We Can Moonwalk Right Out Of Here

I have to confess here, that what happened last Saturday was probably all my fault. After all, last week I made the mistake of mentioning that my Quickstep routine ‘didn’t have a whole lot to think about in it right now.’ I said that. It’s in writing, so I can’t pretend that I didn’t say that. At the time I published that post last week, I didn’t realize that those words would come back to bite me in the butt.

As you can imagine, last Saturday I walked into the Endless Dance Hall for a coaching session with Lord Dormamu. He was still finishing up a lesson with another of his students, so I set about stretching out like I normally do. When Sparkledancer showed up and finished stretching out, we started warming up together like we normally do. Lord Dormamu finishes up his lesson and starts walking toward where Sparkledancer and I are warming up, like he normally does. When we stop to greet him, the first thing that he says to us is “So, I’ve been thinking about your Quickstep routine…”

With those words, the rest of our coaching session was spent changing all kinds of things in the Quickstep. Grrr…

Why did he decide to do this? Apparently he was getting bored by the routine, so he wanted to make it more interesting. The things that we have been told to do are… questionable. He specifically told us that some of these changes are toeing a line of what we are allowed to do while he is still holding us back competing in Bronze. Not really illegal… but also not technically legal either. But, he is having us start in on this because he is looking toward the future. If we can master movements like this early on, then later when we move up to higher proficiency levels we can add even more, and look considerably better than our competition on the floor. At least, that is his plan.

The hard part is that because we are still competing in Bronze, we have to do all of this very precisely, and almost over-exaggerate the movements to really prove that we are doing them on purpose. If we seem unsure while we do them, or waver a little bit, there is a chance the judges could think that the movement was just an accident because we messed up or lost our balance, rather than a deliberate move. So, no pressure there, right?

So what is it that we need to change? It’s not figures, rather it is what I would call ‘styling’ points. For example, the simplest thing that we were asked to do was for the Natural Turns that are in the routine. In each one now, Sparkledancer is supposed to shape away from me as we close to create a look of more volume, and I am supposed to turn my head to the right to look over her. Yes, that is exactly the same thing that we are supposed to be doing in the Natural Turns in the Waltz, except it will be much, much faster in the Quickstep. The rest of the items are similar to that change, where it’s just seems to be stylistic. Overall the dance is the same, but trying to remember all of these new ideas is going to take me a little bit of practice.

After the Natural Turns, the next thing that we looked at is the Natural Spin Turn right at the beginning of the routine. Here he wants both Sparkledancer and I to do a head flick that starts just before the third step of the figure and ends as we lower during the third step before we move into the next figure. This change was the hardest one for me that day, because the head flick kept messing up my step. It honestly wasn’t until Sparkledancer and I were practicing on our own days later that I felt like I could do this head movement without messing up what my feet were doing. Why is it that I have such trouble moving my head and my legs independently from one another?

The next change comes with the first Progressive Chasse to the Right. Here we are now supposed to do a massive sway to the right, which causes Sparkledancer to also turn her head to her right. The change is supposed to happen on the first quick of the figure and last until we flatten back out on the first step of the next figure. There is a Forward Lock that happens a few figures later that was changed to have this same kind of massive sway as well. I have to be careful to really think about pulling up my right side when we sway like this rather than dropping my left side, otherwise I’m afraid I might break the line on my left side when swaying this drastically.

In the corner where we had the Natural Spin Turn with Reverse Pivot we made the most dramatic changes. Lord Dormamu wanted us to take out almost all of the rotation that the Natural Spin Turn has. Now the figure moves from side to side, kind of like a pinball bouncing back and forth instead of spinning. Most of the rotation left is during the Reverse Pivot at the end. I asked him if the figure would still be considered a Spin Turn if we did it like this, since it doesn’t, you know… spin. He told me that a good judge would see what the feet are doing and know what the figure was supposed to be, so I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. This change is probably the one that looks the weirdest from the outside, and remembering to throw in the head flick in on the third step like we talked about in our last coaching session doesn’t help at all.

The final spot that we were told to make a change was in the Running Finish. In this figure we are once again doing a massive sway to the right, this time starting on the second step of the figure. This sway also will cause Sparkledancer to turn her head just like in the Forward Lock and the Progressive Chasse to the Right, as you’d expect. So… yeah, now the Quickstep isn’t nearly as simple as it once was. My and my big mouth, right? I guess I deserve it. I’m sure with some practice this will all start to feel fairly simple, but right now trying to remember all the new things as I’m running through the routine gets to be a lot.

Now that we’re finished with that, let’s move on to Monday night. On Monday I ended up out at the Electric Dance Hall for Latin Technique class, and we opted to work on some Rumba that evening. That was probably the best choice for everyone, since it felt like a low energy night at the studio. Even the other group class taking place on the other side of the floor from us was much quieter than they usually are. I wonder what made it that way?

I didn’t think that what we were given in class was overly challenging, but I had seen the figures that were the hardest for some of the ladies before, so that gave me an edge. We started out as we usually do, facing on a diagonal with the guys pointing their right leg behind them and the ladies pointing their left leg in front. To get moving we took a slow step forward, then did a forward check. Coming out of the checking action, to set us up for the next move the ladies would take a step forward like normal, but the guys took a step off to the left and then led the ladies to do an Open Hip Twist. That set us up to do two Telespins right in a row, which is a move that should be familiar if you’ve ever danced Standard before, but modified slightly to work in Rumba timing.
After the two Telespins we released the lady out into Fan Position. After closing from Fan we brought the lady forward to do an Alemana that ended with her on the man’s right side. Here we had them do a quick Spiral before starting a Rope Spin. Lucky for me, that night there was only one lady in class who was a bit short, so I only had to duck a little with one person to make all the Rope Spins go pretty well. We stopped the lady walking around us once she got to be in line with the man’s left side, then led her to take one step straight forward and gave her a turn with our left hand to initiate another Spiral, but we let go after that. The lady finished the Spiral on her own, then did a Three-Step Turn continuing in the same direction, ending on her right leg.

The guys waited until the last second, then took two steps forward to get behind their lady in Shadow Position, holding just her right side with our right hand. Once in that hold we did just a few simple movements to wrap things up. We started with one measure of Cuban Rocks, followed by one measure of Rumba Walks, then one final measure of Cuban Rocks to finish. Simple and elegant.

The only other thing of note that I did this week was yesterday night, when I went out to Standard Technique class. Once class got underway and he saw the people who had shown up to attend that night, Lord Junior wanted to look at some Viennese Waltz with us. It’s a style that he likes to have us work on, but he will avoid going through it if a certain older lady who loves to join the class but really struggles with maintaining her balance shows up. It’s unfortunate, but I’m sure you remember that safety is always rule number one.

We warmed up like we always do when we have classes on Viennese Waltz – Lord Junior has everyone line up on one side of the floor and dance Natural and Reverse Turns down the length of the room. He always finds this to be hilarious because a lot of the ladies really struggle with knowing what direction they are supposed to be facing when he tells them to be backing diagonal wall, facing diagonal center, etc.. At one point we were all lined up to do some Natural Turns, and he stopped everything to point out that all of the students in class had lined up facing the wrong way except me (I’m not even making that up just to make myself sound more awesome – it really happened). Hilarity ensued, as you can imagine.

Once we finished the amusing warmup, there were a couple of figures that we looked at. Over the weekend Lord Junior had worked with a visiting coach, and somehow they got to talking about the proposed syllabus changes that some organization is incorporating into International Viennese Waltz to make the dance style more ‘interesting.’ The coach showed him three of the proposed new figures, one pretty easy, one medium difficulty, and one that is stupid hard at full speed. These new figures are kind of fun, but I still think that International Viennese Waltz is interesting enough with just the seven syllabus figures that have been used for forever, so I’m not sure I will be rushing too much to try to work these into my repertoire.

The easy figure that we did was a new way to transition from Natural to Reverse Turns without having to use a Change Step. You would start this after doing half of a Natural Turn, then take the first two steps of the second half and hold the next beat of music – almost like a checking hesitation action. Over the next two beats of music you would slowly rise up on your left leg while bringing your right leg in to close, and then on the third beat you do a small Slip Pivot with your right leg and go right into a Reverse Turn. This transition figure is nice because it gives you a chance to pause for a moment and take a breath before picking up again.

That was the easy one. The next figure we looked at you may have seen done before in other dance styles – three Natural Pivots in a row. I know pivoting continuously like this is popular in American Viennese Waltz, but it is crazy fast in International Viennese Waltz. Just like the last figure, you would start by doing half of a Natural Turn, then the three Natural Pivots cover the next three beats of music, then you come out to start another Natural Turn. These pivots are easier to do if you set yourself up to go around a corner before you start, but in an ideal world each pivot would turn you 180° to keep you moving in a straight line.

The last figure, as I mentioned, would be stupid hard to do at full speed. We started off working on it at slow Waltz speed to get things down, but didn’t speed it up much more than that before we ended class. The figure is essentially the three Natural Pivots I just mentioned, followed by a Running Right Turn that goes back into a Natural Turn at the end. Yeah. The Running Right Turn is a lot like what you would see in Quickstep, but since we are in Viennese Waltz the second step has to be syncopated to get all four steps in with only three beats of music. Getting this figure to go in a straight line is nearly impossible at speed, so you would really really want to set this up to go around a corner, otherwise you should just abandon all hope of getting it done. I’m sure with time, patience and practice someone will eventually be the first to get it to go in a straight line while looking effortless during a competition, but that probably won’t be me. Who knows though? Maybe I can be the second person to do it.

Look at that, another week is already past. We are quickly running out of weeks in 2018! What are your plans for this weekend? There are a couple of dance parties that I’m thinking about going to if I manage to get my act together. I feel like I haven’t really seen many people lately, so I’m going to try my best to change that. I’m never at home, but even when I’m out and about I don’t feel like I see all that many people. How weird is that?

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