You’ll Get Scared If You Get Lazy

Here we go… one full week of dancing in 2018 all finished up! The year is new, which means that this is a good time to hit the big reset button on all sorts of things to get into a newer, better flow.

I started out this week of dancing with a lesson last Saturday morning with Sir Steven. He wanted to begin our lesson by having us run through all of our routines once for warm-up, like we usually do. I thought that things went pretty well, but Sir Steven wasn’t thinking the same thing. After we completed each routine, there were a lot of little things that he wanted to go back and have us go through again. The second time went better, but to have him point out and talk about things that we already worked on cleaning up in the past made me feel sad.

We also worked on Quickstep that day, continuing our plan to focus cleanly on this dance style for a period of time much like I had done with Waltz and Foxtrot, and was currently doing with Lord Dormamu on the Tango. By the time we hit the Quickstep that morning I was feeling better about my dancing. We didn’t find anything major that needed fixing here. There was one note about making sure that our lowering action on the last steps of all of our chasses were precise and waited until the other leg swung through that I did write down to spend a bit of extra time working on in practice.

Sir Steven also told me to keep working on the compression and rotation in my right hip along the short wall that helps the transition from the Progressive Chasse to the Right into the Backward Lock, and also from the Backward Lock into the Running Finish. This is not an action that I find particularly comfortable, since the muscles along the outside of my right hip and thigh do not like twisting in that manner. But I keep going, and I always know I am doing the movement right when those muscles are complaining to me, and slowly it is getting to be less painful.

At the end of the lesson, Sir Steven pointed out that the Fancy Dance Hall had hung posters around the dance floor about a competition they would be hosting the Saturday before Valentine’s day. This event was one that I had attended last year, so Sir Steven figured it was highly likely that we would want to do it again. He wanted to specifically point out to Sparkledancer and I that the organizers had decided to offer the event to amateur couples at a significantly reduced rate compared to Pro/Am couples, because they wanted more amateurs to sign up. That news made my wallet smile a little. I could feel it in my pocket.

Next up, Sparkledancer and I had a meeting with Lord Dormamu on the schedule. It was originally supposed to be a coaching session, but since this was our first time getting together in 2018, we spent much of the time talking about our strategy for the year ahead. Lord Dormamu even wrote as his first note on our lesson log that he keeps for that day “Strategy planning for 2018” so that we would all remember.

So what kind of fantastic strategy did we come to agreement on? First off, I asked him about the upcoming pre-Valentine’s Day competition that we had discussed with Sir Steven at the end of our earlier lesson. That event is now something that we are going to for sure enter, and with the reduced rate that they are giving to amatuers, this would be a good chance for us to dance quite a few heats to test our stamina during an actual competition. That’s one thing to start preparing ourselves for.

The weekend prior to that there is another competition going on that I have received several emails about over the last few weeks. This event is farther away, and is structured more like the last couple of competitions that I have participated in. Lord Dormamu thought that it was a good idea for us to consider if we could get our act together in the short period of time between now and then. That makes two weekends in February potentially booked for me already.

But the key point he made was that we needed to get our act together. Lord Dormamu could also tell that the time that Sparkledancer and I have spent since the last competition that we did has not been as fruitful as it could have been, and much like Sir Steven pointing out all the silly things to me earlier in the day, this made me feel like kind of terrible.

With the training that we had to give up to learn the showcase routine we opted to perform, plus all the time off that came from the holidays, my practice regimen over the last two months or so has been… less than optimal. I will admit that, and I feel bad that it had gotten noticeable enough that both Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu said something.

I guess that Lord Dormamu is worried that if we don’t shape up, Sparkledancer and I won’t be able to achieve his goals of becoming National Champions and moving out of Bronze quickly to get to more interesting things. He actually called those our goals, but I don’t ever remember saying that I wanted to be some kind of National Champion, so I think there might be some confusion there. Obviously I wouldn’t turn down the title if I could actually achieve it, but I am not a naturally competitive person, so it’s not like I am gunning for such a distinction.

Sparkledancer and I talked about this apparent goal of ‘ours’ over some random text messages later that night. We decided that if this is the way things are supposed to shape up, than we obviously have to feel like we are ready for it. To get there, we are going to rearrange our schedules to add in even more practice time. Based on my schedule availability around work, it’s probably going to end up that I am dancing in some significant way on every night but Friday every week. I need one day to myself to accomplish things for life, like grocery shopping and house cleaning, and Friday looks like the only day when that is going to work.

So much for having more of a social life in 2018, I guess… is this the sort of life that other serious competitive dancers lead, or is it just me (and my dance partner)?

On top of that, Lord Dormamu said that Sparkledancer was getting to a point in her training that she might need to start working with a female coach to go over things from a woman’s perspective. He freely admitted that even though he’s won all these national and international competition over his career, he would never be female, so there would always be some aspects of dancing the Follower’s part that will never look right when he shows them to her.

Some names were thrown around of various females that he knew that might be good for us to work with, from visiting coaches to various female teachers at studios around the Dance Kingdom. The most promising person mentioned a few times, who likely will also be the least expensive, is actually one-half of a Professional couple that has been studying International Standard under Lord Dormamu for some time. This lady is also Sir Bread’s partner, so let’s call her… Lady Tella.

There are a few reasons why Lady Tella was the most promising. First of all, she is nearby, so if Sparkledancer needs to see her a few times to impart knowledge, we don’t have to wait for any travel schedules to align. Second, she has trained with Lord Dormamu in International Standard herself, so when she imparts said knowledge, what she will relay will fall right in line with all the things that Sparkledancer will be doing with Lord Dormamu from a professional female’s perspective. And third, obviously, there is a cost factor. Training with yet another instructor, plus adding in additional practice time, could make 2018 expensive!

It looks like I am in for either a wild ride as the year plays out that may culminate in a national championship run, or I am in the running for some serious burn-out from having no quiet time to myself. No matter what happens, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

There was one final item that was brought up for discussion at the end of our session that day, where Lord Dormamu actually asked Sparkledancer and I if we would be able to help him. He is a leading figure in a charity that involves dance and children with disabilities, and they are working on arranging a huge fundraising gala in March. Knowing that Sparkledancer and I are members of the Royal Dance Court, Lord Dormamu asked us if we would be able to help out with the event and maybe even get others in the Royal Dance Court to contribute.

Of course I said I could (after all, I really have nothing else on my plate, right?). I brought up that I had been asked to go to a big meeting in a couple of weeks with the Royal Dance Court. This meeting was bringing together the leaders of all kinds of dance clubs in the Southeastern U.S., so if there was some kind of flyer or information packet about the event available, either Sparkledancer or I could present the information to these other club leaders to drum up interest. Lord Dormamu thought that was a great idea, and promised he would have something by the next time we all got together.

Even with this doubling down on my competitive training to try to progress faster, I made a decision to still go out to Latin Technique class every Monday night whenever possible. I know that the training for Latin dance styles will only be of limited use to me this year, but I also know that Lord Junior appreciates that I show up for class, as one of the few gentlemen who is advanced enough to participate. On top of that, it may be the one place where I get to see people and be relaxed enough to chat with them a bit every week, since my mind won’t be on training that night.

This past Monday night was a special treat for me, because prior to class starting one of Lord Junior’s competitive students convinced him to cover my favorite Latin dance style: Pasodoble. This student of his recently decided that she wanted to dance in a competition coming up in February and do a Bronze five-dance in Latin, so she is just being introduced to the Pasodoble. There were a couple of others who joined us for class that night who had never done Pasodoble before, so this class was an introduction for them as well. Yay!

Lord Junior kept the steps that we did mostly Bronze-level for these individual’s sake. For those of us who had done some Pasodoble before, he wanted us all to focus on trying to get through all of the steps without breaking from the strong Pasodoble frame, and even try to implement some of the characterization of the dance. The Gatekeeper was in class that night, and she had never danced the Pasodoble before. She thought that everything that we were doing that night was super hilarious for some reason. She couldn’t get through the figures with anyone without breaking into laughter.

Our progression that night began with us in frame with our partners as the music started. We held in place for the first four beats, and then did four Sur Place in place to finish the first eight count. The next eight count was four Sur Place that moved to the right, with us shifting our arms to the standard Counter Promenade Position frame for Pasodoble, and we finished the measure with a Drag.

For the next eight count, Lord Junior showed us a normal Promenade run to start with. This figure was one that his student was working on, so he threw it in for us to go through a couple of times to give her some extra practice. Once we all seemed to master that step, he upgraded it to a Promenade and Counter Promenade run. We changed the alignment on the Counter Promenade portion of the step to move toward diagonal center.

Apparently that is a Silver-level variation of the figure by the book – in Bronze the Counter Promenade just rotates to go straight toward center. In case anyone asks you why, I guess that it’s because if you over-rotate to go diagonal center, you are forcing the lady to do more turn, so that bumps the figure up to a new level. Weird. To end the last eight count of the progression before the first four count in the song, we added in a Grand Circle, which closed us up facing wall once more, ready for whatever came next.

In a strange turn of events, I got a text message from Lord Dormamu on Tuesday night as soon as I got home from work. He said that there were a group of people getting together that night to talk about the upcoming charity gala that he had mentioned to me on Saturday, and he wanted to know if I was able to attend the meeting. Oh, and the meeting was starting in an hour-and-a-half!

Sparkledancer sent me a message a few minutes later telling me that she got the same invitation, and asked me what I thought since we had planned on getting together to practice that night. Being the eternal people-pleaser that I am, I told her that we should probably go to the meeting, since having all the information about this event when we present it at our upcoming meeting was a good way to make Lord Dormamu happy. I sighed remorsefully as I looked at my workout calendar and shifted everything back a day to give up my off day on Saturday, and replied to Lord Dormamu to let him know that I would be there.

It turned out to be a rather interesting meeting. There were a few people there like me who were not members of this foundation, so we didn’t have any voting rights on anything that was discussed, but the group was happy to get our input on ideas to make the charity event better. As with every idea that Lord Dormamu comes up with, the initial plan for this fundraising gala is extravagant. He wanted to bring in all kinds of big name presenters and performers from all across the Dance Kingdom that he is personal friends with, and get them to put on a dance show to help raise money for the charity foundation.

The initial talk about prices for the tickets to the show seemed pricey to me. One of the points of contention that was brought up was that the date they had picked to hold the show conflicted with one of the Dance Kingdom’s social dance club’s monthly dance party. The leaders of that social dance club were at this meeting, and initially they were worried that holding this event would draw away attendees to their social dance party, leaving them lacking funds from the door fees for the dance to cover their expenses for the night.

But when Lord Dormamu started throwing out numbers for ticket prices, that concern evaporated, since the average social dancer in their club wouldn’t likely spend that kind of money on a ticket to a dance showcase, even if the performers are the best of the best that Lord Dormamu can get. We talked instead about tying in the show to that dance club’s dance party, using it as a location for the show’s “after-party” where everyone could go and dance the night away and have some refreshments. They thought they could also set up a box to collect donations from the dance party’s attendees who wanted to donate to the charity, even if they didn’t attend the performance.

I think an event of this scale will be tough to put together in just under two months time, but Lord Dormamu seems to think he can make it happen. He was telling all of us about how he was in talks with some friends of his (who are dancers on a famous TV show about dancing) about coming to the event. One of them has already agreed to be there and host the show for him, and he is really trying to get the other two to fit it into their schedule and perform that night. Apparently if he can work it out with them, he thinks people will pay buckets of money to come see the show, and maybe even some extra if there is the option for backstage passes to meet these individuals for pictures and whatnot.

Actual buckets, full of paper money. Not even buckets full of change.

Sparkledancer and I both thought that we could convince others in the Royal Dance Court to volunteer time for the event, to help with ushering or collecting donations, or other things as needed. We are all known quantities in the social dance community, so us being visible, showing our support and giving our time might inspire others in the social dance community to want to help or donate as well. Plus there’s that whole thing I mentioned earlier with going to that big meeting at the end of the month and giving out information on the event to everyone there.

Stay tuned for more on this… I have a feeling that I may have more to say about this event if everyone is going to get all the pieces into play by the date of this fundraising performance!

The final thing of note that I did this week was Standard Technique class last night, where I got to work on some Foxtrot. Lord Junior wanted to use the class as an opportunity to get the ladies to work on their Heel Turns, but told me to practice the Heel Turn action along with them since I use it occasionally. For a bit of warm-up, we did the ladies Heel Turn action, first in place with no rotation, and then with 90°, 135° and 180° rotations to both the left and the right, simulating a Reverse and Natural Turn.

Once Lord Junior felt pretty good about how everyone was turning, he upped the difficulty level and said that we were going to work on a pattern that used a Double Reverse Spin and a Double Natural Spin. Both figures are not native to International Foxtrot, as you may be aware, but can be used in Open-level choreography.

The pattern that we were given started moving toward diagonal center using a Feather, then went into the Double Reverse Spin with a Feather Ending. Next up we did a Three Step and attached the Double Natural Spin to the end of that. Because of how the Double Natural Spin rotates, the figure ends when you finish the turn (without any kind of Feather Ending). Lord Junior had us attach another Feather after the Double Natural Spin moving toward diagonal center again, which would allow us to repeat the sequence if desired.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I like to use Standard Technique class as an extra bit of practice time that I can do with an instructor watching. Normally Sparkledancer comes to this class too, so we can practice together whenever she rotates through the line of ladies to dance with me. Because the choreography is different from our competition routines, much of what I focus on in class is maintaining my posture and frame and ensuring that my footwork is right. When dancing with Sparkledancer I can also work on ensuring that we maintain body contact in our frame the whole time as well. With other ladies who aren’t used to dancing in body contact, I just do the best I can.

I mention this because normally I don’t really think that there’s anything special with trying to get in some extra practice this way, and I also assume that I am keeping things consistent when I dance with each lady in class while we rotate partners (other than the body contact thing I mentioned). On the nights when Sparkledancer is in class, I don’t think I am doing anything all that different with her compared to the other ladies, other than I am able to take bigger steps with her since we’re so used to dancing with each other’s stride.

Last night there was a lady in class that was standing next to Sparkledancer. This lady shows up for class once in a blue moon, and is super critical of herself even though she never does anything terribly wrong during class. As we were wrapping up yesterday night, Lord Junior put on some music and the ladies got in a line to rotate through dancing with Lord Junior and I (the only males in class that night) to practice.

This lady apparently told Sparkledancer that when she watched the two of us dance the progression together, it didn’t even look like we were doing the same dance that she was. She could clearly see the same figures that she had just learned that night, but Sparkledancer and I were also adding in the sway for the steps that felt natural, which would make Sparkledancer turn her head when the sway directed her to, we were maintaining close body contact the whole time we danced, and also covering twice the distance when we moved together than any of the other ladies were able to do when dancing with either Lord Junior or I. To her, what we were doing looked completely different from everyone else.

So… apparently I really wasn’t dancing the same way with all partners like I thought I was. I didn’t even realize it until Sparkledancer relayed this anecdote to me after class. I’ll have to think about whether it’s even possible for me to rectify this with partners that I don’t dance with very frequently. Hmm…

And that’s how I started off 2018! Changing up my normal habits for the first full week of the year is throwing me off a bit. I added in all this extra practice time, and also changed my workout focus and diet as well. Right now, I’m feeling a bit sore and thrashed because of all these changes. I fit in a bit of extra stretching time today before I headed out to get some dance practice in, but I’m hoping I can carve out some real time this weekend to stretch out properly to help with that.

I’ve been staring at my foam roller too. It’s one of those ones with all the spikes all over it to really help with myofascial release. There are some places that I think those spikes would make me unhappy if I tried to use it before I get some real stretching in, so I have been avoiding it right now. Maybe this weekend I will use it too… if there’s time. 🙂

Here’s hoping that your dancing is going well so far in 2018!


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