If It Looks Like This Then You’re Doing It Right

As I mentioned in my last post, last Thursday night I had to attend my first rehearsal for the upcoming showcase performance. This is a very different setup than any other showcase I’ve ever done. Because the show is designed as a continuous story, we had to actually walk through the show to make sure that everyone knew where there entrances and exits were going to be. Along with that, there was a stage manager on hand who was making notes on all the props that were needed for each scene, and how to get those items to the dancers before they had to have them.

This blocking rehearsal was… well, it was really chaotic. No one stepped forward to take charge and keep everyone on task, so oftentimes there were several different groups getting in each other’s way, and they were playing the soundtrack for the show really loudly, so you could barely hear the instructions and comments when the music was playing. I am slated to be in a couple of scenes in the first act, so I was hanging around in the back watching everything until I needed to be onstage. As I watched, I couldn’t really make out what was supposed to be going on in the scenes they were trying to put together… and that’s bad because I know the story that this production is based on!

Sparkledancer and I are entering the set during a scene where there is a party going on in the background behind the main cast. We’re supposed to act like party goers, being happy and excited, and then we were told to freeze for the rest of the main cast’s scene. At a point in the dialogue, the lead male makes a reference to me, and that’s the cue for Sparkledancer and I to start moving and make our way to our starting position. When our song starts, we dance. After we finish up, we exit toward stage right and the lights will shift back to the main cast.

We were then told the part that we will play in the next scene. This one has no dancing for me, just acting. Sparkledancer and I are supposed to act like there has been some kind of fight, and she yells at me (silently) and storms off the stage toward stage left. I am supposed to be sad and dejected, and sit myself down on a bench in the back of the set, next to the lead male. He and I share an understanding look, another dance number takes place in front of us, and then I exit through the curtains in the back when the lights go down enough for me to sneak off.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Those were all the notes that I took about what needed to happen. We were told before the walk-through started that we could step through our dances as the music played, but we weren’t really practicing, so we didn’t have to dance full-on that night. I didn’t even change out of my sneakers, so I faked a lot of the dance just to make sure I could hit the points on the floor I needed with the set props in place. The few times I tried to turn that night were not pretty, because my sneakers have rubber soles and they stuck to the wood floor pretty solidly.

As I found out later though, I should have done more than fake it that night, because unbeknownst to me, there was a big problem that the music editor had created that I didn’t find out about until Saturday morning…

I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer on Saturday to look at our showcase routine. We started of discussing the things that we were told during the blocking rehearsal, to make sure that everything was clear for all three of us. Everyone seemed to be on the same page as we started, so with all of those notes in mind, we got started dancing through the routine to look at everything critically and clean up anything that was out of sorts.

Because there were so many other people at the Fancy Dance Hall that day who were also preparing for the upcoming showcase, we didn’t get a chance to try anything out using the music the first half-dozen times that we danced through things. The routine went fairly well, all things considered – I had to fudge the angles a bit to avoid running into other people on the floor, but people were nice enough to get out of my way as soon as I picked Sparkledancer up off the ground and started moving.

We went through the lift at the end several times to make some adjustments to the final piece of it. Once I bring Sparkledancer down from over my head, I was supposed to get her to be in front of my chest and then curl her like a barbell. Sir Steven was trying to get her to keep her core more solid while I did that, because initially she was mostly relaxed and he thought it looked funny. This was really the only issue that he found with the ending, and as it turns out, it would be totally irrelevant by the end of our lesson.

Finally, with only a little time left before Sir Steven’s next lesson, we got a chance to try out our performance with the music. The main computer in the Fancy Dance Hall had a copy of the soundtrack that was cut together for the show, so Sir Steven picked through the music file until he found the beginning of our number. We practiced the entrance piece, hitting the cues for all our marks, and then got all the way to the end… and then the dialogue that was recorded in the soundtrack kicked in before we finished our lift and did the ending piece that was a huge part of the story!

Thinking there might have been a fluke, we tried it again, and got the same result. Sir Steven had told the person splicing the music together that we would be doing the lift at the end without following the timing of the music, but didn’t tell them how much time to give us to get through everything. After timing everything out based on the way the music is cut, our piece is roughly 1:35. When we practiced everything from the start of our dance until the ending that comes after the lift finishes, we were running right around 2:00. So now we had to eliminate twenty-five seconds of what we had practiced to make everything fit..

There were a couple of parts that Sir Steven told us to try to speed up, and he said to just get rid of the part of the lift where I curl Sparkledancer in front of my chest, but even without those pieces we are still over the amount of time we have in the soundtrack. To make matters worse, we had to stop there for the day since Sparkledancer and I had a coaching session with Lord Dormamu immediately following our lesson with Sir Steven. We all planned on meeting up on Wednesday evening to go over things and try to get the timing issue worked out before Thursday night’s dress rehearsal.

Sparkledancer and I got a few minutes to compare notes as Lord Dormamu finished up the lesson he was teaching before we dove into things. The first order of business that Lord Dormamu brought up was the coaching that we had gone through last Wednesday. The discussion that we had about everything that transpired was probably the most interesting and enlightening thing that I went through on Saturday.

I brought up several points that had been discussed with this coach that were either in direct conflict with things that Lord Dormamu had told me to be doing, or just seemed questionable based on what we were working on currently. Most of what we discussed related to the Tango, since that is what Sparkledancer and I are currently working on with Lord Dormamu. I told Lord Dormamu that we looked at Tango during the coaching session because we got through Waltz and Foxtrot rather quickly, and he was both surprised and pleased that the coach didn’t have much to say about our Foxtrot. I guess normally that style is one that coaches pick apart quite a bit, especially for dancers who are dancing syllabus routines.

The first thing that we discussed was the coach’s advice for Tango that Sparkledancer and I come up more in our frame rather than be so low to the ground that our knees get into each other’s way. I also told him about how the coach told me specifically that I should be leading my partner to rotate to Promenade Position with my hip in Tango, but if I were to get into frame the way Lord Dormamu wanted me to, there was really no way that my right hip could make contact with Sparkledancer at all.

Lord Dormamu’s answer to me was that this coach, like many others that I will end up meeting in my future dance journey, learned to dance (and became dance champions) a long time ago. The way that they learned to dance many figures is not the way that those figures are done any longer. When they judge dancers in Tango for instance, the way that Lord Dormamu is teaching me to do things is the way that will look the best to them and be scored the highest… but those same judges will not know how to teach someone to dance like that since they no longer compete, so they will just fall back to teaching things the way they learned to dance long ago.

And apparently this is normal and expected when any high level dancer works with one of these older judges. The coaching session that Lord Dormamu insisted that we take with this gentleman was mostly to get him to meet us and have some experience with how we dance. In the future, if this coach is judging a competition that Sparkledancer and I are competing in, he will likely remember more about how we danced during the coaching session that we had with him than he will about the few seconds that he sees of us on a competition floor, and his judging will reflect that. That is the real reason that Lord Dormamu wants us to work with some of these judges when they are available in our area.

Some of the advice that the coach gave us, like the concept of using my arms to lead while I dance, is apparently ideas that Lord Dormamu and I will work on in the future. They are concepts that are important, but not important for the level that I am currently competing in right now. Lord Dormamu’s plan, as I officially found out, is to keep Sparkledancer and I dancing in Bronze for another year as he finishes cleaning up all of our dances, and then start us on the track to move up the ranks.

If we have done everything correctly, according to him it shouldn’t take long for us to compete and win significant competitions in Silver and Gold, and he’ll get us to started working on Open-level routines before long. These advanced concepts that the coach mentioned, like leading with the arms and relaxing the position of my shoulders somewhat, will be incorporated into my dancing along the way. But not now, so I shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about them.

That was the first time that I had ever really heard Lord Dormamu verbalize my long-term dance plan. I guess he thinks that I am doing well enough to meet these objectives. Yay me!

Also on Saturday, I went out to what I think is going to be the only holiday dance party that I attend this year. Seeing as how my next weekend is dedicated to performing in a showcase, and the weekend after that I will have family holiday events to attend, there’s a good chance that the next dance party I go to will have to be New Year’s Eve. So I made time to go to this semi-formal affair being held at the Endless Dance Hall, which included dinner and some entertainment along with a chance to dance the night away.

The dinner was a buffet-style meal that they actually served in two different rooms. One room was opened up as soon as guests started arriving, and had a couple of tables full of appetizers that people could stop by and pick at. Then the second room opened and dinner was served. This meal seemed to mostly contain dishes that were made by the event organizers, which gave it a warm, personal feeling as opposed to a catered meal. As people were making their way through the line to get dinner, the first room that had the appetizers had a couple more tables full of desserts added to the mix, just in case you weren’t completely full from eating the other courses.

Once everyone had gotten something to eat and made their way to a table to sit down, the organizers brought out two dancers that are members of one of the local youth dance troupes to perform. I recognized the two of them, and also the routines that they were dancing, because they practice with their instructor at the Fancy Dance Hall on Saturdays during the time that I am normally there for my own lessons, so that was entertaining. They performed a Waltz number and a Cha-Cha, with a short break in between so that they could change costumes.

After the performances and dinner finished up, the DJ started to play music so that everyone else could dance. But more interesting than the dancing was getting a chance to see what all the attendees were wearing to the dance party. Several people who were at the table I was sitting at were pointing out various people on the dance floor, and it turned out to be a really fun game to see who had the best outfit on to show off their holiday spirit.

I think that the winner ended up being, hands down, the gentleman who wore a metallic silver outfit. Everything was metallic and silver, even his dance shoes! He looked kind of like he had just arrived from outer space! Personally I think that the runner-up was the gentleman who was wearing a tuxedo with a cumberbund and bow tie that were pastel orange in color. On a dance floor full of people sporting holiday colors, the pastel orange really stuck out and made him… unique. Close to that would have had to be the lady who was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and a string of battery-powered Christmas lights in her hair. C’est magnifique!

Wednesday night had more than usual going on for me this week. I for one am looking forward to being done with the showcase after this weekend, so that my weeks can get back to some degree of normality. Skipping my nightly workouts for all this extra dance practice is really throwing me for a loop!

Sir Steven had agreed to meet up with Sparkledancer and I at the Electric Dance Hall the hour before Standard Technique class to go over our showcase routine. We talked about how the music was cut so short for our performance, and what we could eliminate in order to give us enough time to cover the key elements before we had to get off stage for the next dancers. Unfortunately, everything that got changed involved the lift at the end, which is the only part of the whole routine that I actually felt excited about doing.

Now what we have is a lift that moves very quickly – almost recklessly – from start to finish. I roll her out, I hold until the end of the measure as she gets into place, and then I head over to her. Crouching down, Sparkledancer hops up to sit on my shoulder, I stand up and rotate myself to take position back toward the center of the stage a bit. Instead of rotating several times, I am now only rotating one and a quarter turns to save time. Once I am facing the audience, I reposition my hands to lift Sparkledancer up over my head, and then I immediately bring her down in front of me, and then I rotate back the way I came to roll her out for the finish.

All the other pieces that used to be in the lift, including the dramatic effect of doing the whole thing slowly in front of the audience, have been removed. There’s no time any more. We have just barely enough time now for Sparkledancer to walk away from me and then for us to do the final piece of acting to connect our dance to the larger story of the show before the dialogue kicks in and the lights will shift to the next set of performers.

The way that this show turned out… I don’t know if I really feel like it is worth the amount of money I paid to be a part of the show. I guess I was hoping for something… more. I still feel really disconnected from the whole performance, and it’s only a few days away! There’s a good chance that it would take a whole lot of convincing to get me to agree to do another one of these staged showcases in the future.

Once Sparkledancer and I finished up with Sir Steven, we ran over to the other side of the dance floor to join Lord Junior for Standard Technique class. The class felt nice and relaxed that night, which was nice since I have been feeling a bit frazzled lately trying to get everything else done as the holidays approach.

Lord Junior and one of his high-level students had met up with the same coach that Sparkledancer and I had taken that lessons from last week, so we started off class with him and I sharing some of the pointers that we had each talked about with the coach. One of the things that the coach had specifically pointed out about how Lord Junior dances was the positioning of his right arm. He and the coach had talked about how many people have trouble keeping that arm in the right position.

We worked on a figure in Foxtrot that allowed him and I to focus on keeping our arms in the right place. The figure was an Open-level figure called Three Fallaways. My footwork for the figure basically had me doing the first half of an Open Reverse Turn, but then had me do the lady’s part for the second half instead of my normal footwork. Once I crossed my right foot behind my left, I repeated the first part of my footwork again, and then ended the figure with a basic Feather Ending. Seems pretty simple, right?

Broken down like that, the figure is fairly simple and is something that could be lead, but it moved quickly and covered quite a bit of distance down the floor, so you have to be aware of what’s going on before you start. After practicing the figure alone with each lady in class several times, we added on a figure to lead into the Three Fallaways. Lord Junior had us start out with an Open Impetus and Feather Finish. Starting right on an Open Impetus is a bit tricky, but we managed to get through with minimal difficulty.

Dress rehearsal for the showcase was tonight, and the performances are this weekend. It will be nice to finally put this behind me and get back to my normal training for a while. I also have a coaching session with Lord Dormamu on Saturday, so my weekend already feels super busy. Are you going to come watch the show? I’ll try my best not to disappoint if you’re in the audience!

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