If I Had One More Day I Could Be Better

There were so many things going on this past week! I’m probably going to leave a few things out to try to avoid making this super long. Let me try to arrange what I think is most important to remember into some sort of coherent framework…

Let’s begin with events from last Saturday. The first thing that I did in the morning was to head out to the Fancy Dance Hall to work with Sir Steven. There is not a whole lot here to make note of – we were mostly running rounds because of the competition coming up in a couple of weeks. I know that’s not the most interesting thing to talk about, so I’ll just move on to what I did next that was new and exciting.

After finishing with Sir Steven, I got a bit of a break to hunt down something for lunch and then I headed out to the Endless Dance Hall for the coaching session that was planned for that day between Lady Tella and Sparkledancer. In a surprise twist, it ended up that Sir Bread, who is Lady Tella’s professional competitive partner, was also hanging around at the Endless Dance Hall that afternoon, so Sparkledancer and I actually got input from the two of them that day. Double the fun! The majority of what we spent time on was exactly what I had originally planned on, which was Lady Tella talking with Sparkledancer about the position that she is working on twisting her body into. I was just there as a male body who was roughly Sparkledancer’s size.

That’s an important note right there. As I’ve mentioned in the past, both Sir Bread and Lady Tella are tiny compared to me. Sir Bread told me that day as he was showing me something that he is only 5’6”, and Lady Tella is shorter than him. Since the two of them look like typical dance instructors that you’ve probably seen (i.e. extremely thin from spending all day doing cardio training), I felt like a giant when I was next to either of them, since I am at least half-a-foot taller and much, much more muscular. When Lady Tella would get into frame with me to demonstrate something for Sparkledancer, I instinctively tried to hold on very gently because I was afraid of accidentally breaking her!

Luckily no one was crushed by me that day, and what Sparkledancer and Lady Tella were able to go over was extremely useful to her. Sparkledancer told me afterward that a lot of what Lady Tella said wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking – many of the points are things that Lord Junior, Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu had been telling her to do for forever. The difference here is that Lady Tella could actually bend herself properly in the manner that she was asking Sparkledancer to bend. If she told Sparkledancer to keep her core straight and bend her body backward from the ribs up, she would then show Sparkledancer how she did that, and get into frame with me to give her a rough picture of what it would look like.

The entire session was spent on Waltz, except for the last few minutes when Sir Bread threw out a challenge to see if we could go through our Foxtrot routine a couple of times while applying the pointers that he and Lady Tella had given us that afternoon. While we were going over things, the staff at the Endless Dance Hall was setting the venue up for some kind of event that was taking place in the evening. Because there was a lot of noise and movement going on around us, I was easily distracted, so I only caught about half of the things that Lady Tella was telling Sparkledancer. I know, I should have been paying more attention… but they weren’t talking to me, and sometimes my attention wanders.

But there were a couple of things that I was asked to do, and those I did pay attention to. Hooray for me! The only major note that I got from Lady Tella was about the Hesitation Change that is in one corner of the routine. She watched Sparkledancer and I go through the figure, and didn’t think that there was enough going on that separated the figure to make it seem like a deliberate hesitation, versus just pausing like someone was in my way. She told me that I could help Sparkledancer shape properly for the step by keeping my right leg bent to stay low, but driving out slightly to the right with my right hip. This very much changes the way that I have normally done this figure, so it feels very different to me now. I assume that means it looks very different as well.

Sir Bread interjected a bunch of pointers for me throughout this session, so I didn’t feel like I was just being used as a Dance Dummy the whole time. One point that he told me which was different from the rule I have been operating under for years was about my left arm. He personally thought that I was keeping my left arm too low. I told him that I had been told by several people over the years that I should be keeping my hand (and thus the lady’s hand) level with my partner’s eyes, which is why my forearm was down. He told me that he has always been told to keep his hand level with his own eyes.

According to him, if my partner keeps bending herself backward over my right hand further and further, keeping my left hand level with her eyes is going to make it drop lower and lower as Sparkledancer improves, which is no good. On top of that, as we progress further through the ranks, I will come across spots more frequently that are like the Hesitation Change we were looking at earlier, where Sparkledancer is trying to extend herself further create a particular line as we pause. Keeping my hand level with her eyes means that I will be adjusting my arm every time that she does something like that. By keeping my hand up higher and in a permanent spot  will help my partner maintain her own shapes better by working off my arm.

Another point where Sir Bread stopped me to talk about something was with my Natural Turn into the Natural Spin Turn. He thought that I should be shaping my whole body more as I went into the height of the Natural Turn, bending myself into more of an arc with my left hip out. This is something that I do during the Reverse Turns that are in the routine, but I guess it doesn’t look that way when I do the Natural Turns. Interestingly enough, when I put some emphasis into that shape, it made it much easier for me to remember to turn my head slightly and look over top of Sparkledancer like Sir Steven asked me to do. Maybe that is what I was missing the whole time.

Coming out of the Natural Turn and going into the Natural Spin Turn, Sir Bread thought that the first pivot looked like it was struggling. Sparkledancer and I never fail to turn enough, but Sir Bread thought that it looked like we were forcing the turn too much. His advice for me to fix that was to not let my heel come down on my left foot until it absolutely has to. To do this, on my first step backward onto my left foot, I have to try to stay on the ball of my foot the whole time. There is a point in the pivot where my heel will naturally kiss the ground before I am able to take the next step, but Sir Bread told me that the rotation will be much easier and there will be no mid-turn crash action if I always think about taking the step this way.

On Monday night I was excited to head back to Latin Technique class. Two weeks ago in Latin Technique class Lord Junior had worked with us on some Pasodoble. The last figure that he wanted to go over with us that night was The Twists, which is a Gold-level figure off of the syllabus. As I mentioned two weeks ago, the figure did not go super successfully, but since we had started working on it near the end of the class, Lord Junior didn’t have any time left to devote to correcting the issues that were popping up. He promised all of us who were there that after the Easter vacation, the next time we all met up for Latin Technique class he would do Pasodoble again, this time starting with The Twists so that he could help everyone through any troubles they ran into.

So that is exactly what we got to do this week. For me, the figure went fairly well. Other than having to run through the steps slowly for a couple of the ladies the first time I danced it with them, I was able to get through my steps and add in the proper shaping. Of course, I did have the opportunity to practice the figure a fair number of times two weeks ago and then again that night, since there were far more women than men. That might have had something to do with my success. Boys don’t get breaks! Also, I didn’t have to do any Heel Turns, unlike the ladies. For a couple of them, the Heel Turns were the part that they struggled with the most, especially as we tried to do it with music and increase the tempo more toward normal speed.

We started The Twists on beat one of an eight-count measure,  and ended them by holding in place while lowered down on our standing leg for beat four of the next measure. To come out, we did six beats of continuous syncopated Forward Lock Steps heading toward diagonal center, slowly rising ourselves up as we traveled to look even bigger by the time we finished. Not content to have us rest on our laurels after struggling through The Twists, Lord Junior decided to have us finish up that night by doing a set of continuous traveling Natural Pivots as well.

Switching up our arms so that we could hold on to our partner’s rib-cage with our right hand and keeping the left arm out as we turned, we did two slow Pivots and two or three faster ones, depending on what direction you were facing as you finished. Lord Junior didn’t expect us to force these to travel straight down the line of dance, so most of us ended up curving toward the center in the process. The trick was to come out so that both partners were facing forward, which is why sometimes you needed an extra pivot at the end to do that. At the end of the Pivots the guys would release their partner and we ended traveling in an Open Promenade Position, ready for whatever would come next.

With several competitions going on during April, Lord Dormamu has his weekends pretty much booked with out-of-town events. To make up for that, he was able to set aside some time on Tuesday night to work with Sparkledancer and I. He was especially interested that night to look over how Sparkledancer was doing after her coaching session with Lady Tella, and he thought the results were very pleasing. Based on what he saw, we were asked if we could schedule a few more sessions where Sparkledancer and Lady Tella could get together (with me as a Dance Dummy to help out) before our competition at the end of the month.

There are other things going on this month, so finding the time to do these sessions is going to be the hardest part. It’s entirely possible that we may have to drop coaching sessions with someone else to fit in more coaching sessions with Lady Tella. I mean, I wouldn’t feel terrible about doing that – if you’ve been reading my notes here for a while, you know that Sparkledancer and I have almost exclusively worked with male instructors up until this point, so I have gotten a lot of help to make my dancing better. The problem is, male instructors can talk with Sparkledancer about what she should be doing, but they generally won’t be able to show her what she should look like very well. You know, because they’re male and whatnot.

The few times we have scheduled coaching sessions with female instructors up until our last session with Lady Tella, the ladies that we worked with ended up spending most of the time pointing out things that I could improve rather than helping Sparkledancer. That’s been great for helping me, but I always felt bad about how those sessions turned out. Finally having a female coach focus on Sparkledancer the whole time was awesome, and Sparkledancer told me that the lesson was extremely useful. If Lord Dormamu recommends we do a few more sessions like that, then I will do my best to help her out if they need me to be there.

Aside from that, we also talked about the upcoming competition that we were planning to dance in at the end of the month. Guess what? Lord Dormamu was asked to be one of the adjudicators for that event! Now, not only is he focused on making sure that we are ready before stepping into the venue, but he is excited about being able to directly review the results of our work when we are under the pressure of competing. So, you know, that doesn’t add any more stress or anything. Not at all!

Moving on… we went back to Foxtrot again that night. The major point I took away from what we covered that night was that I need to be careful that I don’t lower myself too far while dancing the Foxtrot. One thing that apparently Sir Bread had noticed that he mentioned to Lord Dormamu was that sometimes he sees me doing this weird double bounce thing. It is especially noticeable coming out of whatever starter step I may use to get into a routine, but there are other points where Lord Dormamu saw me doing it too while he was watching me Tuesday night.

After he and I went through and tested a few things, he found that since I am trying to keep myself fairly low to the ground to begin with, if I do something that causes me to lower even further (like taking a really long step which extends both of my legs, thus lowering my center toward the floor), I end up having to raise myself up in order to move my back leg underneath me. Because my legs are fairly muscular, I can’t get around this – if I don’t come up, my leg just doesn’t fit. So the obvious fix for that is to make sure I am not doing anything that causes me to be so far down that I can’t get my leg underneath me without rising up.

The other thing he told me to think about while I practice to try to fix this is to think about the four beats in a measure of Foxtrot like a limbo bar, not a high jump bar. Normally what you would see if you were watching someone exaggerate the actions is that person taking a step on beat four and then, as if they were high jumping over beat four, coming down as they are carried toward beat one. Instead of that type of action, Lord Dormamu wants me to lower earlier as if I were going under the bar at beat four and then holding myself at that level as I travel through into the next beat one.

Obviously this would create a very strange way of dancing if I were to do it all the time, especially during a competition, but the point of this exercise was not to make a permanent change to the way I understand how to dance the Foxtrot. This exercise is only to be used to correct the problem that Lord Dormamu was seeing. Theoretically, once I no longer have this issue, we will slowly go through and relax this abnormal action until it is no longer needed. Kind of like taking medicine for a sickness, if that simile makes sense.

We also spent some time talking about the Change of Direction. I guess when I go through the figure I have this tendency to bring my feet together holding only the ball of my left foot on the ground. As we were talking about it, Lord Dormamu also mentioned that he sees me doing the same thing during the starter step in Foxtrot as well. What he wants me to do instead is bring my feet together with my left foot flat on the ground as I twist my upper body to create a right-side lead briefly.

While he watched Sparkledancer and I step through things, he told us that he wanted us to go back to practicing the figure with a pause in the midpoint. We are supposed to use that hesitation during practice to check that we are in the right position for the Change of Direction specifically, and also to reset our thinking before moving on to begin repeating the routine. So I’ll have to try to keep that in mind as well during practice.

Finally, I just want to do a brief recap of Standard Technique class last night. We also covered some Foxtrot in that class, but because we had a new face in class who hadn’t done much International Standard before, Lord Junior put something together for us that took some figures from American Foxtrot as well so that there would be some pieces that this new girl was familiar with.

Discussing the figures gets a bit confusing because of this amalgamation, so you’ll have to follow along carefully. In International Foxtrot, generally when you talk about a figure and use the word ‘Open’ before it, that means that the figure ends with you being in Promenade Position. In American Foxtrot, if you use the word ‘Open’ before a figure’s name they are usually referring to the figure having an ending where you pass your feet instead of closing them together (i.e. continuity ending). We used a lot of ‘Open’ figures in this progression, so I’ll try and point out which is which as I go through them for you.

With that in mind… we started off with a Simple Twinkle toward diagonal wall that ended in Promenade Position. Next up we did an American Open Left Turn, and then added on an International Open Impetus which ended with us heading toward diagonal center in Promenade Position. From here, Lord Junior had us do a syncopated Grapevine action, taking the first step as a slow, which meant that we had plenty of time while taking the step to really drive forward with a heel lead. This Grapevine action required both partners to cross their foot behind on the third step as they traveled.

Once through that first Grapevine we did another American Open Left Turn and then another syncopated Grapevine action. In this Grapevine, we essentially started out backward from what we did during the first one, and because of that we had to cross our feet in front on the third step. As we finished the second Grapevine, we did an International Open Telemark and Feather Ending, which would align us heading back toward diagonal center as we finished the progression.

Let’s just call it good right there. Maybe I can shorten this a bit when I read through it for editing before I post. Probably not though. Usually I end up making things longer as I edit them somehow. I have too many words…

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Enough To Make My System Blow

Let’s start this week off with a funny side note that’s sort-of dance related. I can tell you quite sincerely that this story was the thing that made me the happiest on Saturday…

I had just gotten to the Fancy Dance Hall. The studio is actually a part of a shopping complex, with a number of varied shops surrounding it. This weekend there was an event scheduled to celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday, where the area between the fronts of all of the stores and the parking lot had been taken over for various Easter-related activities. There was an egg hunt planned, and a local radio station was going to be there, and someone was going to be dressed up like the Easter Bunny to take pictures with all of the kids. All of the stores in the shopping complex were going to have some of their staff involved to make it into a fun morning for kids of all ages.

…except the weather didn’t want to cooperate that day. The morning ended up being cold, cloudy and windy, and it was just plain gloomy looking outside. I was wearing a heavy sweatshirt so that when I parked my car and walked to the front door of the studio I wouldn’t be cold. Not too many people seemed to have shown up for the planned activities, because the parking lot had tons of open spaces for cars to park. I’ve had lessons scheduled before at other times when holiday-themed activities are planned, and usually you have to either get there super-early to find a parking place, or you are fighting with a bunch of people to grab one when someone else leaves.

As I was walking toward the front door of the studio, I could hear music playing loudly from the table set up by the radio station. They had just finished one song and were starting another, a slow and heavy rock song that holds a record for spending the most weeks on some chart or something. You may be able to guess what song it is if you’re smart about my normal clues, but if not I’m sure you’d know the song if you heard it. Anyway… as I finally got off the parking lot and set foot on the walkway that surrounds the stores, I looked off to my right toward where the radio station table was, and saw something pretty amazing.

In the midst of the overcast gloom of the day, there stood a guy wearing a white Easter Bunny suit, and his head was turned down to look toward the ground. In front of him was some young kid, lying on the concrete, doing the worm as the Easter Bunny watched.

I had to stop and watch for a bit as well. This was not something that I expected to see by any stretch of the imagination. As the song finally wound down, the kid stopped and picked himself up off the ground, and the Easter Bunny bent forward to give him a hug. If I had been closer, I would have given the kid a round of applause for being able to do the worm for so long on concrete. Truly an impressive sight to behold!

On to normal business now. Once I got inside the Fancy Dance Hall, things were a little more subdued. There was a class going on for a local youth dance group, and they were all running rounds of their competition routines. They kept that up for the entire time that I was having my lesson, barring a few breaks here or there so that the kids could catch their breath. Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I staked out a section of the floor to work in along the back wall of the studio, and we went back to work on Viennese Waltz that day.

We managed to stay away from working on the opening sequence of our Viennese Waltz routine that morning, thankfully. Unfortunately, that meant that the rest of what we did was just slow and methodical movements through the Natural and Reverse Turns. Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world to talk about, so I’ll spare you all the details. The hardest part of our session was trying to work around all of the kids running their rounds. I had managed to talk to the older ones while Sir Steven was working with Sparkledancer, letting them know that we were using a lane along the back wall. They managed to steer clear of us after that, which was nice.

Some of the younger kids kept darting into our lane though. I think they were just doing it to get our attention, because if I looked at them when they were in my way, they would get these huge smiles on their faces and then scamper out of the way as fast as they could. It reminded me of growing up with my younger siblings. When they wanted attention, they would sometimes knowingly do something they shouldn’t, and then laugh jovially about it and run away when they got caught. Kids… they are so silly sometimes!

Next up, Saturday night. There was one big event going on at the Electric Dance Hall that night, and with no other options open for dancing that was where I ended up. A bunch of people who I knew ended up being there as well, but unfortunately I didn’t actually spend a lot of time talking to them because I got side tracked talking with someone else that night. It was also raining really hard that night, starting just about the time that the party started, so a lot of people who were expected to come out to the event did not show up. One of those people happened to be the DJ that Lord Junior had asked to play the music that night, amusingly enough. After the class that he gave at the beginning, Lord Junior ended up having to run the music himself. Poor guy.

He told me later on that he contacted the DJ during the party to find out what happened, and the DJ told him that she just forgot about the party. How do you just forget something like that? I bet she won’t be getting any more paid gigs from Lord Junior after that stunt.

Originally I hadn’t planned on showing up for the class being offered before the dance party, but I got done with everything else I had planned to do earlier than expected, so I headed out and arrived about twenty minutes after the class had started. The place was packed with tons of people, but even with all the other people watching him intently for instruction, Lord Junior still stopped what he was doing when I walked in and told me to get my shoes on quick and jump into the class. I thought that they were desperate for men, but when Lord Junior finally had everyone find partners to try the step I saw that there were almost even numbers of men and women, so I’m not sure why he wanted me to join in so quickly.

The class was covering some simple American Rumba. The part that I got there to help out with had everyone doing half a basic box step, and then on the second half we led the ladies to do a Underarm Turn and pushed them out to our left side, almost like they were in Fan Position. Then we would bring them back across in another turn and push them out to our right side, and then one more turn back across pushing them back out to our left before turning them to be in front of us as we collected into the basic box step once more. Nothing too difficult if you’ve done a lot of American Rumba in the past, but there were a large number of newcomers in the class that night, so I ended up helping a number of ladies figure out their steps as I rotated through.

During the actual party I spent my time dancing, but in the middle of that I got a chance to have a chat with Silver for more than just a couple of minutes (which is what derailed me from talking to others). She was struggling with a bit of a crisis of identity that night, so it was good that I talked to her, but most of the credit for making her feel better about dance goes to Sparkledancer. See, there was a point in the middle of the dance party when I finally got a chance to dance with her for a Foxtrot. I figured that was a safe enough dance for us to do together, since that was the style that was used in the first Standard Technique class we were both in together.

Silver seemed a bit nervous as I walked out to the dance floor with her. Trying to assuage her fears, I asked her whether she wanted to go with American or International Foxtrot, promising that we could do whichever she was more comfortable with. She chose to go with International, so I started off with just some basic figures, trying my best to avoid anything with a Heel Turn since I knew she hadn’t done many of those. I think I managed to get through a Feather and Three Step heading toward diagonal wall in a wide arc, and then a Change of Direction to turn back toward diagonal center – nothing super fancy.

By the time we got halfway down the first long wall it was pretty clear that she was struggling, and then she asked me if we could transition to American Foxtrot instead. I made the switch, trying to stick with figures that I thought were on the Bronze syllabus (it’s been a long time since I’ve studied American Foxtrot, so I’m not entirely sure what the syllabus looks like anymore when I don’t have it in front of me). The American Foxtrot did not go much better than the International though, and there were a couple of times I had to stop and do the Swing Step (or Side-to-Side Sway, depending on what name you were given when you learned it) which allowed her to get back on the correct foot.

When the song finished and we exited the floor, she seemed upset and started talking about how she once felt so good about her dancing, because (her exact words) “I was teaching this at <insert franchise studio name> for God’s sake!” Now that she was out and dancing with people like me, it’s like everything she learned and was teaching to others was all wrong. She told me that she has been trying to learn the correct way to do the steps and techniques, but then she runs into people who were students at her former studio where she worked, and they want to dance with her doing things the old way, and it really throws her off trying to do things both ways.

Lucky for me, Sparkledancer had shown up at that point. I am a guy, so I am kind-of terrible at managing emotional situations with ladies, so I was super happy that Sparkledancer could step in and help Silver out. Sparkledancer actually told Silver about how she had met me at a franchise studio, back in the days when we had initially decided to compete together, so she totally understood Silver’s frustration because she had been through it herself.

She continued and told Silver that when Sparkledancer and I and many of our original ballroom dance friends outgrew the franchise studio model, we escaped into the bigger world of ballroom dancing, and we had to go through the same transition that Silver is going through now. A lot of the techniques we had learned that had been emphasized at the franchise we found out were just plain wrong, and people outside the franchise used a different syllabus than we had originally learned (which actually turned out to be nationally and internationally standardized syllabus, so it is the franchise studio’s syllabus that was incorrect), so Sparkledancer admitted to Silver that she felt like a terrible dancer for months as she tried to acclimate to the non-franchise way of dancing.

That right there seemed to be the magic connection that Silver had been missing. She was really glad that Sparkledancer had told her that story – to hear that it was possible to escape the franchise world and eventually dance the way that Sparkledancer dances now. It was great to see her come to that realization, even though I hadn’t really done much to help her get there. Good job Sparkledancer! Yay!

I talked it over with Sparkledancer later, and I think that the two of us are going to try to help Silver out. My thought is that Sparkledancer and I could help show Silver the world of ballroom dancing that she was missing when she was locked into the franchise way of doing things. That is, if she really wants to become part of this wider world, which I think she does. Lord Junior is helping her learn the proper figures and techniques to teach dancing outside of the franchise, so that’s already being covered. Sparkledancer and I can be her guide to the various dance halls in the Dance Kingdom, and introduce her to all sorts of other instructors or high-level coaches that we know if she wants to meet people. I like helping, so this will be a lot of fun!

I was tired on Monday night, so when I got to Latin Technique class and people started throwing around Cha-Cha as the style they wanted to do that night, I was unhappy. Lord Junior decided to put it up for a vote to see what everyone wanted, and he said that we couldn’t vote for Rumba (because that’s what we did in class last week) and we couldn’t choose Pasodoble. I sighed loudly, since Pasodoble is always the Latin style that I want to vote for, and Lord Junior took pity on me and said that we could do Pasodoble if everyone else wanted. Only Gatekeeper still wanted to do Cha-Cha after that option was available, so we ended up working on Pasodoble that night. Hooray for me!

One of the ladies in class that night had never done any Pasodoble before, so this ended up being a real treat for her (in my expert opinion, of course). Lord Junior spent a little time at the beginning of class showing her a few of the most basic steps, like the Sur Place and all of its moving variations. On top of that, he showed her the idea behind the shaping used in Pasodoble and why it was so important. This lady watched the whole time with wide eyes, and I couldn’t tell if she was impressed by the demonstration or terrified by what he was asking her to do. Obviously I’m going to assume she was impressed, and asking herself why she had waited so long to begin working on Pasodoble!.

We didn’t actually cover a whole lot of choreography that night, because the last figure that Lord Junior went over with us needed more work than he expected. The first figure that we did was the Open Telemark, which everyone got through with little trouble. After that we went into a normal Promenade, which gave us some work on both moving in Promenade and shaping in Promenade. Once Lord Junior was convinced that everyone could do the steps with minimal trouble, he upgraded our Promenade so that it had three Natural Pivots in it as we traveled down the line of dance. That definitely upped the challenge factor of the figure, but also made it much more exciting.

The final figure that we looked at was a Gold-level figure called ‘The Twists.’ We were told that if you watch any professionals doing a recent Pasodoble routine, you are more than likely going to see them do this figure at least once because it is so exciting. Basically, the guy is traveling down the floor, cutting in front of his partner every couple of steps while she does a Heel Turn, and then he hooks his right leg behind his left and untwists himself before doing it all again. The figure is aptly named, and feels a lot like doing a Twist Turn in Tango repeatedly.

I thought that my part was fairly straightforward, and I think I was getting through it successfully. A couple of the ladies were struggling to make the Heel Turns work properly, so it was hit-or-miss as to whether the figure worked correctly when I danced with a partner. Lord Junior admitted as we were running out of time that this figure was more difficult than he originally thought it would be, so he should have started class by going through it rather than waiting until the end. He promised us that next time we met up for Latin Technique we would do Pasodoble again and start with this figure. Class won’t happen next Monday because of the holiday this weekend, so we’ll have to wait until two Mondays from now to get it right.

Finally, on Wednesday night I went back out to the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class, and we worked on Viennese Waltz there as well. Viennese Waltz? Twice in one week? How did that even happen!

I mostly think that Lord Junior chooses to work on Viennese Waltz in this class so that he can watch the warm-up section of class where he asks us all to try doing Natural and Reverse Turns down the floor by ourselves. Getting the angle right, turning the right direction and using the right foot to start with are all things that I am pretty good at, since I have to lead and generally have to do those things already. The ladies in class, on the other hand… for the first couple of tries several of them just didn’t get things right. They would start on the wrong foot, or turn the wrong direction, or start and end at the wrong angle. A few times they would start turning and not stay on a straight line, heading right toward someone else on the floor! As much as I feel bad about laughing at that, it is kind of funny to watch.

Once the torture of the warm-up was over, we worked on adding in the two Gold-level figures to the mix: the Contra Check and the Natural Fleckerl. Lord Junior told us all about his theory of Fleckerls, and how he sees a lot of Pros nowadays leaving them out of their routines with students. You don’t technically need to do them to win no matter what level you are competing, but Lord Junior feels like you are missing out on a lot if you just do Reverse Turns, Natural Turns and Change Steps all the way through Gold when you are competing.

He did say that the lead to get into the Reverse Fleckerl was a bit sudden, and that’s where he usually runs into problems with his competitive students. You can start a Reverse Fleckerl at any time if you do Reverse Turns up to the point where the lady crosses her foot in front. Lord Junior said that he likes to warn his ladies verbally before doing a Reverse Fleckerl during a competition. The Natural Fleckerl is slightly easier to do, especially if you do a Contra Check beforehand. Then there is no question about what is happening even if Lord Junior gives no verbal warning, so there is less of a chance that the lady will be surprised when the rotation happens.

That is an interesting thought. Perhaps I’ll have to file that idea away for later when I manage to start competing at Gold-level with Viennese Waltz.

And that’s it! Man, I wrote a lot of things again this week. I am just terrible about keeping these posts short…

I think there are a few things going on this weekend, but I’m not sure how many people will be wandering around to dance with the holiday on Sunday. Easter was never really a holiday for traveling to see people when I was growing up, but I have heard several people mention that they will be doing just that this weekend. So maybe that is an invitation for me to just take it easy. I could probably use the break to do some other productive things that I have been putting off (like my taxes…). We’ll have to see what happens!

Unbelievable Sights, Indescribable Feeling

Last Saturday morning I got my result sheets from the pseudo-competition I was in the Saturday prior. Someone who works at the Fancy Dance Hall had been nice enough to type up all of the notes for me so that I didn’t have to try to read all of the judge’s handwriting, but since I danced in so many heats the feedback still covered more than one sheet of paper. My lesson with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer that afternoon was focused on some of the specific notes that we were given, much like all of the practice sessions I have had since I got the sheets back.

Let’s start by talking about the results from the last round that I did that day, which was the five-dance challenge round that Sparkledancer and I opted to be a part of. The only reason we decided to dance in that round was because at the level we are dancing right now, none of the competitions we take part in have us dancing all five International Standard styles back-to-back, so we wanted to give that a try to see how we did. Initially I thought that this round would just give us feedback from the judges, like all the other heats, but I was wrong. Apparently they scored this round with placements, like you would get at a real competition.

Sparkledancer and I were ranked second or third by all judges in all five of our dances, but when all the scores were added up we were placed third overall out of five. I know that doesn’t sound super good, but being ranked in this way overall wasn’t a good idea to begin with, for a number of reasons. First of all, we were the only Amateur pair that danced in this five-dance round – everyone else was Pro/Am, so we definitely had that working against us. Secondly, this was not a leveled challenge. The Pro/Am couple that took first? That lady was doing her Gold-level routines. The second place Pro/Am pair I know competes in Silver regularly, so I assume they were using those routines that day as well. Then there was us, dancing our Bronze routines.

I’m sure that makes it slightly more impressive, seeing as how the people who beat us are definitely dancing at a higher level, but I still don’t feel right about it. Had I known that we wouldn’t be getting feedback and would be ranked, I probably would have made the argument with Sparkledancer that it wasn’t really a good idea to dance in the five-dance round, and instead would have signed up for five more single-dance heats. Still, what’s done is done, and it is nice to know that at least we didn’t take last place against a while field of Pro/Am couples.

With that out of the way, the more interesting thing I got was the notes on the single-dance heats. Many of the notes are only semi-helpful, because they aren’t overly specific. There were quite a few that mentioned something about keeping the frame stronger or more consistent, but they don’t specify where I need to do that, or even tell me whether it is Sparkledancer or I that should be doing it. Those comments I just skimmed over, because frame and posture is going to be a constant point to work on (at least, until I figure out how to replace large portions of my upper body with cybernetic parts).
There were also a lot of comments about how Sparkledancer and I were fun to watch, or looked like we were having fun. While that is good to know, and was something I was actively working on that day, those notes don’t really help me focus my practice. In fact, all of the comments that talked about how I did something well I just skipped over. When all was said and done, I highlighted just the comments that were actually useful information on things I should work on in each dance style.

Because I’m not ashamed to admit my own faults, I am going to put that list here. Also, it will make it easy for me to look up the notes if I lose my copy of the results sheet, which is entirely likely to happen at some point…

For Waltz – More rise and fall actions need developing; More lowering and rising; Man’s left side up and forward; Beautiful closing action on the natural turn. More consistent with this; Closing action in natural turn could be more precise; Maintain a good head position.

For Tango – Powerful movement but inconsistent; Keep Tango flatter.

For Viennese Waltz – Stay in your left space at all times; Work on bigger steps; Head position needs to be more aware of space, too much rotation in the head, needs to be longer; Needs more depth on the first step in both natural and reverse turns.

For Foxtrot – Use your standing leg; Too steppie at times; Use your sides to pass one another; Shape gets slightly distorted because of foot position; Knees need to flex more when receiving the weight on the slow; More projection outwards needed; Slows need to be fuller to show contrast from quicks.

And finally, for Quickstep – Too steppie at times; Use your standing legs and divide the feet; Longer steps; More confidence; Great energy, but inconsistent.

(All notes are verbatim as on the papers I got)

Based on those notes, if I didn’t know any better I would feel like Tango is my strongest dance style all of a sudden. How in the world did that happen? Quickstep seems to come in as a close second though. I mean, if I think back to the results that I got from the last actual competition I was in, that would follow with the scoring that the judges in that event gave Sparkledancer and I, so I guess maybe that has some merit, but Tango and Quickstep are definitely not the dance styles I feel like the strongest in. I always thought that Foxtrot was my strength, with Waltz behind that. Maybe this means that I will have to devote more practice time to those two styles to keep them at the top of the heap.

Saturday night was a big night for me. This past weekend was the scheduled weekend for the monthly dance party that my Royal Dance Court group hosts, but this month was special. Many months ago I had asked the Princess to come in to teach the lesson that we hold before the dance party, and Saturday was the night that she actually did it, and oh man did things turn out great!

First of all, we had so many people show up to see her that night that there was barely any room on the dance floor during the lesson that she taught. People didn’t seem to mind that though – they were enraptured listening to her talk about American Tango, and entranced by watching her demonstrate the steps. Second of all, though she didn’t have to, the Princess actually stayed for the majority of the dance party afterward, talking with anyone who wanted to talk with her and dancing with any man (or woman) brave enough to dance with her. All the while using her magical princess powers to liven up the room.

(I’m not even kidding about that. If you’ve ever spent any time in the same room as her, you know that she has a way of commanding attention if she wants to. Her personality is a force of nature, and it sweeps anyone nearby up in its wake. Good thing she’s also super nice. If she were a villain, she could be really dangerous and manipulative.)

So what does a Princess tell her subjects if she is giving a class on American Tango? Well, first she made everyone dance for her so that she could stroll around the room and evaluate how everyone danced currently. Then she split up the class and gave everyone a look at some important Tango technique that would make everyone better, but was especially good information for those more advanced dancers in the crowd. Finally she showed everyone a fun and challenging combination of figures that would help people practice the technique she taught, but would also give them something that could be pulled out during dance parties to impress others on the floor.

The technique that she spent time going over in class was something that she had been discussing the weekend prior, after the competition I was in was over, with that multi-time world champion who had come in to judge that I mentioned. Apparently they had somehow gotten into a conversation about taking steps in Tango. I guess if you are both world-class dancers, like the Princess and that judge guy are, these are the sorts of things that just come up in normal conversation when you talk…

The technique that they discussed really was about how to take steps in Tango. Whether dancing American or International Tango, to make it look and move differently than any other ballroom dance you need to drive out of your standing leg and step on the beat and then hold, split weight, body weight in-between your legs. On the ‘&’ of the beat (or on the ‘&’ of the second beat, if you are taking a slow step) you will shift your weight to the new leg, and the old leg essentially becomes dead weight until it is collected. This driving and then holding action is what, more than anything else, will give your Tango the powerful staccato look that it needs to really look like Tango at a world-class level.

To practice this, the Princess had people just do the American Tango basic a few times down the floor alone, then she partnered everyone up to have men and women try it together. As soon as she had people partner up and give it a try, she had to split the men and women up again to tell all the men about being in frame correctly with a lady and having a right-side lead the whole time while dancing Tango. Apparently watching the men near her try to dance with a partner offended her so much that she had to stop everyone to fix it.

By the time she was finished having us work on walking, everyone in the room had been drawn into her lesson in some way. Normally we have people who show up for the dance party and spend their time during the lessons on the sidelines, just sitting and chatting with each other, but even these people were standing next to the chairs and paying attention to everything the Princess was saying. Even Lord Junior and Sir Digler, who had both stopped by the party at different times just to visit with people they knew for a little while, ended up in line with the men so they could work on the things that the Princess was talking about. I wish that I had a magical air of command about me like that!

Splitting the men and women up again, she now went through a small progression of Tango figures. None of the figures were super difficult, but she made it look amazing. Have you ever watched a world champion-level dancer dance a Bronze-level routine before? It makes the Bronze-level routines I practice look terrible by comparison. Luckily, I wasn’t the person she asked to help her demonstrate the routine. Sir Digler happened to be standing in line near the Princess, so she called him out and told him that she would just back-lead him through the sequence. The whole time she kept calling him ‘darling’ (or “dah-ling” in that accent of hers), which made him blush a lot. Poor guy…
The progression began with a normal American Tango basic – two curved steps followed by a three-step close. On the last step of the basic, she had people shift to Promenade Position heading diagonal center. Next we did a Promenade that ends in a throwout to get the lady into Open Fan position. Here we led her through a Underarm Turn with an extra spin on the end to get her into Shadow Position. While the lady turns, the man just has to rock in place.

From here we did an Open Reverse Turn in Shadow Position, ending the figure with a right-side lunge/picture line that stretched toward diagonal wall. To finish, the guy takes two steps backward to settle on right leg and holds while lady is turned across our body to collect back in Promenade Position, before taking off into a basic closed Promenade that ends facing wall so you could start all over if you wanted.

So yeah, things went well. The class was challenging for a lot of people – most people who only dance socially don’t usually think about their technique, so the Princess really pushed them outside their comfort zone to help them improve. Plus there were so many people trying to dance in the class that the floor was super crowded, which also made things challenging. All those people stuck around afterward for the party to hang out and dance with the Princess more, and because of that anyone who was dancing had to keep themselves really contained. I didn’t hear any reports of injuries throughout the night, so I’m going to assume that everyone was successful. Hooray!

I dealt with an ever-so slightly smaller crowd on Monday night when I went out to the Electric Dance Hall for Latin Technique class. Lord Junior still wanted to use class that night to give his competitive students who joined class some extra practice for the competition they are going to in a couple of weekends, and tonight’s class was primarily for the benefit of Gatekeeper. She had gotten her feedback from the competition she participated in with me two weekends ago, and one of the comments that the judges made repeatedly was that she needed to work on straightening her legs completely in her Latin dances. So tonight we worked on Rumba to let her practice that.

When we really focus on doing the Latin dances on Monday with super straight legs, it hurts me on the inside. Straightening my legs like that is pretty much anathema to everything I have been practicing so hard for International Standard to improve my movement. Also, there is this very fine line that I walk while straightening my legs like this, between really flexing the bottom of my quadriceps to hold my leg straight, and just being kind of lazy and letting my knees settle back a little farther to lock in more of a hyperextended position. Because I don’t do Latin all that often, if I’m not thinking about what I’m doing I have a tendency to allow the latter to happen, which ends up being painful when I get home.
For the first twenty minutes, we drilled the basic steps and New Yorkers extremely slowly to make sure that our legs were straightened perfectly when they needed to be. I’m talking music so slow that dancing sloths would have told Lord Junior to kick it up a notch. If they danced ballroom, that is – I have a feeling that dancing sloths usually end up at raves for some reason, slowly waving around glow sticks. Yeah, you can picture that too, can’t you.

When we had been tortured enough with this extended warm up, Lord Junior gave us a few more complicated steps to use to continue working on our legs. We did three New Yorkers (to the right, left, then right) into an Alemana that ended with lady on man’s right side. Then we finished with a Closed Hip Twist that sent the lady out into Fan Position. There weren’t too many figures, but if the fastest you dance them is to 80% of International Rumba music tempo, it takes a long time to get through what little is there. By the end of class, I started to wonder if what we were doing was practice, or punishment.

There was much less torture for me on Wednesday night when I went out to Standard Technique class. Once again, we took to working on a style and a figure so that one of Lord Junior’s competitive students could get in some additional practice with it before competing. This time it was Foxtrot, and the specific figure she wanted some more work on was the Reverse Wave.

We didn’t get through a whole lot as far as steps were concerned because a few of the ladies were struggling to get through the few figures we did use. What we ended up doing was just a prep step into a Feather, then an Open Telemark with a Feather Ending. We took that into an Overturned Reverse Turn that flipped us 180° so that we ended up backing diagonal wall, and now we added on the Reverse Wave, which curved to head down the line of dance. To get out of that easily, we just did an Open Impetus that turned us to head toward diagonal center in Promenade Position.

The most difficult part for me was going through the Overturned Reverse Turn into the Reverse Wave. Lord Junior had told all the ladies about turning their heads to the right as they started the Reverse Wave. This had the unintended effect of making the ladies want to go in that direction. If the lady did not want to dance in body contact with me (there were two in class who really didn’t like doing that), then I had very little ability to control where they ended up, so they would drift off toward outside partner on my left side. It didn’t matter how strong I held my arms, or how many times we went through the figure and they were told not to do this, those two ladies kept trying to shift to that side for some reason.
On a funny note, Lord Junior spent some time getting on the ladies to make sure they took a heel step for their first step when we were in Promenade Position. After the third or fourth time telling them all to do that, he threatened to make the next lady who didn’t take a heel step run a lap around the outside of the dance floor using all heel steps. We all thought it was a pretty funny threat, until Bony stepped up to dance through the progression with him… and failed to take a heel step for her first step in Promenade Position.

Lord Junior told her to go run her lap, and to make sure to go around the outside of the dance floor, which would take her behind the other group class that was going on down at the other end of the floor. Bony told him that she didn’t run, so she just started sauntering along slowly. When she got to where the other group class was, rather than go around them she stopped to talk to one of the people on the edge of the class. At this point, we were all laughing, and Lord Junior started calling across the room to her to keep moving because this was not supposed to be a break for her to socialize.

The instructor leading the other class stopped what she was doing to ask Lord Junior what was going on. He told her that Bony was supposed to be running her lap as a punishment. Everyone in the other group class started laughing too, so the instructor fought to get her class back under control and told them all not to talk to Bony because she was being punished. Finally Bony sauntered her way around the room and back to our side, looking pretty pleased with herself.

The funny part was, after going through that exercise, Bony never messed up her heel step in Promenade Position again that night. It was a hilarious method of getting there, but apparently her punishment really did teach her the right lesson. 🙂

So We Gon’ Dance Until We Drop

Another week in the books. The most interesting thing that I did this past weekend was participate in a pseudo-competition that was being put on by the Fancy Dance Hall. There would be heats, and some well-known judges, and after the event was over there would be written notes from the judges about things that they noticed you doing while you danced. Exciting, right?

Sparkledancer and I signed up for this event, because feedback that we can actually make sense of is something that we can use to help us improve. Before we signed up, we discussed what we should do with Lord Dormamu. He thought that this would be a good chance for us to work on our stamina, so the recommendation was to do a ridiculous number of heats. Seeing as how I dance amateur, and it is very rare that I actually get to dance heats at a competition, working on stamina wasn’t really even a concern for me. But he’s the world-class coach, so I wasn’t going to argue with him. Besides, the Fancy Dance Hall was offering a pretty cheap rate for amateurs to dance per heat, so splitting the cost with Sparkledancer wasn’t all that expensive.

I had originally signed up to dance twenty individual heats (four each of each of the five International Standard styles) plus one five-dance challenge round. There was a bit of a mix-up when they put together the schedule for the day though, so a lot of people got signed up to dance more heats than they paid for, which was a pretty good deal. I think in the end I ended up dancing something like thirty individual heats plus the five-dance challenge round.

Sparkledancer and I were on the floor a lot more than most other students that morning, and even more than a majority of the instructors. The only person I know for sure who was on the floor more than us was Lord Latin. When a group of his students booked their heats, apparently the schedule had to be built around how often he would be on the floor. For the entire morning session when I was there, which covered all the heats in International Standard and American Smooth, there were only two Viennese Waltz heats that Lord Latin did not dance. That guy was the real champion of the day.

A lot of people who I knew from the area were taking part in this event, so it ended up being really fun there. Lord Junior had three of his students sign up to dance heats that day. They were interested in getting feedback from the judges that they could review because they had all signed up to go to a big Pro/Am competition that is happening in a couple of weeks. Sir Digler was there with two of his students, one of those being Points, a lady that used to dance a lot but then disappeared for a long time, and now apparently has resurfaced as a competitor. Surprise! The Princess was there as well, and she had a couple of men whom she was dancing some heats with during the morning session.

One of the judges for the event was also dancing that morning in a few heats, weirdly enough. This guy is apparently another one of those multi-multi-multi-time world champion ballroom dancers, much like Lord Dormamu. When he was asked by the people at the Fancy Dance Hall if he would come judge this competition for them, he thought it sounded like fun, and then asked if he could bring one of his students with him to dance in some of the rounds! No one expected that as his response, but they weren’t about to say no if it meant he would be there, so there was a block of dances near the end of the morning set aside where he wasn’t judging so he and his student could dance.

Speaking of Lord Dormamu… he was not there that day. Back when we first talked about doing this event months ago, it sounded like he would be dancing there with a few of his Pro/Am ladies, but it turns out that he was asked to go help run a bigger competition out-of-town, and then give coaching to competitors from that event the next day. So that’s where he ended up instead.

My first heat was heat three, so I started out in the designated ‘on-deck’ area of the studio watching while waiting my turn. The first thing that I noticed when watching the first couple of heats that morning was that there seemed to be very little energy in the room. This was late in the morning, so it wasn’t like everyone there hadn’t had plenty of time to be up and about to wake themselves up, so I wondered what it was that was making everyone so subdued. It was then that I remembered that when I did this same competition the year before, Lord Dormamu was the one that was engaging everyone who wasn’t on the dance floor during the competition. This year, the DJ was trying to do the same, but it wasn’t working nearly as well.

After Sparkledancer and I finished our first few heats and had a bit of a break, I told her that we needed to step up and help liven up the crowd. So we started to perform rather than just dance. When we would go out to dance a heat, after picking a corner to start in we would talk to the people sitting in chairs nearby as the music started, or to other competitors who decided to start dancing near us. Sometimes I made comments to people as I danced past them, just to get them to smile or laugh. In one heat I had a whole conversation with Sparkledancer fairly loudly, where we talked about how she was a classy lady who danced, and since I was dancing with her, what that would make me. We managed to decide that the most appropriate word would be ‘debonair’ before the heat ended, but it was a tough choice between that and ‘suave’ let me tell you.

And performing like that actually worked! After a few rounds where people watched the two of us dancing seriously but acting silly, the whole atmosphere in the room changed. The audience, and other competitors waiting between their heats, started to actually cheer on the dancers on the floor, and even started to play along with Sparkledancer and I as we interacted with them. Suddenly it seemed like everyone was actually having fun, which I think made many people dance much better. That made me happy.

Near the end of the morning, the student who had come to dance at this event with the judge stopped to talk to me while I was hanging out in the on-deck area. She was an older lady who could have easily passed for my grandmother, if my grandmother ever wore a fancy yellow ball gown. She wanted to tell me that she thought that Sparkledancer and I looked like we were having so much fun while we were out on the dance floor. In fact, apparently when she found out that she was going to be dancing some of the same heats as we were that morning, at first she was nervous because she didn’t think she could compete with us for attention.

I tried to tell her that she really didn’t have to worry about competing with me, since I am just an amateur, and her instructor and dance partner has been one of the highest rated dancers in the world. She laughed at that, and then said that after being on the floor with Sparkledancer and I, she was inspired to try even harder at dancing, and also to have fun at the same time.

That bit of feedback right there from some lady I had only met that morning means more to me than any of the written notes that I will eventually get from the judges. 🙂

When the competition broke for lunch after the American Smooth rounds, I had to head back home to take care of some things in the afternoon. But that competition wasn’t the only dancing that I ended up doing that day. Sparkledancer sent me a note late in the afternoon saying that Prez had asked her to go to the dance party that night at the Endless Dance Hall to make some announcements for our Royal Dance Court group. Since I am also on the Royal Dance Court, she was drafting me to help her out. Plus, I assumed that we could get in some practice if I was there with her, which is always a good thing.

The dance club that had put together this event had called up the illustrious Judge Dread to come teach a lesson in Bolero for them before the open dance started. I was interested in hearing Judge Dread teach, because he has such a different perspective on things. The man is an internationally acclaimed ballroom adjudicator, so hearing him talk about the different dance styles is fun. However, I didn’t end up getting to participate in the class. Somehow, through some sort of wizardry that I don’t understand fully, the dance club ended up with more men than women showing up for the class! Unbelievable!

I know I could have muscled my way into a spot in the line if I wanted to, but being a member of the Royal Dance Court, I thought that might be considered bad form. Also, there were people in the class that had never danced Bolero before, so Judge Dread spent quite a bit of time covering just the basic steps. I thought that it would be better for people who had never done Bolero before to practice those steps rather than me, so that was another reason why I stepped off to the side.

Things got a bit more ridiculous at the party after the lesson. The first thing that Sparkledancer and I had to do was track down the leader of this ballroom club, who happens to be the famous President Porpoise, to talk with him about making the announcements that Prez requested. Turns out that he had already planned on making announcements about the same items before we even got there, so Prez really didn’t need to send Sparkledancer on this mission. Huzzah! That meant that our Royal Dance Court duties were done for the night, and we could do whatever we wanted with the rest of our time.

So I ended up socializing for much of the night. I don’t go out to too many dance parties anymore now that I am training to be a serious competitor (super serious), so I don’t really get to see people as much as I used to. Since I was at this party, and I had already danced quite a bit earlier in the day, I took the time to try to at least say hello to a bunch of people while I was at the party.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t dance at all. In fact, Sparkledancer and I did dance together for every ballroom dance that was played that night until I left, save for one where some other guy grabbed her for a Tango before I could find her. Being kind of burnt out on working on our routines, Sparkledancer suggested at the beginning of the night that we spend the night practicing our posture, frame, footwork and floorcraft, but dance whatever figures that we wanted, or even switch to American style if we wanted to do something completely different.

During the first Foxtrot of the night, I tried to do American style, but it just felt weird since all I do is International anymore. Somewhere around the floor I was doing some Passing Twinkles, and after closing Sparkledancer back to the point where we connected the right side of our bodies, I never brought up my left hand to offer it to her. Rather than stop dancing, I proceeded to continue to move around the floor just holding her with my right hand behind her shoulder, and switched to mostly doing International-style Foxtrot steps instead of American.

That actually turned out to be a lot more fun by comparison, and it was a good way to practice our connection. When the song ended and I walked with Sparkledancer back to the side of the dance floor, she told me that when the next ballroom-style dance came on, she would come find me again, and we should try that one using only one arm as well. A few songs later a Waltz came on, and we did the same thing, using a variety of International Waltz steps and only one arm to get around the floor.

Because it was so much fun, we ended up doing that the rest of the night whenever we danced together. The only exception we made was for the one Viennese Waltz and one Quickstep that came on before I left for the night – those we figured would be safer if we used both arms to maintain a good frame. People gave us some strange looks as we passed by them when we danced with our arms hanging down at the side, but I was having too much fun to care. So… I guess you could count that as practice for the night, in a way. I’m certainly going to.

Returning to a bit of quiet normalcy, I headed out to Latin Technique class on Monday night. As a treat, when I got there Lord Junior announced to everyone that we would get to work on Pasodoble that night. Hooray! That’s my favorite!

As I mentioned, Lord Junior and a few of his students are preparing to head off to a large Pro/Am competition coming up soon, and one of the ladies who was in class on Monday night and also danced in the competition that I was in on Saturday was working on perfecting her Pasodoble routine, so Lord Junior opted to use the Latin Technique class to give her some more practice. All of the figures that we were given to work on that night were from the Bronze syllabus, so if you’ve ever done any Pasodoble before you’ve probably seen these at least once.

We started out with a Separation. Then we did another Separation, only this time we brought the ladies back to us on our right side so that we could follow it with the Fallaway Ending to Separation (yes, that’s the real name of the figure). This ending to the Separation allowed us to turn a corner so that the next figures would all head down a new wall.

There were three figures used to close out our little progression for the night. The first was an Open Telemark. We underturned this slightly so that we ended facing the wall rather than facing down the line of dance. That set us up so that we could go into a Promenade and Counter Promenade. Lord Junior gave the guys a choice whether they wanted to do the Bronze-version of the figure where the Counter Promenade heads toward center, or the Silver-level version where the Counter Promenade goes diagonal center (way more advanced, right?). To complete the progression and to line us up facing the wall again, he had us add on a Grand Circle.

In Standard Technique class this week, Lord Junior once again had us working on a section from one of his competitive student’s routines so that she could get some extra practice with the figures before the upcoming competition that she and Lord Junior would be doing together. The dance was Quickstep, and the choreography that we looked at actually ended up being broken into two pieces because there was so much of it. In the first part of class, we looked at one section and linked it to the second section, but when we started to run short of time Lord Junior had us drop the first section entirely so that we could focus on improving the second section.

Part one had us starting off with a prep step into a Forward Lock. From there we added on a non-syllabus figure called a Hairpin, which looks a lot like a Curved Three Step from Foxtrot, and at the end of the Hairpin we attached a Heel Pull, which should rotate you so that you end up backing line of dance. Then we did those two figures again, though to attach them you have to take out the first slow step of the Hairpin. After the second one you should be facing line of dance going down the new wall (obviously you would do these figures in a corner if that is the intended rotation).

This set us up to take one step forward on our left leg and then go into a Rumba Cross, but like I said earlier, as class wore on and Lord Junior wanted to save time we ended up dropping all of those prior figures and started directly with the Rumba Cross instead. We did two Rumba Crosses in a row, with one step on the left leg in between to link them. Assuming you were able to do the pivot on the last step of the Rumba Cross correctly and get a full 180° turn, and you pushed with your standing leg enough to really drive through the first step and float through the others, you could easily cover the entire short wall with just those two Rumba Crosses.

Lord Junior had us add on a Natural Turn and an Open Impetus to turn the corner and line up moving diagonal center down the new wall, and we finished by doing one Step Hop into a Promenade Chasse in Pepperpot timing and then four running steps to end. These were actually four steps where you were ‘running’ on the balls of your feet, and not a Four Quick Run, which is a completely different figure though it sounds like it should be the same. I was confused as well when Lord Junior first told us we were doing the four running steps, but once I saw it I understood that it wasn’t the figure I was thinking of at all.

Holy cow, we are already halfway through February! Where does the time go? It feels like the year just started a little while ago, but we’re actually well into the year already. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try my best to have a fairly quiet weekend this week. I’m actually hoping to disappear for a while and go out to see a movie (you can probably guess which one). Will I be able to pull off my plan? Or will dancing pop up and insist that I go hang out with it instead? I’m sure I’ll tell you all about how things go next week!