask questions. Several weeks before when Sparkledancer and I had that coaching session with the Princess and she looked at our Tango, she specifically told me to take my first three steps of the figure in a straight line, so that’s what I had been doing since that night.
Lord Dormamu stopped to think about that for a moment, and then told me he wasn’t sure what her train of thought was when she told me that. If I didn’t rotate my third step around Sparkledancer, then I was putting the onus of the turn completely on her. She has to put a lot more force into rotating me than I have to put into rotating her, which is likely why it looks like the pivot is out of control. When I come around, it simplifies everything, and we can pivot under control and stop easily facing the right angle, so I should always be doing it like that.
There was one other big overarching comment that Lord Dormamu made, having to do with rainbows. Apparently on some of the figures it appears as though I am ‘arcing’ over from one leg to another, like a rainbow. He referred to the action as “body flight” and told me that I shouldn’t have that while dancing Tango. In Waltz or Foxtrot, there should be controlled body flight created by the rise and fall of the figures, but Tango does not have that feature. He told me to work on keeping my shoulder line level as much as possible to eliminate the rainbows from here on out.
Once we finished up our lesson with Lord Dormamu, Sparkledancer and I had a bit of a break before our early afternoon lesson with Sir Steven. When we got together, the three of us continued to work on our showcase routine. Sir Steven didn’t give us the completed choreography that day like I thought he would, so I still don’t have that to work on. But we did put together two large chunks of the routine, and I know where on the ‘stage’ that those pieces should execute, so I can at least put those pieces into context now, which is more than I was able to do before.
The one major thing that I had Sir Steven look at for me was the lift that Sparkledancer and I had been working out on our own. Up until that point, while we were working out how to do all the pieces of the lift she and I had been practicing at either her house or my house with some sort of cushioned platform on the floor nearby, in case something went terribly wrong and dropping her was the only way to get out of the lift safely. That really only happened once, when she did something unexpected and her left arm got stuck under my right arm, and I had to drop her because if I had tried to pull her into the proper hold I would have likely dislocated her shoulder.
While I felt safer learning the initial points of the lift with that cushion nearby, the side effect is that I don’t have a mirror in front of me where I can see what is going on. This makes it difficult for me to see what is going wrong when things aren’t working the way that I would like. That’s why I wanted to go through the lift a couple of times with Sir Steven watching that afternoon, so that he could walk around me during a part that I was unsure about and tell me how things looked.
Doing it at the studio that day also allowed me to have a mirror in front of me, so I could see from one side and Sir Steven could see the other side at the same time. Amazing! Unfortunately, the downside of practicing a move like that at a busy dance studio is that lots of people will stop everything that they are doing to gawk when they see me basically shoulder press a human being over my head.
Lord Latin was giving a lesson to one of his female students, and they both stopped what they were doing the first couple of times I did this to openly stare at me. There were some kids that were waiting for a children’s group class to start that were pretty amazed as well. I’m not going to lie – from what I could see in the mirror, it looks pretty cool for me to be holding Sparkledancer up like that. I’d probably have stopped what I was doing to watch as well, had I not been the one doing it…
I think we figured out a way to possibly help with the issue I was having, but it is going to involve Sparkledancer bending herself like a snake as she curls around from laying across my shoulders to ending up in my arms in front of my chest. Spinning around should help her get there, since the momentum of the rotation should help her curl around from back to front. So far, most of our practice of this lift has been done without moving around too much. The end result should be that I am rotating counter-clockwise during most of the lift, but we’re not there quite yet.
Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to really work on this movement again until after the competition this weekend is over, since I feel like my practice time this week was better spent trying to nail down my Tango so that I can do well this weekend. Oh well…
For a change of pace in Latin Technique class this week, Lord Junior wanted to do something simple in Rumba, but have us all focus on our arm motions. Yay… since all the competition stuff I do now is in a never-broken dance frame, arm motions are not something I spend a lot of time working on, so this class just felt awkward to me. Maybe this is a sign that I need to start doing more dances that involve my arms?
Does this mean that I’ll have to look into picking up American Smooth competitively once more?
Anyway… most of the class time was spent with Lord Junior talking with the ladies about what to do with their arms. That is to be expected, since there was only one of me and a lot more ladies to worry about. His comment to me was to move my arms while I moved my body, and make it look masculine while I did so. That was the extent of my instruction on arms that night.
Because the focus was on the arm motions, there were only a few figures strung together for this class. The figures that the ladies were given allowed them to do some variations with their arms for further practice. We started out with the ladies already out in Fan Position, having them close and going right into a Hockey Stick. This involved just normal inward and outward motions with the free arm as you walked. At the end of the Hockey Stick, the guys would check forward while rotating the lady’s wrist slightly to have her go into that Switchback figure that Lord Junior likes, turning to face away from us and putting their left arm up over their head and their left leg pointed backward.
Coming out of that was another quick rotation and then a few steps backward in the direction we had come from. The ladies were given some sort of fancy over-the-head movement to bring their arm down as they rotated. We ended things at that, allowing us to go back and practice everything quite a bit, and also allowing Lord Junior to make fun of me for how awkward my arm movements were.
I didn’t do as bad as Bony did though. The first few times we went into the Hockey Stick and she was moving her arm while walking, it looked like she was trying to backhand someone. That certainly caught Lord Junior’s attention, and he had to make a point to tell all the ladies that wasn’t really a good arm motion for a Rumba. That became a running joke for the rest of the class that night – do something wrong, and you’d get backhanded by Bony’s ‘arm motions.’
For Wednesday night’s Standard Technique class, Sparkledancer somehow managed to convince everyone else in attendance that we should work on Tango for the evening, so that she and I could get what would essentially be monitored practice in while we were there. I was all for it, since practice is really the only way I’m going to get any better with the Tango!
Lord Junior knows that Sparkledancer and I are going to compete this weekend, so he wanted to have a few figures that were basic steps we could use to practice, and also some Open-level challenging steps to push us a bit. According to him, all of these figures are things that are leadable in a social setting, assuming the lady I am dancing with has a basic understanding of International Tango. Sometimes I question when he makes claims like that… the Natural Pivots we did that night, for instance, just seem dangerous to try with a random partner.
We started the pattern off facing diagonal wall and doing two basic Tango Curved Walks, and went right into an Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside. To mess with the timing a bit, in the middle of the Open Reverse Turn Lord Junior had us add in two extra quick steps backwards before completing the figure. I’ll admit, half the time I did the figure that night, I totally forgot to put in those two extra steps!
Coming out of that, we went into a Progressive Link and then added in what I thought was the most challenging figure of the evening: the Fallaway Whisk from Promenade Position. When I first saw Lord Junior doing the step, for some reason I thought he was rotating as he crossed his foot behind, so I ended up doing the step just like a Twist Turn a few times before I managed to figure out what was going on. We did two of these right in a row, which we ended up putting into a corner of the room based on how much rotation was created before we came out.
I was told that, with practice, I could have made them travel more down the line of dance, but trying to get them to turn that much on my first night was not going to happen. Since we had now shifted to travel down a different wall, Lord Junior decided to keep up the rotation that we had started and add in three Natural Pivots that continued down that wall. As we came out of the third one, we had to immediately stop our rotation and bring our feet together, facing either wall or diagonal wall. Right at the end, we added on another Progressive Link to possibly go into something more, but by then we had run out of time in class.
So it’s on to the competition this weekend. Hooray! Once more, I will be journeying to the Dance Death Arena to test myself against other worthy adversaries. How will I do this time? That’s the big question that everyone seems excited to find out. Tune in next week and I’ll let you know how things went!