Renew Our Faith Which Way We Can

I’m not sure what’s been going around lately, but on both Saturday morning and Tuesday night I had lessons that were cancelled because someone got sick. First thing on Saturday morning I got a text from Sir Steven saying that he had to cancel because he was feeling too ill to teach that day. I made sure to put that free time to good use and finally got in some real stretching, like wrote about wanting to do last week. I felt a lot less stiff afterward, and I’ve only needed to add in a bit of light stretching after my workouts since then to maintain that feeling. Yay me!

Then on Tuesday night I was supposed to meet with some fancy coach person that Lord Dormamu was planning on having in town, but she cancelled her trip because she was feeling too ill to travel. What are the chances? I hope that she and Sir Steven didn’t have the same illness. That would be crazy! Luckily, Sparkledancer and I took the time we would have otherwise used with this coach and practiced instead, so Tuesday night was still time well spent for me.

There are a bunch of people at my place of employment that have been out sick recently as well. Lucky for me that I have my own office and no one comes to visit me too often, so I have a reduced chance of catching anything while I’m at work. With all the crazy dance things going on, I don’t think I have time to deal with some kind of sickness knocking me on my butt for days. There’s training to be done!

I still had one item on the books for Saturday (or two, depending on how you look at it), and that was a double lesson with Lord Dormamu. At this point we have officially decided to do both competitions that the three of us had discussed during our last lesson, so now we have to make sure that both Sparkledancer and I are ready to take to the floor at each event and do the best that we can. Having twice as much time with Lord Dormamu that afternoon allowed us to look at all four of our primary routines more thoroughly than we would have been able to otherwise, so I got notes for everything!

To prove that practice really can make a difference (and even more practice can make even more of a difference), this week, after watching Sparkledancer and I run through all of our routines for him, Lord Dormamu stopped us to say that he could see a night and day difference between what we showed him at the beginning of our lesson the week prior and what we just showed him that morning. I felt relieved to hear that from him, and also disappointed in myself that I had let things slack off so noticeably before.

Never again! If that means that I am going to have to keep up this exhausting practice schedule, then I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do until the day I retire from being a competitive dancer. Or the day that I burn out from exhaustion, since I don’t intend to give up my rigorous exercise regimen either! Let’s find out what happens first, shall we?

There were a couple of notes that Lord Dormamu gave the two of us that encompassed all of our routines which he wanted us to work on. For me, it was (as usual) to make sure and pull my head back and to the left. He said that he could tell when I was thinking a lot about what I was doing because I let my head start to fall forward. I was also told to work on pulling my left elbow back farther while turning my left side toward Sparkledancer more across all dances, especially when I am in Promenade Position.

Sparkledancer was told that she still needs to work on creating more volume. I guess that is going to be a constant note for her until she is able to dance with her hair sliding along the floor. In addition to that, she was also told to work on turning her side in more toward me, though for her it is her right side instead of her left.

That leaves the notes that I got for each specific routine. Our best dance that morning was the Waltz, according to Lord Dormamu. The only thing pertaining to that style that he commented on was that Sparkledancer needed to make her heel steps more distinct. Obviously there are very few places overall where Sparkledancer is driving forward and needs to take a heel lead, so she doesn’t get much practice with this action. Still, as Lord Dormamu has said many times (and said again on during this lesson), most judges are “old, blind and stupid” so things like footwork need to be as distinct as possible so you don’t get marked down.

From the Waltz we moved on to Quickstep, and this was where we made the most dramatic changes that day. He mentioned that both Sparkledancer and I needed to watch our footwork on the Forward Lock and the Running Finish to make sure that we both made our steps distinct during those figures. It wasn’t wrong per se, he just thought that some of the steps looked more flat-footed than he would have liked from where he was standing.

Then we got to the corner of the routine where we had a Hesitation. The first time through the routine that day, he said that he wanted to come back to that corner later. ‘Later’ didn’t actually happen until near the end of our session that day. We had come back around to Quickstep again after finishing up Tango and Foxtrot. Lord Dormamu was dancing through part of the routine with Sparkledancer, and when he got to that corner he remembered wanting to look at the steps, and the two of them began changing things.
Apparently Lord Dormamu told Sparkledancer that the Hesitation was “too boring” and he wanted to take it out and put in something better. What he ended up giving us I believe would be called a Overspin from a Natural Spin Turn. Basically we do a Natural Spin Turn where the first two beats are normal. On the third beat I take a step to the side and hold, adding in just a bit of body rise. Sparkledancer does a fancy head flick while we hold like that for some reason. Finally on beat four I step backward onto my right foot and do a Reverse Pivot to get us facing the right direction to go into the Double Reverse Spin that comes next in the routine.

According to Lord Dormamu, all the steps by themselves are Bronze, so connecting them in this manner should be just fine. I’ve done figures like this before, notably a Overspin from a Double Reverse Spin, but I have always been told that those are Open-level variations… so we’ll have to see if anyone gives us any grief for using this specific variation. I’m sure that if I told any judges that have issues with the figure that Lord Dormamu told me to use it, they would change their minds and decide that the figure is fine. Lord Dormamu seems to know all the judges. All of them.

After we finished Quickstep we moved on to Tango. The big thing that Lord Dormamu said about our Tango this week was that he was seeing us rise up during transitions, rather than staying at the same level consistently through the whole routine. He also wanted us to work on making our movements more staccato. Apparently our Tango was flowing much more than he would like that day, looking more like a Foxtrot than a Tango.

He gave us an exercise that we can use to work on this issue, which he told us to do at all our practices until we get it right. Starting off facing one another, Sparkledancer and I are supposed to press our hands together palm-to-palm, and then whomever is moving forward will drive off the standing leg and stop. The person moving backward drives off their standing leg to travel, but once they finish shifting their weight they will have a little additional movement to prepare the free leg for the next step. This is supposed to help us learn to get away from using the momentum of the previous step to carry us into the next, like you would in a Waltz or Foxtrot.

Two other quick notes on the Tango we were told: we looked at the corner that has the right-side lunge a little. Lord Dormamu told Sparkledancer that she needs to make sure her shoulders aren’t collapsing to the outside, but rather to have them mirror the angle of my shoulders as we hold the lunge. Finally, I was told to spend some time focusing on my Progressive Links throughout the routine. I need to keep my body in the same position as I take my first step, and then rotate my body only as I take the second to turn to Promenade Position. I guess it looked like I was winding  up my body in the opposite direction on the first step. 😦

Finally we spent a bit of time on the Foxtrot, though not a whole lot. Lord Dormamu told me that he wanted to change the way I was doing my starter step now. Rather than take a step to the left, then the right and stay low the entire time going into the forward steps, he now wants me to bring my feet together as I step to the right and come up to almost straight legs while twisting my body to the right before lowering to take my first step forward. I’m not sure why we are changing this all of a sudden, but it’s a minor change so I can get it down soon.

I asked Lord Dormamu for his thoughts regarding the shaping in both the Natural Weave and the Basic Weave figures. One of the recommendations that the coach I met with back in December gave me was to add in some shaping during the middle of those figures. After demonstrating the recommendation, Lord Dormamu gave me a frown and said that he didn’t like the way that looked. He thought the idea was good, but the execution of the idea that the coach had recommended was too much.

In his opinion, the execution should be about subtlety. If I shaped to the right as much as the coach recommended during the Weave steps, after shaping to the left in the beginning, and then shaping to the left again for the Feather Finish, it made the figure look indecisive. However, if I leveled off my shoulders during the Weave steps while pulling my frame slightly more to the left, it can give the impression that I am shaping to the right without moving too much. If we also add to that Sparkledancer turning her head to her right at the same time, it gives us the illusion that we are shaping the figure to the right even more, while in reality my shoulders are just leveling off.

Neat, huh?

The last change that he made for us that morning in Foxtrot was in the Change of Direction, the very last figure in the routine. Waaaaaaay back in the day, Lord Dormamu told us to hold the figure for an extra four beats before taking the last step, giving us a chance to reset ourselves before moving on and starting the routine over. While he was dancing through that figure with Sparkledancer this past weekend, he thought that holding there for an extra four beats was really hard on her, so he told us to go back to doing the figure using the timing by the book.

OK, enough about that. Let’s talk about some International Latin. Specifically the Rumba. That’s what we looked at in Latin Technique class on Monday. To make things more interesting, Lord Junior spent the majority of the time in class having us work on our arm motions. Sometimes I think that Lord Junior does these things just to make me flail around like an octopus trying to tie shoes on all of its non-existent feet. Yeah, just imagine that for a minute. That’s what I think that I look like.

All of the work we did in this class was done solo, so you could try these out yourself without having to find a partner. The actual figures that we did weren’t all that complicated if you leave your arms out of the mix. We started standing tall with our feet together before doing a normal Cucaracha to the right side, and then a syncopated Cucaracha to the left side that allowed you to end on the right leg with the left leg free. Next we added on some basic Latin Walks, but on the second step forward we did a Spiral Turn.

To make things more interesting after that, we went into a syncopated Checked Walk forward and then put in a slow Ronde action with the left leg. When you finished circling the leg, the left leg would be pointed behind you. After shifting to that leg in the next measure, we did a Three Step Turn to the right. Next we did a Switch Turn on the right side, ending the measure with everyone stepping and facing toward the front of the room. Finally, to challenge us, he had us do a full 360° turn on our left leg.

The arm motions are what threw me off all night. I can move my arms using my back muscles easily enough, but trying to engage them in time with my steps, having one arm out and one in as I walk, and then also make them look graceful… just doesn’t feel right to me. Lord Junior told me that my arm motions didn’t look terrible, but they didn’t feel all that great, so I didn’t totally believe him.

Maybe that’s why I have taken to doing International Standard – for what I do, my arms are supposed to stay strong and locked in place, which is a much more natural feeling for me. Ah well, I managed to get through class without hitting anyone with my arms, and I only messed up the footwork a few times while thinking about what to do with my arms, so I’m going to count that as a win in my book.

I don’t know how things have been going in your neck of the woods, but where I live in the Dance Kingdom we got a bunch of snow on Wednesday, and that shut everything down for the evening, so Monday’s class was the last exciting thing that I did. I still went out to practice on Tuesday night, and again tonight, but Wednesday night I got a little break, though it wasn’t by my choice.

This coming weekend also feels like it will be a small respite before a bunch of crazy weekends to come. The only things I have going on this weekend besides practice are a lesson with Sir Steven and a party that my Royal Dance Court group is throwing that I need to attend. But the next weekend, and the two weekends after that in February… craziness. So maybe I should use this weekend to try to get some sleep as well. I feel like sleep is going to be lacking in my life until we get to mid-February.

All of this keeps me out of trouble, right?

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