If Everything Is Nothing, Then Are We Anything?

My dance weekend began by taking part in another meeting between Sparkledancer and Lady Tella. We spent the entire time that afternoon dancing Tango. As seems to happen quite a bit with these meetings, there wasn’t much in the way of notes that actually relate to me, but I did pay attention to some of the things that Lady Tella told Sparkledancer to focus on this time around. Some days I am not too poor to pay attention! Yay me!

The spot in the routine that Lady Tella wanted to work on the most with Sparkledancer was the Right Side Lunge that is in the first corner. Even though the figure is different and has some sway while we are in the line, Lady Tella told her to think about shaping it more like a Back Corte, and to sink into her hips more. The part that was the most difficult to get correct was the head movements. Going into the lunge, Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to change her head earlier. Also, she said that I should be leading Sparkledancer’s head motion with a subtle flick of my body. If I’m not doing anything to lead it, apparently the head movement just looks cosmetic.

Coming out of the lunge, Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to add back in the double head flick once more as we rotate into the Back Corte. I swear poor Sparkledancer’s head must be spinning (pun intended) from the amount of times people keep changing that on her. For a few weeks one coach or another will tell her to do it, then someone will come along and tell her to take it out, then it will go back in, then a month later it gets thrown out… hopefully this will be the last time someone voices an opinion on the matter and she gets to keep it in forever this time.

A few other notes that Lady Tella gave Sparkledancer were (in no particular order): during the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside she needs to keep her hips back further; any time she has rotated to Promenade Position, she was told to stay in her back leg and keep her head outside of her hands; during the Natural Twist Turn she needs to make sure to fill the Lead’s right hand and not let it slide across her back; and overall while dancing Tango she needs to think about keeping her chest forward and her head back.

The one note that Lady Tella kept saying to me, and I’m not even sure why I was doing this that afternoon, was that I needed to keep my fingers closed together on my right hand. This is not something that I normally do, but I guess that afternoon I kept letting my fingers splay out when I was standing there in dance frame while the girls were talking. Maybe it was because I was just standing there a lot, trying to be a good dance dummy, so I wasn’t really concerned with what my hands were doing. Half the time my left hand was just out, and the lady I was in fame with (either Sparkledancer or Lady Tella) wasn’t even holding onto it, so my left hand was being useless too. Still, I wrote it down so that I would pay more attention to keeping the fingers of my right hand closed next time. Silly me…
Last Saturday night I ended up out with some friends at a dance party event being held at the City Dance Hall. This party was notable because the organizers of the party had convinced some Amateur couple who has recently won some sort of nationally-recognized championship in American Smooth to come out and teach a class in Waltz before the party. I didn’t recognize the names of the couple, but I thought that going to a lesson taught by an Amateur couple who was competing at that level could be interesting, so I agreed to meet up with people there.

Have I ever told you that I am terrible with names? Because I really am. I am much better at recognizing faces of people I’ve met before than I am at remembering their names. I bring this up because even though I didn’t recognize the names of the high-level Amateur couple that was going to teach that night, I recognized the two of them right away when I saw them. I’ve met them a few times before because they are actually another Amateur couple that my coach (Lord Dormamu) is training!

A few years ago this couple had been winning all kinds of competitions in American Smooth, so they decided that they wanted to add more work into their lives and picked up International Standard as well. They looked around for a coach for a while, and finally managed to hook up with Lord Dormamu because he’s one of the best, and they have been working with him ever since. I’ve talked to them many times before when they’ve been in town for lessons with him, and I spent quite a bit of time talking to them this Saturday night as well once I realized who they were. Maybe now I’ll be able to remember their names going forward…

The way that they taught their Waltz lesson was interesting. They had a basic idea that they wanted to give to everyone, but taught it in three parts. First they showed everyone the idea in its most basic form. During the middle of the class they upgraded some pieces of the idea to be more of an intermediate pattern. Finally at the end of class they evolved the intermediate choreography to an advanced state, trying to make it more of a challenge for anyone who has a dance power level over nine thousand.

Basic choreography started off facing line of dance and doing half of a Reverse Turn, then doing a Box with Right Underarm Turn for the second half, rotating 90° and closing in hand-to-hand position facing center. From here we traveled down the line of dance doing three Open Change Steps (or Running Steps, or Butterfly Steps, whatever you want to call them). At the end of the third Open Change Step we closed back into dance position then did another half of a Reverse Turn, using that to turn the corner and rotate to face toward diagonal center on the new line of dance.

There was really only one change given to upgrade the pattern to the intermediate version. The Open Change Steps that did most of the traveling in the pattern were replaced with a version that allowed both partners to do free spins while moving. I’m sure most of you have either seen or done this variation before – the Lead will give the lady a slight push and release her hand as you open up for the Open Change Step, so that the lady turns out to the left while the man turns out to the right. After the spin, you catch hands again and then collect like you would normally for an Open Change Step back into a hand-to-hand position with the man facing center.

The most advanced version made a number of changes. To start with, we did two out of the three free spin variation Open Change Steps. The last one was replaced with the man just doing three Running Steps forward while turning the lady clockwise, and then another portion was added on with the man doing three Running Steps forward again, this time turning the lady counterclockwise. After the turns, the man would catch both of the lady’s hands and do a checking action, leading her to do a Développé. We closed the Développé by bringing the lady back upright and doing half a Reverse Turn, then doing a Simple Twinkle which ended in Promenade Position and continued down the floor with Passing Twinkles ad infinitum, closing with half a Natural Turn whenever you wanted.

In most dance studios, this pattern will naturally need to curve as you move, because the dance floor will not be long enough to do everything in a straight line. If you play your cards right, and get the right partner, you can easily cover ¾ of the dance floor. And this couple teaching, well they were encouraging everyone to try their best to cover that much of the floor. Their words of encouragement were funny though. We were all told, and I quote: “To make it big and powerful, you have to be big and powerful doing it.” Really deep, helpful advice, right?

During the middle of the party after the lesson was over, the organizers had asked the two of them if they would perform a couple of numbers for the crowd, so they opted to do a Foxtrot and Tango. The Foxtrot ended up being really interesting, because after they finished the DJ came on the mic and told everyone that they had been asked specifically to dance that performance as Lead and Follow – with no routine or prior choreography. They had wanted to show all the members of this club that it was possible to dance in a really fancy manner at a really high level without having to memorize a routine beforehand, something that all of the people in the crowd could aspire to. I thought that was a pretty sly way for the organizers to try to motivate their members. Good on them.

I left the party shortly after the performances were over because I had things to do at home that night, but on my way out I stopped to talk to the two of them. Most people were wandering by and congratulating the pair on their performance and showering them with praise, but I just wanted to see how their training with Lord Dormamu was going, and find out what competitions that the two of them were planning on doing over the next couple of months. Sadly, they weren’t going to be at the competition I’m going to at the end of this month, and I’m not going to the one they’re doing in July, but they are considering going to the one in August that I am planning to do, so we could possibly see each other there. Hooray for that!
The two of them then mentioned that they are going to a non-competition dance event at the beginning of July that Lord Dormamu had mentioned to Sparkledancer and I. It’s a big coaching get together with a lot of big name people, that is happening in a town a few hours north of me. I had been mulling it over after Lord Dormamu mentioned it, and the information I could find on the event made it sound interesting, but also super expensive. This couple told me that they went last year, and they thought it was a lot of fun, so they were excited to go back. Well now I’m leaning toward going. It will be another dance adventure if it happens, right?

Speaking of other dance adventures… Monday night I was out at Latin Technique class doing some Rumba. This week the class had no special focus, we just went through some figures that Lord Junior hadn’t made any of his students work on in a while, so that these students could prove that they hadn’t forgotten the steps. I just got to go along with the ride on this one.

We started out by facing our partner in a one hand hold, with the guys pointing their right leg back and the ladies pointing their left leg forward. Stepping forward on a slow count to start, we did a forward checking action and then the men closed their feet and led the ladies to do a Curl. Next the men did a backward checking action and collected the lady into dance frame to go through a Reverse Top. After letting the top spin for three measures, we released the lady out into Fan Position.

Closing from Fan Position, we led the ladies to do an Alemana that ended with the lady on the man’s right side. You wanted to make sure not to bring the lady in too close to your body here, because we had them do a Spiral Turn next, so they needed to have a little free space to turn without smacking us. From there we walked them around us in a Rope Spin. Once she got all the way around so she was back in front of us, we would collect her back up with our right arm, rotate 90° to the right and go into two Opening Outs.
At the end of the second one, the men needed to slide their right foot around the lady so that we could get in front of her for the next figure. Releasing our partner as we came around, we did a Sliding Door action, with the men checking forward on the lady’s left side. Coming back, we did a Delayed Action with our left leg, pointing it behind us until the last second and then putting it down and taking another step to the right into a Right Side Lunge. Lord Junior made me try to do some sort of fancy arching movement with my arm while in this lunge, but I’m sure it looked more silly than fancy when I did it. We then stood up, collected our left leg to the right one, then stepped forward to catch the lady with our right arm one last time to go into an Opening Out action on our right side to finish.

Finally, I also got to do some Tango in Standard Technique class this week. To differentiate what we were doing in class from the Tango lesson I was a part of last Saturday, Lord Junior gave us a few figures from International Tango, and then added in some figures from American Tango to make things interesting for us. I’m pretty sure I have done all the pieces of the choreography that we used at some point in the past, just not put together with each other or in this order.
The pattern started with two different figures from the standard International Tango syllabus. The first was a Gold-level figure, the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot. The second was a basic Bronze-level figure, the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside. We started out taking these heading toward diagonal center, then following the wall, coming out toward diagonal wall. That is, of course, until Lord Junior saw that some of us (i.e. me…) were covering a lot of ground with just these two figures.

Since there were people on the other end of the floor working with their instructor and he wanted to leave them some room and still add more figures, he told me to pull in my angles a lot. Rather than start the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot heading toward diagonal center, I was almost going straight center, and coming out after the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside heading almost right for the wall. Me and my long legs, always getting into trouble with floor space. Sigh…

Here is where we switched over to some American Tango figures. The guys took two steps on an angle and faked a third to keep our weight on our right leg while we turned the ladies to bring them to Shadow Position facing diagonal center. Next we did another Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside, only this time in Shadow Position. At the end of that figure, we rolled the ladies across our bodies out to our left to get into a side-by-side hold (I believe the position is called ‘Open Fan’ but I can’t swear to it, so YMMV if you want to use that name when discussing it with other dancers).

Leading the lady to rotate with our left hand, we faced one another (also called Fan Position, I believe, but don’t quote me on that), then we led the lady through an inside turn as we stepped forward to her outside. To finish everything we did a basic American-style three-step close action while bringing the lady back into closed dance position.

I think this coming weekend is going to be busy for me again. Besides lots of practice to get ready for the competition I’m doing in a couple of weeks, I should have a lesson with Lord Dormamu (if he ever gets back to me to confirm the time), I know there is a lesson with Sparkledancer and Lady Tella planned, and my Royal Dance Court gang is hosting a dance party on Saturday night. I’m expecting the party to be kind of busy, because we are bringing in someone to teach a Shag lesson. Providing lessons in these more esoteric dance styles tends to attract different people than I normally see, in addition to all the regular ballroom people who come to these parties, so the dance floor could be rather busy that night.

I hope that you have a lot of fun things on your dance calendar too. Are you taking your dad out dancing? I’m not. My parent’s live really far away, so even if I invited them, neither of them could come with me. Plus, you know, as a guy it would be weird going dancing with my dad. I still feel like he is the one in charge when he’s around, since he’s my dad and all, but I know more about dancing than him, so I don’t think I could let him be the Lead. Plus I’m really not a very good Follow…

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