Here Comes The Moon Again

I spent my weekend away from home, attending an event at the Grand Dance Hall. I still find it hard to believe that this was my sixth year going to this annual party of theirs. Even after that many years, I still found it to be entertaining, and because of that I already reserved my spot to go again next year. After all, having enough people guarantee that they will go again is the best way to ensure that the Grand Dance Hall continues to hold the event for years to come, and I wanted to help with that. Yay!

My weekend plans started out on Friday night with me climbing into my little boat and rowing my way out to the mysterious island that the Grand Dance Hall is built on. It’s always a fun trip, and a great workout for my shoulders. The event has activities planned the entire evening on Friday and most of the whole day on Saturday, so I would be hard pressed to find time to find a gym and get in a real workout. Because of that, it’s important to get those reps in any way that you can. Trust me, huge shoulders are worth the effort.

I managed to get there in time to check in and change out of my sweaty rowing clothes into something nicer so that I could go to the pre-dinner reception that they held Friday afternoon in the main ballroom. The staff at the Grand Dance Hall had laid out a table full of fancy looking cheeses, crackers and fruit arrangements, and they had a four piece band playing some songs for anyone that wanted to dance while mingling. After an hour and a half of chatting and dancing with people, everyone took a break to head down to the dining hall and have dinner together.

After dinner was done, the real dance party started. If you remember what I wrote when I went to this party last year, or the year before that, or the year befo… anyway, the Grand Dance Hall always brings in a full orchestra to play the music for the dance parties on Friday and Saturday nights. That always makes the parties stand out compared to all the other dance parties I might happen to go to throughout the rest of the year. Have you ever gotten to dance with an orchestra playing in the background before? You really should try it sometime if you haven’t yet.

While the orchestra playing the music is normally one of the highlights of this event, this year it seems like they had a real novice put together their set list for Friday night. There was a real lack of variety and contrast in what they chose to play. For example, at one point in the night the conductor told the crowd they were going to play a Waltz number, then they played three Foxtrot numbers in a row, and when they finished those they did another Waltz number. While Foxtrot is one of my favorite dance styles, doing three in a row with nothing different in between is even a little too much for me. On top of that, there was just something off about the tempos of the songs that they chose to play. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it Friday night, but a lot of the songs and dance styles didn’t seem correct to me.

The real meat of the event though was on Saturday, when the Grand Dance Hall offered all attendees three ninety-minute workshops to attend. They had two different rooms open for workshops – one room offering instruction for beginners in the dance styles chosen for this year, and one for the more intermediate/advanced students. I was in the latter room all day, since I felt pretty comfortable in all three styles that they had chosen to teach this year. This year the dance styles chosen for the three workshops was Foxtrot, Rumba and East Coast Swing.

First up was the Foxtrot. The progression itself that the instructors chose to show the class wasn’t something that I would call difficult – it was really long, but the figures themselves were all just variations of things I’ve seen before – but then again I am not a good case study for what people would consider difficult in classes like this. The pattern started out simply enough, with a Progressive Twinkle into an Open Natural Turn where you released the lady, followed by a Progressive Chasse to the Right with a lady’s Underarm Turn. After that we went back into dance frame with an Open Impetus and Feather Ending, which put us into the corner as if we had just traveled all the way down the long wall.

To actually turn the corner we did another Progressive Twinkle that did a quarter of turn, coming out toward diagonal center on the new wall. Then there were two Passing Twinkles where we switched hands to lead the lady with the right hand in kind of a hooking action, collecting her back into frame afterward for a Feather Finish. Once back in dance frame we did a Contra Check in the other corner of the short wall, then another lady’s Underarm Turn, finishing by returning to dance frame facing diagonal wall on the next long wall where you could repeat the whole thing if you wanted.

The second half of the pattern I was able to work through just by watching the video of the demonstration the instructors did that I took before the class started. In class, the instructors never actually got beyond teaching people the first long wall. The Open Natural Turn where the guy would let go of his partner followed by a Progressive Chasse to the Right while turning the lady threw a lot of the people in class for a loop. The two people teaching the class were walking around trying to help everyone through the steps when they allowed people to go give the figures a try with their normal partners, but there were tons of people in class and only two instructors, so a lot of people were left struggling while they waited.

A fair number of people ended up coming over to where Sparkledancer and I were screwing around with the figures in one of the corners of the room to ask the two of us if we could help them. That ended up being what the two of us spent most of our time doing during the workshop, since we got through the steps with no trouble at all. The big issue that both of us kept seeing during this first section that people were struggling with which fixed most of the problems was that the ladies would do the turn in place while the men did the Progressive Chasse. That ended up putting the partners too far away from each other to collect back into dance frame comfortably when they went into the Open Impetus.

And then there was the Open Impetus itself, which also was a source of trouble. Asking the gentlemen to do a Heel Turn was probably reeeeeeeaaaalllllly ambitious for a class like this. Most of the guys that I saw going through the pattern later on had given up trying to do a Heel Turn entirely, and were just faking their way through the turn by taking three steps while turning instead. It was kind of funny to watch.

After a short break we started in on the Rumba. Much like the last class, the things the instructors put in the pattern weren’t any figures I hadn’t done variations of before, but the pattern was really long. This one started out with the partners standing apart and facing one another before going into a Sliding Door. When we got back to the point where we were standing facing one another again, the Leads would cross their wrists and take the lady’s hands in their matching hand (right to right, left to left), then unwind her while doing a second Sliding Door action. At the end of that, we would lead the lady through a Spiral Turn and get her into Shadow Position with us, sliding our hands up slightly to take hold of her wrists.

In Shadow Position the men would stand with their feet apart and do Cuban Rocks while leading the lady to do Swivels back and forth in front of them. We would do two measures of this, and on the last beat of the second measure the men would lunge away from the lady onto their right leg while leading the lady to head off to the left facing away from us. Using a subtle movement of the lady’s right arm we would have her do a Ronde while turning to face us, then we would hook her back in while we collected our feet to get her back into dance frame on our right side, setting us up to go into three Opening Outs.

On the last Opening Out the Lead would end by shifting his weight back over his left leg to get us out of Shadow Position. We would hold like that while leading the lady to do a slow four-count Underarm Turn, then another Ronde over the next three count, stepping through on the last beat in the measure. Here they wanted the men to lead the ladies to do one more Swivel step, then another Underarm Turn, and finally a Free Spin (lots of turning for the ladies). When all that is over, we would slowly collect our feet over the next measure in the music and then we were done.

This class got slightly farther through the planned progression than the last class. The instructors taught the class everything up through the Opening Outs before they ran out of time. A lot of time was given so that everyone could practice the various pieces that were taught, and because people were having trouble and the instructors could only go around and offer assistance so quickly, the ninety minutes scheduled for the class flew by without us getting to the whole thing, much like during the Foxtrot workshop.

I was not one of those having trouble with the pieces of the progression, but my time also flew by as well. Because people had seen Sparkledancer and I helping out during the Foxtrot class, even more people came to ask the two of us questions when they ran into problems. One lady in particular seemed rather fond of sticking near me, and when I wasn’t in the middle of helping someone else she would ask if I could go through the progression with her over and over again so that she could make sure that she had her parts down. Her normal partner (husband? Boyfriend? Friend? I couldn’t figure that out) had skipped out on the Rumba lesson, so she was trying to get through the figures all by herself until Sparkledancer and I had taken her under our wings.

When the ninety minutes allocated to the Rumba class were up, we all got a short break to give us a chance to head off and find some lunch if we wanted. Once everyone had gathered back in the main ballroom, the instructors started in on the final workshop for the day in East Coast Swing. This workshop, like the previous two, was designed around a progression of figures that was much longer than the instructors actually managed to accomplish in the time allotted. They demonstrated the entirety of what they had hoped to get through at the beginning, and I managed to record it this time, so I was able to transcribe it in order to write it down here for all of you to read. Hooray for all of you!

It starts out with a Underarm Turn for the ladies with the men switching hands halfway through to get their partner into Handshake Hold. Next there is another Underarm Turn for the ladies, and at the end the men do a slight turn for themselves to bring their right arm over their head and release the ladies into an Arm Slide so we could get back into normal Open Dance Hold. Here the partners would lean forward toward each other and do a subtle shimmying action, then lean away from each other and do another shimmying action, just for fun. After that we would lead the lady into a set of four Chicken Walks to travel a bit down the floor.

Once we are done traveling both partners would do two Kick-Ball-Changes, with the men doing the kicks with their left leg and the ladies doing the kick with their right. Next the Lead would have the Follow do a Free Spin, catching them with the right hand to put us back into Handshake Hold. Here we would do another Underarm Turn with the Arm Slide to get back into normal hold again. To finish things off we would lead our partner into two Hip Bumps, another Underarm Turn where we changed hands back into Handshake Hold, and we would wind our partner up and lead them into an American Spin to finish it all off. Nothing too challenging, right?

At least… that’s the way I saw the pattern once I watched it. This class managed to get slightly farther through the pattern with the instructors than during the last two workshops, but they still did not manage to teach the class all the figures up through the end. The instructors were only able to teach the pattern up until the second Arm Slide action right before the Hip Bumps before they ran out of time and had to call it quits for the day. Still, based on the issues that people came to me to ask about, getting that far was pretty impressive.

Surprisingly, the part that seemed to be giving couples the hardest time was the first two Underarm Turns with the Arm Slide action. Both Sparkledancer and I had many people asking us about how to get through that portion of the pattern, and there were at least four couples just in the corner I was hanging out in that I had to step through the pieces slowly to help them get through it successfully. Of all the breaks that the instructors gave during class for people to try out the steps with their normal partner, the break that they gave for the first section with the Underarm Turns and Arm Slide went on the longest.

I don’t know why, but for all the people having issues that I helped with the steps, the problem was that after they got through changing hands to get into Handshake Hold, they totally forgot that there was another triple-step action that needed to be done with the other foot. All the people I helped were rushing through the steps chaotically and missing that triple-step, which obviously then threw off everything afterward. Once I got people to slow down and listen to the music in the background and keep to its much slower tempo, that tended to help them get through everything without messing up.

Later on Saturday evening there was another pre-dinner reception, full of more mingling and some light dancing to get everyone ready for the meal. After spending the day in the workshops together, people were feeling much more chummy with each other, so there was quite a bit more conversation going on at this reception than there was at the Friday night reception. It may have also helped that there were staff members wandering around offering various adult-type beverages for sale, but that’s just a feeling I get. I don’t drink at all, so I don’t really know how much a difference it makes for other people who do when they socialize.

But I also saw the most amazing sight of the whole weekend at this pre-dinner reception. The quartet playing the music decided to do a Polka number. Normally when Polka numbers come on, not a lot of people in my area take to the dance floor, but the audience really gets into the music anyway. During this particular Polka number, a group of four people took to the floor together and started dancing as one group! It was kind of amazing – they were in a frame that was very box like, with two in the front and two in the back, all facing forward and holding hands.

This group must have practiced dancing in this configuration before, because their steps were all very synchronized and they kept switching places with each other as they traveled around the floor. I think each person ended up in every corner of the box at least once. Loop after loop around the floor they went as one group, like the four horsemen of the Polkocalypse (ha ha! I’m funny). Near the end, as the quartet reached the last coda of the song, the single group of four split into two groups of two and they chased each other around the floor until the song ended. That was probably the coolest dance thing I have seen in a long time. Maybe someday I can find enough dance friends who know Polka and they can teach me how to dance like that. 🙂

After the reception all of the guests were treated to one final fabulous dinner, and then we were able to dance the night away with the orchestra once more. This time around, the leader of the orchestra actually made a comment early on in the night about how they were going to try to mix up the variety of songs better this time around. I wonder if someone said something to them the night before? In any case, the arrangement of music was much more diverse on Saturday night, which made things even more fun than they were on Friday.

I did see something that I thought was strange on Saturday night, something that I made a note to myself about so that I could look it up later. There were a couple of Cha-Cha numbers played that night. Since Cha-Cha is not one of my favorite dances, I spent the time during those songs just hanging around in the back of the room and watching. I noticed that during the Cha-Cha songs there were a fair amount of couples that were dancing off time. I thought it was just a quirk of those couples at first – you know, maybe the Lead wasn’t hearing the beat in the music correctly or something – but then I saw that the couple that had taught the beginner workshops earlier in the day were also dancing off time. That’s when I realized that even though all of these couples were dancing off time, they were dancing in sync with each other.

OK, so that was weird. The song ended and I didn’t think too much of it until the next time a Cha-Cha came on. From my perch in the back of the room where I was observing, I noticed the same strange thing with the timing happening all over again to a different song. As I contemplated this, I saw one of the instructors from the beginner workshops standing near a group of people a few tables in front of me. I could make out some of what he was saying to the group, and he describing to them how to do the Cha-Cha. What surprised me was that he clearly told them to do the break on beats one and two in the music, and the chasse over the ‘three & four’ afterward. This made things all the more confusing, so I decided to take a moment and ask the Internets what was going on.

Did you know that outside of the world of ballroom dancing they do Cha-Cha, and they do it by doing the break on one and two and the chasse on the ‘three & four?’ I had no idea! Apparently this is a more common thing in Latin nightclubs, where the social dancing is something taught in different ways than how I learned the Cha-Cha. Now when I watched these couples dance the Cha-Cha in different timing, it still looked weird to me, but at least I understood why. Weird.

Anyway, that’s the report from my trip last weekend. Sorry that it ended up being so long, but there was a lot to talk about! I did other things that were dance related this week, but I’ll just leave those out to keep this from going on forever.

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Deep In The Fiction We Live

So… I had something happen again this weekend, something that I’ve experienced a couple of times before, and it’s gotten me thinking. You know what happens when I get to thinking, right? I get to writing. Bear with me a little bit today – I have some thoughts to process through.

Last Friday night I had gone out to a dance party. The ratio wasn’t good at the start of the party – we’re talking like over 2:1 women to men as the night began, so I had my work cut out for me. As the night wore on and people started leaving to head back home the ratio got better, so I had a little more time to relax and talk to people instead of just dancing the whole time.

There was a group of people who I had never met before who had come to the dance. Three ladies and one guy – I’m pretty sure the guy said he was married to one of the three ladies, but I can’t remember for sure, so don’t quote me on that. Since I didn’t know who they were, as the night progressed and the ratio of men to women improved enough to give me a chance to talk to people, I opted to put on my Royal Dance Court Member hat and go introduce myself to them and see if I could figure out their dance story. It turns out that I really hadn’t ever seen them before, since they were all students and friends from a franchise studio chain, and that dance party was their first outing to see what the dance scene was like in other parts of the Dance Kingdom. They had all gone out together because they hadn’t been sure what to expect when dancing in non-franchise studios, so they figured they could at least have safety in numbers.

I ended up talking to one of the girls in his group for a few minutes longer than the others. She was younger than the rest, and extremely chatty (which I didn’t know when I started talking to her), so I got stuck in a conversation until I could find a convenient point to make my exit. I ended up just kind of nodded along with what she was saying and occasionally asked a related question to let her know that I was paying attention. I know what you’re thinking – I would make such a well-trained boyfriend if I had free time for that sort of thing, right?

Anyway, she’s talking all about the dance classes she takes at her home studio, and goes on and on about how she’s one of the few students in the super-mega-advanced-higher-than-Gold+-level classes, so she really knows all the high-level figures and cool stuff that her friends that she came with don’t know. The dance styles that she claims to be best at are Cha-Cha, Samba and Tango. Also, she mentioned that she didn’t really dance at parties with any Lead who wasn’t an instructor, because apparently other Leads didn’t know how to handle how advanced she was. My first thought when she said that was that it would be a huge problem for her at this party, since we were not at her home studio and no instructors that she knew were anywhere nearby. I kept that to myself though.

Eventually I managed to extricate myself from that conversation with an excuse that I needed to go dance with someone else. Because I am nice, I filed the information I learned away for later. As you probably well know by now, I am not a fan of Cha-Cha or Samba, but I consider myself to be pretty OK at Tango. Later on in the evening when a Tango comes on I head over to where that girl is sitting and ask her if she wants to dance the Tango with me, since she had said it was one of the styles she was best at. I figured that she would be excited to do one of her best styles while at this party to make a name for herself.

Do you know what she said when I asked her to dance though? She said no to me.

I was a bit shocked by that. I had thought that since she had never met me before, it would feel more comfortable for her if I chose a dance style that she specifically mentioned. After all, she had made a point of emphasizing during that earlier conversation how advanced she was, so while I wouldn’t have started out with anything too crazy since we would both need a little time to acclimate to each other as dance partners, I probably would have been willing to throw in some Tango figures that were flashier if the dance seemed to be going well. But no, she just didn’t want to dance the Tango with me at all. Huh.

Don’t feel bad for me about that – there were still more than enough ladies at the party, and I was able to find another partner who wanted to dance with me without even trying very hard. I was confused about the encounter though, so several songs later when I decided to take a break I wandered over to where she was and talked with her again. She never really gave me a reason for why she didn’t want to dance the Tango with me in that discussion. I probably should have pressed harder, but the DJ announced that a Foxtrot was the next dance, so instead of continuing to talk I asked if she wanted to try doing a Foxtrot instead of a Tango.

She turned me down again! This time, she pointed to one of her friends from the group that she came with and told me that her friend was really good at Foxtrot. I didn’t know what to make of that, but I went with her advice and asked her friend if she wanted to give the Foxtrot a try. We had already danced together once that evening, so I had a good feeling that she would say yes to another dance with me. Despite the praise I had been told of how good this girl was at Foxtrot, the girl seemed really unsure of herself as we danced together, so I ended up having to keep what I did really simple.

With this second denial for a dance, I was starting to wonder if this girl was really Simon Peter in disguise and I had to watch out for a third before the night was over. After dancing for a few more songs, I ended up going over to tell Sparkledancer about this strange situation. Sparkledancer just thought that it was funny, and made jokes that the girl must have a crush on me or something, so she was actually just nervous to go out and dance with me. I didn’t think that was the case, but I wasn’t in any hurry to try things again. The night wore on, and much much later in the evening there was a slower East Coast Swing number coming on. I happened to be standing on the side of the room near where that group of four was again when that happened. I hadn’t planned on it, it was totally by chance that time.

Since the party wasn’t going to go on much longer, I decided to give it one last try. This time the girl actually agreed to dance with me! So we went out on the floor, and I started off simply enough to gauge her skills. I quickly found out that this girl liked to do whatever she wanted, rather than waiting for a lead from me or staying on time with the music. There were a couple of points in the song when she just turned herself without any cue from me. I guess she just felt like there should have been a turn for her at that point in the song, so she just went for it. Fair enough… that’s fine, I guess I can work around that. She also liked to turn really fast, much more like a turn in a Latin dance. The problem with that was that turning so fast ended with her just standing there looking at me before we got to the right beat in the music where she would go into her next triple step.

Also, apparently she didn’t really feel like leaving her arms available for me to grab. After some of the turns, whether led by me or done on her own, I would need to grab her hand when she got around so that I could try to lead her into the next figure. When I would reach for her hand, I would find that neither of her arms were in a place where I could get them safely. There were several times when I had to abandon the figure I would have otherwise gone into because I wasn’t able to re-establish a connection between us.

I did my best to make the dance entertaining at least, and I managed to get her to laugh with me throughout the song with my (self-proclaimed) witty banter.. But what I was able to do with her was not super advanced by any stretch of the imagination. She went back to her group of friends and I went off to dance with other people, and that was the only dance that we did together.

At the end of the night, I got to talk with the guy that was part of that little group before the four of them left. He was super excited about getting to dance at the party, and had gotten a business card so that he had all the information on how to find the studio’s calendar online so that he could come to other events there. I recommended a few other studios that were nearby the area that he said he lived in so that he could check those out as well. Obviously I also recommended that he come to the next dance party that my Royal Dance Court group put on. Shameless self promotion, you know.

Soon the three ladies that came with him to the party came to collect him, and we said goodbye for the night. I’m not sure if I’ll ever see them again, but I hope that the four of them end up going out again to other social dances, and they are able to make connections with the bigger ballroom world. I know that the franchise studios like to keep all their students segregated, but I want to believe deep down in my heart that we can all dance together for fun.

So what is it that has been bothering me about this whole situation? I suppose that it can be broken down into two pieces. First off, I have been wondering if this girl (and other ladies in the past who have told me similar things about the proficiency levels they dance at) spent time telling me all about all of the high-level classes that she was taking at her home studio as a way to try to influence how I might dance with her if we danced together. Secondly, and probably the one that has made me scratch my head more, I have been wondering if this girl could honestly claim to be super advanced if she is really only able to dance with one of her instructors, as she also told me.

The influence thought that I have been having is, I believe, pretty easy to grasp. As you might be aware, in the world of ballroom dancing there is only one partner who gets to lead. Because of that, the second person in the mix only gets so much of a say in what figures, techniques, floorcraft, etc. that the couple uses when out on the floor. I can imagine that at a dance party where most of the attendees are relatively new dancers, someone who does spend their time studying more advanced points might just get bored.

I can imagine it, because I have certainly been through it myself. After all, I will moderate what I do in a social dance to better fit the abilities and experience of my partner. If my partner is new, or has never even seen a dance style before but for some reason wants to try it with me, I will limit myself to the absolute basics to try to help my partner out. If I have the opportunity to dance with someone like my dance partner Sparkledancer, who I know has worked on more advanced figures and techniques (I happen to know in this case because I was most likely there with her when she learned to do it), then I can ‘up my game’ so to speak to make things more interesting. More interesting for both of us, of course – not necessarily just for her.

But what do you do when you meet someone new at a dance party? If I haven’t seen the person around, how would I know what sorts of dances they have spent time working on before I decide to step onto the floor with them? Is that where it might be appropriate for a Follower to tell the Lead what kind of experience she has had? After all, in this specific situation, I thought I had picked an appropriate dance style to try with the new girl I had talked to because she told me it was one of the styles that she was best at. She obviously didn’t want to do it with me, but it was information that I had gotten because she had specifically mentioned it. If I never go to her studio to even see the classes going on, how else would I know that she was in those classes if she doesn’t verbally tell me?

There is a part of me in the back of my brain that says that I would be able to figure out whether a Follower knows more than just the basics of a dance style if I were to go out and dance with them. I’m not sure if that part of me is just my ego trying to convince myself that I am super cool, or if that is actually an ability that I have, but there is merit to the thought. If you’ve been out social dancing in the past, you probably know whether you can feel the difference between a partner who is more advanced based on how they hold their frame and the confidence with which they move, versus a more remedial dancer who doesn’t move in that manner. I’d like to imagine that most everyone can tell the difference.

But it is certainly easier if a potential dance partner would just say to me ‘Hey dude, I’m pretty good at the Polka.’ or ‘Hey dude, I’ve never done Mambo before.’ when we meet. Then I would know that if a Polka came on, we could dance together, but if a Mambo came on I should find a different partner. No guesswork involved.

So, I have to ask – was she telling me all that information when we first talked because she wanted to give me an idea of her skill level as a dancer, or because she was trying to impress me? Or maybe there’s some third option that I haven’t thought of. I don’t know.

Then there’s the second point, of whether the girl could actually claim to be a super advanced dancer if she admitted that she was only able to dance with one of the instructors at her home studio. I will admit, I am not a very good Follower, but if that were the part I had opted to study for long periods of time (and drop serious amounts of money on studying), I would want to be sure that I could do that part with more than just a select few people.

Now it would have been one thing if she had told me that she danced competitively, and there were figures that she was only comfortable performing with her competitive partner/teacher. That would totally make sense. After all, there are certain things that I would only put effort into doing when I dance with Sparkledancer, and other things I wouldn’t even consider doing at all if I were dancing with some random lady I didn’t know at a social dance. So I would understand someone making a claim like that. But to make a blanket claim that she couldn’t dance with anyone who wasn’t her instructor sounds to me like she is claiming not to be a good at following. That’s the first place my mind went when I heard that.

The dance that I ended up doing with her didn’t really change my opinion either. It didn’t really feel like we were dancing together, rather it felt like we were sometimes dancing similar figures near one another. It would be one thing if I had been trying to do non-syllabus figures that she hadn’t known and she had needed to improvise to just stay in the dance. It’s another thing entirely for a lady to just turn herself at points I’m not leading. That makes it seem like she never really needed me to dance in the first place. Do you find yourself going into figures without waiting for your partner to lead them? Is there a reason that you would do that? I mean, if I know that ladies do that for a reason, I might be able to work with that in the future.

Plus there was the awkward pauses that ended up being in the dance because the girl felt the need to whip herself around in her turns much faster than the tempo of the song called for. I like a good awkward moment as much as the next guy, but I normally aim for those for comedic purposes. When they happen in a dance and I can’t find a way to make a joke out of the moment, the awkward pause doesn’t seem quite as good. I know that musicality is a hard skill for an instructor to train their students in. My coach Lord Dormamu has told me that he feels that musicality is either something a student has or doesn’t, and there really isn’t much that he can do to help the student if they don’t have it in them already. But I would think that she should have been able to tell that the tempo of the dance was rather slow, so the turns didn’t need to happen at the speed of light in order to finish them before her next steps.

So why would she have done them so fast? Did her instructor tell her to turn as fast as she could anytime that she needed to turn? Was she trying to impress me with her turning ability? Or is it just that she was nervous and defaulted to turning the way that she spends most of her time turning, which would be like a Latin dance turn rather than a Swing dance turn. I don’t know the answer to that either. All I have is speculation which, while fun, doesn’t really help me out.

Anyway, those are the questions that I am left with. A) Do ladies tell men about all the high-level classes that they take in order to influence the way the men lead during a social dance? And B) do you consider a partner to be high level if the only person they say they can dance with is their instructor? Those questions have been in my head all week. Hopefully getting my thoughts out in writing can clear them out of my head and make room for other dance thoughts. What do you think?

On a happier note, I hear that National Ballroom Dance Week starts tomorrow! Yay! I don’t follow much of what the organization that created this Week has to say, but I saw a sign up at a studio I was at a few weeks ago telling me about it, so I looked it up. Did you know that National Ballroom Dance Week is actually ten days long? Yeah, for reals, that’s a fun fact that you can go tell other people you know. Get a calendar, am I right?

My Royal Dance Court group is going to help put on a dance party this Saturday with a studio in the area to celebrate National Ballroom Dance Week though, since it is a point we can use to promote the event. We couldn’t see any rules preventing us from using National Ballroom Dance Week in our advertisements, so we’re totally doing it! Hopefully we’ll get a ton of people to come out. Will you be there? If you are, come find me and we can have a long philosophical discussion about the questions I wrote about. I promise that it’ll be fun!

And The Muscular Cyborg German Dudes Dance With Sexy French Canadians

Last weekend wore me out. I spent pretty much all day on Saturday at the Endless Dance Hall. It was a lot more than I had originally planned on when I agreed to do the competition there last weekend, but it was mostly fun. To be available to do everything on Saturday, I had gotten up earlier than I wanted to so that I could get a few things done in the morning and head out to the Endless Dance Hall. I didn’t sleep too well that night – there were a lot of things going on, and I just couldn’t get my mind to quiet down, so I was awake on-and-off throughout the night. So the day started off with me already being tired.

Originally I was going to just dance in the competition, and my heats were going to be held late in the morning, which would have given me the rest of the day free. Then the organizers decided to have a dance party that evening in conjunction with the competition. Normally this would be something that I could skip if I was tired, but the week before the competition I had been asked if I could help set up and run the dance party because of my capacity as a member of the Royal Dance Court. At the time I agreed to do it to be helpful, since I am pretty easy to convince to volunteer for dance-related things.

Then the competition itself had some of its volunteers back out because another commitment that they couldn’t avoid came up, so I was asked if I could also come and help during the day. That’s why I ended up at the Endless Dance Hall well before my rounds were scheduled to start. In fact, I got there before any of the other competitors so that I could help set up the last-minute decorations, some of the technical equipment for the scrutineer and the DJ, and also help check people in once other competitors started arriving.

Helping out all day wasn’t really all that bad, but I also had some things for work that I had to get done that day. Since I was at the Endless Dance Hall all day long and well into the night once the cleanup from the dance party finished, I didn’t get home to start on my work items until after 11:00PM. By the time I finished working and crawled into bed, I had been up for almost twenty-four hours, so I ended up locking my cat out of my room overnight so that she wouldn’t walk all over me while I’m sleeping (she enjoys doing that for some reason) and passed out. I didn’t end up going out to practice on Sunday because I had kind of burned myself out on dancing Saturday. I feel a little bad about that, but not bad enough to apologize for doing it.

Anyway… there were only four of us working at the competition that day. One was a lady who was one of the two organizers of the event, and then there was also Sparkledancer and my friend Indiana who had been talked into volunteering for the event like I had. The competition was fairly small compared to others that I have gone to, but since the three of us were such novices at running an event like this, that turned out to be advantageous for us. We managed to get through the day with very few issues, and all the problems that did come up one of us was able to work out in very little time to keep everything running smoothly. I am quite proud of that accomplishment.

The rounds that I actually danced in that day turned out to be a bust though. I had thought that there would be people for me to dance against at this competition, but the people who had signed up for my rounds all scratched out at the last minute. Were they afraid of me or something? So that guaranteed that I got first place in everything that I danced, which in some ways is disappointing. I really hate dancing unopposed. Like, really hate it. It bothers me a lot.

Aside from the ribbons that I got for the events I danced in, I also got a medal. It was for being such an awesome volunteer and running everything so well. At least, that’s the story I will actually tell anyone who asks. The truth is slightly funnier than that, but only one other person gets to know that story. I am going to cherish it forever. Or give it to my cat to wear, because she definitely is first in my house. Either of those options would make me happy.
I did get a short break after the competition rounds were all finished up for the day while the staff at the Endless Dance Hall cleared up all the furniture that had been put out for the competition and cleaned up the floor for the dance party that night. When I got back to the venue, I switched on my full Royal Dance Court party host mode and got to work. I think I ended up doing a little of everything that night – collecting money at the door, engaging in small talk with guests that I had never met before, making sure that the snacks and drinks were filled, playing gopher to deliver messages between the DJ, the venue staff, and various volunteers as needed, and filling in to dance with ladies who were sitting out on the side since there were more women than men in attendance. That’s right, you can think of me like a Jack of all Trades for dance parties. I’m cool with that designation.

The party ran smoothly as well, like the competition earlier in the day. There was only one portion that I consider to be a bit of a hiccup – apparently over the last week or so prior to the event, the details of the party had been posted to a number of different locations, and some of those places listed the start and end times differently. That wasn’t really an issue that I had any hand in or that I could fix while helping to run the party, but I still consider it a hiccup to how well the event ran. There were a handful of people who showed up to the party an hour after we had actually started, because they had gotten their information about the party from a note someone had posted that listed the start time wrong. Because of that, we ended up running the party later than we had originally planned, giving those people who showed up late extra time to get their dance on before closing things down for the night.

However, being nice like that meant that I didn’t get out of there to go home until quite a while after I had originally planned. Also, there was one couple that had come to the dance that just would not go home! They were hanging around long after the music ended and we were trying to clean up. That would have been fine if they had offered to help us clean up, but they were just wandering around, getting in the way, trying to talk with the other volunteers and the DJ so that those people couldn’t finish the tasks they were working on… it got to be a little annoying to me. I was specifically waiting around for the DJ to finish disconnecting everything so that I could help move around the heavy equipment that was part of the sound system, but because that couple kept talking to the DJ I didn’t get to finish that when I wanted. Sigh… people.

Monday night I tried to get back to a bit of normalcy by going out to Latin Technique class. I had gone out after work to work out my legs, so when I got to the studio I was really hoping that we would end up doing Rumba to give them a little break. Unfortunately, I only had one other person agree with me that Rumba was the best way to go. Several of the other ladies wanted to do Samba, which I REALLY didn’t want to do! Lucky for me, a couple of ladies convinced him to work on Cha-Cha, which was still not going to be great for me to do with tired legs, but I could fake it better than Samba.

A fair number of ladies had shown up for the class that night, so Lord Junior said that he would have us work on some solo choreography rather than try to partner up. The choreography we were given was kind of short and was built to repeat, so you could use this to warm up or work on fast movements if you wanted. There is even something thrown in for people who want to do Samba, just so that those crazy people don’t feel left out.

We started out on a diagonal with our right foot forward. On beat two we would to a rock step and then go into a basic Forward Lock. Next we did three Open Box Steps, which is actually a figure that I learned a long time ago in Mambo. Each of these Open Box Steps should rotate you a quarter of turn over the three steps. At the end of the third one you would immediately take your right foot back to go into two Batucadas (the figure from Samba). Doing these in Cha-Cha timing seems harder to me than trying to do them in Samba timing, so good luck if you want to give them a try!
Once you finish the Batucadas, you would take a step back on your right leg, then pull your left leg in until your feet are together and do ⅜ of a turn and step forward on your right leg again. I know that kind of sounds like a heel turn, but trust me, it is not. To make the next step easier, we held in that position for most of one beat, then took two steps to the right on the next ‘& 1’ in the music so that you are standing on your right leg with the left pointed to the side. In that position we could go into two Cuban Breaks with ease. After the second one, we would stop halfway through a third with the left leg crossed in front of the right, do a Spiral Turn, and come out back into a Forward Lock like we had started the progression with so you could repeat everything.

After going through this slowly a few times, Lord Junior wanted to have us try to add arm motions to the mix. I was sort of able to do them while we were going slowly, but they just got to be wonky when he started to speed up the music on us. At that point, the biggest thing I had to spend a lot of effort focusing on was taking small steps as I moved. My default at this point is to try to push myself off my supporting leg to take as big of a step as I possibly can, which is a terrible thing to do during Cha-Cha. By the time we got around to dancing to full tempo music, I had dropped my arms out completely to help me remember to take small steps. I managed, though I’m sure that it didn’t look the prettiest while I did it.

Tuesday night I had to attend a meeting of my Royal Dance Court group to discuss dance business. There were so many topics that came up, it’s hard to sort through them and make any sense of it all! But above all of it, there was one topic that came up, one that was even listed on the agenda for the meeting for the night, that took up more of the discussion time than anything else that was talked about…

Mr. Grouchy-Face.

All I could think about when I got the agenda for the meeting a few days before was ‘Oh man, what did that guy do now?’ This is not the first time that we have spent time during our planning meetings to discuss things that Mr. Grouchy-Face has said or done, so my mind was rapidly trying to imagine all of the worst-case scenarios on things that he might have done this time which would warrant us spending even more time talking about him.

But all of my speculation was for naught, because Mr. Grouchy-Face was back on the agenda for a reason that we had already discussed before, albeit with a slightly new twist. It would seem that Mr. Grouchy-Face had decided that the best use of his time in his retired life would be to start writing letters to all sorts of people. Letters to my Royal Dance Court group’s president. Letters to various national dance organizations. Letters to friends, that he then would also post on his social media pages where anyone could read them. So many letters! Some of those letters even formed words! 😉
Jokes aside, the main topic that Mr. Grouchy-Face was writing about so much was a practice that he is really against, one that you’ve probably seen at dance parties you’ve attended: dance hosts. For those of you who never go social dancing, a dance host in my part of the Dance Kingdom is a dance instructor that is hired by a person or a group of people to go with them to a dance party and dance the night away. All the dance hosts I’ve ever seen have been male dance instructors hired by ladies, but I’m sure somewhere out in the world there are female dance instructors being hired by male dancers too. I’ve just never come across that in my travels.

Mr. Grouchy-Face does not like dance hosts. Does. Not. Like. Them. One. Bit. Based on what I found out about the content of his letters, for some reason he thinks that they are ruining social dances for all the men already in the Dance Kingdom, making dancing at social dances dangerous, and also preventing new men from stepping up to attend these parties and have fun with everyone on the dance floor. Yeah, those are his thoughts.

A bit of explanation, in reverse order:

  • Preventing new men – Mr. Grouchy-Face believes that new men are intimidated when they are at a social dance where a dance instructor is among the crowd of participants on the dance floor. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, trust me, I had the same thoughts, but Mr. Grouchy-Face believes that having dance hosts around who look more impressive on the dance floor makes it less likely that men who are new to dancing will come back to dance again.
  • Making social dancing dangerous – it is his belief that the dance hosts, when they are out on the floor with the ladies that hire them and doing ‘competition figures’ (as he calls them) make dancing dangerous because they bump into other dancers when they execute those moves. In truth, several ladies who are in my Royal Dance Court group have danced with Mr. Grouchy-Face and said that he is actually the one that is not very good at floorcraft and has run them into other dancers, but Mr. Grouchy-Face believes that the problem lies with the dance hosts.
  • Ruining social dance – according to the letters that he wrote, Mr. Grouchy-Face says that ladies who have hired dance hosts no longer want to dance with other men at the social dances they attend, which makes it hard for the other men to find willing partners. There was no mention of the fact that nine-out-of-ten dance parties (a statistic I just made up) have more men than women, so there always seem to be a plethora of other partners to choose from. No, somehow these dance hosts who only dance with the (anywhere from one to three) ladies that hired them for the evening make it impossible to find a lady to dance with.

I know, some of the positions he is presenting seem a bit… extreme, but those are his concerns that he has been spelling out in writing all these letters.

One of the groups that he had been writing letters to got sick enough of receiving them to actually start work on a response. They called someone they knew who lived close by, and asked that person to attend a large social dance that they knew was going to happen that month and take notes to see if the behavior Mr. Grouchy-Face was writing about actually happened. From what I was told at the meeting, the person took lots of notes, compiled some sort of report, and then passed that along to the people who had been getting Mr. Grouchy-Face’s letters. They are still ‘reviewing’ the report, which may just be management talk for ‘sitting on it until the problem is forgotten about.’

When Mr. Grouchy-Face was informed that someone had taken the time to come and investigate his concerns, he seemed pleased. Listening to all of this, I couldn’t help but wonder what, if anything, this group would actually be able to do about the so-called issue. Each social dance in the area is run by a different group; like individual studios running their own parties, ballroom fan club groups hosting events, and my Royal Dance Court group. While each of those groups that are in close physical proximity to each other try to arrange our events so that we don’t step on each other’s toes,  we all have different leadership and rules for our events. So even though one outside group decided to come see what was going on based on Mr. Grouchy-Face’s letters, no changes to the practice that he has problems with could possibly happen until he convinced the leadership of all of the actual groups hosting these social dances in the area to change for him.

I don’t think that most of the social organizations that are near me would even consider making changes for him. I know for sure that my Royal Dance Court group isn’t going to. Our reasoning is that we constantly have more women than men attending our dance parties, so if a few ladies want to attend our party and bring someone they hired with them as a dance partner for the evening, that helps increase our attendance numbers without wrecking the male/female ratio. All the dance hosts that are hired to attend our parties are dance instructors, and all of them are good about keeping their movements contained while on the floor (I’ve watched), so the dance hosts don’t bring up Mr. Grouchy-Face’s concern for safety in my view. Because of this, we see no reason to tell ladies they can’t hire someone.

While we spent quite a bit of time discussing this issue during the meeting on Tuesday, it was more of an informative discussion than one where we tried to come up with a resolution. After all, Mr. Grouchy-Face is just one guy, and so far he’s the only person I know of who has complained about dance hosts. Even though he does so quite vocally, and apparently also in writing quite frequently, unless we have more people step up and join in the chorus with him, I doubt my Royal Dance Court group will move to any action, and just continue to observe from the outside to make sure that everyone plays nice. Who knows? Maybe getting the response that generated a report from one group will be enough to placate him for a little while. We’ll have to see. I’m sure if I hear about changes to this situation, I will be writing about it again, because it’s a little amusing to me to document the history of this silliness.

I’m going to wrap things up here for the week, since I went off on that subject for much longer than I originally intended. Time to clear our minds and get ready for the long weekend ahead! Are you doing any fun dance things during your holiday? I’m pretty sure there are a number of things on my plate to look forward to. Couple that with an extra day to sleep in, and I am going to be a happy man. I hope your weekend is just as fun and productive as mine looks to be. I’ll tell you all about it next week!

And When I Start To Come Undone, Stitch Me Together

Lots of information this week. That tends to happen when I meet up with Lord Dormamu and he gives me all sorts of things that I need to remember. Hopefully this doesn’t end up running super long, but no apologies from me if it does. It’s all important, so I can’t forget to make note of it! But, to keep things easy to understand, let’s go through everything chronologically.

Last Saturday I agreed to meet up with Sparkledancer and Lady Tella so that the girls could use me again as a dance dummy. We spent the entire time looking at Tango. Most of the items that Lady Tella talked about were for Sparkledancer’s benefit, with very little information that was actually related to me. I took a few notes anyway, because it is useful to remember what your partner is supposed to be doing, right? Also, there’s always the off-chance that something that I write down will be helpful to someone else who may come across my notes, so it’s good to have information for both the Lead and Follow parts of the dance mixed in.

One thing that Lady Tella and I did spend some time talking about without Sparkledancer was the Back Corte. She had been working with Sparkledancer on how to improve her shape while we do the hold for that figure, and came to dance through it with me to demonstrate something. After we got through, she told me that it felt weird to her, so she wanted to do it again. We went through the steps three or four times so that she could figure out what felt off to her, and it ended up being that she thought that I was coming around too much on my first step, which was making it hard for her (and ultimately Sparkledancer) to create the shape she desired in that spot.

I told her that I had been given a couple of different theories on how to do that particular step, with no one ever giving me a final decision on what was best. I’ve had coaches tell me that if I start out facing the wall, my first step with my left foot should curve around my partner enough so that my toes are pointing backing line of dance. Other instructors have told me that the step should be to the side and slightly back, with my toes pointing toward the wall when finished. I had just been kind of taking a step that was between those two points, splitting the difference in case anyone ever stopped to look at it again.

After explaining that, I asked her two things: A) where does she prefer that my step end up to help create the shape she wants, and B) what does ‘the book’ say the correct foot placement is? I knew that there was a copy of the magic book of Standard Syllabus figures floating around the studio, so I wanted to know what it said in case anyone asked me in the future. I have a copy of the book at my house, but I’d never looked up the Back Corte in it before, since I had never had a reason to until that point.

The book said that taking the step around my partner so that my toes were pointing backing line of dance was the correct way of doing things. Lady Tella didn’t like that though, since she thinks that it makes the rotation too big. She prefers it when the step rotates around the side of my partner like the book says, but only until my toes are pointing backing diagonal wall. That’s what she and her professional partner do when they have Back Cortes in their competition routines, and she thinks that it feels the most comfortable. I told her that I could do that for her, at least until someone else comes along and gives me a good argument as to why I should do it a different way.

As for what Lady Tella and Sparkedancer worked on, they started off by continuing to talk about the best place to line up the connection point with my body. It’s funny when they talk about this, because I end up just standing there with my weight on my right leg while the two of them are pressing themselves into and wiggling against me, talking about where their ribs are and what direction their boobs are pointing. I guess that has to be the best way to describe getting into the right position, because they sure do mention it a lot. Either that or they are trying to see what it would take to make me blush. One of the two. These are the sorts of things that are considered ‘normal’ in the world of competitive ballroom dancing!

As for the other items they discussed, all I have are short notes: in the Back Corte, Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to focus on keeping her elbows up as she opens away from me, and to watch the topline to make sure that her arms are mostly parallel with the floor; When getting into Promenade Position, she wanted Sparkledancer to swivel her back foot more; During the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside she told Sparkledancer to keep her hips back; In the Natural Promenade Turn (a.k.a. Promenade Pivot) Sparkledancer is supposed to focus on keeping her body out in order to keep the volume up; and finally, in the Right-side Lunge, Lady Tella noticed that Sparkledancer was taking her last steps before the first pivot weird, as if anticipating the turn. She told her to focus on taking all three steps straight toward me. She also wanted to see less head movement to avoid the chance of creating body movement, since the head movements are so fast, and to focus on emphasizing the left direction in the head flicks. Whew!

Monday night was a rough night for me. I had gone to my gym after I left the office that day, and decided that it was time to up the amount of weight that I used in a fair number of my sets, which meant that I pushed myself to failure quite a bit during my workout. Because of that, my upper body was a little burnt out, as you can probably imagine. When I went to Latin Technique class later that evening, I was really hoping that we would spend our time doing some Rumba just to make things a little easier on me, but that did not happen. We ended up doing Cha-Cha instead, much to my chagrin.

Much like the week prior, we had a lot of ladies show up for class that night. A LOT. Then, just before class started, those three young sisters who had come to class last week showed up again to join us, which added even more ladies. With so many ladies and only the two of us men, Lord Junior was nice enough to have a little pity on me and decided that we would work on some solo choreography again like we did during the last class. Yaaaaay. At least that allowed me to flail my tired upper body around on my own without worrying about wrecking anyone else’s steps. Hooray for that, I guess.

We broke things down into sections, with Lord Junior giving everyone one figure to add to the progression at a time. After looking at each new figure individually, he would have us go back and do the whole thing from the beginning. His focus with this progression was to have us all work on speed, which as many of you know, is a pretty important part of the Cha-Cha. To get us all moving, we started with a prep step on the left side and then went into a basic chasse action that went to the right. The first thing that we added on to that were two Outside Checks (that’s the name I learned for the figure waaaaaaay back in the day), one on the right and one on the left. This first section was done using basic Cha-Cha timing.

The next figure sped things up a bit as we added on both kinds of Cuban Breaks that I know of offhand. First we did the single version, checking to the right, then transferring to the left leg with no chasse and repeating. Immediately after those we did the double variety, the one where you do a checking action and then put your foot back out to the side and do a weird hip-bump before checking again. You’ve probably seen both varieties of these done before somewhere, if you haven’t done them yourself. Based on what I can find in the book, these are only Silver-level figures, so a lot of you have probably done them at some point or another.

To give us a brief break and change the dynamics of our movement a little, the next figure that we added on to the progression were slow Cuban Rocks. There were four of these total (two with each hip), and each one covered two beats in the music. We finished the whole progression by doing two Hip Twist Chasses, first to the right and then to the left. For some reason, that night I was having a much easier time doing the one that started off rotating the right hip back to bring the left foot forward than I did going the other way. Whenever I have had this figure in a routine in the past, or if I ever use it while dancing socially, I always seem to do the one that goes to the left, so I would have expected that side to be more comfortable for me. I guess not.

With music playing we ran through this progression a number of times, starting out slowly and then pushing the tempo up toward normal. Near the end of class, Lord Junior gave us a break from the progression to have us work with a partner to do some New Yorkers, also with a focus on speed. This was a simple exercise involving a prep step and then a basic chasse action going to the right, four syncopated New Yorkers that went back and forth, then one New Yorker at normal timing to give everyone a chance to slow down safely before finishing with a basic chasse to the left.

Once we had done a fair number of repetitions of this New Yorker exercise, Lord Junior had us all go back to the original progression right before class was over. He threatened us saying that he didn’t want to see anyone mess up the figures, and that if anything less than 75% of the class did the progression perfectly, he would make us repeat the whole thing plus increase the tempo of the music, and we would keep repeating and increasing until at least 75% of us got it right. I guess the threat was scary enough to motivate everyone because we only had one person mess up in the first run-through, so we didn’t have to repeat the exercise at all. Way to go team!

I ended up having to skip Standard Technique class on Wednesday night to meet up with Lord Dormamu and Sparkledancer to work on stuff. Since we are just a little more than two weeks away from the next competition I am supposed to be doing, that night Lord Dormamu had us go through our Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and Quickstep routines for him so that he could get an overall impression of how they were going. I got a number of notes from him that night, so this might end up being a bit long…

We started off with the Waltz as I expected we would, but what we spent most of our time discussing wasn’t the material that I had actually been working on in practice this past week. The leg action that has been our focus lately is getting better, as we were told, but still needs more practice. Fair enough, that was pretty much how I felt about it before we started our coaching session. Rather than spend any time working on it with us though, Lord Dormamu started talking about how Sparkledancer and I looked while in frame.

So far, with the work that Sparkledancer has been doing with Lady Tella, Lord Dormamu thinks that we have been moving in the right direction and are looking good for a pair of Bronze dancers. That is actually what his problem is as well. He wants to have us immediately start working on moving things to the next level. I guess he has plans to get us signed up for some really high stakes competitions that will happen before he moves us up to Silver next Spring, so moving all these techniques up to ‘the next level’ (whatever that actually means) is his new goal for us.

To help us visualize what he wanted us to work on, he pulled out his phone so that he could show us a video. There was some recent post he had seen by some Amateur couple that is the current world champion of something-or-other – who also happen to be friends of his that he has coached – where the video clearly shows the two of them getting into frame. As they came together, he paused the video so that he could point out the differences between what their volume looked like and what we were doing. Once in frame, the lady was positioned in such a way that, if you looked straight at the Lead, her upper body was bent over far enough that you could see the Lead’s whole shoulder line, and his whole right arm down to his armpit. That is definitely a lot of space between their heads!

On top of that, the male had a slight curve in his back, which helped to give the illusion of increasing the volume between the two of them even further. Overall, when I looked at the way they were standing together, and the big open space their arms created, it really reminded me of the closed frame used in Paso Doble. I mentioned that, and Lord Dormamu actually thought that comparison was funny, but not incorrect. There are some obvious differences between ballroom and Paso Doble he said, but the idea behind that shape puts Sparkledancer and I closer to what he wants us to work on.

Sparkledancer is closer to my height than the girl in the video was to her partner’s height, so Lord Dormamu told her that if she could create the same shape as the girl in the video, people looking at the two of us would be able to see the top line of my shoulders for sure, but not my entire right arm down to my armpit. He was worried that if she tried to bend back that far so soon that she could hurt herself. However, he did mention that there was no limit to how much she should bend, so if over time she could work on her flexibility enough and bend so that people could see my entire right arm down to my armpit, that wasn’t a bad thing.

The rest of the time we spent looking at the Waltz was focused on hitting something as close to that position as we could when in frame, and then trying to move around while maintaining it. This was not exactly the easiest thing to do. I’m sure it will get better with practice, but I can’t say that it looked or felt good at all during this lesson. I guess that can be considered a good thing? Someone once told me that when something that you do often feels terrible, that’s when you know change is happening. If it always feels comfortable, then you are never really improving.

After Waltz we moved on to Foxtrot for a little while. Foxtrot is still our strongest dance according to Lord Dormamu, no question there. The two things that he pointed out to us that night that he wanted us to work on were creating and maintaining that same kind of volume in this style as we had worked on in the Waltz, and then the action of my legs as I accept the weight into them at the end of a figure in preparation for the next figure. That action is what I have been working on in practice for a while now, and it isn’t perfect just yet. It’s a lot better than it has been, so that’s good at least.

From Foxtrot we switched to Tango, which in Lord Dormamu’s assessment is our second best dance style currently after the Foxtrot. The frame in Tango is obviously different from all the others, so for the time being he didn’t want us to worry too much about the volume while we practiced that aspect in the other styles. One minor change that he noticed that he wanted us to put in was to the first Natural Twist Turn that we do. He wants me to adjust the end of the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside that is right before so that I end facing diagonal wall. That sets me up so that the Progressive Link that goes into the Twist Turn will have a full quarter of turn. Up to that point I had been told to end facing wall, so the Progressive Link only did an eighth of turn. Simple enough.

I also asked him about the Back Corte that I had looked over with Lady Tella that weekend, to get his perspective about the angle on the first step. After looking at us do it a couple of times, he told me that he was happy with what Lady Tella told me to do there, so I should use that angle until he tells me otherwise. Hooray!

Finally, we spent just a couple of minutes looking at the Quickstep right at the end. We danced through the whole thing once and then Lord Dormamu called us over to where he was standing. Before he even said a word, Sparkledancer apologized for taking a heel step at a wrong point near the end of a Backward Lock. Lord Dormamu said that he had seen it, and was going to point that out. Sparkledancer confessed that she had been thinking so much about trying to create and hold the volume the whole time that she just got it wrong.

Lord Dormamu seemed fine with that, but then he went off on a little tirade about how he thought that Syllabus-level Quickstep was just stupid. He told us that as long as the couple is on time with the music and the footwork is correct, there really isn’t much else that you can use to separate a good couple from a bad one beyond the way their frames look. Basic Quickstep doesn’t have any complex figures like Foxtrot or Tango, so when he’s judging a competition he finds those rounds to be boring.

He told us that all we needed to do whenever we practiced Quickstep was to split it into five rounds of two run-throughs with no music. The first time through the routine we should focus on the feet, making sure they are grounded to the floor and that the footwork is based on the action of the step, not just superficial heel or toe steps because we know we’re supposed to do those. The second time through the routine is where we focus on the volume. After five rounds of each of those two practice runs, we should then dance the routine once to the music, and then we are done and should move on to something more important.

At the end before we left, we spent a few minutes talking about an upcoming development that is going to impact us. I’m not sure if I can quite talk about it yet before I have all the details, but it’s going to happen. So… yeah. There’s that to start thinking about.

Man, I think that my weekend is going to be mostly free to do things that I want to do! Obviously I will have to set aside some time for practice, but since many of the instructors in the area are performing in a big show this weekend, there won’t be any private lessons for me to go to. I heard that Judge Dread is going to be in town running some workshops, so maybe I will take this opportunity to go to one of those instead! It seems like forever since I was able to do that, since my lessons with various instructors always seem to happen at the same time. Hopefully it will be fun! Maybe I’ll see you there.