If It Looks Like This Then You’re Doing It Right

As I mentioned in my last post, last Thursday night I had to attend my first rehearsal for the upcoming showcase performance. This is a very different setup than any other showcase I’ve ever done. Because the show is designed as a continuous story, we had to actually walk through the show to make sure that everyone knew where there entrances and exits were going to be. Along with that, there was a stage manager on hand who was making notes on all the props that were needed for each scene, and how to get those items to the dancers before they had to have them.

This blocking rehearsal was… well, it was really chaotic. No one stepped forward to take charge and keep everyone on task, so oftentimes there were several different groups getting in each other’s way, and they were playing the soundtrack for the show really loudly, so you could barely hear the instructions and comments when the music was playing. I am slated to be in a couple of scenes in the first act, so I was hanging around in the back watching everything until I needed to be onstage. As I watched, I couldn’t really make out what was supposed to be going on in the scenes they were trying to put together… and that’s bad because I know the story that this production is based on!

Sparkledancer and I are entering the set during a scene where there is a party going on in the background behind the main cast. We’re supposed to act like party goers, being happy and excited, and then we were told to freeze for the rest of the main cast’s scene. At a point in the dialogue, the lead male makes a reference to me, and that’s the cue for Sparkledancer and I to start moving and make our way to our starting position. When our song starts, we dance. After we finish up, we exit toward stage right and the lights will shift back to the main cast.

We were then told the part that we will play in the next scene. This one has no dancing for me, just acting. Sparkledancer and I are supposed to act like there has been some kind of fight, and she yells at me (silently) and storms off the stage toward stage left. I am supposed to be sad and dejected, and sit myself down on a bench in the back of the set, next to the lead male. He and I share an understanding look, another dance number takes place in front of us, and then I exit through the curtains in the back when the lights go down enough for me to sneak off.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Those were all the notes that I took about what needed to happen. We were told before the walk-through started that we could step through our dances as the music played, but we weren’t really practicing, so we didn’t have to dance full-on that night. I didn’t even change out of my sneakers, so I faked a lot of the dance just to make sure I could hit the points on the floor I needed with the set props in place. The few times I tried to turn that night were not pretty, because my sneakers have rubber soles and they stuck to the wood floor pretty solidly.

As I found out later though, I should have done more than fake it that night, because unbeknownst to me, there was a big problem that the music editor had created that I didn’t find out about until Saturday morning…

I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer on Saturday to look at our showcase routine. We started of discussing the things that we were told during the blocking rehearsal, to make sure that everything was clear for all three of us. Everyone seemed to be on the same page as we started, so with all of those notes in mind, we got started dancing through the routine to look at everything critically and clean up anything that was out of sorts.

Because there were so many other people at the Fancy Dance Hall that day who were also preparing for the upcoming showcase, we didn’t get a chance to try anything out using the music the first half-dozen times that we danced through things. The routine went fairly well, all things considered – I had to fudge the angles a bit to avoid running into other people on the floor, but people were nice enough to get out of my way as soon as I picked Sparkledancer up off the ground and started moving.

We went through the lift at the end several times to make some adjustments to the final piece of it. Once I bring Sparkledancer down from over my head, I was supposed to get her to be in front of my chest and then curl her like a barbell. Sir Steven was trying to get her to keep her core more solid while I did that, because initially she was mostly relaxed and he thought it looked funny. This was really the only issue that he found with the ending, and as it turns out, it would be totally irrelevant by the end of our lesson.

Finally, with only a little time left before Sir Steven’s next lesson, we got a chance to try out our performance with the music. The main computer in the Fancy Dance Hall had a copy of the soundtrack that was cut together for the show, so Sir Steven picked through the music file until he found the beginning of our number. We practiced the entrance piece, hitting the cues for all our marks, and then got all the way to the end… and then the dialogue that was recorded in the soundtrack kicked in before we finished our lift and did the ending piece that was a huge part of the story!

Thinking there might have been a fluke, we tried it again, and got the same result. Sir Steven had told the person splicing the music together that we would be doing the lift at the end without following the timing of the music, but didn’t tell them how much time to give us to get through everything. After timing everything out based on the way the music is cut, our piece is roughly 1:35. When we practiced everything from the start of our dance until the ending that comes after the lift finishes, we were running right around 2:00. So now we had to eliminate twenty-five seconds of what we had practiced to make everything fit..

There were a couple of parts that Sir Steven told us to try to speed up, and he said to just get rid of the part of the lift where I curl Sparkledancer in front of my chest, but even without those pieces we are still over the amount of time we have in the soundtrack. To make matters worse, we had to stop there for the day since Sparkledancer and I had a coaching session with Lord Dormamu immediately following our lesson with Sir Steven. We all planned on meeting up on Wednesday evening to go over things and try to get the timing issue worked out before Thursday night’s dress rehearsal.

Sparkledancer and I got a few minutes to compare notes as Lord Dormamu finished up the lesson he was teaching before we dove into things. The first order of business that Lord Dormamu brought up was the coaching that we had gone through last Wednesday. The discussion that we had about everything that transpired was probably the most interesting and enlightening thing that I went through on Saturday.

I brought up several points that had been discussed with this coach that were either in direct conflict with things that Lord Dormamu had told me to be doing, or just seemed questionable based on what we were working on currently. Most of what we discussed related to the Tango, since that is what Sparkledancer and I are currently working on with Lord Dormamu. I told Lord Dormamu that we looked at Tango during the coaching session because we got through Waltz and Foxtrot rather quickly, and he was both surprised and pleased that the coach didn’t have much to say about our Foxtrot. I guess normally that style is one that coaches pick apart quite a bit, especially for dancers who are dancing syllabus routines.

The first thing that we discussed was the coach’s advice for Tango that Sparkledancer and I come up more in our frame rather than be so low to the ground that our knees get into each other’s way. I also told him about how the coach told me specifically that I should be leading my partner to rotate to Promenade Position with my hip in Tango, but if I were to get into frame the way Lord Dormamu wanted me to, there was really no way that my right hip could make contact with Sparkledancer at all.

Lord Dormamu’s answer to me was that this coach, like many others that I will end up meeting in my future dance journey, learned to dance (and became dance champions) a long time ago. The way that they learned to dance many figures is not the way that those figures are done any longer. When they judge dancers in Tango for instance, the way that Lord Dormamu is teaching me to do things is the way that will look the best to them and be scored the highest… but those same judges will not know how to teach someone to dance like that since they no longer compete, so they will just fall back to teaching things the way they learned to dance long ago.

And apparently this is normal and expected when any high level dancer works with one of these older judges. The coaching session that Lord Dormamu insisted that we take with this gentleman was mostly to get him to meet us and have some experience with how we dance. In the future, if this coach is judging a competition that Sparkledancer and I are competing in, he will likely remember more about how we danced during the coaching session that we had with him than he will about the few seconds that he sees of us on a competition floor, and his judging will reflect that. That is the real reason that Lord Dormamu wants us to work with some of these judges when they are available in our area.

Some of the advice that the coach gave us, like the concept of using my arms to lead while I dance, is apparently ideas that Lord Dormamu and I will work on in the future. They are concepts that are important, but not important for the level that I am currently competing in right now. Lord Dormamu’s plan, as I officially found out, is to keep Sparkledancer and I dancing in Bronze for another year as he finishes cleaning up all of our dances, and then start us on the track to move up the ranks.

If we have done everything correctly, according to him it shouldn’t take long for us to compete and win significant competitions in Silver and Gold, and he’ll get us to started working on Open-level routines before long. These advanced concepts that the coach mentioned, like leading with the arms and relaxing the position of my shoulders somewhat, will be incorporated into my dancing along the way. But not now, so I shouldn’t spend too much time thinking about them.

That was the first time that I had ever really heard Lord Dormamu verbalize my long-term dance plan. I guess he thinks that I am doing well enough to meet these objectives. Yay me!

Also on Saturday, I went out to what I think is going to be the only holiday dance party that I attend this year. Seeing as how my next weekend is dedicated to performing in a showcase, and the weekend after that I will have family holiday events to attend, there’s a good chance that the next dance party I go to will have to be New Year’s Eve. So I made time to go to this semi-formal affair being held at the Endless Dance Hall, which included dinner and some entertainment along with a chance to dance the night away.

The dinner was a buffet-style meal that they actually served in two different rooms. One room was opened up as soon as guests started arriving, and had a couple of tables full of appetizers that people could stop by and pick at. Then the second room opened and dinner was served. This meal seemed to mostly contain dishes that were made by the event organizers, which gave it a warm, personal feeling as opposed to a catered meal. As people were making their way through the line to get dinner, the first room that had the appetizers had a couple more tables full of desserts added to the mix, just in case you weren’t completely full from eating the other courses.

Once everyone had gotten something to eat and made their way to a table to sit down, the organizers brought out two dancers that are members of one of the local youth dance troupes to perform. I recognized the two of them, and also the routines that they were dancing, because they practice with their instructor at the Fancy Dance Hall on Saturdays during the time that I am normally there for my own lessons, so that was entertaining. They performed a Waltz number and a Cha-Cha, with a short break in between so that they could change costumes.

After the performances and dinner finished up, the DJ started to play music so that everyone else could dance. But more interesting than the dancing was getting a chance to see what all the attendees were wearing to the dance party. Several people who were at the table I was sitting at were pointing out various people on the dance floor, and it turned out to be a really fun game to see who had the best outfit on to show off their holiday spirit.

I think that the winner ended up being, hands down, the gentleman who wore a metallic silver outfit. Everything was metallic and silver, even his dance shoes! He looked kind of like he had just arrived from outer space! Personally I think that the runner-up was the gentleman who was wearing a tuxedo with a cumberbund and bow tie that were pastel orange in color. On a dance floor full of people sporting holiday colors, the pastel orange really stuck out and made him… unique. Close to that would have had to be the lady who was wearing an ugly Christmas sweater and a string of battery-powered Christmas lights in her hair. C’est magnifique!

Wednesday night had more than usual going on for me this week. I for one am looking forward to being done with the showcase after this weekend, so that my weeks can get back to some degree of normality. Skipping my nightly workouts for all this extra dance practice is really throwing me for a loop!

Sir Steven had agreed to meet up with Sparkledancer and I at the Electric Dance Hall the hour before Standard Technique class to go over our showcase routine. We talked about how the music was cut so short for our performance, and what we could eliminate in order to give us enough time to cover the key elements before we had to get off stage for the next dancers. Unfortunately, everything that got changed involved the lift at the end, which is the only part of the whole routine that I actually felt excited about doing.

Now what we have is a lift that moves very quickly – almost recklessly – from start to finish. I roll her out, I hold until the end of the measure as she gets into place, and then I head over to her. Crouching down, Sparkledancer hops up to sit on my shoulder, I stand up and rotate myself to take position back toward the center of the stage a bit. Instead of rotating several times, I am now only rotating one and a quarter turns to save time. Once I am facing the audience, I reposition my hands to lift Sparkledancer up over my head, and then I immediately bring her down in front of me, and then I rotate back the way I came to roll her out for the finish.

All the other pieces that used to be in the lift, including the dramatic effect of doing the whole thing slowly in front of the audience, have been removed. There’s no time any more. We have just barely enough time now for Sparkledancer to walk away from me and then for us to do the final piece of acting to connect our dance to the larger story of the show before the dialogue kicks in and the lights will shift to the next set of performers.

The way that this show turned out… I don’t know if I really feel like it is worth the amount of money I paid to be a part of the show. I guess I was hoping for something… more. I still feel really disconnected from the whole performance, and it’s only a few days away! There’s a good chance that it would take a whole lot of convincing to get me to agree to do another one of these staged showcases in the future.

Once Sparkledancer and I finished up with Sir Steven, we ran over to the other side of the dance floor to join Lord Junior for Standard Technique class. The class felt nice and relaxed that night, which was nice since I have been feeling a bit frazzled lately trying to get everything else done as the holidays approach.

Lord Junior and one of his high-level students had met up with the same coach that Sparkledancer and I had taken that lessons from last week, so we started off class with him and I sharing some of the pointers that we had each talked about with the coach. One of the things that the coach had specifically pointed out about how Lord Junior dances was the positioning of his right arm. He and the coach had talked about how many people have trouble keeping that arm in the right position.

We worked on a figure in Foxtrot that allowed him and I to focus on keeping our arms in the right place. The figure was an Open-level figure called Three Fallaways. My footwork for the figure basically had me doing the first half of an Open Reverse Turn, but then had me do the lady’s part for the second half instead of my normal footwork. Once I crossed my right foot behind my left, I repeated the first part of my footwork again, and then ended the figure with a basic Feather Ending. Seems pretty simple, right?

Broken down like that, the figure is fairly simple and is something that could be lead, but it moved quickly and covered quite a bit of distance down the floor, so you have to be aware of what’s going on before you start. After practicing the figure alone with each lady in class several times, we added on a figure to lead into the Three Fallaways. Lord Junior had us start out with an Open Impetus and Feather Finish. Starting right on an Open Impetus is a bit tricky, but we managed to get through with minimal difficulty.

Dress rehearsal for the showcase was tonight, and the performances are this weekend. It will be nice to finally put this behind me and get back to my normal training for a while. I also have a coaching session with Lord Dormamu on Saturday, so my weekend already feels super busy. Are you going to come watch the show? I’ll try my best not to disappoint if you’re in the audience!

Advertisements

Banging On A Kettledrum Won’t Make You Notice Me

I know you’re probably mostly interested this week in hearing about the competition that I just finished, so I promise that I’ll talk about that first…

Last Saturday was a busy day for me. I spent most of the day out at the Dance Death Arena to compete. This was another one of those competitions where, as an amateur, once I paid the entry fee I could register to dance in as many different rounds as I wanted. I signed up to take part in the same rounds that I had done during the last competition I had gone to the Dance Death Arena for back in the beginning of October. That meant I would be doing four different two-dance rounds that day.

Also just like the last competition that I did at the Dance Death Arena, two of the rounds that I danced in had practically no competition, and the other two were super contested. This time around, Sparkledancer and I had only one person dancing against us in the low turnout rounds. With only two couples registered and a big floor, they put in dancers from a couple of other categories to make better use of the space (and the judge’s time).

The other two rounds I did though… those were nuts. When the rounds finally showed up on the board listing the numbers of all the competitors, I think there were twenty-four couples listed in one, and twenty in the other. Because the rounds were so big, they had been divided up into Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and Finals, and then the Quarter-Final round also had to be split in half to give the judges a chance to see and evaluate everyone properly.

One thing that they offered at this competition that I had not seen before, was the ability for people to sign up to dance in a category without a registered partner. There were a number of people registered that had a partner listing of “TBA” and it took me a bit to figure out what that was all about. These individuals weren’t allowed to dance solo, since no solo proficiency rounds were offered during this competition, but anyone who wanted to compete could find a partner just before taking the floor and dance if they wanted to.

President Porpoise was actually at this competition offering his services throughout the day for any ladies that needed a last-minute partner. Being the experienced dance host that he is, he thought it would be a nice way to volunteer to help out at the competition. The last competition I saw him volunteering at, he was stuck at a table checking people in. This job seemed to suit him much better. He’s such a presidential guy… this is why everyone votes for him.

Let’s get this out of the way before I get any farther – I did very well at the competition, even better than I did at the last competition I did at the Dance Death Arena. They gave out ribbons at this competition for everyone that was sixth place or above, so I got four ribbons to take home as a souvenir. Good job me!

I mention the ribbons because they are kind of funny… I noticed the day after the competition that half the ribbons that I received had the name of a completely different competition printed on the front of them. When I saw that, I took a picture and sent it over to Sparkledancer to show her. Turns out that three of the four ribbons she took home had the name of this other competition too! I can’t find any information online about this other competition, so I wonder if these are just recycled ribbons from an old competition that no longer exists? That struck me as funny for some reason.

There are a couple of interesting points of note I want to mention about this competition so I can reflect on them later. First off, a serious note about my scores: I managed to see the breakdown of how I scored with each judge. For the most part, all the judges rated Sparkledancer and I the same as the place that we got at the end of the day, which explains why we took home ribbons with those place numbers when we left. However, there was one judge that rated us last in every round we danced, which is a huge discrepancy when compared with all the other scores we got.

Since finding that out, I’ve been wracking my brain to try to figure out why this judge would do that. Did the judge just not like the way that I looked? Did I offend him in some way early on in the day, and thus he always rated me last? Was there something technical about my dancing that he thought I was doing wrong compared to everyone else?  It’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to ask the judge (if they would have allowed me to do that). I would have loved to know the reason why his marks were so different from all the other judges’ marks.

Funny note now: in between every few adult rounds they would do a round of junior dancers, which is always fun to watch. Many of these kids are barely half my height, and they are already way better than me at dancing. It makes me wish that I had started out at that age…

Anyway, I was in line waiting for one of my heats to begin when they had these little kids out doing a four dance International Latin final. They started out with a Cha-Cha, then did a Samba. Next up, the emcee announced that all of these young dancers would do “the dance of friendship.” When the DJ put on a Rumba, the whole crowd started to laugh. Apparently when you are that young, judges don’t expect to see any romance in your Rumba. Too funny. I’m going to start referring to Rumba as the dance of friendship whenever it comes up in conversation to see if anyone notices.

After driving back home, unpacking all my stuff from my car and sitting down momentarily to take a few deep breaths, I left the house again to head out to a dance party. My Royal Dance Court group was putting on an event that night, and though I was tired out from driving all over the place all day, I knew that I would be needed for a short while at this party.

I got to the venue a few minutes after the lesson we had planned had started. The big reason that I thought it would be good for me to be there was that my Royal Dance Court group had planned on bringing in someone to teach a lesson on American Viennese Waltz. Knowing that not many people feel comfortable with Viennese Waltz at first because they think it is so fast, I thought it would be prudent for me to jump into the lesson to help guide any ladies who were struggling through the footwork.

As I walked through the door and took a moment to assess the situation, I was pulled into a different problem that had nothing to do with the group class that was going on. The DJ was having trouble getting the equipment that they had brought in hooked up into the existing sound system at the venue. Apparently the DJ had played at this venue before and had no trouble, but that was because a specific cable had been plugged into the back of the sound system control box that would easily plug everything into the DJ’s setup. That cable as nowhere to be found.

Being male, and having plugged in enough stereo equipment in my youth to know a thing or two, I went over to see if I could help. I had already arrived late, I figured that if I could get the DJ to tell me what kind of cable was missing, I could run out and pick one up if needed. The problem with that plan was that the DJ couldn’t give me a good description of what the end of the cable looked like, so I had to wedge myself behind the stereo cabinet and look at all the inputs myself.

While back there, I found one cable lying along the floor that wasn’t plugged into anything. I moved it out of the way to avoid accidentally stepping on the cord and breaking it while I looked at the inputs. When I did that, the DJ reached down and picked it up. There was some sort of adapter on both ends of this cable, and when those were pulled off, it turned out to be the type input plug that was needed.

Once I was told that was what everyone had been looking for, I helped get the cable plugged into the back of the stereo system, since I was already wedged back there anyway. When the DJ plugged in the other end, we were able to test everything and verify that we were getting sound from the speakers. First crisis of the night averted! Hooray!

After extracting myself from behind the cabinet, I finally managed to get my dance shoes on. I surveyed the group class again. Sparkledancer had been watching the class while I was helping out with the sound system, and she pointed out to me that there were several ladies that didn’t have partners in the back corner of the room that were struggling with getting their footwork right.

The instructor was just going through the basic Reverse and Natural Turns at the moment, so I jumped in and worked with a couple of the ladies in practice frame to help them get their steps down. Prez told me later that she thought that I had the patience of a saint for working through the figures slowly with those ladies who were struggling.

Most of the lesson centered around just doing Reverse and Natural Turns and Change Steps, since those figures are pretty much a requirement for getting around the room. In the last ten minutes, the instructor went over a figure that would actually be considered American Viennese Waltz. After a half Reverse Turn, we would then do a Cross Body Lead with Underarm Turn, releasing the lady to open up into Side-by-Side Fan Position.

Next he had everyone do that classic move where you bring the lady back toward you so that you can meet up in the middle palm-to-palm – or you could rub noses, or kiss (if you were really good friends) – before opening back up to Side-by-Side Fan again. In place of the standard ending, the instructor had us do something more like Tango Swivels, where we would turn to face each other and point the right leg (left leg for the ladies) to the side, then step forward, collect the lady back into frame and point the left leg (right leg for ladies) to the side, and then we could start up with the Reverse Turns again.

This last piece seems fairly simple if you’ve done any American Viennese Waltz before… based on my description, you may be able to picture exactly what it looks like in your head. They are fairly common movements. However, when we were all given the last part of class to practice, I found even more ladies that were struggling to figure out what their footwork should be. I did my best to try to help out as many as I could, but I didn’t manage to get to all of them before class was over unfortunately.

The DJ didn’t play many more Viennese Waltz songs than normal than night – maybe one or two extra over the two or three you would hear at an average party – so there wasn’t really much opportunity for people to practice what they learned. One of the first songs that the DJ did play was a super slow Viennese Waltz, which everyone got out on the floor to do, but the later songs that were more normal tempo didn’t see as many participants. Ah well, hopefully this class took some of the fear out of the dance style for these people.

Sunday afternoon I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for our normal weekend lesson. With the competition over, it is time to buckle down and get super-serious about the showcase performance coming up. After all, it is less than a month away to opening night!

Before we even started to go over the choreography, Sir Steven had to talk with us about the show. It turns out that one of the instructors from the Fancy Dance Hall had some kind of project at their day job that had to be scheduled for the performance weekend, so he wasn’t going to be able to dance in the production! The other male instructors were going to take over dancing the routines that had been prepared with his female students, but there were a few holes in the storyline of the show where this instructor was going to be performing with one of the females on staff.

That was where Sparkledancer and I would come in. The Artistic Director of the show had asked Sir Steven if we could move our performance to fill in one of those holes in the plot. They had a different act that could easily take over the spot where we were going to be originally plus the next plot point, so one number could be eliminated. However, there was a pivotal moment in the story that was still missing which our number could be used for without changing too much of the choreography.

This would mean that other things about the act would have to change though… our costumes, for one, are going to have to be  completely different. I had only gotten two pieces for mine so far, so that wouldn’t be too hard for me to accommodate. The portrayal is the other thing though. Sparkledancer and I had talked about doing this number to work on portraying an emotion during our dancing. Since I am generally a happy and comedic person, we had wanted to try dancing something somber and sad.

Taking our routine and moving it to this new slot means that it is no longer going to portray a sad part of the story. In fact, the part that it fits now would be mostly happy, with a bittersweet ending. Still… I said that moving the routine would be fine, and Sparkledancer agreed as well, so for now that’s the new, new plan. One of these days I hope to actually get to talk to the Artistic Director, but we haven’t both been at the Fancy Dance Hall at the same time in quite a while, so that just hasn’t happened.

By the time we finished our lesson that day, Sir Steven had mapped out what he said would be the first half of the routine. There is a bit of an intro that still needs to be put together, but that piece will involve knowing where one of the set pieces will be placed, and no one has marked that spot on the dance floor yet. Combined with the section that uses that ‘Horse and Cart’ figure and the ending with the big lift, I’m not sure how much of the choreography we still have left to learn.

Sparkledancer and I actually timed out what we have already during our practice session earlier this week, and from that clock it feels like we still have a lot more that needs to be added. The big piece that Sir Steven gave us that he said comprised ‘the first half’ of the routine is barely 42 seconds when danced to the tempo of the song. That seems… short.

The ‘Horse and Cart’ piece doesn’t seem to be safely workable to the song’s tempo, with the number of steps we were given and the way Sparkledancer was told to stretch her arms… it feels too frantic, and trying to move my feet so fast involves me taking tiny steps. However, if we manage to use the figure as I was told it should be, that only adds another eight seconds. Unless we are looking for our routine to be only a minute and-a-half, it feels like we need quite a bit more.

We’ll talk about it with Sir Steven come Saturday and see what his vision for the rest of the choreography looks like…

Because of the holiday this week, the group class that I normally go to on Wednesday night was cancelled, so the last thing that I did this week was go out to Monday night’s Latin Technique class. As class was getting started, Lord Junior gave us all the option to do either Samba or Cha-Cha, and I was the most vocal in my choice of doing Cha-Cha, so that’s what we did. Before I went to class, I had gone to work out and done mostly plyometric exercises, so while neither Samba or Cha-Cha sounded particularly ideal to me, Cha-Cha seemed like the least-worst choice to me.

We warmed up by practicing Lock Steps slowly. After some explanation about the specific things that Lord Junior wanted each of us to focus on (for me it was making sure to put my heels down at the right time), we did sets of three going forward and backward on our own. Next we partnered up and did the same thing, with the men traveling backward for the first set of three and forward for the second, and the women doing the opposite.

After Lord Junior felt like we had warmed up sufficiently with Lock Steps, he wanted to have us all go through an exercise that he had been doing with a student of his right before class started. This exercise had us doing Three-Step Turns to the right and then back to the left on our own. This was a figure he wanted to use in the choreography we would do during class, so he wanted to make sure everyone could do it well before we started on that.

The final bit of choreography mostly consisted of adding together our Lock Step practice with the Three-Step Turn. With both partners facing each other and our weight on the right leg (ladies on their left), we did one Hand To Hand and then did three Lock Steps with both partners traveling forward. At the end of those three we changed sides and did another Hand To Hand. Coming back we only did two Lock Steps traveling forward and then squared up with our partner to do a basic chasse to the right (ladies to the left).

At the end of the chasse we did a New Yorker to the man’s right side, then pivoted back 180° to go right into a Three-Step Turn. At the end we would catch hands with our partner, do a New Yorker to the man’s left side, pivot around again and finish with another Three-Step Turn. The goal was to make sure at the end that we finished up being solid and balanced and on time with the music.

Most of the class was spent rotating partners and just practicing this simple choreography with the music. However, the first time that Lord Junior rotated through the ladies to dance with Bony, something funny happened… I was dancing, so I didn’t see what actually happened, but suddenly from the other side of the room I hear Bony yell out “Turn!” Lord Junior starts laughing then and says really loudly “Bony! You’re supposed to actually turn there, not just yell ‘Turn!’”

That made the whole class break out into laughter for a little while. Lord Junior ended up telling us all that we needed to go through that round again with the same partners so that he could see if his partner could turn correctly on her second try. Good times.

Look at me, posting things on a holiday! I must be really dedicated to this, or something. I hope that everyone manages to get out dancing this weekend to burn off all those extra calories. I know that I’ll be out somewhere this weekend. There is at least one dance party I know about going on, and I think I have some dance lessons scheduled, and for sure I’ll be getting in some practice time. The dancing never ends!

Turn The Bass Up, Let’s Go!

Man, what a crazy week! Has your week been crazy too? I hope so. That’s what keeps life interesting, isn’t it – things being crazy, and of course dancing?

Despite my initial reservations, I ended up going out to a dance party last Friday night for a short period of time. I had considered just staying home and going to bed early, since I was getting up to go compete on Saturday morning, but enough people asked me to go out to a dance party that I finally relented and made way there to meet them. The big event that night was being held at the Electric Dance Hall. Lord Junior was having his annual free dance party night, and no one in their right mind can resist a free dance party!

The place was packed by the time I got there. Lord Junior had told us earlier in the week that he anticipated over one hundred people showing up, based on how the events have gone in the past and the feedback he had already heard from dancers that he knew. That estimate seemed pretty spot-on given what I saw when I walked through the door. I couldn’t even find a chair to sit in to change into my dance shoes! I got there as Lord Junior was finishing up the free beginner Cha-Cha class he had offered, and I found a little spot where I could sit on the floor by a wall to put my shoes on.

A lot of the people in attendance had never danced before. While watching the end of the class, I was trying to figure out how much dancing each person whom I didn’t recognize had done based on the kind of shoes they were wearing. If there was a girl wearing flip-flops, or a guy wearing shoes with rubber soles that stuck to the wood floor, I figured it was pretty safe to say they hadn’t ever tried dancing like this before. That’s generally my go-to assessment criteria.

Luckily, there were enough experienced dancers scattered throughout the class to help everyone get through the basic figures with ease. There were a few times that I saw someone get a little too excited while doing a Crossover Break, throwing their arm out with a lot of force and almost knocking their neighbor in the head, but luckily everyone walked away without injury. Hooray!

Since I had to get some sleep that night, I only ended up staying at the party for about an hour or so. I danced some Rhythm/Latin numbers with friends and a few strangers, and tried to dance all of the ballroom numbers with Sparkledancer if I could find her in the crowd. I figured that would count as last-minute practice before the competition. With my usual amount of flair (i.e. none), I left the party a bit sweaty and disheveled with a smile on my face. Not knowing what the event the next day would bring, this party turned out to be a good way to get me in the mood for whatever came next!

I got up early on Saturday morning to head out to the competition. This was a small, local affair at the Endless Dance Hall, a competition that Lord Dormamu actually helped to organize and put on with a few business partners of his. He had told Sparkledancer and I that we should be in this contest to get some more time dancing in front of judges for experience, so I really wasn’t expecting much from this event. I was secretly hoping that this competition would be like the small event that I did back in February where I actually got written notes from the judges on every heat that I danced, but that was just a pipe dream of mine.

Lord Dormamu had taken care of signing Sparkledancer and I up for all the rounds that he thought we should be dancing in, so when I got to the venue I had no idea what I was registered for. After signing in and picking up a packet with my number and various information sheets, I found that I was slated to be in four different five-dance sets. Each one was listed to be judged differently, so theoretically I would be scored differently each time. For example, the first five-dance was listed as Bronze 3, the second as Full Bronze, etc. etc..

Everything I was signed up for was scheduled to be done before 1:00PM, so all I had to do was dance 20 times over the course of three hours. Nothing to it, right? Physically, that would be easy-peasy for me, however there were a few things that were thrown at me during those rounds that I did not anticipate before coming that day…

For starters, to make the best use of the floor space and time, they had scheduled multiple different divisions to be on the floor at once. Normally this doesn’t bother me, but there were a few times that I was on the floor with the Junior amatuer dancers. These kids barely came up to my stomach in height, and probably only weighed a quarter of what I do. Dancing near kids that size makes me nervous. I know that during those rounds I was moving my head out of position so that I could look down and make sure that I knew where all the kids were while I was traveling.
A few different people mentioned seeing my head moving around while I danced, but I was more than willing to take the heat for that decision. Sparkledancer also told me that if she saw a kid behind me, she would let me know. Both of us were willing to take a dive rather than accidentally collide with someone that small. I could have crushed them!

The second thing that happened that I probably should have guessed would happen was that Sparkledancer and I danced unopposed that day. There were only three other adult amateur couples that I saw in the Standard/Smooth part of the day, and they were all dancing either Gold- or Open-level rounds against each other. That means that the results that I got back weren’t all that meaningful. I have been told that it is possible to dance unopposed and get second place in a round, so the fact that I got first place in everything just tells me that I didn’t screw anything up enough to offend anyone. Whoop-di-doo…

Sparkledancer and I were given a trophy at the end of the day for getting first place in all of our rounds. That was awkward. It was a pretty big trophy, too, like the size of a tall flower vase. I didn’t know what I would do with it, so I let Sparkledancer keep it. Her husband can put up a shelf for her to set it on. If I tried to put it on a shelf, my cat would knock it off until it broke, because she doesn’t believe I should display awards that I didn’t truly earn. My cat is a harsh taskmistress like that.

I did get some unique feedback that day, which does make me feel sort-of good about how I danced at the competition. After the Standard/Smooth portion of the day was completed, the organizers brought in lunch for all the competitors, the judges and the volunteers. Sparkledancer and I had been sitting together at a table near the back of the dance floor next to one of the curtains that cordoned off the front entrance, so we were able to easily slip out and head over to grab some food early on. Since all our rounds were done for the day, we thought that we could eat quickly and then leave so that each of us could head home and get ready for the after party that evening.

After filling up our plates with some food, we headed back to our table only to find that a couple of the judges were sitting there enjoying their lunches! These two judges obviously knew each other, and were chatting away in some sort of Scandinavian dialect from the sounds of things. I didn’t understand what they were saying, and they were completely ignoring Sparkledancer and I, so the two of us sat down and talked about how we thought our rounds went, and left them to their own devices.

After a few minutes of this, the female judge finally looked over at Sparkledancer and I and switched over to English to address us. She apologized, saying that her companion’s English wasn’t the best, so it was just easier for them to have a conversation in that other language they both knew. We all took a moment to properly introduce ourselves, and then the lady asked Sparkledancer and I about where we had learned to dance. This led us down a path talking about how we were currently learning to dance together, and were one of the few amateur couples competing in the event that day.
That comment actually caught the male judge’s interest, and (in broken English) he said that he remembered some of the events he was judging where we had danced, and he had thought that one of us was an instructor.

That bit of feedback is what surprised me the most. I guess that either Sparkledancer or I were dancing well enough that day that this gentleman, who judges many competitions throughout the year, would consider one of us as good as an instructor. I didn’t get much more of an explanation than that simple remark – seeing as how his English was a bit hard to understand, I didn’t think that prodding him to elaborate was a good idea – but it still made me feel good that someone of his caliber would say something like that. It makes me feel like my dancing has noticeably improved.

After all the rigamarole of Saturday was completed, not a whole lot of what I had initially planned on doing on Sunday actually came to fruition. The dance camp that I was told to attend at the Fancy Dance Hall early in the morning, where I thought I would get s’mores? Didn’t happen. I got there that morning to find a couple of people waiting in their cars in the parking lot, and the building locked. Sparkledancer was one of the people who was there waiting, so she and I wandered off to a nearby café to grab some morning coffee and wait somewhere more comfortable than a car.

When someone finally showed up a couple of hours later to unlock the doors, it was getting to be close to the time that Sparkledancer and I had scheduled to have a post-competition review session with Lord Dormamu. The two of us were inside stretching out and warming up when Lord Dormamu arrived. He came over to talk to us and told us that he was having to run the judges all over, from their hotel rooms to the studio, from the studio to the airport because a couple were leaving right away, so he wasn’t going to be able to make it for our lesson until much later in the day. Sparkledancer wasn’t going to be free then, so we decided to try to set something up for next weekend instead.

That left me with only one item that I had planned that actually happened that day – my coaching session with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. We spent the time working on some more things for our upcoming showcase performance. According to Sir Steven, there are a few more figures that he is working out, but he is hoping to have the entire choreography from start to finish for us in the next week or so. If Sparkledancer and I can just get the routine recorded somehow, we can focus on getting it memorized in short order during our practice sessions, which would be nice.

He had us start off that day looking at the Open Natural Turns again. This time we were given a new variation, where I would continue doing my normal footwork, but Sparkledancer would be leaping up in the air on beat one, and then I hold her there for beat two and set her back down on beat three. We were going to do two of these in a row, and then come out into a normal Open Natural Turn. Sparkledancer was having trouble coming out after the assisted jumps at first, until she and Sir Steven worked out that she had to leap off of and land on the same foot in order for the next step to work. If she landed on her other foot accidentally, it would throw off everything afterward.

The rest of the additions we looked at that day were minimal – mostly pieces that allowed us to get into or out of figures we’ve looked at in other lessons. Sparkledancer and I should be able to nail those down in no time. Once we have the full routine, that’s when the real fun will start, leading up to the day of the first performance. Hooray!

This past Tuesday night I had a meeting with the other members of my Royal Dance Court gang to discuss dance business, this time around mostly related to finalizing the plans for our monthly dance parties in 2018. Sometimes I think it is a bit crazy to try to plan these things so far in advance, but that’s just me.

One of the members of the Royal Dance Court had already gone so far with the initial list we started at our last meeting to contact a bunch of the instructors that we suggested and confirm them to teach at our parties for the first six months of the year! I thought we had just thrown out the names of these people as ideas, but now it seems like they are set in stone already. Oh well…

The big drama of the night seemed to be that a few members of the group were outraged(!) that another small dance club in the area had “stolen” a few of our old themes for some of their upcoming parties, and had scheduled lessons before their dances that covered the same dance style that we were going to cover either the next month, or will have had taught the month before! The outrage! I guess one member of the Royal Dance Court interfaces with this group regularly to be sure that any parties we throw are unique from the parties that they throw, so that is how this information was attained.
I saw the list of what this other club had planned. Most of it seemed innocuous enough. There was only one dance style that they had listed that seemed like it could have possibly be taken from our list, since we had come up with an idea to use an eccentric dance style for one of our parties, and then the same eccentric dance style also showed up on their list. The rest of the so-called idea stealing I thought was kind of a stretch. After all, there are only so many different ballroom and Latin dance styles, so there is bound to be some overlap during the year with any ballroom clubs…

There is this part of me that thinks that some of these ladies that are members of the Royal Dance Court just like dealing with dance drama and dance gossip. I can understand how showing everyone a list of another dance clubs party themes and lessons and regarding it as scandalous would make more people sit up and pay attention, because the list is rather boring otherwise. Maybe the lady wants people to think the list is scandalous so that they will laud her for taking the time to collect the information for us?

That’s just not my style, though. If this person had pointed out things about the list that were humorous, I would have been all over that! But scandalous? Meh, I’m not really all that interested. In fact, I think that bringing up those points detracted from the conversation that we were trying to have otherwise, and thus made the meeting longer than it needed to be.

Anyway… one last thing for this week, and then I’ll be done. I promise. Yesterday night I was out at Standard Technique class and we worked on Viennese Waltz for a while. The first part of class turned out to be really funny to me. There was some actual focus on technique given: like practice on not putting the heel down on the second step of each Half Natural or Half Reverse Turn so that you could move the foot faster to begin the next Half Natural or Half Reverse Turn. That focus kind of fell by the wayside as the practice portion of the class got started.

What was funny was when Lord Junior decided to have all of us line up and go through our part of the figures individually. He wanted to call out an amalgamation of steps and then have each of us execute so he could watch. Seems simple, right? So we would line up, he would say something like ‘One-and-a-half Reverse Turns, Change Step, Natural Turn’ and then we would all start down the floor doing those steps.

The ladies in class that night were having trouble dancing through the figures on their own. It really shouldn’t be funny, but it kind of was. I forget sometimes that I had to spend a lot of time over the years figuring out my angles and rotations, because I am responsible for leading the ladies to move and turn in the right direction as well as myself. If someone tells me to face diagonal center and do a Natural or Reverse Turn, I know which way to point my feet and whether to rotate clockwise or counterclockwise. It’s almost second nature.
Lord Junior thought it was funny to watch the ladies fumble about, trying to align themselves in the right direction to start, and then sometimes start turning the wrong way as they began moving. I know that a couple of the ladies were getting pretty frustrated at having to stop and start over if they turned wrong, or ended up facing the wrong direction, so I tried my best to help out a little. No one seemed to listen to me though. At one point during class, Veep got caught up laughing at herself so hard after doing something wrong that she had to step off to the side of the floor for a few minutes and calm herself down. That was really funny.

Near the end of class, once Lord Junior had gotten enough amusement for the night, we switched over to look at a little bit of American Viennese Waltz. We didn’t do anything fancy here either, we just worked on Open Natural Turns, Open Reverse Turns and Change Steps in Shadow Position. I don’t think I’ve ever done a Change Step in Shadow Position before. They aren’t hard, just three steps forward (like a Three Step in Foxtrot), but I can’t say that I remember ever doing that before.

I’m all set for a quiet weekend. I’ve got only one lesson on my calendar for Saturday, and then some much-needed practice time with Sparkledancer lined up to go over the pieces of our showcase we need to memorize, and also some time to practice the lift for the routine, but that’s about it. There’s a chance I won’t do much else, unless someone calls me and convinces me to go out to a dance party. I could use the rest though – I signed up to be in another competition next weekend, on the 18th.

What? Yup. I did. It wasn’t that far away, so Sparkledancer and I decided to just go out and do it. Being amateurs, we can just do things like that unless Sir Steven or Lord Dormamu tells us it’s a bad idea. Lord Dormamu thought it was a good idea when I asked him about it, and told me to bring his regards to the competition organizers since he knows them. So I’m going to do it!

Dancing uncontested in our last competition just wasn’t really satisfying, so hopefully this event will be more meaningful. But, that’s a little over a week away, so I’ve got time to mentally prepare myself. It looked like one of the categories I signed up for was empty, so there’s a chance I could be uncontested in that round unless someone joins between now and then. We’ll have to see what happens!

All Around, Things To Tantalize My Brain

For this week I’ll probably limit what I talk about here to what happened over the weekend, since there is so much information to cover from just Friday and Saturday…

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend the famous ballroom dancing weekend extravaganza that is held annually at the Grand Dance Hall. They make a point of bringing in some fabulous dinners to serve to the attendees, hold formal dance parties on both Friday and Saturday nights with a live orchestra providing the music, and offer some pretty fun workshops for both beginner and advanced students during the day on Saturday. This year marked my fifth time attending the October-weekend festivities, because I happen to find it so entertaining.

I made the hour+ drive out to the Grand Dance Hall mid-afternoon Friday, hoping to get there with a little extra time before the welcome reception started so that I could find a place to change into my formal attire. I’ve made the long drive while wearing a suit the first few years and it is super-uncomfortable, so I just don’t do it anymore. Once I had found a quiet corner to change into my formal attire and stowed my street clothes back in my car, I met up with the small group of people I knew by the dance floor to begin the evening’s events.

The main dance hall was opened up an hour before dinner would be served to allow everyone to come in, mingle a bit, eat some snacks that were set out at the back of the room, and even partake of a few adult beverages from the cash bar if that was your thing. A quartet of musicians was playing some dance tunes during the reception, giving everyone a chance to take to the dance floor and begin warming up their legs before the bigger dance party that would start after dinner, when the rest of the orchestra would join the quartet.

Not recognizing too many people at the reception, I stuck with the ladies that I did know when I went out to dance. The times that I went out to dance with Sparkledancer were apparently very noticeable to others in attendance. Near the end, just before the group I was in began wandering off to get some dinner, people started to approach either Sparkledancer or I and ask us if we were dance instructors, or if we were in fact THE dance instructors who would be teaching the workshops the next day. That was a bit strange.

One gentleman approached me and told me that I made him look bad by looking so good. I laughed and apologized to him for that, thinking he was just joking around. He then got quite serious and asked if I would be attending the workshops the next day. When I told him that I would be there, he asked me if I would be able to help him out if he got stuck on anything during the classes. I was really surprised by that question. Of course I told him I would do the best that I could, but it still surprised me that someone would go out of their way to ask me in advance for assistance with dance figures. I’ve never had that happen before.
Dinner was a delight, as always. The food that they bring in for the event always seems really extravagant compared to what I normally eat. I even had a fancy dessert, which is the part of any meal that I rarely (if ever) partake of. Around nine o’clock, the orchestra began to play and we all made our way back out to the dance floor to dance for a few more hours and burn off all those calories that we had consumed. Hooray!

Making my way back to the Grand Dance Hall early on Saturday morning to attend the first workshop being offered, I got to work on Tango for a while. These workshops that they hold are to give people new choreography to work on, rather than to focus on technique. This is a nice change of pace for me from what the lessons I normally attend focus on, so I was having fun.

The choreography we learned was fairly easy to put together if you’d seen all the figures individually before, and because we never broke frame you could theoretically use this when dancing both International or American Tango. I see it as more of an American Tango progression though, but that’s just my take on the matter.

We began facing diagonal wall and did two basic curved Walk steps. Next we attached a 180° pivot to the left and went into a Back Corte. Coming up from that, we did another 180° pivot to left and led the lady to do an Outside Fan, ending with a three-step-close like you see in American Tango. Next we did a Reverse Turn, closing our feet at the end, and then a Contra Check. At the end of the Contra Check we went into a Cobra Fan (another figure from the American Tango syllabus). When we close lady from the second Outside fan portion of that figure, we did two 180° pivots turning to the right this time, finishing with another three-step-close from American Tango to put you facing diagonal wall once more.

Next up of the three workshops offered that day was a Cha-Cha lesson. Everyone in attendance got a brief ten minute break after finishing up the Tango to prepare, and then we got to work immediately. Much like the Tango, the choreography wasn’t all that hard to remember if you had seen all of the individual figures before. Based on how everything was put together, I would guess that you could also do this pattern in Rumba with some minor variations.

The instructor had us begin by doing a full basic, mostly to get everyone’s mind out of Tango and into Cha-Cha. At the end of the basic as you chasse’d back to the left, the Lead would drop the lady’s arm down  to waist level. This set you up to push the lady backward into a diagonal Lock Step as we would do a chasse back to the right. With the lady moved away from us, we then did a Slip Chasse as we brought her back forward, which would make her do another Lock Step. Once we were back together, we led her into a Underarm Turn on left side, then a pair of Cross-Over Breaks, one right, one left, and then a set of Cuban Breaks on the right side.

Finished with the Cuban Breaks, we went into Solo Spot Turns on the left side. one last Cross-Over Break on the right, and in place of the next chasse both the Lead and Follow did a Three-Step Turn to the left. At the end of all that spinning, we linked hands to do two steps backward and then a backward Lock Step, ending in Aida position. To finish the whole progression, both partners turned to face each other, did a Stationary Chasse, and then we led the lady through a Cross Body Lead, releasing her at the end to lead her into one final Spot Turn on the left side.

We broke for an hour at that point so that everyone could grab lunch. When we all got back together, it was time for the last workshop of the day, which covered East Coast Swing. In this amalgamation we once more started out with a full basic movement to help everyone change mental gears, then transitioned into a Continuous Tuck-In with a full turn at the end. As the lady is turning, the Lead should back away so that she completes the turn out away from you, ending up in the position she would take to begin the Sliding Doors figure.

The next figure is kind of like the Sliding Doors, but not. You would bring your partner in front of you as normal, but stop her with your right hand when she gets directly in front of your body. Here you would lean from side to side, first to the left, then right, then repeat, while the lady leans in the opposite direction (right then left x2). This creates what the instructor described as a ‘Peek-A-Boo’ effect. If you know your partner pretty well, you can place your opposite hand on her waist as you lean – this is not a requirement on the first three leans, but on the fourth one you will need to place your left hand on your partner to signal the finish.

Using your left hand, you will lead the lady to turn to the left and roll away from you while you do a full basic movement. She can either do a half-turn, or one-and-a-half turns, depending on how much she likes spinning. After the next rock step you will take both of your partner’s hands in your own and lead her to step forward as you do, getting really close to each other and there hold for a beat. Then each of you will take a step back and hold there as well for a beat. To finish everything up, you do two Sailor Shuffles (right then left), lead the lady through a Underarm Turn, both partners go through Solo Turns, and then you can catch her hand once more to go into whatever you want next.

That all seems pretty normal for workshops at the Grand Dance Hall, right? So what was different about this year, to make my fifth time coming to this event special? Well, I’m not sure what I was doing differently, but it seemed like this year a whole bunch of people really wanted to approach me and ask for my help on how to do all the figures that the instructors were going over that day. I felt like I must have had some sort of neon sign hanging over my head that read “HELPFUL!” or something, drawing people over to ask me things when the instructors were busy with other people..

Remember that gentleman that I met at the reception who asked me if I would be willing to help if he got stuck? He actually got stuck, so I definitely had him approach me early on in the Tango class. What he forgot to mention at the reception was that he had come to the weekend’s events with a whole group of dancers from his home dance studio, and apparently he had told all of them about both Sparkledancer and I. So on top of him coming and asking me for help, other men from his group also asked me for help when they got stuck, and I could see women from that same group collecting around Sparkledancer on the other side of the room to ask her for help too.

When the instructors wanted the men and women to practice the figures together during class, Sparkledancer and I ended up frequently getting shepherded together so that the whole gang could stand around and watch as we demonstrated how the pieces worked with a partner. When these people felt confident enough to try things out with a partner from their group, they would ask either Sparkledancer or I to watch them to validate they got everything right, or if they got stuck they asked us to step through the trouble spots with them until they got things right.
On top of that, being the center of attention of these ten people in one corner of the dance floor started to attract the attention of others in the workshops, and soon we had even more people who would stop either one of us for assistance too! One older gentleman even came and found me during the morning and said that he took a lot longer to process the figures than most people, so he asked my permission to record me walking through the steps so that he could use the video to learn at his own pace.

I agreed to his request, of course. Not wanting to be in some stranger’s video all on my own though, I made Sparkledancer be in the video with me. That allowed him to see how the steps were done with a partner.  To be even more helpful, I also talked through what I was doing as I did the steps – I thought having some kind of audio cues could help keep confusion to a minimum when he watched the video in the future. He thanked me profusely when we finished.

With so many people talking to me all through the classes, I ended up cutting out of the East Coast Swing lesson a bit early to go find a secluded spot to collect my thoughts. It had been kind of an overload to talk to so many people, and while helping people is always thoroughly enjoyable, I needed a little bit of quiet time to reset afterward.

Once the workshops were over and done with on Saturday, the main dance hall was closed off so that the staff could prepare the room for that night’s final reception before dinner, and prepare for the dance party afterward. However, there was a smaller room closer to the front of the building that was opened up as a practice hall for anyone who wanted to use the few free hours that afternoon for practice. I was only too eager to get some extra practice in, so I wandered around until I found Sparkledancer and convinced her to come with me.

The dance floor in this practice room was much smaller than I had hoped for, so Sparkledancer and I ended up just running through pieces of our Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot routines for about 45 minutes until the floor really limited what we wanted to practice. I noticed that the back wall of the room had a mirror attached to it that hung about chest height for me over a carpeted section of the room. Limited on space to dance big steps, I suggested to Sparkledancer that we spend a little time working on something that was a bit more stationary instead: the lift for our upcoming showcase routine.

The last section of the lift I already felt pretty good about, so we just ran through that a couple of times and called that good. This time around I wanted to work on making sure we mastered the first section, because that would be where I get her off the ground as the whole thing starts. Basically, without going into too much detail, I end up crouching down as low as I can go with my feet still under me, then I help Sparkledancer hop up onto my right shoulder and stand up again with her sitting there facing behind me. The mirror on the wall was actually really helpful for this, because as I stood I could see how she was sitting without having to turn my head, using that view to help me figure things out.
There were a couple of important notes that we worked out while going through this section. Getting Sparkledancer up like that was the easy part – as I’ve said, she’s pretty light, and I’m positioned in such a way when we start that I can use both my legs to lift myself and her, so that’s no problem. The first note is that I needed to make sure that she hops up onto my shoulder so that her right hip ends up right where my shoulder starts to curve up to my neck. If she’s seated too far over to the right, she’s liable to start sliding off the rounded end of my shoulder and down my right arm as I begin to stand.

The second big thing we found out was that Sparkledancer really needed to remain engaged in her core the whole time while up off the ground. For the second part of the lift, I need to be able to move around with her up there, and then I start to manipulate her position with my arms. If she is loose and wiggling around, trying that becomes difficult. Funny, but difficult. Keeping her core in place to keep her solid and steady fixes that issue.

Finally, there’s the arms. When I stand up, I have my right arm bent at a 90° angle so my hand is behind her back, and my left hand is holding her right hand to keep her stable as I stand up. Once up, I must be able to let go and start moving my hands to their new positions for the next section, so I can’t rely on just holding Sparkledancer in place. Once I reposition my hands under her right arm and left leg for the next section, my arms become useful again, but there is that brief moment where I do actually have to move them and can’t hold on that can be a bit scary. As we tried things out, the first few times either I or Sparkledancer were holding on too tight to move my arms at all, which caused all sorts of problems.

We ended up stopping there for the day, promising to work on the middle section later. That part will involve a lot of rotation of her body and lifting on my part, but she ends up behind my head, so I wanted to keep things safe. For that piece we will have to do our initial tests somewhere where I can have a big cushion available for Sparkledancer to drop into if something goes really awry. I don’t expect anything to be terrible, but just like I mentioned before, safety is always rule #1 when doing lifts, especially during the learning phase.

Plus, I think word had gotten out that Sparkledancer and I were practicing this overly athletic dance move, and people kept poking their heads in to see what we were up to. Fellow dancers spying on us was unnerving enough, but when members of the staff started doing it I thought it might be best to call it quits for the day. I didn’t want anyone who worked for the Grand Dance Hall to start having conniptions about me letting a girl sit on my shoulder as I walked around the room…

Saturday night’s reception was a lot like Friday night’s, though many of the attendees broke out attire for the evening that was even more formal than what was worn the night before. The same four piece band provided the music during the reception, though their tempos seemed to run a bit looser in their interpretations of the songs than what they had performed the night before. It was an entertaining time, and I got to eat a plate of super fancy cheese slices on top of that!

The dance party that night after dinner was the big one – the last chance to pull out all the stops and leave everything out on the dance floor. The set list that the orchestra had picked out for the evening did leave a lot to be desired, but that’s just my own take on things. To me it felt like they only played Waltz, Foxtrot, East Coast Swing and Cha-Cha songs that night. There were a couple of other styles interspersed in occasionally, but those were very rare. I think during the few hours they played they did only one Rumba, I know they only did one Tango, and there were no Viennese Waltz numbers at all. There was one song that I heard as a familiar Quickstep tune, but a bunch of dancers took the floor early on and started to dance Swing instead, and many were all in the line of dance instead of in the middle, so Quickstep would have been super dangerous.
Overall this year was another really good time, and I snagged a flyer on the way out that night that contained the sign-up sheet for next year’s event. I’ve already mailed in my form along with the down payment to reserve my spot, so I’ll for sure be back next October to party at the Grand Dance Hall once again. Do you all want to come along with me? We could make it into an even bigger party! Just let me know and I can send you a link to all the information you’ll need to reserve your spot too!