As I mentioned last week, I had a lesson with my coach and my Amateur partner last Thursday evening that I waited until this week to put into my notes for various reasons. We spent the entire time working on cleaning up our Foxtrot routine. This was the first time we had gone through that routine since we had been given the choreography, so I thought that there would be a lot of places that needed to be cleaned up. It turned out that what we were doing wasn’t as bad as I expected, and most of the things that we went over was one point that no one had ever told me before, and a few things that Sparkledancer and I just needed to do more of.
The Reverse Wave had the item that no one had ever told me before. Apparently after the second step in the backward Three Step portion of the Reverse Wave I need to be doing a Heel Pull action as I bring my right foot backward, so my heel is still on the floor and my toes are slightly up. In all the times that I have done a Reverse Wave in either Standard Technique class or during the times that Lord Dormamu went over how important this figure was when I got this routine, I don’t remember anyone ever mentioning that I needed to do the step like that.
There’s always the chance that someone did say it and I just forgot since I’m getting older every day… but I honestly don’t think anyone ever told me before. Anyway, that was an easy fix, and I just need to remember to do it that way from now on.
Beyond that one correction in how a step was actually done, we spent the rest of the time talking about the shaping that we were supposed to do during the routine. All of the shaping that we had been doing throughout the routine up until that point had just been what felt natural for Sparkledancer and I, so we were only shaping as much as felt natural based on the speed of the song we were practicing with and the size of the floor we were practicing on. Now we have been given an idea of just how much more the shaping during certain figures there has to be. As a starting point, that is – obviously there is really no upper limit on how much shaping we could pull off if we ever become physically capable of doing so while moving. I mean, if Sparkledancer and I ate some Gum-Gum Fruit or something we might be told to hold back on the shaping, but up until that point we should be fine.
Yup… that was totally a nerdy thing to say.
The first figure that we talked about that needed more shaping was the Hover Telemark in the corner between the first long wall and the first short wall. Both this and the Hover Telemark in the next corner needed to be shaped way more to the right – pulling my right hip out as far as I can – essentially banking into the turn as we change walls. The thing I was told to watch out for was that I wasn’t bringing the right side of my chest backward in the process. It needs to stay forward so that Sparkledancer can connect to me properly as we shape.
Next up we looked at the Open Telemark and Natural Weave from Promenade Position. These two figures back-to-back give us an opportunity to do a cool seesaw or teeter-totter action as we sway to the right through the Open Telemark, then back to the left as we do the Natural Turn portion of the Natural Weave from Promenade Position, then we sway back to the right as we go through the quick run of steps near the end, and finally we finish by swaying to the left during the Feather Finish. Can you picture the seesaw as I describe it? If Sparkledancer and I were on an actual see-saw, it wouldn’t be much fun. I am a lot heavier than her, so I would be on the ground the whole time…
To make this action really work, the sway needs to be pronounced enough to be seen clearly by anyone watching us, and it also has to be balanced as we shift from one side to the other so that the sway appears to be harmonic. Lord Dormamu also talked to Sparkledancer about opening and closing her head through all of this. Luckily the music usually isn’t too fast, or otherwise Sparkledancer would probably hurt her neck as she turns her head from one side to the other while we sway back and forth!
The final figure where we were told that we really needed to emphasize a shape was in the Hover Cross at the end of the second long wall. The idea being that when we do the cross portion in the middle of the figure before changing direction and coming out, the two of us would be working to stretch ourselves up and away from each other to create the biggest ‘V’ shape we can in our topline. While both of us were told to work on stretching to create this figure, Lord Dormamu put most of the onus of this task on Sparkledancer, since I can’t support .
He spent quite a bit of time with her in the corner of the room, just taking that step and pushing her to stretch more and more. When the two of them finally remembered that I was also there, I was asked to step in and we backed up a bit to start with the Three Step prior to the Hover Cross. Things seemed to be going pretty OK with the two of us doing it, but obviously we will need time to practice this figure repeatedly to be better.
Lord Dormamu left it at that for the lesson so that we could work on everything more on our own time. I felt bad for Sparkledancer though, because after the lesson was over and we were outside in the parking lot, she told me that she must have done something bad while spending all that time trying to stretch more with Lord Dormamu during the Hover Cross, because her body was hurting. She planned to go home that night and put some ice on herself, or take a hot bath to try and make sure she didn’t mess herself up too much. Maybe she did both at the same time to try and get rid of the pain twice as fast! I don’t know, I never asked.
We ended up with more men than women in Latin Technique class on Monday night when we started out, just like we had in Standard Technique class the Wednesday prior. It’s a strange arrangement for that class, considering that there are usually a lot more ladies than men who show up to learn Latin (I get the impression that ladies like Latin dances). I guess all the ladies who normally come to class decided to stay home that night or something. Lord Junior chose to just teach during this class rather than dance with any of the students, so we had three guys and two girls for the first bit as we looked at some Rumba.
The ratio did even out about ten minutes into class as one of the female instructors who usually teaches at the Electric Dance Hall finished up the lesson that she was giving and then decided to come join us in class. She has done a few private lessons with both Apollo and the other new guy who has been showing up the past few weeks, so I imagine that she wanted to know what those two were working on.
Somehow it ended up that I was the one that didn’t have a partner when she wandered over to where we all were, so I was the first one she danced with. In class we had gotten so far as to start with the ladies out into Fan Position, and then we were leading them into an Alemana ending on the Lead’s right side with the intention of going into Opening Outs next. This instructor girl hadn’t been watching the class since she had been teaching a private lesson, so she had no idea what we were doing when she jumped into rotation with me. I didn’t think it would be a problem, since she was an instructor and all, but rather than follow what I was leading she went from Fan Position and tried to go into a Hockey Stick before she got caught up on my arm which didn’t budge as she tried to move herself in front of me.
She turned to look at me in surprise at being stopped earlier than she had expected. Lord Junior laughed when he saw that and asked her what she was doing, because she hadn’t been turning in the Alemana like the other ladies. She apologized to both him and me and said that she had been trying to back lead herself into a Hockey Stick, which obviously was wrong since I hadn’t let her, and then she finally decided to stop and watch to see what the other ladies were doing. Lord Junior laughed some more and told her she wouldn’t need to watch the other ladies if she had just let me lead her rather than trying to guess what the figures were beforehand and go into whatever she wanted.
I’ll admit, I tried not to show it at the time… but I was a little offended by her doing that. I like to believe that I have at least an OK lead at this point in my dance training. Also, I have strong arms that weigh a lot, so most ladies are able to feel the connection with me and even subtle movements I make with my arms, because there is more mass than normal behind them. For her to try and guess what we were going to do and just blatantly ignore what I was leading is irritating It makes me wonder about the male students that she has been working with – is she really teaching them to lead their partners through figures properly if she is just going to go through the steps on her own without following what they lead?
Anyway, beyond that kerfuffle… the actual pattern we went through was as follows: starting in Fan Position, we led the lady to do an Alemana, ending with the lady on man’s right side. From there we did three Opening Outs, with the men doing Cucarachas during the first two and a Cuban Break on the third so that we had our weight on the left leg at the end, That allowed us to have the lady do a Spiral Turn before we took steps backward into an Aida.
We did the rocking action while in the Aida, but added in a second set so that we could use two different timings for a challenge. The first pair of rocks forward and backward we did over four beats of music, and the second pair used the normal timing, rotating at the end to square up with our partner with our weight on the man’s left/lady’s right leg. Next we did Solo Spot Turns that ended facing one another briefly before both partners stepped to the side and did a Solo Spiral Turn followed immediately by a Solo Three Step Turn, which if you didn’t over- or under-turn all ended with both partners facing one another again in a two-hand hold.
Finally, in Standard Technique class this week we looked at a bit of Tango. All the same men who came to class last week came back again this week, so hooray for us! It looks like the ladies might be catching on because there were a couple who came to class this week that hadn’t been to class in a while, plus one lady who had never been to this class before that randomly decided to join us. That’s good though, I think. I want to believe that it’s not a coincidence, and that word of these new guys joining us in class to work on getting better is bringing the ladies back. I want to believe it, so I’m going to! That’s all it takes, right?
What Lord Junior wanted to have us look at in Tango was a figure that is a part of the Bronze syllabus, but no one really ever uses too often according to him. The figure in question was the Open Reverse Turn, Lady in Line. We got into this figure by starting out with two basic Walk steps that you could either start facing diagonal wall or line of dance depending on how much you wanted to curve the steps. After going through the Open Reverse Turn, Lady in Line a few times, Lord Junior showed the two newer Leads in class the difference between that figure and the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside.
He wanted to make sure that all the Leads in class, not just the newer ones, could get their partner through either version properly, so we spent some time rotating through partners and going through the in-line version, resetting and then going through the outside-partner version. When Lord Junior felt that all the guys were doing OK, he put on some Tango music and told us to do the same thing with each partner, but to pick whichever one we wanted to start with at random as a true test of how well we could lead (and also how well the ladies would follow).
Once we had done enough rotations through all the partners to amuse Lord Junior, we dropped the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside and Lord Junior had us add in a set of Left Foot and Right Foot Rocks between the first half of the Open Reverse Turn, Lady in Line and the second. Once we got through that, he had us finish off with a more difficult figure before we ran out of time – the Five Step. This figure is interesting because the name isn’t really super descriptive of what it is. Looking at the footwork in the book, there are five ‘steps’ listed, but the last ‘step’ is just moving your left foot a bit to put it into the right place for Promenade Position. I don’t think of that as a step, but that’s what it says in the book so someone must consider that a step somewhere. Weird.
That’s all I did this week. This coming weekend, a bunch of people I know are going out to a party at the City Dance Hall, and I was asked to join them on the excursion. I think they are also going out to dinner beforehand, which I’m not sure I want to do. We’ll see if that actually happens, or if I can find an excuse to get out of dinner. Or maybe convince them to go somewhere that I would want to go… that might also work. Hmm…