They’re Just Lousy With Loyalty

If you remember, last Thursday night I was asked by my normal coach Lord Dormamu to take a coaching session with a visiting adjudicator that he knew. This gentleman was only going to be in town one night, and had an opening at the end of the evening that worked in both my Amateur partner’s and my schedule, so we ended up out at the Endless Dance Hall to have him look at how we were doing. I was reluctant to do this coaching session, but Lord Dormamu wanted us to be there, so before I knew what was going on I was meeting up with Sparkledancer in the parking lot of the Endless Dance Hall at the time we were told to come by.

OK, let me back up the train here – to say that I was feeling reluctant about doing this would actually be an understatement. By this point, we had only finished three of the four new routines we were getting choreographed. The third one of those was done right before Lord Dormamu left for his two week trip overseas. None of the routines we just got had even been looked at by Lord Dormamu to make sure that we had everything down correctly after he gave them to us. There just hadn’t been an opportunity to do that. If we had managed to get an extra lesson with Lord Dormamu scheduled before this coaching session, I would have wanted to get the last routine choreographed instead of looking over the other three.

So having a visiting coach be the first person to give us any kind of feedback on our new routines  had me worried. On my drive over to the studio that night, I wondered to myself how much we would end up discussing with this guy that would not come up if Lord Dormamu had looked over the routines with us beforehand and pointed any minor issues out to us first. Which would also be a lot less expensive, since the visiting coaches that Lord Dormamu knows always cost an arm and a leg to work with. My normal sessions with Lord Dormamu only cost me an arm OR a leg because we are regular, ongoing students of his. That would have saved a whole limb!

Lucky for us, this visiting coach didn’t tell Sparkledancer and I that anything looked super out of the ordinary. We spent some time looking at all three of the new routines that Lord Dormamu had recently created for us – Foxtrot first, then Waltz, and finishing with the Quickstep. There was really only one comment that he made during the whole session while we were working together that I thought was interesting, which no one had ever mentioned to me before. Sparkledancer may have gotten a few things out of the coaching, but it was really that kind of lesson for me: tons of money spent for just one interesting comment that I made a point to write down.

As I said, we started out with the Foxtrot. After dancing through the routine once, the coach asked me about the figures that we were doing. I walked him through each one slowly in order from the beginning: Feather, Reverse Turn with Feather Finish, Open Telemark, Natural Turn, and then the Outside Swivel. When we got to that part, I mentioned to him that Lord Dormamu had told us to hold after the Outside Swivel for two beats before going into the Basic Weave, because even though that’s not technically how the figure is written in the syllabus, if we didn’t fit in an extra two beats somewhere we would end up off phrase with the music.

The coach kind of nodded along as I explained that portion, then told me that doing the figure like that should be fine unless we run into an invigilator who was a real stickler for how the figures were written in the book. What he said that I found interesting was: back in the day when the figures for these dances were originally designed, which was way back when the only ballroom dancers were probably dinosaurs wearing sophisticated top hats, the figures were created without the idea of connecting them to the music. Yes, each figure has a specific number of beats given to each step, but there was no thought into anything more than the number of beats. Talk of fitting the choreography to a musical phrase never came up back then, apparently.

I don’t know why I find that so interesting, but I do. It’s cool to think that we have managed to evolve a little bit since the days of dancing dinosaurs in top hats. Although, I admit, if I got the chance to dance with a real dinosaur wearing any kind of a hat, I would take it in a heartbeat.

My main issue was with the rest of the session. Much like other male coaches that I am asked to work with, this one was convinced that I would look so much better if I just changed the way I held my frame to be more like how he likes to hold his frame, rather than sticking with the way Lord Dormamu has been telling me to hold myself. It feels like a lot of the male adjudicator I am told to work with have this same opinion, that their way of holding frame is the best way, and everything I do would be better if I was more like them.

Maybe it’s an ego thing? It doesn’t matter what works best for the flexibility in my shoulders, or what Sparkledancer and I talk about when she asks me to change things with my frame for her benefit – obviously I’m not smart enough to realize that their way of holding frame is the most elegant, most solid, and best looking way of holding frame of all time. Someday (if I pay for enough coaching from any one particular adjudicator) I would be able to see that they are right, and then I too will be preaching the gospel to others so that they hold their frame the same way.

This visiting coach was another one who learned the “correct” way to dance decades ago, back when everyone did things differently than is done today. His particular quirk that he wanted to show me was that I should stop using my body so much to direct my partner. Instead, he wanted me to start using my arms and hands more to ‘steer’ my partner while dancing. Yes, there was an analogy to a car thrown in there somewhere during this session.

He was especially keen about how I could be using my right hand on my partner’s back to tell her when to turn by actually pressing either with my fingers or with my palm to initiate the rotation of her upper body. I mean, I sort-of understand where he was coming from, since when he danced with me to demonstrate he didn’t get into body contact, and without that there was no way I could use my torso and hips to direct him. But that’s not a problem I have when dancing with Sparkledancer. Lord Dormamu preaches dancing International Standard in body contact when he trains us. Using my arms to do anything never comes up.

So yeah, a lot of money spent for only one interesting tidbit that I didn’t know before. Was it worthwhile? It’s hard to say. So much of the dance politics game goes on behind my back, it’s hard to ever really know if all this extra money is actually doing anything for how well I score. And if it is making a difference in how I am scored, I don’t know if I actually feel good about that. After all, isn’t getting good placements supposed to validate how well I can dance? If I can sway my scores somewhat just by spending more money with the right people, then that’s not necessarily validating my skills – it’s really validating my wallet.

Sigh… what a weird competitive world I spend time in.

Moving on: last Saturday afternoon I managed to hit a milestone – I finally got the last of my new routines that actually needed to be choreographed. Hooray! That is a step in the right direction! With the Tango routine put together, that means that Sparkledancer and I should have everything worked out after a few weeks of cleanup and then we can finally look at testing these new configurations out in front of some judges to see how we do.

Before we got to the Tango that afternoon though, we spent a few minutes talking about our other routines. Lord Dormamu told us that he had gone out to dinner with the visiting coach after we got done with our session that previous Thursday, and the coach had nothing but good things to tell Lord Dormamu about how good we were looking. Then he asked Sparkledancer and I if there was anything that we wanted to look at in those routines before we got to work on the Tango.

I had something that I wanted to ask about that was an issue for me, but probably wouldn’t have been a problem for the average person. I wanted to go over the last short wall in our Quickstep with him, because with the way that the choreography was designed, I was not able to fit all the figures in on any of the dance floors where I go practice without shortening the steps in an awkward manner.

If you remember, the last short wall in our Quickstep consists of a Running Right Turn, a Quick Open Reverse, a Progressive Chasse, a Forward Lock and a Natural Turn. Now, do you also remember how I described Standard Technique class last week and I said that I was able to cover the whole short side at the Electric Dance Hall with just the Running Right Turn into a Natural Turn? That should give you an idea of how tiny I was having to make all the steps in these figures in order to stay on the floor in any room that wasn’t the size of the Endless Dance Hall.

Lord Dormamu said that I had a couple of options, depending on the size of the floor I was dancing on. First, I could always cut out the Forward Lock and just attach the Natural Turn to the end of the Progressive Chasse.  For a wider competition floor, this would easily get me all the way across. On a smaller floor, I could always do just like Lord Junior had shown me in Standard Technique class and attach the Natural Turn to the end of the Running Right Turn. This way the Quickstep routine has some options available for me to adjust as needed.

Once we had worked through that issue, we moved on to look at the Tango. This routine is a bit different than the other routines that we had done previously. For one thing, it is choreographed so that we start in the middle of one of the short walls rather than in a corner like the others do. But the most notable difference is that this routine only has one long wall instead of two. That should make it easier to memorize. The figures look like this:

S Wall 0.5 L Wall 1 S Wall 1
Back Corte Open Promenade Two Walks
Progressive Link Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside Brush Tap
Back Open Promenade Outside Swivels Progressive Link
Four Step Promenade Link Open Promenade
Natural Twist Turn Back Corte Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside
Progressive Link Progressive Link
Fallaway Promenade Natural Twist Turn
Right Side Lunge
Left Foot and Right Foot Rocks
Back Corte

I think that the only figure we added that I hadn’t seen somewhere before was the Back Open Promenade. I’m not entirely sure about the Fallaway Promenade – it sounds familiar, but the footwork for it didn’t feel familiar once Lord Dormamu showed the figure to me. Everything else listed I at least had a vague idea how the steps went. Most of the non-Bronze figures I know for sure that I have done in a group class somewhere (probably the Standard Technique class I go to most Wednesday nights), so that made my life easy.

The last thing that I did this week was to go to Standard Technique class. This week in class we had a new gentleman join us. Well, sort-of new – this guy is someone who has been hanging around the dance community in the Dance Kingdom for a while after being convinced to go to a dance party one night by Sparkledancer of all people a couple of years ago. Good job Sparkledancer! Because he travels so much for his job, he realized that he wasn’t going to improve all that quickly just by occasionally attending group classes, so he found an instructor to start taking private lessons from to help learn new things on his schedule.

Six months ago his instructor convinced him to try out a competition, and he discovered that he loved it and wanted to do more. His instructor had been trying to find ways that he could continue to improve as a competitor that would work with his travel schedule, and she recommended to him that during the weeks when he was in town he could come to Lord Junior’s advanced classes to help with that. Since the classes are technique focused and don’t require showing up every week of the month to keep up in the class, she thought it would be great for him. So his instructor contacted Lord Junior to let him know the guy’s story, and now we have a new friend who will be joining us whenever possible. Hooray for new friends in class!

This week when class started, all of us who were regulars to the class didn’t have anything specific that we wanted to look at, so Lord Junior decided that it would be a good week to look at the Reverse Wave in Foxtrot. I was on board with that idea, since I had been told that being able to do the Reverse Wave well was a critical part of anything I wanted to do in Foxtrot from now on.

The progression that Lord Junior put together for us in class ended up being only a handful of figures. Our new friend in class had really only ever done American Foxtrot up until recently, so a lot of the simple things that the rest of us knew already had to be explained to him, which took a bit of extra time. We only ended up getting through a Feather into a Closed Telemark, coming out of that with another Feather and then attaching the Reverse Wave, finishing up with an Open Impetus. We would have done more, but time ran out.

That’s all I’ve got this week. There may be some crazy things on the schedule for this weekend. Nothing is confirmed yet, but I have the times blocked off in my calendar just in case. Assuming the thing I am being asked to go to ends up hitting at least three LOLs out of a five LOL scale, then I will tell you all about it. We’ll see what happens… it could be weird!


Whatever Makes You Happy

Let me drift a bit off topic here today to tell you about the continued misadventures of Seedling…

I last saw him during that Pilates class I went to the Sunday before last, and since that day he has been doing a lot of things that I have heard about vicariously through Sparkledancer. When I have met up with Sparkledancer for practice several times this past week, she has had all kinds of things to tell me about his strange way of muddling through life. A few times she has even forwarded me messages from him that she received because she was having such a hard time figuring out if he is serious about what he is saying. It’s become pretty clear that Seedling lives in a very different headspace, where he thinks that he can make all kinds of stuff happen in his life without actually putting in much effort for it, which is why Sparkledancer questions what he says a lot of the time.

Previously I mentioned that Seedling was asked to leave the franchise dance studio where he was a member. The story that I got was that he was asking some questions of one of the female students at the studio who he thought was his friend, and when his questions toward this other student got weird somehow, one of the studio owners got dragged into the mix.

Seedling was unhappy with how the conversation was going, and even though he claims that he was ‘discussing’ the situation with the owner in a level-headed manner, somewhere along the line the owner threatened to call the police on him if he didn’t calm down. A few days later Seedling called to confirm his scheduled lesson with his instructor, and whoever was on the phone from the studio told him that his lessons had been cancelled, his money refunded and he was no longer welcome on premise. That was the end of his franchise studio membership.

He moped about this situation for a few days, sending Sparkledancer mean-spirited words about the studio owners and claiming that he was going to figure out some way to get in touch with his former instructor there. Because he was convinced that he and his instructor had a ‘connection’ and were meant to be more than just a teacher and student, he was going to ask her to start teaching him independently at one of the other studios in the Dance Kingdom. He knew in his guts that she was going to jump at the chance as soon as he asked her. Apparently Seedling had never heard of a non-compete clause before, and as soon as what that kind of clause is was explained to him, he had all sorts of choice words about how stupid that sounded.

Without a dance home, Sparkledancer pushed him to explore some of the other studios in the Dance Kingdom and see what other instructors were out there before doing something crazy like stalking his former instructor online and sending messages that might start trouble. He did take that advice and spent a few days going to some group classes and a Friday night dance party at a couple of the studios. Somehow in his search he ended up at the Prime Dance Hall of all places. This studio doesn’t really offer much in the way of group classes that Seedling could use to evaluate the studio, so he just called and signed up for one of their low-cost introductory private lessons instead.

That call was a life-changing event for Seedling. Holy cow. The minute he met the new instructor that had offered to give him his introductory lesson, all of his thoughts of his old instructor (including his crush on her) disappeared. After the first day at the Prime Dance Hall, Sparkledancer says that Seedling told her all about how the new instructor said that she was surprised that Seedling knew so much, and how he agreed with her that he “just had to” stay for another lesson after the introductory lesson was over (at full price, of course) because they had so many things to look at together.

…I’m sure the fact that this new instructor was shorter than average, blonde, also a fitness instructor, also a Yoga instructor, etc. etc. had nothing to do with him wanting to stay and hang around with her for longer. It was all purely about the dancing. Obviously.

So here we are, two-and-a-half weeks after that first lesson with the new girl. Seedling has dropped SO MUCH MONEY at the Prime Dance Hall in just two-and-a-half weeks, it’s crazy. He doesn’t make a lot on his job (he’s not afraid to tell people how much he makes per hour), but somehow he has managed to find over $5,000 to spend at the studio in just that short amount of time. Yeah. And at the rate he seems to be using his lesson packages, the amount of money he looks to drop at the studio will exceed what he takes home annually. But he doesn’t seem to care.

On top of that, because the Prime Dance Hall has an open studio policy for all current students, he is spending ridiculous amounts of time there. He claims that he is using all the extra time for practice, but he has also admitted that he was spending large chunks of time there before he had even been given routines or exercises to practice from his new instructor. What he was really doing there is anyone’s guess. He talks about watching dance videos to learn new things, but then he also spends large amounts of time sending messages to people outside the studio, one of them being Sparkledancer. It’s hard to watch dance videos to learn, and also hard to practice when you are constantly typing things on your phone, isn’t it?

Working hard, or hardly working?

The amount of money Seedling has already dropped at the studio is really surprising to me. The times I have talked to him, he always seemed to mention that he never had money to do the things he wanted and he was always looking for ways to earn more money without having to put in any effort to get a real education or an actual career. Since taking up dancing, he has been living paycheck-to-paycheck to pay for dance classes and lessons. When he forcibly left the franchise studio he claimed that it would save him money because he wouldn’t be paying for access to low-level classes he didn’t want to take anymore, but moving from unlimited group classes and one private lesson a week to nothing but private lessons several times a week is certainly negating any savings in cost he imagined.

Then again, now that I think about it, in some ways it’s really not surprising that he spent a sum like that. The owners at the Prime Dance Hall are best described as ‘slimy’ based on conversations with many of their former employees, which is why I so rarely go there. They keep a tight leash on their instructors while still trying to maintain a label as an ‘independent’ studio, and are always telling the instructors to have their students sign up for all kinds of expensive packages and outings to bring in more money for the venue. A lot of instructors have been brought in from other states or other countries to teach at the Prime Dance Hall. Many left there on short notice because they no longer wanted to be under the thumb of the owners of that studio. So the instructor that took on Seedling convincing him to part with large sums of money fits in with that kind of studio culture that I have been told about.

His original plan when going to the Prime Dance Hall was to start working on becoming a high-level International Latin competitor like he has talked about before. He is planning on competing in an upcoming Pro/Am competition in September, and has already started working on learning routines for that event. Seedling was quite insistent on telling Sparkledancer during one of their chat sessions that his new instructor is so much better than two other high-level female dance instructors in the area. I’m not sure how he knows the names of these two ladies, but they are two instructors whom I have met, who both have been competing since they were very young and have a whole bunch of dance titles under their names from various countries around the world.

I thought his claim sounded a little fishy when Sparkledancer told me that he had said that, and yet the rates to take lessons with his instructor are significantly less than what I know these other two ladies charge for their time and expertise. At first I gave him the benefit of the doubt, thinking that maybe I had just never heard about his new instructor before. The Sparkledancer told me that Seedling had admitted that he has never seen either of these two ladies dance before, which makes any comparison he tried to make sound really dumb because he only knows one side of the equation.

But now… a few days ago one of the managers at the Prime Dance Hall was talking to Seedling about how exciting it was that he was going to be doing his first competition in September, and also unexpectedly told him that this will also be his instructors first competition ever as well – Pro/Am or Amateur. Hearing that now leads me to believe that Seedling is saying that his new instructor is so good for other reasons. Now I believe that he thinks that his instructor is so much better than ladies he has never seen before simply because he is watching his new instructor dance with hearts in his eyes.

I talked with Sparkledancer about it at practice one night, telling her that I thought it was likely that he has already developed a crush on this new instructor just like he had on his old instructor. Sparkledancer just laughed at me and told me that if I read the things he wrote about this girl, I would be able to see that very plainly. Sparkledancer said that she told him early on not to develop feelings for his instructor because that could lead to him making poor decisions, but he never replies to her when she brings it up to try and confirm that he hasn’t done that. Avoidance often implies that someone is too embarrassed to say that the thing they were told not to do has already happened.

To take the weirdness of his crush on this lady up a notch, ever since Seedling started going to the Prime Dance Hall’s Friday night dance lessons and parties, which are mostly attended by newcomers, he has become convinced that he wants to become a dance instructor. I know that sounds like a noble pursuit and all, brought about by his love of correcting the mistakes of newcomers during class, but when pressed about actually following through with his goal to be a dance instructor, his reasons for wanting to do it are the kind of reasons that sound just plain creepy. He wants to become a dance instructor because A) he wants to be his new instructor’s Professional partner, so they can practice together all day and then compete together at big Pro events, and B) he wants to be paid to spend all day hanging out at what he calls his “happy place,” which is now the Prime Dance Hall.

If you try and tell him that he would really only get paid if he is at the studio teaching students, that just goes in one ear and out the other. Teaching is not what he focuses on as what you do when you’re a dance instructor. He thinks that his days will be filled with practicing with his Professional partner, and mentions very little about the concept of finding students and convincing them to give the studio money or actually teaching students how to dance. In fact, when it was mentioned to him that he could become an independent instructor at any time once he knows the female side of the figures so that he could teach students, he was surprised because he had never considered that he would have to know both the Lead’s and the Follow’s steps. Did he think that he would lead the figures so well when he’s an instructor that his students would be able to figure out what to do all by themselves?

Apparently he already asked one of the owners of the Prime Dance Hall if he can be trained to be an instructor. She gave him what I would call a ‘soft no’ by saying that they were currently training two instructors who were already working there, then had another three waiting in the wings to be trained, but maybe after that they could look into it. He thinks that means that he is already in, and one day in fact he had been telling Sparkledancer how he was researching apartments that are near the studio that he could move into that area in the next few months… except that these apartments are a little over an hour from his current job, which would add time (and cost) to his commute to make money every day so he could spend it on dancing. Does he cart-before-the-horse much?

So… yeah. Seedling may never come back to the Electric Dance Hall. It sounds like he is already spending four- to eight-hours a day at the Prime Dance Hall Monday through Friday, so he has no time to do anything else. Yup. Four- to eight-hours a day, with only part of that time used for taking lessons, and only a little bit of practicing on his own. What else is he doing there? Who knows. Most days of the week they don’t have group classes or parties, so he is… just hanging around? Sitting at a table and chatting with people over various messaging apps? I don’t know. He said that this week he has moved up to taking two lessons a day, so that’s some more of his time at the studio accounted for, but that still leaves at least two-and-a-half hours or more that he only half-explains how he fills.

Well… that rambled on for a bit longer than I planned. I guess I’ll end things here by talking about Standard Technique class last night. I thought it was a lot of fun, and it was just last night so it is fresh in my memory. We didn’t have anyone new in class last night so we could actually work on Quickstep for a change, which was great! As promised, Lord Junior looked at the Running Right Turn for both Sparkledancer and I, since that was the specific figure that we asked him about which brought up Quickstep in the first place two weeks ago.

Because Sparkledancer and I had figured out all our issues with the figure during previous practice sessions this past week, we were able to work with Lord Junior on refining our sway and Sparkledancer’s head movements during the figure rather than just focusing on the timing and footwork. The other students in class spent most of the hour just trying to get those pieces right, sometimes in pretty hilarious ways. It made the class pretty amusing to be in.

We started off the Running Right Turn in the first corner along one of the short walls of the studio, and used that figure to cover the whole short wall before going into another basic Natural Turn to turn the second corner. From there we did a few Open-level figures to close things out: an Open Impetus into a Promenade Lunge followed by an Oversway, and then to finish we did a series of bunny hops in place while holding out one leg before coming out into an Open Natural Turn. The hopping action was to bounce on the right leg for two beats, then the left leg for two, then one on the right leg, one on the left, and a final bounce on the right leg before settling and pushing out onto the left leg on the eighth beat so that we could go into the Open Natural Turn.

Wait a minute… when did that guy get here?

Class that night started out with myself, Apollo, Sparkledancer and a young lady who was home on break from college, but ten minutes into class Lord Junior’s intern also decided to join us once she finished up all the front desk stuff she had been working on. It was a good group of people to be around, because while all of us were willing to work hard to get what we were doing right, none of us took things so seriously that we couldn’t laugh when we messed things up. And trust me, we messed up enough to be laughing pretty consistently throughout the class.

After class was over, Apollo was hanging around and talking with Sparkledancer and the college girl. I got pulled into the conversation just before I took my shoes off. Apollo was asking about why he had so much trouble at the end of the Running Right Turn with the ladies rotating to go into Promenade Position. He had asked the ladies there if they had any thoughts, but also wanted to see if I could help out since I had gotten through the figure without anyone opening to Promenade Position for me.

After watching him do the Running Finish (which is what the last three steps of the Running Right Turn are), I saw him doing the same thing that I saw him do a couple of times during class when I was able to watch. As he was dancing with Sparkledancer and she was helping him feel what it was like to have his body in Contra-Body Movement Position (CBMP), I saw that he was also letting his left arm push forward. That turned out to be the key once I pointed out what he was doing.

Neither Sparkledancer nor the young college girl weighed very much (they are both really tiny compared to Apollo, and super small compared to me), so as he was rotating his body to be in CBMP, when he also brought his left arm forward the ladies couldn’t do anything to fight back and their bodies would open up away from him like Promenade Position. As soon as I had him pull his elbow back and keep it in line with his shoulder, the next time he tried the figure he was able to get the lady into Outside Partner without causing her to open all the way out to Promenade Position. Look at that! Group problem solving! If all four of us worked together, we could probably teach a class and be almost as competent as an actual instructor!

Maybe we all should look into career changes, just like Seedling. Do they allow “team teaching” for ballroom instructors? 🙂

The next few days are already pretty full of dance items for me. Lord Dormamu got back in town yesterday after his overseas excursion to some big training camp and competition. He had a friend of his, who also happens to be a high-level dance coach, meet him in town today so that they could discuss some business. Because he was in town for today only, I was signed up to meet with him for a coaching session before even meeting up with Lord Dormamu again so that he could look at my new routines to begin polishing them. So yeah… that was weird, but I’ll talk more about that coaching session next time.

I do have two lessons on the book for Friday and Saturday with Lord Dormamu to make up for not being able to see him over the last couple of weeks. Hopefully by the end of this weekend we will have our Tango routine completed and will be able to start looking at the other three to get his feedback on how we’ve been doing with them so far. So much to do!! I hope my brains survives the influx of information I am expecting…

Out Of The Ashes Of My Youth I Rise A Man

Would you look at that! I am finally getting new routines. It feels like I have been trapped, practicing and improving the same Bronze routines for 5,000 years, and suddenly someone has opened the window and I am able to finally get a breath of fresh air. As I write these down, I have this weird sense of accomplishment because I was able to prove that my fundamentals are strong enough to support moving up in the world, and also a sense of relief that I’m not stuck doing the same things over and over again in all the hours of practice that I put in every week.

Not that these routines are really groundbreaking per se – over all the years I have been dancing, I have had a chance to dance most of these figures somewhere before. A lot of them I have seen in Lord Junior’s Standard Technique class that I go to most weeks. Lord Junior has a philosophy that pushing students to do more advanced figures in a group class will help them improve faster, since a lot of the advanced figures require you to do the technique correctly to execute the figure properly.

My own coach has almost the opposite philosophy. He has told me that I should work on mastering the technique using the more basic figures first, and then as I move up the proficiency levels the technique will automatically be there in the figures that need it. That’s why he held my Amateur partner and I down in Bronze for so long to make sure that our fundamental technique was meeting his expectations. If all goes according to his plan, we should be able to pick up these routines quickly and move up to the next proficiency level in short order.

When I got together with my coach and Sparkledancer the first time on Saturday afternoon, we started out with the Waltz. The routine that he gave us was put together one wall at a time, and by the end of our session Sparkledancer and I were mostly able to get through it without having to stop and think about what figure comes next.

The easiest way to talk about what we did is just to map it out for you:

L Wall 1 S Wall 1 L Wall 2 S Wall 2
Starter Step Natural Spin Turn Reverse Pivot Natural Spin Turn Hesitation Change
Half Natural Turn Double Reverse Spin Turning Lock to Left Double Reverse Spin
Open Impetus Open Telemark Wing Half Reverse Turn
Weave from PP Chasse from PP Double Reverse Spin Basic Weave
Outside Change Half Natural Turn Progressive Chasse to Right Outside CHange
Chasse from PP Outside Change Chasse from PP
Half Natural Turn Cross Hesitation Half Natural Turn
Back Lock
Outside Spin
Reverse Corte
Back Whisk
Chasse from PP
Half Natural Turn

As you can see, there is a big difference between the first half of the routine and the second half. Lord Dormamu told me once we had the whole thing written down that he designs his routines like this on purpose. There isn’t a lot going on in the first half because that is where he wants me to be able to showcase the quality of my movement, so I am supposed to use those few figures to really move down the floor without doing anything complex. If I can’t get from one end of the floor to the other using just these figures, then he says that my movement isn’t going to be good enough to beat my competition.
By the time I get to the second half of the routine, he told me that during a normal competition most judges will have already marked me based on how good I am moving. Now I can include more of the figures from the Silver syllabus to show off my mastery of them to any lingering judges that haven’t made their marks yet. That does make for a tight fit trying to do so many figures on the second long wall. So far, as I’ve practiced the new routine, I have had to pull back my steps a lot on the second long and short walls to avoid running off the floor.

Wednesday night I got together with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu again. This time we went through our new Foxtrot routine. The Foxtrot we were given has a completely different focus. In this routine, Lord Dormamu wanted to put in multiple instances of one figure, which he told Sparkledancer and I we would be working on from now until the end of time in all of our Foxtrot routines: the Reverse Wave. According to him, this figure is the one that can make or break a competitive couple, from Closed Silver where the figure is introduced all the way to the highest proficiency levels in the Professional division where he used to compete. It is that important. That is why he put this routine together with multiple instances of that figure for us to work on:

L Wall 1 S Wall 1 L Wall 2 S Wall 2
Starter Step Feather Feather Open Telemark
Feather Open Telemark Reverse Wave Feather
Reverse Turn Natural Weave From PP Open Impetus Reverse Turn
Open Telemark Hover Telemark Weave from PP Basic Weave
Open Natural Turn Three Step Three Step
Outside Swivel Hover Cross Natural Turn
Basic Weave Closed Impetus
Reverse Wave Change of Direction
Hover Telemark

That last short wall may look like a lot crammed into a small space, but it really isn’t too bad. I thought the same thing at first when Lord Dormamu was walking through the figures with me, but so far I have only had to adjust the angles slightly to make that all fit in on a smaller floor. Obviously when we put these routines together while at the Endless Dance Hall, we have slightly more space to work with than anywhere else in the world, so I was a little worried at first that it would be too much. So far so good though.

Exciting, right? I have another session with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu on the books for Saturday morning, with plans to go through the Quickstep routine in the same way. Once we finish that, we will try and schedule another session within a few days to finish up the Tango as well. An actual routine for Viennese Waltz won’t be created. Silver only adds the Reverse Fleckerl to the mix for syllabus Viennese Waltz, so fitting that in occasionally when I dance won’t do too much to change how I was approaching Viennese Waltz up until this point.

Sparkledancer and I have made plans to meet up this weekend for a bit more practice than usual to make sure we have the three routines that we should have by that point memorized completely before we see Lord Dormamu again to get the Tango. Once we have all four, we’ll put in the hours needed to grind things out to get them into muscle memory and start working with Lord Dormamu on the minor adjustments needed to make them look as good as possible. If all goes well and we work hard and get everything cleaned up properly, our first potential competition to try these routines out may be the last weekend in July. There’s another competition that was thrown out at the end of June, but we thought that might be too early since we haven’t even finished all the routines yet. July seems feasible though, so we’ll see if we can make that happen.

So new stuff to help refresh interest, and get me out of this rut that I was kind of stuck in. Hooray! I’m sure it’s not actually as exciting as it feels when I am writing everything out. Hopefully next week I will be updating this list with the other two routines, and will be beginning to make all the pieces look the way that they are supposed to so that I can impress anyone watching me. We’ll see what happens!

My Tribe Went Down In The Hall Of Fame

Last weekend turned out to be kind of nutty. I got a text from Lord Junior last Thursday asking if I could meet up at the Electric Dance Hall late Saturday afternoon. He wanted to get the whole group of us who were going to the competition from his studio together that afternoon so that we could go over a few things before the event on Sunday. I got a hold of Sparkledancer and we agreed to rearrange our practice time on Saturday so that we would go practice at the Electric Dance Hall the hour before Lord Junior wanted everyone to meet up, that way when we finished we would already be there. If only I had known what I was getting myself into…

What Lord Junior wanted to tell all of us was that all the heads of the dance studios that were taking part in this competition had gotten together, and they decided that each studio was now a ‘team’ and all the teams were going to have to perform a group number at the start of the competition. He had thought about it and had come up with something that was completely ridiculous that he was going to have us all do. When he showed us all what he had in mind, it was really basic and silly, which I thought was a perfect performance number for me. None of us had trouble picking it up after about half an hour.

As an added bonus, Lord Junior brought his young daughter (I’m pretty sure she is only four or five years old) to join us. She was going to be our secret weapon, since she is tiny and adorable. Also, he had worked with her so that she already knew the movements for this performance, but she was watching everyone else to figure out the timing, so she was always a half-second behind the rest of us when she started the movements. But when she moved, she put so much enthusiasm into every move that it put all the rest of us to shame. It was the perfect idea that was definitely going to win our team all the adorable points for the whole day!

The reason that this competition ended up being on Sunday afternoon was so that the competition would fall on Cinco de Mayo, giving the competition organizers a theme to base the event around, and also giving all the competitors an excuse to drink heavily on a Sunday afternoon. There were bottles full of holiday-appropriate beverages that I’m sure you could think of that were provided for each team to enjoy together. I don’t drink, but the rest of the team that I was a part of more-than made up for my lack of participation in this area. The rest of my teammates managed to finish off the entire bottle that was given to our table before any of the other teams, and then they accepted a mostly-untouched bottle from one of the smaller teams at the competition to “help” them finish that off as well.

Can you hear the chorus from “We Are The Champions” swelling here? Seems appropriate, right? 😛

Since the drinking began before the first heat of the competition was even a thought in the DJ’s mind, as you can guess everyone was pretty jovial throughout the event. There was lots of cheering (and additional random thoughts) shouted out by the audience during each and every heat, and the organizers had mixed in some fun surprises throughout the competition to keep things from being super serious. And after about an hour or so, some catering company stopped by and dropped off tons of tortilla chips and salsa, and all the ingredients to put together any kind of taco your heart desired. The heats were running quick, so more than once I saw somebody take to the floor while still chewing on whatever snack they had tried to eat in between rounds.

Surprisingly enough, somehow the organizers talked the world-famous Judge Dread into being one of the two judges that watched that day. I had heard that Judge Dread was going to be in town last Saturday morning to give coaching sessions and hold workshops, so the organizers of this competition must have convinced him to hang around for one more day somehow. Probably using free tacos as a bribe. That would totally work on me, in case you ever need to get me to hang around someplace for a while longer. The other judge was a guy who I didn’t recognize at first because he was wearing an elaborate outfit that fit in with the theme, but he turned out to be one of the instructors from the City Dance Hall.

We started off the competition with the group numbers that every team had put together. Lord Junior had told us the day before that the group performance was supposed to be something short, like two minutes or less, but apparently not all of the teams got that message. A couple of them went on FOREVER – dancing to multiple songs that were spliced together to make their performance an elaborate presentation. One went on for so long that I actually got bored watching it. Still, the performances were silly – and may have been borderline culturally insensitive – but everyone there got a laugh out of them. Those performances pretty much set the tone for the rest of the event.

There were spots set aside in the schedule for “Mystery Rounds” that no one knew about until the day of the competition. When these rounds came up, the DJ had a member of the audience draw the name of one of the teams at random from a bowl. If your team was chosen, you had to go to the middle of the room and everyone had to dance to a song chosen at random by the DJ. Several of these mysterious songs turned out to be line dances, and a couple were just completely off-the-wall numbers that even I didn’t know. Supposedly each mystery round gave the teams points of some kind, but we never found out what they were worth. Since these mystery rounds happened a good ways into the competition after a lot of adult beverages had been consumed by members of each team, I don’t think anyone actually cared.

As far as the actual dancing goes… with all the decorations that were set up, and the tables around the outside of the floor for everyone to gather, the actual dance floor was really small. To give you an idea of how small – I was really trying to reel in my stride any time I was out on the floor, yet I still easily managed to cover the “long” wall of the dance floor using just an amalgamation of figures from the short wall of any of my routines.
On top of that, for a bunch of the routines they tried to fit ten to twelve couples on that tiny floor! My first real dance was a Quickstep, and that was a bit nerve wracking with so many bodies moving around in a small area. After my first couple of times out dancing, my routines pretty much got thrown out the window and I just used the figures piecemeal to get around as best I could without running into anyone. Safety first!

Most of the competitors who came to this competition were Pro/Am, so you would think that having to work so hard to avoid running into people wouldn’t be a huge concern. After all, many of the guys out on the floor Leading were supposed to be Pros, so theoretically they should be pretty good at getting around the floor safely, right? Well… there were a couple of them who had pretty questionable floorcraft skills. To make matters worse, they had mixed in American and International styles and all proficiency levels on the floor at the same time. That made navigating a rather interesting experience. In a lot of ways it felt more like being at a social dance rather than a competition.

For instance, that first Quickstep number I did – they ended up playing a slower Quickstep song, which was helpful to make things safer, but the reason that the song was slower was because there was one couple on the floor that was dancing Peabody instead of Quickstep. The handful of Viennese Waltz numbers I did were done using American Viennese Waltz tempo songs, but I had to navigate around couples who would break frame in the middle of the line of dance rather than go to the middle of the room, so that definitely kept me on my toes.

I have no idea how I actually did that day. As I mentioned, supposedly the competition was being scored with some kind of point system, and all the points from each team member were put together to decide which team was the best. The way they decided to do it must have been overly complicated though, because even though they had been periodically updating everyone with the scores for each team throughout the day, at the end when all the rounds were done they still had to sit at the desk for over half-an-hour with a couple of calculators to see which team won. You know the math is complicated when you need more than one calculator to solve the equation!

But I did get stopped by a number of people I didn’t know after all the rounds were over who wanted to tell me how good I looked while out on the floor, or to ask me where it was I trained and who my instructor was. Sparkledancer told me that a bunch of people did the same thing to her as well. I guess that indicates we were doing pretty well, right? It was a bit confusing to be asked who my coach was. Since there are so few actual Amateur competitors in the area, most people I run into already know who Sparkledancer and I are, because we stand out. I was surprised to run into several people all in the same place who didn’t already know my dance-life history. That doesn’t happen very often.

Monday night I headed off to Latin Technique class. Because Lord Junior had danced in almost all the heats in the competition the day before, we ended up looking at some Rumba to give him a bit of a break. He had us all work on the opening section from his basic Open-level routine that he uses with many of his high-level students. I’ve seen most of the figures from this amalgamation that we did before, just not necessarily in this order. None of the figures were all that exciting, so I don’t really need to remember them for later.

Standard Technique class was actually more fun, so I’ll just leave Latin Technique alone and talk about Standard Technique instead. Only a few of us showed up for class, which allowed us to cover a lot more material in our time together than we normally do when more people show up. I find it more entertaining to go through a lot of different figures in a short period of time, so classes like this really appeal to me. We decided to look at Waltz, since it had been a while since we used that style.

What we went through that night started out with a Progressive Chasse to the RIght into a Back Lock, and then an Outside Spin to turn a corner and head down the next wall. Moving in that direction we did a Checked Natural Turn and Reverse Pivot going into a Double Reverse Spin, then an Open Telemark that came out heading down the line of dance still. Connected to that we added a Curved Chasse from Promenade Position, turning us 90° to go around another corner.
Rather than continue traveling so much after all that, Lord Junior added in an in-place figure by doing a Right-Side Lunge with an Oversway in that corner, coming out by shifting our weight back to the left leg for a beat and doing one last Reverse Pivot so that we could go into a basic Reverse Turn heading toward diagonal center. The whole of this progression will take you down the end of one long wall, through the short wall, and come out at the beginning of the next long wall if you position yourself correctly on the floor when you start. Fun times!

It feels like forever since I’ve seen my coach. The last few weeks he has been running around all over the country giving coaching, and then he was competing at some big Pro/Am event last weekend. I was actually supposed to see him earlier this week, but he injured himself and had to cancel. Hopefully he will be back in dancing shape soon so that we can get together and look over things.