With the two competitions that I signed up to participate in looming on the horizon, I feel like my mind is totally focused on dance right now. There is a lot of stuff going on at work that I should be thinking about more, but while I am looking at work things my mind keeps wandering back to dance things. I’m starting to think that this may be a problem if I can’t find a way to rebalance my thoughts… but that can totally wait until after the competition is over, right? 😉
What have I done this week? Hmm… well, as usual Saturday was a busy day for me. It started out in the morning with a trip out to the Fancy Dance Hall for a lesson with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven. Right before Sir Steven had us do anything else, I told him that Lord Dormamu had us change part of our Quickstep routine, so we should walk through the changes before dancing through the routine for him to avoid any surprises.
It turned out to be really good that I wanted to start with this figure – we ended up spending the first half of the lesson working on cleaning up the new pieces to make them look as good as the rest of the routine. We started everything off by dancing through the routine in totality once for Sir Steven to see, and then stepping through the new corner amalgamation slowly so that he could review what we were attempting to do in detail.
Sparkledancer and I had been spending extra time in our practice sessions over the last week working on getting these new figures to fit naturally with the rest of the routine, so being able to go through them while someone was watching was super helpful. We cleaned up the just a few minor portions that Sir Steven saw that didn’t look correct from the outside, like the rise and fall and the alignment of the last step into the Reverse Pivot, and by the time we were done the new figures felt much more solid.
Once we finished up with the Quickstep, we ran through the remainder of our routines as well. Overall Sir Steven was pleased with how we were looking, telling us that it was a big improvement over what he saw us do the last time we had worked together two weekends prior. That’s yet another point to add to the column of benefits that an insane amount of practice provides.
Near the end of our time, we were wrapping things up by looking at the Foxtrot. I was asked to spend some time going over the last corner in the routine, the one that has the Closed Impetus and Feather Finish. Sir Steven wanted to make sure that while I was doing the figure, that I wasn’t adding any sway, except for during the second step. By the book, as I was told, the first step should be level, the second step should sway to the left, and the third step should also be level. He said that it looked like I was attempting to add in the sway too early during the first step, and this was making it hard for Sparkledancer to do her part properly.
At one point a bit later, while Sparkledancer and Sir Steven were working off to the side and I couldn’t hear what was going on too well, Sparkledancer asked Sir Steven something about the movement of her head. Sir Steven, being full of wisdom about the lady’s part, told her she should “make it look pretty” without having much more information for her.
Lucky for Sparkledancer, the Princess happened to be walking through the Fancy Dance Hall at that time with a friend of hers. Sir Steven called her over and asked if she would be willing to watch us dance for a minute and help Sparkledancer out with her head movements. Being the wonderful princess that she is, she agreed. She pawned her friend off on Lord Latin, telling him to dance with her for a bit, and then told Sparkledancer and I to dance for her so that she could see what she was working with.
As we danced down the floor by her, the Princess stopped us and told Sparkledancer that a lot of her head movements looked “mechanical” – like she was doing them just because she was told to move her head during those specific figures. Sparkledancer nodded and said that was pretty much exactly what she was doing. The Princess told her that, in order to make it look ‘pretty’ and also more natural, the head movement should be initiated by the sway of our figures, but she should try to delay the movement as much as possible.
What she should see while watching from the outside is that as we are swaying Sparkledancer should keep pulling her head out to her left as much as possible. When the movement of the body finally gets to a point where she can’t fight against it with her head anymore, that’s when the head rotates to the other side. She will end up showing off the ‘pretty’ stretch of her neck if she does the movement this way, and the rotation will also look like it is supposed to be there, not like something that was added in cosmetically because she was told to do it.
It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Discussions like this just reinforce for me how nice it is that I’m a guy, and I don’t have to worry about these sorts of movements.
This past Saturday night my Royal Dance Court gang and I hosted our first dance party of the year. We wanted to start the year off with something fun and different, so we decided to call up Sir Digler and ask him if he would come teach a class before the party on line dancing. It’s one of those fun variations that we can do once in a while that everyone can be involved with, without having to worry about the ratio of Leaders and Followers.
Sir Digler covered three different line dances in the hour-long class. The first two I had seen before somewhere, but the last one he showed everyone was new to me, even though I found out later that that particular song and line dance have been around for about ten years of so. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone to any weddings that had receptions with dancing, so that might explain why I had never heard that one before.
The first line dance that he showed to everyone was what he called the “Charleston Line Dance” because the basic pattern of the feet shuffling looked like something out of the Charleston. The challenging part of this line dance for most people was the speed – Sir Digler said that you would feel right at home doing this line dance in the middle of the room during a Quickstep song, or even a Jive number. I was a little worried when he told everyone to get out on the floor during a Quickstep if they weren’t actually dancing the Quickstep, but luckily no one tried it that night so I didn’t have to worry about accidentally running into someone.
Next up Sir Digler showed everyone a Tango line dance. This line dance was much more challenging than the last one for the class to master. I thought that it looked like people were getting the hang of things after he showed everyone the steps, but then Sir Digler asked the DJ to put on a Tango number, and things fell apart. Granted, the DJ picked out what sounded like the fastest tempo Tango song in existence, which didn’t help things at all, so that might have been part of the problem. Sir Digler had to go through the steps of this line dance several times, and then finally everyone was able to get through the dance with a different (slower) Tango song playing.
The final line dance of the night was the one I mentioned earlier, what I would consider more of a ‘club’ line dance. This was a set of figures that you do only when a specific song comes on. The song was by an artist that I had heard of, who actually has another line dance song that I am quite familiar with, but I had never seen this particular line dance before in my life. The steps weren’t too hard though, and the singer will tell you what you should be doing if you listen to the lyrics, so I have faith that many people could pick up this particular dance easily.
I mostly tried to be social during the dance party after the lesson finished up. There were a couple of new faces in the crowd that I tried to talk to, because I feel like that is an important thing to do. Ms. Possible also showed up at the dance party late, and I hadn’t seen her in months, so I had to check in with her and see how things were. Up until she walked through the door I had basically written her off as another dancer lost in the passage of time, so it was nice to see her back on the floor.
I also made a point to skip all other offers and try to dance all of the ballroom numbers that night with Sparkledancer, just to get in some extra practice with our routines and other dancers on the floor. We specifically set up our practice times at various studios around the area so that we run into the least amount of people, but working on our routines while utilizing some floorcraft is always a good thing to practice. I haven’t seen the lists for our competition yet, but I would hazard a guess that we are likely not dancing uncontested, so floorcraft will come into play somehow.
Monday night was Latin Technique class, and I did some Cha-Cha. Our options that night were either Cha-Cha or Samba, and most of us voted against Samba. Lord Junior did mention at the beginning of class that he had been working on a Pasodoble line dance and he was almost done with it, but he wasn’t happy with the ending quite yet. He promised that as soon as he was happy with everything that he would spend a Latin Technique class teaching it to all of us for feedback before premiering his work to social dancers at some party. That sounded exciting to me!
But until then, we were left with Cha-Cha to get through. The figures that we looked at during the class were all ones that I had seen before, just not in this order, so I was able to get through them fairly well. The men started with their weight on the right leg and the left leg pointed behind them, while the women mirrored that setup. We did a Forward Check into a Slip Chasse, while the women did a Backward Check into a Forward Lock Step. On the last beat of their Lock Step we led them through a Curl, and then collected them back into dance frame to do a Reverse Top.
Our Top spun around for two measures, and on the last beat of the second measure we led the ladies to do a Spiral Turn before taking them out into an Aida. Lord Junior gave us the option to do either slow or quick movements with our hips during the Aida, saying that the decision was up to each of us how we wanted to do things that night. I’m pretty sure that everyone opted to do the slow version, since that’s all I saw when I looked around.
Once finished with the hip movements, we did an Over-Rotated Switch Turn to come out of Aida position. Basically the guys would step forward onto their left leg and then turn 180° and point the right leg forward. That pointing action was what we counted as the delay before doing the actual Switch Turn, which also had us spinning another 180°. Once we finished the turning action, we linked up with our partner again and did a basic Chasse to the Right to finish up for the night.
Finally this week, let’s talk about Standard Technique class from last night. Lord Junior wanted to have us look at Viennese Waltz. We hadn’t done Viennese Waltz in class in some time because the last time we covered this dance style, things did not go so well for the ladies. All of them had really struggled with their alignments and turning for the proper amount of rotation in the previous class, which Lord Junior thought was really funny. This time around, he was hoping that everything went better, but was prepared for some amusement if things went about the same.
As it turns out, the exercises went much, much better for everyone in class this time around! I’m not sure if it was because we had so many more people in the class this time, so everyone who was unsure of their angles and rotation could watch someone nearby them to cheat a little, or if people actually knew what they were doing this time, but it all worked out. Lord Junior had us spend about half the class on drills with the Natural and Reverse Turns and Forward and Backward Change Steps, first doing the amalgamation as individuals and then dancing the same amalgamation with partners.
Because the basic syllabus for International Viennese Waltz contains so few figures, once Lord Junior was convinced that we had been drilled enough on the basics he switched gears and gave us some American Viennese Waltz for the second half of class. Based on the things that I see frequently from ‘high-level’ American Viennese Waltz, I’d swear that the dance entirely consists of Open Natural Turns and then switching into Open Natural Turns in Shadow Position. That’s really all I ever see advanced dancers do for some reason…
Our American Viennese Waltz progression that night was just a short snippet, and you can probably guess what half of it was based on my last comment. We started out in normal dance frame and went straight into a Twinkle and Open Natural Turn. From here Lord Junior wanted us to turn the ladies into Shadow Position, so the men did a Hesitation Fake. That basically had us stepping back on our left foot on beat one and collect the feet together while rotating on beat two then holding. We turned the ladies across our bodies at the same time we did that.
As the men finally stepped to the side on beat one of the next measure, we released the ladies into one last turn with our left hand and caught them around the ribs with our right to stop them from getting too far away from us. Bringing the left hand up to hold the lady’s left forearm then put us in Shadow Position. As the next measure started, we did a Change Step in Shadow Position (which is really just three steps forward) and then went into Open Natural Turns. After a couple of those we stopped so that the guys could run back down to the starting point and pick up another partner to start over.
I had all these crazy plans for the weekend to go to some big dance meeting… but the event got cancelled because the organizer of the meeting got sick. In some ways, it is good for me that I’m not traveling anywhere this weekend. After all, I am heading out next weekend to compete, so now I can spend this weekend on more practice time to make sure that I am ready. Hooray!
Even with the meeting being cancelled though, there are still a lot of things I have on my list to do this weekend. I moved my normal lesson with Sir Steven back to Saturday afternoon since I won’t be off somewhere else now. I was going to do that lesson tonight, but I went out to practice instead. Friday night there is some kind of dance party going on at the Electric Dance Hall, and Lord Junior specifically requested that I make an appearance there. I’m not exactly sure why, but I am never one to turn down a personal invitation like that, so I’ll be there.
And then there’s practice. More practice. Always practice. Hopefully it will be enough, and I can head out to the upcoming competition and crush it. But, we have a little over a week to go yet, so we’ll all have to wait and find out what happens later. Until then, let the dancing continue!