Meet Me In Outerspace

My Amateur dance partner and I happened to choose the Electric Dance Hall as the location for where we were going to practice last Saturday afternoon. When I showed up there at the time Sparkledancer and I chose, Lord Junior was hanging around the studio, cleaning thing a little bit while waiting for his next student to show up. He waved at me when I walked in the door and told me that he was having someone come in the next day to teach a Pilates class. It wasn’t really an informative statement he was giving me, it sounded more like a note to let me know where I was going to be the next day.

And that’s the story of how I ended up doing Pilates randomly on a Sunday afternoon.

Pilates is not something that I do very often. Sure, I have done it quite a few times over the course of my life (most of those times being at some dance studio or another), but I don’t really go out of my way to join classes unless someone else I know is going and they ask me to go with them. It’s not that I dislike Pilates or anything – I know all the benefits a number of Pilates exercises have for dancers – it’s just that all the Pilates classes that I get invited to go to don’t end up being all that difficult for me. I like a higher degree of difficulty in my core workouts.

Please don’t take that the wrong way – I don’t mean that to sound arrogant, it’s just that I have worked on my core strength for a long, long time, and the exercises that I am asked to do in the average Pilates class don’t really challenge me because of all of that work I have done for the last decade. Holding my legs up in the air and my shoulders off the ground while wiggling my arms up and down (I think the move is called the Hundred?) is really not a big deal for me. Later that same day I was doing slow crunches with a four-second count up and down while holding 60lbs over my chest, because that’s the kind of thing I do to get that good burning feeling in my abdominal muscles when I work them. Plus I think it’s fun. I’m weird like that.

But, since Lord Junior specifically mentioned it to me, I showed up and did the Pilates class with him. I am not one to shy away from a physical challenge so I was right there on the floor with everyone else. There were actually three guys in this class: myself, Lord Junior, and then Seedling. I guess he had been telling Sparkledancer for weeks how he wanted to try and get into shape and he needed to lose forty or fifty pounds because he has dreams of becoming a champion Latin competitor and also ballroom instructor someday, so when she heard about the class from Lord Junior telling me on Saturday she told Seedling that he should also go. Sparkledancer was also there, because she wouldn’t just challenge someone else to go and not show up herself.

I put my mat down in the back row for class, and ended up being right next to Lord Junior. He actually struggled with things as class went on, and I felt really bad for him. A couple of weeks ago, I guess he was doing some outdoor activity and ended up getting hit in the chest pretty hard, which may have bruised or cracked a rib. His doctor told him that he would have to take it easy for a few months until things healed enough. Ribs usually take a long time to get better.

He thought that he was going to be fine through this class since the incident was weeks ago, but any of the exercises where he had to curl his body up around that side of his rib cage ended up being a lot more painful for Lord Junior than he had anticipated. Gritting his teeth helped him get through things at the beginning of class, but by the time we got halfway through he started having to keep his back on the mat because it hurt too much. By the end of the hour Lord Junior was really only getting in work through his legs and trying to leave his entire core out of it. Poor guy.

Lord Junior was no longer feeling pain in his core on Monday night thankfully, so Latin Technique class went on as scheduled. Before class started, Lord Junior told all of us that he had promised one lady a few days ago that we could work on Samba in class, but she wasn’t there yet. I guess the last time she came to class she was ten minutes late, so he said that we could get started with warm up exercises and see if she showed her face before deciding what we wanted to work on. We did two different exercises, Batucadas – which Lord Junior said was good for everyone to do whether we worked on Samba that night or not – and Three Step Turns going from left to right.

Once we finished up those and the lady he had promised a class on Samba to still hadn’t shown up, Lord Junior decided that he should save Samba for her another time and work on some Rumba instead. He asked everyone if they could think of anything we hadn’t worked on in Rumba for a while. The first thing that came to my mind was the Rope Spin figure, but I didn’t say anything about it. There were a lot more women than men in class that night, so I didn’t want to pick something since I was in the minority. I’m not sure where the other guys who had been coming to class lately were (Seedling and Apollo for instance), but I sure could have used some help that night.

After a long pause, Veep, who was standing to my left at the time, ended up being the first person to speak up. Do you know what she suggested? Yeah, you guessed it: the Rope Spin. I thought that was really funny, as if she had read my mind or something. I leaned to my left and told her that I was just thinking about that figure too, and so we high-fived. Since the two of us seemed pretty happy about the Rope Spin, Lord Junior said that we would go ahead and work on it this week.

The progression that he had us work on was fairly short, which was good because there were a lot of ladies for Lord Junior and I to rotate through so that everyone could try it with a partner a couple of times. We started off with the lady out in Fan Position, closing her back to us to lead her through an Alemana. Once she finished the three steps for the Alemana, she did a Spiral Turn and then went into the Rope Spin. When she got to the Lead’s left side, she did another set of three turning walks (which is all an Alemana is) to end up on the Lead’s right side. Rotating ourselves 90° to the right, we took her into an Opening Out action on the right side, with the Lead faking the last step to stay on our left leg. That allowed us to finish up by taking the lady through a Telespin.

Finally this week, last night I managed to make it out to Standard Technique class. When I got to the Electric Dance Hall, the parking lot was pretty empty and it was raining really hard. The other class that usually goes on Wednesday nights had been cancelled, so those of us who were brave enough to face the rain to come out to Standard Technique class had the whole studio to use. Some of us started to talk about what we wanted to look at that night since we had all kinds of space to work with. Sparkledancer, Veep and I were leaning toward Quickstep, possibly to get in some extra work on the Running Right Turn just for fun.

However, there was one pair of students that were going to join us in class that night that had never been to Standard Technique before. The two of them had come for the other class that had been cancelled, and since they had driven a long way to be there they didn’t want to just turn around and go home quite yet. Lord Junior let them stay for his class for free because he’s such a nice guy. The pair were a husband and wife, and they only dance socially, so going to a class that was supposed to be for working on dance technique was a new experience for them.

Since we had been talking about doing Quickstep in class that night, we asked the two of them if they had ever done that style of dance before. Neither one of them had, so that idea got thrown out for their sake. Lord Junior then asked if the two of them had ever done Viennese Waltz. They both said that they had done a little bit, so Lord Junior said that would be good enough, and thus the decision was made. To make things easier on them, Lord Junior kept the tempo that we were working at below the normal speed for American Viennese Waltz. The fastest we got that night was 90% of the American style tempo, and that was only for a few rounds right before the end of class.

To evaluate how much the newcomers to class actually knew about Viennese Waltz, we spent several minutes working on just doing Reverse Turns going down the length of the floor, first with everyone dancing by themselves and then with Leads and Follows paired up. The two of them seemed to do OK, with only a few minor corrections needing to be made. The lady didn’t cross her left foot in front of her right on the front half of the Reverse Turn until told to do so. I guess she had never been told to do it that way before, which is weird. The guy needed to make some minor adjustments to his frame, most noticeable of which was that he was told to stop looking at his partner while he danced, because it was pulling his body to the right when he did so.

The bit of choreography that we were given to work on was something that would be pretty familiar to anyone who does American Viennese Waltz. There were one-and-a-half Reverse Turns followed by a Backward Change Step where the Lead actually took a larger step than the Follower while sliding his right hand down her left arm to put some space between the partners. That allowed the Leads to take one step back on the left foot and hold as the Follower did a Développé over the rest of the measure of music.

Coming out of that, the Lead would turn the Follower across his chest as he took two steps back in Canter timing so that we ended up in Shadow Position. From here we stayed in Canter timing and did four Canter Grapevine actions down the line of dance. Once we finished with those we wrapped the progression up by doing two Open Natural Turns that were allowed to curve off to the left as if we were going around one of the corners in the room. Most everyone in class could use the short progression to cover the length of the dance floor and actually do the Open Natural Turns around the far corner, except for the two newcomers who were more focused on getting their footwork right and thus didn’t travel as far as they took their steps.
Would you look at that? Another week has already passed by! We are getting close to being halfway through all of 2019 already! Holy cow! I guess time flies when you are having fun, or when there is just a ton of stuff going on, right?

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