Blind Labors The Blind And I Am Unwilling To Uncover My Eyes

Last Saturday many of the Professionals that work in the Dance Kingdom were off at some competition, so there was relatively little going on. All of the people I normally work with on Saturdays were there, so I had only one item on my schedule. Of course, that one thing was still enough to make me nervous, since I was planning to spend some time working with the Princess. As I mentioned last week, she was one of the judges for the last competition I participated in, and she offered to go over her thoughts on how Sparkledancer and I did with us. As it turned out, I didn’t need to be so nervous about meeting with her, since what she spent the majority of the time talking about was Sparkledancer. That didn’t mean that I got off scot-free that afternoon, just that most of the notes I made for our session don’t directly relate to me.

The Princess wanted to talk about our Waltz and Foxtrot, but since the ideas that she wanted to relay to us were the same for both dance styles we spent the entire time working on Waltz that day. She wanted to start us off just by getting us into frame for a few minutes so that she could talk about how we looked. There was praise for Sparkledancer on the changes that she has been making while working with Lady Tella – the Princess clearly sees that Sparkledancer is on the right track to be awesome. She recommended that when we take frame, Sparkledancer needs to get comfortable taking the position right away. I believe she described it as being “specific and deliberate” when we come together. Right now, since we have been making changes there are a few moments of minor adjustments being made before we begin.

She also wanted to see Sparkledancer be less centered on my body and even more offset to my right to start with, almost wrapping around my right hip. But not actually wrapping around my right hip, since she said that Sparkledancer’s right hip should be closing to me. To help with this, the Princess told me that I need to watch my own right elbow and make sure that it is coming forward in front of my body as I put my right arm around my partner. During the competition she said that it looked like my right elbow was in line with my chest, which tends to pull Sparkledancer toward me and kill the volume we are trying to create. If I had to guess why I was doing that, I think that I was trying so hard to pull my elbows apart and expand my chest to create more of a presence that it was moving my right arm into the wrong place in the process. Whoops.

Now that we were in a position that was to the Princess’ liking, we began moving while applying those notes. She started by just having me walk through the first couple of opening steps. I guess during the competition, there were a couple of times in some of the heats where she saw me ‘stutter’ (as she called it), and she wanted to see if I would do it again while she was specifically watching for it. Of course, at that point I didn’t, probably  because I was so worried about doing it again and embarrassing myself that I focused specifically on not doing anything weird, so she couldn’t help me figure out why I did it during the competition and fix it. Ah well, maybe next time…

Going into the Natural Turn next, she wanted to see me stay down lower through the first step of the figure and into the second step, only starting to rise as I actually take the second step. On top of that, she wanted to see Sparkledancer keep her chest more towards me and the upper part of her left shoulder out as we reach the highest rise in the Natural Turn. This should help create a better shape for that momentary hold we do before we begin to lower for the next figure.

Next up we have the Underturned Natural Spin Turn. During this figure, she told Sparkledancer to initiate the turn by keeping her right shoulder down and pulling her left elbow up and around. On top of that, the Princess told me to make the shaping more distinct by bringing my right side up further as we go through the turn, then to neutralize as we come out and swap into a left side sway as we go into the next Reverse Turn. The shaping was kind of there in the competition, but I need to work at it more to make sure that it looks like I am actually doing the sway on purpose.

From there, we talked about the Double Reverse Spin a little. The Princess recommended that Sparkledancer maintain the left position longer, and to make sure that her right hip doesn’t open away from me throughout the figure. That led us right into the Progressive Chasse to the Right, where Sparkledancer was asked to pull her left elbow further to the left, and also create more volume. While we are traveling straight down the line of dance in a Waltz, having more volume is even more important than it is during rotational figures, since the judges who are standing behind our line of travel can really evaluate how the volume looks.

The last two figures that we managed to get through was the Outside Change and the Chasse from Promenade Position. During the Outside Change, the Princess asked Sparkledancer to hold her position longer before the transition into Promenade Position. This was especially for the position of her head. Once she arrived in Promenade Position, Sparkledancer was told to maintain her pull to the left and slide her foot out, allowing her left foot to cross under her body before she closes back to normal dance frame.

As you can see, most of the notes that we talked about that day were for Sparkledancer, so hopefully they are helpful to other ladies out there. One point that I did take a few extra minutes after our lesson was over to ask the Princess about was the placement of my right hand. I noticed that whenever the Princess got into dance frame with me, she always slid herself up my right arm so that my fingertips were almost crossing over her spine to her right side. I didn’t know if this was because my arm was in a different position with her than it usually is with Sparkledancer (the Princess is several inches shorter) or if I was actually holding Sparkledancer wrong, so I thought I should just ask while she was standing next to me.

Turns out that I was doing it wrong, as you probably guessed. I was placing my hand on the back of Sparkledancer’s shoulder, which was forcing me to try to control her with the hand itself. If I allowed it to come around Sparkledancer more so that Sparkledancer’s actually pulling herself left into my wrist/forearm instead, then the control point becomes the lower half of my arm rather than my hand. Taking all of the extra joints out of the equation will (in theory) make maneuvering my partner easier. It will take a bit to get used to the different feeling on my arm until I am able to do that easily, but with time hopefully that turns out to be the case for me.

Last Sunday afternoon I had a lesson scheduled with Lord Dormamu, but he ended up having to stay at the competition he was at on Saturday for an extra day, so he wasn’t able to make it. Rather than leave Sparkledancer and I with extra time to practice, Lord Dormamu had talked to Lady Tella and convinced her to work with us (i.e. mostly with Sparkledancer) that afternoon instead.

While this was a nice thing for him to arrange for us, it was kind of a mean thing to ask Lady Tella to do. See, she had been competing on Saturday at the same competition that Lord Dormamu was attending. When she and her professional partner Lord Bread finished up at the competition, they had to drive all the way back home from the competition so that she could be here for our lesson. From what she told us, she had only gotten home around 05:00 that morning, then crashed for a few hours before getting up to come to the Endless Dance Hall and work with Sparkledancer and I. Poor girl!

The first thing that we talked about with Lady Tella was working with the Princess the day before so that she had a basic idea about what the Princess and Sparkledancer discussed. After that, much of the time was spent with Lady Tella and Sparkledancer working on her position as we moved around, mostly in Waltz but we switched over to a little Foxtrot near the end. I got even fewer notes for myself from what was talked about in this lesson than I got from the Princess. It’s all good though. Dancing International Standard requires two people, so I’m happy to let Sparkledancer be the focus of the attention for a change.

There was one interesting point that Lady Tella asked of me that I am trying to figure out how to work into what I do. At several specific points during the Waltz routine she started asking me to allow the figure to ‘breathe’ much like she has been asking of Sparkledancer. Obviously I can’t shape in nearly the same way that Sparkledancer can, or else I might break our connection and cause us to get into trouble, but she wanted to see me expand up and back just a little more to try to make a visible difference.

The two points where she really wanted me to do this noticeably during what we were working on last Sunday were during the two chasse figures along the long wall (Progressive Chasse to Right and the Chasse from Promenade Position), and the Hesitation Change in the first corner. During those figures she also wanted to see Sparkledancer try to open up more away from me, so having me also open slightly at the same time should give the illusion of us having much more volume during those moments. I’m sure there are other places that we will come across where the recommendation will be for Sparkledancer to try to create more volume, so I should watch for those points and see if it is also an appropriate spot for me to try to do the same. If there is a 1:1 correlation, then I can start adding my own action in without being asked.

And that was all the dancing I did this past weekend! Hooray to me for mixing things up a little! The next dance related thing that I got into was Latin Technique class on Monday night. Only a few of us managed to gather out at the Electric Dance Hall for class that night. Supposedly there was some big event that was happening in the area on Wednesday that several people who normally attend Latin Technique were out preparing for. I guess I didn’t get the memo on that.

But for those of us who were still dedicated, we got to work on some Samba that night. For a bit of warm-up, Lord Junior was just going to have us dance through the Samba Line Dance that is popular in this part of the Dance Kingdom, but one of the ladies in class told him that she had never done the Samba Line Dance before, so the first twenty minutes of class turned into a crash course on how to do the line dance, and then how to do a few variations on the normal figures of the line dance to make yourself look cooler than everyone else near you.

The normal version of the line dance that I learned long ago has you doing four repetitions of a bunch of figures. You start out with four of the Basic Movements, then go into four Whisks, then four Traveling Bota Fogos Forward, and then finally four curved Voltas to the right that allow you to change which direction you are facing, finishing with four Voltas to the left that do not curve. Once you finish the last Voltas and are facing the new wall, you start all over from the top. I’m sure you’ve probably seen all of these figures somewhere if you’ve ever done Samba before, so you could use this information to give things a try!

Once we finished up working on the Samba Line Dance, Lord Junior wanted to have us go through another figure that the high-level Latin coach he had come to the Electric Dance Hall a couple of weekends ago spent quite a bit of time working through with him: the Promenade and Counter Promenade Runs. One of the points that the coach gave to Lord Junior which he found very interesting was the way she preferred to hold her arm while in this figure. The big problem that a lot of people run into is trying to keep their body twisted enough so that their back leg still has the foot turned out when they land during the Promenade and Counter Promenade Runs. If you don’t get it right, you end up with your foot in the wrong position, which will get you marked down during a competition.

The coach recommended to Lord Junior that he change the way he held his arm so that it was out in front of him rather than opened up to the side. Holding your arm in this manner helps to counter balance you so that turning out your foot in the back is less awkward. This subtle change really does make a difference, as long as you remember to actually hold your arm forward instead of opening it out to your side. I will admit to forgetting to make the change a few times as we practiced the figures that night.

As for the actual figures that we did, Lord Junior had us start off with the guys standing on their left leg, right leg pointed behind them, and the ladies right in front of them holding our left hand with their weight on the right leg and the left one pointed forward. From there we went right into the Promenade and Counter Promenade runs, with the guys taking three steps forward to start while the ladies turned to open up out to our right side. We did two more rounds where first the guys crossed over, then the ladies, ending up with the guys on the left side once again. Next we did a Ronde Whisk, which is basically exactly like it sounds. As you take a side step to start the Whisk, you then rotate slightly and do a Ronde with your free leg until it crosses behind the other and then do the Samba bounce action.

We rotated ourselves 180 in the process of doing the Ronde Whisk, so now we were facing against line of dance. Next we led the lady to do a Three-Step Turn across our bodies as we shifted weight between our legs. Catching her arm left arm as she went by, we got her to strike a line to the right at the end as we lunged out to our left. After that we led her to do another Three-Step Turn back toward us while we just shifted weight again, finishing in Shadow Position. That’s where we stopped for the night since we ran out of time, but Lord Junior said he probably would have had us do some kind of Samba Roll action from there if we had had more time.

Next up, Standard Technique class on Wednesday night. The class ended up being about Waltz again, because Lord Junior had seen a video of a figure that he had never done before for Waltz that he wanted to try out with some students to see how it went. That figure happened to be the Chasse Roll to Left, which is an Open-level figure for those of you who may be interested in fitting it into your own body of knowledge. Lord Junior told us that he has used the Chasse Roll to Right lots of times in routines with his students, but he had just never considered seeing if a Left version existed before until he stumbled upon it this week.

Before we got into that though, Lord Junior had us all back doing the warm-up exercise that we had done last week, where you do box steps over a nine count. I don’t know why people think that this exercise is overly difficult. Sure, it will put pressure on your inner thigh muscles if you are pulling your legs together properly, but it’s not that bad. I don’t think so, at least. The balance component shouldn’t really be an issue either because of how slow we were moving, but surprisingly others in class were complaining about that too.

Driving home after class, I started thinking about exercises that people could do to improve on the things they complain about that I seem to find simple. Maybe I should start toying with the idea of putting together a three-month workout regimen designed for ballroom dancers – something to help dancers get in shape for these sorts of exercises. I wonder if I could hand it over to some Professionals to have their students do and report back on the results. Hmm… something to think about if I find some extra time. I have nothing but free time, right? It should be no problem for me to sit down and design and document something like that!

Anyway… once we were all warmed up, we were given a short progression of figures to work on. To get things rolling, we started off with a prep step into a Natural Turn, and then added on a basic Natural Spin Turn. Coming out of the Natural Spin Turn set us up for the figure that Lord Junior wanted to work on with us, the Chasse Roll to Left, which looks a lot like a Curved Chasse to the Left with a Slip Pivot at the end if you look it up for yourselves. Once we finished the Slip Pivot, we led the ladies into a Oversway.

One of the ladies asked a question about the Oversway, which got us talking about that for a few minutes. Many of us had done a Throwaway Oversway before, but here was just the Oversway without any of the Throwaway. I had to ask whether that meant that you could do just the Throwaway without any of the Oversway as well. Lord Junior had to stop and think about my question for a minute, and pretended to dance through it a few times. He told me that you could probably do it, and that it was likely some super-high level Professional couple probably has at some point, but he thinks it feels weird to do just the Throwaway without the Oversway so he personally wouldn’t recommend trying it.

To come out of the Oversway we went back to the warm-up exercise that we had done and slowly dragged our left foot to our right (or right to left for the ladies) over two beats while rising up and rotating into Promenade Position, taking our first side step in Promenade Position on beat three. From there, to show us the differences in the two figures, he also had us do a Chasse Roll to Right with a Oversway attached at the end. This figure confused me with its name a little, because the footwork we did for the Lead part was more like a Curved Lock instead of a Chasse, but the Follow’s part looked more like a Progressive Chasse to Right, so I guess that’s what makes it work.

Getting out of this Oversway involved taking a small step to the side with your left foot and rising up for two beats and then dropping the right foot behind you for a Slip Pivot on the third, and from there we went into a basic Progressive Chasse to Right to finish. You want to be careful when you take the side step as you close. If you come around the lady too much, she may think that you are doing a Corte-like action and rotate her body improperly, which could cause all sorts of fun problems. I may know this because I may have accidentally done it… maybe. I’m not admitting that it was entirely my fault, but I may have messed it up once or twice. May. In May. 😉

That’s all I have got for this week. This coming weekend I am not entirely sure what I will be getting into quite yet. There is a big party being thrown by my Royal Dance Court group on Saturday, so much of my day had to be reserved for setting up for that event. I personally don’t think that the setup will take super long, so I may have tons of free time once it is finished. But because I reserved the afternoon for this, everything else I do on Saturdays got bumped, and I mistakenly never rescheduled those items. So… we’ll have to see what happens! Maybe I will have a ton of extra practice time! There’s a lot of stuff I should be working on perfecting, so it’s not like that is a terrible idea. I’ll let you know next week how things go!

Then again, if nothing else comes up, I could always spend that extra time drawing up plans for my dance workout program, right?

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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!