Oh My Quad…

So I’m going to deviate a bit from my normal ramblings this week, because this weekend marks the end of my fitness experiment of seeing how much muscle mass I could add on to my frame in three months, and I’d like to talk about that for a bit. I can tell you that I have been able to successfully add on about ten pounds of muscle from the challenge. It doesn’t sound like much, but adding that amount of mass took a lot of work (and a lot of eating), and is having some fairly interesting impacts on my dancing life. The reason I want to talk about this a bit is to help give some perspective for anyone else who might be thinking of trying out something like I just went through. There’s a lot of people I talk to when I’m out and about, and you can find a lot of things written online from all kinds of people, who talk about how they got into dancing or are using dancing as a way to help them with losing weight. I’ll admit, most of what I hear on that topic comes from a female perspective, since I don’t really dance with men too often, and I haven’t met very many men like me who got into dancing for reasons other than ‘my significant other is making me do it’. So this may be the first, and possibly the only time, you ever see anything written about dancing from the point of view of a male who worked really hard to actually gain weight. So, in reflection…

What is most impactful, and the thing that people notice when they see me, is the fact that my upper body is just physically bigger than it was before I started, in some pretty noticeable ways. After all, that ten pounds I gained has to be stored somewhere, right? It’s not at the point where I need to go out and buy new shirts quite yet, but all of the ones that I own are noticeably tighter fitting around my frame than they were before. The most visible gains, and the ones that have been causing LookAtThemLegs1me the most problems with my dancing, has been the added size in my traps and my lats (which, for those of you who haven’t studied anatomy recently, are basically the muscles on the top and bottom of my shoulders). This has been what prevents me from keeping my shoulders rolled down very far or pulling my elbows back as much as my teachers want nowadays. If I stand in frame, someone can move my arms into the desired position, but I cannot hold them like that without discomfort, and I certainly can’t get them into that position on my own. It’s not as big of a problem when I dance Rhythm or Latin styles, but this is something that keeps coming up in Standard and Smooth, much to my chagrin. I knew there would be some loss of my flexibility with the addition of more muscle, but I didn’t think it would be quite this bad. The other pretty noticeable change in my upper body that affects how I dance has been the added power in my arms. There have been several times recently when I have been dancing with Sparkledancer at parties, just having fun, and she has mentioned really feeling what I thought was just a subtle nudge to tell her to turn. It happens the most in fast dances like Jive or Salsa, and it’s mostly my fault since it seems like I am trying to turn people fast and I just forget about how much stronger I am than these ladies I am dancing with. So, I’m holding myself back a lot now, and I’m not keeping my frame in quite the right position anymore when left to my own devices. Dancing shouldn’t be uncomfortable for anyone, so if it is better for me to keep my shoulders in a place that is not quite right but doesn’t cause me discomfort, and to hold myself back when I am turning ladies so that they can maintain control and not spin so fast, then that’s what I have to retrain myself to do.

And let’s not forget the differences in my legs that I have achieved! Since I didn’t really want to be known as a guy with chicken legs, I put in the hard work and heavy lifting to add some serious power in my lower body. My legs were already OK before I started, since I had spent years working on moderate leg strengthening exercises and plyometric training, but this time around was much more work. Now we run into a problem when I am told to push off my standing leg in order to drive myself down the floor: I can push myself pretty hard, which feels like I am pushing myself right through any dance partner I might have who can’t push herself that much. It is fine when I dance on my own – last night, for instance, when I was in Standard Technique class, we were looking at Viennese Waltz. When we practiced things without partners, I could drive myself and get almost completely to the other side of the room with just two full rotations. When we practiced the same things with partners, I did not even try to cover that much ground. Sparkledancer is fairly tall for a lady, so when I danced with her I could drive more, but someone like Bony is much shorter than me, so I held back a lot. So that’s been a fun change to try to adjust to.

So the last few weeks I have been relearning parts of my dancing because of these changes. Now that all my intense weight training is finishing up, I have been mulling over what to do next for my workouts. I have to say, I like the results I’ve gotten, so I’m not looking to give them up anytime soon. To help with my dancing though, I think I’m going to go back to doing Yoga again, at least once a week. Doing Yoga is how I gained all the flexibility I had before, so the hope is that I can use it to regain some of what I’ve lost. I’ll probably change up the weight training I’ve been doing, but not give it up entirely. Right now I am doing resistance training six days a week, so I’ll probably drop that down to three or four days a week, depending on the week. That should help me keep this figure for the foreseeable future. Several weeks ago I made a joke about wanting to do a showcase dance that was nothing but me doing lifts with my dance partner. There’s a part of me that has been thinking about seriously looking at doing something like that just to see how much easier it would be to pick her up and toss her around now. That could be fun, right? Plus, doing lifts is always a crowd pleasing move during any showcase performance. The more elaborate the lift, the more air time the lady has, the more the crowd likes it. Isn’t there a style of dance that is almost completely lifts? I thought I saw that once before, but it escapes me what they called that style. It was on some ballroom show that I saw. Maybe I can look at taking some lessons in that style if I can remember what it was called.

Whew… enough of that. Just a couple of other things of interest and then I’ll call this done.

Last Saturday night I went to a dance party to celebrate the anniversary of the opening of the Electric Dance Hall. Lots of people showed up, and many were dressed up really nicely for the affair. I showed up a bit late to the party, and I just wore things I would normally wear to any other dance party, but I have enough confidence in myself to get away with that. The night was a good chance to do some dancing, talk with people I knew, and have a lot of fun. Someone brought their kids with them to the party, and they were running around through the people LookAtThemLegs2haphazardly, sometimes screaming. It was kind of funny. Luckily their mother was good about keeping them off the floor when things would have been dangerous, like during a Quickstep or Viennese Waltz. Early on in the evening I danced an East Coast Swing with one new lady who was being a wallflower. She apologized repeatedly during the dance, saying she kept messing up even though I thought she didn’t do too bad. When the dance was over I told her not to be so hard on herself, and that I would come find her again later so that we could do it again and she could see she hadn’t messed up at all. So, about an hour later another East Coast Swing came on and I tracked her down again so that we could try things out, and it went just fine for her, much like I thought. I got conned into leading another line dance, though this one was a fairly easy one and I don’t think I was even really needed. I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone in the world knows how it goes, so I was just hanging out in front for no reason. It was a fun and relaxing evening, a good way to celebrate the birthday of this place that I spend a lot of time at. This coming weekend is another ballroom birthday of sorts, and I’ll have to compare this party to the upcoming grand opening party at the Fancy Dance Hall to see how they measure up to each other.

As I mentioned earlier, in Standard Technique class this week all of the stars aligned and we got to work on Viennese Waltz. Not many people like to spend time looking at that style, so usually the crowd who shows up for class votes to do something else. This time, Lord Junior didn’t give us a choice, and just decided that Viennese Waltz was what he wanted to do. None of what we did was all that difficult per se, but it was a challenge and it also turned out to be rather amusing. To start with, Lord Junior put down a long line of blue tape on the dance floor. Coming off of that line he added some angular lines that were going the direction that people should be facing as they did their rotations down the line. We used this line to work on the angles of our rotations going down the floor, emphasizing the amount of turn each rotation should achieve in order to get things to work correctly. Lord Junior gave a long talk about how he sees people fall apart during Viennese Waltz, and usually it’s because they are either over or under turning their rotations, and then all the steps that come afterward just get more difficult unless you do something to stop and correct. So we did turns, and we did them on our own before attempting them with a partner. Once we got through the Reverse and Natural Turns we added in the Change Steps, and he had us cover all varieties. We looked at the Forward Change from Reverse by doing two Reverse Turns (one full circle), then a Change Step going into a Natural Turn. We did the Backing Change from Reverse by doing three Reverse Turns, a Change Step and then a Natural Turn. Then we did the same to look at the Forward Change from Natural and Reverse Change from Natural. The Change Steps was what ended up being really funny. For the guys, the Change Steps weren’t really a big deal, but the LookAtThemLegs3ladies had a hard time figuring out which way they were supposed to be moving when they came up. All the ladies said that they don’t really think about Change Steps, they just do things automatically when they guy leads one, so trying to figure out where to go when they were dancing on their own was hard. They would do the first rotations and then stop and stand there. You could see the gears turning in their heads as they tried to sort out which way to rotate next, and quite often they ended up choosing wrong and Lord Junior would go down and help them. Once we partnered up and did things, that problems disappeared altogether.

Lots of things planned for this weekend! Tomorrow night is going to be the official grand opening party at the Fancy Dance Hall, and rumor has it that it’s going to be a free dance lesson and party, so if you’re around you should come along. Then Saturday night there are a couple of things that I really want to do, but they are all right on top of each other, so it may be a mad dash for me to attend both events I really want to go to. I hope you have just as much dancing on your docket as I do. We’ll compare notes next week!

The Secret Of The Fox, Ancient Mystery

Last Saturday afternoon I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for our regularly scheduled coaching session. We spent most of the time that day working on Foxtrot, with a bit of Tango thrown in at the end for a change of pace. I’m not going to lie – this lesson was particularly uncomfortable for me. Apparently my shoulders are just not bending the right way anymore, and the constant yanking of them to put them into different places is starting to get a bit painful. I’m not sure if I can rapidly increase the flexibility in my shoulders to avoid this. We may have to sit down and discuss that I have been enjoying the challenge of trying to build up the strength in my shoulders, so the sacrifice of some of my flexibility is just going to have be accounted for. If I can hold the position (uncomfortably) once you push my arms into place, that’s great and all, but if I cannot put my own arms into that position without help, then we’re going to have to work with what I can do. Sigh… anyway, things were good otherwise though. We continued working on improving our Three Step in International Foxtrot, and making sure that our quick movements in International Tango were very staccato, while the slow TheFox1movements were slightly more smooth. Near the beginning of our time, Lord Dormamu was running around the Endless Dance Hall, very excited to show everyone the pictures on his phone of his new studio that was finally completed. As he came over to show Sparkledancer and I (Sir Steven had already visited the place), he told each of us that we were more than welcome to come by and “join the family” there, as he put it. It is always intriguing to me to go to new dance studios, so when Sir Steven asked Sparkledancer and I if we would be interested in actually having our next session there to take a look at the place, I was excited about it, and she agreed. I’m not sure I would want to take lessons there all the time (it’s farther away from me than other dance halls), but getting a chance to go dance there before the grand opening party was just too good to pass up. So, that’s where I will get to be next week! Are you excited?

As a side note, there are only a couple of weeks left in this physical challenge I gave myself. Once over, I can change up my workouts again, and add back things like Yoga and agility training rather than just doing straight weightlifting if I want. That should help, though it will take some time. Also, getting my diet back to normal so that I am not just eating a very calculated, mostly protein diet with very little of anything else, is something I am really looking forward too. You really don’t know how much the carbohydrates you eat give you long-term energy throughout the day and also keep you feeling full until you all-but eliminate them from your diet…

Later in the evening, I went to help out at the dance party that my Royal Dance Court was putting on. We had chosen to do a Foxtrot-themed party this time around, and had convinced Lord Junior to come in and teach the lesson for us beforehand. When I got to the venue, those of us who had gotten there early spent some time putting out a few decorations and setting up a table with snacks on it for people to enjoy. I was surprised that some people who were not members of our Court also showed up super early, and then just sat around watching all of us TheFox2awkwardly while we worked. President Porpoise had shown up early as well, since he likes to come to these events to help out as a dance host, but he must have been super tired since he ended up laying down on a couch in the back of the room and taking a nap until it was time to get ready for the party. I’m surprised that he managed to sleep through all the preparations we were doing – the DJ was getting her equipment set up and tested by playing some songs fairly loud, and all of us were talking about things that needed to be done, and not being very quiet about it, but President Porpoise just slept through all of that. Just before we started the pre-party class was when the majority of the attendees showed up for some reason, so we had to hold the class up for a few minutes so we could get everyone checked in. The class didn’t cover any super-difficult material, and Lord Junior gave everyone plenty of time to practice at the end. He showed everyone the Quarter Turns, Three Step and Feather Finish figures. To have everyone practice, since there were so many people there, Lord Junior had the men line up in the back of the floor in three lines, and then had the women line up in one long line along the right-hand side. The women would then come out, three at a time, and go down the floor with the first guy in each line. When they got about halfway down, the next three women would go out with the next three guys, and so on and so forth. To keep the ladies moving (and avoid confusion), Sparkledancer positioned herself at the head of the line of ladies and directed them where to go. It reminded me of the time I got to direct traffic in the same way when we tried to do a mixer like this in the past. This strategy seems to work pretty well for a mixer dance, so long as someone’s directing people where to go. Left to their own devices, people start going about things chaotically, which causes people to run into each other while going down the floor. Madness!

The dance afterward had much less madness involved. I made sure to do my best and wander around and dance with people I found sitting out if I could. There were a lot of people who showed up to the party that night, so I’m not sure if I even got close to dancing with all of the ladies who were there, but it seemed like I got to go out with a lot of them. It was nice to see Ms. Possible at the party too. I hadn’t gotten to see her in quite a while. She asked me during the evening if I would be willing to go out and do a Waltz with her, since Lord Junior had just started to go through the Waltz basics with her and she wanted to practice. I managed to get through the whole song using International Waltz socially without accidentally switching over to American Waltz, so I was pretty proud of not messing that up. I also worked the crowd to try to convince people to come to our formal party in April. I think I got a few people interested, so hopefully they sign up to come party with us. During the announcements in the middle they also surprised someone with flowers for her birthday, which was nice. The DJ didn’t make everyone sing for her – since this was a dance party, she put on a song and let the birthday girl choose whomever she wanted to dance with and dance for a bit by herself before allowing people to slowly join the couple on the floor. It was a much more thematically appropriate way to celebrate a birthday than singing, don’t you think?

This week’s Latin Technique class focused on Rumba again, since there were two people who hadn’t really done more than a few Club Latin classes joining us. They were a nice couple I had never seen before – the guy was rather quiet, and the girl was over-enthusiastic, and had really long hair that would whip me whenever she spun around. The pattern we covered was still rather challenging (for the ladies, at least), even though neither of the new people had any Rumba experience. To warm up, Lord Junior started with us looking at Rumba basics, to kind of gauge where he could go with things. Once everyone was comfortable with the closed Rumba basic, we switched things up to start with an open basic where we did one rock step before turning the lady to the left into Shadow Position as guys brought their feet together. Then guys then did a back rock step while ladies do an in-place basic before doing they did a full 360° turn to the right. This was the first thing that night that caused some trouble. The new lady didn’t have real dance shoes, so to turn herself all the way around in the heels she was wearing, she had to put a lot of force into her turn, often throwing herself off-balance in the process. After watching this a few times, Prez went looking through the spare dance shoes that Lord Junior TheFox3keeps in the back, found a pair that seemed about the right size, and let her try them out to see if they would help. The first couple of times with the new shoes on, she still put a lot of energy into the turn which managed to turn her even further around than before since now her shoes were suede bottomed, but she was pleased with the results. Once the shoes were straightened away, we went back to our pattern and added on an Opening Out action in Shadow Position, with the guys stepping forward diagonally to the left and the ladies stepping backward diagonally to the right. After bringing the lady back in front of us, the guys released them so that the ladies could do a Three-Step Turn (or Alemana, depending on what you like to call it) while the men did a back Cucaracha, and then we come back together into normal dance frame to finish up, or start all over if we wanted. After class, Lord Junior spent some time showing the new people how the same figure could be used in Salsa, since they had said that Salsa was one of the styles they had done before we started. Turns out they didn’t actually know Salsa too well, so everyone spent some time closing out the night by just dancing some basic Salsa for fun, without trying to throw in any more advanced figures.

And then at Standard Technique class we worked on Waltz. Lord Junior decided that night that we would have a workout day with our Waltz, to really spend time working on calf and ankle strength and balance to help everyone not lower from the rise in each figure we did earlier than we were supposed to. This meant that sometimes as we were dancing the steps, he would have us stop and hold the rise at the end of the figure for an extra three or six count before we could lower and go on to the next step. Our pattern that night started with a Prep Step going into a Natural Turn. From there we went into a Natural Spin Turn, coming out using a turning Change Step that crossed our feet at the end. The Leads crossed our right foot behind our left, while the Followers crossed their left foot in front of their right, which made us ready to travel forward straight down the Line of Dance. We next did an Open Telemark, coming out in Promenade Position travelling toward diagonal wall. The Promenade we went into Promenade curved to the left and used a Forward Lock just to make things more interesting. We finished things by using a right-side lunge, remaining in Promenade Position for a three count and then opening up into an Oversway line over the final three count. Mostly simple steps, but now imagine at any point you are told to stop while on your toes on the three count of a figure and stay there, without moving or shaking or dropping your heels, for another three beats before finally bringing your other leg through so that you could lower the heel. It was kind of a fun game in a way. Some people struggled with things more than others – one of the ladies in class, if she was dancing her steps on her own, wasn’t able to bring her feet together and keep herself up on her toes. She always had her feet spread in more of a horse stance to keep herself from falling over. It was an interesting thing to witness. At the end of the class we ran through the pattern to music just to get some repetitions in for practice. When everyone had gotten through the line to dance things a couple of times, the song had repeated again and was only about halfway done. TheFox4Lord Junior decided to finish the song by having everyone face the mirror, bring their feet together as much as possible, and then rise up onto their toes and just hold themselves there until the end. For the first minute everyone was OK, but as time wore on I started to hear the moans of everyone around me, and some people started to shake a little or drop their heels down and quickly pick them back up. I thought it was a lot of fun, so I was just wiggling in time with the music while holding myself up (I used to walk around more on my toes than on my whole foot, so standing like that for long periods doesn’t really bother me).

Well, it’s sort of a holiday weekend coming up. I don’t have to go to the office tomorrow (hooray), and I think there are some dance parties to choose from on both Friday and Saturday night. Should be fun. Plus, there’s the excitement of getting to go to that new studio on Saturday afternoon, which I’m looking forward to. What will it be like? I’ll tell you all about it next week!

Somewhere, Like A Scene From A Memory

So I did manage to get out and dance this weekend. Hooray for earth! That’s really a testament to my team at work and how well they did getting everything done early enough so that we could all go home. When I got home, I debated whether or not it was a good idea to go out again, after not being home for most of the previous 48 hours. But then I thought about how Sparkledancer didn’t have much fun at the last dance party I saw her at, and how I mentioned here that I would make that up to her, so I called her up and asked her if she was up for meeting me at the one dance party going on in town that night at the Cherished Dance Hall. She said yes, so that’s where I ended up. I had planned on just dancing all night with her, not to practice anything or work on any new stuff we had learned, but just to have as much fun as possible. I managed to do that too, for the most part. There were a couple of times where I was made to go dance with other people: the first was when they did a Merengue mixer, which obviously requires everyone to shuffle through partners. The second time was when this older gentleman, who had been following Sparkledancer and I around the floor for a few songs, got in between the two of us MetropolisPt1-1right before an East Coast Swing number and took her away from me kind of rudely. I recognized the gentleman too – this was the same guy who, a while back, decided to tell Sparkledancer all about how she walked incorrectly. I’m not sure if he remembered that incident or not, but I certainly did (and I have written documentation to help back up my memory, which helps make sure I’m not just making stuff up). I guess that we have been able to make some progress in our dancing since that time though. At the end of the night, when we were changing our shoes to leave, he came over to talk with Sparkledancer again. Since I was sitting next to her, he talked to me as well. He told us that we were pretty good, which was a big surprise, and then asked us how long each of us have been dancing. We told him that it’s been slightly less than four years for both of us, and when Sparkledancer asked how long he had been dancing he told us that it had been over seventy years for him. There was some of the stuff he said that I couldn’t quite understand, and I’m pretty sure he couldn’t hear either of us very well when we talked to him, but it was a much nicer conversation this time around for Sparkledancer than the last one he had with her. That along with all the dancing we did helped make it a pretty nice night.

There was one sad item that did come up while we were there though. During the break in the middle of the night, the DJ spoke to everyone and brought up again a member of the local dance community who had fallen really ill. A few weeks ago, I attended a different dance party where the DJ had first mentioned the ailments of this sick individual, and all the bad luck that had followed along with the sickness. This time the story took on an even more sad theme. I guess the infection has gotten much worse, and they are not sure if she is going to get better or not. At the last party, the DJ said that half of the money collected at the door and any additional monies given would be donated to help stave off the medical bills that this dancer was incurring. This time, she mentioned that the dancer had two cats, no children, and a spouse that had passed away a few years back. They were again collecting money that night to donate, but this time most of the money would be going to help take care of the cats, who were currently being cared for at a shelter that was charging some fee per day, and if their owner did not end up recovering, they may never be able to return home. Well, that just about tore up my heart-strings (it even makes me sad thinking about it now). I could feel my cat sitting on my shoulder, butting her head into mine and whispering in my ear that those cats deserved to eat the ritziest bitz that money could buy, so once again I just emptied out all the cash I had in my wallet into the collection bowl. If there wasn’t a hard limit on the number of cats I could have in my apartment, I would have probably stopped and asked about taking them in too, because I’m a sucker for sad animals.

Hrmm… let’s talk about something less depressing now.

I’m super happy to report that I finally managed to break the 200lb threshold I’ve never been able to hit before. It has taken almost seven weeks of lifting much heavier weights than I would have otherwise (and increasing the weight whenever physically possible), and eating a lot more food than I ever have before in my life. Before you look at me cross-eyed for being excited about my weight increasing, let me clarify that I now weigh over 200lbs, but still easily wear the same size pants I did when I finished high school, when I weighed between 135-140lbs. My shirts are about the same size too, but they are much tighter across my chest and shoulders now than they were before (as you can imagine). So far I am only feeling the extra muscle mass when I try to do certain things while dancing. For example, bending my shoulders continues to be a problem, as I have lost some more flexibility just because of the added mass that is now in the way. Sometimes when Sir Steven is pushing my arms to try to get them into certain shapes, it is almost painful because they just don’t bend like that anymore. On my off day I have been setting aside some time to stretch, just to try to keep as much flexibility as I can during this bulking phase I am in. There’s also a lot more strength in my legs than there was before. Recently, we were working on some figure in Tango, and Sir Steven was holding my foot down and telling me to push off from my standing leg harder than I was to demonstrate something, so I did what he asked and flicked my foot against the floor and almost knocked him down in the process. I’ve been wondering about what dancing would be like when I finish up with this experiment I’ve been running. Will I start putting crazy lifts into everything, even my social dancing, because I will be so much stronger and everyone I dance with will feel so light? Will random ladies start feeling me up again like they used to when I started dancing, because I have an odd physique for a male dancer? Will I start flexing involuntarily when I am told to strike a dance line to show off all sorts of muscle definition at the same time? We’ll have to see!

…hopefully that tangent was random enough to change the mood a bit.

Latin Technique class this week covered Cha-Cha, and was used basically to show people that they needed to move faster than they think for a lot of steps. Seriously, the pattern that was put together wasn’t all that difficult, but if you weren’t paying attention to the music as Lord Junior started having the tempo turned up to normal, you weren’t going to make it through all the steps in time. We also went through a lot of different chasse varieties in this progression, which is always a lot of fun. The pattern started with a normal starter step to the left going into a basic chasse to the right. From there we went into a forward check and come out at an angle to bring the ladies into Fan Position while the men did a Cuban Check chasse. Coming out of Fan Position he had the ladies go into an Alemana with a Forward Lock to end up at the man’s right side. While they did that, originally Lord Junior was going to have the men just do a stationary chasse, but after he tried demonstrating the figure with one of the ladies in class he changed that to have us do a Slip Chasse, because he said that’s what he normally always did while bringing a lady out of Fan Position, and trying to do a stationary chasse instead was going to make him mess things up every time he went through the steps. With the ladies on our right side, we did an Opening Out action, releasing the ladies so that they could do an overturned Hip Twist chasse across our bodies while the men did a Ronde chasse. From there we ended things by sending the ladies back out into Fan Position while the men did a Hip Twist chasse of our own. After everyone was pretty comfortable with the pattern, Lord Junior started to turn the tempo up on the music from the 75% where MetropolisPt1-2we started until we got up to about 95% at the end of class. Merlot was struggling with the timing on one of my last times dancing through with her – she said she felt like we were doing two different things the whole time, and I told her that the music was moving a lot faster than she was going. Before rotating to the next partner, I started the pattern again with her while counting aloud to the beat so she would be able to see and hear how fast she needed to go. She looked really shocked when we had to stop and said really loudly that it was really fast, which made everyone laugh. I must also say that Hips McGee was in his element that night. I could see his hips moving in time to the beat from the other side of the building. He must be double jointed there or something, because I don’t think that I could ever get my white boy hips to move like that, even in my dreams!

Then in Standard Technique this week I got to work on some Waltz. We started off the night focusing on the correct way to accomplish an Outside Spin, but ended the night focusing on doing the Hover Corte figure that had been added into our MetropolisPt1-3amalgamation. I will tell you, though the Hover Corte seems like a fairly simple figure of three steps, if you hold that figure for an extra three count as you do the body rotation it becomes much more difficult to make it look good and maintain your balance. That’s probably why it’s a Gold-level figure… Anyway, what we ended up with by the time class was over was to start facing diagonal wall, then do a prep step into a Natural Turn. Next came an Overturned Spin Turn, this one overturned enough to go a whole circle and end with us moving backing line of dance. Coming out of the turn we put in the Hover Corte, at first just using one measure of music to complete the step, but near the end adding in the extra three beats to rotate from Promenade Position into normal dance frame and step out in CBMP. Next came the Outside Spin. We did a full turn with this as well, doing 3/8 of a turn with the first pivot, another 3/8 of a turn on the second step to the side, and the final quarter turn as we lowered out of the third step. Coming out of the Outside Spin we went into another Natural Turn and Overturned Spin Turn just like we had done earlier to end with us moving backing line of dance again, and then we went into a Turning Lock to the Right that had us finish up in Promenade Position moving toward diagonal center. Lord Junior said that coming out like that would allow us to go into whatever we wanted next like a Progressive Chasse, so sometimes as we danced through the figure everyone would end by going into the chasse, but other times we would just bring our feet together in a normal Change Step and stop smoothly.

Things should be back to normal this weekend. It looks like there aren’t a ton of options for dancing since there is a big competition going on a few hours from the Dance Kingdom that many people will be participating in, so for the one dance party option that I see of interest for Friday and Saturday nights there may be a small crowd. That may leave plenty of space out on the floor for you to fill in if you want to come out and dance. I hope to see you there!

We Makin’ It ‘Cause We Make It Move

Sometimes I think that I must get some kind of enjoyment out of trying to exhaust myself. This was one of those weekends where there was a lot of physical activity. A LOT. Where to even begin…

Things were going much better on Saturday afternoon when I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer to go over things again. Maybe it was because it was earlier in the day, so I wasn’t worn out yet from a lot of physical activity, or maybe it was because we were all having more fun that day. Either way, this was a better lesson than what we had the previous Tuesday night. Our time was used looking over Foxtrot and Quickstep again, which also helped to make up for what we did last time that left a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t even have to use all the jokes I looked up to lighten the mood (I didn’t find any good dance jokes I liked, sadly). In Foxtrot we focused on the Three Step going into the Natural Weave, making sure that the steps were all precise and we got into outside partner at the right time. For Quickstep we spent some more time looking at my ability to ‘swing’ through the Spin Turns that we have (which also helps with Waltz, for that matter), and we also spent time going through the Running Finish into the Natural Rotation and Hesitation in one of the corners of the routine. It feels like we are spending more time now trying to run through things as larger pieces, rather than just one figure at a time. There had been a point a while back where both Sparkledancer and I had told Sir Steven that we felt like we didn’t really know anything beyond the first wall. Now when we go through and look at one figure to fix things, we put it into context by running several figures before it and several after it just for practice. We’re still not going through the whole routine start to finish, aside from when we start looking at the dance style during the lesson. Usually at the beginning he’ll have us do a quick run-through from start to finish so that we don’t forget the choreography, then go back and pick things apart that he sees us doing.

On Saturday night I helped host another singles dance party, since it’s getting to be so close to Valentine’s Day. It had been a while since I had helped out at one of these events, so it was exciting to get there and see a bunch of new faces in the crowd. The turnout was pretty good for a cold(-ish) winter night, and we ended up with almost an even number of men and women for the group class that we offered at the beginning of the night. Since we were a couple of men short before the event started, we did end up making some calls and convinced a few friends to come out. Lord Junior was one of those calls, and he was happy to be there helping and meeting new dancers (who may become new dance students), but during the lesson at the beginning he was funny to be around. Since the class was designed to be a beginner-level class for all the new people to pick up a few things and mostly mingle with each other, he and I were standing next to each other in the far corner away from the door, and he kind of wasn’t paying attention to what was being taught. Instead, somehow he got to looking at the ceiling, and asking me how tall I thought it was. He held up his hand and got close to the wall and said that should have been about eight feet or so, so he was estimating it was about sixteen feet to the top. I was told by Sparkledancer, who was watching us as we stood in the back corner staring up at the ceiling and laughing about things, that we looked funny being so interested in the wall and ceiling. The group class covered some very basic figures in Waltz, Rumba and Hustle, and the Rumba figures that were chosen were used specifically because you could speed them up and get a very basic Salsa. Once the class was over, I stood in the middle of the room and gave the same basic spiel that I gave at the last one of these I played host at, telling everyone not to be too worried about dancing like a star, to just go out and have fun and talk to the other people. I may have even wiggled around like a weirdo to demonstrate to them that they could dance however they want (I’m a champion wiggler, but don’t tell anyone). As the dance got underway, I wandered through the crowd, picking up women who were standing along the edge of the floor for a dance, sometimes talking with the guys to make sure they were doing OK, and just having a lot of fun. It was a good night, and by the end when we were cleaning up the place after everyone else had left, I was worn out and ready to go home to try to get some sleep.
PlayHard1  Then there was the workshop on Sunday – we’ll call it the ‘Cardio Latin Master Class’ workshop, because that’s pretty much what it was. Let me preface this by telling you that for the last month or so, I haven’t really done any serious cardio for any of my workouts. I really enjoyed all the kickboxing I was doing (and I’m sure I’ll go do it again in the future, because it’s so fun), but I decided that I wanted to go back to some serious weight training for a while. I’m hoping I can finally build up enough muscle mass to put my weight over that threshold number that I haven’t quite been able to crack yet in the process. To do that, it means that I have to eat soooooo much, almost to the point where it’s uncomfortable some days (so much fruit!), and it also means I have avoided cardio-style workouts so that I don’t just sweat everything out and have to eat even more to compensate. But this workshop sounded kind of crazy, and I wasn’t really interested in watching the same commercials that everyone else was planning on watching that night, so I headed over to join the crazy dance fun. A lot of what I’ve been lifting lately in my workouts has been much heavier than normal to help build more muscle, but it also wears me out a lot when I’m done, so I decided to go to the workshop before the gym instead of after so that my limbs would still be in a fairly responsive state.

It ended up that I was one of three men that showed up for the event. Even though it was still early when the workshop started and they probably could have got through most of it before the super ads started, I guess they didn’t want to run the risk of missing anything that might happen in the hours leading up to the big television event. Lots of ladies showed up though, so the three of us weren’t working out alone. This workshop was led by two different people – Lady Lovelylocks, who apparently is also a fitness class instructor as well as a ballroom teacher, and The Professor, someone whom I have taken a couple of his dance fitness classes before just for fun. We started with Lady Lovelylocks, and since she spends a lot of time on ballroom-style dancing, her dance choreography that went along with the playlist was pretty Latin-oriented. I could follow along pretty well, and recognized steps that I have danced with a partner before in Cha-Cha, Salsa and Samba, for instance. That half of the class I felt pretty good about, and if anyone was standing behind me and watching they might have even been able to follow along pretty well once I went through things the first time. There was one song she played where the choreography used was almost exactly what you would do in the Samba line dance that everyone in the area does, with a couple of figures added at the beginning and the end and minus the 90° rotation that the line dance uses to face each wall. That song I felt like a star since I had done those moves so many times before. Then Lady Lovelylocks bowed out and The Professor took over the front of the room for the second half, and I was glad I was in the back of the room where no one would be trying to follow me. A lot of the women who came to class knew all the choreography to the songs being played, so they were working it and shouting along, and there I was in the back just trying to keep up. Sometimes it felt like I was just flailing wildly, because I had no idea what was going to come next. The whole workshop was a marathon workout that spanned a few hours, and not everyone made it until the end. With about a half-hour left, some people just stopped and left. I’m not sure if it was because they were too tired out to continue or because they had to get somewhere to visit with family and friends, which is also a possibility with everything else going on that day. I had reached the point in that last half-hour that I just wasn’t sweating anymore, because we had been going so long that I don’t think there was any fluid left inside to sweat out. Fun times! You should have been there! Of course, then I had to go home and rest for a bit and drink a lot of water, since I still had another workout I had put off doing. Hooray!
PlayHard2  Standard Technique class this week focused on getting ourselves all the way down the floor while maintaining the best frame possible. We did Foxtrot, since that was what the song was that was playing in the background when we started, and Lord Junior used somewhat simpler choreography so that we could focus on holding ourselves up. “Simpler” is a relative term here, since we still used Gold-level and Open-level figures in the pattern, but it seemed like it was easier to get through than things we have covered in past weeks. What we did was to start with a prep step going into a Feather just to build some momentum. Coming out of the Feather we went into a Double Reverse Spin with a Feather Finish at the end. The Double Reverse Spin is a figure that has been coming up quite a bit lately. Maybe one of these days I will be able to say I’m pretty good at doing one finally. After the Feather Finish we were facing diagonal wall, then we did a Three Step that we curved slightly so that we ended up traveling straight down the line of dance. Then we went into a Curved Feather to Back Feather (this is the Gold-level figure we did), and to close things out we added in another Feather Finish at the end to change direction so that the men were moving forward again. So many Feathers! I’m going to call this the ‘Plumage Progression’ because of all the Feather steps that we used, and also because that sounds funny in my head. Once we had established the pattern well enough that everyone could get through it correctly, we all lined up in one corner of the room and went through the steps to music, making sure that by the time we were done we had made it all the way to the other corner of the floor (or even curving it around the corner if we really stretched our legs), all the while working on keeping our frame and posture as strong as possible. Lord Junior actually thought that all of us did rather well that night, and was impressed with how easy we were making things look as he stood on the far side of the floor watching us dance. There would be occasional critiques, but overall it felt really good. I didn’t even get yelled at about where my head was supposed to be, so yay me! With lots of repetition, we all spread our wings and took flight, leaving beautiful Foxtrot movement in our wake. Because of that, Lord Junior said that next week he would pick a super high-level, challenging figure for us to work on, and it will likely be in Quickstep. So we have that to look forward to now.
PlayHard3  I don’t know about you, but I am worn out just going back and thinking about everything I did this past week. Whew! Tomorrow night is my off night from working out (my first one in ten days), so I think I’m going to just spend twenty minutes or so getting in a good stretch to loosen up, and then if I don’t fall asleep immediately I may see what kind of dance party I can get myself into. Saturday night there is a special dance party that I’m definitely going to with a live band doing the music to celebrate Valentine’s Day. If you’ll be there maybe I’ll see you!