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!

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Capable Of All That’s Imagined And All Conceivable

I promise that I’m not trying to jump on the cliché bandwagon, but I wanted to start off going over my thoughts on all the changes that happened in 2017. A lot of things changed in my dance world over the last year, and one change in particular is notably poignant. For this, my first post of 2018, I thought I would step back and just reflect for a bit, so bear with me.

Once upon a time I strongly argued that even though I would compete from time to time, I was nothing more than an “advanced social dancer.” I always thought that if I was talking to other people at dance parties, especially newcomers, this made me sound less threatening. Well, in 2017 I officially turned a corner and became a true competitive dancer.

So what has that meant? Well for one, it means that I dance a lot more than I used to, but I social dance a lot less. I know that sounds weird, but it’s the truth. One of the advantages of having an amateur partner is that I can practice in between my lessons for minimal cost (the dance studio where I normally practice asks me to pay a nominal floor fee for every hour I practice). I know a lot of Pro/Am students don’t practice nearly as much as I do because it requires them to either pay for time with their teacher, or to practice alone, which is a hard thing to do for some dance styles.

Because of this, the people who I know in the dance community have drastically changed. I used to go out to dance parties quite a bit, so I knew a bunch of other dancers and could talk with them about various aspects of their lives. Nowadays my dance partner Sparkledancer and I have tried to schedule our practice time at the studios when there aren’t many classes or lessons going on, so we can work on the movement aspect of all of our routines. That means that the people I run into and talk with the most now are mostly dance instructors.

If I now consider myself a competitive dancer and no longer an advanced social dancer, that obviously means that I chose to compete during 2017. By the count that I can think of off the top of my head, I entered five different competitions last year. Two of those competitions only gave me scores or feedback from the judges, and the results of the other three were based on placements among all the competitors on the floor. One of those three my partner and I danced unopposed all day, so although I obviously placed really well in that event, I don’t consider the results to be very meaningful.

The two remaining competitions went surprisingly well, and that’s what makes me think that I have to call myself a true competitive dancer now. Giving up American Smooth and Rhythm and International Latin competitively and focusing only on International Standard means that all my practice time can really make those five dance styles better, and the results I’ve gotten so far have been… well, impressive. It shows me that all my hard work might have actually accomplished something.

However, I still have the mindset that I am only an advanced social dancer, which is why I said that the competitions went ‘surprisingly well.’ In the past, I used to agree to compete once or twice a year as a way to get some feedback on how much I have progressed in my dancing in the interim. I never expected to score super high. On top of that, in all the competitions I was in during my first couple of years dancing my amateur partner and I always danced our championship rounds against all Pro/Am couples, so in those events we were guaranteed last place. Every time.

As you can imagine, competing as an amateur male against a professional male isn’t really a fair comparison. Logically, I knew that Sparkledancer and I were competing against these Pro/Am couples because there were so few amateur couples competing, and none of the others were even willing to try dancing in a championship round. Knowing that, I probably shouldn’t have ever agreed to sign up for the championship rounds. But my dance partner and I did anyway, and the result of that choice early in my dance career got me used to always being in last place when competing.

Those experiences are what make it surprising to me now when I place at or near the top of the rankings, even though I know the nature of those old competitions are worlds apart from the ones that I compete in now. When I get the chance to dance against all other amateur pairs dancing the same level that I am dancing, there is no question that the results will be different from the results I got when I danced against Pro/Am pairs who were dancing at a higher level than me. But even knowing that logically, I am still surprised when I do well.

There’s also that humbling voice in the back of my head that asks me whether I have done so well in the last couple of competitions I was in because I’ve actually improved, or if I was just better than the other competitors in those competitions. I chose to take part in some competitions that were put together by the same organization, and though the venues were a few hours apart, many of the people who did compete took part in both competitions. So it’s hard to say I would do as well in future competitions unless I find a way to test myself against a new group of competitors.

The obvious way to do that would be to sign up to compete in an event that is even farther away, right? I didn’t do that during 2017. I wasn’t confident enough that I had improved in my abilities yet to make that kind of financial investment in competing. Also, while coming up with money to travel and dance is fairly easy for me to do (I make stupid money compared to my low cost of living), it’s not quite as easy for Sparkledancer. We have been talking about doing a competition that involves traveling farther into the wilds of the Dance Kingdom soon, but we haven’t pulled the trigger on it quite yet. That’s an adventure to look forward to in 2018!

I guess I should mention the catalyst for my change from an advanced social dancer into a competitive dancer, which is also another pretty major change that happened in 2017. Early in the year, Sparkledancer and I were made an offer that took us down this new path. Part of the terms for accepting this offer was that we accepted having a new dance coach to work with regularly.

The story that I have been told about what instigated this offer was that our normal instructor (Sir Steven) approached our new coach (Lord Dormamu) to ask him if he could help push my amateur partner and I to the next level as competitive dancers. Lord Dormamu watched us discreetly for a bit to evaluate the two of us, and he thought that we had a lot of potential, so he agreed with Sir Steven to work on molding the two of us into true competitive dancers.

Agreeing to work with Lord Dormamu is what really changed my mindset on my dance career. As you can imagine, having lessons with him is much more expensive than lessons with any other instructor I’ve ever worked with. Even though I am splitting the cost of these lessons with my amateur partner, it’s still expensive, so I realized that if I was going to be shelling out this kind of money for a coach about every other week, I needed to take everything he says seriously. And taking it serious meant that I would actually have to start practicing regularly and earnestly to get what he told me in our lessons into my muscle memory.

But there is a good reason that his time costs so much. This man is a world champion many times over, so he knows all the things! ALL. THE. THINGS! He retired from competing two years ago, and told me that since retiring his job is to train new couples to be world champions like him. On top of that, he is really good about explaining all of those things he knows to me in a manner that I can easily grasp, so I learn quite a bit from him. The results I’ve gotten in the competitions I’ve entered have validated that this arrangement seems to be working.

In 2017 Lord Dormamu tore apart my International Waltz and Foxtrot completely and put everything back together in a manner that more closely matches the way that high-level professionals dance those styles. We also began working through the Tango to go through the same process. Based on the comments about the future that Lord Dormamu has given me, by the time 2018 is over he will have finished up the Tango, and gone through the same process with my Quickstep and Viennese Waltz.

Looking ahead to the future, Lord Dormamu’s long-term expectations, as I have been told, is that throughout 2018 he will continue to hold Sparkledancer and I at the Bronze level until he is done with this rebuild. After he is finished, we should walk through Silver and Gold very quickly and easily, because all the techniques we are mastering now are the same techniques we will be using at those levels. He seems confident that we could do this, and based on the results I’ve had so far I am inclined to believe that it is possible. I hesitate to say that it is inevitable, but I certainly say that it’s possible!

The other rabbit-hole that I wandered even further down during 2017 was the world of dance politics. I know it seems like a strange thing to even talk about, since this is dancing and by all accounts should be apolitical, but there is a lot of very political work that goes on behind the scenes in the ballroom dance world. I find a lot of it interesting on a theoretical level, but there are some aspects of it that are kind of depressing, and really show that major portions of what goes on, especially in competitions, is based on who you know… and who you know is influenced in large part by how much money you are willing to spend.

Some parts of the dance politics landscape aren’t that bad. If you have been following my dance notes for a while, you will know that I was voted in to be a member of the Royal Dance Court over two years ago now. Last May the leader of the Royal Dance Court nominated me to become the Keeper Of Records for the group, a position which I accepted. Then in November I was elected to continue on for another two-year term on the Royal Dance Court, so I guess the people feel like I have been doing something right over the previous two years!

The Royal Dance Court is what I consider to be the good side of dance politics. We work together to put on fun dance events for members of the dance community. We recruit local dance instructors to come and teach group lessons to help dancers of all levels improve and learn new, fun things. Sometimes we have to deal with issues that come up, but most of the time the work is purely to put together the fun aspects of ballroom dancing – the dance parties that the majority of dancers love to attend.

Now the flip side – Lord Dormamu is the one that introduced me to, and will freely admit to having me play along with, the dark side of dance politics. During 2017, there were a couple of instances where Lord Dormamu wanted me to take a coaching session from visiting instructors. Visitors like these are often seen in the competitive dance community, acting as judges at various dance competitions throughout the world and then teaching coaching lessons at a nearby studio before they fly back home.

While it was interesting to talk to these visiting coaches and hear their comments on the way that I danced, there were many things that they recommended that I do that Lord Dormamu told me to just ignore. His reasoning for why I should ignore these recommendations was that these judges all learned to dance and became champions many decades ago, and the way that they learned to dance competitively is not the way that dancers that become world champions now are doing things anymore.

I asked my Lord Dormamu why then I would want to take these lessons with visiting coaches like this, if he was going to tell me to throw out much of what they recommended to me. That seemed to me like a major waste of my time and money. I could use that money to take more lessons with him and actually learn useful things, couldn’t I?

His answer was that this was all part of the dark side of dance politics that everyone knows about, but many people avoid talking openly about. If I go to a competition where one of these people is judging, and I’ve taken a coaching session from them, they are more likely to remember me and the lesson that we had together. If I am dancing well at the competition, they will think that their coaching had something to do with how well I dance, and will mark me better for it.

Or if I am basically tied for a placement in that judge’s mind with another couple on the floor, and I have taken a coaching session with the judge and the other couple did not, the judge is more likely to bump me higher because of that. They may see me for only a few seconds on a crowded dance floor that they are judging, but that will remind them of the hour or so that I spent with them, and that familiarity tends to mean something.

So Lord Dormamu was basically admitting that you can do better in competitions if the judges know you, and they will know you better if you spend the money to take coaching with them, even if the things that they recommend to you to improve your dancing are not useful. This dark side of dance politics is a game that he had to play while he was competing to become world champion over and over, and now it is a game that he told me that he will help me play. That knowledge leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Dance politics… something, something, dark side… know what I mean?

One last thing: I know that the subject matter of my writings on this site have shifted dramatically over the last year as well. This site has always been the place where I keep my dance notes on all the things that I need to remember. Because I have been taking things so much more seriously over the past year, I have had to document all the things that I need to remember from my lessons, which right now involve a lot of technical points.

That’s probably something that will continue in 2018 as well, so I hope that it hasn’t gotten too boring for you yet! I am male and I dance the Lead part, so most of the notes that I write down are for how to do that side of the figures or techniques. There aren’t a lot of male ballroom dancers out there, so I know my material is useful to a much smaller audience than notes from a Follower’s perspective.

Still, I hope that some of the information that I’ve been told, filtered through my written voice, can be useful to someone out there. And, as always, if you have any questions about any of the things that I mention, please ask! I’m not a dance instructor, but I dance A LOT, so I can probably help, or point you in the right direction if I don’t know.

It’s 2018! That’s crazy! Let’s all make this an awesome year for dancing, however you choose to dance. I hope to see you out on the floor somewhere. 🙂

We’ve Wandered Many A Weary Foot

It’s been a quiet week here in the Dance Kingdom. Lots of people were off somewhere visiting family to celebrate the Christmas three-day weekend, so not much was going on. I opted to forego trying to find any dance parties to attend this past weekend, and instead spend some quality time on the couch with my cat, taking care of some things for work. I am just a bundle of raw excitement when I’m not out dancing, aren’t I?

But that doesn’t mean that there was no dancing in my life this past week. I did go out and do three notable things, which is more dancing than a lot of people do during a normal week. It seems like so little when compared to how the last several weeks/months have gone for me, though. I am pretty easily talked into going out on dance adventures of one kind or another.

That’s probably why I am one of the few people left who was an original member of the Ballroom Village that still spends time writing about ballroom dancing. If you go through the list I have linked at the top, you’ll see that many of those other sites are no longer updated. Have you noticed that too? Sometimes I wonder if that means the writers of those sites have all given up on dancing, and that makes me kind of sad…

Anyway, I have a few notes I took this weekend about things that I need to remember, so here they are. Maybe something I was told will be helpful for you too!

I started off early on Saturday morning having a lesson with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. Now that the performance of the showcase is finally behind all of us, we spent a few minutes talking about some plans for the next few months. Sir Steven mentioned a couple of competitions that he knew about which are coming up in the first part of the year that he feels would be worth consideration. The first was a studio competition at the Fancy Dance Hall in February, which Sparkledancer and I had also danced in last February.

The nice thing about that competition is that the judges actually give you notes about each heat you dance in, not just a score. That was really helpful for me last time, so I’ll probably do it again. If I remember correctly, the International Standard portion of the competition was all completed before lunch, so I could finish up competing and still have plenty of time to go out on a hot date on Valentine’s Day weekend if I wanted to. Hooray!

Another competition that Sir Steven suggested was actually one of those big-deal, National-level competitions. Sparkledancer and I qualified for that event by doing so well at a competition a few months ago, and Sir Steven thought it might be an interesting experience for us if we wanted to sign up and give it a try. The event is in March or April I think (I was only sort of paying attention when he mentioned the date).

This one I told Sir Steven I was feeling a bit more hesitant about. Right now, I’ve only got a handful of competitions under my belt from this past year that I actually scored well in. I’m not sure that translates to me doing any good when competing on a National-level. I told him that my personal opinion was that I would think about it as we get closer, depending on how well I feel we have progressed in our training between now and then, but if I had to sign up for the event that day I would decline.

Sparkledancer said that she would only want to do the event if I were going to dance with her. She obviously has the option to compete Pro/Am without me, dancing with either Sir Steven or Lord Dormamu, but that would make the event super expensive for her. So I guess the pressure is all on me to see if I feel ready in a few months!

To focus on getting ready, we talked about what we wanted to work on now. Sparkledancer told Sir Steven that we were currently working with Lord Dormamu to make our Tango look like Tango, so we shouldn’t spend time on that since we would be meeting with him later in the afternoon. The one dance style that we haven’t really spent much time working on with anyone during this past year was Quickstep, so that was what she suggested we go over for the next couple of weeks. I agreed with that idea, so the decision was unanimous.

There were a couple of important points that we hit on that needed work after running through the routine a couple of times. The first was that Sir Steven wanted us to make sure that the angles that our Progressive Chasses traveled were correct, were chosen by the direction of the first step, and then stayed at that angle the whole way through. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it?

Apparently there were a few times where Sir Steven saw whomever it was moving backward, whether it was Sparkledancer or myself, move out of the way to open up space for our partner with the first step, and that caused the Progressive Chasse to curve slightly when we did so. Whoops!

The next point was about the rise and fall that we were doing. I guess there were a few spots where it looked like we were rising quite a bit, more like what we should be doing in a Waltz. According to Sir Steven, we should think of Quickstep more like Tango in this regard, and try to keep the level of our head the same as much as possible. There will definitely be foot rise for some figures, but the amount that we do shouldn’t have us coming up and down like a Waltz. He especially wanted us to stay low during the walking steps in between our Progressive Chasses.

To go along with the talk about the rise and fall, Sir Steven also wanted to mention something that would be a point to think about in all of our dances, and not just Quickstep. Sir Steven says that sometimes it looked like neither Sparkledancer nor I is fully extending our legs from the knee down. He wanted us to make sure that we were getting a full extension whenever possible with each step that we took.

I stopped to ask about that for a few minutes. Because of all of the work that Sparkledancer and I did with Lord Dormamu working on the way that we move while dancing, when I dance with Sparkledancer I am able to cover a lot of ground without putting in a ton of effort. Using our Quickstep routine, we would start in the front corner right up against the edge of the tables, and by the time we got to the second corner we would be close to running into the back wall of the building. And that’s even after I cut out one of the two Forward Locks that are in the routine!

I was worried that pushing to extend my legs even farther would run me right off the floor at any competitive venue that we dance at. The floor of the Fancy Dance Hall is already longer than the floors used at all the competitions I’ve been at this past year, so if I am able to run out of space there, I would definitely have problems during a competition. I understood the need to straighten my legs, but I told him that the only way I could probably do that would be to stand up taller while I danced, so my legs covered less distance when I extend them.

Sir Steven told me not to worry too much about running myself off the floor. He said, and I quote, “that is a problem many of our other competitors wish they had.” He reminded me that years ago, when I was first working on ballroom dances, he was constantly trying to get me to take bigger steps, because that’s a hard thing to teach new students to do. Having to go back and reign in how much I travel on a smaller floor won’t be as hard as I was making it out to be, he told me.

The last thing that we talked about for the Quickstep was the Natural Spin Turn we have at the beginning of the routine. I guess there are times that it looked like I was really forcing the figure to rotate all the way around so that I ended up backing diagonal center. Sir Steven couldn’t tell me if the problem was that my first pivot wasn’t turning enough, or if Sparkledancer wasn’t coming around enough to turn me all the way, but he said that likely the issue was a combination of the two factors, so we should spend some time practicing to make sure we work it out.

As I mentioned earlier, Sparkledancer and I had also scheduled some time to work with Lord Dormamu last Saturday. He was out doing some coaching sessions for students at the Endless Dance Hall that day, so I had to do a bit of traveling to take this lesson. As you can imagine, we continued to work on our Tango, since we are nowhere near being done making that dance style look the way that he wants it to.

So what words of wisdom were Sparkledancer and I given this week to help improve our Tango? There were a couple of main figures that we looked at. The first one being the Right-Side Lunge that happens in the first corner. Looking at this figure was actually a request from Sparkledancer, since we had been reviewing the figure in practice previously and she kept saying that something about the figure didn’t feel right to her.

She and Lord Dormamu managed to fix the figure (I think they changed something about her shaping, but I’m not sure exactly what it was). He also told her that it was time for her to start doing a double head flick when she got into the lunge. I am looking over her head when we get into that position, so it is important for me to keep myself straight and not lean over, otherwise I am going to end up getting my chin smacked by her flicking head.

Lord Dormamu’s overall impression of how our Tango was going that afternoon was that we needed to stay lower during the whole dance. As he put it, we always start out just fine, especially if we get into frame and then he spends a minute yanking us around to make sure our position is perfect, but we tend to drift upward as we travel. We didn’t spend a lot of time looking at any specific parts for this, it was just a note on something to practice on our own time.

Most of our time that day was spent looking at the figures that are connected to an Open Promenade. There are three main ones that we have: the Open Promenade that goes into an Open Reverse Turn, the Open Promenade that goes into a Natural Pivot, and the aforementioned Open Promenade into the Right-Side Lunge. We spent so much time on these figures because Lord Dormamu saw that Sparkledancer and I would lose body contact and ‘gap’ slightly while dancing through the figures, and he couldn’t figure out why.

The first transition that we would do, from an Open Promenade into the Open Reverse Turn, was good. We could get through that without coming apart in any way. It’s likely we can do this because that transition is one we practice more than any of the others. The next transition we looked at from the Open Promenade into the Natural Pivot, Sparkledancer and I would definitely break apart. Each of us could dance through the figures with Lord Dormamu and not lose body contact, but then when the two of us would dance together it wouldn’t be right.

What we eventually decided on to fix the issue was that Sparkledancer needed to come around more on the Progressive Link to be behind me further than she had been. That day, Sparkledancer was wearing a t-shirt that had a character eating cookies on it, and Lord Dormamu told us that when she shifts to Promenade in the Progressive Link she would need to line up so that my right thigh was between two of the cookies on her shirt.

This became somewhat of a joke for the rest of the lesson, with Lord Dormamu showing Sparkledancer how to align herself with someone ‘between her cookies.’ Obviously the joke was a bit childish, and with Lord Dormamu saying it in his accent it sounded downright ridiculous, but I don’t think that either of us will forget this particular takeaway because of that joke. See how useful comedy can be while dancing? If it can help me improve, imagine what comedy can do for you!

Finally, yesterday night I went out to Standard Technique class. The class ended up being really small, with so many people being out of town for the holidays. There were just two of us in fact: me and Prez. Lord Junior and Prez decided to look over some Quickstep during class while I was getting my dance shoes on, so that’s what we did.

The pattern that Lord Junior gave us that night wasn’t super long, though it could cover quite a bit of the dance floor. We started with a basic Quarter Turn to the Left, then went into a Four Quick Run. Coming out of that we did a Natural Turn into a Natural Spin Turn, and finally added on a V6. When we got comfortable with the V6, Lord Junior gave us an advanced variation of the V6 that ends with a Six Quick Run.

This whole amalgamation is perfectly leadable, assuming that your dance partner is familiar with Quickstep. In order to make it through everything properly and communicate the steps to your partner, you really need to focus on getting the rise and fall correct for each figure. Both of the Quick Run figures are fast and require you to be up on the balls of your feet the whole time, and Lord Junior recommended that as you went through them and did the Lock Step that you lower yourself ever so slightly beforehand and then rise up again to signal to your partner that the Lock Step is happening. That is not a requirement, but a recommended courtesy.

My problem during class was with the Four Quick Run. For some reason I kept either forgetting that it was there, or getting the footwork wrong when I tried to go into it. I’m not even sure why. I must have walked through the figure dozens of times while Lord Junior was working with Prez, but then when I tried to dance it with her (especially with the music playing) I would mess it up. Since it was the second figure in the pattern, I would just stop, walk back to the beginning in shame, and then start over.

The funny thing was that as soon as I finished the Four Quick Run and went into the more difficult steps like the V6 and the Six Quick Run, I had no issues at all. Those went perfectly fine all night long. It was just that Four Quick Run that was giving me problems that night for some unknown reason! The only other comment that I was given was that Lord Junior wanted to see me hold the rotation in my body more through the figures. A lot of the pattern needed to be done with the lady in Outside Partner, and he warned me that if I unintentionally squared up too much I would risk bringing my partner back into normal dance frame.

Look at that! We’ve reached the end of the year! How are you planning on finishing up 2017? I’m going to be out at a dance party again this year, obviously. I’m not entirely sure what to expect for this years big finish. A lot of the dance studios in the area are holding New Year’s Eve parties, so it will be interesting to see how all the dancers in the Dance Kingdom decide to divide themselves up and pick an event to attend.

2018 also looks like it will bring some interesting changes to the landscape of the Dance Kingdom. Because I’m involved with the behind-the-scenes dance politics on some level, a lot of people want to talk with me about things that are going on. I have heard about some upcoming dance studio closures that will happen in 2018, a few dance halls that are moving to new locations in 2018, and then there’s the ever-constant shuffle of independent dance instructors changing their loyalties from one studio to another. With the dance studio closures I’ve heard about, there may also be an influx of new free-range instructors jockeying for floor space.

I may try to do a review of the past year next week, just to collect my thoughts on what’s happened and reflect on what’s to come. The one thing that I’m sure about though, is that there will be lots more dance adventures for me to write about. It should be interesting to see what shakes out over the next 12 months!

Everyone Hail To The Pumpkin King Now

So many things. Spooky things. And even a little candy this time around. What more could you ask for? Dancing? Oh yeah, I got that too…

Let’s start things off with the two things that I did last Saturday – the first one being work, the second being fun. In the morning I headed out to the Fancy Dance Hall to meet up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for our normal weekly coaching session. We had planned on continuing work on our showcase routine this time around.

Before we got started working on choreography, I had to ask about the song again, and Sir Steven actually had an answer for me this time! It turns out that the Artistic Director had listened to the second song that Sparkledancer and I had suggested, but was having trouble fitting it into the mix with the other songs that were being used. I’m not sure what that means, but that’s what I was told. The Artistic Director and Sir Steven had found a different song that was along the same line as what Sparkledancer and I had suggested, and this song would fit in with their mix, so Sir Steven threw out the name to us to consider.

I had never heard of the song before, so he tried to pull up a recording of it on his phone for us all to listen to. There was a lot of activity going on at the Fancy Dance Hall that morning, so it was difficult to even make out the melody of the song while on the dance floor. Sir Steven sent Sparkledancer and I a link to the song so that each of us could listen to it later when we were somewhere that was quieter. That would allow us to review the song, discuss it among ourselves if need be, and let him know what we thought.

With that, we got to work on the new portion of the choreography that he had wanted us to hit on that morning. It wasn’t a whole lot of the choreography – there was a Throwaway Oversway, and a couple of the figures to get into it and how to get out of it, and that was it. I have seen the Throwaway Oversway in a couple of different dance styles before in Standard Technique class, but this is the first time that I will actually be using the figure in any kind of routine, so that’s kind of exciting.

Once we finished up working on choreography for the day and got a video so that Sparkledancer and I could use it for review while practicing later, both Sparkledancer and I took off. In the parking lot, my car was the closest to the front door, so we headed there and got inside, which gave us a fairly quiet place to pull up that song Sir Steven sent us and actually listen to it. The song wasn’t bad – it doesn’t exactly give me the feeling that I had been shooting for, but it’s not terrible. Both Sparkledancer and I agreed to give it a go, so I sent Sir Steven back a message to let him know that the song would work before I left Sparkledancer and headed back home.

It will work… but I don’t know if I am really emotionally invested in this showcase yet because of all the changes that have been made to it so far, just getting it to fit into the theme of the show. Maybe by the time we have everything mapped out I will feel more excited about what it will look like, but right now… I’m just unsure. Is that a bad sign?

I didn’t take much of a break from dancing that day to go home and relax before I headed back out to dance some more. After all, it was Halloween weekend, and my favorite dance parties of all time are Halloween dance parties! This year I had opted to go celebrate the festivities at the Fancy Dance Hall, so for the second time that day I made the drive out there to don my dance shoes and take to the floor.

To get everyone warmed up for the party, a brief class was offered. This class was used, like many other Halloween dance parties I’ve gone to, to teach a well recognized Halloween line dance to everyone. I would guess that many of you went through a similar class if you went out to a Halloween dance party in your area. After much shambling, clapping and laughing, I was feeling more silly than scary, so it was obviously time for the real party to start.

The Fancy Dance Hall made their Halloween party, like everything else they do, into a big production. All of the guests were entreated at the beginning of the party to a show put on by the Fancy Dance Hall’s staff, which laid out a mystery for all the guests to solve. A murder mystery! Spooky… a member of the staff then went around and handed out a slip of paper to everyone in attendance with a clue on it, and a worksheet that could be used to keep track of your results.

The object of the game was to dance with everyone at the party. Once you danced with someone, they were supposed to show you what clue they were given and then you were to cross it off your worksheet. If you crossed off all the clues that were handed out, the leftover items on the worksheet would be the answers needed to solve the mystery. Yes, it did work exactly like that board game that you are thinking of. The first person to solve the mystery would then get a prize for being so smart and so social.

I did not win, so I never figured out what the right answer really was. I got fairly close, but based on what I was told by some of the other people at the party, the staff at the Fancy Dance Hall also had clues and you were supposed to dance with them to find those clues out. Since I actively avoid dancing with instructors, I never found out those answers, which is probably what I had missing on my sheet. Oh well…

I may have avoided dancing with the Fancy Dance Hall’s staff that night, but I did end up dancing with the Princess at one point, weirdly enough. After one song ended, I had gone over to get a glass of water, and when I had finished and looked around the room it seemed like every lady had already found a partner. Thinking that I would get a brief respite, I almost missed the girl who sidled up next to me. I didn’t recognize her at first because she was in a costume, but then I did a double-take and saw that it was the Princess! Apparently she was out party-hopping around the Dance Kingdom that night, and just happened to be at the Fancy Dance Hall to see how everyone was doing at the exact time when I was free for that dance. How lucky was I…?

The song was a Foxtrot. To try to not get judged to poorly, I decided to throw the Princess a curve-ball and tell her that we were going to do American Foxtrot. The Princess holds all kinds of awards and world champion titles for International Standard, so I thought I might be safer going with American Foxtrot. As it turns out, I probably didn’t need to worry all that much about dancing with her at all. There were so many people on the dance floor that I ended up having to hesitate repeatedly whenever some couple would change their angle and dance right in front of us. I kept making jokes whenever that would happen, and the Princess laughed, so my dancing probably wasn’t that bad.

Along the short wall I got stuck behind a large group of people, so to stay in one place and allow the swarm to break up a little bit I went into a figure that I learned as the Run-Around, or Whirlpool (I also heard someone once call it a ‘Horse and Cart’ but I’m not sure about that name). You’ve probably seen it before, where you use your right arm to hook around your partner’s upper torso and then you both turn around a central point. Well, the Princess thought this move was super fun, and she started to turn faster… and faster, and faster, and faster!

Soon the two of us were whipping around in a circle faster than I thought was safe for a social dance. I even ended up pulling in my left arm so that I didn’t accidentally clothesline anyone while spinning. The Princess was laughing so hard and so loud the whole time, and I swear people were stopping to watch the two of us spin. After a few measures of turning at that speed, I decided to reign her in, so I put one of my feet down and used the weight of my body to slow her. She’s a lot smaller than me, so my body was made a good anchor. Once we slowed down enough to get back on time with the music, I did a Back Twinkle to change direction and continued down the line of dance as if nothing had happened.

Crazy, huh?

One last funny thing, and then I’ll move on, I promise – late in the evening, the DJ played the song that everyone had learned the spooky line dance for during the class before the party. It’s a really long song, as it turns out, if you are trying to dance a line dance for the entire duration.

I was on the edge of the group, near the front door. During the third rotation or so, suddenly I had some girls I had never seen before join in near me and attempt to fumble through the steps. They were young, and wearing costumes that were covering a lot less of their bodies than most of the other women at the dance party. Also, they were clearly a few sheets to the wind already. I saw a couple of guys wander in through the front door, talking loudly and stumbling a bit, clearly following these ladies around.

I think these people were just out drinking and wandered into the dance party, which is a strange thing to do. They must have come from the restaurant that is a couple of doors down from the Fancy Dance Hall, since not much else was open at that time of night for blocks around. I never found out though, because as mysteriously as they appeared, they all also left once the line dance was over and the song transitioned to a Waltz (the confused look on one girl’s face told me that she probably didn’t know how to Waltz). Halloween is just full of all sorts of tricks and treats!

Sunday morning I was back out at the Fancy Dance Hall for a lesson with Lord Dormamu. Sparkledancer and I were entered into that competition the first weekend in November, so we had scheduled one last session with Lord Dormamu before that to work on things. We started off by reviewing the Waltz, going over what we all had discussed last weekend so that Lord Dormamu could see how well our practice was coming along. He was pleased with Sparkledancer’s improvement in Heel Turns, which is good to hear since she and I had spent a lot of time just repeating those over and over again during our practice to help her nail those down.

But what we spent most of the time on that day was Tango, and there are two very important and useful things that I came away from that lesson with. He had us start off by just dancing through the beginning of the routine, up through the point where we had stopped last week. I could hear him making noises of disgust behind my back while I was doing this, so I knew something was going to have to be fixed. When he stopped us and had us come back down to start over, he spent a good amount of time manhandling the two of us to fix our frame, so that must have been what was offending him before.

When he was finally satisfied he had us start dancing again. This time, after the first few figures he was exclaiming words of praise in his native language to the others in the dance hall. That caused me to laugh, which broke everything so we had to stop. Luckily, Lord Dormamu thought that was funny, so he told us to get back into that position and start over. As I struggled to manipulate myself, I made an offhand remark about how this Tango frame felt really awkward, and asked who it was that ever thought this was a good way to dance.

That rhetorical question actually made Lord Dormamu stop and talk to me for a few minutes about why Tango was the way that it was, which was actually turned out to be a really helpful explanation for me. He said that back in the day, Tango was danced in a frame that was more like what you see in Argentine Tango now (kind of like dancing while hugging). As competitors tried to move their bodies faster and more dramatically, this frame kept impeding their movements, so they began to adjust their frames gradually to accommodate the types of athletic movements they wanted to make.

What they attempted to create was a frame where you could move your legs freely while staying grounded to the floor more so than in any other ballroom dance, and also to have the lady create as much volume as possible to help make the topline look large and catch attention. This is actually what the frame is designed around. In order to compress and expand like this, you have to essentially become like an accordion – your head is back, your chest is forward, your hips are back, your knees are forward, and your feet are slightly back.

This folded design is what allows an accordion to compress and expand itself and retain its shape, and that same folded look is essentially what you are trying to create in Tango to compress yourself (and retain your shape). The head creates volume, the chest becomes where my lead comes from, because the hips are now back so that you can bend your knees more without driving them into your partner’s knees. With the hips back and the knees bent, your feet then have to be slightly back behind your knees to maintain balance. From top to bottom, this gives you a folded look, like the center of an accordion.

Hearing the frame described in a way that I could actively picture the mechanics is actually what clicked with me. Suddenly it was much easier to figure out where each part of my body was supposed to be positioned, and I could get into frame with Sparkledancer quickly with very little adjustment from Lord Dormamu afterward. It’s still a weird position to be in, there’s no way to change that, but now that I understand why I have to be like this it really helps me recreate the position with ease.

The other thing that we spent quite a bit of time discussing was keeping my shoulders level the entire time that I am dancing. This is something that needs to be done in every dance style, but it is particularly noticeable in Tango because there really shouldn’t be any sway while I am traveling in any of the figures that we have in the routine. That means that, for all intents and purposes, my shoulders and arms should be parallel with the floor almost the entire time. To pull this off, I was told that I should spend my time thinking about… toothpaste.

For real?

According to Lord Dormamu, while I am dancing I essentially have an anchor attached to my right side in the form of a dance partner. I know, most ladies I dance with are tiny compared to me and are not strong enough to slow me down in any real manner, but stay with me on this… having a partner there should effectively keep you grounded on your right side. The problem that Lord Dormamu sees quite a bit with many of his male students is that there is a tendency to compensate for this weight pulling you down on your right side by lifting yourself up on the left side, which will make your shoulder line appear to slope down to the right.

I was told that rather than allow my shoulders to act like a seesaw, where a weight on one side causes the other side to rise up, I instead need to think of my shoulders more like a tube of toothpaste. For your average tube of toothpaste that is pointed from right to left, if you put weight down on the right side, the toothpaste will push outward on the left side. That is what Lord Dormamu wants to see me doing at all times – grounding myself (i.e. pushing down) on my right side, which causes my left elbow to press outward as far as possible. This expands my chest and my back muscles, making my frame appear even bigger. Pressing outward like this should effectively keep my shoulders even with each other, and parallel to the floor.

So that is how we spent our time that day, with Sparkledancer and I dancing while Lord Dormamu yelled at us from across the room about either accordions or toothpaste. And, strangely enough, that really seems to work for me. By the end of the lesson, after Sparkledancer and I had finished our last run-through, Lord Dormamu nodded at us and said that our Tango looked “30% better” than it had looked at the beginning of the hour. 30% feels like a lot of improvement to make after just one hour!

Since my ramblings have gotten to be kind of long, let me spend a minute talking about what I did last night in Standard Technique class before finishing up, just so that I don’t forget. There were a couple of fun figures that I want to remember from class, so I’m going to write them down here. There was even one I have never seen before, which is always fun.

Lord Junior wanted to look at five different figures in the Waltz, all of which can travel quite a bit if you know what you are doing. If done well, you could take these figures from one corner of the long wall to the other if you wanted to. During our class there was someone giving a private lesson on one end of the floor, so we ended up using the third figure to turn a corner and bank the last two figures down a different wall, giving them some room. We’re nice like that. 🙂

Not wanting much fanfare at the beginning, Lord Junior started the progression off using an Open Impetus and went straight into a Basic Weave. Presumably you could use a starter step and a Natural Turn to get into the Open Impetus, but Lord Junior didn’t want to waste time on those, so we just went right into the Open Impetus. Coming out of the Basic Weave we added on an Open Natural Turn, setting us up backing line of dance in Outside Partner position for what came next.

The next figure was the one that I had never seen before. Lord Junior told us that it was an Open-level figure called ‘Chasse Roll to the Right.’ Basically you do a Progressive Chasse to the Right, and on the last step you do a Natural Pivot. Our pivot was what we used to turn the corner because of that other lesson going on, so we started traveling down the line of dance on one wall and ended the pivot with me backing diagonal wall on the new wall. If that lesson hadn’t been there we could have pivoted enough to come out backing line of dance on the same wall if we wanted.

The last figure we tacked on was a Running Natural Spin Turn. This is also an Open-level figure, a variation of a Natural Spin Turn as you probably guessed. Basically the change involves staying lowered down during the first beat of the measure and doing two 180° pivots before stepping out and rising on beat two, with the third step lowering as normal.

The first two pivots build up a lot of speed turning that quickly, so it is important to keep your core engaged so that you can stop your turning as you step out on beat two, otherwise you can end up flailing around out of control. This figure, like the Chasse Roll to the Right, is something that can be led if you are a fairly experienced Leader and your partner has a good idea of the mechanics of pivots and chasses, so give it a try sometime!

So hey… there’s a competition on Saturday. I don’t know how to feel about this one. This competition offers more than just going out and running heats in front of some judges. This event has basically taken over my whole weekend. I have to be there on Saturday morning to dance for the judges, and then I get a few hours off in the afternoon, and then I have to be back that evening for some sort of dinner event, and possibly some more dancing. There’s also some sort of Pro show. Then on Sunday morning there is a ‘Dance Camp’ where all the competitors will get classes/lectures/S’mores from the judges (I really don’t know what to expect).

I don’t feel anything about this competition at the moment. Like the last competition I was in, there are no nerves or excitement, I just feel like it is one more item on my schedule to get through related to my dance training. Maybe the day of there will be some nerves before taking to the floor. In any case, I’ll be sure to tell you all about the event next week!