We Must Conquer From The Sea

I managed to get out of the house two Friday nights in a row! Man, I am proud of myself for that.

Rather than going out grocery shopping (which has been my usual Friday night activity lately), this past Friday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall for a party that they were having there. I had gotten a text from Sparkledancer earlier in the day asking if we could meet up to practice in the evening. Rather than try and find some free floor space somewhere else, I suggested that we just meet up at the party and use that time to get some practice in.

In my head, doing so would give us a chance to get in some practice time, and also allow us another chance to attempt to run our routines with other people on the floor. I always feel more confident about dance choreography if I know it well enough to use it while there are other distractions going on. Like other dancers on the floor that I would have to work around, as in this example. Getting used to working around people without breaking the choreography is always the first step, and then after that I have to get used to being able to break the choreography as needed without inserting any figures that could get me invigilated.

Based on how things went last Friday night, I think I have achieved step one for most of the dances. The only reason that I am not sure about all of them is because there was no Quickstep played that night. All the other ones were there – Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and even Viennese Waltz, but not Quickstep for some reason. I am fairly confident that I would be able to use the routine to get around as needed, but I can’t say for sure until I get a chance to try it once or twice with other couples on the floor who are also dancing Quickstep. So it will just have to wait until next time.

Breaking the choreography didn’t exactly go quite as well, so some work is still needed there. My problem was that the times that I broke it and had to add in a different figure to get around a couple, I couldn’t get back into the choreography cleanly until I got to the next corner. That was fine when I was almost there anyway, but it started to get weird if I had to alter things right at the beginning of one of the long walls for whatever reason. I’m feeling good that I should be able get this step down in the near future, but I just want to make a note that I haven’t achieved this level of mastery quite yet.

Sunday afternoon I did manage to snag a bit of time with both Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu to look over a couple of our routines for the first time since he gave us the choreography for them. There was some event going on in Lord Dormamu’s life that had a bunch of people hanging around at his house as he told us, so while he couldn’t stick around and work with us for an extended period of time, he was happy for a chance to get away and catch his breath for a little while. We managed to look at the Waltz and Tango before people started calling him and he had to wrap things up and head back to his house to see what was going on.

Since we have had some time with these new routines now to work on them in practice, and even to try them out a few times at social dances with other people on the floor, both Sparkledancer and I were feeling really good about going through the new routines when Lord Dormamu asked us to show the routines to him. What made me really happy though was that after we got done dancing through our Waltz routine once, Lord Dormamu came over and told us that moving up to Silver really suits the two of us, because even though we had been looking really good in Bronze, this new routine looks like it is on a whole different level. The phrase that he used was that he could see a “beautiful calmness” in our movement while watching us that hadn’t been there before.

While I was worried that the praise we got might just be for the Waltz, since we got that routine first and have had the most time to practice it, the same held true when we ended up going through the Tango afterward, even though that was the routine we got last and have had the least amount of time to practice. So hurray for us! Moving up in the world apparently really has been a good step for us. Hopefully that difference will show when next we have a chance to compete. We seem to have taken to this new proficiency level like ducks take to water.

That being said, we haven’t taken to things like a fish would take to water. There were some spots that need to be cleaned up a bit in both the Waltz and Tango. I figured that there would be, so none of these points we looked at lessened my good feelings about how everything seemed to be going so far. In the Waltz there were just a couple of minor things that Lord Dormamu wanted to point out to us that were really obvious to him while he watched.

The first note was for Sparkledancer. He told her that there were a couple of places he saw where we had shifted into Promenade Position and he said that her connection to me got a little off. From where he was standing, he said that it looked like she had been trying to create volume between her head and mine, which was good but it had looked a little like she was bending at her hips to do so instead of bowing outward from her ribs up. This was the same idea that Sparkledancer had talked about with Lady Kate the Great during the coaching session they had done just a few days prior. I know it was on the list of things that we had to practice, but we had only gotten one chance to get together to work on that between that coaching session and this lesson on Sunday.

One other spot that Lord Dormamu wanted to point out was for me was on the last wall, where the Half Reverse Turn goes into a Basic Weave. He told me that it looked like I was rising slightly as I stepped back into the checking action on the first step of the Basic Weave. I didn’t notice it at the time, but to make sure that it doesn’t happen again I can just think about starting to lower as I step backward into the checking action. That seems to be enough to prevent me from doing what he saw.

In the Tango, before he told us about the items that he noticed which needed to be fixed, I asked about a spot that wasn’t feeling good to me. At the end of the short wall we do an Open Reverse Turn that travels down the line of dance, then a Progressive Link that sets us up to head toward diagonal wall, and then a Natural Twist Turn that is used to turn the corner and come out toward diagonal center on the new wall. That Natural Twist Turn has never felt good when we have gone through it in practice, and I was thinking that it was because we are essentially only doing an eighth of a turn in order to come out in the right direction.

Lord Dormamu agreed with me that the amount of turn was the problem, but the reason he said that it was problematic was because of the number of steps that Sparkledancer is trying to do there in so little rotation. Because some crazy person trained the two of us to move so much while dancing, it seems like she was trying too hard to take tiny steps there so as not to over rotate the two of us. An easy fix he told me was to just swap out the Natural Twist Turn for a Natural Promenade Turn. Because the pivoting action in the Natural Promenade Turn removes all the extra steps Sparkledancer is doing, rotating for only an eighth of a turn doesn’t feel so awkward.

After we got done discussing that, there was only one other spot that Lord Dormamu said he really needed us to look at to correct something, and that was the Fallaway Promenade figure. The first thing that he tells Sparkledancer and I is that this is an important figure for us, because it is the first place that we are allowed to do Fallaway Position in any dance style. Waltz and Foxtrot also have syllabus figures that involve Fallaway Position, but you don’t see them until Gold. Showing that we can master Fallaway Position here in Silver will give us a leg up in the future according to Lord Dormamu.

It wasn’t that we were doing the figure wrong per se, but he really wanted to have us adjust the angles at which we were moving so that we could make the Fallaway action more clear. We start the figure after a Progressive Link that lines us up to move toward diagonal wall. On the third step I had only been coming around Sparkledancer enough so that I was moving toward the wall, but he said that I should be coming around further so that I am moving toward diagonal wall against line of dance. As we take the next step backward in Fallaway Position he wants us to be moving straight down the line of dance now, and only rotating away from that direction on the last step of the figure, where we finally turn enough so that we end up in Promenade Position facing diagonal wall again.

The last thing that I did this week was Standard Technique class last night. We spent time in class looking at the beginning of the Open Waltz routine that Lord Junior likes to give his students. He admitted to us during class that this small combination of figures used right at the beginning of the dance is a lot harder than it needs to be. When Lord Junior has coaches come in to look at things with his students, the coaches are always surprised that they would choose to start off the routine in this manner. But, to his credit, he has asked his students if they want to change the routine and start differently and his students always tell him no, so he keeps using this amalgamation.

Personally I think that the first figure is what makes this hard. You start this routine with a side step to the left and a little wind-up, and then you go into a Double Natural Spin. The figure itself isn’t hard – if you’ve done a Double Reverse Spin (one of the most basic Bronze figures in International Waltz) you can do a Double Natural Spin. It just uses the opposite feet and turns the opposite way, but otherwise it is the same. However, if you’re like me and you’ve done a lot of Double Reverse Spins in your life, trying to do a Double Natural Spin just feels all kinds of wrong, and you have to fight against all of your learned inclinations to make sure you get through the figure correctly. I will admit that there were more than a few times when we first started that I came out on the wrong foot without thinking.

The bit of choreography that we looked at started with the Double Natural Spin and came out into a basic Half Natural Turn. From there we did an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, coming out so that we were moving down the line of dance afterward. That set us up to do a Turning Lock to the Right, but we added an extra Pivot at the end to rotate us so that we were backing line of dance once more, allowing us to do a second Turning Lock to the Right. The second one ended normally in Promenade Position moving toward diagonal center. To finish we did a Running Weave from Promenade Position and a Cross Chasse.

The Cross Chasse is a strange place to finish if you want to try this out for yourself, but we ran out of time in class and weren’t able to add on anything else afterward. If you cross enough during the figure you can line yourself up to move toward diagonal center next, which would set you up perfectly to go into a Double Reverse Spin. It doesn’t take much effort to make this small set of figures cover the whole long wall, and I think that there is something nice about starting the wall with a Double Natural Spin and ending with a Double Reverse Spin. That’s just my feeling though, so take that with a grain of salt if you want to give it a try. 🙂


Watch Out, I Ain’t Lying, Yeah

In a strange turn of events, I ended up out at the Prime Dance Hall on Friday night. Things got to be a bit weird while I was there.

The idea for going out to the Prime Dance Hall started with Sparkledancer. She is one of Seedling’s favorite people to talk to about dance, and from what she has told me he will usually send her at least one message a day about some sort of dance topic. One day he told her that the instructors at the Prime Dance Hall told him that any of their students can sign up to do a performance at any of their Friday dance parties for a low cost. Seedling thought that was just the coolest thing, and was all gung-ho about performing, so just two weeks before the dance party I went to last Friday he had signed up to perform.

Two weeks to learn and polish a performance doesn’t sound like much, but it gets even better. Apparently his instructor didn’t like the choreography that they had put together, so the Tuesday before the performance she scrapped the whole thing, chose a brand-new song for Seedling to dance to, and started over. Then on Wednesday Seedling went back to the studio after finding what he called ‘cool moves that he saw videos of Pros doing’ and told his instructor that they needed to include at least one of those moves in the performance. She agreed, so they ended up having to redo large sections of the choreography again just two days before the performance… with no lessons on Thursday to work on it, and only two lessons on the day of the performance to get everything finished.

By this time, Seedling was asking Sparkledancer if she wanted to go to the dance party to watch his performance. Being such a nice person, Sparkledancer also extended the invitation to other people, including me, which is how I ended up at the Prime Dance Hall on Friday night to see what was going to happen. When I got to the studio on Friday night and met up with Sparkledancer, I was surprised to find that I was the only other person who came. Evidently everyone else had headed off to one of the many other Friday night parties going on in the Dance Kingdom rather than come to the party at the Prime Dance Hall.

I had gotten there early enough to be a part of the group class that happened before the party. The class went over the basics of the Tango and the Cha-Cha. Most of the ladies in the class had only been dancing for a few weeks at most, so even though the guy teaching the class only went over the American Tango basic and Left Foot and Right Foot Rocks, and in Cha-Cha he only covered the basic and the Crossover Break, these were all new steps for almost all the ladies I danced with.

A couple of the girls were talking with me a lot during the Tango section of class simply because I was starting off with all my weight on my right leg and my left foot pointed off to the side – because that’s a habit for me at this point. They had never seen anyone start a dance like that before, so two of them made a big deal about telling me that they were going to do the same as me because of how cool they thought I looked. I thought it was funny because it’s very rare that anyone calls me ‘cool’ which leads me to believe that anything cool that I do is completely by accident. ‘Accidentally Cool’ will be the inscription I ask for on my tombstone.

The party afterward was kind of weird. I ended up dancing with mostly Sparkledancer for the whole night. I’m sure that was kind of my fault – after the first time we danced together during the party, it was pretty obvious to everyone that we weren’t just newcomers like everyone else. There were a ton of the Prime Dance Hall instructors at the party that night, and almost all of them came to talk to either Sparkledancer or I (or both of us if we happened to be near one another) to ask about where we had learned to dance.

However, I think that dancing in the manner that we do also scared other people away from us. The only men that came to ask Sparkledancer to dance were myself, Seedling, and two of the instructors. Plus, the times when Sparkledancer and I danced together, even if we weren’t doing anything I thought was overly fancy, people were cheering for us. For example: a simple Back Corte in the Tango. It’s an easy figure, one of the first I learned in Bronze ages and ages ago, but more than once during that party people were applauding Sparkledancer and I when we did that figure. I have no idea why.

About forty-five minutes into the party they stopped the music and had everyone move to sit against the back wall for Seedling’s performance. The dance was a Rumba, and to sum it up… it was pretty much what I expected a performance that was choreographed, thrown out and re-choreographed and wasn’t practiced much to look like. What I mean by that is that the entire dance was the instructor. She wore the fancy costume and did most of the movement, while Seedling only did a handful of figures and then stood in one place for much of the dance while she used him as a support for the movements she was doing.

Don’t get me wrong – it was OK, but I honestly don’t think that it was what Seedling was hoping to show off. I think that his instructor took it a step too far with what she was doing, Her Rumba looked like an attempt to display her sexuality and power as she stalked around the room and engaged with the audience, while Seedling’s choreography looks like it was added as an afterthought. Her movements were egregious and bawdy, and the majority were done while separated from her partner, while he occupied a spot off to her side or behind her and did a few easy steps, like Cucarachas and some awkward arm movements. The end of the performance involved her grabbing Seedling’s tie (the sole costume item he was told to wear) and leading him off the floor like a puppy.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time in the Amateur world and don’t compete or perform with an instructor that I noticed that the whole performance was done by the instructor. Or maybe if I had talked with others in the crowd afterward they would have told me that they saw the same thing. What do you tell someone about how well they danced when that’s all you noticed? I kind of gave Seedling a sideways ‘good job’ afterward because I thought it might be rude to tell him what I thought. That’s why I am writing it out here instead. I can say whatever I want here because only one person I know in real life knows that this site exists, so no one’s feelings will get hurt.

Last Saturday night was a different story for me. There was a dance party going on at the Electric Dance Hall that I had heard about. I decided to head out to that so that I could spend some time being social in a place where I knew pretty much everyone.

Lord Junior was offering a group class before the party started. Only about a dozen people showed up early enough for the class, so he decided to change up his plan for the evening. Originally he had planned to do a class that covered just the beginner steps of the Foxtrot, but since Lord Junior knew that most of the people in the class had been dancing for quite a while he thought that he would try covering something a bit more challenging, so we ended up looking at Viennese Waltz instead.

There was one couple that came to the party that no one knew. From what the gentleman said, the two of them had come in from out of town to visit their son over the weekend, but had decided to go to the dance party that night just for a change of pace. They were active social dancers in their hometown, and the idea of going out to a studio they had never seen before in a different town intrigued them. The two of them told Lord Junior that they had done a little bit of Viennese Waltz years ago, but didn’t remember very much of it. He told them it would be no problem, and then asked Sparkledancer to work with the lady and for me to work with the gentleman if they needed any help.

After Lord Junior started talking about the footwork for the Reverse Turn, it became clear that neither of these people had actually done Viennese Waltz before… the guy admitted that he mistook the dance for something else they had done. So rather than just helping them out, Sparkledancer and I ended up giving the two of them extended help on just getting the Reverse Turn and Natural Turn down to a point where they could get from one end of the floor to the other. Halfway through the class we switched so that she could dance with the guy while I tried it out with the lady. Things were going pretty well for both of them, but then the lady said that the dance was making her dizzy so she went to sit down for the rest of class and just watch.

I’m not sure what other sorts of things that the class covered that night since I wasn’t really paying attention. By the time they finished up, I didn’t even think to ask someone if they had talked about anything else other than the Reverse Turn and Natural Turn. I assume that they did, because you need at least a Change Step to switch back and forth between the two as you go around the floor. But maybe not. Maybe all the people in class are going to go around the room only rotating one way. That could be silly, right?

The party afterward made me happy for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Sparkledancer and I finally decided to try out our new routines on a floor where there were other people dancing the same style at the same time, and all the ones that we did went great! I say ‘all the ones that we did’ because there wasn’t a Quickstep played that night, so we only really got to test out the Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango routines. Funny enough, there also wasn’t a Viennese Waltz played that night either, even though the class beforehand covered that style.

But the other thing that made me happy was the antics of Lord Junior. I guess someone had given him a nice bottle of rum that he had forgotten about, and he found it at the studio earlier in the day. During the party, he decided to give it a try… and ended up having several glasses of it while telling people that he was training to be a pirate. That made me laugh. Also, he had gotten a bag of cheesy poof snacks for everyone to share at the party, but it was him and Sparkledancer that polished off the majority of the bag before the party was even half over. I don’t know why I thought that was so funny, but I did.

Wednesday night was a bit different for me this week. Normally I go out to the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class, but this week Lord Junior had invited a high-level female coach to come in and work with his Pro/Am students for the day. One of the ladies that signed up to take a session with the coach was Sparkledancer, and since she doesn’t dance Pro/Am she asked me to be there for the lesson so that there was someone to dance Lead while the two of them worked together. This coach was actually someone that Sparkledancer had the opportunity to work with before, way back in the day in early 2017, a coach I gave the name Lady Kate the Great to way back then.

Sparkledancer had a few different points that she wanted to work on that evening, and luckily she was able to get some time on all of them using just one dance style. We started off the session by running through our Waltz routine for her once so that she could get an idea of what she was working with. When finished, the first thing she wanted to talk about with Sparkledancer was her positioning. She wanted to have her make some minor adjustments to her contact point with me. To practice this, she took Sparkledancer over to the wall and had her stand with her toes about two inches away, then bend so that she could make contact with her knees and chest while leaving her upper back free. Once the position was better in the body, she turned Sparkledancer’s head slightly so that it was pointed between the elbow and wrist of her left hand while in frame with me.

After those adjustments, we began to work on the meat of what Sparkledancer wanted to look at – Promenade Position. The first place in the routine that we go into Promenade Position is right near the beginning where there is an Open Impetus. Lady Kate the Great wanted Sparkledancer to delay her head opening during the Open Impetus to help keep her shoulders down when going into Promenade Position. She said that if you think about turning the head on beat three rather than on beat two, that will help get a better look out of the Promenade Position.

The next place where we transition into Promenade Position is a couple figures later after an Outside Change which goes into a Chasse From Promenade Position. Here, like before, she wanted Sparkledancer to delay the head opening. She also told her that during the Chasse From Promenade Position she should keep her shoulders down and arms long. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it seemed important so I’m noting it.

By this time we had decided to just keep stepping through the routine one section at a time so that Lady Kate the Great could look at as much as possible with Sparkledancer. Next up they went over the Natural Spin Turn into Reverse Pivot. She told Sparkledancer to make sure not to rise during the beginning of the figure. Her description was kind of funny – she said this was one of those figures that should look like something else (in this case a normal Natural Pivot), and then it’s a “surprise” when we do the checking action into the Reverse Pivot. To make the surprise actually be surprising, she wanted Sparkledancer to exaggerate the left shape during the checking action. She wanted the exaggeration to feel like bending over a bar situated at the bra line.

From here, the next figure we stopped to spend time on was the Wing from the Turning Lock. The way that Lady Kate the Great did the Wing was rather interesting. I was able to feel it since I was the dance dummy while the two ladies were working. She called it “Extreme Outside Position” to emphasize what she wanted Sparkledancer to feel. She said that Sparkledancer should detach the hips when going around, and take a much bigger step on beat two to cross my body further. By her third step she wanted the connection at the back left of Sparkledancer’s outer hip and the front left of the ribcage.

Basically, without bending herself too weirdly, she was on my left side with her hips behind me and her ribs in front of me. Truly a strange feeling for me while holding her in that position. She told Sparkledancer that a good way to play with the position was by using her arm, holding it up as guidance to show where the body should be. Coming out of the Wing she wanted me to step straight forward into the Double Reverse Spin while Sparkledancer was moving backward.

The last bit of the routine that we looked at before running out of time was the Cross Hesitation into a Back Lock and Outside Spin. Much like the Wing, she said that Sparkledancer should feel like she is in that “Extreme Outside Position” during the Cross Hesitation as well, only being on the correct side of my body this time. She told Sparkledancer to keep that same position throughout the Back Lock and into the Outside Spin. For the Outside Spin itself, she recommended that stylistically she should avoid opening her head on the Outside Spin, and instead try to exaggerate the shape like they had worked on in the Checked Natural Spin Turn earlier.

So that was a lot of great information. Much, much, much more useful than the last coaching session that I went to, even if the information wasn’t specifically for me. I still found much of what the two ladies talked about interesting to listen to.

Also funny: after the lesson was over, Sparkledancer and I were out in the parking lot, talking and comparing notes on the lesson. She told me that when she had to dance with Lady Kate the Great it felt weird for her. She doesn’t get to work with female instructors very often anymore, so she was surprised how tiny and light she seemed when Lady Kate the Great was in frame with her. Sparkledancer said that she felt like she was going to accidentally break her when they were dancing together.

I thought that was super funny because the two ladies are pretty much the same size, and I always feel like I’m going to accidentally break Sparkledancer when we dance together. Now she knows how I feel!

He Wants More Dinero Just To Stay At Home

I don’t know about you, but the holiday that we had here messed up a lot of my plans for this weekend. The worst thing to come from that was that my lessons with my coach had to be cancelled, so all the things that I had hoped to work on while I had a day off on Monday didn’t happen. What can you do?

There was still some dancing going on this weekend, even with all the holiday activities that consumed other people’s time and cancelled my original plans. I actually ended up going to a dance party on Saturday night because everything else had fallen through, and I didn’t want to be that sad dude who stayed home all by himself all weekend. The party ended up being a lot of fun, and I’m glad that I ended up going. They also had put out a plate of circular fudge-striped cookies at the party (you know the ones I’m talking about), and I maaaaaaaaaaaaaaay have had a couple more of those than I probably should have. I can’t remember the last time I was able to have that kind of cookie though, so I have no regrets.

The dance party started out with a lesson in basic Foxtrot taught by Lord Junior. There were several real newbies in class who had never done Foxtrot before, so what Lord Junior ended up teaching was really basic. Even near the end of class when he talked about how the more advanced students could upgrade their figures, the steps were still pretty simple. He started out showing off just the basic footwork for American Foxtrot. Once he was confident that everyone could do that, he upgraded the figure to Quarter Turns. To help everyone turn the corner he went through the Natural Rock Turn, and at the end for the more advanced students he showed them how to replace the Natural Rock Turn with Natural Pivots instead.

While that was entertaining, let me tell you about the most amusing thing that I saw that night: HotDog.

It has been a long time since HotDog has made an appearance on the dance floor. I can’t even remember the last time I have seen him in person. When I saw him in the parking lot as I first arrived at the studio, I almost didn’t recognize him. Holy cow, HotDog has gotten fat! I am not sure I can even call him HotDog anymore! He looks like he has moved up beyond bratwurst size, and is encroaching on unsliced bologna territory. At this rate, he is going to have a hard time finding a bun that will fit him soon!

Hilarious meat-based jokes aside, apparently since he decided to change jobs he has ended up spending all his free time playing video games instead of getting any physical activity. He talked about his dream of getting recognized for his video game skills, and making money off of that somehow so that he never has to work a real job again. It involved some convoluted scheme about streaming and subscribers and ‘tips’ of some kind… I’m not big on video games, so I only vaguely grasp what he was telling me. Even so, I get the impression that video games nowadays must no longer have a ‘pause’ button like they did when I was a kid, which would give HotDog a chance to go out for a run or go to a gym once and awhile and get some exercise. Yeesh.

HotDog didn’t come to the party alone. He brought the girl that he is dating along with him. This is the first time that she had ever been out dancing in any capacity, so she was really nervous about getting out on the floor. Somehow, rather than HotDog stepping up to help her out as the class first got started, it was left to me to help her while HotDog chose someone else to be his starting dance partner in class. That made me scratch my head a bit as well.

Later on in class, as Lord Junior started talking about the pivots, the girlfriend ended up near me in rotation once again. Since she had never danced before, she was wearing shoes that weren’t meant for dancing. I told her that the rubber soles she had would make the pivots hard for her, so she should just avoid them, and let the other guys in class she rotated through know to avoid them with her as well. I think she managed to enjoy herself somewhat in class, but I had a hard time knowing for sure.

The only other thing that I did this past week besides practice was going to Standard Technique class on Wednesday night. Sparkledancer had asked Lord Junior before class started if we could look at something that involved the Wing in Waltz, since that was a new figure that she still wasn’t feeling completely comfortable with and she wanted to look at it in a different context than her routine. He thought that was great, and admitted that he doesn’t use the Wing in many of his routines because he has never really liked the figure, so going over it in class would be good for him as well.

As class got underway, Lord Junior asked me about the part in the routine where we do the Wing, because he wanted to know how our coach had asked us to get into and out of it. That would allow him to adapt what he thought up to better help out Sparkledancer. I showed him that section of the choreography from our Waltz (Natural Spin Turn, Turning Lock to the Left, Wing, Double Reverse Spin), and he thought it was interesting, but since we only had an hour he was going to simplify things for class.

We ended up starting out with a combination that is actually directly from the syllabus – the Open Telemark and Wing. Here we started off heading toward diagonal center and finishing with us facing line of dance once the Wing was done. From there Lord Junior had us exit into a Double Reverse Spin just like what Sparkledancer and I do in our Waltz routine, coming out facing line of dance as well. Lord Junior spent quite a bit of time dancing with Sparkledancer that night to work with her on her position in ways that he thought would help her feel better about the figure.

But going through those two figures in one class was too easy, so once we had gone through them a number of times to get comfortable, Lord Junior had us go beyond – transforming the Double Reverse Spin into an Overspin from Double Reverse Spin. That final pivot set us up backing line of dance, and here we did a Throwaway Oversway. To come out, we were told to just take the simple route and come up into a Hover Telemark, beginning to travel down the line of dance once more.

So my coaching session from last weekend got rescheduled for this weekend. Hopefully it doesn’t get moved again, and I can continue to get my new routines in order. I’d really like to get all four of them on the books before all the competitions in June start happening, since I know that my coach will be traveling to either compete in or judge quite a number of those events. If I can get all the routines, that will at least give me plenty to work on while he is out of the area. We’ll see if I can push to make that happen. Wish me luck!

The Best Peach Is At The Top Of That Tree

Aside from yesterday, there were a couple of dance things I went to this past week that asked me to try and make my poor white boy hips work like a Latin dancer. It did not go very well, however. Even cumulus clouds were looking down on me and saying that I needed to go get a tan because my hips looked too white to work like that. Clouds can be jerks sometimes, right?

Saturday night I went off to a dance party being held at the City Dance Hall. The party was kind of small, but there was a thunderstorm going on that I imagine kept a number of people who hate driving in the rain away. I had stopped to get dinner not too far away from the City Dance Hall about an hour before the party, and it wasn’t raining when I left to go there, so making it the short hop over to the studio in the rain wasn’t all that bad for me. I didn’t know that it was going to rain, so I can’t pretend that I was super smart and planned things out that way. I just got lucky.

The organizers of this party had asked an instructor from one of the local Latin clubs to come in and teach a lesson on both Salsa and Bachata. Since he was going over two different styles, and there were some people in the crowd who had never done either Salsa or Bachata before, the figures that he showed everyone were really basic. I had actually seen all of them (or a variation on all of them) before, and I almost never dance Salsa or Bachata. That was surprising to me.

But there was a comment that he made somewhere in the middle of the lesson that really made me feel like I was just a white boy pretending to dance Salsa. He told everyone to bring their arms into the mix, allowing them to move naturally with the body while still maintaining the connection with your partner. This meant a lot of different things to different people, but for me it meant… my arms didn’t really move at all. When I would try and move my arms around, it didn’t feel natural to me in any way. What felt right was to keep my elbows near my ribs and my spine straight. I can’t imagine why that might be what I prefer…

So I may have looked a bit stiff while dancing the Salsa and Bachata in class. No one called me on my lack of arm wiggling, but I did have a few ladies who mentioned to me that they were struggling to understand the steps when they rotated over to dance with me, only to tell me after we got done dancing that I was one of the few men that they were able to follow properly. Personally, I attribute that to keping my arms calm so that I could have a better connection with my partner. I guess that can count as a win?

There were a number of the ladies that I danced with as the class rotated around who were super into things. They were moving their own arms around so much as they danced that it was hard to actually lead them through anything. Lucky for me, they didn’t seem to need my help to get through the pattern that the instructor had walked everyone through. They just turned themselves when they needed to without any assistance from me. It’s a good thing that I wasn’t trying to do any figures outside of the choreography that the instructor had given during his class. It felt like those ladies were just holding onto my hand merely because they were told to do the figures that way, rather than because I was trying to dance with them.

In Latin Technique class this week we looked at Samba. We actually only really got through one real figure, because Lord Junior started off class telling everyone that the figure would be “no big deal,” and then it turned out to actually be kind of a big deal that some people were struggling to do passably.

The whole thing started off on a high note (he said sarcastically) when Lord Junior asked us to do Batucadas as our warm-up when class started. I have been asked to do Batucadas enough at this point in my life that I know what the movement entails. As I take a step back, I can do the lateral motions with my hips properly, even when asked to do the movement at higher speeds. What messes me up every time is trying to add the rotational action into my hips while moving them laterally. Also, trying to do the movement without putting my heels down completely is kind of comical too. So essentially I can do the essence of the Batucada, I would say. That’s pretty good in my opinion.

The reason that Lord Junior asked us to do these as a warm-up was because the opening movements that we used to get into position to do the specific figure that Lord Junior wanted us to work on had the ladies in class doing some Batucadas. Even though the Leads didn’t have any Batucadas in the choreography at all, Lord Junior thought it was a good idea to have all of us work on them, because reasons and such as and so forth (it was along the lines of making us better dancers by having us practice hard stuff).

We started off standing about ten feet apart from our partner. As the music started, the Leads would take a step back on beat five of whatever measure that we wanted to start and wind up a bit so that we could take a step forward on beat one of the next measure. Lord Junior told us that in a competitive setting, the Lead would do this as a visual signal to let his partner know that they would start their choreography when the next measure starts. Since we were split apart, a visual cue was the only clue we could give our partners, unless we wanted to yell across the dance floor at them.

As we started moving, the Leads would do a normal Cruzados Walks and Lock to close the distance between the two of us. The Follower would take two steps backwards as we did the two Cruzados Walks forward, and then she would go into three Batucadas as the Lead finished the Lock to catch up to them. When we met up, the Follower would have her left arm ready so that we could link up with her by grasping her forearm near the elbow rather than her hand. The Follower would then take her right hand and place it on the right side of the Lead’s chest, winding into us a little bit to prepare for the next movement.

This was the figure that Lord Junior actually wanted to have us work on that night. The idea was that the Leads would do Samba Locks forward while the lady would take a large step back, push off our chest to turn around and face down the line of dance as the Lead locked, and then turn back to face us to do it all over again. We were supposed to do three of these in a row, but sometimes that worked and sometimes it didn’t. For example, Veep liked to use more force to help turn herself around faster, so she would push off her partner harder than the other ladies in class were pushing. I thought it was fine, but the first time she did that to Lord Junior he jokingly told her that it felt like she was trying to crack his sternum. Too funny.

We never got any further than this figure since some people had trouble with it, but whenever someone messed up it was usually in a rather amusing way, so all of us were laughing our butts off throughout the class. The funniest mistake was when Apollo finally thought that he had the hang of the figure, so in his confidence he tried to push off his supporting leg and take a bigger step after he linked up with Gatekeeper. His step didn’t land properly though, and he came down on the back of his heel rather than the ball of his foot, so his front leg just slid forward out from under him. He managed to stop himself before he hit the floor, but he surprised Gatekeeper, and the noise she made stopped everyone else in class in their tracks and made us look back at the two of them, and of course we all started laughing at what we saw. Good times all around.

Wednesday night I headed out to Standard Technique class. Normally on Wednesdays there is more than one class going on at the Electric Dance Hall at the same time, but I guess the lady who teaches the other class was sick that day so our class was the only one there that night. That gave us the whole floor to work with without fear of running into someone on the other side of the room. Because of that, Lord Junior decided to have us work on some American Foxtrot to change things up a bit. He showed all of us the opening section from a Foxtrot showcase routine he had done with one of his students a while back.

This pattern started off facing our partner with several feet between us, with the Lead’s back toward the line of dance. Stepping in and leaning toward our partner, we took her left hand in or right and pressed our other palms together to do an Explosion before rolling her across our body. She did a syncopated turn here, adding in the extra step so that she could come out on the same foot that we were on. As she was turning, the Lead would shift his weight over to his right leg and bring his left leg in, winding up a bit and stepping forward on the left foot at the last possible moment in the measure of music. This put the two partners into something kind of like Shadow Position, but disconnected from one another.

All our movements for the next few measures of music were identical, done with the Follower in front and the Lead behind her and off to the right far enough that the audience could see him. Starting off with a couple of Grapevine actions down the line of dance, we then did a step and hop on the right leg, bringing the left leg up in the process, then pushed off with the right leg to do a bit of a slide to the left. Next we would step forward on the right foot and point our left leg off to the side, and then step onto the left foot and point the right leg to the side. After that we stepped forward on the right foot one more time, but here we would tap our left toe on the floor behind the right foot in a movement that I’ve done a number of times in Pasodoble.

As we pushed back onto the left foot, we allowed the right leg to Ronde around and rotate our body a bit so that we ended up backing diagonal center. That allowed us to take one step backward and then a second step to our left down the line of dance as our last movements in sync with our partner. Here the ladies did a double-turn to the left while the Leads did a syncopated turn, allowing us to take the extra step this time as we rotated so that we could get back on the opposite foot as our partner. Once done turning we brought up our left hand to signal our partner to get back into frame, and we finished up doing a Twinkle into an Open Natural Turn.

I thought that the progression was fun, even when Lord Junior tried to get us to add our arms into the mix. Having long arms, I had to keep mine bent at the elbows in a number of places to avoid smacking the people around me. As class wore on Lord Junior decided to give me a break and reduce the number of us trying to dance down the floor at once, so I had more room to spread my arms out as long as my partner wasn’t too close to me.

Apollo on the other hand, he told me at the beginning of class that he was worried because Foxtrot is a hard dance style for him for some reason, and sure enough he really struggled to get some things down. But it was struggling in a humorous way, since the things he messed up were minor and made the class entertaining as Lord Junior called him out when he saw something. I like that Apollo knows how to laugh at his mistakes. He is a man after my own heart, since I laugh at myself all the time for messing up, even if no one else notices.

It looks like it might be a quiet week coming up. Lord Junior is out of town next week, so his classes are cancelled next Monday and Wednesday. I’ll hopefully get to see Lord Dormamu this weekend (if his injury cooperates), but other than that there really isn’t much dancing on my plate that isn’t practice. There is a big dance event happening this weekend that a lot of people I know are going to, but I didn’t buy a ticket because I thought I would have a work project going on that night. Now, of course, my work project didn’t manifest, and the event is sold out so I won’t be going there. Ah well, maybe next time.