When The Stars Make You Drool Just Like A Pasta Fazool

I had a pretty busy weekend full of dance activities. All of that coupled with the time change meant that I woke up Monday morning feeling even more exhausted than I did when I went to bed Sunday night. There’s a voice in the back of my head that keeps telling me that I should just take a “sick day” from work some day soon and stay home to sleep all day. Will I do it? Not likely. But the siren song of that voice and its ideas are a very persuasive sound…

Where to even start? Let’s see… well, Friday night I went out to a social dance at the Electric Dance Hall. There were a couple of reasons that I headed out there. First off, I haven’t gone to many social dances of late. I spend a ton of time in dance studios for lessons and practice, but I seem to rarely go out and actually see people who I know anymore. Several friends had asked me if I was planning on going to this party, so I felt like I should be there. Also, a while back I had brought a big poster over to the Electric Dance Hall at Lord Dormamu’s request that advertised the big charity event that was happening on Saturday. Lord Dormamu needed that poster back before the event Saturday night, so I figured I could also pick it up while I was out at the social dance. I am so efficient sometimes!

HotDog was at the party that night. Sometimes I really don’t know what to do when he is around. He will come talk to me, and it’s fine as long as I just smile and nod along with whatever he is saying, but anytime I try to say something he has to make some sort of grand comeback to show that he is better than me… even if I am the only person within earshot. Maybe he is just desperate for attention? Sparkledancer has told me in the past that he likes to text her a lot during the day, heaping awkward compliments on her and fishing for her to do the same back to him. Is that what he is looking for from me as well? If he had my phone number, would I get those same kinds of text messages? That would be a little weird.

Saturday night was the big charity dance gala that Lord Dormamu had been putting together for the last few months. The show was taking place in a big theater in the downtown area of one of the Dance Kingdom’s big cities. In my youth I was much more apt to go and hang out in various downtown areas of big cities with friends, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve stopped doing that. Especially now that I spend all my free time practicing for dance competitions, it is very rare for me to go anywhere other than a dance studio on a weekend. I was kind of amazed when I first got downtown for the event, because so many things had changed since the last time I had been downtown.

I volunteered to be helpful that night in my capacity as a member of the Royal Dance Court. Originally I had thought that I would be hanging out at the venue doing some sort of odd job, but it turns out that I got to do something that was slightly more interesting. See, Lord Dormamu, being the big name guy that he is, had gone directly to the King of the Dance Kingdom to ask for his blessing on this charity function. Lord Dormamu thought that if the King deemed the event worthy, then he could use that as a marketing ploy to get more people to buy tickets, and thus raise more money for the charity the event was giving to.

The King actually liked the idea of the event so much that he decided that not only would he give the event his blessings, but also that he would come and watch the show! How’s that for an endorsement? In addition to that, the King asked one of his Grand Viziers to attend the event with him. That gentleman ended up being my job for the night. The Grand Vizier lived in a far-off portion of the Dance Kingdom, so Lord Dormamu bought him a plane ticket to the city where the show was being held. His plane was to land at the airport exactly one hour before the show started, and it was my job to pick him up at the airport and haul ass to the theater downtown as fast as I could. I maaaaaaaay have broken a few minor traffic laws in that process…

Once I had safely deposited the Grand Vizier at the front door of the theater and then found a place to park my car, I managed to get into the theater myself. Lord Dormamu was in the lobby schmoozing with all of the people showing up, but he stopped to come say hello to me when I got there, thank me for getting my ‘cargo’ to the event, and told me that if I wanted I could go sit and help out at the donations table for the evening. With no reason not to do so, I wandered through the lobby to find the table, and guess who I found sitting there running things? None other than Sparkledancer! Now I knew that this was a good place for me to hang out, since at least I would have someone I knew there to talk to.

The show itself was great. Lord Dormamu seems to be friends with everyone in the world who is somehow connected to dancing (ballroom or otherwise), so he managed to talk to a bunch of high-level dancers who lived within an hour or so of the city the performance was in, and convinced them to perform for free to benefit the charity. We’re talking several current and former National Champions, World Champions, a pair of national champions from one of the franchise circuits (that was an unexpected sight), and many of the city’s ballroom studio owners and their professional partners – all coming together to put on a show!

There were video introductions before the first performance of each couple, and many of them remarked in those videos how they all compete against each other all the time in the highest echelons of dance competitions, but they all wanted to put aside those rivalries to help out for a bigger cause when asked. I got to watch most of the performances, since there wasn’t much reason for Sparkledancer and I to sit out in the lobby trying to collect donations while everyone was in the audience. Seeing all of these high-level dancers perform for without having to pay for a ticket made it even better for me. 😉

When the performances were over, I was back out in the lobby collecting donations. The end of the night seemed to be when most people wanted to donate – we got a handful of people during intermission, but the bulk of the donations came as people walked through the lobby to exit the theater. Sparkledancer and I hung around until all the audience members had left, and the Grand Vizier finally came out from talking with all the performers, and then the three of us left to head over to the after-party.

If you remember, back when I went to the meeting where Lord Dormamu introduced the concept for this show to a bunch of us, those of us who weren’t members of this charity’s foundation convinced him that it would be a good idea to hold the after-party in conjunction with the already-scheduled social dance that was going on that night. That social dance was being put on by the dance club that President Porpoise is in charge of, so as soon as I arrived I introduced the Grand Vizier to President Porpoise so that they could chat for a bit. Since I hadn’t eaten anything since lunch that day, and it was already almost 10:00PM, I wandered off to find out if there were any good snacks left in the snack room.

I swear I ate my body weight in cheese and crackers, because that was pretty much all that was left. While I was pigging out, the King decided to give a short, impromptu speech on how happy he was that all of his subjects in the Dance Kingdom could come together to put on fabulous events like the gala he had just watched, and support charities that promote dancing in the process. While he was talking, one of the decorations for the party was making noise, and President Porpoise couldn’t figure out how to disable the sensor that triggered it. He ended up detaching the part of the decoration that contained the speaker and running into the snack room where I was standing with it, hoping that by taking the speaker farther away people wouldn’t hear it as much. That was pretty funny.

Sparkledancer came to join me at one point during the speech, and she decided to grab her own plate and feast on various cookies that were on the snack table. That was pretty much where we stayed the rest of the evening, at least until I had to leave to head home and do some work. Several people came to talk with us while we were in that back room, but neither of us did any real dancing that night. Only eating. If I do this sort of thing again, I will probably remember to try to eat some kind of dinner beforehand.

While the King departed to do kingly things shortly after the evening festivities concluded, Lord Dormamu had set up the plane ticket that he purchased for the Grand Vizier to all for a block of time on Sunday that the Grand Vizier could meet with students to give coaching. Somehow, after all the talk I had last week about thinking that I had so many different people giving me dance advice, I ended up taking one of those coaching sessions…

I know Lord Dormamu asked if I wanted to take the coaching mostly out of political motivations. After all, this gentleman is also a well-known adjudicator for many dance competitions, so the chances of me being judged by him in the future is high. It is better for me if he knows a little about who I am as a dancer, rather than just as a chauffeur, right? That’s what I kept telling myself as I agreed to do it. The only bad part about agreeing to the earliest morning session on Sunday was that when Lord Dormamu asked me about it on Friday, I didn’t realize Daylight Savings Time was also this past weekend. If I had known that before I agreed to do it, I probably would have at least asked if there was a later session I could go to instead.

Aside from being tired the whole time due to the time shift, having the coaching with this Grand Vizier was actually fascinating. We didn’t really work on our routines at all, surprisingly enough. What we spent the majority of the time discussing was how dancers should be using their feet. Obviously feet are pretty important for dancing, since that’s (for most people) the only part of your body that is actually on the dance floor!

This turned into one of those kinds of discussions that I like having with people who have achieved super-high levels of accomplishment in the dance world, where they don’t talk about just ‘how’ to do steps and technique, but rather they tell you all about the mechanics of the human body and how to use that to create the right movement.

Side note: I have found over the last year that coaches who are younger, who achieved National and International recognition for competing more recently, have studied dancing from more of an athletic perspective, and they understand (and can explain) much more about using the body to accomplish the dance. Older coaches who were champions eons ago just tell you to make your dancing look a certain way, but never really explain it much further than that. For me personally, knowing the mechanics really helps me accomplish what I am trying to do, much more than someone just telling me to do it a certain way, and if I can’t do it on the first couple of tries then I just need to try harder.

Grand Vizier guy explained that there are actually four separate feelings that the foot will experience when you are moving. These sensations all happen in greater or lesser proportions depending on the type of figure you are doing, but they are always in the same order. You can think about this the next time you are just walking down the hallway in your office one day. When you take a step you experience:

  1. Resistance – contrary to what you may think, the first thing that you experience when you take a step is resistance. Most people will lean forward slightly, allowing gravity to help them with the job of moving. This will create the feeling of resistance on the ball of your standing leg’s foot as it is pressed down into the floor.
  2. Release – once you have leaned forward enough to allow gravity to help push your spine forward, you should experience the initial resistance that you built up under the ball of your foot releasing.
  3. Control – as you are moving forward, your back leg does not come off the floor immediately. It will linger there on the floor behind you, helping to control your balance and direction.
  4. Push – when you finally shift your weight to your other leg, the standing leg should give you one last push to help you start the leaning function again, which will start creating the feeling of resistance on the next foot as you continue to walk forward.

We spent some time slowly going through these feelings using a small chunk of our Waltz routine for practice. The Grand Vizier told us that while this is a good concept to know and a good way to help us work on our footwork in places of the routine where we screw the footwork up, we shouldn’t let the idea get out of hand. He has known people who would walk through each figure of their routines figuring out exactly where the resistance, release, control and push is with every step, and how much emphasis to put with each of those feelings. He personally thinks that it going way too far. So, if you’ve never heard of this idea before either, take from it what you need as you practice.

The other interesting concept that he told me in that coaching session was about my frame. His view on getting the frame right was very different from anyone else I have worked with. He told me specifically that he has heard all sorts of instructors in the past tell their students to do all kinds of wonky things to try to get their topline to look right. Because I have large muscular shoulders, he said that he bet I’d been told to try to roll my shoulders back or pull them down quite a bit (which I have).

What he told me to think about was not my shoulders, but my spine. According to him, the human body is built to have everything in the correct place with the spine in the center connecting it all together. If I am about to get into frame with my partner, he wants me to take a minute and just adjust my spine to make sure it is straight and long from my tailbone to the place where it is attached to my skull. If I do that, he says that my shoulders should naturally be in the right place when I raise my arms. For students that he works with frequently, if he finds their shoulders sticking up when they are in frame, nine times out of ten he can fix it by having them straighten their spine completely rather than moving the shoulders around to adjust.

That’s definitely a different way to think about a problem I have. Likely I will have to spend some time in front of a mirror trying things out to see what works best, but maybe this will make a difference for me. We’ll have to see!

Finally, in Standard Technique class this week I worked on some Foxtrot, and we did a lot of different Feathers. A lot. I mean, I know there are a bunch of different figures that involve the Feather in International Foxtrot, but I don’t think I’ve ever done choreography that has contained so many before. If we had tried to add even one more, I might have just flown away!

Terrible joke, really. Give me a bit, I’ll try to think of a better one…

For those of you who are mildly interested, the choreography is as follows: starting with a prep step, we did a basic Feather, then an Open Telemark with a Feather Ending. That moved into a Three Step and then to a Gold-level figure called ‘Curved Feather to Back Feather’ which is basically those two Feathers stuck together, and then you do a Feather Finish to end it. To change things up a bit at the end, we added on an Open-level figure that was basically a Overspin from a syncopated Viennese Reverse Turn, finishing with a Change of Direction.

I’m going to preen a little, so I will say that the choreography went fairly well for me (see, that was a much more sophisticated feather joke! Good job me!). Some of the others in class were definitely struggling with certain figures. I know that the syncopated Viennese Waltz-style Reverse Turn threw off a lot of the ladies as we tried to get through and tack on the Reverse Pivot at the end.

There was one new lady in class that night who was struggling a lot with the figures. Watching her dance, I could see that she had some sort of background in ballroom dancing, but I had never seen her before. As we walked through the steps, there were a few times where I swear that it looked like she was going to cry because she kept fumbling up the footwork. I felt bad for her, so when I finally rotated through and had a chance to dance with her, I asked how things were going. She told me it wasn’t going too well, so I offered to step through what we had so far slowly in practice hold to help her get the footwork down.

After that initial walk-through, I was walking back with her to where we had started, and she started asking me weird questions. She asked me if these figures were in the normal syllabus for International Foxtrot. At this point, we had only gotten through the beginning up to the Three Step, so I told her that the figures were common Bronze and Silver figures from the syllabus I was familiar with. Then she told me that she had spent a lot of time learning International Foxtrot in the past, but none of these figures were familiar to her at all, so she wondered what the heck was going on. By that time, I had to rotate, so I didn’t get to continue that conversation any further at that point.

I finally got another chance to talk to her after class was finished, and I started by asking her where she had been taking classes before she showed up at the Electric Dance Hall. As it turns out, she hadn’t been ‘taking’ classes before, but rather she had been teaching ballroom at a franchise studio in the area! Where she had been working, apparently the syllabus that they used for International Standard was nothing like what we had been doing that night in class. In fact, she had never even seen a Heel Turn before! I had thought that was a basic concept that everyone who does International style starts working on pretty early.

Then she asked me if all of us in Standard Technique that night were also instructors. I feel kind of bad, but that question made me laugh out loud. When I managed to collect myself, I told her that no one but Lord Junior and herself had ever taught ballroom before – the rest of us were all just students who had been dancing for a long time, and most of us trained to dance competitively. That information really seemed to shock her. From the look on her face, I would guess that she never really dealt with advanced students at whatever franchise location she had been teaching at.

Lord Junior came over at that point and told her that he was going to go through Heel Turns for a bit so that she could see what they were. I took that as my cue to leave, but before I did I told her that she shouldn’t feel bad about how class went, and she should come back next week to do it again with us. Lord Junior smiled at me and told me that she would definitely be back, because he was working with her so that she could start teaching at the Electric Dance Hall soon. Surprise! So I guess we will all likely see her again in the future at some point.

Maybe she’ll even stick around long enough that I will have to come up with a name for her. It’s been quite a while since anyone new has done that. I wonder what kind of cool and/or funny name I can come up with…


I’m So Powerful, I Don’t Need Batteries To Play

Oh man, a second post this week? I must have all sorts of free time if I am able to write so much! Either that or I did something dance-related that I need to remember in the future. I’ll give you a little hint: it’s the latter.

Let’s start off chronologically though, since that works best for my brain when I have to review things later. The first thing I did that is worth remembering was my lesson with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven on Saturday afternoon. We took our time together to work on continuing to try to improve our dancing based on the review notes that we got back from the judges the weekend prior. This week we focused exclusively on Foxtrot. The specific notes that Sir Steven wanted to have us work on were the two that read “Knees need to flex more when receiving the weight on the slow; Slows need to be fuller to show contrast from quicks.”

We went about this in a weird manner. I think, now that I have had a few days to digest what was going on, that I kind of understand what Sir Steven was trying to get Sparkledancer and I to do, but I was really confused by the method during our time together. Parts of it just felt wrong, and went counter to a lot of the techniques for moving in Foxtrot that I have been working on for so long, which may have been what brought on most of my confusion.

What we were doing saw us just using a simple Feather and Three Step combination while we took steps. Sir Steven wanted us to work on really driving as we took the first step, and then taking the last two steps of the figures with straight legs. Yup, you read that right, straight legs, like in a Latin dance. Obviously practicing the steps like this slowly will easily fix the issue of taking the steps with my knees bent, which makes it look like I never fully straighten my legs while moving, but how we were doing it also added significant rise to the figure, which is something I was told to never do. Remember in the past when I told you about Lord Dormamu’s theory of Foxtrot, described as a body of water? Yeah, adding ‘waves’ to my Foxtrot completely goes against that theory.

The whole lesson was spent pretty much like this, first using slow Feather and Three Step combinations, then moving up to slowly walking through our routine and applying the same action. Again, it felt weird to me, but Sir Steven thought that it helped by the time we were near completed for the day. As my luck would have it, as we were nearing the end of our lesson, the Princess arrived at the Fancy Dance Hall. She had a coaching session scheduled with a client at that location Saturday afternoon. While she was waiting for her client to arrive, Sir Steven asked her if she would want to watch Sparkledancer and I do our Foxtrot routine, to see if she could see improvements.

So we danced for her, then we had to stop and show her the notes from the judges that we were actually working on, then we had to dance for her again once she was on the same page. Her take on the proper approach in order to fix our issues was completely different from Sir Steven’s take. The Princess told me that I was basically off time when taking the slow steps in each figure, and that is what was causing all of the issues I was having. She had actually sat and watched a private coaching session with that world champion judge guy and a different male student of the Fancy Dance Hall where the judge tried to help the student fix the same problem she saw me doing.

To make the explanation easier, it turns out she had  grabbed a video of the world champion guy and this student dancing the same steps in Foxtrot side-by-side, and she forwarded the video to me so that I could have a copy to refer to. Watching the two men dance the same figures was enlightening. Though the music is playing and they start each figure on the same beat, it looks like the male student is off time compared to the world champion. On his slow steps in each figure, the judge always takes the weight onto his moving leg on beat two, whereas I (and the male student in the video) tend to transfer from leg to leg on beat one, so it looks like we are rushing even if the next two steps are on time.

The Princess told me that if I were to work on fixing my timing to look more like the world champion guy in the video, that would help fix my issues. For one, it would definitely improve the timing contrast between the slow and quick steps in each figure. But the best way to really make sure that I transfer weight later in each slow is to continue to stretch through my legs longer, which means that likely I will take bigger steps, fully extending my legs in the process, and since the legs are spread farther I will have to really pull my legs together, which will require flexing my knees, at the end of the slow step.

So… no problem, right? I should be able to fix that easily! Sigh… I just know that this is going to probably take me hours of repetition with each figure in my routine, likely danced with really slow music playing to force me to slow down and think about every single step. Sounds like soooo much fun. 😛

I finally managed to meet up with my coach Lord Dormamu this past Saturday as well. He’s been out either competing or running competitions the last several weekends in a row, so the last time I saw him was the first of last month, if I remember correctly. When we got together, we had a lot of things to talk about because of all the stuff that has happened over the prior three weeks.

The first thing that he wanted to sit and review with Sparkledancer and I were the feedback notes that we received from the judges, the same notes I had just shown to the Princess. In general, he seemed rather pleased with what he saw. There weren’t any notes that any of the judges had written that Lord Dormamu wasn’t already working on with us, and he was happy with the notes that we got about how we were fun to watch and had charisma. As Lord Dormamu put it, there is no way that he could teach either Sparkledancer or I to dance with charisma, that is something you either have or you don’t, so he was delighted that the judges thought we had it.

The next major thing we had to discuss was what Sparkledancer and I should be working toward next. It’s always nice to have something on the calendar to work toward, so we talked about what competitions that each of us knew were in the near future in the Dance Kingdom. We settled on one that is coming up around the end of April as our next event, and even talked about several that were coming up shortly after that which we should seriously consider. The one in April I’m feeling fairly good about, since it’s less than an hour away and it’s on a weekend, so there aren’t any conflicts to consider. Some of the others involve a bit more travel, so Sparkledancer and I will have to discuss those to see if we can both make it work with our work schedules.

Business out of the way, we started to look at dancing, and since we had the comments from the judges handy, Lord Dormamu had us start right at the top of the list with Waltz and the first two notes I wrote out last week (More rise and fall actions need developing; More lowering and rising). This was another one of those instances where Lord Dormamu thought of a different way to explain the mechanics of a certain dance technique to me so that I could understand how to apply the concept more easily.

Rising is the easy part, and he didn’t think that I needed to work on that at all this past weekend. It was actually the lowering action that I was doing when Sparkledancer and I demonstrated our Waltz for him that he thought needed the work. Over the years, I was taught by several people that when lowering, I should be bending my standing leg kind of like I was doing a single-leg squat (i.e. going straight down). Doing things in this manner does give the illusion of me lowering, but it also kills my movement in the process. If he were to let us advance to higher-level figures where we bring our feet together less often, this would become very problematic.

What he actually wants to see when I lower is my knees to come forward without moving my foot/feet, to the point where I would need to lift my heels off the ground. I got taken over to a wall to practice this action. Standing with my arms out in front of me on the wall, I was told to bring my knees forward and bend my elbows to alloy my body to move toward the wall. This is the feeling that lowering in the Waltz should give me every time I do it

When moving forward, this action will have me driving my body into my partner before even moving my feet. If I am going backward, the forward drive from my partner is a definite signal that I need to be preparing my leg backward to take the next step, because if I don’t then she just runs into me. And my body is fairly solid, so if I make my partner run into me, it’s probably going to hurt. Promenade Position is obviously a little different. If you rotate to Promenade Position properly by turning your nose and toes, the falling action will have both partners’ knees moving forward in the same direction.

We also talked briefly about two other points on the list (Beautiful closing action on the natural turn. More consistent with this; Closing action in natural turn could be more precise). When we danced through the routine for Lord Dormamu, he thought that our Natural Turns looked really good, but he wasn’t at the competition we did to see what the judges saw that day. He assumed they were talking about us closing our feet together with one foot being in front of the other, like you should see in Tango, but not in Waltz.

His advice to make our closing action on the Natural Turn (and any other place where we close our feet together) more precise was to not think about bringing our feet together, but just to think about bringing the toes of our feet together. For most people who aren’t pigeon toed, they can’t bring their toes together without the rest of their feet being together without a lot of difficulty. According to him, if that was really the issue the judges were referring to, focusing on just that small change should fix the precision issue pretty quickly.

Class on Monday night was pretty small, with only four of us showing up to attend Latin Technique. Even though that meant my vote counted for 25% of the total, I still got outvoted and we worked on Samba that night. Yay……………. Can you feel my excitement? Does it come through the screen like a slap in the face? Probably not. I’m too nice to slap you!

The big competition that Lord Junior and his students are preparing for is this coming weekend, so in class we were reviewing some figures that Veep uses in her Silver Samba routine with Lord Junior. The pattern itself was pretty simple footwork-wise: we started off by doing three Reverse Turns, but later in class Lord Junior cut that down to just one so that he could prevent us from traveling so far away from him. After the last (or only) Reverse Turn we did two Back Rocks, then a Plait, which is essentially the Samba equivalent of Chicken Walks you would see in various Swing dance styles. After the Plait we finished by bringing the lady across us to get back into dance position during one final Reverse Turn.

There were a couple of tricky points for me specifically during that lesson. First off, the Back Rocks. These aren’t like the rocking action you see in Tango, which is essentially what I tried to do the first time through the figure. There is about a quarter-turn of rotation in the course of the Back Rock, and a little slide action with the front foot when you shift your hips forward. So it’s actually like you step back with an 8th of a turn rotation and shift your hips back, slide your other foot forward and to the outside a little to do another 8th of a turn as you shift your hips forward, and then shift your hips back over the standing leg again to prepare for the next figure. I kept wanting to pick my front foot up instead of sliding it for some reason, which was bad.

Next up, the Plait. The first couple of times through the figure, when I would take that delayed action step backward onto the ball of my foot with my heel off the ground, I was letting my knees track in the direction that my toes were pointed, mostly because that was comfortable for me. Lord Junior stopped me and made me redo the step action and bring my knee inward while twisting my foot so that I could step on the inside edge with my toes till pointed outward. Yikes. Luckily we were near a mirror, so I could walk through it a few times while watching to see what I was doing.

Finally, there was Ms. Possible. Yes, she was one of the tricky parts for me that night. I have real trouble dancing with Ms. Possible for some reason, and apparently it is always my fault. I know I’m not a Latin competitor, so obviously I have trouble with techniques I don’t use all the time, but as soon as she hears that I am doing something wrong, like with my knees in the Plait, that ends up being the whole reason that she can never do the figure successfully with me. Even after I step through things enough to fix what I was doing wrong. Even after Lord Junior stops her to tell her that she is doing parts of the figures wrong. Even though I can switch partners and dance through the same choreography with Veep with no trouble at all. Nope, Ms. Possible still blames me, loud enough for everyone in the studio to hear.

I wonder if that has anything to do with the fact that Sparkledancer and I have directly competed against her and her amateur partner a few times at this point, and we always do better than the two of them. Maybe she is holding a grudge against me for that? I don’t know. I like to believe I am nice, so I don’t know why she would treat me like that. The other guy in class Monday night had trouble the same choreography with her as well, but she never blamed him for it like she was doing with me. Hmm… what can I do to make her my friend again? I’ll have to think about this for a bit.

Standard Technique class was also used by Lord Junior to give Veep some extra practice on a section of one of her routines. Hopefully all the extra practice he worked in for her will result in awesome scores this weekend when she competes! The routine they had been working on in their lesson that day was her Open Waltz routine, and there were a couple of fairly challenging figures back-to-back that she needed to perfect.

The two figures in question were variations on more basic figures that people who have done International Waltz before have likely gone through. We started the set with a basic Chasse from Promenade Position just to build up some momentum to carry us through the turns at the end. I believe the technical name of the next figure would be ‘Overspin from a Quick Open Reverse Turn.’ You take an Open Reverse Turn (which is a Reverse Turn where you pass your feet at the end), add in an extra syncopated step at the beginning because you are starting on the wrong foot when finishing the Chasse From Promenade Position, then add a Reverse Pivot at the end.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, if that was too easy for you, we connected onto the end of that a Overspin from a Double Reverse Spin. Take the Double Reverse Spin, which is arguably the most difficult figure in the Bronze syllabus for Waltz (and Quickstep), and then add on a Reverse Pivot to the end of that too. That’s why I mentioned using the Chasse from Promenade Position to create momentum – the Chasse and the first couple of steps of the Quick Open Reverse Turn are the only traveling that you get to do. Once you start the first Reverse Pivot, and then for the entire Overspin from a Double Reverse Spin, you will barely cover any ground.

The big trick to getting all the turns at the end to work properly is for the ladies to keep their bodies (especially their heads) out to the left. You may have heard that advice once or twice if you are a lady that dances International Standard often. With the head weight on the outside of the circle as we try to turn, it helps us get all the way around. If the lady straightens up and puts her head over her feet, then it becomes a struggle to get the turns to rotate as much as they need to. As you can guess, each of the Reverse Pivots we did was supposed to rotate 180° to set us up for the next figure, so killing the rotation would also hurt whatever figure we would go into afterward.

I think it’s going to be a quiet weekend around the rest of the Dance Kingdom since so many people will be congregating at the Dance Death Arena for this weekend’s Pro/Am competition extravaganza. I thought about offering my time to help out behind the scenes as a volunteer for the event, but then I realized that if everyone was gone, I could get in a bunch of practice without having to share floorspace. The last couple of weeks the dance floors where I normally practice have been filled with people taking extra lessons to get ready for this competition, so I have had to keep my own practice contained, or only work on small sections to avoid running into anyone.

If you are competing this weekend, good luck! I hope that you manage to kick some names and take some ass, or however that saying normally goes. I’ll give you a high-five for every heat that you win if you happen to be nearby. My arms are only so long, so I have a limited range of where my high fives can be received from, but I’ll make an effort!

Renew Our Faith Which Way We Can

I’m not sure what’s been going around lately, but on both Saturday morning and Tuesday night I had lessons that were cancelled because someone got sick. First thing on Saturday morning I got a text from Sir Steven saying that he had to cancel because he was feeling too ill to teach that day. I made sure to put that free time to good use and finally got in some real stretching, like wrote about wanting to do last week. I felt a lot less stiff afterward, and I’ve only needed to add in a bit of light stretching after my workouts since then to maintain that feeling. Yay me!

Then on Tuesday night I was supposed to meet with some fancy coach person that Lord Dormamu was planning on having in town, but she cancelled her trip because she was feeling too ill to travel. What are the chances? I hope that she and Sir Steven didn’t have the same illness. That would be crazy! Luckily, Sparkledancer and I took the time we would have otherwise used with this coach and practiced instead, so Tuesday night was still time well spent for me.

There are a bunch of people at my place of employment that have been out sick recently as well. Lucky for me that I have my own office and no one comes to visit me too often, so I have a reduced chance of catching anything while I’m at work. With all the crazy dance things going on, I don’t think I have time to deal with some kind of sickness knocking me on my butt for days. There’s training to be done!

I still had one item on the books for Saturday (or two, depending on how you look at it), and that was a double lesson with Lord Dormamu. At this point we have officially decided to do both competitions that the three of us had discussed during our last lesson, so now we have to make sure that both Sparkledancer and I are ready to take to the floor at each event and do the best that we can. Having twice as much time with Lord Dormamu that afternoon allowed us to look at all four of our primary routines more thoroughly than we would have been able to otherwise, so I got notes for everything!

To prove that practice really can make a difference (and even more practice can make even more of a difference), this week, after watching Sparkledancer and I run through all of our routines for him, Lord Dormamu stopped us to say that he could see a night and day difference between what we showed him at the beginning of our lesson the week prior and what we just showed him that morning. I felt relieved to hear that from him, and also disappointed in myself that I had let things slack off so noticeably before.

Never again! If that means that I am going to have to keep up this exhausting practice schedule, then I guess that’s what I’m going to have to do until the day I retire from being a competitive dancer. Or the day that I burn out from exhaustion, since I don’t intend to give up my rigorous exercise regimen either! Let’s find out what happens first, shall we?

There were a couple of notes that Lord Dormamu gave the two of us that encompassed all of our routines which he wanted us to work on. For me, it was (as usual) to make sure and pull my head back and to the left. He said that he could tell when I was thinking a lot about what I was doing because I let my head start to fall forward. I was also told to work on pulling my left elbow back farther while turning my left side toward Sparkledancer more across all dances, especially when I am in Promenade Position.

Sparkledancer was told that she still needs to work on creating more volume. I guess that is going to be a constant note for her until she is able to dance with her hair sliding along the floor. In addition to that, she was also told to work on turning her side in more toward me, though for her it is her right side instead of her left.

That leaves the notes that I got for each specific routine. Our best dance that morning was the Waltz, according to Lord Dormamu. The only thing pertaining to that style that he commented on was that Sparkledancer needed to make her heel steps more distinct. Obviously there are very few places overall where Sparkledancer is driving forward and needs to take a heel lead, so she doesn’t get much practice with this action. Still, as Lord Dormamu has said many times (and said again on during this lesson), most judges are “old, blind and stupid” so things like footwork need to be as distinct as possible so you don’t get marked down.

From the Waltz we moved on to Quickstep, and this was where we made the most dramatic changes that day. He mentioned that both Sparkledancer and I needed to watch our footwork on the Forward Lock and the Running Finish to make sure that we both made our steps distinct during those figures. It wasn’t wrong per se, he just thought that some of the steps looked more flat-footed than he would have liked from where he was standing.

Then we got to the corner of the routine where we had a Hesitation. The first time through the routine that day, he said that he wanted to come back to that corner later. ‘Later’ didn’t actually happen until near the end of our session that day. We had come back around to Quickstep again after finishing up Tango and Foxtrot. Lord Dormamu was dancing through part of the routine with Sparkledancer, and when he got to that corner he remembered wanting to look at the steps, and the two of them began changing things.
Apparently Lord Dormamu told Sparkledancer that the Hesitation was “too boring” and he wanted to take it out and put in something better. What he ended up giving us I believe would be called a Overspin from a Natural Spin Turn. Basically we do a Natural Spin Turn where the first two beats are normal. On the third beat I take a step to the side and hold, adding in just a bit of body rise. Sparkledancer does a fancy head flick while we hold like that for some reason. Finally on beat four I step backward onto my right foot and do a Reverse Pivot to get us facing the right direction to go into the Double Reverse Spin that comes next in the routine.

According to Lord Dormamu, all the steps by themselves are Bronze, so connecting them in this manner should be just fine. I’ve done figures like this before, notably a Overspin from a Double Reverse Spin, but I have always been told that those are Open-level variations… so we’ll have to see if anyone gives us any grief for using this specific variation. I’m sure that if I told any judges that have issues with the figure that Lord Dormamu told me to use it, they would change their minds and decide that the figure is fine. Lord Dormamu seems to know all the judges. All of them.

After we finished Quickstep we moved on to Tango. The big thing that Lord Dormamu said about our Tango this week was that he was seeing us rise up during transitions, rather than staying at the same level consistently through the whole routine. He also wanted us to work on making our movements more staccato. Apparently our Tango was flowing much more than he would like that day, looking more like a Foxtrot than a Tango.

He gave us an exercise that we can use to work on this issue, which he told us to do at all our practices until we get it right. Starting off facing one another, Sparkledancer and I are supposed to press our hands together palm-to-palm, and then whomever is moving forward will drive off the standing leg and stop. The person moving backward drives off their standing leg to travel, but once they finish shifting their weight they will have a little additional movement to prepare the free leg for the next step. This is supposed to help us learn to get away from using the momentum of the previous step to carry us into the next, like you would in a Waltz or Foxtrot.

Two other quick notes on the Tango we were told: we looked at the corner that has the right-side lunge a little. Lord Dormamu told Sparkledancer that she needs to make sure her shoulders aren’t collapsing to the outside, but rather to have them mirror the angle of my shoulders as we hold the lunge. Finally, I was told to spend some time focusing on my Progressive Links throughout the routine. I need to keep my body in the same position as I take my first step, and then rotate my body only as I take the second to turn to Promenade Position. I guess it looked like I was winding  up my body in the opposite direction on the first step. 😦

Finally we spent a bit of time on the Foxtrot, though not a whole lot. Lord Dormamu told me that he wanted to change the way I was doing my starter step now. Rather than take a step to the left, then the right and stay low the entire time going into the forward steps, he now wants me to bring my feet together as I step to the right and come up to almost straight legs while twisting my body to the right before lowering to take my first step forward. I’m not sure why we are changing this all of a sudden, but it’s a minor change so I can get it down soon.

I asked Lord Dormamu for his thoughts regarding the shaping in both the Natural Weave and the Basic Weave figures. One of the recommendations that the coach I met with back in December gave me was to add in some shaping during the middle of those figures. After demonstrating the recommendation, Lord Dormamu gave me a frown and said that he didn’t like the way that looked. He thought the idea was good, but the execution of the idea that the coach had recommended was too much.

In his opinion, the execution should be about subtlety. If I shaped to the right as much as the coach recommended during the Weave steps, after shaping to the left in the beginning, and then shaping to the left again for the Feather Finish, it made the figure look indecisive. However, if I leveled off my shoulders during the Weave steps while pulling my frame slightly more to the left, it can give the impression that I am shaping to the right without moving too much. If we also add to that Sparkledancer turning her head to her right at the same time, it gives us the illusion that we are shaping the figure to the right even more, while in reality my shoulders are just leveling off.

Neat, huh?

The last change that he made for us that morning in Foxtrot was in the Change of Direction, the very last figure in the routine. Waaaaaaay back in the day, Lord Dormamu told us to hold the figure for an extra four beats before taking the last step, giving us a chance to reset ourselves before moving on and starting the routine over. While he was dancing through that figure with Sparkledancer this past weekend, he thought that holding there for an extra four beats was really hard on her, so he told us to go back to doing the figure using the timing by the book.

OK, enough about that. Let’s talk about some International Latin. Specifically the Rumba. That’s what we looked at in Latin Technique class on Monday. To make things more interesting, Lord Junior spent the majority of the time in class having us work on our arm motions. Sometimes I think that Lord Junior does these things just to make me flail around like an octopus trying to tie shoes on all of its non-existent feet. Yeah, just imagine that for a minute. That’s what I think that I look like.

All of the work we did in this class was done solo, so you could try these out yourself without having to find a partner. The actual figures that we did weren’t all that complicated if you leave your arms out of the mix. We started standing tall with our feet together before doing a normal Cucaracha to the right side, and then a syncopated Cucaracha to the left side that allowed you to end on the right leg with the left leg free. Next we added on some basic Latin Walks, but on the second step forward we did a Spiral Turn.

To make things more interesting after that, we went into a syncopated Checked Walk forward and then put in a slow Ronde action with the left leg. When you finished circling the leg, the left leg would be pointed behind you. After shifting to that leg in the next measure, we did a Three Step Turn to the right. Next we did a Switch Turn on the right side, ending the measure with everyone stepping and facing toward the front of the room. Finally, to challenge us, he had us do a full 360° turn on our left leg.

The arm motions are what threw me off all night. I can move my arms using my back muscles easily enough, but trying to engage them in time with my steps, having one arm out and one in as I walk, and then also make them look graceful… just doesn’t feel right to me. Lord Junior told me that my arm motions didn’t look terrible, but they didn’t feel all that great, so I didn’t totally believe him.

Maybe that’s why I have taken to doing International Standard – for what I do, my arms are supposed to stay strong and locked in place, which is a much more natural feeling for me. Ah well, I managed to get through class without hitting anyone with my arms, and I only messed up the footwork a few times while thinking about what to do with my arms, so I’m going to count that as a win in my book.

I don’t know how things have been going in your neck of the woods, but where I live in the Dance Kingdom we got a bunch of snow on Wednesday, and that shut everything down for the evening, so Monday’s class was the last exciting thing that I did. I still went out to practice on Tuesday night, and again tonight, but Wednesday night I got a little break, though it wasn’t by my choice.

This coming weekend also feels like it will be a small respite before a bunch of crazy weekends to come. The only things I have going on this weekend besides practice are a lesson with Sir Steven and a party that my Royal Dance Court group is throwing that I need to attend. But the next weekend, and the two weekends after that in February… craziness. So maybe I should use this weekend to try to get some sleep as well. I feel like sleep is going to be lacking in my life until we get to mid-February.

All of this keeps me out of trouble, right?

You’ll Get Scared If You Get Lazy

Here we go… one full week of dancing in 2018 all finished up! The year is new, which means that this is a good time to hit the big reset button on all sorts of things to get into a newer, better flow.

I started out this week of dancing with a lesson last Saturday morning with Sir Steven. He wanted to begin our lesson by having us run through all of our routines once for warm-up, like we usually do. I thought that things went pretty well, but Sir Steven wasn’t thinking the same thing. After we completed each routine, there were a lot of little things that he wanted to go back and have us go through again. The second time went better, but to have him point out and talk about things that we already worked on cleaning up in the past made me feel sad.

We also worked on Quickstep that day, continuing our plan to focus cleanly on this dance style for a period of time much like I had done with Waltz and Foxtrot, and was currently doing with Lord Dormamu on the Tango. By the time we hit the Quickstep that morning I was feeling better about my dancing. We didn’t find anything major that needed fixing here. There was one note about making sure that our lowering action on the last steps of all of our chasses were precise and waited until the other leg swung through that I did write down to spend a bit of extra time working on in practice.

Sir Steven also told me to keep working on the compression and rotation in my right hip along the short wall that helps the transition from the Progressive Chasse to the Right into the Backward Lock, and also from the Backward Lock into the Running Finish. This is not an action that I find particularly comfortable, since the muscles along the outside of my right hip and thigh do not like twisting in that manner. But I keep going, and I always know I am doing the movement right when those muscles are complaining to me, and slowly it is getting to be less painful.

At the end of the lesson, Sir Steven pointed out that the Fancy Dance Hall had hung posters around the dance floor about a competition they would be hosting the Saturday before Valentine’s day. This event was one that I had attended last year, so Sir Steven figured it was highly likely that we would want to do it again. He wanted to specifically point out to Sparkledancer and I that the organizers had decided to offer the event to amateur couples at a significantly reduced rate compared to Pro/Am couples, because they wanted more amateurs to sign up. That news made my wallet smile a little. I could feel it in my pocket.

Next up, Sparkledancer and I had a meeting with Lord Dormamu on the schedule. It was originally supposed to be a coaching session, but since this was our first time getting together in 2018, we spent much of the time talking about our strategy for the year ahead. Lord Dormamu even wrote as his first note on our lesson log that he keeps for that day “Strategy planning for 2018” so that we would all remember.

So what kind of fantastic strategy did we come to agreement on? First off, I asked him about the upcoming pre-Valentine’s Day competition that we had discussed with Sir Steven at the end of our earlier lesson. That event is now something that we are going to for sure enter, and with the reduced rate that they are giving to amatuers, this would be a good chance for us to dance quite a few heats to test our stamina during an actual competition. That’s one thing to start preparing ourselves for.

The weekend prior to that there is another competition going on that I have received several emails about over the last few weeks. This event is farther away, and is structured more like the last couple of competitions that I have participated in. Lord Dormamu thought that it was a good idea for us to consider if we could get our act together in the short period of time between now and then. That makes two weekends in February potentially booked for me already.

But the key point he made was that we needed to get our act together. Lord Dormamu could also tell that the time that Sparkledancer and I have spent since the last competition that we did has not been as fruitful as it could have been, and much like Sir Steven pointing out all the silly things to me earlier in the day, this made me feel like kind of terrible.

With the training that we had to give up to learn the showcase routine we opted to perform, plus all the time off that came from the holidays, my practice regimen over the last two months or so has been… less than optimal. I will admit that, and I feel bad that it had gotten noticeable enough that both Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu said something.

I guess that Lord Dormamu is worried that if we don’t shape up, Sparkledancer and I won’t be able to achieve his goals of becoming National Champions and moving out of Bronze quickly to get to more interesting things. He actually called those our goals, but I don’t ever remember saying that I wanted to be some kind of National Champion, so I think there might be some confusion there. Obviously I wouldn’t turn down the title if I could actually achieve it, but I am not a naturally competitive person, so it’s not like I am gunning for such a distinction.

Sparkledancer and I talked about this apparent goal of ‘ours’ over some random text messages later that night. We decided that if this is the way things are supposed to shape up, than we obviously have to feel like we are ready for it. To get there, we are going to rearrange our schedules to add in even more practice time. Based on my schedule availability around work, it’s probably going to end up that I am dancing in some significant way on every night but Friday every week. I need one day to myself to accomplish things for life, like grocery shopping and house cleaning, and Friday looks like the only day when that is going to work.

So much for having more of a social life in 2018, I guess… is this the sort of life that other serious competitive dancers lead, or is it just me (and my dance partner)?

On top of that, Lord Dormamu said that Sparkledancer was getting to a point in her training that she might need to start working with a female coach to go over things from a woman’s perspective. He freely admitted that even though he’s won all these national and international competition over his career, he would never be female, so there would always be some aspects of dancing the Follower’s part that will never look right when he shows them to her.

Some names were thrown around of various females that he knew that might be good for us to work with, from visiting coaches to various female teachers at studios around the Dance Kingdom. The most promising person mentioned a few times, who likely will also be the least expensive, is actually one-half of a Professional couple that has been studying International Standard under Lord Dormamu for some time. This lady is also Sir Bread’s partner, so let’s call her… Lady Tella.

There are a few reasons why Lady Tella was the most promising. First of all, she is nearby, so if Sparkledancer needs to see her a few times to impart knowledge, we don’t have to wait for any travel schedules to align. Second, she has trained with Lord Dormamu in International Standard herself, so when she imparts said knowledge, what she will relay will fall right in line with all the things that Sparkledancer will be doing with Lord Dormamu from a professional female’s perspective. And third, obviously, there is a cost factor. Training with yet another instructor, plus adding in additional practice time, could make 2018 expensive!

It looks like I am in for either a wild ride as the year plays out that may culminate in a national championship run, or I am in the running for some serious burn-out from having no quiet time to myself. No matter what happens, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

There was one final item that was brought up for discussion at the end of our session that day, where Lord Dormamu actually asked Sparkledancer and I if we would be able to help him. He is a leading figure in a charity that involves dance and children with disabilities, and they are working on arranging a huge fundraising gala in March. Knowing that Sparkledancer and I are members of the Royal Dance Court, Lord Dormamu asked us if we would be able to help out with the event and maybe even get others in the Royal Dance Court to contribute.

Of course I said I could (after all, I really have nothing else on my plate, right?). I brought up that I had been asked to go to a big meeting in a couple of weeks with the Royal Dance Court. This meeting was bringing together the leaders of all kinds of dance clubs in the Southeastern U.S., so if there was some kind of flyer or information packet about the event available, either Sparkledancer or I could present the information to these other club leaders to drum up interest. Lord Dormamu thought that was a great idea, and promised he would have something by the next time we all got together.

Even with this doubling down on my competitive training to try to progress faster, I made a decision to still go out to Latin Technique class every Monday night whenever possible. I know that the training for Latin dance styles will only be of limited use to me this year, but I also know that Lord Junior appreciates that I show up for class, as one of the few gentlemen who is advanced enough to participate. On top of that, it may be the one place where I get to see people and be relaxed enough to chat with them a bit every week, since my mind won’t be on training that night.

This past Monday night was a special treat for me, because prior to class starting one of Lord Junior’s competitive students convinced him to cover my favorite Latin dance style: Pasodoble. This student of his recently decided that she wanted to dance in a competition coming up in February and do a Bronze five-dance in Latin, so she is just being introduced to the Pasodoble. There were a couple of others who joined us for class that night who had never done Pasodoble before, so this class was an introduction for them as well. Yay!

Lord Junior kept the steps that we did mostly Bronze-level for these individual’s sake. For those of us who had done some Pasodoble before, he wanted us all to focus on trying to get through all of the steps without breaking from the strong Pasodoble frame, and even try to implement some of the characterization of the dance. The Gatekeeper was in class that night, and she had never danced the Pasodoble before. She thought that everything that we were doing that night was super hilarious for some reason. She couldn’t get through the figures with anyone without breaking into laughter.

Our progression that night began with us in frame with our partners as the music started. We held in place for the first four beats, and then did four Sur Place in place to finish the first eight count. The next eight count was four Sur Place that moved to the right, with us shifting our arms to the standard Counter Promenade Position frame for Pasodoble, and we finished the measure with a Drag.

For the next eight count, Lord Junior showed us a normal Promenade run to start with. This figure was one that his student was working on, so he threw it in for us to go through a couple of times to give her some extra practice. Once we all seemed to master that step, he upgraded it to a Promenade and Counter Promenade run. We changed the alignment on the Counter Promenade portion of the step to move toward diagonal center.

Apparently that is a Silver-level variation of the figure by the book – in Bronze the Counter Promenade just rotates to go straight toward center. In case anyone asks you why, I guess that it’s because if you over-rotate to go diagonal center, you are forcing the lady to do more turn, so that bumps the figure up to a new level. Weird. To end the last eight count of the progression before the first four count in the song, we added in a Grand Circle, which closed us up facing wall once more, ready for whatever came next.

In a strange turn of events, I got a text message from Lord Dormamu on Tuesday night as soon as I got home from work. He said that there were a group of people getting together that night to talk about the upcoming charity gala that he had mentioned to me on Saturday, and he wanted to know if I was able to attend the meeting. Oh, and the meeting was starting in an hour-and-a-half!

Sparkledancer sent me a message a few minutes later telling me that she got the same invitation, and asked me what I thought since we had planned on getting together to practice that night. Being the eternal people-pleaser that I am, I told her that we should probably go to the meeting, since having all the information about this event when we present it at our upcoming meeting was a good way to make Lord Dormamu happy. I sighed remorsefully as I looked at my workout calendar and shifted everything back a day to give up my off day on Saturday, and replied to Lord Dormamu to let him know that I would be there.

It turned out to be a rather interesting meeting. There were a few people there like me who were not members of this foundation, so we didn’t have any voting rights on anything that was discussed, but the group was happy to get our input on ideas to make the charity event better. As with every idea that Lord Dormamu comes up with, the initial plan for this fundraising gala is extravagant. He wanted to bring in all kinds of big name presenters and performers from all across the Dance Kingdom that he is personal friends with, and get them to put on a dance show to help raise money for the charity foundation.

The initial talk about prices for the tickets to the show seemed pricey to me. One of the points of contention that was brought up was that the date they had picked to hold the show conflicted with one of the Dance Kingdom’s social dance club’s monthly dance party. The leaders of that social dance club were at this meeting, and initially they were worried that holding this event would draw away attendees to their social dance party, leaving them lacking funds from the door fees for the dance to cover their expenses for the night.

But when Lord Dormamu started throwing out numbers for ticket prices, that concern evaporated, since the average social dancer in their club wouldn’t likely spend that kind of money on a ticket to a dance showcase, even if the performers are the best of the best that Lord Dormamu can get. We talked instead about tying in the show to that dance club’s dance party, using it as a location for the show’s “after-party” where everyone could go and dance the night away and have some refreshments. They thought they could also set up a box to collect donations from the dance party’s attendees who wanted to donate to the charity, even if they didn’t attend the performance.

I think an event of this scale will be tough to put together in just under two months time, but Lord Dormamu seems to think he can make it happen. He was telling all of us about how he was in talks with some friends of his (who are dancers on a famous TV show about dancing) about coming to the event. One of them has already agreed to be there and host the show for him, and he is really trying to get the other two to fit it into their schedule and perform that night. Apparently if he can work it out with them, he thinks people will pay buckets of money to come see the show, and maybe even some extra if there is the option for backstage passes to meet these individuals for pictures and whatnot.

Actual buckets, full of paper money. Not even buckets full of change.

Sparkledancer and I both thought that we could convince others in the Royal Dance Court to volunteer time for the event, to help with ushering or collecting donations, or other things as needed. We are all known quantities in the social dance community, so us being visible, showing our support and giving our time might inspire others in the social dance community to want to help or donate as well. Plus there’s that whole thing I mentioned earlier with going to that big meeting at the end of the month and giving out information on the event to everyone there.

Stay tuned for more on this… I have a feeling that I may have more to say about this event if everyone is going to get all the pieces into play by the date of this fundraising performance!

The final thing of note that I did this week was Standard Technique class last night, where I got to work on some Foxtrot. Lord Junior wanted to use the class as an opportunity to get the ladies to work on their Heel Turns, but told me to practice the Heel Turn action along with them since I use it occasionally. For a bit of warm-up, we did the ladies Heel Turn action, first in place with no rotation, and then with 90°, 135° and 180° rotations to both the left and the right, simulating a Reverse and Natural Turn.

Once Lord Junior felt pretty good about how everyone was turning, he upped the difficulty level and said that we were going to work on a pattern that used a Double Reverse Spin and a Double Natural Spin. Both figures are not native to International Foxtrot, as you may be aware, but can be used in Open-level choreography.

The pattern that we were given started moving toward diagonal center using a Feather, then went into the Double Reverse Spin with a Feather Ending. Next up we did a Three Step and attached the Double Natural Spin to the end of that. Because of how the Double Natural Spin rotates, the figure ends when you finish the turn (without any kind of Feather Ending). Lord Junior had us attach another Feather after the Double Natural Spin moving toward diagonal center again, which would allow us to repeat the sequence if desired.

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I like to use Standard Technique class as an extra bit of practice time that I can do with an instructor watching. Normally Sparkledancer comes to this class too, so we can practice together whenever she rotates through the line of ladies to dance with me. Because the choreography is different from our competition routines, much of what I focus on in class is maintaining my posture and frame and ensuring that my footwork is right. When dancing with Sparkledancer I can also work on ensuring that we maintain body contact in our frame the whole time as well. With other ladies who aren’t used to dancing in body contact, I just do the best I can.

I mention this because normally I don’t really think that there’s anything special with trying to get in some extra practice this way, and I also assume that I am keeping things consistent when I dance with each lady in class while we rotate partners (other than the body contact thing I mentioned). On the nights when Sparkledancer is in class, I don’t think I am doing anything all that different with her compared to the other ladies, other than I am able to take bigger steps with her since we’re so used to dancing with each other’s stride.

Last night there was a lady in class that was standing next to Sparkledancer. This lady shows up for class once in a blue moon, and is super critical of herself even though she never does anything terribly wrong during class. As we were wrapping up yesterday night, Lord Junior put on some music and the ladies got in a line to rotate through dancing with Lord Junior and I (the only males in class that night) to practice.

This lady apparently told Sparkledancer that when she watched the two of us dance the progression together, it didn’t even look like we were doing the same dance that she was. She could clearly see the same figures that she had just learned that night, but Sparkledancer and I were also adding in the sway for the steps that felt natural, which would make Sparkledancer turn her head when the sway directed her to, we were maintaining close body contact the whole time we danced, and also covering twice the distance when we moved together than any of the other ladies were able to do when dancing with either Lord Junior or I. To her, what we were doing looked completely different from everyone else.

So… apparently I really wasn’t dancing the same way with all partners like I thought I was. I didn’t even realize it until Sparkledancer relayed this anecdote to me after class. I’ll have to think about whether it’s even possible for me to rectify this with partners that I don’t dance with very frequently. Hmm…

And that’s how I started off 2018! Changing up my normal habits for the first full week of the year is throwing me off a bit. I added in all this extra practice time, and also changed my workout focus and diet as well. Right now, I’m feeling a bit sore and thrashed because of all these changes. I fit in a bit of extra stretching time today before I headed out to get some dance practice in, but I’m hoping I can carve out some real time this weekend to stretch out properly to help with that.

I’ve been staring at my foam roller too. It’s one of those ones with all the spikes all over it to really help with myofascial release. There are some places that I think those spikes would make me unhappy if I tried to use it before I get some real stretching in, so I have been avoiding it right now. Maybe this weekend I will use it too… if there’s time. 🙂

Here’s hoping that your dancing is going well so far in 2018!