Like A Madman Laughing At The Rain

Last weekend pretty much exhausted me. There were so many things going on that just built on all the crazy things that I dealt with during the week prior – by the time Sunday afternoon finally rolled around and I had a chance to sit down and just reflect on everything that happened, I never got up again. There are definitely a number of lessons learned that I will have to make note of to remember for next time.

So last weekend there was a ‘small’ competition that I was planning on dancing in. As I mentioned last week, I was also working behind the scenes to help run the competition as well. Because there were so few volunteers that had any idea of what was supposed to be happening, I ended up taking on a much larger role than I anticipated, and ended up being at the competition much of the day. That pretty much killed all my other dance plans for that day.

The organizers of the competition ended up spending all their time catering to the every whim and desire of the judging panel, so someone else had to step in to run the front desk once they disappeared to deal with judgely requests. Guess who that ended up being? It was a good thing that I had looked over a lot about the competition before I got there, because running the front desk would have been impossible if I hadn’t done so. That was made even more clear when I had to have another volunteer step in to sit at the front desk while I was trying to dance. That volunteer didn’t find out the information beforehand, and I didn’t have a lot of time to show him everything before I went to dance, so his shift did not go quite so well.

Getting a system online to check in the competitors as they came in was a hassle. Dealing with all the heat change requests from the competitors was crazy. I mean, it was a one-day competition… how did so many of them sign up for the wrong heats? There weren’t that many options to choose from! Helping people who didn’t know the area figure out where to park, trying to collect money from spectators when I wasn’t given enough change to break bills, directing people to the changing rooms or practice floor – there were so many things to do!

The biggest lesson that I learned on Saturday though was that if I am going to be involved with helping at a competition at the kind of level I took on for this one, then I cannot also be signed up to dance in the competition as well. Sparkledancer (who also got talked into volunteering at the event) and I had planned on ending our volunteer shifts and grabbing lunch at a certain time, then coming back to change into our competition outfits and warm up before our rounds began. I assumed it would be an easy hand off and then I could worry about dancing exclusively.

The volunteer who came in to sit at the front desk when I left did not know much about what he was doing before he showed up, and then didn’t seem to pick up what I was trying to tell him quickly, so it took me a long time to step away from the desk. I tried to walk away several times, but then someone would show up at the front desk with a question that my replacement didn’t know, so he would call me over to get my help. Even though I did manage to run out and eat something really fast, I was still running behind schedule by the time Sparkledancer and I got back. When I tried to go to the practice room and warm up, the volunteer from the front desk still kept coming to find me so I could help answer questions. My warm-up ended up being questionable.

I will admit it now, the stress of that situation did not help me dance my best that day. Also, it didn’t help that just before my first Quickstep round of the day the volunteer from the front desk came into the ballroom with a panicked look on his face. When he made eye contact with me as I was standing out on the dance floor, I could see his shoulders droop because I obviously wasn’t going to be able to answer his question at that moment. That really distracted my from dancing that particular Quickstep, let me tell you.

So next time, if I am asked to help run any competition, I am going to have to make a choice to either dance or to volunteer. Doing both was a bad idea, and my results were a clear indication of that. If this had been a two-day competition, and I could have danced on one day and volunteered the other, that probably would have been fine I suppose. But doing both on the same day is a terrible idea.

Sparkledancer actually got a more fun volunteer shift than I did. After we got done dancing, I ended up heading back to the front desk to take over again and relieve the other volunteer from duty. He seemed quite relieved by me returning. Sparkledancer though, she got to take over the second shift as Deck Captain. That was apparently where all the fun was happening, since she got to run around and herd all the competitors into place.

The most fun thing that she told me that she got to do, which I am actually jealous of, was send competitors over to the Invigilator. Because the organizers have been trying to turn this small event into a much bigger deal, they were required to have an Invigilator on hand to keep an eye on all the dancers. The guy that they chose really knew his stuff, and was calling out a lot of competitors to talk with them about their choreography. Since this was a small event, he wasn’t disqualifying most of the competitors who did something wrong, just telling them what he saw and letting them know that they would need to make changes before the next competition they did.

With all the activity in the ballroom, many of the competitors did not hear their numbers being called to go see the Invigilator, so Sparkledancer would track them down and let them know. I guess she started calling it ‘The Desk of Shame’ and everyone thought that was pretty funny, so for the rest of the day that is how people in the ballroom referred to it. “Uh oh, competitor #xxx got called to the Desk of Shame!” Hilarious. The competitors at this event were mostly young adults, so they had a good time ribbing each other about getting called out like that.

Overall I think that the competition went really well from an event standpoint. There were no major issues that weren’t able to be overcome, all the competitors that I talked to seemed to be having a really good time, and there were no major delays that held up the schedule. Actually the event ran fast so there were times we ended up putting in short breaks to keep the rounds running close to their originally scheduled times, plus they extended the dinner break to make sure the evening session started when planned. I had work stuff to take care of, so I didn’t get to go help at the evening session, but from what I heard later everything went smoothly.

Sunday was a different matter though… while Saturday was spent volunteering, Sunday I was put to work. My coach Lord Dormamu knew pretty much everyone that was running this competition, so he pulled some strings and set up coaching sessions on Sunday with some of the judges for Sparkledancer and I. Yes, judges… I had coaching from three different people in the space of three hours. This wasn’t physically exhausting for me, but it was mentally exhausting because of how much information these judges tried to give me in the space of three hours.

I have a hard time actually describing how I feel about doing these lessons with the judges on Sunday. There was a lot of information, which is always a good thing. Some of the information was conflicting between the judges, which was a bad thing. Some of the information conflicted with things that Lord Dormamu tells me I should be doing, which is an even worse thing. One of the judges told me that he would be judging at the next competition that I have on my calendar, so it was probably good to meet with him in this manner… but so much of what he told me was contrary to information that has been beaten into my head over the last two years that I don’t feel like paying for that coaching session was really worthwhile!

Let’s take these in order. The first judge that Sparkledancer and I worked with was one of the female judges. She spent a lot of time talking with Sparkledancer about changes she could make to improve the way that she was dancing, but the judge also had some comments for me. Most of what she told me revolved around how she thought that I should be holding my frame and posture to help Sparkledancer, which of course was different from what other coaches have recommended to me about how I should hold my frame and posture. I’m starting to wonder if there really is a correct way to hold myself if all of these coaches and judges offer such different (and sometimes conflicting) suggestions…

She told me that, despite all the work that Lord Dormamu has had me do on improving the flexibility of my back so that I can move around with it bowed slightly, I needed to focus on keeping my spine straight up and down. That would mean that all the volume between my head and Sparkledancer’s would have to be created by Sparkledancer bending away over my right arm, as opposed to me helping out by bending my own upper body away from her at the same time.

The judge also told Sparkledancer that she likes to see the Follower in closer proximity to the Leader. In order for Sparkledancer to actually get any closer to me, however, this requires assistance from me. I was told that I needed to actually bring in my stomach to give her space. This is actually a weird sensation for me – I am so used to keeping my abdominal muscles engaged while moving my body around. The problem is, through years of hard abdominal work with heavy weights, my abdominal muscles are rather prominent. When I flex them, they stand out slightly more than my hip line.

To bring my core in so that it is slightly concave, I actually need to keep the muscles in my stomach as loose as possible while pulling my belly button back toward my spine.  This is a lot harder than it sounds, and it also made it difficult for me to breathe like I would like. I actually mentioned this to the judge – many years ago in my youth, I took voice lessons because I did a lot of singing. My voice teacher really drilled the concept into me of breathing from my diaphragm, so much so that even to this day that is how I tend to breath.

When attempting to make my stomach concave to give Sparkledancer room, it makes it really hard to breathe diaphragmatically. The judge told me that I need to forget about all of that while dancing, because dancing is not singing. What a weird sensation! I can’t say that I like breathing while using just the top part of my lungs, because it feels like I am missing out by not taking deeper breaths. If this is a technique that Lord Dormamu tells me I need to keep, it will definitely take me a while to get used to.

The last concept that this particular judge talked about quite a bit during this lesson was about making sure that both partners moved around a shared axis when dancing. I don’t quite remember what we did while working together that brought it up, but she threw it out there once while talking with Sparkledancer, and the idea seemed to help, so from that point on while we were dancing down the floor she would remind Sparkledancer and I to think about our shared axis in order to keep our movement together.

After that came a lesson with a second judge, and this one… this is the coaching session that I have a lot of questions about. He gave Sparkledancer and I a lot of points that were not only contradictory with things that Lord Dormamu tells me to do all the time and contradictory with things that the first judge told me I should be doing, but there were also things that he said which contradicted statements that he told us earlier in the same lesson!

You would think that I could just chalk this up as one of those political coaching sessions, allowing me to get my name and face out in front of a judge for possible future use, but this judge told Sparkledancer and I that he would be judging the next competition that I was planning to dance in. Because of that, I’m not entirely sure if it is safe to just think of this as political. There were points that he specifically told me that he looks at when watching dancers. If I know that is what he is looking for, and he is judging my rounds, how much of an effort should I make to implement those ideas for him? Especially if those ideas run contrary to the teachings of my primary coach? That is an idea I have been struggling with all week.

After dancing down the floor once for him (we started with a Waltz, since I didn’t have any other plans on what to work on with him), he told Sparkledancer and I that while we seemed to dance well technically, we were boring to watch because we weren’t doing a whole lot of anything artistically. He said that he thought working on dance technique was useless, because it was really the artistic component of moving with the music that was the key to being a good dancer.

On top of that, he told me that I look too stiff while I am dancing. That my arms seemed to be up too high and appeared to be locked in place too much. He wanted to see me much more relaxed while I was moving around as I danced. So much so that I no longer had a straight line between my elbows because they were drooping down. The term that he used more than once while talking to Sparkledancer and I was “loosey-goosey” to describe how he wanted my frame to be.

I struggled with this. I have been told for so long to hold myself straight and keep my arms out strongly, so relaxing and letting them droop did not make me happy. When he would ask me to demonstrate some figures with him, every time he got into dance position with me if he felt like my arms were too stiff he would pull away from me and make noises like an offended southern belle. It was a strange thing for me to deal with.

Another item that he brought up was about leading and following. He asked both Sparkledancer and I who it was that we thought was leading while we danced. Since I thought that this was a trick question, I said that it had to be the Follower that was leading. Sparkledancer told him that she thought I was the one leading, since I was the one that decided on which figures we were using as we moved down the floor. The judge countered that if the two of us were merely dancing routines given to us by our choreographer, was I really leading her at all? She told him that there would be times that I would have to break routine because of other couples on the floor, so she thought that I was in fact leading in order to avoid collision.

The judge chuckled smugly, as if we were ignorant children and he was going to be helping us out by giving us the right answer. He told us that I was essentially right that it was the Follower who was leading in this situation. But it was really because Sparkledancer was slightly shorter than me, so it was actually her stride that I would have to be working with as I took steps. If I am matching her stride, she is, in essence, setting the pace for our dance. I guess that makes sense, but did he really have to be so weird about it?

Even though he made a big deal about asking who the real Leader was, he still made a point of telling me how terrible my lead was. The odd thing about that was that his course of action to fix my lead was to ask me to use my arms more. This goes against everything that I have been told for years about how the lead for my dancing should be coming from my body, and my arms are really only moving because my body is moving. The judge told me multiple times that the ability to connect the desires of my brain with the reaction of my arms was what sets humans apart from the animals, so in order to lead properly I needed to use my arms to tell the Follower what to do.

Use them without using my body, that is. We spent several minutes dancing without body contact with him telling me to push with my arms to initiate the movement slightly before I moved the rest of my body. But my touch had to be really light. If I was pushing with anything more than the touch of a feather, I got the same ‘offended southern belle’ noises that he had been making earlier in the lesson. Those noises really irritated me…

That was really the point that made me question why I was taking this coaching session in the first place. Comments like that really make me wonder if I am just wasting my time and money working with this person, since all the other lessons that I take and all my practice time is spent focusing on doing the opposite of what he is asking of me. If this judge doesn’t care about technique, or wants me to start using my arms to lead instead of using my body like all the other coaches I work with regularly ask me to do, is there really any way for me to make him happy?

Do I just ignore his marks if he is judging me at a competition, because he has now basically told me that he is looking for me to dance so dramatically differently than other coaches? I know that when I ask three different coaches to tell me how to correctly do a dance technique, I run the risk of getting five different answers back… but this judge was a bit extreme in his ideas even for my open-minded view on how I should be dancing. I guess I just need to make note of what he told me and wait until I can get a clear interpretation from my regular coach before trying to build any of his advice into the way that I move.

The third person I worked with that day was much better to work with, but I was in such a bad head space after being told how terrible I was that I didn’t have much fun taking this coaching session. It wasn’t actually a judge I worked with during this hour, but rather the Invigilator. Looking back on what he said later in the day, I can see that he had a very interesting take on the way he sees things. It would be nice to potentially work with him again at a different time in the future when I would be more able to appreciate his approach in the moment, rather than after the fact.

He actually commented on how I lead my partner almost immediately after we started working together. Can you guess what it was that he told me I should be working on? If you guessed that it was working on leading from my body, step on down and claim your prize! So now I have yet another coach that I can add to the list of people telling me that it’s supposed to come from the body. This really made me feel like the previous coaching session was just a waste of my time…

The Invigilator went so far as to show me an exercise I can use to improve how I lead from my body. He stepped off the floor and came back with the large trash can that was sitting on the side of the dance floor. This trash can was on wheels, so he said it would work perfectly for me. What he wanted me to do was to place my hands flat together just in front of the right side of my body (where my partner should be connected), and hold just the tips of my fingers against the center of the trashcan. Then, without moving my arms, I was supposed to direct the trash can to move in a figure eight using just the movement of my body to push the trash can where it was supposed to go. This was a lot harder than you would think that it should be.

We spent some time on Foxtrot, applying this same concept to doing Feathers and Three Steps down the floor. When we got to the end, we did Back Feather into the Backward Three Step from the Reverse Wave. These felt pretty good to me, since I got to take my arms out of the equation once more and focus on doing the steps the way I had been trained to do them correctly. It was actually a nice way to wrap things up.

Overall, there was a lot of information given to me on Sunday – much more than I actually wrote down. I don’t know how much of the information will have an impact on my dancing; that’s for my primary coach to decide. I just hope that some of it is useful, or else I will feel really bad about how much money I spent on Sunday. It was a lot of money if I am just going to throw out most of what I was told. Playing the dance politics game is not a lot of fun.

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Until Someone Moves Or Cares, Stay Captive

I had the unexpected addition to my dance calendar this past weekend of working with a visiting coach on Sunday afternoon. Lord Dormamu called me up late in the day on Friday and asked me if I would be available. The coach was a high-level female that he is friends with, and he wanted to have her spend some time working with Sparkledancer if possible, but he wanted me to be there as well so that I could play the Lead during the coaching session. Since I had nothing else planned for Sunday afternoon at that point, I told him I could be there.

This was one of those coaching sessions where the coach actually knew a lot about International Standard, so she had useful information to pass along to Sparkledancer, and even some for me as well. Other coaching sessions that I have done where I was just meeting with the coach for purely political reasons don’t usually give me many useful things to think about. I prefer the kind of coaching session I had last weekend, as you might imagine. It makes me feel like the money I spend on working with the coach gives me a better ROI.

First off, I want to relay something that I thought was funny. The coach was talking with Sparkledancer about something related to her left hand. I admit that I wasn’t paying much attention at first, since the way she holds her left hand doesn’t impact me too much, but after they talked for a bit the coach wanted to demonstrate to Sparkledancer, so they came over to where I was standing so she could use me as a prop. She asked me to stand there as if I was in frame and hold up my right arm for her to demonstrate with.

She started off showing Sparkledancer some change in the way she hooked her thumb around the front of my arm. Everything seemed fine until she started talking about how to hook the rest of her fingers over the arm… only to find that she couldn’t actually hook her fingers over mine. She stopped talking and fussed with her hand for a bit, and then looked at me with a funny look on her face. Looking back at Sparkledancer, she apologized and said that she’s never had to think about this before, because she had honestly never danced with someone who had an arm as wide as mine before.

Of course, I couldn’t hold back my laughter any longer after hearing that. I mean, obviously it did my ego good to hear her say that my arms were too big for her to demonstrate with, but it was just so funny to see how surprised she was by that fact. I was wearing a short-sleeved shirt that afternoon, so it wasn’t like I was doing anything to hide my arm from her before she tried to wrap her fingers around it! That moment amused me quite a bit, so I thought I would share it here.

There was one point of information that the coach told me that afternoon that I thought was really profound, something that I had actually never thought about before. We were looking at the Waltz, and I had just led Sparkledancer through a Natural Turn when the coach randomly called out to me and asked me to stop and come back over. She had stopped me to ask why I was swaying so much during the Natural Turn.

I was a little taken back by the question. I told her that I’ve been told lots of times by various instructors that I should be arching my body as if I am pulling my left hip to the left while I close my feet on a Natural Turn, so that’s just what I do at this point. She said that was OK, but when we just did the Natural Turn a second ago, we had been looking at something else in the dance so we really hadn’t moved so much while going into the figure that would have caused me to sway like that.

That statement kind of confused me, and I guess she could see it on my face, so she told me a story. She said that once upon a time, deep in the history of ballroom dances like the Waltz, people used to dance without swaying. The topline was held level with the floor the whole time. She joked that this was also back in the days when the ballroom frame was much more loose, with the elbows held closer to the body, not wide and strong like it is supposed to look nowadays. A long, long time ago. This must have been like the ‘70s, or something. 😉

Anyway, when dancers started to move more as they danced, they found that they ran into an issue – driving yourself to move as much as possible in something like a Natural Turn while holding your topline level with the floor didn’t help you slow your momentum, so you would lose your balance in the figure and (potentially) fly off the floor. That was the whole reason that Sway was born. By arching your body away from the direction you are traveling, it shifts your weight toward the opposite direction which helps you arrest your movement and stop safely. That is the actual point of Sway she told me – to help stop your movements. Nothing more, nothing less.

So, going back to why she stopped me, she told me that I should only be swaying as much as my body naturally wanted to do, which is based on how much I drive myself along the floor. If I am just working on something and not moving a whole lot, than the sway shouldn’t be forced to look big, otherwise it seems really out-of-place. Whereas if I am flying down the floor in a Quickstep and I have a lot of momentum built up, going into a Natural Turn would naturally make my body want to sway a lot in order to bring my feet together and stop safely.

Her advice was to always let the sway happen naturally. Forcing it to happen or to be bigger than needed just made it look weird. Judges at competitions don’t like it when things look weird. I thought that was super interesting, and I had never thought about it like that before.

The other point that she gave me that I really liked was about my frame. At the beginning of the session she had us dance through our Waltz routine to music so that she could get an idea of what she was working with. Later on in the session she told me that she noticed places in the routine during my first run-through where my elbows were drooping a bit and not coming back up like she would have expected.

She told me that if I try so hard to hold my frame rigid, all I’m going to do is exhaust myself in the process. As my body moves around the floor, or even just breathes deeply she told me, judges would expect to see some subtle movements in my frame. That’s just how the human body works. Holding my arms completely rigid the entire time through multi-dance rounds would be impossible, and she thought it looked like I was trying to do that when I was dancing.

Her recommendation to me was to train myself to let my elbows rise and fall more naturally as I moved. In the Waltz for instance, I would work on lifting my elbows on every beat two in the music, and allow them to relax a bit at all other points. This will not only take the stress off my shoulders of trying to hold my arms in place the entire time, but it will also look more natural.

This coach really liked it when movements looked natural. Can you tell?

One other note that she told me along these same lines that was interesting was about taking steps. She said that as you are moving forward or backward, like when you are walking or dancing or running, your body naturally wants the width of your steps to be as wide as your shoulders. She called this a ‘universal principal’ of dance, a rule that many other rules in dance are expounded from.

Why was this relevant? Sticking with the Waltz as the example, I was told that when I am driving on the first step of each figure in the Waltz, I should always be moving forward or backward, and I should let my legs naturally take steps as wide as my shoulders. If I try to make the steps narrower, I run the risk of being unbalanced while I’m moving. If I open my leg up to step wider than my shoulder on either side, I will make myself turn in that direction whether I want to or not.

This tidbit of information came up because we were looking at one of the Reverse Turns in the routine. The coach thought it looked like Sparkledancer was having trouble getting around me, and she thought it was because I was stepping weirdly on the first step of the figure. Her advice to fix the problem was to step more naturally (surprise, surprise) and allow my leg to go straight back and only out as wide as my shoulder. That did make a difference, as Sparkledancer said afterward that the figure was much easier for her than it was than the way we had normally been doing it.

Working with this coach was good, and I enjoyed her unique perspective of how to dance properly using the natural movements of the body. Sparkledancer enjoyed the lesson quite a bit as well, and I know she mentioned to me that there were lots of points that the coach gave her that she is eager to put into practice. In the future if we get an opportunity to work with this coach again, I will definitely sign up for a time slot.

Monday night I was out at Latin Technique class. Class was pretty big that night, with some old familiar faces joining us for the evening. Ms. Possible has been coming to class on-and-off for the past couple of weeks, but this Monday both she and her amateur competitive partner Grampy Snaps decided to come out and join in the fun. With the diversity of competitors and non-competitors in class that night, there was some disagreement on what Latin dance style we should look at that evening, but the people who wanted to work on Samba won out in the end.

The pattern that Lord Junior gave us to look at that night didn’t consist of a lot of figures, but it could cover quite a bit of distance easily. We started off by doing three Promenade and Counter Promenade Runs, then we added on three Natural Pivots. Coming out of the last Pivot we did one more Promenade and Counter Promenade Run and then immediately stepped through a Volta and held the last two beats of the measure to slow down a little bit. To finish up we did a couple of twisting steps to work on rotational action in our cores, but the name that Lord Junior called the figure is really eluding me at the moment. Maybe it will come back to me later.

Things in class seemed to go alright for the most part while we were doing the figures slowly, but once Lord Junior had us do the progression with music and started to increase the tempo, I ran into an unexpected issue that I have never experienced before. The problem came during the Natural Pivots. The figure itself was fine, and I could get through them with no issues even at the fastest tempo we ran that day. My issue was actually with my partners. There were a couple of the ladies that freaked out while doing the pivoting action with me, and they just stopped dancing before we could go into the next figure.

I understand why it happened, but I’ve never actually had this issue really come up before. I will freely admit that I have a lot of mass (I admit it all the time, actually), so if I get my body moving it can be a lot to handle. Since I spend so much time moving myself, I know that I also have the control needed to stop my movement when I need to. I do it all the time, so I know what it takes and how to make it happen.

But when I start moving and my partner doesn’t know that I am in control of my own body mass, it can be a bit of a surprise. Especially if the lady is tiny and doesn’t weigh very much, like the ladies that I had the issue with that during this class. They weren’t driving themselves when they needed to, so rather than being a part of the movement that was happening, they were just holding on for dear life and the rotation of my body took them around where I was going. That freaked them out, so they stopped dancing as soon as the pivots were over, leaving me to move on into the next step all by myself.

I don’t really know if there is a good way to help with this. I tried to tell them that everything was under control, so they didn’t need to worry. Partners that I have danced with a lot (like Sparkledancer), or partners that were more… substantial (I’m sure there’s a more politically correct way to say this, but I can’t think of one at the moment) could get through the pivoting actions with me just fine. So… I don’t know. Pivots like this come up so infrequently during classes I take that I probably won’t put much thought into the issue this week. There are too many other things to think about right now.

In Standard Technique class on Wednesday night, we didn’t get to cover a whole lot of material. At my request, because I wanted to continue working on the items the coach talked with me about over the weekend, we looked at International Waltz. The figures that Lord Junior wanted to have us work on that night were very different from the ones we ended up doing. He had lofty goals for the progression he said he would cover, but all we ended up doing was a Natural Turn into a Running Natural Spin Turn, coming out into a Back Lock, and finishing with an Outside Spin into a second Natural Turn.

The reason that we didn’t get any further was because Seedling decided to join us in class again that night. This was his second foray into Lord Junior’s Standard Technique class, and he was in way over his head. So much so that Lord Junior had to pause class quite a few times to give Seedling extra assistance. Even simple things like how to do a Lock Step – which I know that Seedling had done with us during last week’s Latin Technique class – he struggled with during this class.

One of the people who joins us in Standard Technique class most weeks is an older lady. She loves to dance the ballroom-style dances, but her sense of balance isn’t that good and she gets dizzy easily if we do too many figures that spin in our patterns. Because Seedling was so unsure of his part during class this week, Lord Junior told this lady that she would only be dancing with either him or I, and she should skip over Seedling until he was more sure of his steps. He didn’t manage to get to that point before the end of class, so this lady never actually danced with him during the evening.

Unfortunately, that meant that the person who was asked to dance with Seedling through most of the class was Sparkledancer. Lord Junior paired the two of them up quite a bit because he knew Sparkledancer could help Seedling get through his part – essentially back-leading him as necessary to help him learn. Sparkledancer told me after class as we were walking out toward the parking lot that she felt like she didn’t get much out of class that night. She understood why she had been paired up with Seedling so much, but because he was so unsure of what he was doing she couldn’t use the rounds where she danced with him as time to work on her own part. That made me sad for her.

Hopefully over time Seedling will start to improve if he keeps coming to this class with us. I know that the franchise studio he normally takes classes at has not prepared him for this type of technical dancing, so for a while he will be working on acclimating to this kind of training. I wonder how long it will take for him to get through that phase? We certainly could use more Leads in both Latin Technique and Standard Technique, so the faster he can get comfortable the happier all the Followers in those classes will be!

This weekend is going to be a bit more than I originally bargained for. I was planning on going to a small competition on Saturday to dance. Last weekend I got a call from the competition organizers begging me to volunteer and help out during the competition as well. Now I am also going to be there most of the day doing who knows what. Maybe it will be fun? So far, after a few brief conversations with the people in charge, it appears like the competition is not very well organized (information-wise), and no one person can answer all the questions I have. When I needed to know things about what I’m doing this weekend, I have to talk with three different people to get all the information. That has been a bit of a hassle.

Can I help this event go off without a hitch? Tune in next week and I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it!

But Sometimes I Catch A Glimpse

It seems like it has been a long time since I’ve written about normal things. Let’s take this week to check in on the classes I go to during the week, shall we?

Monday night I headed off to Latin Technique class like I normally do. I had one of those ‘small world’ moments that night because there were a couple of young girls who joined us in class that night. Both of them were home this week while on some kind of break from college. One of those cool cats I actually recognized, because she happened to be the female half of the competitive couple that came in one place behind me at the last competition that I was in! Of all the people to randomly show up for Latin Technique class, I must say that I would have never even placed this girl on the list of possibilities.

On top of that, Seedling also showed up for class that night. Also, one of the female instructors that teaches on-and-off at the Electric Dance Hall happened to be there that night and after the lesson she was teaching was over she decided to jump into the class with us and dance the Lead part. All kinds of random people wanted to work on Latin Technique with us last Monday. Crazy!

Lord Junior had us start out by warming up doing Rumba Three-Step Turns from side-to-side. After a few minutes of turning slowly, Lord Junior decided we were all nice and warm and told us that what he had wanted to have us spend time on that night involved doing Lock Steps in Cha-Cha. He spent the next ten minutes or so going over the basic techniques needed for doing a Lock Step well, and had us all practice by going down the dance floor using repeated Locks Forward and Backward.

Once we had gone through Lock Steps sufficiently, Lord Junior had us look at the beginning of the Open Cha-Cha routine that he likes to give his competitive students. The combination of figures uses a number of Lock Steps, so it tied right in with what we had just finished practicing. The pattern is one I think I have seen before, but I can’t remember when that was. We start out facing our partner in open dance frame, holding on to her with our left hand, right leg pointed forward.

After a back check to start moving we go into a Forward Lock. At the end of that Lock we do a forward check and move our left arm slightly to the right to help rotate the lady to face away from us quickly before going into another Forward Lock, this time continuing the locking motion for an extra four beats. At the end of that we would do one last forward check and then move our left arm to the left to signal the lady to turn back to face us. The lady would do a normal Forward Lock here while the Leads did a smaller Back Lock, rotating the last step so that we were stepping to our left side, which allowed us to get our right arm back around our partner to close dance frame.

Now that we were together again, the guys would shift our weight to our right leg briefly and then go into a Telespin action to trade places with our partner. Once we were on her left side, we would move our right arm to take her left hand and release her other hand, then lower ourselves into our right leg so that we could lunge out to the left side. The ladies would bring their feet together on the right and bring up their right arm to strike a line here, which is where we finished up for the night.

Standard Technique class on Wednesday night was a bit smaller than Latin Technique was. Most of the attendees that night were those of us diehards who come to Standard Technique all the time, but a few of the random people who came on Monday night decided to come back for this class as well. The two college competitor girls showed up, and then Seedling also decided to come back as well.

Before we started, Lord Junior had asked one of the college girls what she wanted to work on that night. She requested that we do Quickstep. I thought that was a good choice, since Quickstep is one of those styles I always feel like I need to work on. Unfortunately, Seedling had never done Quickstep before, so not only was this his first foray into Standard Technique, it was also his introduction into Quickstep. You might say that he was in a little over his head that night.

The pattern itself wasn’t too fancy. The girl who had requested that we work on Quickstep only competes in Bronze and Silver, so Lord Junior limited what he did to figures from those two proficiency levels for her sake, with a little fun variation at the end to give us some extra practice on one of the concepts that he thought was important. The pattern that we ended up with was a Natural Turn into a Backward Lock, then a Tipple Chasse to the Right, a Fishtail and finally another Natural Turn to close.

The checking action in the Fishtail was the spot that Lord Junior pointed out as the most problematic for all the students he’s ever taught the figure to. He mentioned that one time he changed his Quickstep routine specifically to work on that checking action, and then he had decided to give us that variation to try so we could get some extra practice. The new variation involved doing the checking action in the Fishtail like normal with the right leg and then doing the two steps after that, but instead of going into the Forward Lock you would do another checking action on the left leg. We did three checks in a row – right leg, left leg, and then right leg one last time before finishing the Fishtail like normal and going into the Natural Turn. Doing this variation in time with the music was pretty entertaining.

At the end of class I spent a few minutes talking to the two young girls before they left, because I wanted to ask them if they had any upcoming competitions planned where I might see them (or compete against them potentially). Both of them told me that they were planning on doing the small competition that is going on two weekends from now, one that Sparkledancer and I were also going to enter into. The world got even smaller! It sounds like I might be dancing against both of them during that event as well. I guess we’ll have to see how we all fare when the dust settles at that competition.

I’m going to keep this short tonight. There’s a lot of stuff going on at work for me, so that’s kind of where my head has been this week. Let’s hope that next week won’t be quite so busy. There’s a lot of practice that I need to fit in, and not a lot of time to get it all done. Work seems to get in the way of dance practice, doesn’t it? Silly work!

Six Of One, Half A Dozen Of The Other

Hey! Look at that! Today’s the day!

Six year’s ago today I started this site. Wow! A lot has changed in that time, hasn’t it? And yet, a lot of things haven’t. I’m still dancing. I’m still posting here at least once a week.  Let’s take a moment to celebrate making it this far.
I’m not much of a party person. I didn’t actually have a real party. Though, I bet you could have guessed that. Me and my good friend just celebrated together quietly.
(Note: I bought that cupcake specifically for this picture. It took me a while to find one that worked for this…)

So, here’s to six years! Do you think that there will be six more to come? Stick with me and we’ll find out together!