Open Up Your Eyes, Life Is Poetry In Motion

Saturday morning I had two coaching sessions scheduled again, much like last week. This week we managed to get to both lessons in the order that they were originally set up, though a bit behind schedule. I got to the Fancy Dance Hall about a half-hour early to stretch out and warm up, like usual. Lord Dormamu was there giving another lesson at the time, so I knew he was already in the building (always a good sign). A few minutes later when he noticed me stretching out my shoulders near the mirrors, he stepped away from his lesson to come over, greet me and ask if I had a lesson with him first or with Sir Steven. I told him that my calendar said it was him, so he nodded and said that he was running about twenty minutes behind. That gave me almost an hour to warm up instead of the half-hour I had planned on.

I felt like we did actually show some progress in our Foxtrot that day, which is always a good feeling. We got to look at the end portion of the short wall in the routine, if you can believe that. One point we spent some time covering was my Natural Closed Impetus with Feather Ending. Lord Dormamu showed me why my Heel Turn in that figure tended to get messed up. Many people over the years have shown me how to do a Heel Turn – going slowly, you take a step backward (or back on an angle), pull your other heel back to line up with your standing foot, turn however much you need to rotate, rise up on the balls of your feet and then step out onto the ball of the opposite foot. Over and over again I’ve practiced doing Heel Turns just like that.

The issue with my Natural Closed Impetus is that the lady is stepping between my feet, so if I take a step back and to the left and then attempt to pull my right heel to meet my left, there’s a foot in the way. So in the middle of a routine there tends to be some fumbling and stumbling while I attempt to make the turn work without stopping when my foot would run into my partner’s foot. I generally manage to recover fully by the time I hit the Feather Finish. Lord Dormamu looked at what I was doing and told me immediately that my step backward and my turn should not be two separate movements. If I step backward and begin to pivot on my left leg, then as I am pulling my right heel back my right foot will naturally arc around where my partner’s foot as I turn. Basically all that practice I did in the past where I would pull my heels together before turning was what was holding me back. Sigh…

This also led us to a discussion about our Feather Endings and how he thought we were rotating as we went through them. Lord Dormamu explained that the most important thing about the Feather Ending is that it is the ending, so before you take those two steps you have to already have your body in the correct position. If you rotate yourself at all to get into the correct position during the two steps of a Feather Ending, you are doing it wrong and will get marked down. Yet another good point that I’ve never really thought about before until he said it out loud. I’m making a note of it here so that I won’t forget about it in the future.

Skipping ahead… later that night I was out to help host a dance party with the rest of my Royal Dance Court crew. To celebrate the beginning of summer, we had managed to get the famous Mr. Rubber-legs to come in and teach a Shag lesson to everyone. We had booked him for one of our dance parties last year and had such an overwhelmingly positive response, so it seemed natural to have him come back again. The endeavor seemed to really pay off. When Mr. Rubber-legs started teaching his class that night, we had about twenty-five people out on the dance floor by my count. There were quite a few more women than men, so I ended up jumping into the line during class to help out. By the time the class finished up, so many more people had shown up that our line of dancers was running out of space. The count I heard later was that we had more than fifty people show up! I guess half of them missed the memo on what time class started…

The lesson that Mr. Rubber-legs gave that night was pretty much the same one he gave during the party last year. We spent a lot of time (waaaaaay more time than I thought was necessary) to cover the Shag basic. I’m talking like half the hour was spent just going over that one figure. Once he felt that everyone could do the basic, he had us look at a starter step for Shag so that everyone knew how to begin a dance. This basically amounted to getting into a closed dance position and doing a Throwout-like movement. After people got those two figures, Mr. Rubber-legs covered two different basic turns that you could use. At the end of class since there were a couple of minutes left over, he showed everyone how they could transition from the normal open dance position to the closed one used in the starter step, allowing people to dance a basic pattern that could be repeated by going to closed position at the end and repeating the starter step. Nothing too fancy.

I had thought that the DJ would play more Shag numbers that night for the people who came to the party specifically to see Mr. Rubber-legs, but there weren’t that many more Swing songs of any variety than I would normally expect to hear. The ratio of men to women as the party got started was actually really good. We must have had a large number of single men show up after the class got started, because there were a lot more women than men when I joined class, but I was hardly needed to entertain ladies during the dance party. So I spent time that night dealing with… other issues.

HotDog was in high form that night. Originally he had decided to come out to the party because he has taken classes from Mr. Rubber-legs in the past, so he considers himself to be a Shag connoisseur. His quest to show off in front of everyone was quickly derailed by the appearance of two attractive young ladies. One was Juniper, whom I was glad to see out and about on the dance floor that night. She had been away for a while because she fractured a bone in her foot, so I was happy to see that it was finally healed enough for her to begin dancing again. I actually took her out for her first dance of the night to say hi to her. The other was a sorority sister of Prez’s daughter, whom Prez had invited to the party because the girl was curious about dancing. This young lady mostly wanted to sit on the sidelines and watch to see if ballroom dancing was a hobby that she was really interested in taking up.

As I’ve mentioned before, HotDog is a horndog when attractive ladies show up. I found out later that HotDog was texting Sparkledancer for days after the party, asking her to tell him Juniper’s name and how he could get in touch with her. He also spent quite a while awkwardly trying to talk to the sorority girl. She managed to fend off his requests to try dancing, and eventually she got up to come hang out at the front counter near where some of us from the Royal Dance Court were running things. When I caught her making a beeline away from HotDog, I took the opportunity to maneuver myself between where he was and where she was, playing human barricade. That was enough to send HotDog off to find a different girl to dance with.

I made a point to apologize to sorority girl for his creepiness, and she just laughed and said that she’s used to guys like him. Since I had heard Prez mention how this girl was interested in possibly taking up ballroom dancing before the party started, I then put on my Dance Ambassador hat and talked with her about dancing for quite a while. I regaled her with stories of the fun and crazy dance-related things I’ve done since I started dancing all those years ago, and I even waved Sparkledancer over so that she could tell the girl all about sparkly dance dress things (a topic I am not all that well versed in). The girl seemed genuinely interested, and I hope that means we could actually see her come back again, but next time as a participant instead of just an observer.

Now for the thing I did this week that was really outside of my normal schedule…

Sunday afternoon I got to have a coaching session with one of those crazy world-renowned International Standard instructors that travel around spreading their wisdom (for a fee, of course). We’ll call this guy… Lord Maple, since it makes me laugh (this gentleman comes to us from a land up north that you may have crossed into during your own travels). A few weeks ago, Lord Junior mentioned to Sparkledancer and I during one of our practice sessions that he would be bringing Lord Maple in for one day to give coaching sessions to a number of his students, and if we were interested in reserving one of the 45-minute slots that day he would be happy to put our names on the list. Sparkledancer told Lord Junior that she had really enjoyed the class that Lord Maple taught last time Lord Junior had brought him in about a year ago, so she was totally going to sign up.

She then turned to me and asked me if I would do the lesson with her, because it would be easier to show Lord Maple her routines if I were there to lead. I told her that if we scheduled this coaching session at the same time we would have normally been meeting up for practice that day, then I would already have the time set aside in my calendar anyway. This would be a nice (albeit more expensive) way to get some outside feedback on how we’ve been doing since we started taking things more seriously at the beginning of the year.

In order to make sure that this coaching session would be worthwhile, I convinced myself to get up earlier than usual on Sunday so that I could stretch out and warm up my body thoroughly before leaving the house. That way I wouldn’t show up to meet Lord Maple in the afternoon and hear him tell me that my problem is that I need to take bigger steps to travel more all because my legs are still half-asleep. I also got Sparkledancer to agree to meet me out at the Electric Dance Hall an hour before the coaching session so that we could dance for a while, helping to further ensure that I was all ready to go. It turned out that taking those precautions was the right call.

Sparkledancer and I had agreed to have Lord Maple look over our Foxtrot with us, since that is what we have been going over with Lord Dormamu recently. After some brief introductions and telling him about our dance experience, Lord Maple asked us to dance our Foxtrot routine together. Then he asked both of us to dance the same thing again with him so that he could get a better feel for what each of us were doing during our steps. When we finished that exercise, he told me that he really liked my forward driving movements during the dance, since they were quite clear and strong, and he could easily follow what I was trying to lead him to do. I may have done a little happy celebration upon hearing that. Then he asked me to dance through it with him again, and this time he would add in all the parts that he thought I was missing when we danced the first time.

When we finished going through the first wall of my routine, Lord Maple stopped and asked me what was different this time through. I told him that he had been emphasizing the shaping a lot more than I had been, partly because I had been told by Lord Dormamu to not worry about anything else other than working on how I drive my Foxtrot from my standing leg and pelvis. He told me that was one way to describe it, and then listed off a bunch of other words that could be used to also describe it depending on who my teacher was and what country they hailed from originally, but basically what he was seeing that I needed to work on all came down to how ‘powerful’ I was when dancing.

Lord Maple told us a story about how he used to want to be described as a powerful dancer when he read articles about himself. He eventually found a female coach to work with, and she asked him what he thought it meant to be powerful. That’s when Lord Maple gestured at me and started to flex his upper body, saying that he used to think power came from looking super muscular and manly, but this female coach stopped him and said that as a dancer, being powerful comes from being the person that shows the most movement from each step that they take. That’s basically what Lord Maple says that I am missing to take my Foxtrot (and other dances, by extension) to the next level.

To show me how I should be doing this, Lord Maple actually started by working with Sparkledancer. He wanted her to make sure that she is moving herself out of the way for each step so that I would have plenty of room to really take my steps. They danced for a bit with him trying to explain the concept to her, and then he thought of an exercise that someone had shown him a long time ago that he thought would help the two of us with the idea. After searching around the studio for a few minutes with Lord Junior’s help, he came back with a scarf that he rolled up and held taut between his hands.

The scarf is used to give you an actual visual representation of the line your hips are making (and by extension, your shoulders and elbows, since they should be on the same line when you are in a proper frame). It was supposed to be a towel, but we were working with what we could find. If you roll up a towel and hold it stretched between your hands on both sides of your pelvis, this shows the straight line your hips make when they are at rest. Then we started to dance. The first step we covered was the Feather. As you do a Feather in Foxtrot, your left foot is the first leg that you step with, so you need to involve your whole left side as you dance through the figure until the next time you get to neutral (which is normally before you go into the next figure). You can emphasize this by rolling the towel with your left hand, as if you were wringing water out.

This was a fairly simple but eye-opening exercise to do. The way we wrung the towel basically changed from hand-to-hand as we moved through the figures in our routine. The Feather used the left hand, the Reverse Turn used the right, the Feather Ending of the Reverse Turn the left, the Three Step the right, etc. etc.. If you use this exercise to help you see the lead with the proper side of your body, it should get the whole body involved as you move. That helps you feel like you are taking steps not just with your legs, but all the way from your upper back. Rise and fall will happen naturally in the figures if the whole body is engaged. It also easily eliminated the issue where it looked like I was dancing in a constant squat, since stepping with my whole body allows me to naturally straighten my legs as I move. Funny how that works, right?

This is another one of those lessons where it really shows that the techniques that instructors harp on in the early days (rise and fall, heel vs. toe steps) shouldn’t have to be forced or remembered. If the underlying mechanics of how you move are correct, those techniques happen automatically.

Wednesday class was cancelled this week because Lord Junior’s wife had some event scheduled that he needed to attend, so the only group class that I went to this week was Monday night’s Latin Technique class. We looked at Jive for the first time in quite a while. Jive was actually not my first choice for the night, since A) my first choice is always Pasodoble, because I think it’s the most fun and B) it had been leg day for me that day, so my legs were already feeling exhausted from my pre-class workout. I always grit my teeth on the nights when my leg workouts happen to correspond with nights I’m going to be dancing, since I know working out my legs will make things harder than normal.

That was certainly true on Monday night. We always start off any class where we look at Jive by going over the basic triple-steps slowly since Lord Junior thinks everyone should continuously work to improve those. At the beginning when we were going slow, my triple-steps in the figures looked and felt pretty good. By the end, since I did a lot of dancing that night to give all the ladies enough chances to practice, my legs felt like jelly and I’m sure my triple-steps had devolved to look more like fast-ish East Coast Swing instead of Jive. No one said anything though, so I must not have looked all that bad…

We only looked at two variations of two different figures that night: Spanish Arms and Rolling Off the Arm. Starting with the Spanish Arms, we covered the normal configuration of the figure, and then the ‘cooler version’ (according to Lord Junior) where we led the lady to do an extra turn as we unwind her. After doing the two different variations independently we then chained them together, doing the basic version followed immediately by the more advanced version. I will admit that there were a few times when I got over-eager and ended up turning the ladies for both.

The Rolling Off the Arm figure was done the same way. There was the basic by-the-book version, and then a more advanced version where we led the lady to do an extra turn as she is rolling off of our right arm. As before, we did the two variations independently, and then chained them together. After everyone was comfortable with all four different figures, we strung them all together – starting with the basic Spanish Arms, the advanced variation, a single Jive basic to compose ourselves and then the basic Rolling Off the Arm followed by the more advanced version. This small pattern is what we ended up putting to music, starting off slowly and finishing at tempo. The last run-through we did with each partner at tempo was really where I felt that my Jive basics were lacking, but I worked hard that night, so I feel like I should at least get partial credit for finishing to the end.

I am hoping that this weekend stays fairly quiet for me. I haven’t had much of a chance to really practice the things that I worked on in any of my coaching sessions last weekend, and I’d like to spend a few hours working through those items. We’ll have to see if anyone makes a convincing argument to me about going to a dance party somewhere!

Some Enchanted Evening


Last Friday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall to attend the party they were holding to celebrate the anniversary of their opening day all those years ago. The actual anniversary wasn’t really on that day, or even during that week, but Lord Junior said that as long as he had the celebratory party during the same month as the original opening day he would call that a win. I showed up at the Electric Dance Hall with tons of time before the actual party started, so the group class that was being held beforehand was still going on when I got there. They were going over some basic Cha-Cha stuff, so I prepared myself to dance a lot of Cha-Cha that night.

I had fun at the party that night. I feel like it had been quite a while since I had just gone out to dance for fun rather than going out to dance for practice purposes, and sometimes you need to just have fun. After all, one of the big three rules is that you’ve got to have fun, right? I believe that it’s right up there with staying safe as rule one, and keeping your form as rule two. I also got to spend time with a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a while, and I did my best to hide my amusement at HotDog’s constant attempts to try to dance with only the youngest, most attractive ladies who were at the party. About halfway through the night Lord Junior gave a brief speech about how awesome the years at the Electric Dance Hall have been, and told us all about his hopes that the success of the studio continue for many years to come.

One unexpected thing did happen that nearly stopped my heart that night. I had just gotten done dancing something, I don’t even remember what it was now, and was going to work my way back to the side of the dance floor to pick up a new partner for the next song when suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see the Dance Robots standing there smiling at me. I love these two – they make me so happy. I see them at lots of dance parties around the area. They are like twenty-times my age, yet they are always the first ones to take to the dance floor on the nights that I see them, and usually the last ones to leave as well. You can just wind them up and they dance all night long! It’s amazing, and I hope I can be just like that when I’m older.

Anyway, when I turned and saw who it was that was laying hands on me, I was happy to see that it was the two of them. I was quick to exchange greetings and pleasantries, and I asked them how life has been treating them lately. The lady Dance Robot tells me that they have been super busy lately because they have been packing up in preparation to move.

What!!?!?!?!?!????!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!???!??????

At that point, I am kind of staring at them with some sort of shocked look on my face, while the two of them are just exchanging looks and laughing about something. I’m thinking to myself how the whole Dance Kingdom would fall apart if these two moved somewhere else. Things just wouldn’t be the same, and it would be super sad!

Sparkledancer happened to be walking by at that point and stopped to greet the Dance Robots. When she sees the dumb look on my face, she asks them what’s going on, so they tell her the same thing about how they are getting packed up to move. She gets shocked too and puts her hand over her face in a gesture of surprise, but manages to hold it together well enough to ask about where they are moving to. The two Dance Robots are really laughing now, and say that they are just looking to downsize their residence, and they managed to find a smaller place just a few miles from where they currently live, so they’ll still be around to cause trouble at all sorts of dance parties for the foreseeable future.

Crisis averted. Those two… they think they are sooooooooo funny. If they weren’t so lovable, I might have to be angry with them.

Saturday morning came far too early. I had rearranged everything I normally have planned for my Saturdays so that I could head over to the Endless Dance Hall to help get everything set up for the big formal party that my little Royal Dance Court group would be throwing that night. I got to the Endless Dance Hall before we were scheduled to get started, since I was hoping to try to get some things out of the way to make sure that I could get out of there on time to be at my coaching session with Lord Dormamu later that afternoon. Sparkledancer had also agreed to meet me there at the same time, since she had to meet up with Lord Dormamu as well, so she was totally on board with getting things done as quickly as possible.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to find that all of the tables and almost all of the chairs had already been pulled out of storage and set up by the Endless Dance Hall’s staff prior to our arriving, and that the tables had been arranged in the manner that I had recommended! See, originally the members of the Royal Dance Court had wanted to put a table for the DJ in the middle of one of long wall against the back of the room, and line up six tables on either side of the DJ table curving down the short walls. This would have left a square-ish area for dancing in the middle of the floor. When I had gone to the Endless Dance Hall for the last competition I was in several weeks ago, they had set up six tables lined up along each long wall with a place for their DJ in the middle of one of the short walls, leaving a competition sized rectangular dance area in the middle. I had loved the look of that setup, so I had taken pictures of it and they were shared with the rest of the Royal Dance Court. While Prez was… skeptical about changing the layout, everyone else thought it would be great.

As I was taking stock of the situation inside the Endless Dance Hall, Sparkledancer and one other member of my Royal Dance Court crew showed up. Seeing the boxes with the chair covers and ties sitting over in the corner, I put the three of us to work on getting all the chairs in order. As more of the Royal Dance Court members showed up, I ended up having to tell them what things they should be starting on next, since everyone immediately started in on the chairs as well and no one went to work on any other tasks. Once Prez showed up with the boxes full of the pieces to assemble the centerpiece, I asked two of the ladies to go work with her on getting those put together and to leave the other tasks to the rest of us. I remembered what happened last year when too many people tried to deal with the centerpieces, and the arguments that followed, and how we ended up having to go back and change things several times… Not wanting to repeat that this year, I figured a small group could handle that task, and fewer hands would mean less rework required.

Things came together quickly, which was nice. We could have been slightly more efficient if people had stuck with the tasks I had asked them to do until they were finished instead of getting sidetracked, but overall I was happy to wrap everything up in about an hour and a half. I confess that I don’t often like to be the ‘alpha male’ in the room ordering a bunch of ladies around, but since I had a deadline that afternoon where I had to leave, I felt like exerting that influence was necessary to make sure that things got done. No one stopped me from delegating tasks, or questioned the executive decisions I was making to speed along the setup process, so I don’t think any of the ladies really minded me taking charge like that. Or if they did, they didn’t come say anything to me about it, which for right now I’m also going to count as a win in my book. Hooray!

Finished with the setup, I took off from the Endless Dance Hall to get to the Fancy Dance Hall for my coaching session with Lord Dormamu. This was the first time I had gotten to work with him since the competition I had done at the beginning of April. Because of that, Lord Dormamu decided that I have to go back to having things taken away from me since he still doesn’t think certain aspects of my dancing are right, and he wants me to focus on fixing those points while not worrying about anything else at the same time. Sigh… sometimes I feel like I am not actually moving forward, even though I’m supposed to be the Lead and I don’t walk backwards too often.

So what were the main points that I was able to take away from this session? I think they can best be broken down as follows:

  • I have to go back to keeping my nose in line with my sternum. Lord Dormamu says that, while it’s gotten much better, I still unconsciously lean my head to the right sometimes when I am thinking about other things, so until I can fix that habit I have to force myself to realign my default position to be neutral
  • On Double Reverse Spins in Waltz, he wants me to throw out the notion of “early quick rise” altogether. That is the technique you are supposed to use according to the book, but Lord Dormamu says that no one actually does it that way. To force Sparkledancer to bring her feet together for the Heel Turn, I should now take a shorter step that curves to the left going into the figure, which will force my partner to bring her feet together
  • Going forward, I am supposed to really emphasize the rise and fall in the Waltz by staying down farther (almost like squatting) on both beats one and three in the music, and rising up for beat two. Lord Dormamu said that he will be the one to let us know if rising and falling like that gets to be too much and we need to go back and smooth things out more, but that is how we should do it until he says otherwise

Sparkledancer’s only focus coming out of this session was that she needs to work on spreading her elbows farther and pulling her body farther to the left when in frame. There were lots of comments comparing her to a jet while he was getting her to do this, and the times that she did it right and was able to hold the position the entire time we danced something there were some explicit exclamations of joy. It’s funny when Lord Dormamu swears like that. English is obviously not his first language, and he only swears in English when really good things happen, so it catches me by surprise when I hear him do it.

That brings us to Saturday night at the formal party that I helped to host. All in all, the party went off without a hitch, and people seemed to enjoy everything going on. The dinner was good, but personally I think that the dinner rolls were the best part. After everyone had eaten and they allowed people to go back and help themselves to any of the leftover food, I think I went back to get three more rolls on top of the one I ate with my meal. Then again, the meal itself was much less food than I normally eat for dinner, so I was still hungry after dinner was finished (that is the one downside to building big muscles – you have to eat A LOT).

Throughout various parts of the evening, I was running around the dance hall taking care of things, trying to keep the people who came to attend the dance happy. The one person we had on hand from the Endless Dance Hall’s staff had been up most of the night working on something for his actual job (he just owns a gigantic dance studio as a hobby. Must be nice), so the few times we went back to the office to get things we had stored back there we found him sleeping, with the office lights still on even. That was part of the reason I tried to take care of things, leaving him to get some much deserved rest.

The dancing went really well. We did have a few minor hiccups on the dance floor, but I think those were all due to people having a bit too much to drink. There was one lady who was a bit out of control when she danced, but luckily her “date” who wasn’t actually a date took it upon himself to keep a tight leash on her about halfway through the dance. Lord Fabulous and Lord Scarry had come to the party with a large contingent of their students, and near the end of the night Lord Fabulous seemed to forget many of the rules of good floor etiquette. I saw him take one of his students and dance an East Coast Swing right in the line of dance while everyone else was dancing Foxtrot, and later in the evening I watched as he and Lord Scarry danced together, weaving a Foxtrot through all the other people on the floor doing East Coast Swing. But the worst one I saw was when Lord Fabulous took a girl who, by the look on her face didn’t know what she was doing, and attempted to do a Quickstep with her. They were all over the floor during that dance, not following the line of dance at all, and several times even traveling directly against the line of dance! That one scared me a bit, but luckily the song ended in short order.

Shortly after the halfway point of our party, I saw a new couple enter the building. I didn’t see any other members of the Royal Dance Court nearby, so I excused myself from the lady I was dancing with to run over and greet them. Introducing myself and asking if I could help them at all, they looked around a bit and told me they thought they were in the wrong place, since this didn’t look like the dance party they were looking for. I explained to them that this was my Royal Dance Court’s formal dance, and asked them what they were looking for to see if I could help. They said there was some sort of anniversary party at a ballroom studio, but they didn’t know the name of the studio off the top of their head, so they said they would just head out and call some friends of theirs to ask. I wished them luck, and they took off. Little did I know that this small event would become relevant later…

Even though Saturday was an exhausting day full of dance tasks, there hadn’t been enough time to fit in everything that I had to do, so I went out to do more dancing on Sunday as well. I had rescheduled my normal weekend coaching session with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for Sunday afternoon, so I headed back over to the Fancy Dance Hall for the second time that weekend to see them. There was also a Latin workshop that was scheduled for late in the afternoon on Sunday that I really tried to make it out to, but I hadn’t been home all weekend so when I tried to take care of some things after getting home from my coaching session, I didn’t finish until after the workshop had already started, so I never made it there. Ah well, you can’t do everything, right?

The Fancy Dance Hall was quite a site when I got there on Sunday afternoon. The place looked trashed! All of the tables and chairs had been moved into piles in the corners or were pushed back against the wall, but I could tell that something wasn’t right after I walked through two really sticky spots on the floor as I headed over to take a seat next to where Sparkledancer was already waiting for me. Sparkledancer and I started talking about what we wanted to do to warm up before getting started, and where to go on the floor since I wanted to avoid the sticky spots I had already found, and both Lord Latin and Lord Dormamu were occupying different sections of the floor to give lessons.

Before I had even gotten my shoes on, Sir Steven came over to say hello. He had come out of the back room as soon as he had seen us, and was still eating part of his lunch, so I could tell something was up. He started off by apologizing to us for the state that the building was in. Apparently they had rented out the Fancy Dance Hall as a venue for a party the night before for some group that is associated with the Salsa community in the Dance Kingdom, and the party got to be out of control. They were still trying to clean up the mess that had been left behind, as we could plainly see. The party had lasted until well past two in the morning, and the rough estimates that they got from the people running the party was that just about 500 people had shown up, even though the Fancy Dance Hall is only rated to hold slightly less than 300 according to the fire code for the building.

The two girls from the Fancy Dance Hall’s staff who had volunteered to be on site during the party had started calling Lord Dormamu after midnight when they lost control of the situation, telling him he needed to get his butt back to the studio as fast as he could. Once the party was over, they had tried to clean up as best they could but called it quits after a couple of hours, leaving the place in a functional but messy state so that people could teach lessons on Sunday. Lord Dormamu had already called the service that comes in on Saturday mornings to clean their wooden floors to schedule them to come back as soon as possible and clean the floor all over again. There were sticky spots all over the place, and in the front there was a trail of stickiness that traveled all along the short wall in a curving pattern that looked like a giant slug had crossed the floor. I’m not sure how someone at a party managed to make a sticky mess like that, but it was kind of impressive to see!

So what was the funniest part of the whole mess? As soon as Sir Steven said the name of the event, I remembered the couple that had stopped in at the Endless Dance Hall during our formal party the night before asking about a dance party they were looking for. They had been looking for the party at the Fancy Dance Hall! Had I known that was where they were trying to go, I could have told them exactly how to get there! Small world, right?

Anyway, the stickiness of the dance floor turned out to be a metaphor for what we worked on that day with Sir Steven. He wanted us to slow down some of our movements, and to do so he had us practice leaving our feet ‘stuck’ to the ground for as long as possible in Waltz and Foxtrot. This involved doing something that I had really only done in Tango up until that point: bending my legs so that my knees extended out over my toes as far as they could before moving my back leg, filling up the time for each step. This sounds pretty simple, but it was easy enough to forget at times when trying to remember to also do the various points that Lord Dormamu asked me to do the day before (like keeping my nose in line with my sternum), and it requires you to really engage your core to help maintain your balance the entire time.

I couldn’t tell if taking my steps like that while dancing through portions of my Waltz and Foxtrot routine actually helped to slow down my steps at all, or if the steps just happened to be slower because I was trying to process so much information in my brain that it took extra time for the signals to reach my legs so that they would start moving. Either way, thinking about this did help slow down a few spots that I know tend to get rushed when I’m not paying attention (like coming out of the Reverse Turn in Foxtrot going into the Feather Ending). This is yet another thing to add to my ever-increasing list of items to do during my practice sessions. At the rate that list has been growing lately, I’m either going to have to start dividing the points up to work on only some homework items each practice session, or I’m going to have to find time to spend four or five hours in the studio for each practice session to fit everything in.

With all this dancing, it’s no wonder I have no time for much of a romantic life…

There were other dance things that I did this past week, but the stuff that happened this weekend is the important stuff I’d like to remember for posterity. Next weekend shouldn’t be quite as busy, though there will be some interesting happenings to write about. Outside of my normally scheduled weekend dancing, I have another lesson with Lord Dormamu scheduled for this coming Sunday before he heads out of town for several weeks. We’ll have to see if I am able to get in enough practice before that time for him to see a difference on the points he gave me last weekend. Wish me luck with that!

If We’re Dancing All Alone Or In A Crowded Room

Last Saturday morning I headed out to the Fancy Dance Hall for my scheduled coaching session with the Princess. I must say, by the time I finished up with that lesson, I was not feeling very good about how I danced at all. It wasn’t even like we really covered anything all that different from things I had heard from other people before or anything, she just wanted to emphasize different techniques that morning than the techniques that I have been focusing on in my other coaching sessions of late.

So what things did the Princess really want me to work on with her that day? The biggest thing was she wanted me to really use my body connection with my partner to drive my steps. She also wanted the lead to be coming mostly from my hips, just like Lord Dormamu had told me. I got to go through the semi-uncomfortable demonstration again where I had my hands put on the front of the Princess’ hips and had to hold them there while she went through some figures in Waltz. It was less uncomfortable for me this time around than it was when Lord Dormamu made me put my hands on his hips while he danced – I’m not sure if it was because I had already had to go through this weird exercise with a dance coach once already or if it was because she was female, and thus the threat of my hands accidentally slipping was less awkward to me (luckily I have gotten good at keeping my hands in one place).
  She also told me several times I needed to bring my left side more toward her when we got into dance position. I guess this is something that I am going to need to worry about with any partner I dance with. When I open my arms to allow the lady to walk toward me and get into dance frame, I keep my body in a neutral position with no rotation in my hips. I guess I was assuming that my partner would get into frame with me in the correct place without me having to rotate at my hips to adjust at all… but apparently that is the wrong assumption. So that’s something to keep on my list to look at adjusting before I even start dancing now.

There were several points that I also got called out for my head being in the wrong place. I know, this is a constant struggle for me, and even when I feel like my head is leaning slightly to the left I guess from the outside it sometimes looks like it is leaning slightly to the right. The Princess had this tendency to use her pointer finger to push against my head when it was in the wrong place to make me fix it. Several instructors I have worked with have done this before, but unlike those coaches the Princess has long fingernails that felt rather sharp as they were digging into the side of my neck. That wasn’t really the most pleasant thing to experience, especially when she decided to poke me like that when we were in the middle of dancing.

So yeah, there was nothing really earth-shattering from that lesson. We spent half the time working on Waltz and half on Foxtrot. The Princess was nice enough to tell me at the end that I have noticeably improved, but I still need to work on keeping things consistent and to fix some of these minor things to take it up to the next level. I don’t know why the constant starting and stopping to go back and fix things made me so unhappy with my dancing that day, but it did. I ended up leaving and heading off to go work out and burn off some of that negativity so that I could be in a better frame of mind before I went out to host a dance party later that night.

As I mentioned at the end of my post last week, I was out and about hosting another monthly dance party this past Saturday night with the rest of the gang from the Royal Dance Court. Well, I say “the rest of the gang” but really it was only about half of the group. Being a holiday weekend, many of the members of the Royal Dance Court were out of the area visiting with family. I had expected that we would see the same thing with all the dancers who would otherwise attend our party, leaving us with just a small crowd that night. As it turns out, since all of the other dance parties that would have otherwise happened that night were cancelled or rescheduled due to the holiday, ours was the only ballroom dancing event in the whole Dance Kingdom last Saturday night, so we had quite a large turnout instead. Hooray!

To begin the night’s festivities, we had invited a local instructor to come by and teach a class on American Cha-Cha for anyone interested. From what I was told, this instructor regularly teaches classes and lessons at the City Dance Hall, but I don’t remember ever seeing him there in all the times I’ve been to that location. That could be because I don’t often pay attention to the other male dancers when I am there since there are usually a lot more ladies than men, so my attention is needed elsewhere. He was a fun instructor though, and English was clearly not his first language, so some of the phrasing he used when explaining things was unintentionally funny. When class started, we initially had the same number of men and women, so I was hanging out along the edge of the floor keeping an eye on things.

A couple of ladies showed up about ten minutes into the class, so I ended up joining in at that point to help keep things as close to an even ratio as possible. I ended up in the front row next to the instructor because all the other men chose to stand in two rows behind him; I’m guessing so that they could watch what he was doing during class. Since I hadn’t seen anything new to me in the ten minutes I was standing along the side, I figured I could be right in front as well so that people could watch me too if needed. The pattern that was taught that night wasn’t that difficult in my mind, but there were a couple of parts that surprised the ladies that I danced with in class. Several ladies told me that the other men besides me and the instructor guy next to me were doing things differently – which was kind of a scary thing to hear from the ladies, since the progression we went through ended up being rather long. None of the men complained that they didn’t understand the figures we had gone through, so the instructor guy just kept adding on more until we ran out of time for the class.

We started out with what I consider a normal starter step for any Cha-Cha: a side step to the left on beat one followed by a backward rock step. After that we did a normal chasse to the right followed by a Crossover Break (or, in International Cha-Cha, a New Yorker). From there we did a figure that I had learned long ago as a ‘Snap’ but I’m not sure if that’s its real name – coming out of the Crossover Break, we rotate back to face our partner, but instead of doing a chasse to the left we stop her by putting up our right hand and then turn to do another Crossover Break to the right. This second Crossover Break led to the first piece that many of the ladies I danced with struggled to get through frequently: In the middle of the Crossover Break, you needed to pivot on your front foot (left foot for the Leads, right for the Follows) to go into another basic chasse to the right. This is an easy transition to lead, because if the guy has a good connection with his partner and rotates at the right time, the lady has no choice but to turn. From what I gather though, many of the men weren’t doing this correctly.

After the second chasse to the right, we went through the second figure of the evening that the ladies I danced with didn’t really understand until I went through things with them. This one actually surprised me though. All we were supposed to be doing was a basic Solo Turn to the right (a Solo Turn is where both the man and the woman turn at the same time – also called a Walk Around Turn). Many of the women I danced with just kind of stood there and watched me awkwardly when I turned, even though I was pushing against their left arm to try to get them to turn with me. Once I stopped to talk them through what should be happening, and let them see the instructor guy next to me leading the lady through the same figure, they seemed to catch on. Several of them told me that the men they danced with in the rotation prior to me weren’t doing anything like what I was trying to lead them through, which is why what I was doing was confusing them. I don’t know what to make of that figure causing so many problems though. I had thought that was a fairly common step that pretty much everyone knew.
  Coming out of the Solo Turns, rather than go back into normal dance frame we went into a wide two-hand hold so that at the end of the chasse we could do Cuban Breaks – one set to the left and then one set to the right. As we finished the Cuban Breaks and shifted our weight back to the left leg (right leg for the ladies), the men did a rock step backwards while leading the ladies through a normal Spot Turn. This led into our final chasse to the right of the evening, after which the instructor checked the clock and saw that there was still a bunch of time left, and asked everyone if they wanted to keep going. Most of the class agreed enthusiastically, so he added on two final figures. The first was a Fifth-Position Break on the right hand side, which set us up for the final figure. The final figure was essentially the Promenade Walks from East Coast Swing, modified to fit to Cha-Cha timing. I’m fairly certain this figure isn’t on the Cha-Cha syllabus anywhere (at least, not anywhere I can find), but if you’ve done Promenade Walks in East Coast Swing before you can easily do them in Cha-Cha as well.

Once the class was over was my big moment to step into the spotlight for a minute. As I mentioned a while back, there had been a few complaints from some gentleman who attended our social dances about dance hosts doing ‘fancy’ moves on an increasingly crowded dance floor. In order to combat these issues, I had been elected to start giving out a few pointers on floorcraft before our dances began, to help improve the floorcraft of our attendees, and thus improve the dance floor safety of our parties. I said I would write up a whole speech and present it here for you all to see, but I never got around to that. Instead, since I have become accustomed to talking to random people at these sorts of events, I decided to just wing it. After a brief introduction of myself and an overview of why I was giving this speech, I laid out three random floorcraft points from a list I had made prior to that evening:

  1. When we are dancing ballroom dances, there should be two different tracks. An outer track for those who take larger steps and move ‘faster’, and an inner track for those who take smaller steps and move ‘slower’. This leaves the center of the floor for people not moving or dancing a completely different dance style.
  2. To tie things back to the lesson, I reminded everyone that when doing New Yorkers or Crossover Breaks on a crowded dance floor, they shouldn’t not fling their arms out fully extended. Instead they should keep their arms at their side with their hands on their hips. I did make a joke about ladies dancing near a certain individual being allowed to throw their arms out to smack that person, which got a laugh.
  3. The biggest point I emphasized that night was that people who didn’t know Viennese Waltz or Quickstep should not be on the floor during a Viennese Waltz or Quickstep. I pointed out that a social dance, especially one on a floor the size that we had to use, was not a place to learn either of those dances. After my speech was over, the DJ also reiterated this point.

I closed my short speech with the three points about floorcraft that I had learned from Judge Dread, that the Lead’s job is to keep his Follower safe, keep her comfortable, and keep her entertained. These three points have stuck with me over the two years since I took that class, so I thought it would be a good line to close with. If I really do end up giving a speech like this every month before our Royal Dance Court dances, I think I will close with this line every time.
  For the first part of the dance, I mostly hung out in the back of the room to watch what was going on. There were a pretty even number of men and women at the party, so I didn’t want to get in the way of everyone else having fun. I did have one lady stop by during one of the first Cha-Cha numbers to ask me if I could show her the pattern that everyone had gone over during the class. She had missed part of it, and wanted to make sure she knew what was going on in case some gentleman tried to lead her through this new progression. I took her over to a mostly empty corner of the dance floor to step through it slowly with her, and she seemed to understand once we finished.

The most unexpected part of the dance happened early on in the night, right after the first Foxtrot number was played. I had been standing in the back during that Foxtrot, as I mentioned, just watching people, and making friendly conversation with the few people who came within range of me. After the dance was over and the DJ changed over to a different song and dance style, an older gentleman made his way off of the dance floor and over to where I was standing. My spider-senses started tingling immediately as I noticed his approach – this gentleman was the guy whom had made the complaint that led to me giving the short speech on floorcraft in the first place. I put on my best welcoming smile and braced myself for whatever might happen.

When he was close to me, he reached over and put his hand on my shoulder and pulled slightly so that I would lean down so he could speak in my ear. He told me that next time I should make a point to emphasize that the instructors that show up as dance hosts should watch out as well. Apparently one of the dance hosts that a group of ladies had hired to dance with that night had done what he called a “fancy move” on the dance floor, and he was near the guy when it happened, and it caused him to have to change his steps to avoid what was going on. I bit my tongue to not say too much in response to that, instead just nodding and agreeing until this gentleman was satisfied and wandered off. I really wanted to tell him that I was less worried about what those few instructors serving as dance hosts for the evening were doing than I was with the other social dancers who I see doing all sorts of crazy things on the dance floor, but I didn’t think that the middle of a dance party was a good place to get into that kind of dance philosophy discussion.

Sigh… I’m sure that this will come up again at our next Royal Dance Court meeting.

I missed out on Latin Technique class this past Monday because of things going on at work, but I did manage to make it to Standard Technique class on Wednesday night. We ended up working on Quickstep that night, focusing quite a bit on footwork that required you to be up on your toes for long periods of time. Without knowing that we were going to be doing this during class, I had unfortunately worked my legs really hard during my normal workout before class, so my calves were kind of unhappy before we even started dancing. I managed to grit my teeth and get through things, but I was happy when class was over and I got to go home and rest my legs for the night.

We began class warming up with chasse-like steps down the long wall. All of the steps were meant to be done while up on our toes, and we did several variations of timing, with a few runs that had some twists to keep things interesting. We began with normal Quickstep Progressive Chasse timing, then switched to chasses in Pepperpot timing, then did a few where it was Pepperpot timing with a 180° rotation on a slow step between the chasses, and to finish things off we changed over to Lock Steps in Pepperpot timing. The Lock Steps and the Pepperpot timing were good to end the warmup with because we used those in the actual progression we worked on for the rest of class.

Our progression was pretty basic overall. We started with a Natural Turn into a Natural Spin Turn, ending with a V6. The last step of the Natural Spin Turn was used as the first step of the V6 to make sure everything flowed together properly. We used the Lock Steps that you have in the V6 to work on the timing and footwork we had started in the warm-up. First we were doing the V6 with Lock Steps that had normal timing, and then we changed things so that the first Lock Step was normal and the second used Pepperpot timing, and finally we did both Lock Steps with Pepperpot timing. At the end of class when we were running through the figure for practice, we kept switching up which timing we were using just to keep everyone on their toes (ha ha! Unintentional humor…).
  I know there are several dance parties going on this weekend, but as of right now I’m feeling like kind of a stick in the mud, so I don’t know how much effort I will put into going to any of them. Staying home and curling up with my cat sounds like a grand idea. We’ll have to see what happens. I’ll let you know all about what I end up doing next week.

It Looks Like You Might Be One Of Us

Happy December everyone!

I don’t know about you, but my holiday weekend was full of lots of dancing! That was kind of a surprise to me, since so many people had said that they would be out of town for the holidays. Plus there was the disappointment of the class I had wanted to go to last Wednesday being mysteriously cancelled, so I had prepared myself to face some disappointment over the weekend. Lucky for me, all the things that I had thought about going to do still happened, so I got to participate in everything. Hooray! So, where should I start?

Friday night I ended up out at the Fancy Dance Hall. Sir Steven had been giving both Sparkledancer and I a hard time over the last couple of weeks since neither one of us comes out to their Friday parties very often. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think I’ve been to any of the parties out at the Fancy Dance Hall since the last showcase when I performed at that venue. So, since everywhere else near my house was closed for the holiday weekend, I made the trek over to the far side of the city from me for the party at the Fancy Dance Hall. They had a class scheduled for the hour before the party as well, and I even managed to get out there in time to attend that too. Sometimes I can be really on top of things, can’t you tell?

The class was a bit unexpected, since Sir Steven used the time to go over a number of line dances rather than figures from a specific dance style. All but one of the line dances were tied heathens1to a specific song, fairly common line dance songs that I’m sure you would hear in any dance club or wedding that you might attend. The one line dance we looked at that wasn’t tied to a specific song was the Samba line dance. Now, I’ve seen a couple of different varieties of Samba line dances in my travels, but we looked at the one that is most commonly used in the Dance Kingdom. For those who don’t see this variation in their neck of the woods, it breaks down to four Samba forward and back Basic Movements, four Whisks, four Traveling Bota Fogos Forward, four Volta Movements to the right that rotate you 90° counter-clockwise and finally four Volta Movements to the left before starting over. Memorize this progression – there will be a test later!

Once Sir Steven was fairly certain that everyone had the basic pattern down, he wanted to show us all a few variations that we could use to spice up our line dancing. For a second I thought he was going to go through the same variations that Lord Junior had shown a group of us in a Latin Technique class I attended a while back, but the variations Sir Steven did turned out to be different. The four Basic Movements at the beginning were left untouched, so that’s fairly easy. We replaced the first and fourth Whisk with Spot Voltas, and then all four of the Traveling Bota Fogos Forward with Forward and Side Samba Walks. At the end he had us swap out the first four Volta Movements to the right with a Maypole that was overturned enough to rotate us the necessary 90° counter-clockwise, and the four Volta Movements to the left were left alone before we repeated. So, you can take these variations, or the variations that Lord Junior taught me (or both, if you really like to be different) and impress everyone the next time you are out doing the Samba line dance. Let me know how it works out for you!

Once the class finished up, we got to dancing. The party was small, with lots of people being out of town for the weekend. We had a pretty even ratio of men to women in attendance, so no one had to sit out unless they really wanted to. Even though there was an entire class on line dances before the dance party got underway, the DJ didn’t seem to play all that many line dance heathens2songs throughout the night so that the newcomers in the class could practice the things they learned. The DJ also wanted to do this weird mixer where we had all the men form a circle in the middle of the dance floor, and all the women form another circle outside of the men, and then all the men were told to march around the circle clockwise while the women marched counter-clockwise. At four different points in the song the DJ stopped the music and then you were told to make note of the person standing across from you. That gave us dance partners for the next four songs (a Foxtrot, East Coast Swing, Waltz and Rumba).

Of those four random partners I was paired with, the first one stands out the most in my mind. As we waited for the first song to start, I asked her if she preferred to do either American or International Foxtrot, as I often do when I dance ballroom-style dances with people I’ve never met before. She told me that she preferred American Foxtrot, and then she said that she really only wanted to do Silver-level figures, not boring Bronze-level figures like everyone else was going to do. That kind of surprised me for a second, but it was a request I could comply with, so that’s what I tried to do.

It did not go well, not at all. I ended up slowly backing off what I was doing as I discovered that she didn’t really know things. Even the most simple of Silver-level techniques, such as using continuity endings on all the figures rather than closing our feet, seemed to throw her off when I did things. I ended up going against her request and mostly doing Bronze-level figures and techniques by the end, and that seemed to be what she was comfortable following. She had a big smile on her face and thanked me at the end before wandering off to find her next randomly assigned partner, so I’m not entirely sure if she knew the difference or not, and I wasn’t going to ask her about it to give away what I did, so this will remain a secret between me and whomever reads this. I’m counting on you not to tell!

On Saturday afternoon I got together with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. While we were waiting for Sir Steven to finish up the lesson he was giving to another student, Sparkledancer and I were working on our Viennese Waltz. We had tried a few things the night before during one Viennese Waltz song at the party, but one of the turns did not go very well at all, so we were walking through things slowly. We also spent a bit of time working on the Canter Pivots, but neither one of us agreed on how to get into or out of them. I wanted to just go from a normal Natural Turn, but Sparkledancer said that felt wrong to her.

When Sir Steven came over to join us, we asked him about getting into the Canter Pivots, since that’s what we were looking at. I also might have told him roughly how long ago it was that the Canter Pivots had been shown to us the first time. I didn’t tell him how I figured out how long ago it was; I just gave a rough number and glossed over the rest. He was really surprised that anyone would have thought it was a good idea to have us try that move out as such young dancers. Getting back to the lesson, we decided that we could do the Canter Pivots with two Natural Turns beforehand (one full rotation), then two Canter Pivots, then coming out back into a Natural Turn, just to keep things simple when we wanted to practice.

Finishing those, we also looked at our American Waltz routine again. As we walked through the routine from start to finish using the changes we had made a couple of weeks ago, Sir Steven said that he didn’t like the way that the Progressive Chasse to the Left looked during the first long wall, so he decided to replace that figure with several different figures that are much more complex. As we were going through the new changes, I just had to ask Sir Steven if there was anyone else using these routines at all, since we were told that these would be the ‘standard’ Silver-level American Smooth routines for the Fancy Dance Hall students, but we’ve been making a lot of changes to them. He told us that aside from a few students at the studio who dance super-advanced Open-level American Smooth routines, most everyone else either does International Standard or is only Bronze level in American Smooth, so right now these really are ‘our’ routines to do with as we please. So… yay for us?

On Saturday night I made my way out to the Cherished Dance Hall for an open dance party that was being held there. The same DJ who had played all the music on Friday night at the Fancy Dance Hall had orchestrated this open dance party, and there was nothing really crazy planned, just a couple of hours of open dancing for anyone who was interested. A lot of the people who had attended the dance party I went to on Friday night were also in attendance for this party, which wasn’t surprising since these were the only dance events held on both Friday and Saturday night. President Porpoise was there, offering his presidentially porpoise-ful lead to all the ladies. Ms. Possible showed up to the party a bit late, much to my chagrin. She wasn’t at the party the night before, which was good, and she told me that she had gone so far as to take the last six days off from dancing, which helped her injured left shoulder feel a lot better. But since her shoulder sort of felt better, she needed to get her dance fix in, so she came by – which ended up being a terrible idea. By the end of the night she was back to clutching her shoulder and grimacing. At the rate she’s going, I’m afraid she’s going to end up with permanent damage!

I had originally planned on spending most of the evening working with Sparkledancer, getting in some practice time on various things, and for the most part I was able to stick to that plan. heathens3Because the same DJ who had spun tracks at the previous night’s dance was playing at this party, we ended up doing the same weird four-dance mixer that we had done the night before, so during that ballyhoo I didn’t get to practice with Sparkledancer. At one point during the evening I was also asked to do a Rumba by the same ‘Silver-level’ dancer that I danced with the night before, and that Rumba also did not go spectacularly, which amused me to no end. The night was a lot of fun for me, and was a great way to wrap up the holiday weekend that didn’t involve any commercial endeavors. I hope all of you got to have as much dance fun as I did to celebrate Thanksgiving.

Last night I went out to Standard Technique class. There were only a couple of us who showed up this week. Some of the other regulars for class stayed home – Ms. Possible decided to continue giving her shoulder a break (good choice!) and Bony sent Sparkledancer a text to say she was staying home but would come out Friday for sure. With only the three of us, Lord Junior offered to look at some American Smooth with us if we wanted. He is studying to take his certification exam in American Smooth like he has already finished in International Standard and Latin, so he said it would help him study if we wanted to do it. We all jumped at the chance, and decided to look at Foxtrot that night.

Lord Junior said that the big problem he is having studying the syllabus figures in American Smooth is that some of them are really long. They are all just progressions of much simpler figures, but you have to know them all in the correct order with the correct techniques, and since he is learning this from the instructor’s perspective he has to know both the full progression of the Lead’s part and then the same full progression from the Follower’s point of view as well. One of the ‘figures’ he gave us in class to work on he said covered four pages of the book he is using to study with (it’s a big book, with pages that are almost 8.5 x 11 and a pretty standard font size used. I saw the book when he pulled it out to confirm a question we had asked).

So what we did began with a prep step into a Feather Step, then we did a syncopated Fallaway Reverse with Slip Pivot. Next we added on a syncopated Curved Three-Step, ending with a Contra Check that moved against line of dance. We came out moving backward and turning into a Feather Finish. From there we did one of those figures that is actually just a bunch of other figures mashed together:  first was a Twinkle going into an Open Natural Turn, followed by an Open Impetus Turn (yes, there apparently are heel turns in American style – I was shocked by this too), followed by a Grapevine action for four steps. After the first Grapevine action we did another Open Natural Turn, then another Grapevine action for four steps and finally another Open Impetus Turn to end things. That whole thing was one figure by the book. After that we went into four Passing Twinkles (or Promenade and Counter-Promenade Runs, as the syllabus Lord Junior is studying calls them).

Next up, we did some work that put us in Shadow Position for a few figures, just for fun. To start this section we under-turned the last Passing Twinkle to collect back in Promenade heathens4Position before leading the lady in a Underarm Turn while the man faked a step (or did a Progressive Chasse, either works). Faking the step gets you into Shadow Position with both partners on the same foot. From there we did three figures while in Shadow Position: a Forward Run (which is basically a Three Step), an Open Reverse Turn, and another Forward Run. To finish everything we led the ladies through another Underarm Turn for the ladies while the man did another fake step (or Progressive Chasse) to get back into dance position. Whew! That whole thing from start to finish could basically be a Silver-level American Foxtrot competition routine if you wanted to put in a connecting figure to loop it at the end.

So far I may have a quiet dance weekend ahead. The only things I’ve committed to are a dance party on Friday night and my normal coaching session on Saturday. I may leave Saturday night open so that I can go out and do other things. Maybe I’ll even find some lady interested in going out on a non-dance related date with me, if I’m lucky. Hey – weirder things have happened in my life, though most of those weirder things are dance related… we’ll have to see what kind of things come to mind that are worth writing about next week. Until then, keep dancing!