It’s been a quiet week here in the Dance Kingdom. Lots of people were off somewhere visiting family to celebrate the Christmas three-day weekend, so not much was going on. I opted to forego trying to find any dance parties to attend this past weekend, and instead spend some quality time on the couch with my cat, taking care of some things for work. I am just a bundle of raw excitement when I’m not out dancing, aren’t I?
But that doesn’t mean that there was no dancing in my life this past week. I did go out and do three notable things, which is more dancing than a lot of people do during a normal week. It seems like so little when compared to how the last several weeks/months have gone for me, though. I am pretty easily talked into going out on dance adventures of one kind or another.
That’s probably why I am one of the few people left who was an original member of the Ballroom Village that still spends time writing about ballroom dancing. If you go through the list I have linked at the top, you’ll see that many of those other sites are no longer updated. Have you noticed that too? Sometimes I wonder if that means the writers of those sites have all given up on dancing, and that makes me kind of sad…
Anyway, I have a few notes I took this weekend about things that I need to remember, so here they are. Maybe something I was told will be helpful for you too!
I started off early on Saturday morning having a lesson with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. Now that the performance of the showcase is finally behind all of us, we spent a few minutes talking about some plans for the next few months. Sir Steven mentioned a couple of competitions that he knew about which are coming up in the first part of the year that he feels would be worth consideration. The first was a studio competition at the Fancy Dance Hall in February, which Sparkledancer and I had also danced in last February.
The nice thing about that competition is that the judges actually give you notes about each heat you dance in, not just a score. That was really helpful for me last time, so I’ll probably do it again. If I remember correctly, the International Standard portion of the competition was all completed before lunch, so I could finish up competing and still have plenty of time to go out on a hot date on Valentine’s Day weekend if I wanted to. Hooray!
Another competition that Sir Steven suggested was actually one of those big-deal, National-level competitions. Sparkledancer and I qualified for that event by doing so well at a competition a few months ago, and Sir Steven thought it might be an interesting experience for us if we wanted to sign up and give it a try. The event is in March or April I think (I was only sort of paying attention when he mentioned the date).
This one I told Sir Steven I was feeling a bit more hesitant about. Right now, I’ve only got a handful of competitions under my belt from this past year that I actually scored well in. I’m not sure that translates to me doing any good when competing on a National-level. I told him that my personal opinion was that I would think about it as we get closer, depending on how well I feel we have progressed in our training between now and then, but if I had to sign up for the event that day I would decline.
Sparkledancer said that she would only want to do the event if I were going to dance with her. She obviously has the option to compete Pro/Am without me, dancing with either Sir Steven or Lord Dormamu, but that would make the event super expensive for her. So I guess the pressure is all on me to see if I feel ready in a few months!
To focus on getting ready, we talked about what we wanted to work on now. Sparkledancer told Sir Steven that we were currently working with Lord Dormamu to make our Tango look like Tango, so we shouldn’t spend time on that since we would be meeting with him later in the afternoon. The one dance style that we haven’t really spent much time working on with anyone during this past year was Quickstep, so that was what she suggested we go over for the next couple of weeks. I agreed with that idea, so the decision was unanimous.
There were a couple of important points that we hit on that needed work after running through the routine a couple of times. The first was that Sir Steven wanted us to make sure that the angles that our Progressive Chasses traveled were correct, were chosen by the direction of the first step, and then stayed at that angle the whole way through. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?
Apparently there were a few times where Sir Steven saw whomever it was moving backward, whether it was Sparkledancer or myself, move out of the way to open up space for our partner with the first step, and that caused the Progressive Chasse to curve slightly when we did so. Whoops!
The next point was about the rise and fall that we were doing. I guess there were a few spots where it looked like we were rising quite a bit, more like what we should be doing in a Waltz. According to Sir Steven, we should think of Quickstep more like Tango in this regard, and try to keep the level of our head the same as much as possible. There will definitely be foot rise for some figures, but the amount that we do shouldn’t have us coming up and down like a Waltz. He especially wanted us to stay low during the walking steps in between our Progressive Chasses.
To go along with the talk about the rise and fall, Sir Steven also wanted to mention something that would be a point to think about in all of our dances, and not just Quickstep. Sir Steven says that sometimes it looked like neither Sparkledancer nor I is fully extending our legs from the knee down. He wanted us to make sure that we were getting a full extension whenever possible with each step that we took.
I stopped to ask about that for a few minutes. Because of all of the work that Sparkledancer and I did with Lord Dormamu working on the way that we move while dancing, when I dance with Sparkledancer I am able to cover a lot of ground without putting in a ton of effort. Using our Quickstep routine, we would start in the front corner right up against the edge of the tables, and by the time we got to the second corner we would be close to running into the back wall of the building. And that’s even after I cut out one of the two Forward Locks that are in the routine!
I was worried that pushing to extend my legs even farther would run me right off the floor at any competitive venue that we dance at. The floor of the Fancy Dance Hall is already longer than the floors used at all the competitions I’ve been at this past year, so if I am able to run out of space there, I would definitely have problems during a competition. I understood the need to straighten my legs, but I told him that the only way I could probably do that would be to stand up taller while I danced, so my legs covered less distance when I extend them.
Sir Steven told me not to worry too much about running myself off the floor. He said, and I quote, “that is a problem many of our other competitors wish they had.” He reminded me that years ago, when I was first working on ballroom dances, he was constantly trying to get me to take bigger steps, because that’s a hard thing to teach new students to do. Having to go back and reign in how much I travel on a smaller floor won’t be as hard as I was making it out to be, he told me.
The last thing that we talked about for the Quickstep was the Natural Spin Turn we have at the beginning of the routine. I guess there are times that it looked like I was really forcing the figure to rotate all the way around so that I ended up backing diagonal center. Sir Steven couldn’t tell me if the problem was that my first pivot wasn’t turning enough, or if Sparkledancer wasn’t coming around enough to turn me all the way, but he said that likely the issue was a combination of the two factors, so we should spend some time practicing to make sure we work it out.
As I mentioned earlier, Sparkledancer and I had also scheduled some time to work with Lord Dormamu last Saturday. He was out doing some coaching sessions for students at the Endless Dance Hall that day, so I had to do a bit of traveling to take this lesson. As you can imagine, we continued to work on our Tango, since we are nowhere near being done making that dance style look the way that he wants it to.
So what words of wisdom were Sparkledancer and I given this week to help improve our Tango? There were a couple of main figures that we looked at. The first one being the Right-Side Lunge that happens in the first corner. Looking at this figure was actually a request from Sparkledancer, since we had been reviewing the figure in practice previously and she kept saying that something about the figure didn’t feel right to her.
She and Lord Dormamu managed to fix the figure (I think they changed something about her shaping, but I’m not sure exactly what it was). He also told her that it was time for her to start doing a double head flick when she got into the lunge. I am looking over her head when we get into that position, so it is important for me to keep myself straight and not lean over, otherwise I am going to end up getting my chin smacked by her flicking head.
Lord Dormamu’s overall impression of how our Tango was going that afternoon was that we needed to stay lower during the whole dance. As he put it, we always start out just fine, especially if we get into frame and then he spends a minute yanking us around to make sure our position is perfect, but we tend to drift upward as we travel. We didn’t spend a lot of time looking at any specific parts for this, it was just a note on something to practice on our own time.
Most of our time that day was spent looking at the figures that are connected to an Open Promenade. There are three main ones that we have: the Open Promenade that goes into an Open Reverse Turn, the Open Promenade that goes into a Natural Pivot, and the aforementioned Open Promenade into the Right-Side Lunge. We spent so much time on these figures because Lord Dormamu saw that Sparkledancer and I would lose body contact and ‘gap’ slightly while dancing through the figures, and he couldn’t figure out why.
The first transition that we would do, from an Open Promenade into the Open Reverse Turn, was good. We could get through that without coming apart in any way. It’s likely we can do this because that transition is one we practice more than any of the others. The next transition we looked at from the Open Promenade into the Natural Pivot, Sparkledancer and I would definitely break apart. Each of us could dance through the figures with Lord Dormamu and not lose body contact, but then when the two of us would dance together it wouldn’t be right.
What we eventually decided on to fix the issue was that Sparkledancer needed to come around more on the Progressive Link to be behind me further than she had been. That day, Sparkledancer was wearing a t-shirt that had a character eating cookies on it, and Lord Dormamu told us that when she shifts to Promenade in the Progressive Link she would need to line up so that my right thigh was between two of the cookies on her shirt.
This became somewhat of a joke for the rest of the lesson, with Lord Dormamu showing Sparkledancer how to align herself with someone ‘between her cookies.’ Obviously the joke was a bit childish, and with Lord Dormamu saying it in his accent it sounded downright ridiculous, but I don’t think that either of us will forget this particular takeaway because of that joke. See how useful comedy can be while dancing? If it can help me improve, imagine what comedy can do for you!
Finally, yesterday night I went out to Standard Technique class. The class ended up being really small, with so many people being out of town for the holidays. There were just two of us in fact: me and Prez. Lord Junior and Prez decided to look over some Quickstep during class while I was getting my dance shoes on, so that’s what we did.
The pattern that Lord Junior gave us that night wasn’t super long, though it could cover quite a bit of the dance floor. We started with a basic Quarter Turn to the Left, then went into a Four Quick Run. Coming out of that we did a Natural Turn into a Natural Spin Turn, and finally added on a V6. When we got comfortable with the V6, Lord Junior gave us an advanced variation of the V6 that ends with a Six Quick Run.
This whole amalgamation is perfectly leadable, assuming that your dance partner is familiar with Quickstep. In order to make it through everything properly and communicate the steps to your partner, you really need to focus on getting the rise and fall correct for each figure. Both of the Quick Run figures are fast and require you to be up on the balls of your feet the whole time, and Lord Junior recommended that as you went through them and did the Lock Step that you lower yourself ever so slightly beforehand and then rise up again to signal to your partner that the Lock Step is happening. That is not a requirement, but a recommended courtesy.
My problem during class was with the Four Quick Run. For some reason I kept either forgetting that it was there, or getting the footwork wrong when I tried to go into it. I’m not even sure why. I must have walked through the figure dozens of times while Lord Junior was working with Prez, but then when I tried to dance it with her (especially with the music playing) I would mess it up. Since it was the second figure in the pattern, I would just stop, walk back to the beginning in shame, and then start over.
The funny thing was that as soon as I finished the Four Quick Run and went into the more difficult steps like the V6 and the Six Quick Run, I had no issues at all. Those went perfectly fine all night long. It was just that Four Quick Run that was giving me problems that night for some unknown reason! The only other comment that I was given was that Lord Junior wanted to see me hold the rotation in my body more through the figures. A lot of the pattern needed to be done with the lady in Outside Partner, and he warned me that if I unintentionally squared up too much I would risk bringing my partner back into normal dance frame.
Look at that! We’ve reached the end of the year! How are you planning on finishing up 2017? I’m going to be out at a dance party again this year, obviously. I’m not entirely sure what to expect for this years big finish. A lot of the dance studios in the area are holding New Year’s Eve parties, so it will be interesting to see how all the dancers in the Dance Kingdom decide to divide themselves up and pick an event to attend.
2018 also looks like it will bring some interesting changes to the landscape of the Dance Kingdom. Because I’m involved with the behind-the-scenes dance politics on some level, a lot of people want to talk with me about things that are going on. I have heard about some upcoming dance studio closures that will happen in 2018, a few dance halls that are moving to new locations in 2018, and then there’s the ever-constant shuffle of independent dance instructors changing their loyalties from one studio to another. With the dance studio closures I’ve heard about, there may also be an influx of new free-range instructors jockeying for floor space.
I may try to do a review of the past year next week, just to collect my thoughts on what’s happened and reflect on what’s to come. The one thing that I’m sure about though, is that there will be lots more dance adventures for me to write about. It should be interesting to see what shakes out over the next 12 months!