We Must Conquer From The Sea

I managed to get out of the house two Friday nights in a row! Man, I am proud of myself for that.

Rather than going out grocery shopping (which has been my usual Friday night activity lately), this past Friday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall for a party that they were having there. I had gotten a text from Sparkledancer earlier in the day asking if we could meet up to practice in the evening. Rather than try and find some free floor space somewhere else, I suggested that we just meet up at the party and use that time to get some practice in.

In my head, doing so would give us a chance to get in some practice time, and also allow us another chance to attempt to run our routines with other people on the floor. I always feel more confident about dance choreography if I know it well enough to use it while there are other distractions going on. Like other dancers on the floor that I would have to work around, as in this example. Getting used to working around people without breaking the choreography is always the first step, and then after that I have to get used to being able to break the choreography as needed without inserting any figures that could get me invigilated.

Based on how things went last Friday night, I think I have achieved step one for most of the dances. The only reason that I am not sure about all of them is because there was no Quickstep played that night. All the other ones were there – Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and even Viennese Waltz, but not Quickstep for some reason. I am fairly confident that I would be able to use the routine to get around as needed, but I can’t say for sure until I get a chance to try it once or twice with other couples on the floor who are also dancing Quickstep. So it will just have to wait until next time.

Breaking the choreography didn’t exactly go quite as well, so some work is still needed there. My problem was that the times that I broke it and had to add in a different figure to get around a couple, I couldn’t get back into the choreography cleanly until I got to the next corner. That was fine when I was almost there anyway, but it started to get weird if I had to alter things right at the beginning of one of the long walls for whatever reason. I’m feeling good that I should be able get this step down in the near future, but I just want to make a note that I haven’t achieved this level of mastery quite yet.

Sunday afternoon I did manage to snag a bit of time with both Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu to look over a couple of our routines for the first time since he gave us the choreography for them. There was some event going on in Lord Dormamu’s life that had a bunch of people hanging around at his house as he told us, so while he couldn’t stick around and work with us for an extended period of time, he was happy for a chance to get away and catch his breath for a little while. We managed to look at the Waltz and Tango before people started calling him and he had to wrap things up and head back to his house to see what was going on.

Since we have had some time with these new routines now to work on them in practice, and even to try them out a few times at social dances with other people on the floor, both Sparkledancer and I were feeling really good about going through the new routines when Lord Dormamu asked us to show the routines to him. What made me really happy though was that after we got done dancing through our Waltz routine once, Lord Dormamu came over and told us that moving up to Silver really suits the two of us, because even though we had been looking really good in Bronze, this new routine looks like it is on a whole different level. The phrase that he used was that he could see a “beautiful calmness” in our movement while watching us that hadn’t been there before.

While I was worried that the praise we got might just be for the Waltz, since we got that routine first and have had the most time to practice it, the same held true when we ended up going through the Tango afterward, even though that was the routine we got last and have had the least amount of time to practice. So hurray for us! Moving up in the world apparently really has been a good step for us. Hopefully that difference will show when next we have a chance to compete. We seem to have taken to this new proficiency level like ducks take to water.

That being said, we haven’t taken to things like a fish would take to water. There were some spots that need to be cleaned up a bit in both the Waltz and Tango. I figured that there would be, so none of these points we looked at lessened my good feelings about how everything seemed to be going so far. In the Waltz there were just a couple of minor things that Lord Dormamu wanted to point out to us that were really obvious to him while he watched.

The first note was for Sparkledancer. He told her that there were a couple of places he saw where we had shifted into Promenade Position and he said that her connection to me got a little off. From where he was standing, he said that it looked like she had been trying to create volume between her head and mine, which was good but it had looked a little like she was bending at her hips to do so instead of bowing outward from her ribs up. This was the same idea that Sparkledancer had talked about with Lady Kate the Great during the coaching session they had done just a few days prior. I know it was on the list of things that we had to practice, but we had only gotten one chance to get together to work on that between that coaching session and this lesson on Sunday.

One other spot that Lord Dormamu wanted to point out was for me was on the last wall, where the Half Reverse Turn goes into a Basic Weave. He told me that it looked like I was rising slightly as I stepped back into the checking action on the first step of the Basic Weave. I didn’t notice it at the time, but to make sure that it doesn’t happen again I can just think about starting to lower as I step backward into the checking action. That seems to be enough to prevent me from doing what he saw.

In the Tango, before he told us about the items that he noticed which needed to be fixed, I asked about a spot that wasn’t feeling good to me. At the end of the short wall we do an Open Reverse Turn that travels down the line of dance, then a Progressive Link that sets us up to head toward diagonal wall, and then a Natural Twist Turn that is used to turn the corner and come out toward diagonal center on the new wall. That Natural Twist Turn has never felt good when we have gone through it in practice, and I was thinking that it was because we are essentially only doing an eighth of a turn in order to come out in the right direction.

Lord Dormamu agreed with me that the amount of turn was the problem, but the reason he said that it was problematic was because of the number of steps that Sparkledancer is trying to do there in so little rotation. Because some crazy person trained the two of us to move so much while dancing, it seems like she was trying too hard to take tiny steps there so as not to over rotate the two of us. An easy fix he told me was to just swap out the Natural Twist Turn for a Natural Promenade Turn. Because the pivoting action in the Natural Promenade Turn removes all the extra steps Sparkledancer is doing, rotating for only an eighth of a turn doesn’t feel so awkward.

After we got done discussing that, there was only one other spot that Lord Dormamu said he really needed us to look at to correct something, and that was the Fallaway Promenade figure. The first thing that he tells Sparkledancer and I is that this is an important figure for us, because it is the first place that we are allowed to do Fallaway Position in any dance style. Waltz and Foxtrot also have syllabus figures that involve Fallaway Position, but you don’t see them until Gold. Showing that we can master Fallaway Position here in Silver will give us a leg up in the future according to Lord Dormamu.

It wasn’t that we were doing the figure wrong per se, but he really wanted to have us adjust the angles at which we were moving so that we could make the Fallaway action more clear. We start the figure after a Progressive Link that lines us up to move toward diagonal wall. On the third step I had only been coming around Sparkledancer enough so that I was moving toward the wall, but he said that I should be coming around further so that I am moving toward diagonal wall against line of dance. As we take the next step backward in Fallaway Position he wants us to be moving straight down the line of dance now, and only rotating away from that direction on the last step of the figure, where we finally turn enough so that we end up in Promenade Position facing diagonal wall again.

The last thing that I did this week was Standard Technique class last night. We spent time in class looking at the beginning of the Open Waltz routine that Lord Junior likes to give his students. He admitted to us during class that this small combination of figures used right at the beginning of the dance is a lot harder than it needs to be. When Lord Junior has coaches come in to look at things with his students, the coaches are always surprised that they would choose to start off the routine in this manner. But, to his credit, he has asked his students if they want to change the routine and start differently and his students always tell him no, so he keeps using this amalgamation.

Personally I think that the first figure is what makes this hard. You start this routine with a side step to the left and a little wind-up, and then you go into a Double Natural Spin. The figure itself isn’t hard – if you’ve done a Double Reverse Spin (one of the most basic Bronze figures in International Waltz) you can do a Double Natural Spin. It just uses the opposite feet and turns the opposite way, but otherwise it is the same. However, if you’re like me and you’ve done a lot of Double Reverse Spins in your life, trying to do a Double Natural Spin just feels all kinds of wrong, and you have to fight against all of your learned inclinations to make sure you get through the figure correctly. I will admit that there were more than a few times when we first started that I came out on the wrong foot without thinking.

The bit of choreography that we looked at started with the Double Natural Spin and came out into a basic Half Natural Turn. From there we did an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, coming out so that we were moving down the line of dance afterward. That set us up to do a Turning Lock to the Right, but we added an extra Pivot at the end to rotate us so that we were backing line of dance once more, allowing us to do a second Turning Lock to the Right. The second one ended normally in Promenade Position moving toward diagonal center. To finish we did a Running Weave from Promenade Position and a Cross Chasse.

The Cross Chasse is a strange place to finish if you want to try this out for yourself, but we ran out of time in class and weren’t able to add on anything else afterward. If you cross enough during the figure you can line yourself up to move toward diagonal center next, which would set you up perfectly to go into a Double Reverse Spin. It doesn’t take much effort to make this small set of figures cover the whole long wall, and I think that there is something nice about starting the wall with a Double Natural Spin and ending with a Double Reverse Spin. That’s just my feeling though, so take that with a grain of salt if you want to give it a try. 🙂

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