Endless Waltz

Turns out that I was right – rotating that much in our Bolero routine was weird. Even Sir Steven thought so. We altered things so now instead of four ninety degree turns, we are doing two 180 degree turns. It took a bit to master those, but I think they will make the whole routine flow better.

The biggest thing left to get comfortable with is our Waltz routine. It’s one of those things that my partner and I do not get to practice together from start to Waltz1finish all that often. When we are at the studio, it’s hard to find a track going all around the outside of the room without running into people. Mostly we have practiced sections of it – use the same wall, go from one corner to the next, and then go back to start and use the same wall again. Mentally I can link the pieces together, but that doesn’t always work in practice. So for the rest of this week, we are using a section of street in front of my house to practice the routine all the way around the “room” – it is the biggest place I could think of where there was nothing to run into (aside from the occasional car). It’s more difficult than it sounds, practicing on the street. On the one hand, we are now doing it in sneakers, so turning and pivoting on the asphalt is really non-existent. On the other hand, the street slopes gradually – it has a rise as you move away from the middle of the road (for drainage), and it also slopes uphill toward the intersection, so it seems I am fighting to lead her uphill constantly.

I’m not sure how many heats we are signed up for in the Waltz, but we should be pretty good at it by the time Saturday morning rolls around. Maybe Waltzing non-stop on those hills will make the flat ballroom seem like a breeze once we get out on it.

One thing I didn’t think about in preparation for all this was that there was a dance party after dinner. So, instead of two outfits, I think I am going to need to bring three. Hopefully I don’t forget between now and then. I think I heard that it’s a cocktail-type party. That’s one thing that being a member of the Dance Kingdom affords you: plenty of occasions to get dressed up. A number of the women from our studio and my dance partner went out this weekend to a Waltz2nearby mall to try and find a dress for Flexy to wear as she performs. The story I got back was that another of the women also bought another dress while there, even though she already has a whole slew of them. Her excuse was that, since she goes to so many more fancy parties now than she used to, she feels like she can’t wear the same things all the time. I know my dance partner has said similar things to me as well. This is part of the reason why dancing is an expensive hobby, I feel.

(Don’t get me wrong – there’s a good chance I may use the same excuse to talk myself into buying some more fancy dress up clothes someday. It’s not just the females who get judged based on their appearance in this realm.)

There’s a big part of me that can’t wait for Saturday to be over either. This last month has been crazy, learning all the routines, refining them, continuing to study other random things (like Quick Step) – all in the hope that when the contest comes we won’t let Sir Steven down, and maybe even gain a glimmer of recognition in the eyes of the Princess or the King. It’s kind of exhausting. The Sunday after the contest I may not even get out of bed. So… wish us luck! We’ll see just how regal this experience actually is in just five days!

Rotating Endlessly Might Not Look Bad

I keep thinking about the Bolero routine. Halfway through we do a shadow walk move (I have yet to nail down the actual name of it, but that’s a good description of it) which causes us to end up about two large steps down the floor from where we started. At the end of the routine, Sir Steven told us to do two rotating basic steps, so we start again facing the same direction. The problem with that became that as my partner and I practiced in a confined room, we started getting closer and closer to the opposite wall from where we started. I realized that, in taking these two large steps and never doing anything to compensate by taking large steps in the opposite direction, we were just going to keep drifting over time.

In an empty room, it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve never done Bolero in a room with more than one or two other couples on the floor (and all doing the same thing in the same direction), so I wasn’t sure if it was good to drift like that. After hemming and hawing about it for a week, we brought it up to Sir Steven at our last meeting with him. He said that we could just continue to rotate until we faced the opposite direction from where we started, and then do the routine going the opposite way, essentially keeping us confined to a rectangular space on the dance floor.

This works great, in theory. In practice, as we went over this a couple of times, I am starting to think it looks a little… weird. When we end the routine, and get to the part with

Sure to cause dizziness...
Sure to cause dizziness…

the rotating basic steps, we are already facing the direction I want to go. So to do the rotating basic steps, I have to do four 90° turns to end up facing the same way I started before moving on to the next step of the routine. It seems like a bit much to me. Having never been to a competition like this, nor watched on being performed, I’m not sure if that is weird or not. It just feels like too many of the same steps in a row before adding in variation. This weekend, when I asked that question, we did not do the changed routine in front of Sir Steven, so he has never seen it with all these rotations. I think this coming weekend I am going to have to start by showing him how it looks, and see if it is just me that feels weird doing the same thing repetitiously like that, or if others will think it looks uncouth as well.

Other than that, I am feeling pretty good about all of these routines. My dance partner was having trouble with some turns that were added into our Waltz, and was getting frustrated with them. We practiced them over and over using normal, slow songs, and she still struggled. I switched it over to a much quicker tune (Kiss From A Rose, in case you were wondering). As soon as she didn’t have time to over-think the turns and just had to follow my lead, it was beautiful. We’ll have to try it again later, a bit slowed down, but I feel pretty good about that.

Only one weekend left before the big day. Then we all will descend upon the Great Dance Hall, the seat of power for the kingdom, and compete in these great dance games for laud and honor (and perhaps, maybe even some sort of dance scholarship…). Are you ready for this? Am I ready for this? I really have no idea what to expect. There will be a celebration after the games are over, which (as you can imagine) takes the form of a dance party. It looks like it could be an exhausting, but very exciting day.

The Best Laid Schemes O’ Mice An’ Men…

Schemes1So, it is with great sadness (and a bit of relief) that I report that my outfit that was ordered for the rhythm dances, with its built-in underwear and everything, will not be here in time for the competition. Even after offering to pay extra to have it expedited, it’s just not going to happen. So, now there is the rush to figure out a plan B. Based on what was suggested that I wear, I believe I can get away with wearing just a black dress shirt and slacks. This is a mostly informal competition, attended by only members of the Dance Kingdom. When neighboring kingdoms are not invited, I feel like there is a lot more leeway in the rules of competition. Should we decide to do a later competition, like the one in September that people have spoken about, I don’t think I could get away with that. But for now, I feel pretty good about the wiggle room I have.

Note: I have yet to run any of this by Sir Steven, so I could be completely wrong. He could give me that disapproving look, letting me know that my ideas are totally off-base. Sigh… I will be checking with him sometime this week, when I feel brave enough.

This means that the outfits are ready, for both me and my dance partner. She still is waiting on the arrival of at least one accessory, but I think we are prepared on that front. We have all the routines memorized, now we just need to perfect them. The competition is two weeks from Saturday. Will we feel prepared? Or will all our preparation work not really ready us for what’s to come?

We did finally get the video from the showcase we did back in February. I made my dance partner watch it with me. What I learned from it, after evaluating our performance: 1. We danced very tight and clean, but did not have the same kind of oversized movements that the other performers dancing with their instructors had. I’m going to chalk that up to nerves and inexperience. 2. We do look like we were having fun at least, which is really the whole point of doing this as a hobby. So… yay for that. 3. I made that lift, where I pick Schemes2my dance partner up and swing her around, look effortless. Either that’s all adrenaline, or that’s a testament to all the time I spend working out. Either way, I pat myself on the back for that. Go me!

Aside from our performance, watching some of the other routines is interesting. It’s kind of amazing to see how much more we understand and recognize even just two months later (and it really was just two months ago today that we performed). For instance, we sat and watched Lord Bradley and one of his students performing in a Bolero routine. Before, when I saw that live, I honestly had no idea what the Bolero was, having never seen it before. Now, I recognize it, and even know some of the figures they used. It is one of the things we are working on for this upcoming competition.

Otherwise, it’s been a quiet week. We started Quickstep class for the month of April. That should be fun. It reminds me in many ways of the Viennese Waltz class a few months ago. If it continues to be this fun, maybe I’ll have to have a serious talk with my partner about including International Standard style along with our American Rhythm style we focus on.

When Your Undergarments Are Attached…

So, the thing I have been thinking about lately is… built-in underwear.

When looking at what I’m supposed to be wearing for this competition coming up, we were perusing items online to find something for me to wear during the rhythm categories. I noticed that many of the shirts had that tag in the description – built-in underwear. It came as a bit of a surprise to me. First off, I never knew such things existed. Who has ever heard of a shirt with the underwear attached to it? Certainly not me, and not in any of my wildest mind conjuring would I have dreamed up such a combination. And secondly, how comfortable can something like that possibly be? It seems… confining, to put it mildly.

Sure, I understand the thought process behind it. During a competition, the last thing you would desire is to have to stop and adjust your shirt all the time, to ensure it stays tucked in. This is not a huge problem during the traditional ballroom-type numbers – you are most likely not going to be throwing your arms around during a foxtrot, pulling your shirt out in the process. The same cannot be said for rhythm dances. As Sir Steven put it Attachedwhen I made a comment about this style of clothing in his presence, you do not want a wild New Yorker in your cha-cha to be your undoing (literally). So, the combination shirt and underwear item was created. It makes sense, if you think about it. I’ve been trying not to think about it too much.

What I was told to wear is pretty simple – all black for the rhythm sections and a suit with a white dress shirt for the smooth sections. My partner recommended that I get the rhythm outfit from the same place she ordered her dresses. When placing the order, I opted for the non-rhinestone variety. Based on the sheer amount or sequins and rhinestones on her outfits (and the number of sequins and rhinestones that I cleaned up off the floor just after she had shown me the outfits), I don’t think we will be lacking in the opulence department. Maybe at some point, in competitions in the future, I will feel brave enough to be shiny like that. For this first time, I’m going to be much more subtle. That’s a personal choice. After seeing what other male dancers do during this event, I may reconsider that stance.

At this point, we are counting down the days to this first competition. All of our routines are in place now, having finally put down the last pieces of the mambo bit. Now it’s just a matter of running through them over and over to let the muscle memory sink in, and then (if there is time) to screw up on purpose so we can figure out how to recover from unforeseen circumstances. There hasn’t been much practice so far this week, since my dance partner has been out of town, but I’m sure we will hit things hard when she gets back. Hopefully the clothing that I ordered will come in before the competition, built-in underwear and all. If not, I’m going to have to come up with a back-up plan. I’m really not sure what a good back-up to something like that would even be…