Do The Dance Sensation That’s Sweepin’ The Nation

I am happy to report that I actually took a day off from dancing for once! I mean, it was only Easter Sunday, so I kind of cheated by using the holiday to my advantage so that I could relax and rest a little bit, but it felt great. Also, my cat enjoyed having me around so that she could curl up on me and fall asleep. Plus I managed to get my taxes all done that day too! Man, I was totally restful and also productive! That’s a pretty awesome day, isn’t it?

But I did do a lot of dancing on Saturday in order to prepare for my day off on Sunday, because I can’t just take a whole weekend off. That would be way too much time without dancing, and I have a schedule to keep. It isn’t a schedule of my own creation either, which makes it all the more strange that I am trying so hard to keep it, right? So… Saturday I had scheduled times set up to meet with both Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu for lessons.

First up that day: Sir Steven. Sparkledancer was already waiting for me when I got to the Fancy Dance Hall, and on top of that there was some sort of dance fitness class going on that was being led by Lady Tella. The class wasn’t super huge, so there was space on the edge of the dance floor that Sparkledancer and I could use to warm up, but the music was loud, so it made it hard to hear anything Sparkledancer and I said to one another.

The class was attended by all women that morning, and they made a point to gently chide Sparkledancer for not showing up early enough to join them. Of course, then I showed up and they started giving me a hard time for not being in class as well, but I think it would be a little weird to be the only male in a class like that. Also, I’m not a morning person, so getting up early to exercise is not my favorite thing to do. I always thought that those people who jumped on the trend of getting up at 5:00AM to work out were crazy! Even 10:00AM feels too early to me. I prefer to work out after I get done with work for the day, which guarantees that I am fully awake and ready to go. But that’s just my personal preference.

Anyway… we started off with Sir Steven that morning looking at Viennese Waltz. Most of that period was spent looking at the Natural Turn, making sure that both Sparkledancer and I got the swing through motion correct as we went into the second step. Sir Steven wanted me to keep my upper body rotated more to my left as I took the first step, but I was already turning myself as much as I could on my own. He could yank my upper body into the position he wanted (it’s not a pleasant feeling to be rotated that much), but I couldn’t turn myself enough to get there without help. Ah well, maybe someday, right?

Next we spent some time looking at the slower Waltz for a change. Here we also started off by looking at the Natural Turn, but we got slightly farther in this version of Waltz by also adding on the Natural Spin Turn,  Reverse Turn and Double Reverse Spin that come afterward. The hardest thing that Sir Steven asked me to change with that whole amalgamation of steps was to put back in the action where I turn my head and look over top of Sparkledancer’s head at the height of the Natural Turn. I don’t know what it is about turning my head in figures, but it really throws me off for some reason if I turn my head to look further to the right. Looking further to the left is no problem for me – I go into Promenade Position often enough, so I know that works fine. Weird, huh?

Once past the initial Natural Turn and all the head movement that threatened to drive me crazy, we went into the Natural Spin Turn. Here was another point where Sir Steven wanted me to attempt to rotate my upper body even more than I was already trying to, which meant trying to turn more than my range of motion allowed me to turn on my own. I don’t even know a good way to try to stretch to increase my flexibility in that manner that isn’t awkward. What if I glue some shoes to a wall to put my feet in, and then lie on the floor and try to roll my upper body around? As long as I only do that when I am home alone, then no one else would see me being weird, right? And eventually it would help… probably. Maybe I should think about this a bit more before getting out the glue.

We finished up that morning by running through our Quickstep routine a couple of times. Just as we were about to close out for the day, Sir Steven told us to be careful in our Quickstep because it wasn’t looking as grounded as he would like. That’s probably my fault. Lately in practice I have been so focused on Foxtrot and Tango that Quickstep has just kind of taken a back seat. I should find some time to go back to it and try to apply some of the things I am working on in Foxtrot, which I know would help fix this issue with the Quickstep.

After wrapping up my session with Sir Steven that morning, I only got about fifteen minutes to catch my breath and make my way over to the Endless Dance Hall before starting up a session with Lord Dormamu. Rest is for the weak, right? Something like that.

Just like the weeks prior, we started out by looking at Foxtrot. Lord Dormamu had us dance through the routine with music when we started so that he could get an idea of how our practice has been coming along. Things are looking better, but it is still not where he would like us to be (though I’m not sure we will be where he really wants us to be until we win some sort of World Champion title somewhere). Lord Dormamu told us that for the time being, when we practice Foxtrot he thinks that we should do it slowly and without worrying about music. Staying on time with music is not an issue that we have (Yay!), so he isn’t worried about us missing out on things by practicing without music for a few weeks.

Obviously we went back to looking at the Three Step again. All of our practice that involved pausing after the second step of the Three Step to check our shaping has improved the way our Three Step looks immensely according to Lord Dormamu, so he wants us to keep pausing there for the time being. However, he wasn’t too happy with the way the third step of our Three Step going into the first step of whatever figure comes next looked. As we worked through the steps so that he could figure out what we were doing wrong, what he found that he wanted us to change led to an interesting discussion about the next upgrade for the way our Foxtrot moves around the floor.

What I was asked to do (since I am the one moving forward most of the time) was to start incorporating both legs into my movement for Foxtrot. Because the idea of Foxtrot is to move more smoothly around a room than a Greaser trying to pick up ladies at a doo-wop concert, just driving yourself around by pushing off of the standing leg isn’t enough. That will get you by in Waltz, Quickstep, Tango and Viennese Waltz, but Foxtrot requires you to add in the other leg to the mix. As you move from one leg to another, even before you finish pushing off from your standing leg completely, your other leg should start pulling you forward.

It’s a weird thing to try to explain, especially if you’re a Follower who doesn’t travel forward all that often. If you can picture what I’m talking about, you might be able to see in your mind how this action of pulling yourself with the front leg before you finish pushing yourself with the back leg will help you smooth out the transition as you switch from one leg to the other. I was told that this is one of the most advanced concepts for Foxtrot movement to work on, but if we are able to start planting the seeds for this now then by the time Sparkledancer and I finish competing in syllabus then we should be pretty good at it when we move to Open-level routines. I’ll just have to practice. A lot. More than a lot. And then probably even more than that.

For the second half of our coaching session we switched over to Tango to give ourselves a short break from Foxtrot. Per usual, to begin with Lord Dormamu queued up a Tango song and had us dance through our routine first so that he could take a look at everything before going over specific points with us. As we got down to the end of the first long wall in our Tango routine, I heard Lord Dormamu calling to us, so I stopped and stood up to turn around and see what was going on. He was waving his arms for Sparkledancer and I to come back down to where he was standing, so we trekked back down that way.

He had stopped us to tell me that he was actually impressed with something that we had done. For those of you that have never been there, I’ll tell you something about the Endless Dance Hall: it’s big, sporting the largest dance floor I have ever had the privilege to dance on. The ‘short’ wall on this floor is fifty-five feet in width, and the long wall is easily two-and-a-half times that. Lord Dormamu was impressed that, without taking huge steps that looked awkward for a Tango or changing any of the angles of the figures, I had easily covered the entire length of the long wall, and still had to pull back the size of the steps I took on the last couple of figures in the far corner to avoid bashing Sparkledancer’s head into the wall. All that time we have been spending on improving the movement in our dances seems to really be paying off, I guess.
Of course, it also leaves me with a huge problem – no competition venue that I will be on in the near future will be anywhere near the full size of the Endless Dance Hall. Even in the recent past when I’ve been to competitions that are actually hosted at the Endless Dance Hall, they usually set up tables and chairs and a stage around the outside of the floor, which greatly reduces the area that competitors get to dance in. So moving that much in a competition means that I will drive myself right off the floor if I’m not careful. Lord Dormamu seems to think that is something to be proud of, but I am worried about it!

Now for the specific points that Lord Dormamu wanted us to work on in practice: first off, I was told that I am still turning too fast during the Natural Promenade Turn. I have slowed the turn down a lot, but he wants it to be even slower still. That will give a greater dynamic between the movements of the Promenades going into and coming out of the turn, and the turn itself. In conjunction with that, when I am getting into Promenade Position, Lord Dormamu wanted me to work on using my legs even more during the Progressive Links.

After one of the Progressive Links that we do, we then go into a Natural Twist Turn. Lord Dormamu wanted Sparledancer to use that figure to work on the position of her body when she is in Promenade Position. According to him, when he is judging couples in competition and he sees them going into a Promenade in Tango, he wants to see both people’s heads from two angles, otherwise he will mark them lower. If he is looking at them from the front, there needs to be enough volume between the partners so that both of their heads are visible and separated. If he is viewing them from the side, the lady needs to be offset enough to that her whole head is visible over the man’s right shoulder. If there is overlap, then he will mark the couple lower.

(Obviously that is only the case for people with normal size heads. If one member of the competitive couple has a giant head, then overlap is bound to happen. There will probably be a host of other issues as well if one person has a giant head, so a little overlap would be the least of that couple’s worries.)

Finally for Tango, we spent some time looking at the Right-side Lunge that is in one of the corners. Lord Dormamu told me to watch the timing on when I move my head as I enter the lunge – I need to make sure that the head movement happens at the same time as when my right foot reaches its destination; I was moving it too early when he was watching. He also told me to work on raising my left side further to create even more of a downward slope across my shoulders from elbow to elbow, which will put me in a better position for Sparkledancer to work off of. She needs me to do that because he then asked her to try to create even more volume between the two of us during the lunge, but to make sure not to accidentally rotate her chest away from me while doing so.

The class that I normally attend on Monday night was cancelled this week due to the holiday over the weekend. I did end up going out to the Electric Dance Hall anyway that night to meet Sparkledancer for some extra practice, since Lord Junior had said that the studio would be open if people wanted to use the floor. Besides practice, the only other thing of note that I did this week was to attend Standard Technique class on Wednesday night. Many of the schools around the Electric Dance Hall have been closed for Spring Break this week, so a lot of people who would normally attend class had gone off on vacations with their kids. That meant that there were only a few of us brave souls who were in class that night.

Lord Junior gave us some fun things to look at in the Waltz that night, giving us some figures to do that were intended to get us running. We started off pretty basically with a Natural Turn, but then took that into an Overturned Running Spin Turn which had us coming out backing line of dance rather than backing diagonal center. To change direction, he then had us then do an Open Impetus and come out into a Running Weave from Promenade Position. The Running Weave figure ends with three steps that are like a Reverse Turn, except you cross your right foot behind the left (or left in front of the right if you are a Follower). Finally we closed up the progression with a Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot.

And I’ll just leave it there! Look at that, I kept things sort of shorter this week. Yay me! I can’t promise that next week will be this short, since there won’t be a holiday for me to use as an excuse to take time off, but I will try my best.

On an out-of-the-ordinary note, Lord Dormamu is going to be out at a competition this coming weekend, but while he is gone he set up a session for Sparkledancer to work with Lady Tella, who in addition to leading dance fitness classes also happens to be one of his Professional female students (i.e. an instructor who competes with another instructor, and together they have forsaken the world of Amatuer competitions to move up to the Professional level). The plan is for the two of them to talk about girl things. This was something that Lord Dormamu had discussed with us months ago, but we hadn’t actually set up until now. Surprise!

I was asked to be there to give Sparkledancer someone to work with. I’ve met Lady Tella before, and also her Professional partner, and the two of them are considerably shorter than Sparkledancer. I think Lord Dormamu wants me to be there because I’m taller. At least, that’s what I have been telling myself.

It should be fun, and if I hear any interesting notes, I’ll be sure to jot them down.

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