Floating In This Cosmic Jacuzzi

So, how were the last two weeks? Interesting? I hope so. It was entertaining for me to think about what I wanted to say, and then think about what should be cut since it turned out that I had way too much to say about fitness-related topics that help with dancing. Hopefully someone out there got a thing or two out of my notes. 🙂

Let’s turn back to more normal topics for this week. I realized over the weekend that I have gotten so accustomed to coming back to this site to refer to my dance notes about things that I was taught in lessons/classes that now I seem to have a hard time remembering what I did if I don’t write it down here. But that’s OK, I managed to make it through all my practice sessions and still accomplish something. Good for me!

Since last Thursday, I got a chance to meet up with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu twice, first on Saturday afternoon, and then again yesterday night. Both meetings were supposed to be used for us to run through everything in preparation for the competition that I am going to this weekend. Oh yeah, did I mention that I am competing this weekend? This event seems to have snuck up on me faster than I would have liked. There are a lot of things that are going on in my world right now, and even though I have been keeping up with my training and practice, the thought of going to a competition has not been in the forefront of my thoughts over the past couple of weeks. I guess I need to change that, since I’ve only got a day left before I take to the floor!

The first session I had with Lord Dormamu on Saturday was supposed to cover everything, but we never actually made it that far. We started with the Waltz, and then moved on to the Quickstep, and ended up stopping there. Not because there were so many things wrong with the Quickstep that everything was terrible, but because there was a section in the Quickstep routine that Lord Dormamu thought needed to be “upgraded.” Apparently we made that section look too easy, so he wanted to change the way we did it to make us look more advanced.

Yeah, sure. Go ahead and change things in our routine. We had a week to go until our next competition. Plenty of time, right? Yay……………

Waltz was the easy for us to get through, since we had been spending so much time looking at it overall in the last few months. The only real subtle change that Lord Dormamu asked of me was that I do my best to spend a little more time getting into the rise on step two of the Natural Spin Turn. Since I was already asked in the past to work on extending my time holding step two to make it slightly longer than the beat in the music, if I rise up into that hold too fast it makes the figure look inharmonious. So I just need to keep that spot in mind, rise a little slower, and emphasize the sway a bit more to give the figure a more balanced look from beginning to end. Piece of cake.

Switching over to Quickstep, we ran through the routine a couple of times to start with so that Lord Dormamu could get an idea of how we currently looked while going through the routine. It had been a while since we had spent any time working on this style. Once we had finished running the routine, rather than talk us through points that he wanted to see us do better, Lord Dormamu zeroed in on one area of the routine that he was underwhelmed with – the first corner.

This is a part of the routine that we have gone through quite a bit. When I was first given the routine (feels like that was ages ago!), the first corner figure was nothing more than a Natural Turn with Hesitation. Somewhere along the line we changed the figure to be a Natural Spin Turn followed by a Reverse Pivot. Then, back in September, we altered the Spin Turn to be something else that I couldn’t even begin to describe. Finally, last December we changed it again so that the figure looked like half a hexagon with a Reverse Pivot.

Now we are changing things again. Most of the change involves adding in a lot of rotation to each step. The only real point of reference I was given to tell me how much rotation to shoot for was that by the third step, which is a checking action on my left leg, I am supposed to be wound up enough so that I am easily able to face backing line of dance. In order to get to that place though, the first two steps have to pivot quite a bit. The pivoting makes it hard to keep the three steps moving in anything but a straight line, so now it feels like we are traveling straight down the short wall until we hit the Reverse Pivot at the end.

I was also told that since all those steps now look like they are rotating so much, and then we go into a Double Reverse Spin right after the Reverse Pivot, I have to make a clear distinction with the step that travels straight as I enter the Double Reverse Spin. To do that, the Reverse Pivot obviously needs to be controlled so that its rotation ends before I take the next step, or else I will continue to rotate during that step. Also, Lord Dormamu wants me to make the step itself bigger. I know that it’s a step before Sparkledancer goes into a Heel Turn, so normally I would keep it short to help her collect her feet, but Lord Dormamu wants us to work on the transition so that we can make the step as large as possible and still accomplish the Heel Turn successfully.

So yeah. Just totally changing up a piece of the routine a week before I am competing. That puts no undue pressure on me at all, right?

Other than the change to the corner, the only other thing that was mentioned about our Quickstep routine that day was about the sharpness of the ‘quick’ steps at the end of the first short wall. Overall we have made really good headway on keeping the quicker steps in all the figures sharp and crisp, but at the end of the first short wall is our first Running Finish, and something about that figure seems to take the edge off those movements (see what I did there? Sharp? Edge? I’m hilarious!).

Since we were running out of time after spending so long talking about the changes that Lord Dormamu wanted us to make in the first corner, we didn’t spend a lot of time going over that Running Finish, but the expectation is that Sparkledancer and I would go back and take care of the issue through practice before we saw him next.

With a few days in between to get several hours of practice under our belts, Sparkledancer and I were back at the Endless Dance Hall on Wednesday night to meet with Lord Dormamu once again. This time we did manage to get farther than just Waltz and Quickstep – we doubled that and managed to touch on Tango and Foxtrot as well before time ran out! Much of the time was still spent on the Quickstep though, so it doesn’t really feel like we accomplished much of anything in the Tango and Foxtrot that night.

To start with we touched on the Waltz again. The only takeaway we were given this time was that I needed to make sure that I am keeping my upper body from leaning forward during a few key figures, like the Double Reverse Spin or going into the Hesitation Change in the first corner. These were places that Lord Dormamu saw me wavering slightly on our first pass through the routine, but they looked fine during later iterations, so it’s just something he pointed out for me to stay aware of.

Next up we looked at the Quickstep again. We didn’t make any changes to more figures this time around, which was a relief – this time we focused on overall techniques to make the look of the whole Quickstep routine better. Before we got too far though, I did make a point to ask Lord Dormamu about the figure in the corner that we changed last time. With all the different alterations that Sparkledancer and I had been given to “upgrade” the figure over time, I wasn’t sure what to call that figure anymore. Lord Dormamu told me that the figure is still technically a Reverse Pivot from a Natural Spin Turn, even though I don’t think it looks anything like that.

At least now, if some judge pulls me aside at a competition and tells me that the figure doesn’t look like anything in the syllabus, I will have a name for what it is supposed to be that I can give. Hopefully the information will keep me out of trouble. I mean, if I just say that the figure was a Reverse Pivot from a Natural Spin Turn that I did horribly wrong, that will totally keep me from being disqualified, right?

The big note that I was given for the Quickstep in this session was that I needed to lower more. The way Lord Dormamu actually described it to me was that he wanted me to “literally allow gravity to pull the mass of you upper body down” during appropriate parts of the figures I do. This would make my lowering faster, and also make the action quite clear even while I am moving fast. While trying this out with Lord Dormamu I was able to pull the technique off easily enough, but when I was dancing with Sparkledancer I held back to maintain a lot more control over how much I dropped.

Why did I do that? Well, I’m pretty sure I weigh somewhere around twice as much as Sparkledancer, so if I am holding on to her and I let gravity drop my upper body down, she will have no choice but to drop with me. I feel like there are all kinds of things that could go wrong in a situation like that until she is aware of what it is going to feel like. Maybe after a few weeks of practice we will get to that point, but for now I will default to keeping things safe and not allowing myself to drop quite as heavily.

Running low on time, we managed to move off of the Quickstep and look at the Tango. The overall concept that Lord Dormamu wants Sparkledancer and I to start working on adding into our Tango now is to make the ‘breath’ action more distinct as we move. This is probably not something we are going to be able to have down by this weekend, but it is an overall adjustment that we want to start working on before the next competition we go to, which I think will be next month.

Lord Dormamu described it as almost being like having rise and fall in our Tango. I know that is going to seem like anathema to anyone who has ever done International Tango before, but hear me out… What he wants us to start working on is actually lowering slightly before we go into sections of movement, almost like exhaling. When we come to a point where we stop movement, we can come up slightly, almost like an inhale.

We’ve touched on this notion in the past, but now Lord Dormamu wants to make the action more pronounced. The place in the routine where we looked at this was right at the beginning. Once we get into frame, we go into a Back Corte as the music starts. To do this, just before I start moving he wants me to lower into my standing leg before I push myself to the left. I would stay at the same level as I push onto my left leg, and it is only once I pause again in the middle of the Back Corte that I would come up slightly – not during the movement itself.

I did work on this while out at practice earlier this evening, but I’m not sure that it will be quite fixed in my muscle memory this weekend. Hopefully I went through the action enough that there will be at least a glimmer of what it is supposed to look like while I dance my Tango rounds this weekend. That’s all I can hope for.

Finally we managed to look at the Foxtrot for the last five minutes. Since this is our strongest dance style, overall things were looking good for the competition this weekend. Once we get back from the competition, I was told that Lord Dormamu and I would need to have a long talk about the idea of what it means to finish an action in Foxtrot before we go into the next action. This is a concept that Lord Dormamu said took him years to figure out back in his youth, so there was no way he was going to be able to help me fix it in five minutes. It will be the next hurdle to leap over in my Foxtrot as I continue my progress. I guess that is something to look forward to?

So now that my head is swimming with even more information to keep straight, it is time to run off to compete again. Hopefully I won’t cause myself too much grief trying to keep everything in mind while I dance, and I can actually feel OK about how I fare at the event. I guess we’ll have to see. Tune in next week and I’ll tell you all about it!

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