Making My Entrance Again With My Usual Flair

For me, the dance parts of last weekend that are worth mentioning started with a party on Saturday night. As I mentioned, my Royal Dance Court group was hosting our monthly dance party that evening, and to start the night off we had asked the best Shag dancer that you’ll probably ever meet, Mr. Rubber-legs, to come by and teach a class to anyone interested. As usually happens when we advertise that we are going to have a Shag lesson, a lot of people were interested, so the dance floor was packed.

Before we get going, I invite you to take a moment with me to quietly get all of the ‘60s British spy jokes about Shag out of your system………… yeah, baby.

Moving on. Where was I… right. I’ve been to a few classes taught by Mr. Rubber-legs before when my Royal Dance Court gang has invited him to teach for us in the past. The class he does is interesting, but always starts off the same way. I know that he holds classes of his own for beginners and more advanced Shag dancers in another location during the week, so I think that he takes opportunities like the one my Royal Dance Court presented to him that night to introduce people to Shag and to his teaching style, let them watch how rubbery his legs get when he dances, and then invite them to come to his normal classes if they want to know more.

Most of the class involved Mr. Rubber-legs discussing the history of Shag and showing everyone how to do two figures, the basic footwork pattern and a lady’s Underarm Turn. For some reason, Mr. Rubber-legs wanted to teach the class with everyone lined up in a straight line down the middle of the room, which made for reeeeeeeally tight quarters for dancing as the class progressed. I saw one lady get elbowed in the face by the lady next to her at one point in the class, which gives you an idea of how tight the quarters were. There may have been other people bumping forcefully into each other that I didn’t see, and that wouldn’t surprise me.

Much like most dance parties that my Royal Dance Court gang puts together, we ended up with more women than men attending, so I had to jump into the class to try to help even out the ratio a little. It’s been a long time since I’ve danced Shag, so I had totally forgotten the positions of the feet in the basic pattern (it’s just different enough from East Coast Swing and West Coast Swing to require you to see it once or twice), but it was easy enough to pick back up once I saw Mr. Rubber-legs go through it again. The lady’s turn was pretty much the same as West Coast Swing, so I could do that one easily just by watching it once too.

Close to the end of the class time, once Mr. Rubber-legs was sure that everyone was able to do the two figures that he had started with correctly, he ramped up the speed and gave out information on a third, more complicated figure, and then a variation of that figure right at the end that he only showed people by doing it himself, because he didn’t have time to actually teach it to anyone. The third figure started off in Handshake Hold and involved bringing the lady into something like Sweetheart position, with the Lead’s right arm up over the lady’s right shoulder. You would start doing the footwork for a normal basic while in this position, and halfway through you roll the lady out in front of you. If you are really cool, you could have the lady do a double turn while you rolled her out, though some of the women I danced with said that spinning twice like that made them dizzy.

The variation involved the guy turning around after he rolled the lady out, so that she was now looking at his back. Mr. Rubber-legs called this a ‘Trail’ – you know, because the lady is trailing the guy. It wasn’t too hard of a position to turn into, and the footwork that he was doing was just the steps for the basic pattern as far as I could see, but I was on the far side of the room while he was demonstrating this variation to the class and like I said, he never explained it to us, so don’t quote me on the footwork if anyone asks when you try it for yourself. 😉

After class was over, the rest of the dance party was mostly uneventful. Mr. Rubber-legs stuck around for a little while to dance and talk with people, but left at some point before the night was half over. For the most part, I tried to stay behind the scenes taking care of things to make the party go smoothly, aside from going out a few times during the evening to dance some ballroom styles with Sparkledancer. Events like this are the closest thing to practicing floorcraft for a competition that we can do, so try to get out on the floor right after the song starts and dance one lap around before everyone else gets on the floor and things get crazy with all the social dancers doing different stuff.

(I mean different like the people who dance Argentine Tango during a Tango and don’t stay in the middle of the floor, or who were dancing Shag during a Foxtrot. They tend to make it dangerous to dance with my competitive partner and really move around the floor without having to stop all the time to avoid people)

There was one encounter in particular during this party that was pretty weird for me. I was in the back of the room, working on refilling the container of water for all the guests, when the DJ announced that an International Viennese Waltz was next. I didn’t think anything of it, since I was busy at the moment, and by the time I finished the song had already been going on for a bit and I didn’t want to find Sparkledancer and just jump in. Well, a lady that I had never seen before saw me standing on the side of the room and came over to ask if I wanted to try the Viennese Waltz with her.

Now Viennese Waltz, much like Quickstep, is not one of those dances that is a good idea for newcomers, and since I had never seen this lady before and she had asked me if I wanted to ‘try’ the Viennese Waltz with her, red flags went up in my mind. I had to ask her if she knew how to do International Viennese Waltz before I just took her out onto the floor with everyone else. She gave me a wishy-washy response and shrugged her shoulders, which did not make me feel any better about doing this.

I told her that this one was the faster version of Viennese Waltz and she wouldn’t get to open up and do fancy turns like they have in American Viennese Waltz. She seemed shocked by that, but still wouldn’t give me a straight answer as to whether she had even done Viennese Waltz before. Finally, when I saw that she was just going to be difficult and wasn’t going to leave me, I relented, even with all the voices in my head screaming that this was a bad idea. I waited for an opening on the floor and then took her out there, and prayed that things would be alright.

Lucky for me, the song only lasted about another ninety seconds, or about a loop and a half around the floor. When I walked her back to the side and then parted ways, she seemed happy enough, because she was all smiles. Sparkledancer caught me though as I was heading over to the other side of the room and told me that it looked like the woman was just running to keep up with me, because I was staying on time with the song and Sparkledancer said that my partner’s footsteps were not. That kind of made me feel bad. I didn’t feel my partner struggling to keep up, but she wasn’t that heavy of a woman, so was I really just inadvertently dragging her through everything? Sigh…

On Sunday afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer and Lady Tella again for work. Even though these sessions are mainly meant for the girls to work on girl things, I feel like I work really hard while I’m there, because I always end up all sweaty and gross by the time we finish up, while both girls still look nice. I wonder why that is? That’s just a random observation I had during this session.

Anyway… we started off looking at the Tango again. The notes that I have from the Tango are pretty much all things that Lady Tella was telling Sparkledancer. Let’s see, she mentioned that in general she wanted to see Sparkledancer work on getting her position even more to the left around me – almost to the point that she would be on my right hip. During the Back Corte, she wanted Sparkledancer to work on creating even more volume (though I think that is going to be a constant request until her hair is dragging on the floor). She also said that anytime that we are in Promenade Position or doing a Reverse Turn that Sparkledancer should be pulling her left elbow outward to help keep her shoulder down.

When we got to looking at the Natural Promenade Turn (Promenade Pivot), Lady Tella made a comment that I thought was funny. She was trying to explain to Sparkledancer how she wanted her to slow down the turn of her head between positions, so she brought up a carnival game for comparison. Have you ever been to a carnival and seen the game where they have the clown heads in the middle that are slowly rotating with their mouths open, and you have to throw a ball into the mouth as it goes by? That’s what Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to rotate her head like. This comparison may have resulted in a few attempts where Sparkledancer was keeping her mouth open while turning her head, but since my own head is looking away from her during the figure, I cannot completely confirm or deny this.

Finally in the Tango we looked at the Right-side Lunge in the corner again, so that Lady Tella could see how our practice with the figure was coming along. She just wanted to have Sparkledancer make a few minor adjustments to the position that she was in while holding the lunge – chest forward more, head back more, keep hips more level, and be sure not to tilt. Minor adjustments, am I right?

At the end of our session, just to break things up a bit, Lady Tella had us switch over to look at the Quickstep a little so that she could see how that has been coming along with our practice as well. Overall the Quickstep was fairly strong, and there weren’t a lot of spots that Lady Tella felt like she had to point out for either of us to be aware of. She did mention that she wanted us to be aware of the amount of volume between us any time that we were rotating (which we do a lot more in the Quickstep than we do in Tango). Not really a major issue, just something to be aware of.

For me specifically, she said that during some of the rotations she was seeing me do a slight head tilt when I started turning. It wasn’t something that I did all the time, but sometimes she could see it. That was a frustrating thing to try to go over, because the times she did see it when we repeated a turning figure over and over again, I couldn’t feel any movement in any of my upper body, but she saw it. Also, according to her the movement is very slight, but it is enough that she can see something happening. So yeah, that’s something that I have to look at somehow. Joy.

Latin Technique class this week was sadly hilarious for me. I’m not sure what in the world was going on. Either my legs were too tired to work right, or my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders, but I was having trouble getting things right for most of the class. I would describe it as being… hilariously inept. Luckily I managed to pull it together by the end of class and get through without problems, but man it was rough getting there. Also I got made fun of a lot by Lord Junior, which made things so much better. I deserved it though. Everybody needs to have a bad dance day once in a while, right?

At the beginning we got to warm up a little by practicing different types of Latin dance turning movements on both legs. We started off by going through a basic Spot Turn, which is the normal type of turn you see in Rumba or Cha-Cha, and then we looked at a Switch Turn, which you can do in Rumba but most of the time you only see people doing in Cha-Cha. After that Lord Junior had us look at the turn that the ladies do in an Alemana. Guys don’t usually do a lot while ladies are going through an Alemana, so I got to try the lady’s footwork for this turn. I think I did pretty OK, if I do say so myself.

Lord Junior wanted to work with the class on Samba that night, so right from the get-go I knew this class wasn’t going to cover material that I liked. I don’t know why, but Samba just isn’t something I’m fond of. Lord Junior told us that recently he had been working with several of his competitive ladies on Solo Spot Voltas, and based on how that was going he wanted to give this class a chance to practice them as well. To begin this section, he gave us a basic combination of Volta movements to work on so that we could all make sure we got the Cuban Cross action correct.

We did four Voltas going straight to the side, four that continued in that direction but curved widely for half a circle, then four Spot Voltas that turned 180° each. By the time you finished, you were supposed to be on the other side of the dance floor (depending on how much you could travel) facing the opposite direction from where you started. Then we repeated all of those steps going the other way, to put us right back where we started. This part of class was easy enough, and I managed to get through all the figures just fine.

After that we paired off to do Solo Spot Voltas, and here is where things went downhill. To start, the Leader stood in front of his partner with our left hand flat against their right, and our feet in a Cuban Cross (left foot behind). We did four Solo Spot Voltas that also turned 180° each going to the left (Follow’s right) first. After the fourth, the Lead would bring up their right hand to stop their partner, then we would do another four going the other way. Sounds simple enough, right?

I think the thing that was throwing me off was the first action that you do. As you start turning for the first Spot Volta, your feet should just stay on the floor and you rotate. The next Volta action is where one foot has to move while the other stays planted on the floor as your pivot point. This worked great for the first four, but when you stop turning one way and change directions, if you forget to just leave your feet down and rotate, moving your legs throws everything off. All of us in class seemed to have trouble with this action at first, but it took me the longest to actually get it into my brain to do it correctly.

To finish out the class, Lord Junior gave us a simple progression to work on. He had us do the four and four Solo Spot Voltas in two directions, then two slow Voltas that traveled down the line of dance, and we finished with four Samba Locks. As we started this progression, I was still having trouble getting my feet to do the right actions with the Solo Spot Voltas, so I was flailing around a bit, which Lord Junior thought was funny.

Eventually he had us start doing the progression with music. I could do it correctly when the music was really slow, but when it sped up to like 85% my footwork just fell apart. Right before letting us go Lord Junior decided to amuse himself by having us do things to full speed. Suddenly, when the music was fast and I didn’t have time to think, I could do the footwork right every time. That made me feel kind of dumb, to be honest. I guess that I am just not a medium speed kind of person when it comes to Samba. Slow or fast only is what makes it work for me.

On Wednesday night I was back out at the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class to look at some Waltz. Much like last week’s class on Tango, this week we also looked at a little bit of American Waltz and a little bit of International Waltz. Lord Junior is still working on studying for his certification tests for American Smooth, which is why he goes through these things with us. He admitted to all of us last night though that the studying is going slowly for him, because he cares so little for American Smooth it just doesn’t hold his interest. He did say that it is going better than his study of American Rhythm, which he cares for even less. Poor guy…

The first figure we looked at was from the American syllabus, called an Open Right Turn. It’s a misleading figure though, because it’s actually three different figures strung together and given an all new name. By the book the Open Right Turn is a Basic Twinkle into an Open Natural Turn, finishing with an Open Impetus and Feather Ending. Yeah, if you read that list it does sound a lot like Foxtrot, doesn’t it? Would you be surprised if I told you that you could also do this Open Right Turn in Foxtrot with a slight change in the timing and rise-and-fall? Because you can.

After we all seemed to have the figure down, Lord Junior changed it up to give us a second variation of the Open Right Turn. Pulling out the Open Impetus and Feather Ending, we replaced it with a Progressive Chasse to the Right while turning the lady to the outside, and finishing with a Développé. To close, the guys would step back onto their right leg and finish a normal box step while turning the ladies in front of us.

At the end of the Open Right Turn (whichever variation you so desire), we added on a couple more figures to keep the fun going. We did a Syncopated Fallaway next, which if you did the Open Right Turn variation and were still apart from your partner you would close back to dance position during. Following the Fallaway we did an Outside Spin from International Waltz, and to close we did a basic Natural Turn. The ending was a lot of fun, because you could get a lot of rotation going through the Outside Spin which would almost throw you through the Natural Turn. I thought that was the most exciting part.

That’s all the notes I have for this past week. As for this upcoming week, I think that most of it is going to be focused on practice. After all, the weekend after next I will be competing, so I have to make sure I’m ready. However… I heard of this class on West Coast Swing moves being offered this weekend, and I think I’m going to go to that. It’s been a long time since I’ve put any focus into West Coast Swing, and I do like that dance style a lot, so I’m going to mix things up a bit and try to pick up something new. That should be fun, right? Or at least different. We’ll see what happens!

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If Everything Is Nothing, Then Are We Anything?

My dance weekend began by taking part in another meeting between Sparkledancer and Lady Tella. We spent the entire time that afternoon dancing Tango. As seems to happen quite a bit with these meetings, there wasn’t much in the way of notes that actually relate to me, but I did pay attention to some of the things that Lady Tella told Sparkledancer to focus on this time around. Some days I am not too poor to pay attention! Yay me!

The spot in the routine that Lady Tella wanted to work on the most with Sparkledancer was the Right Side Lunge that is in the first corner. Even though the figure is different and has some sway while we are in the line, Lady Tella told her to think about shaping it more like a Back Corte, and to sink into her hips more. The part that was the most difficult to get correct was the head movements. Going into the lunge, Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to change her head earlier. Also, she said that I should be leading Sparkledancer’s head motion with a subtle flick of my body. If I’m not doing anything to lead it, apparently the head movement just looks cosmetic.

Coming out of the lunge, Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to add back in the double head flick once more as we rotate into the Back Corte. I swear poor Sparkledancer’s head must be spinning (pun intended) from the amount of times people keep changing that on her. For a few weeks one coach or another will tell her to do it, then someone will come along and tell her to take it out, then it will go back in, then a month later it gets thrown out… hopefully this will be the last time someone voices an opinion on the matter and she gets to keep it in forever this time.

A few other notes that Lady Tella gave Sparkledancer were (in no particular order): during the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside she needs to keep her hips back further; any time she has rotated to Promenade Position, she was told to stay in her back leg and keep her head outside of her hands; during the Natural Twist Turn she needs to make sure to fill the Lead’s right hand and not let it slide across her back; and overall while dancing Tango she needs to think about keeping her chest forward and her head back.

The one note that Lady Tella kept saying to me, and I’m not even sure why I was doing this that afternoon, was that I needed to keep my fingers closed together on my right hand. This is not something that I normally do, but I guess that afternoon I kept letting my fingers splay out when I was standing there in dance frame while the girls were talking. Maybe it was because I was just standing there a lot, trying to be a good dance dummy, so I wasn’t really concerned with what my hands were doing. Half the time my left hand was just out, and the lady I was in fame with (either Sparkledancer or Lady Tella) wasn’t even holding onto it, so my left hand was being useless too. Still, I wrote it down so that I would pay more attention to keeping the fingers of my right hand closed next time. Silly me…
Last Saturday night I ended up out with some friends at a dance party event being held at the City Dance Hall. This party was notable because the organizers of the party had convinced some Amateur couple who has recently won some sort of nationally-recognized championship in American Smooth to come out and teach a class in Waltz before the party. I didn’t recognize the names of the couple, but I thought that going to a lesson taught by an Amateur couple who was competing at that level could be interesting, so I agreed to meet up with people there.

Have I ever told you that I am terrible with names? Because I really am. I am much better at recognizing faces of people I’ve met before than I am at remembering their names. I bring this up because even though I didn’t recognize the names of the high-level Amateur couple that was going to teach that night, I recognized the two of them right away when I saw them. I’ve met them a few times before because they are actually another Amateur couple that my coach (Lord Dormamu) is training!

A few years ago this couple had been winning all kinds of competitions in American Smooth, so they decided that they wanted to add more work into their lives and picked up International Standard as well. They looked around for a coach for a while, and finally managed to hook up with Lord Dormamu because he’s one of the best, and they have been working with him ever since. I’ve talked to them many times before when they’ve been in town for lessons with him, and I spent quite a bit of time talking to them this Saturday night as well once I realized who they were. Maybe now I’ll be able to remember their names going forward…

The way that they taught their Waltz lesson was interesting. They had a basic idea that they wanted to give to everyone, but taught it in three parts. First they showed everyone the idea in its most basic form. During the middle of the class they upgraded some pieces of the idea to be more of an intermediate pattern. Finally at the end of class they evolved the intermediate choreography to an advanced state, trying to make it more of a challenge for anyone who has a dance power level over nine thousand.

Basic choreography started off facing line of dance and doing half of a Reverse Turn, then doing a Box with Right Underarm Turn for the second half, rotating 90° and closing in hand-to-hand position facing center. From here we traveled down the line of dance doing three Open Change Steps (or Running Steps, or Butterfly Steps, whatever you want to call them). At the end of the third Open Change Step we closed back into dance position then did another half of a Reverse Turn, using that to turn the corner and rotate to face toward diagonal center on the new line of dance.

There was really only one change given to upgrade the pattern to the intermediate version. The Open Change Steps that did most of the traveling in the pattern were replaced with a version that allowed both partners to do free spins while moving. I’m sure most of you have either seen or done this variation before – the Lead will give the lady a slight push and release her hand as you open up for the Open Change Step, so that the lady turns out to the left while the man turns out to the right. After the spin, you catch hands again and then collect like you would normally for an Open Change Step back into a hand-to-hand position with the man facing center.

The most advanced version made a number of changes. To start with, we did two out of the three free spin variation Open Change Steps. The last one was replaced with the man just doing three Running Steps forward while turning the lady clockwise, and then another portion was added on with the man doing three Running Steps forward again, this time turning the lady counterclockwise. After the turns, the man would catch both of the lady’s hands and do a checking action, leading her to do a Développé. We closed the Développé by bringing the lady back upright and doing half a Reverse Turn, then doing a Simple Twinkle which ended in Promenade Position and continued down the floor with Passing Twinkles ad infinitum, closing with half a Natural Turn whenever you wanted.

In most dance studios, this pattern will naturally need to curve as you move, because the dance floor will not be long enough to do everything in a straight line. If you play your cards right, and get the right partner, you can easily cover ¾ of the dance floor. And this couple teaching, well they were encouraging everyone to try their best to cover that much of the floor. Their words of encouragement were funny though. We were all told, and I quote: “To make it big and powerful, you have to be big and powerful doing it.” Really deep, helpful advice, right?

During the middle of the party after the lesson was over, the organizers had asked the two of them if they would perform a couple of numbers for the crowd, so they opted to do a Foxtrot and Tango. The Foxtrot ended up being really interesting, because after they finished the DJ came on the mic and told everyone that they had been asked specifically to dance that performance as Lead and Follow – with no routine or prior choreography. They had wanted to show all the members of this club that it was possible to dance in a really fancy manner at a really high level without having to memorize a routine beforehand, something that all of the people in the crowd could aspire to. I thought that was a pretty sly way for the organizers to try to motivate their members. Good on them.

I left the party shortly after the performances were over because I had things to do at home that night, but on my way out I stopped to talk to the two of them. Most people were wandering by and congratulating the pair on their performance and showering them with praise, but I just wanted to see how their training with Lord Dormamu was going, and find out what competitions that the two of them were planning on doing over the next couple of months. Sadly, they weren’t going to be at the competition I’m going to at the end of this month, and I’m not going to the one they’re doing in July, but they are considering going to the one in August that I am planning to do, so we could possibly see each other there. Hooray for that!
The two of them then mentioned that they are going to a non-competition dance event at the beginning of July that Lord Dormamu had mentioned to Sparkledancer and I. It’s a big coaching get together with a lot of big name people, that is happening in a town a few hours north of me. I had been mulling it over after Lord Dormamu mentioned it, and the information I could find on the event made it sound interesting, but also super expensive. This couple told me that they went last year, and they thought it was a lot of fun, so they were excited to go back. Well now I’m leaning toward going. It will be another dance adventure if it happens, right?

Speaking of other dance adventures… Monday night I was out at Latin Technique class doing some Rumba. This week the class had no special focus, we just went through some figures that Lord Junior hadn’t made any of his students work on in a while, so that these students could prove that they hadn’t forgotten the steps. I just got to go along with the ride on this one.

We started out by facing our partner in a one hand hold, with the guys pointing their right leg back and the ladies pointing their left leg forward. Stepping forward on a slow count to start, we did a forward checking action and then the men closed their feet and led the ladies to do a Curl. Next the men did a backward checking action and collected the lady into dance frame to go through a Reverse Top. After letting the top spin for three measures, we released the lady out into Fan Position.

Closing from Fan Position, we led the ladies to do an Alemana that ended with the lady on the man’s right side. You wanted to make sure not to bring the lady in too close to your body here, because we had them do a Spiral Turn next, so they needed to have a little free space to turn without smacking us. From there we walked them around us in a Rope Spin. Once she got all the way around so she was back in front of us, we would collect her back up with our right arm, rotate 90° to the right and go into two Opening Outs.
At the end of the second one, the men needed to slide their right foot around the lady so that we could get in front of her for the next figure. Releasing our partner as we came around, we did a Sliding Door action, with the men checking forward on the lady’s left side. Coming back, we did a Delayed Action with our left leg, pointing it behind us until the last second and then putting it down and taking another step to the right into a Right Side Lunge. Lord Junior made me try to do some sort of fancy arching movement with my arm while in this lunge, but I’m sure it looked more silly than fancy when I did it. We then stood up, collected our left leg to the right one, then stepped forward to catch the lady with our right arm one last time to go into an Opening Out action on our right side to finish.

Finally, I also got to do some Tango in Standard Technique class this week. To differentiate what we were doing in class from the Tango lesson I was a part of last Saturday, Lord Junior gave us a few figures from International Tango, and then added in some figures from American Tango to make things interesting for us. I’m pretty sure I have done all the pieces of the choreography that we used at some point in the past, just not put together with each other or in this order.
The pattern started with two different figures from the standard International Tango syllabus. The first was a Gold-level figure, the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot. The second was a basic Bronze-level figure, the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside. We started out taking these heading toward diagonal center, then following the wall, coming out toward diagonal wall. That is, of course, until Lord Junior saw that some of us (i.e. me…) were covering a lot of ground with just these two figures.

Since there were people on the other end of the floor working with their instructor and he wanted to leave them some room and still add more figures, he told me to pull in my angles a lot. Rather than start the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot heading toward diagonal center, I was almost going straight center, and coming out after the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside heading almost right for the wall. Me and my long legs, always getting into trouble with floor space. Sigh…

Here is where we switched over to some American Tango figures. The guys took two steps on an angle and faked a third to keep our weight on our right leg while we turned the ladies to bring them to Shadow Position facing diagonal center. Next we did another Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside, only this time in Shadow Position. At the end of that figure, we rolled the ladies across our bodies out to our left to get into a side-by-side hold (I believe the position is called ‘Open Fan’ but I can’t swear to it, so YMMV if you want to use that name when discussing it with other dancers).

Leading the lady to rotate with our left hand, we faced one another (also called Fan Position, I believe, but don’t quote me on that), then we led the lady through an inside turn as we stepped forward to her outside. To finish everything we did a basic American-style three-step close action while bringing the lady back into closed dance position.

I think this coming weekend is going to be busy for me again. Besides lots of practice to get ready for the competition I’m doing in a couple of weeks, I should have a lesson with Lord Dormamu (if he ever gets back to me to confirm the time), I know there is a lesson with Sparkledancer and Lady Tella planned, and my Royal Dance Court gang is hosting a dance party on Saturday night. I’m expecting the party to be kind of busy, because we are bringing in someone to teach a Shag lesson. Providing lessons in these more esoteric dance styles tends to attract different people than I normally see, in addition to all the regular ballroom people who come to these parties, so the dance floor could be rather busy that night.

I hope that you have a lot of fun things on your dance calendar too. Are you taking your dad out dancing? I’m not. My parent’s live really far away, so even if I invited them, neither of them could come with me. Plus, you know, as a guy it would be weird going dancing with my dad. I still feel like he is the one in charge when he’s around, since he’s my dad and all, but I know more about dancing than him, so I don’t think I could let him be the Lead. Plus I’m really not a very good Follow…

Said My Name Is Called Disturbance

A lot of the people I know in my neck of the woods were off at some big Pro/Am competition last Saturday, so my weekend got a bit switched around. All of the dance-related things that I normally do on Saturdays had to be done on Sunday, so all of the dance-related things that I would have otherwise done on Sunday I did on Saturday instead. By the time I was heading off to bed on Sunday night, I had to remind myself a couple of times to set my alarm to get up for work the next morning, because I was feeling a bit mixed up trying to remember what day it was.

On Sunday I had planned to meet up with Sparkledancer and Lady Tella so that the girls could continue to work on improving how Sparkledancer looks while in dance position. Much of our practice time over the prior week had been devoted to working on the Waltz, so Sparkledancer asked Lady Tella if she could start off looking at that style with us. Near the end Sparkledancer and Lady Tella switched over to looking at the Tango for a little while, since that style has positioning for the lady that is so different from every other style. Most everything that was talked about during this session didn’t really impact me, but there was one particular note that Lady Tella gave to me that I have two minds about, so I’ve been trying to digest what to do with the information since Sunday.

Lady Tella told me that while my posture is good and I am obviously much bigger than most male ballroom dancers, my presence on the floor needs to change slightly. She used the words “arrogant” and “haughty” to describe the look that she wanted to see me going for. I guess that in her experience being around male dancers in the Professional circuit where she competes with her partner, the really good men all strut around like peacocks with too many feathers up their backsides… or like nobility that is looking down on the peons. I do not look like that normally, as you can hopefully imagine, so she wants me to try to incorporate that into my presence while I am dancing.

This bothers me a little. I guess on one hand I can understand why really high level dancers would want to pass themselves off in this way. For one thing, that is essentially the mental picture that most people have in the back of their minds of ballroom dances: the suave prince who is hosting a ball, and waltzing around the floor with a princess. In that scene, of course the guy is going to hold himself above all the others. He’s the frickin’ prince, so the peons (historically speaking, of course) are actually below him. For another thing, wandering around looking like this for most guys will make them look even stronger and more confident, like they are definitely the ones in control of the situation. During a competition, looking like you ‘own’ the place can be very advantageous.

Even though I can understand this in that sense, I have to say that it feels wrong to me to try to dance while in that mindset. I don’t like even pretending to be haughty or arrogant. Trying to be arrogant does not feel natural to me, and I can’t say that I particularly enjoy being in that sort of mindset, even if it’s just for a performance. That’s not how I was raised, and part of me thinks that my mother would smack me upside the head if she ever caught me looking like that. I much prefer to be charismatic, approachable, happy, and maybe even a little funny if I can pull it off while I’m dancing.

The bigger question that this raises for me is… why have high level male competitors over the years decided that this is the best way to portray themselves anyway?

When I think about going out and being a dance ambassador, trying to convince people to try out ballroom dancing for themselves, I can’t say that being arrogant or haughty would pass off as an enticing selling point to people who have never set foot in this world before. If anything, I think that me looking arrogant would actually dissuade people from wanting to come out and dance with me. So why in the world would I want to act that way during a competition? Since competitions seem to be the only part of this sport that is ever broadcast on television, do you think that someone tuning in and watching a bunch of haughty-looking men out on the dance floor would suddenly think to themselves ‘Huh, that definitely looks like something I want to try. Where do I sign up?’

Somewhere along the way the idea of ballroom dancing seems to have gotten twisted. Instead of being a social activity that we can all go out and do for either fun or sport (or both), it’s turned into this world where you have to look and act a certain way to fit in and do well: old men complain about people who show up at social dances wearing jeans; during competitions, it is entirely possible for a couple to be judged based on appearance rather than purely on skill; knowing the right people can help you advance further – and usually ‘knowing’ people involves spending money to take lessons from or go to events hosted by said people. All of this adds up to make the world of ballroom dancing appear to be a world where only those well-to-do enough hang out, and people of lesser means get scared away before their own adventures in dancing even get started.

So what is a poor boy like me to do? I mean, aside from singing for a rock ‘n’ roll band, of course. Do I take the advice of this young lady who I was working with on Sunday and pretend to be more haughty and arrogant when I am out on the dance floor competing, because that is what the recommended look is? Since I can’t really watch myself very well while I dance, and videos I take really only show me a limited amount once I move away from them, I can’t tell with my own eyes if the act I would be putting on really does make me look better while dancing. Or do I fight against that notion and be more like my normal persona? If I can prove to others that I can do well while appearing to be charismatic and approachable, perhaps I can use that as a selling point to others who have never danced before and say ‘hey, if I can do this, you could totally do it too!’

I don’t have an answer at the moment. I think I’m going to have to noodle on this a bit more before I can figure out what the best answer for me actually is.

*    *    *

Well… that went off on a bit of a tangent, didn’t it?

In Latin Technique class this week we looked at some Cha-Cha. Lord Junior had been having a conversation with one of his more advanced students before class started about a particular concept in Cha-Cha, and being the nice guy that he is, he wanted to talk about the concept with the whole class once we got started. This was mostly something that would be useful to ladies, but Lord Junior said there were some specific places that men could use this trick as well, depending on the choreography that was being used.

The idea was this: in Cha-Cha, what you see high-level dancers doing nowadays is replacing spots where they would normally do a Turning Walk action with a Straight Leg Pivot. He demonstrated this using a fairly simple figure that most ladies have done before, which was the Hockey Stick. During a normal Hockey Stick, on step seven the ladies will do a Turning Forward Walk that rotates ⅜ of a turn to the right. Now picture this: on step seven when you step forward onto your straight right leg, you leave the left leg behind you and pivot for ⅜ of a turn on the right foot. When you finish the pivot, the left leg is already in the right position for your next step backward onto it with no additional leg action needed, speeding up the entire movement by a fraction.

What makes this simple-sounding concept more advanced than the Turning Walk action is that you have to do it well, so that it actually looks like you are doing a Straight Leg Pivot on purpose. If you don’t keep your leg lines crisp and the pivot precise, you run the risk of it looking like you just messed up while doing a Turning Walk and are just trying to fake something until you can get back into the correct choreography. If you want to do this substitution during a competition, make sure that you practice enough so that the change looks clean, otherwise a judge could fault you for it. Oh yeah, and avoid making this change until you hit Open-level choreography. If you try this in Syllabus rounds, you can get faulted for it, since the official syllabus figures are still written as Turning Walk actions.

To practice this action, we were given a short progression during class to work with that incorporated the example used in demonstration. We started right off with the ladies already out in Fan Position, closing them into a Hockey Stick while the guys did a Slip Chasse. After we finished the Forward Lock in the Hockey Stick, Lord Junior had us do something a bit silly to let the ladies also  work on their hip actions that night. The guys would step forward and point their opposite leg to the side for three steps while the ladies were doing Batucadas, an action you normally see in Samba. At the end of the three pointing steps, we did two quick steps forward to end up on our right leg (ladies on their left).

From here we did a normal checking action into a basic Backward Lock Step. To finish everything off, Lord Junior had the guys just transfer their weight onto their right leg to get close to the lady, which stopped her from moving any farther forward. She would then raise her right leg up while balancing on her left leg, putting her into a line that looked kind of like a flamingo to me. The guys then lunged out to our left side while twisting to give the lady more of our left arm, which would help her rotate her body a bit further while she was still up on one leg, before we led her across our body at the last moment for a three-step turning motion that put her back out into Fan Position. The guys could either do a small chasse to the right here, or if the lady didn’t travel all that far we could just step to the right and hold to make our own movement smaller.

Standard Technique class this week was a lot of fun. This was the first week in a really, really long time that there was no one else in the studio except for those of us who were there for Standard Technique class. I don’t mention it much (not really at all), and I don’t show it in pictures very often, but the Electric Dance Hall usually has tons of activity going on. I would make the argument that it’s the busiest dance studio within an hour drive of my house – and there are quite a few dance studios to choose from in that radius, so that’s really saying something. To have the whole floor free for a single group class was pretty awesome.

To capitalize on our good fortune, Lord Junior had us work on some Quickstep, and gave us what almost amounted to a full competition routine. Some of us were able to use the progression to easily cover three-quarters of the loop around the floor. He would have given us more, but we ran out of time just trying to practice what we had at the end of our time that night enough so that all the ladies could get through it well. I specifically say ladies here because there were five women in class, but only Lord Junior and I to dance with them, so he and I got to practice the figures quite a bit more than all of the ladies that night.

We started off in the corner of the long wall, facing diagonal center. After a prep step we went into two Forward Lock Steps that were in Pepperpot timing (for those of you who don’t know, “Pepperpot timing” is five steps done at a count of ‘quick-and-quick, quick, quick’). Depending on who you are dancing with, these two Forward Lock Steps can cover a significant amount of ground, so you may need to adjust your angle slightly to avoid crossing into traffic on the other side of the dance floor. Lucky for me that the dance floor was completely empty during class, right? After the two Forward Lock Steps, we went into a Quick Open Reverse followed immediately by a Four Quick Run, finishing with a basic Natural Turn. That chain of figures was enough to put us into the far corner on the first long wall.

To turn the corner we did a Running Natural Spin Turn and used that to go into a Backward Lock Step. How much the Running Spin Turn was actually turned really depended on how far down the floor you and your partner managed to get as you traveled down the long wall. If you ended up with some space between you and the wall, the Running Spin Turn should end with you backing diagonal wall on the short wall, and the Backward Lock Step will then follow that path. If you and your partner end the long wall right against the short wall, you have to underturn the Running Spin Turn and end backing line of dance, then take the Backward Lock Step that direction to avoid crashing into the wall.

Most of us were able to easily cover the entire length of the short wall with those two figures, so at the end of the Backward Lock Step we used a Running Finish and another Natural Turn to turn the second corner. At this point we did an Overturned Open Telemark, which I think was the hardest figure we did all night, since a Heel Turn is not something you can easily do in Quickstep at tempo. Coming out of the Overturned Open Telemark put us in Promenade Position facing line of dance. Here we did a step and hop action over the next two beats of music followed by a Promenade Chasse that was in Pepperpot timing, and then we repeated that amalgamation one more time. We ended the progression by just taking a few steps that ‘ran’ forward, using those to bleed off any momentum that we had left.

Have I mentioned that I’m doing another competition in a few weeks? I’m pretty sure it’s scheduled over the last weekend of this month, but I don’t have my calendar in front of me to confirm that for sure. I know I’ll be there for sure whatever date it actually is, since I already paid my entry fee and signed up for the rounds I wanted. Is it terrible that I can’t remember the exact date right now, and I really can’t bring myself to either get up and go look at my calendar, or open another tab in my browser to look up the information online? I am so lazy sometimes…

But that’s what all my practice work has been preparing for lately. Here’s hoping that the field of competitors at this event is pretty large and that I haven’t danced against most of them before in previous competitions. I feel like I would get a better read on how well I’m doing if I can face off against more people, rather than the same people over and over again.

We’ll start the countdown and see what happens soon!

From The Back To The Middle And Around Again

I did a lot of things last Saturday to make up for not having any actual dance lessons the Saturday prior. For some reason I decided that having a double lesson with Lord Dormamu first thing in the morning was a good idea, and then when that was done I was talked into going to a double lesson with Lady Tella as well. Not content with just having that much on my plate for the day, I also went to a dance party that night! I feel like I wasn’t actually home at all that day..

Because of all the things I had planned to do that day, I ended up waking up early on Saturday morning to meet with Lord Dormamu. We had arranged to get together at such an early time that the Endless Dance Hall was still locked when I showed up. So much for getting there a little before my lesson to warm up. As I sat in the parking lot waiting for someone to show up and let me in, I watched a bunch of people running along the sidewalk in front of the studio, many of them wearing weighted vests. I’m pretty sure that there is some kind of fitness studio near the Endless Dance Hall that was putting on this running… thing, that was going on, because these people would run by, then run back, then run by again, then run back again, over and over.

Both Lord Dormamu and Sparkledancer showed up after I had been sitting there for ten minutes or so and I finally got to go inside. After a quicker than planned warm-up, we got started by looking over our Waltz routine. Overall Lord Dormamu was pleased with how well the Waltz looked after watching what was essentially a cold run-through. He felt better about how our rising action was looking, telling us that we had definitely managed to get rid of the ‘popping’ that we had been previously been doing, but now that we have fixed that problem he wanted to see us work on the lower half of our swing through the steps.

The way that he explained it to us was like this: imagine that your height is split into ten equal sections from the floor up to your head. When we took frame at the beginning of the routine, before we even started moving with the music, the height we were holding would be the neutral or resting point, which he said was a five. If we went through the first Natural Turn in the routine, the apex of the Natural Turn would be considered a seven. Our problem was that the lowering action he was seeing from across the room was only going down to a four, so there wasn’t enough of a change between the lowest point in the figure and the apex.

What he wanted us to start working on to fix this was not just lowering more into the figures. While that would make the height of the rise versus the fall look more dynamic, Sparkledancer and I are not exactly the same height, so we would run the risk of lowering different amounts. Lord Dormamu told me that this is one of those rare instances where I actually have to adjust the action in my body slightly to press downward against Sparkledancer from my midsection, allowing me to control how much she lowers.

If I am doing this correctly, the amount that we both lower will look equal. That will prevent what he sees couples doing sometimes when he is judging, where one partner is essentially sliding their body down the front of the other because they are lowering more than their partner is. By putting me in control of how far down we go, telling Sparkledancer how far she should lower by pressing her downward with my body, she will always stay connected to me at the same point. Therefore, no risk of sliding. Pus, I’m much heavier than Sparkledancer, so there’s very little chance that she could fight against me pressing down on her, meaning that I will always get my way.

Of course, this means that from now on, if we don’t lower enough it’s going to be all my fault. No pressure there, right?

After Waltz we spent a bit of time looking over the Foxtrot. There were a few specific points that I took away from this section to focus on during practice this week. The big positive note that I was told was that my leg action is looking smoother, so the work that I have been doing during practice has been paying off. However, overall I was told that I could be keeping it lower, so that is something to spend more time working on. Then there is the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish again, which I was told was looking like it popped up a lot during the times I was going through it. I may have been rushing the first step of the figure for some reason, because if I think about it and take it slower, the issue doesn’t happen.

We also spent a bit of time looking at the Natural Weave as well, though that wasn’t for me. Lord Dormamu wasn’t happy about how Sparkledancer’s positioning looked while we were going through the figure. He gave her a few pointers to try to help, but rather than spend a whole lot of time trying to fix her himself he asked her to spend some time working with Lady Tella specifically on that figure since we were going to see her later that day. Aside from that one figure in Foxtrot, he said that we should spend the rest of our time with her having her look at Sparkledancer in the Quickstep. Our Quickstep routine is relatively simple, and we usually score extremely well in that style, so having Sparkledancer look as best as possible should keep us on top he said.

After finishing up paperwork with Lord Dormamu, we got a half-hour break and then we met up with Lady Tella. For much of this lesson, just like last time the two of them got together, I was mostly used as a male body for Lady Tella to demonstrate with or for Sparkledancer to practice with. It is good for me to be there, since the changes that Lady Tella is working with Sparkledancer on implementing end up slightly changing our center of balance, so it is good for me to be able to feel that and get used to it as it is happening, but not a whole lot of information they discuss is actually directed toward me.

When we started, Sparkledancer explained to Lady Tella that Lord Dormamu specifically wanted her to look at the Natural Weave in the Foxtrot, and then once that was done to start looking at her overall shape in the Quickstep. Lady Tella wanted to start us off by watching us go through the entire Foxtrot routine so that she could see everything in context before we pulled out just one small section to look at. After the initial run-through, I walked through the figures in the section in question with Lady Tella in practice hold, telling her the name of each figure before stepping through it. Apparently knowing the names of the figures that are in your routine is a skill most people don’t have, because Lady Tella told me that she wouldn’t have known the names if I hadn’t told her.

The ladies spent quite a bit of time working through Sparkledancer’s body position in the Natural Weave, trying to get it to look better. There wasn’t actually much there for me to do, other than stand where I was told and lead one or the other of them through the figures when needed. The only real comment that I got was that Lady Tella preferred that I put slightly more emphasis on the right-side sway during the Weave-portion of the Natural Weave. Doing so, she told me, made the movement of Sparkledancer’s head seem more natural. If I didn’t emphasize the sway enough, she said that from the outside it looks like Sparkledancer is just moving her head because she was told to, not because she is being led to.

Once everyone was happy with the way that section of Foxtrot looked and felt, we switched over to Quickstep for a bit. The girls talked through all the points where Lady Tella saw that Sparkledancer was losing her position, and parts where she wanted her to emphasize her stretch outward even more as we traveled. A couple of places we spent a lot of time on were the two Natural Spin Turns in the routine, particularly the second one. In the first corner, we have that strange, not-quite-Bronze amalgamation that Lord Dormamu gave us of a Natural Spin Turn with a Slip Pivot that has never really felt in control. Lady Tella could see that during our initial run-through, so she worked with Sparkledancer to see if she could help.

While the two of them were discussing her part, I decided to focus on keeping my third step in line with the line of dance. When we were originally taught the figure, I was coming around Sparkledancer much more on that third step, more toward diagonal wall. That meant that the Slip Pivot would have to turn 90° to finish pointing diagonal center before going into a Double Reverse Spin. That much rotation in two different directions in such a short amount of time is what causes the feeling of being out-of-control. If I reduce the step I take to go toward line of dance, the Slip Pivot only has to turn 45°, which gives Sparkledancer much more time to prepare her leg to go backward into the Heel Turn for the Double Reverse Spin. I think it helps a lot, so I’m going to keep doing it unless I’m told otherwise.

To cap things off on Saturday, I went out that night to a party being hosted at the Electric Dance Hall. Lord Junior had put together something fancy to celebrate the holiday weekend, and had booked a local jazz band to come play music throughout the evening. That sounded like a particularly fun and interesting event to attend, so I headed out there. This also happened to be the only dance party in the whole Dance Kingdom scheduled for that night, so this is where everyone else ended up for dancing, too.

There was some time set aside right at the beginning of the night where Lord Junior planned on teaching a beginner Foxtrot lesson while the band was getting their equipment setup. I hadn’t planned on participating, so I didn’t arrive until about ten minutes after the class started. Lord Junior had a whole bunch of people in the class though, with several more women than men, so as soon as I walked in the door he called me out in the middle of whatever he was teaching and told me to put my shoes on and jump in to help.

The figures that Lord Junior was showing everyone were just the absolute basics for American Foxtrot – just the Forward Basic and Left Rock Turn. As he explained, this was only supposed to be a short beginner class and he just wanted to give all the newcomers the ability to get around the floor during a song if they wanted to give it a try. Most of the second-half of class was spent with the men rotating through partners to allow everyone to practice what they learned. When I would change partners, if I came across any lady that I didn’t recognize I would take a second to introduce myself and ask them if they had ever done this before. I had quite a few women tell me that this was their first time ever dancing Foxtrot, so this party that Lord Junior had put together obviously attracted quite a few newcomers.

During the last few rotations that Lord Junior had the class go through with the music that he was playing from his sound system, the drummer and the bass player from the band started to play along with the song that Lord Junior had chosen. He took that as a signal from the band letting him know that they were ready to go, so he wrapped up the class and turned the night over to them.

I thought that the party was fun. I spent more time just listening to the band play than I did dancing, and I’m OK with that turn of events. Most of the dancing that I did was during the few breaks that the band got throughout the evening, where Lord Junior would plug his phone into the sound system and play some songs that he thought were fun, in dance styles that the band didn’t play much, like Quickstep, Viennese Waltz or West Coast Swing.

There was one lady that was at the party though that kind of made me uncomfortable. I’m pretty sure that I danced with her once in the group class as we were rotating through partners, but then I felt like she was watching me the rest of the night. Maybe she wanted to dance with me, but I was always talking to other people who I knew. Maybe she thought I was funny looking. Maybe I had something on my shirt and she really just wanted to point it out to me. I don’t know. Sparkledancer also caught her watching me, and came over to tell me at one point during the party. Of course, her take on the situation was that the lady was looking at me with “hungry eyes” because I was a single male who had some moderate skill in dance. Weird.

Aside from avoiding “hungry eyes” lady that evening, I also spent some time talking with one older gentleman during the course of the party. He was telling me a fascinating tale about two other dancers who had come to the party that night. The lady in his story was someone who is well-known in the social dance community, having been part of it for many years and serving on the boards of various dance clubs in the area during that time. The gentleman in question is a relatively recent addition to the social dance scene here. He moved to the area from somewhere else, knowing a bit about dance when he arrived, but with so many instructors and classes in the area to work with this guy has really blossomed as a social dancer.

At some point in the last year these two people started dating, and now they go out to almost every dance party in the area together. The older gentleman I was talking to told me that many of the social dancers now refer to them as the ‘Ballroom Power Couple’ because they think these two are such good dancers. Older gentleman was quick to tell me that these two were not good in the same way that I am, since he has been around when Sparkledancer and I have been practicing so he’s seen how I can dance, but this ‘Ballroom Power Couple’ is good enough to impress all the social dancers they spend time around.

Maybe I’ll have to check in on these two as time goes on… you know, to see if all that power goes to their head. That could be interesting and amusing to keep notes about, right?

Here’s a funny thing that also happened this weekend…

Last Sunday afternoon I had gone out to the Electric Dance Hall to meet up with Sparkledancer for our regular Sunday practice time. This particular Sunday afternoon, the studio was practically empty, I’m guessing because of the holiday weekend. The only people who I saw in the studio when I got there was Lord Junior and a young couple he was working with on what looked like a wedding dance, and then Sparkledancer who was sitting in a chair against the back wall putting on her shoes.

I waved hello to Lord Junior and then wandered over to put on my own dance shoes and stretch out a bit before we got started. When I stood up and looked back toward the front of the building, I caught sight of a tiny body running out toward the dance floor, yelling something to Lord Junior. It turns out that he had brought his young daughter, who I think isn’t even three years old yet, along with him that afternoon.

Since Lord Junior was teaching, he told his daughter that he was busy with the couple that he was teaching, then told her to go say hi to Sparkledancer and I instead. This excited the little girl immensely, so she turned to look over at where I was standing and stretching out my shoulders, then ran as fast as she could over to say hello. The conversation I had with her was amusing. First of all, she is super young, so her command of the English language was very basic. Secondly, she was really quiet, so even though she laughed loudly when excited, I had to lean over or crouch down near her to understand half the words coming out of her mouth.

What I learned in my conversation with this young lady is that she wants to be the Ballerina Princess. Not a Princess Ballerina – I asked to make sure I had that right, and apparently Ballerina Princess is correct, and Princess Ballerina is wrong. When Sparkledancer asked her if she knew how to dance, she told us that she really was taking ballet classes, then she showed us her best dance moves. I swear this child is already a better dancer than I am. Must be nice growing up with a parent who owns a dance studio, right?

Things got even funnier after that though. I’m not sure how it happened, but after talking about becoming the Ballerina Princess then she started talking about her dog at home… then she was telling me about the dog digging holes in the yard… then she got down on her hands and knees to show me how the dog dug holes so it could sniff worms, because apparently that’s what dogs do once the hole is dug. After that, she told me that she was a puppy, so she started crawling around the dance studio like a puppy, digging holes, sniffing worms and barking occasionally. When she came back around to Sparkledancer and I, she told us that we could play puppies with her, but since we were bigger she would be the baby puppy while Sparkledancer was the mommy puppy and I had to be the daddy puppy.

I’m not sure how we were able to be puppies and also somehow able to have her as a puppy, but I never questioned her on that. Funny. So yeah. That’s a true story that happened during dance practice this weekend.

Skipping ahead for brevity, on Wednesday night I was back out at the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class. When I got there that night the Ballerina Princess was back, and this time she had her older sister with her. Sister is only a year older, so both of these girls are tiny. Their mom (Lord Junior’s wife) was wandering around the studio talking to people, so the two girls were just running around being silly. When I sat down to change into my dance shoes, both of the girls ran over to talk. The older girl was telling all of us sitting in that area all about her ballet recital over the weekend, and how she danced all by herself on stage in front of everyone while her mom was in the back. Ballerina Princess was talking about… something, but she was talking so fast and so quietly that I didn’t catch any of it, so I just smiled and nodded.

Eventually the girls got tired of standing around talking and they started running around in circles. Being the accommodating adults that we are, Sparkledancer, Veep and I, who were all sitting along the back wall, would hold out our hands so that they could high-five us as they ran by. I’m kind of jealous of how much energy that these two small girls had stored up inside them, because they just kept running as fast as their tiny legs would carry them for ten minutes straight, laughing the whole time.

When it was time for them to leave with their mother, Lord Junior came over and crouched down in the middle of the floor and held up his hands for high-fives like Sparkledancer, Veep and I. However, this was all a trick, because as soon as the girls changed direction to run over and slap his hands, he grabbed them both up and picked them up off the ground to carry them out to the car. So tricky! That meant play time was over, and it was time for class to start.

We looked at some Foxtrot this week in class, with all figures in the progression we were given coming straight from the Bronze and Silver syllabus. Starting out heading toward diagonal center, we did a Feather and then added on an Open Telemark, Natural Turn, Outside Swivel, Feather Ending. I know that sounds like four different figures, but it is actually the name of one figure in the Silver-level syllabus for International Foxtrot. Go ahead, look it up! See what I mean?

When we finished the Open Telemark, Natural Turn, Outside Swivel, Feather Ending we were back traveling toward diagonal center once more. Here we added on a basic Three Step and then went into a Natural Telemark to finish. I don’t think I’ve ever done a Natural Telemark before that night. It’s another figure from the Silver-level syllabus, and this one is all rotational so you don’t have to worry about traveling anywhere. There’s a spot in the middle where you take a small side-step as the lady is turning around you, and the trick I was told here was to lower even further into my legs briefly before coming up for the Feather Finish. That slight lowering should help stop the lady’s turn so that she can prepare to start moving in a new direction for the next steps.

That’s all I want to make notes about this week. There were other things that I did, but none of them are important or amusing enough for me to care to write down. Plus, this is already long enough as-is. I hope that your week of dancing has gone as well as mine. Until next time!