Freeze This Moment A Little Bit Longer

I swear, I’m going to try really hard to keep this post slightly shorter. I feel like I have gotten to be absurdly verbose lately, and I need to rein it in just a little. Let’s see what I can do…

Saturday was definitely the day when most of the noteworthy stuff that I did this week happened. To start things off, I had a coaching session with Lord Dormamu scheduled in the morning. We had planned to meet up at the Endless Dance Hall that day, and the place was crazy busy when we got there. By the time our coaching session started, there was a group of people at one end of the floor that were doing some sort of dance fitness class, and they had commandeered the music for their purposes (and had the volume turned up super loud, making it difficult to talk about anything), there were also a few other private lessons that were trying to take place at the same time.

Judge Dread happened to be one of the people giving one of those private lessons – he usually comes down to the Endless Dance Hall once a month to give coaching and teach some workshops, and I didn’t realize that last Saturday was the day he was scheduled to do that. His first workshop class started before our coaching session with Lord Dormamu finished, so we ended up having to dance around them as well. Coincidentally, the first workshop that Judge Dread was teaching that day was on Foxtrot, which is the dance style that Sparkledancer and I worked on with Lord Dormamu that morning, so we had quite a few people from Judge Dread’s class stopping to watch us dance very intently because the Foxtrot we were doing did not look like the Foxtrot they were doing.

There were a few notable points to take a way from what I went through that morning. The first thing we discussed after we ran through the Foxtrot for Lord Dormamu were all the figures where Sparkledancer has to do a Heel Turn. In practice, since we have been working on extending our legs to drive through all figures, Sparkledancer asked me to take smaller steps when leading her into a figure with a Heel Turn because she was having trouble bringing her feet together if the steps were big. Lord Dormamu said that taking these smaller steps were interrupting the flow of our Foxtrot, and he wanted us to move into figures that have Heel Turns using steps that were the same size as the other figures. This does make things harder on Sparkledancer, so making sure that each step is not rushed and giving her as much time as possible to close her feet is essential for success here.

Next we talked about the Three Step. Lord Dormamu wanted to further refine the shaping that Sparkledancer was doing in the middle of the Three Step. He explained that the Three Step, in his opinion, is actually the hardest figure to do properly in International Foxtrot. It doesn’t sound like much – it’s just three steps forward (or backward, if you’re the Follow), but making it look perfect takes a lot of work.

To do this properly, he threw down a new challenge for us: every time we do a Three Step in practice, he wants us to stop and hold as my foot hits the ground on the second step. When we hold, we should be able to review the position that we are in. There should be a clear right-side lead from me, and my left leg should be fully extended behind me so that my left foot is rolled forward and only the tip of my big toe is left on the ground when we stop. Sparkledancer should be using my body like a wall in order to shape herself off of, creating even more volume than she has when we are in normal dance frame just for that one step. If we hold that pose for a few beats and everything feels correct, we can then continue on.

Balance is a tricky thing to get when stopping like that, especially if you are going into the Three Step from another figure with a lot of movement, like a Basic Weave. If you don’t take that second step properly, you can end up fighting to hold yourself up. I’ll confess – the toes on my right foot hurt after we finished our session that day from gripping the ground so hard to maintain a balanced look. I guess that what we were doing was working though, since Lord Dormamu told us that our Three Steps were looking fantastic when we would hit that position, better than he’s ever seen them before. Now all we have to do is make them all like that consistently, and then be able to hit that pose without stopping every time, and we’ll be golden! No big deal, right?

We also talked about the Basic Weave that we have in the routine that day. The Basic Weave is the first figure that we do on the first short wall of the routine, and it goes right into a Three Step. Lord Dormamu told us that the Three Step we do there never looks as good as the other Three Steps we do in the routine. I hypothesized that it was because of all the momentum that we build up in the Basic Weave traveling toward diagonal center, which might not be bled off properly by the Feather Finish when we try to start the Three Step heading toward diagonal wall. After running through the two figures a couple of times, Lord Dormamu agreed with my assessment.

His analysis of the situation was that we weren’t properly using the slight pivot that is between the Basic Weave and its Feather Finish to halt our progression toward diagonal center. To improve this, he suggested that we practice doing just that by forcing ourselves to stop there. Once we hit the pivot point, we should get used to coming to a complete stop before taking the last two steps in the Feather Finish, which should train us to use the pivot to bleed off the momentum. If we can get used to that feeling, he is confident that we can go through the whole thing without breaking continuity and get rid of the pull toward diagonal center that is making the first step of the Three Step look awkward.

Finally, we talked about the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish again. While the figure is looking much better than it used to, Lord Dormamu is still not completely pleased. There were a couple of additional points he wanted to have us work on in practice to help. The first was that he wanted Sparkledancer to be the one actually doing the turning. His thought was that there are times I go through the figure where I don’t think that we are going to make the turn, so I attempt to force it by moving my upper body, which pulls Sparkledancer around, but also throws off our frame until I reset it during the Feather Finish. He wants me to stop thinking about turning entirely and just worry about bringing my heels together. That of course means that Sparkledancer will have to drive with slightly more power as she comes around me to do the turn for both of us.

He also suggested that we alter the angle of the Natural Turn preceding the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish. If we end the Natural Turn so that I am backing diagonal wall instead of backing line of dance, that means that the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish has to turn an eighth of a turn less, which makes the turn easier on everyone involved. Of course, that will put us closer to the wall when we end the figure, so we will have to be careful not to end up off the floor if we are dancing in a smaller space.

Later that afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for even more coaching. This week we opted to work on Viennese Waltz, which of late has been the International Standard style that I spend the least amount of time on in practice. In fact, with everything else I have been working on in Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and Quickstep, I can’t remember the last time I dedicated any real practice time to Viennese Waltz. That will have to change, I guess.

The majority of our time was spent on just getting into frame. Now, before I write any more, I will have to say that I am not a huge fan of this opening sequence that we go through to get into frame. It’s different from all of our other routines, and I find the whole experience to feel awkward. Normally I am totally cool with being awkward in any situation, especially when people are watching me, but I just don’t like the awkwardness here. We don’t compete with Viennese Waltz with any regularity yet, so I haven’t really had to worry too much about how I feel doing this opening jig. Spending a ton of time on it in one of my lessons though, that makes it super apparent how much I don’t enjoy doing it.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, imagine this: we start out with me facing center and Sparkledancer a few steps away facing me. Each movement covers one three-count bar of music, so on the first we both step forward and I take her right hand in my left. On the second we both step to the side (left for me, right for her) and raise our held hands while throwing out our opposite arm. We bow to each other on the third, and originally on the fourth bar we were supposed to step to the side (left for me, right for her) and wind up a bit to go into a Natural Turn to begin traveling.

There were a bunch of things that Sir Steven wanted us to change about this opening progression after he watched us go through it. First of all, as you can probably imagine, he wanted me to work on how I was moving my arms. Apparently I looked like I was flailing when I moved them. Maybe that is a sign that I should think about switching  to dance styles that don’t require me to move my arms around? 😉

Sir Steven went into this whole thing about moving my arms using rotation from my upper body as the catalyst, bringing Sparkledancer and I over to the mirror to watch what we were doing as we practiced. Trying to move my upper body gracefully enough to initiate movement in my arms wasn’t working too well for me though, because when I tried I still looked pretty goofy. Based on where he wanted my arm to start off and where he wanted it to end up when I was finished moving it, I tried moving my arm instead as if I were doing a chest fly while holding a weight. That is a movement I am very familiar with, and as luck would have it, the movement produced a result that Sir Steven approved of. As long as I keep my mouth shut, he can believe that I am using his advice on how to move my arm to make it look like he wants. It will be our little secret.

The last thing that Sir Steven wanted us to change in this opening sequence was the timing. As I mentioned, each movement we do covers one three-count bar of music, and there are four movements in total. Sir Steven thought that our opening would work better if it could cover a full eight-bar phrase of music, so he wanted us to do the first three movements as normal, hold for four bars, and then do the step to the left on bar eight so that our first Natural Turn would be on bar one of a new eight-bar phrase. If I wasn’t already feeling awkward about this whole opening progression before, adding in all of that stillness made sure to fix that. If I was in a competition and Sir Steven wasn’t around to watch, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t do any of this starting progression. We’ll have to see if it gets any better with time, patience and practice.

After that, the rest of the session was spent working on Natural and Reverse Turns. There was nothing too fancy here, we spent time making sure that there was a lot of drive on every first step by extending the time for that step slightly and then doing the last two steps of each turn at normal speed. In some ways it felt more like dancing Viennese Waltz in a ‘slow, quick, quick’ rhythm rather than in three equally spaced steps. Working on the drive of each turn also helps to emphasize that Viennese Waltz is a traveling dance, not just a spinning dance like a lot of people tend to think. This emphasis is something we are just doing to practice the feeling and drive we want, but in an actual competition we would not purposely try to change the timing of the steps from what they should be.

Last Saturday was also when my Royal Dance Court group had planned to hold our monthly dance party. Before I arrived at the venue, I had been a bit worried that the party might be smaller than usual since it was St. Patrick’s Day after all, but my worries appeared to be unfounded. We still ended up with over fifty people coming out to dance the night away, and we weren’t even serving drinks! There were a number of people who showed up a bit late to the start of the party, saying that they had gone out for dinner beforehand and the restaurants they visited were swamped, but better late than never, right?

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day we had opted to bring someone in to teach a lesson in East Coast Swing before the party started. That person was Sir Steven! I saw him twice in one day, at two different places. How weird is that? Anyway… when the class started we had a couple more women than men who wanted to take the lesson, so I ended up joining in to try to even out the numbers a bit. What we did in class was fun, but none of the figures Sir Steven showed everyone were new to me. That gave me an advantage, and I used it to help out a number of ladies that I danced with who were having trouble with their steps initially.

I didn’t actually do much during the open dance portion after the lesson. By the time class finished, we had an even number of men and women, so I spent most of the night keeping on top of little things to make the patrons happy rather than dancing, like a good party host would. I did find out later that apparently there was one guy making a hubbub about the party and how there was some unnamed individual(s) wearing jeans there. Scandalous! I happened to be wearing jeans that night, since I wasn’t really expecting to dance so much that I needed the full range of motion for my legs, so maybe this guy was talking about me. Of course, I also didn’t really dance that night, so I don’t know if I even registered for this gentleman.

Sigh… I never really get to wear jeans anymore, so if I was really the one he was talking about who made him unhappy, he can bite me. I have to be dressed formally for work every day of the week, and when I’m out practicing or taking lessons for dance I wear a pair of practice slacks, so sometimes it’s nice just to dress casually. I don’t do that too often nowadays, so I make no apologies for deciding to wear jeans to a dance party that I helped organize and host. How does the saying go again? Something something my party, something something dress how I want to, right? Close enough.

Finally, I’ll mention Standard Technique class from yesterday for a couple of reasons. First off, we worked on some Tango, which is always a fun thing to do. After class was over last night, it may have dawned on me that I no longer think that my Tango is terrible anymore. Remember how I used to say that it was my weakest International Standard style? I might now think that it’s one of my strongest, after Foxtrot of course. Secondly, the new ‘instructor’ girl who I mentioned was in Standard Technique class with me last week actually did come back, and I got to talk to her a bit more about life and dancing. I’m such a good Dance Ambassador!

The progression of figures that we worked on in class wasn’t very long, but the transition between figures two and three could be a challenge if you didn’t anticipate what was to happen. We started off facing diagonal wall and did two basic Curved Walk steps, with enough curve to end with us facing diagonal center after the second one was done. Next we did a Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot, transitioning from that directly into an Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside. We closed our feet at the end to set us up for a Back Corte, and then finished up with a Progressive Link into a Natural Promenade Turn.

The Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot gave me the most trouble that night, because most of the time when we went through the figure the ladies wouldn’t go into Fallaway Position on the second step. That made the next two steps difficult to get through without some force on my part. I think Lord Junior was so busy going over the footwork with the ladies that he inadvertently forgot to tell the ladies they would need to be in Fallaway Position, but I don’t know for sure. Also, all the steps for the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot are quick, as are the first two steps of the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside, so you really have to keep yourself under control as you come to the first slow step in the Open Reverse Turn or else you will just float through. Floating doesn’t look very staccato, as you can imagine.

New dance ‘instructor’ girl told me last night that we were going to be stuck with her in class, because even though she was frustrated that she is having to relearn large portions of what she thought she knew, she still likes it. So, maybe she really does need a name. How about… I call her Silver. When she actually starts teaching, I suppose I’ll have to promote her to Lady Silver, but for now she is just training, so Silver will be good.

Anyway… Silver still seemed frustrated with the figures in class, much like she was last week. There were a few times I danced with her and she messed up her steps, and rather than continue on she just stopped dancing and walked away from me. I did offer to go through the figure again with her when she messed up, but she didn’t often take me up on that. The frustration was easy to see, even for someone like me who is kind of terrible at reading cues from ladies, but this week she didn’t look like she was going to break into tears, so I see that as an improvement.

Going through the Progressive Link really surprised her. Here is a figure that is probably one of the most common steps people do in Bronze International Tango, and she said that she had never been shown how to do it before. Hearing that really made me wonder about who was teaching her International Standard at the franchise studio where she used to work before she got to the Electric Dance Hall. Whomever that was probably needs a talking to about what they are covering. Do you think I should find them and let them read my copy of The Book? 🙂

Well, it looks like I failed miserably at trying to keep this short. Sigh… maybe next week I can do better.


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…

Unbelievable Sights, Indescribable Feeling

Last Saturday morning I got my result sheets from the pseudo-competition I was in the Saturday prior. Someone who works at the Fancy Dance Hall had been nice enough to type up all of the notes for me so that I didn’t have to try to read all of the judge’s handwriting, but since I danced in so many heats the feedback still covered more than one sheet of paper. My lesson with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer that afternoon was focused on some of the specific notes that we were given, much like all of the practice sessions I have had since I got the sheets back.

Let’s start by talking about the results from the last round that I did that day, which was the five-dance challenge round that Sparkledancer and I opted to be a part of. The only reason we decided to dance in that round was because at the level we are dancing right now, none of the competitions we take part in have us dancing all five International Standard styles back-to-back, so we wanted to give that a try to see how we did. Initially I thought that this round would just give us feedback from the judges, like all the other heats, but I was wrong. Apparently they scored this round with placements, like you would get at a real competition.

Sparkledancer and I were ranked second or third by all judges in all five of our dances, but when all the scores were added up we were placed third overall out of five. I know that doesn’t sound super good, but being ranked in this way overall wasn’t a good idea to begin with, for a number of reasons. First of all, we were the only Amateur pair that danced in this five-dance round – everyone else was Pro/Am, so we definitely had that working against us. Secondly, this was not a leveled challenge. The Pro/Am couple that took first? That lady was doing her Gold-level routines. The second place Pro/Am pair I know competes in Silver regularly, so I assume they were using those routines that day as well. Then there was us, dancing our Bronze routines.

I’m sure that makes it slightly more impressive, seeing as how the people who beat us are definitely dancing at a higher level, but I still don’t feel right about it. Had I known that we wouldn’t be getting feedback and would be ranked, I probably would have made the argument with Sparkledancer that it wasn’t really a good idea to dance in the five-dance round, and instead would have signed up for five more single-dance heats. Still, what’s done is done, and it is nice to know that at least we didn’t take last place against a while field of Pro/Am couples.

With that out of the way, the more interesting thing I got was the notes on the single-dance heats. Many of the notes are only semi-helpful, because they aren’t overly specific. There were quite a few that mentioned something about keeping the frame stronger or more consistent, but they don’t specify where I need to do that, or even tell me whether it is Sparkledancer or I that should be doing it. Those comments I just skimmed over, because frame and posture is going to be a constant point to work on (at least, until I figure out how to replace large portions of my upper body with cybernetic parts).
There were also a lot of comments about how Sparkledancer and I were fun to watch, or looked like we were having fun. While that is good to know, and was something I was actively working on that day, those notes don’t really help me focus my practice. In fact, all of the comments that talked about how I did something well I just skipped over. When all was said and done, I highlighted just the comments that were actually useful information on things I should work on in each dance style.

Because I’m not ashamed to admit my own faults, I am going to put that list here. Also, it will make it easy for me to look up the notes if I lose my copy of the results sheet, which is entirely likely to happen at some point…

For Waltz – More rise and fall actions need developing; More lowering and rising; Man’s left side up and forward; Beautiful closing action on the natural turn. More consistent with this; Closing action in natural turn could be more precise; Maintain a good head position.

For Tango – Powerful movement but inconsistent; Keep Tango flatter.

For Viennese Waltz – Stay in your left space at all times; Work on bigger steps; Head position needs to be more aware of space, too much rotation in the head, needs to be longer; Needs more depth on the first step in both natural and reverse turns.

For Foxtrot – Use your standing leg; Too steppie at times; Use your sides to pass one another; Shape gets slightly distorted because of foot position; Knees need to flex more when receiving the weight on the slow; More projection outwards needed; Slows need to be fuller to show contrast from quicks.

And finally, for Quickstep – Too steppie at times; Use your standing legs and divide the feet; Longer steps; More confidence; Great energy, but inconsistent.

(All notes are verbatim as on the papers I got)

Based on those notes, if I didn’t know any better I would feel like Tango is my strongest dance style all of a sudden. How in the world did that happen? Quickstep seems to come in as a close second though. I mean, if I think back to the results that I got from the last actual competition I was in, that would follow with the scoring that the judges in that event gave Sparkledancer and I, so I guess maybe that has some merit, but Tango and Quickstep are definitely not the dance styles I feel like the strongest in. I always thought that Foxtrot was my strength, with Waltz behind that. Maybe this means that I will have to devote more practice time to those two styles to keep them at the top of the heap.

Saturday night was a big night for me. This past weekend was the scheduled weekend for the monthly dance party that my Royal Dance Court group hosts, but this month was special. Many months ago I had asked the Princess to come in to teach the lesson that we hold before the dance party, and Saturday was the night that she actually did it, and oh man did things turn out great!

First of all, we had so many people show up to see her that night that there was barely any room on the dance floor during the lesson that she taught. People didn’t seem to mind that though – they were enraptured listening to her talk about American Tango, and entranced by watching her demonstrate the steps. Second of all, though she didn’t have to, the Princess actually stayed for the majority of the dance party afterward, talking with anyone who wanted to talk with her and dancing with any man (or woman) brave enough to dance with her. All the while using her magical princess powers to liven up the room.

(I’m not even kidding about that. If you’ve ever spent any time in the same room as her, you know that she has a way of commanding attention if she wants to. Her personality is a force of nature, and it sweeps anyone nearby up in its wake. Good thing she’s also super nice. If she were a villain, she could be really dangerous and manipulative.)

So what does a Princess tell her subjects if she is giving a class on American Tango? Well, first she made everyone dance for her so that she could stroll around the room and evaluate how everyone danced currently. Then she split up the class and gave everyone a look at some important Tango technique that would make everyone better, but was especially good information for those more advanced dancers in the crowd. Finally she showed everyone a fun and challenging combination of figures that would help people practice the technique she taught, but would also give them something that could be pulled out during dance parties to impress others on the floor.

The technique that she spent time going over in class was something that she had been discussing the weekend prior, after the competition I was in was over, with that multi-time world champion who had come in to judge that I mentioned. Apparently they had somehow gotten into a conversation about taking steps in Tango. I guess if you are both world-class dancers, like the Princess and that judge guy are, these are the sorts of things that just come up in normal conversation when you talk…

The technique that they discussed really was about how to take steps in Tango. Whether dancing American or International Tango, to make it look and move differently than any other ballroom dance you need to drive out of your standing leg and step on the beat and then hold, split weight, body weight in-between your legs. On the ‘&’ of the beat (or on the ‘&’ of the second beat, if you are taking a slow step) you will shift your weight to the new leg, and the old leg essentially becomes dead weight until it is collected. This driving and then holding action is what, more than anything else, will give your Tango the powerful staccato look that it needs to really look like Tango at a world-class level.

To practice this, the Princess had people just do the American Tango basic a few times down the floor alone, then she partnered everyone up to have men and women try it together. As soon as she had people partner up and give it a try, she had to split the men and women up again to tell all the men about being in frame correctly with a lady and having a right-side lead the whole time while dancing Tango. Apparently watching the men near her try to dance with a partner offended her so much that she had to stop everyone to fix it.

By the time she was finished having us work on walking, everyone in the room had been drawn into her lesson in some way. Normally we have people who show up for the dance party and spend their time during the lessons on the sidelines, just sitting and chatting with each other, but even these people were standing next to the chairs and paying attention to everything the Princess was saying. Even Lord Junior and Sir Digler, who had both stopped by the party at different times just to visit with people they knew for a little while, ended up in line with the men so they could work on the things that the Princess was talking about. I wish that I had a magical air of command about me like that!

Splitting the men and women up again, she now went through a small progression of Tango figures. None of the figures were super difficult, but she made it look amazing. Have you ever watched a world champion-level dancer dance a Bronze-level routine before? It makes the Bronze-level routines I practice look terrible by comparison. Luckily, I wasn’t the person she asked to help her demonstrate the routine. Sir Digler happened to be standing in line near the Princess, so she called him out and told him that she would just back-lead him through the sequence. The whole time she kept calling him ‘darling’ (or “dah-ling” in that accent of hers), which made him blush a lot. Poor guy…
The progression began with a normal American Tango basic – two curved steps followed by a three-step close. On the last step of the basic, she had people shift to Promenade Position heading diagonal center. Next we did a Promenade that ends in a throwout to get the lady into Open Fan position. Here we led her through a Underarm Turn with an extra spin on the end to get her into Shadow Position. While the lady turns, the man just has to rock in place.

From here we did an Open Reverse Turn in Shadow Position, ending the figure with a right-side lunge/picture line that stretched toward diagonal wall. To finish, the guy takes two steps backward to settle on right leg and holds while lady is turned across our body to collect back in Promenade Position, before taking off into a basic closed Promenade that ends facing wall so you could start all over if you wanted.

So yeah, things went well. The class was challenging for a lot of people – most people who only dance socially don’t usually think about their technique, so the Princess really pushed them outside their comfort zone to help them improve. Plus there were so many people trying to dance in the class that the floor was super crowded, which also made things challenging. All those people stuck around afterward for the party to hang out and dance with the Princess more, and because of that anyone who was dancing had to keep themselves really contained. I didn’t hear any reports of injuries throughout the night, so I’m going to assume that everyone was successful. Hooray!

I dealt with an ever-so slightly smaller crowd on Monday night when I went out to the Electric Dance Hall for Latin Technique class. Lord Junior still wanted to use class that night to give his competitive students who joined class some extra practice for the competition they are going to in a couple of weekends, and tonight’s class was primarily for the benefit of Gatekeeper. She had gotten her feedback from the competition she participated in with me two weekends ago, and one of the comments that the judges made repeatedly was that she needed to work on straightening her legs completely in her Latin dances. So tonight we worked on Rumba to let her practice that.

When we really focus on doing the Latin dances on Monday with super straight legs, it hurts me on the inside. Straightening my legs like that is pretty much anathema to everything I have been practicing so hard for International Standard to improve my movement. Also, there is this very fine line that I walk while straightening my legs like this, between really flexing the bottom of my quadriceps to hold my leg straight, and just being kind of lazy and letting my knees settle back a little farther to lock in more of a hyperextended position. Because I don’t do Latin all that often, if I’m not thinking about what I’m doing I have a tendency to allow the latter to happen, which ends up being painful when I get home.
For the first twenty minutes, we drilled the basic steps and New Yorkers extremely slowly to make sure that our legs were straightened perfectly when they needed to be. I’m talking music so slow that dancing sloths would have told Lord Junior to kick it up a notch. If they danced ballroom, that is – I have a feeling that dancing sloths usually end up at raves for some reason, slowly waving around glow sticks. Yeah, you can picture that too, can’t you.

When we had been tortured enough with this extended warm up, Lord Junior gave us a few more complicated steps to use to continue working on our legs. We did three New Yorkers (to the right, left, then right) into an Alemana that ended with lady on man’s right side. Then we finished with a Closed Hip Twist that sent the lady out into Fan Position. There weren’t too many figures, but if the fastest you dance them is to 80% of International Rumba music tempo, it takes a long time to get through what little is there. By the end of class, I started to wonder if what we were doing was practice, or punishment.

There was much less torture for me on Wednesday night when I went out to Standard Technique class. Once again, we took to working on a style and a figure so that one of Lord Junior’s competitive students could get in some additional practice with it before competing. This time it was Foxtrot, and the specific figure she wanted some more work on was the Reverse Wave.

We didn’t get through a whole lot as far as steps were concerned because a few of the ladies were struggling to get through the few figures we did use. What we ended up doing was just a prep step into a Feather, then an Open Telemark with a Feather Ending. We took that into an Overturned Reverse Turn that flipped us 180° so that we ended up backing diagonal wall, and now we added on the Reverse Wave, which curved to head down the line of dance. To get out of that easily, we just did an Open Impetus that turned us to head toward diagonal center in Promenade Position.

The most difficult part for me was going through the Overturned Reverse Turn into the Reverse Wave. Lord Junior had told all the ladies about turning their heads to the right as they started the Reverse Wave. This had the unintended effect of making the ladies want to go in that direction. If the lady did not want to dance in body contact with me (there were two in class who really didn’t like doing that), then I had very little ability to control where they ended up, so they would drift off toward outside partner on my left side. It didn’t matter how strong I held my arms, or how many times we went through the figure and they were told not to do this, those two ladies kept trying to shift to that side for some reason.
On a funny note, Lord Junior spent some time getting on the ladies to make sure they took a heel step for their first step when we were in Promenade Position. After the third or fourth time telling them all to do that, he threatened to make the next lady who didn’t take a heel step run a lap around the outside of the dance floor using all heel steps. We all thought it was a pretty funny threat, until Bony stepped up to dance through the progression with him… and failed to take a heel step for her first step in Promenade Position.

Lord Junior told her to go run her lap, and to make sure to go around the outside of the dance floor, which would take her behind the other group class that was going on down at the other end of the floor. Bony told him that she didn’t run, so she just started sauntering along slowly. When she got to where the other group class was, rather than go around them she stopped to talk to one of the people on the edge of the class. At this point, we were all laughing, and Lord Junior started calling across the room to her to keep moving because this was not supposed to be a break for her to socialize.

The instructor leading the other class stopped what she was doing to ask Lord Junior what was going on. He told her that Bony was supposed to be running her lap as a punishment. Everyone in the other group class started laughing too, so the instructor fought to get her class back under control and told them all not to talk to Bony because she was being punished. Finally Bony sauntered her way around the room and back to our side, looking pretty pleased with herself.

The funny part was, after going through that exercise, Bony never messed up her heel step in Promenade Position again that night. It was a hilarious method of getting there, but apparently her punishment really did teach her the right lesson. 🙂

So We Gon’ Dance Until We Drop

Another week in the books. The most interesting thing that I did this past weekend was participate in a pseudo-competition that was being put on by the Fancy Dance Hall. There would be heats, and some well-known judges, and after the event was over there would be written notes from the judges about things that they noticed you doing while you danced. Exciting, right?

Sparkledancer and I signed up for this event, because feedback that we can actually make sense of is something that we can use to help us improve. Before we signed up, we discussed what we should do with Lord Dormamu. He thought that this would be a good chance for us to work on our stamina, so the recommendation was to do a ridiculous number of heats. Seeing as how I dance amateur, and it is very rare that I actually get to dance heats at a competition, working on stamina wasn’t really even a concern for me. But he’s the world-class coach, so I wasn’t going to argue with him. Besides, the Fancy Dance Hall was offering a pretty cheap rate for amateurs to dance per heat, so splitting the cost with Sparkledancer wasn’t all that expensive.

I had originally signed up to dance twenty individual heats (four each of each of the five International Standard styles) plus one five-dance challenge round. There was a bit of a mix-up when they put together the schedule for the day though, so a lot of people got signed up to dance more heats than they paid for, which was a pretty good deal. I think in the end I ended up dancing something like thirty individual heats plus the five-dance challenge round.

Sparkledancer and I were on the floor a lot more than most other students that morning, and even more than a majority of the instructors. The only person I know for sure who was on the floor more than us was Lord Latin. When a group of his students booked their heats, apparently the schedule had to be built around how often he would be on the floor. For the entire morning session when I was there, which covered all the heats in International Standard and American Smooth, there were only two Viennese Waltz heats that Lord Latin did not dance. That guy was the real champion of the day.

A lot of people who I knew from the area were taking part in this event, so it ended up being really fun there. Lord Junior had three of his students sign up to dance heats that day. They were interested in getting feedback from the judges that they could review because they had all signed up to go to a big Pro/Am competition that is happening in a couple of weeks. Sir Digler was there with two of his students, one of those being Points, a lady that used to dance a lot but then disappeared for a long time, and now apparently has resurfaced as a competitor. Surprise! The Princess was there as well, and she had a couple of men whom she was dancing some heats with during the morning session.

One of the judges for the event was also dancing that morning in a few heats, weirdly enough. This guy is apparently another one of those multi-multi-multi-time world champion ballroom dancers, much like Lord Dormamu. When he was asked by the people at the Fancy Dance Hall if he would come judge this competition for them, he thought it sounded like fun, and then asked if he could bring one of his students with him to dance in some of the rounds! No one expected that as his response, but they weren’t about to say no if it meant he would be there, so there was a block of dances near the end of the morning set aside where he wasn’t judging so he and his student could dance.

Speaking of Lord Dormamu… he was not there that day. Back when we first talked about doing this event months ago, it sounded like he would be dancing there with a few of his Pro/Am ladies, but it turns out that he was asked to go help run a bigger competition out-of-town, and then give coaching to competitors from that event the next day. So that’s where he ended up instead.

My first heat was heat three, so I started out in the designated ‘on-deck’ area of the studio watching while waiting my turn. The first thing that I noticed when watching the first couple of heats that morning was that there seemed to be very little energy in the room. This was late in the morning, so it wasn’t like everyone there hadn’t had plenty of time to be up and about to wake themselves up, so I wondered what it was that was making everyone so subdued. It was then that I remembered that when I did this same competition the year before, Lord Dormamu was the one that was engaging everyone who wasn’t on the dance floor during the competition. This year, the DJ was trying to do the same, but it wasn’t working nearly as well.

After Sparkledancer and I finished our first few heats and had a bit of a break, I told her that we needed to step up and help liven up the crowd. So we started to perform rather than just dance. When we would go out to dance a heat, after picking a corner to start in we would talk to the people sitting in chairs nearby as the music started, or to other competitors who decided to start dancing near us. Sometimes I made comments to people as I danced past them, just to get them to smile or laugh. In one heat I had a whole conversation with Sparkledancer fairly loudly, where we talked about how she was a classy lady who danced, and since I was dancing with her, what that would make me. We managed to decide that the most appropriate word would be ‘debonair’ before the heat ended, but it was a tough choice between that and ‘suave’ let me tell you.

And performing like that actually worked! After a few rounds where people watched the two of us dancing seriously but acting silly, the whole atmosphere in the room changed. The audience, and other competitors waiting between their heats, started to actually cheer on the dancers on the floor, and even started to play along with Sparkledancer and I as we interacted with them. Suddenly it seemed like everyone was actually having fun, which I think made many people dance much better. That made me happy.

Near the end of the morning, the student who had come to dance at this event with the judge stopped to talk to me while I was hanging out in the on-deck area. She was an older lady who could have easily passed for my grandmother, if my grandmother ever wore a fancy yellow ball gown. She wanted to tell me that she thought that Sparkledancer and I looked like we were having so much fun while we were out on the dance floor. In fact, apparently when she found out that she was going to be dancing some of the same heats as we were that morning, at first she was nervous because she didn’t think she could compete with us for attention.

I tried to tell her that she really didn’t have to worry about competing with me, since I am just an amateur, and her instructor and dance partner has been one of the highest rated dancers in the world. She laughed at that, and then said that after being on the floor with Sparkledancer and I, she was inspired to try even harder at dancing, and also to have fun at the same time.

That bit of feedback right there from some lady I had only met that morning means more to me than any of the written notes that I will eventually get from the judges. 🙂

When the competition broke for lunch after the American Smooth rounds, I had to head back home to take care of some things in the afternoon. But that competition wasn’t the only dancing that I ended up doing that day. Sparkledancer sent me a note late in the afternoon saying that Prez had asked her to go to the dance party that night at the Endless Dance Hall to make some announcements for our Royal Dance Court group. Since I am also on the Royal Dance Court, she was drafting me to help her out. Plus, I assumed that we could get in some practice if I was there with her, which is always a good thing.

The dance club that had put together this event had called up the illustrious Judge Dread to come teach a lesson in Bolero for them before the open dance started. I was interested in hearing Judge Dread teach, because he has such a different perspective on things. The man is an internationally acclaimed ballroom adjudicator, so hearing him talk about the different dance styles is fun. However, I didn’t end up getting to participate in the class. Somehow, through some sort of wizardry that I don’t understand fully, the dance club ended up with more men than women showing up for the class! Unbelievable!

I know I could have muscled my way into a spot in the line if I wanted to, but being a member of the Royal Dance Court, I thought that might be considered bad form. Also, there were people in the class that had never danced Bolero before, so Judge Dread spent quite a bit of time covering just the basic steps. I thought that it would be better for people who had never done Bolero before to practice those steps rather than me, so that was another reason why I stepped off to the side.

Things got a bit more ridiculous at the party after the lesson. The first thing that Sparkledancer and I had to do was track down the leader of this ballroom club, who happens to be the famous President Porpoise, to talk with him about making the announcements that Prez requested. Turns out that he had already planned on making announcements about the same items before we even got there, so Prez really didn’t need to send Sparkledancer on this mission. Huzzah! That meant that our Royal Dance Court duties were done for the night, and we could do whatever we wanted with the rest of our time.

So I ended up socializing for much of the night. I don’t go out to too many dance parties anymore now that I am training to be a serious competitor (super serious), so I don’t really get to see people as much as I used to. Since I was at this party, and I had already danced quite a bit earlier in the day, I took the time to try to at least say hello to a bunch of people while I was at the party.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t dance at all. In fact, Sparkledancer and I did dance together for every ballroom dance that was played that night until I left, save for one where some other guy grabbed her for a Tango before I could find her. Being kind of burnt out on working on our routines, Sparkledancer suggested at the beginning of the night that we spend the night practicing our posture, frame, footwork and floorcraft, but dance whatever figures that we wanted, or even switch to American style if we wanted to do something completely different.

During the first Foxtrot of the night, I tried to do American style, but it just felt weird since all I do is International anymore. Somewhere around the floor I was doing some Passing Twinkles, and after closing Sparkledancer back to the point where we connected the right side of our bodies, I never brought up my left hand to offer it to her. Rather than stop dancing, I proceeded to continue to move around the floor just holding her with my right hand behind her shoulder, and switched to mostly doing International-style Foxtrot steps instead of American.

That actually turned out to be a lot more fun by comparison, and it was a good way to practice our connection. When the song ended and I walked with Sparkledancer back to the side of the dance floor, she told me that when the next ballroom-style dance came on, she would come find me again, and we should try that one using only one arm as well. A few songs later a Waltz came on, and we did the same thing, using a variety of International Waltz steps and only one arm to get around the floor.

Because it was so much fun, we ended up doing that the rest of the night whenever we danced together. The only exception we made was for the one Viennese Waltz and one Quickstep that came on before I left for the night – those we figured would be safer if we used both arms to maintain a good frame. People gave us some strange looks as we passed by them when we danced with our arms hanging down at the side, but I was having too much fun to care. So… I guess you could count that as practice for the night, in a way. I’m certainly going to.

Returning to a bit of quiet normalcy, I headed out to Latin Technique class on Monday night. As a treat, when I got there Lord Junior announced to everyone that we would get to work on Pasodoble that night. Hooray! That’s my favorite!

As I mentioned, Lord Junior and a few of his students are preparing to head off to a large Pro/Am competition coming up soon, and one of the ladies who was in class on Monday night and also danced in the competition that I was in on Saturday was working on perfecting her Pasodoble routine, so Lord Junior opted to use the Latin Technique class to give her some more practice. All of the figures that we were given to work on that night were from the Bronze syllabus, so if you’ve ever done any Pasodoble before you’ve probably seen these at least once.

We started out with a Separation. Then we did another Separation, only this time we brought the ladies back to us on our right side so that we could follow it with the Fallaway Ending to Separation (yes, that’s the real name of the figure). This ending to the Separation allowed us to turn a corner so that the next figures would all head down a new wall.

There were three figures used to close out our little progression for the night. The first was an Open Telemark. We underturned this slightly so that we ended facing the wall rather than facing down the line of dance. That set us up so that we could go into a Promenade and Counter Promenade. Lord Junior gave the guys a choice whether they wanted to do the Bronze-version of the figure where the Counter Promenade heads toward center, or the Silver-level version where the Counter Promenade goes diagonal center (way more advanced, right?). To complete the progression and to line us up facing the wall again, he had us add on a Grand Circle.

In Standard Technique class this week, Lord Junior once again had us working on a section from one of his competitive student’s routines so that she could get some extra practice with the figures before the upcoming competition that she and Lord Junior would be doing together. The dance was Quickstep, and the choreography that we looked at actually ended up being broken into two pieces because there was so much of it. In the first part of class, we looked at one section and linked it to the second section, but when we started to run short of time Lord Junior had us drop the first section entirely so that we could focus on improving the second section.

Part one had us starting off with a prep step into a Forward Lock. From there we added on a non-syllabus figure called a Hairpin, which looks a lot like a Curved Three Step from Foxtrot, and at the end of the Hairpin we attached a Heel Pull, which should rotate you so that you end up backing line of dance. Then we did those two figures again, though to attach them you have to take out the first slow step of the Hairpin. After the second one you should be facing line of dance going down the new wall (obviously you would do these figures in a corner if that is the intended rotation).

This set us up to take one step forward on our left leg and then go into a Rumba Cross, but like I said earlier, as class wore on and Lord Junior wanted to save time we ended up dropping all of those prior figures and started directly with the Rumba Cross instead. We did two Rumba Crosses in a row, with one step on the left leg in between to link them. Assuming you were able to do the pivot on the last step of the Rumba Cross correctly and get a full 180° turn, and you pushed with your standing leg enough to really drive through the first step and float through the others, you could easily cover the entire short wall with just those two Rumba Crosses.

Lord Junior had us add on a Natural Turn and an Open Impetus to turn the corner and line up moving diagonal center down the new wall, and we finished by doing one Step Hop into a Promenade Chasse in Pepperpot timing and then four running steps to end. These were actually four steps where you were ‘running’ on the balls of your feet, and not a Four Quick Run, which is a completely different figure though it sounds like it should be the same. I was confused as well when Lord Junior first told us we were doing the four running steps, but once I saw it I understood that it wasn’t the figure I was thinking of at all.

Holy cow, we are already halfway through February! Where does the time go? It feels like the year just started a little while ago, but we’re actually well into the year already. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to try my best to have a fairly quiet weekend this week. I’m actually hoping to disappear for a while and go out to see a movie (you can probably guess which one). Will I be able to pull off my plan? Or will dancing pop up and insist that I go hang out with it instead? I’m sure I’ll tell you all about how things go next week!