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 me 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 haphazardly, 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 ladies 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!