Have you ever gone out and had a dance lesson where you didn’t cover a whole lot of material, but the things you were working on were still incredibly difficult? That was how my lesson with Lord Dormamu this past weekend went. We spent nearly two hours looking at nothing more than four figures in Waltz, and much of that time was spent specifically focusing on just one of those four.
Can you guess what figure it was that we spent so much time on that afternoon? It was the Natural Turn. The simple, basic, Pre-Bronze Natural Turn. Apparently the Natural Turn in Waltz is like the Three Step in Foxtrot – one of the first figures you learn for the dance style that seems so simple based on the footwork, but in reality is one of the hardest figures to make look good. I mean, you step forward, then step to the side while rotating to the right, then close your feet together. You would think that it couldn’t get much easier than that! Then you would make a silly choice in life that somehow puts you into a position where you have a multi-time world champion in International Standard telling you how you should be doing a Natural Turn, and you would find out just how difficult the figure actually is.
Lord Dormamu actually forwarded me a picture that he had saved once upon a time so that I can look at it for inspiration while I practice Natural Turns. It shows a couple competing on the dance floor who are in the middle of a Natural Turn, with audience members watching from the background. In the upper corner it has an inspirational saying about Natural Turns. Maybe you’ve seen the picture before. I’m sure you could hang a big copy of this picture in a dance studio to motivate all sorts of students if you wanted to.
I’d show you the picture, but… I can’t find a copy of the picture on the Internet, and I’m way too lazy right now to walk back downstairs and get my phone where I saved the copy Lord Dormamu sent me. You know what’s easier? Recreating the picture myself!
Anyway… going through the Natural Turn super slowly, looking at each and every step and the movements you need to do between steps is uncomfortable. It required me to twist my body a lot, then hold still while Lord Dormamu manipulated Sparkledancer and discussed what we were doing, then there were a bunch of micro-adjustments as we fought to maintain our balance as he talked even more. When we finally felt like we just couldn’t hold still any longer and were about to collapse, Lord Dormamu finally allowed us to relax briefly, and then we started over from the beginning. If we did well, we got to go on to the next portion of the figure and repeat the same process. So. Much. Fun.
I did manage to think about asking if the changes that we were making to the Natural Turn in the Waltz would carry over to any Natural Turns that we do in other dances, to which Lord Dormamu confirmed that they should. Right now the only other place we do a Natural Turn like this other than in the Waltz is in the Quickstep, so it’s not too much more to worry about. We do have Natural Turns in Foxtrot now that I think about it, but I will have to ask him next time I have coaching whether those will be similar, since Foxtrot is a completely different animal than Waltz or Quickstep.
On top of the Natural Turn, we also spent some time looking at the Natural Spin Turn, and the Progressive Chasse to the Right and the Outside Change. Those last two figures are grouped as such because the part that Lord Dormamu was most interested in working on that day was the transition between the two. We didn’t have to spend nearly as much time looking at these other figures as we did looking at just the Natural Turn.
In the Natural Spin Turn, we’ve been given the go-ahead to start playing with the timing at the end of the figure. Rather than taking each step on time with the beats of the music, Lord Dormamu said that we could improve the way the figure looks by having me take the second step straight down the line of dance and then slowly rotating my body once over my right foot, coming out onto the left foot after beat three of the measure has already passed. That speeds up the flow into the next Reverse Turn considerably, and gives both figures impressive looking sway through if we get the swing through the figures correct.
He wants me to do a similar idea at the end of the Progressive Chasse to the Right as we transition into the Outside Change. If the Progressive Chasse to the Right is heading straight down the line of dance, he wants me to try to end up on beat three of the figure with my body facing backing line of dance. As I prepare my leg backward to move into the Outside Change, here is where the body begins to rotate, creating a massive contra body alignment before taking the first step of the Outside Change. The timing on these two figures doesn’t change like we are toying with on the Natural Spin Turn though, only the delayed rotation action is carried over here. I guess I should have specified that earlier.
Other than my lesson on Saturday afternoon, I didn’t get to go out and do much. An incorrect label ended up causing all sorts of huge problems for me at my job, keeping me from going out and doing anything other than work for the first couple of days this week. Fun fun fun…
I finally managed to leave the house and get to a class on Wednesday night when I joined some other fun people in Standard Technique class at the Electric Dance Hall. That night as class began, Lord Junior told all of us that he was going to have us all look at what was the beginning section of his student Veep’s Open Waltz routine that they had recently put together. I guess it was an all Waltz week for me this past week! Veep was in class with us that night, so this turned out to be some extra practice on the routine for her.
This routine actually had an interesting starting step to it, one that Lord Junior had discussed with some visiting coach before putting it to use. A lot of International Waltz routines start out with a prep step of some kind and then go right into a basic Natural Turn before moving on to more complicated figures. Lord Junior had thought of this crazy idea of starting his routines with half of his normal prep step and then going right into a Double Natural Spin before doing the basic Natural Turn like usual. His crazy idea was that doing the Double Natural Spin right at the beginning like this lets you A) make the opening of your routine different from everyone else on the floor, and B) lets you do the Double Natural Spin without a lot of momentum behind it, which makes the figure easier and look cleaner.
Of course, that didn’t make the figure easy for everyone in class. A few of the ladies in class had trouble remembering to cross their foot in front as they took their last step of the Double Natural Spin. If you cross your foot behind accidentally, you block your leg from moving for the next step, so you basically kill the routine in its tracks. Or sometimes you make your partner run into you. Or both! I ended up having to stop and reset on quite a few of the passes I did because of ladies crossing their feet wrong.
If you managed to live through the Double Natural Spin and the Natural Turn, the next figure after that was an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, which started and ended with the guys backing line of dance. Immediately after finishing that we went into a Turning Lock to the Right, coming out in Promenade Position heading toward diagonal center. When we got done with that figure, Lord Junior broke from Veep’s routine and instead had us go into a basic Chasse from Promenade Position and end with another Natural Turn.
The idea that he wanted to have the ladies work on at the end of the choreography by putting those two syncopated figures back-to-back was the rise and fall across syncopated steps. The Turning Lock to the Right starts with the syncopated beat, while the Chasse from Promenade Position has the syncopation on beat two in the music. This makes the rise and fall during those syncopated steps different, and he wanted to be sure that the ladies knew when they were supposed to stay down and when they would rise up.
One last thing – I want to make a note and say that I’ve officially resigned from the Royal Dance Court. The lady currently in charge of the group seems to have this intense need to find and stoke drama where there really isn’t any, and no matter how hard any of the rest of us tried we couldn’t seem to tamp that tendency of hers down. I got one more overly dramatic email from her over the weekend that finally broke the camel’s back, and I just didn’t want to deal with that anymore. So I put in my resignation effective on the first of the month. With everything else I have going on in my dance life, I don’t need to spend time worrying about manufactured drama. I’m not retired yet, so I ain’t got time for that!
OK, enough about that. It’s hard to believe that another whole year has passed, and once again next weekend it is time for the annual ballroom dancing weekend extravaganza at the Grand Dance Hall! What does that mean? Well, for starters, I have to find a couple of hours to sit down and put together the Lego castle that I use to represent that location. I normally leave the castles for dance halls I visit frequently put together on a shelf, but since I only go to the Grand Dance Hall once a year I end up taking that one apart every year to put it back in its box. I have to keep it safe from my cat… I have no idea why she likes to play with Legos so much!
Aside from that, there is going to be a lot of dancing to live music on Friday and Saturday night, and some workshops during the day on Saturday. Plus, I am a huge fan of the breakfast buffet that they serve in the morning before the workshops – I think it’s totally worth the extra money. If you ever go to the ballroom dancing weekend at the Grand Dance Hall, make sure you get the package that includes breakfast. You won’t be disappointed!
So, are you going to be there this year? I think I ask that every year, and so far no one else has opted to ask me for more information so they could go. Maybe someday, right? If you are out anywhere else dancing this weekend instead, have fun!