Blind Labors The Blind And I Am Unwilling To Uncover My Eyes

Last Saturday many of the Professionals that work in the Dance Kingdom were off at some competition, so there was relatively little going on. All of the people I normally work with on Saturdays were there, so I had only one item on my schedule. Of course, that one thing was still enough to make me nervous, since I was planning to spend some time working with the Princess. As I mentioned last week, she was one of the judges for the last competition I participated in, and she offered to go over her thoughts on how Sparkledancer and I did with us. As it turned out, I didn’t need to be so nervous about meeting with her, since what she spent the majority of the time talking about was Sparkledancer. That didn’t mean that I got off scot-free that afternoon, just that most of the notes I made for our session don’t directly relate to me.

The Princess wanted to talk about our Waltz and Foxtrot, but since the ideas that she wanted to relay to us were the same for both dance styles we spent the entire time working on Waltz that day. She wanted to start us off just by getting us into frame for a few minutes so that she could talk about how we looked. There was praise for Sparkledancer on the changes that she has been making while working with Lady Tella – the Princess clearly sees that Sparkledancer is on the right track to be awesome. She recommended that when we take frame, Sparkledancer needs to get comfortable taking the position right away. I believe she described it as being “specific and deliberate” when we come together. Right now, since we have been making changes there are a few moments of minor adjustments being made before we begin.

She also wanted to see Sparkledancer be less centered on my body and even more offset to my right to start with, almost wrapping around my right hip. But not actually wrapping around my right hip, since she said that Sparkledancer’s right hip should be closing to me. To help with this, the Princess told me that I need to watch my own right elbow and make sure that it is coming forward in front of my body as I put my right arm around my partner. During the competition she said that it looked like my right elbow was in line with my chest, which tends to pull Sparkledancer toward me and kill the volume we are trying to create. If I had to guess why I was doing that, I think that I was trying so hard to pull my elbows apart and expand my chest to create more of a presence that it was moving my right arm into the wrong place in the process. Whoops.

Now that we were in a position that was to the Princess’ liking, we began moving while applying those notes. She started by just having me walk through the first couple of opening steps. I guess during the competition, there were a couple of times in some of the heats where she saw me ‘stutter’ (as she called it), and she wanted to see if I would do it again while she was specifically watching for it. Of course, at that point I didn’t, probably  because I was so worried about doing it again and embarrassing myself that I focused specifically on not doing anything weird, so she couldn’t help me figure out why I did it during the competition and fix it. Ah well, maybe next time…

Going into the Natural Turn next, she wanted to see me stay down lower through the first step of the figure and into the second step, only starting to rise as I actually take the second step. On top of that, she wanted to see Sparkledancer keep her chest more towards me and the upper part of her left shoulder out as we reach the highest rise in the Natural Turn. This should help create a better shape for that momentary hold we do before we begin to lower for the next figure.

Next up we have the Underturned Natural Spin Turn. During this figure, she told Sparkledancer to initiate the turn by keeping her right shoulder down and pulling her left elbow up and around. On top of that, the Princess told me to make the shaping more distinct by bringing my right side up further as we go through the turn, then to neutralize as we come out and swap into a left side sway as we go into the next Reverse Turn. The shaping was kind of there in the competition, but I need to work at it more to make sure that it looks like I am actually doing the sway on purpose.

From there, we talked about the Double Reverse Spin a little. The Princess recommended that Sparkledancer maintain the left position longer, and to make sure that her right hip doesn’t open away from me throughout the figure. That led us right into the Progressive Chasse to the Right, where Sparkledancer was asked to pull her left elbow further to the left, and also create more volume. While we are traveling straight down the line of dance in a Waltz, having more volume is even more important than it is during rotational figures, since the judges who are standing behind our line of travel can really evaluate how the volume looks.

The last two figures that we managed to get through was the Outside Change and the Chasse from Promenade Position. During the Outside Change, the Princess asked Sparkledancer to hold her position longer before the transition into Promenade Position. This was especially for the position of her head. Once she arrived in Promenade Position, Sparkledancer was told to maintain her pull to the left and slide her foot out, allowing her left foot to cross under her body before she closes back to normal dance frame.

As you can see, most of the notes that we talked about that day were for Sparkledancer, so hopefully they are helpful to other ladies out there. One point that I did take a few extra minutes after our lesson was over to ask the Princess about was the placement of my right hand. I noticed that whenever the Princess got into dance frame with me, she always slid herself up my right arm so that my fingertips were almost crossing over her spine to her right side. I didn’t know if this was because my arm was in a different position with her than it usually is with Sparkledancer (the Princess is several inches shorter) or if I was actually holding Sparkledancer wrong, so I thought I should just ask while she was standing next to me.

Turns out that I was doing it wrong, as you probably guessed. I was placing my hand on the back of Sparkledancer’s shoulder, which was forcing me to try to control her with the hand itself. If I allowed it to come around Sparkledancer more so that Sparkledancer’s actually pulling herself left into my wrist/forearm instead, then the control point becomes the lower half of my arm rather than my hand. Taking all of the extra joints out of the equation will (in theory) make maneuvering my partner easier. It will take a bit to get used to the different feeling on my arm until I am able to do that easily, but with time hopefully that turns out to be the case for me.

Last Sunday afternoon I had a lesson scheduled with Lord Dormamu, but he ended up having to stay at the competition he was at on Saturday for an extra day, so he wasn’t able to make it. Rather than leave Sparkledancer and I with extra time to practice, Lord Dormamu had talked to Lady Tella and convinced her to work with us (i.e. mostly with Sparkledancer) that afternoon instead.

While this was a nice thing for him to arrange for us, it was kind of a mean thing to ask Lady Tella to do. See, she had been competing on Saturday at the same competition that Lord Dormamu was attending. When she and her professional partner Lord Bread finished up at the competition, they had to drive all the way back home from the competition so that she could be here for our lesson. From what she told us, she had only gotten home around 05:00 that morning, then crashed for a few hours before getting up to come to the Endless Dance Hall and work with Sparkledancer and I. Poor girl!

The first thing that we talked about with Lady Tella was working with the Princess the day before so that she had a basic idea about what the Princess and Sparkledancer discussed. After that, much of the time was spent with Lady Tella and Sparkledancer working on her position as we moved around, mostly in Waltz but we switched over to a little Foxtrot near the end. I got even fewer notes for myself from what was talked about in this lesson than I got from the Princess. It’s all good though. Dancing International Standard requires two people, so I’m happy to let Sparkledancer be the focus of the attention for a change.

There was one interesting point that Lady Tella asked of me that I am trying to figure out how to work into what I do. At several specific points during the Waltz routine she started asking me to allow the figure to ‘breathe’ much like she has been asking of Sparkledancer. Obviously I can’t shape in nearly the same way that Sparkledancer can, or else I might break our connection and cause us to get into trouble, but she wanted to see me expand up and back just a little more to try to make a visible difference.

The two points where she really wanted me to do this noticeably during what we were working on last Sunday were during the two chasse figures along the long wall (Progressive Chasse to Right and the Chasse from Promenade Position), and the Hesitation Change in the first corner. During those figures she also wanted to see Sparkledancer try to open up more away from me, so having me also open slightly at the same time should give the illusion of us having much more volume during those moments. I’m sure there are other places that we will come across where the recommendation will be for Sparkledancer to try to create more volume, so I should watch for those points and see if it is also an appropriate spot for me to try to do the same. If there is a 1:1 correlation, then I can start adding my own action in without being asked.

And that was all the dancing I did this past weekend! Hooray to me for mixing things up a little! The next dance related thing that I got into was Latin Technique class on Monday night. Only a few of us managed to gather out at the Electric Dance Hall for class that night. Supposedly there was some big event that was happening in the area on Wednesday that several people who normally attend Latin Technique were out preparing for. I guess I didn’t get the memo on that.

But for those of us who were still dedicated, we got to work on some Samba that night. For a bit of warm-up, Lord Junior was just going to have us dance through the Samba Line Dance that is popular in this part of the Dance Kingdom, but one of the ladies in class told him that she had never done the Samba Line Dance before, so the first twenty minutes of class turned into a crash course on how to do the line dance, and then how to do a few variations on the normal figures of the line dance to make yourself look cooler than everyone else near you.

The normal version of the line dance that I learned long ago has you doing four repetitions of a bunch of figures. You start out with four of the Basic Movements, then go into four Whisks, then four Traveling Bota Fogos Forward, and then finally four curved Voltas to the right that allow you to change which direction you are facing, finishing with four Voltas to the left that do not curve. Once you finish the last Voltas and are facing the new wall, you start all over from the top. I’m sure you’ve probably seen all of these figures somewhere if you’ve ever done Samba before, so you could use this information to give things a try!

Once we finished up working on the Samba Line Dance, Lord Junior wanted to have us go through another figure that the high-level Latin coach he had come to the Electric Dance Hall a couple of weekends ago spent quite a bit of time working through with him: the Promenade and Counter Promenade Runs. One of the points that the coach gave to Lord Junior which he found very interesting was the way she preferred to hold her arm while in this figure. The big problem that a lot of people run into is trying to keep their body twisted enough so that their back leg still has the foot turned out when they land during the Promenade and Counter Promenade Runs. If you don’t get it right, you end up with your foot in the wrong position, which will get you marked down during a competition.

The coach recommended to Lord Junior that he change the way he held his arm so that it was out in front of him rather than opened up to the side. Holding your arm in this manner helps to counter balance you so that turning out your foot in the back is less awkward. This subtle change really does make a difference, as long as you remember to actually hold your arm forward instead of opening it out to your side. I will admit to forgetting to make the change a few times as we practiced the figures that night.

As for the actual figures that we did, Lord Junior had us start off with the guys standing on their left leg, right leg pointed behind them, and the ladies right in front of them holding our left hand with their weight on the right leg and the left one pointed forward. From there we went right into the Promenade and Counter Promenade runs, with the guys taking three steps forward to start while the ladies turned to open up out to our right side. We did two more rounds where first the guys crossed over, then the ladies, ending up with the guys on the left side once again. Next we did a Ronde Whisk, which is basically exactly like it sounds. As you take a side step to start the Whisk, you then rotate slightly and do a Ronde with your free leg until it crosses behind the other and then do the Samba bounce action.

We rotated ourselves 180 in the process of doing the Ronde Whisk, so now we were facing against line of dance. Next we led the lady to do a Three-Step Turn across our bodies as we shifted weight between our legs. Catching her arm left arm as she went by, we got her to strike a line to the right at the end as we lunged out to our left. After that we led her to do another Three-Step Turn back toward us while we just shifted weight again, finishing in Shadow Position. That’s where we stopped for the night since we ran out of time, but Lord Junior said he probably would have had us do some kind of Samba Roll action from there if we had had more time.

Next up, Standard Technique class on Wednesday night. The class ended up being about Waltz again, because Lord Junior had seen a video of a figure that he had never done before for Waltz that he wanted to try out with some students to see how it went. That figure happened to be the Chasse Roll to Left, which is an Open-level figure for those of you who may be interested in fitting it into your own body of knowledge. Lord Junior told us that he has used the Chasse Roll to Right lots of times in routines with his students, but he had just never considered seeing if a Left version existed before until he stumbled upon it this week.

Before we got into that though, Lord Junior had us all back doing the warm-up exercise that we had done last week, where you do box steps over a nine count. I don’t know why people think that this exercise is overly difficult. Sure, it will put pressure on your inner thigh muscles if you are pulling your legs together properly, but it’s not that bad. I don’t think so, at least. The balance component shouldn’t really be an issue either because of how slow we were moving, but surprisingly others in class were complaining about that too.

Driving home after class, I started thinking about exercises that people could do to improve on the things they complain about that I seem to find simple. Maybe I should start toying with the idea of putting together a three-month workout regimen designed for ballroom dancers – something to help dancers get in shape for these sorts of exercises. I wonder if I could hand it over to some Professionals to have their students do and report back on the results. Hmm… something to think about if I find some extra time. I have nothing but free time, right? It should be no problem for me to sit down and design and document something like that!

Anyway… once we were all warmed up, we were given a short progression of figures to work on. To get things rolling, we started off with a prep step into a Natural Turn, and then added on a basic Natural Spin Turn. Coming out of the Natural Spin Turn set us up for the figure that Lord Junior wanted to work on with us, the Chasse Roll to Left, which looks a lot like a Curved Chasse to the Left with a Slip Pivot at the end if you look it up for yourselves. Once we finished the Slip Pivot, we led the ladies into a Oversway.

One of the ladies asked a question about the Oversway, which got us talking about that for a few minutes. Many of us had done a Throwaway Oversway before, but here was just the Oversway without any of the Throwaway. I had to ask whether that meant that you could do just the Throwaway without any of the Oversway as well. Lord Junior had to stop and think about my question for a minute, and pretended to dance through it a few times. He told me that you could probably do it, and that it was likely some super-high level Professional couple probably has at some point, but he thinks it feels weird to do just the Throwaway without the Oversway so he personally wouldn’t recommend trying it.

To come out of the Oversway we went back to the warm-up exercise that we had done and slowly dragged our left foot to our right (or right to left for the ladies) over two beats while rising up and rotating into Promenade Position, taking our first side step in Promenade Position on beat three. From there, to show us the differences in the two figures, he also had us do a Chasse Roll to Right with a Oversway attached at the end. This figure confused me with its name a little, because the footwork we did for the Lead part was more like a Curved Lock instead of a Chasse, but the Follow’s part looked more like a Progressive Chasse to Right, so I guess that’s what makes it work.

Getting out of this Oversway involved taking a small step to the side with your left foot and rising up for two beats and then dropping the right foot behind you for a Slip Pivot on the third, and from there we went into a basic Progressive Chasse to Right to finish. You want to be careful when you take the side step as you close. If you come around the lady too much, she may think that you are doing a Corte-like action and rotate her body improperly, which could cause all sorts of fun problems. I may know this because I may have accidentally done it… maybe. I’m not admitting that it was entirely my fault, but I may have messed it up once or twice. May. In May. 😉

That’s all I have got for this week. This coming weekend I am not entirely sure what I will be getting into quite yet. There is a big party being thrown by my Royal Dance Court group on Saturday, so much of my day had to be reserved for setting up for that event. I personally don’t think that the setup will take super long, so I may have tons of free time once it is finished. But because I reserved the afternoon for this, everything else I do on Saturdays got bumped, and I mistakenly never rescheduled those items. So… we’ll have to see what happens! Maybe I will have a ton of extra practice time! There’s a lot of stuff I should be working on perfecting, so it’s not like that is a terrible idea. I’ll let you know next week how things go!

Then again, if nothing else comes up, I could always spend that extra time drawing up plans for my dance workout program, right?

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