Tag Archives: Hustle

Like A Rolling Thunder Chasing The Wind

Happy Turkey Day everyone! Despite it being a holiday today, I’m still posting something here! So, let’s see, what have I done this week…

Well I went to a dance party at the Electric Dance Hall on Friday night. That’s always fun. Lord Junior had recently brought on a new female instructor to teach at the studio, and she was there that night working the crowd really hard. It’s been a long time since I had been blatantly hit up by an instructor to try to get me to take lessons with them, but she was going around to everyone (mostly the males, but some of the females too) to dance with them and offer her services. For a long time I have done my best to avoid dancing with instructors during social dances because I just want to have fun and not be judged, also I’m a male so there are tons of single females that I can dance with instead, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer when she caught me for a Tango. As we took dance frame I politely asked her if she preferred to do American or International style, like I usually do when I dance with new people, and she opted for International.

I can’t say I am really proud with how that dance went. She took this super-serious frame with me, vaulting over my right hand so that her upper body looked to be almost parallel with the floor from my angle. She was also quite a bit shorter than me, so when she got into that position it really threw off my center of gravity. The only person I dance with who gets into a frame anything like that is Sparkledancer, and she is just a few inches shorter than me, so that is what I am used to. There were a few figures that I did that I thought were fairly common but she didn’t seem to pick up – I can’t tell if it was because I was doing a slightly different variation than she knew, or if I just did something wrong. When we finished, she said that she had a lot of fun before going into her spiel about how I should schedule a lesson with her to work on all sorts of things she said she could help me improve.

That was the only dance I did with her that night. The rest she came looking for me during I managed to get out of. She tried to grab me for a Viennese Waltz, but doing Viennese Waltz with a completely new person in the middle of a social dance scares me. Viennese Waltz is one of those dance styles that you have to be comfortable with your partner to pull off successfully. Luckily Sparkledancer was standing right there, so I just shrugged and said we were already going to dance together as I grabbed her hand and didn’t give her a chance to argue with me. At the end of the night, I did sit and talk with her for a few minutes. I mentioned that there would be a dance party that I would be hosting the next night with the Royal Dance Court, and said she should come out and join us for that. She smiled and said that she didn’t have any plans yet, so she would talk to her husband about going. Apparently he is also a ballroom instructor, so I lucked out there. Getting another male to come to a dance party is always a recipe for success. Yay me!

When I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer this weekend, the first thing we had to ask him about was the changes to the corners in our American Waltz routine that we had made the previous week. Sparkledancer and I had tried to go through the routine the night before with awkward results. The corner with the Contra Check was supposed to come out heading down the short wall with a Curved Progressive Chasse to the Left, and then another Progressive Chasse to the Left with Lady’s Turn that followed the wall. Coming around Sparkledancer to go into that second Progressive Chasse was just weird, and after showing it to Sir Steven and getting him to step through it himself, he agreed, so we threw all that out. We now do a Contra Check, collecting into Promenade Position and going into a Natural Turn. We go into a Spin Turn (the only one in our American Waltz routine), coming out into two Reverse Turns. At the end we do a closed Natural Turn, which puts us in the other corner where we pick up using the figures as they were before. The whole short wall has us closing our feet on each figure, as opposed to the rest of the routine which has us passing our feet. Sir Steven said that we need to close our feet for part of the routine because if we pass our feet all the time, the routine starts to look too much like Foxtrot.

After finishing up making all those changes to our Waltz routine, Sir Steven decided that he wanted to look at Viennese Waltz for a while, starting with those spins and turns we had looked lightningcrashes1at last month. We also started to work on doing continuous Canter Pivots, which is something we had been shown how to do almost three years ago that didn’t go very well for me way back then. This time, Steven was surprised that not only were Sparkledancer and I able to continuously pivot, but we were able to do continuous pivots in a straight line down the line of dance. He had thought we would end up curving toward center the first couple of times we did it, so he was pretty happy with how we looked. That right there is some proof that we have managed to make some improvement in dancing after three years of blood, sweat and training (but no tears, since I am a real man). Hooray!

And then on Saturday night I attended a dance party hosted by the Royal Dance Court. I got there early again to help set up. Somehow I always get stuck with water duty – no one else wants to take care of setting up water for our dance parties, and I just take whatever job needs to be done, so I always end up doing it while everyone else takes care of the easy jobs and then stands around behind the front desk drinking wine and checking people in. Curse my youth and sense of responsibility!

That night we were lucky enough to talk our friend Indiana into coming by and teaching a class on East Coast Swing to everyone. I got to partake in the class since we always need more men to dance. What she taught during the class didn’t seem particularly challenging to me, but some of the older men had some trouble getting around (literally). The steps used in class were: starting in two hand hold, we did one normal basic, then a Underarm Turn for the ladies, rotating 90° to the right in the process and changing hands to end up in Handshake Hold. Then lightningcrashes2we did an American Spin, with Indiana emphasizing that the men should not push the lady too hard while turning her. After she spins, we’d link up again with only our right hand, grabbing onto the lady’s left. Here we would do Fallaway Rock Step (which is a rock step where you open out to the left if you’re a Leader) into a Tuck-In Turn, with the man’s second Triple Step rotating around the lady 180° so that you both end up facing the opposite wall. To complete the sequence you repeat the Fallaway Rock and Tuck-In Turn with rotation, linking back up in a two-hand hold and returning to a normal East Coast Swing basic as you finish.

After class finished up, we danced the night away. My new friend the female instructor I had met on Friday night did actually show up with her husband after Indiana’s class finished up, which was nice in a way, but also a bit scary. The two of them danced together quite a bit, to show off I suspect, and they seemed to be a bit out of control when they did. They would do a lot of overly fancy figures in super close proximity to a lot of the other dancers, forcing them to pull up short with whatever they were doing with terrified looks on their faces. The two of them were also working the crowd trying to pick up new students, in much the same way the wife was doing on Friday night. Still, having the extra male on hand who knew what he was doing more than made up for the sales pitches that some people were hearing throughout the night, so overall, I’m going to mark that down as a win.

Monday night I got to go out to Latin technique class, the only technique class I got to go to this week. Lord Junior was leaving Wednesday morning to go visit family for the holiday, so sadly there would be no Standard Technique class for a while. We looked at Rumba that night to keep things simple. Ms. Possible has an injured left shoulder, and despite the warnings against dancing from medical professionals, she is continuing to dance even with a left arm that is less than useful. There were only a few parts in the sequence that Lord Junior put together for us that required her to use her left arm, most of those at the end since we were side-by-side with the ladies on our right. I could see her grimacing during those sections when I got to dance with her. She probably should have stayed home if the shoulder was that bad. Sigh…

So what did we do? Well we started with the ladies out in Fan Position. After getting them to close and step forward, we led the ladies through an Alemana. During their turn we would take a slight step to our left so that when the ladies finished their third step they were over on our right side. Here we collected them back into dance frame and turned them into an Opening Out action. Closing them back in front of us, we then helped the ladies go through the slowest Spiral Turn I have ever seen done. This one covered three beats of music, and for many of the ladies we had to keep both hands on them to help them hold their balance while they turned. With one beat left in the measure, we had the ladies take two steps back out into Fan Position while the guys took one step to our right.

Back in the same position we started in, we added on a second half to the progression. Closing from Fan Position, we led the ladies through a Hockey Stick, but rather than coming out on a diagonal path, we overturned the lady so that she came moving parallel to us, going out into a Crossover Break to the right at the end. As we completed that and took a step to our left, we lightningcrashes3went into Solo Turns, releasing the lady so that we could both dance down individual lines along the floor. At the end of the Solo Turns we both did a Spiral Turn and then a Three Step Turn to continue traveling. We made a point of bringing our outside arm (right for men, left for women) up as we did the Three Step Turn so that at the end we could lower it and reconnect our hand with our partner, going into a Hand-to-Hand on the right side. Coming out of that, we did one set of syncopated Latin Walks heading back in the direction we just came from, collected our feet over to the left and took one step to the right (collecting to the right and stepping left for the ladies), and then did one set of syncopated Cucarachas, ending with our weight on our left leg and our right leg pointed (opposite for the Followers).

I had heard that there would be a Hustle class at the Endless Dance Hall Wednesday night, and I was excited to go out to it since I wouldn’t be going to Standard Technique class this week. I lightningcrashes4even talked Sparkledancer into meeting me there for fun. When I got there though, the gate was pulled down in front of the door and there were no lights on inside. Sparkledancer and I sat around in the parking lot for a while, until about five minutes before class would start, and no one showed up to open the door. So that was a bust, which made me sad. There were no cancellation notices to be found online to let us know (I checked while we sat in the parking lot, just to be sure). Sigh…

Lucky for me there will be plenty of dancing available after the holiday is over. The Fancy Dance Hall is having a party on Friday night that I think I will end up attending, and then the Cherished Dance Hall will have an open dance on Saturday night. That should make up for my disappointment at missing Hustle class. Maybe I’ll see you at one of those events!

I Know A Dark Secluded Place

For the first time in a long time, I ventured farther away from my home to go out dancing on a Friday night. I got a call as I was on my way home from work that night from Sparkledancer, telling me that the Prime Dance Hall was going to have a Hustle lesson, and that we should go and see if we could learn any new Hustle figures. It’s rare for places to have classes on Hustle for some reason, even though it is a super fun dance style. So with hope in my heart that I could pick up something new, I headed out there to see what was going on.

I wish I had gotten more information about what was going on before I ended up on the other side of town. The class was really below what I was expecting, and the instructor that they had teaching the class at the Prime Dance Hall barely knew the steps he was trying to show everyone else. So that’s $10 I will never get back. There was a big clue about how the class was going to go right at the beginning: the instructor came into the room and looked all of us over. He told us that he was going to put on a Hustle song, and everyone in the room would be able to dance some Hustle (whatever they knew) so that he could assess our skill level with the hernandoshideaway1dance style. Since Sparkledancer was standing in front of me, we just started screwing around when the music began playing. After only a few steps, the room got really quiet, and I glanced around while I was dancing to see that everyone else (including the instructor) had stopped what they were doing to watch Sparkledancer and I dance. So… that was weird. Afterward, the instructor split the men and women up on opposite sides of the room and told everyone that Sparkledancer and I would be able to help everyone out before getting started. Nothing like getting volunteered to do someone else’s job, right?

The instructor tried to cover an awful lot of figures in the hour, way more than was probably good if he hoped to have everyone remember things afterward. We did a weird four-count basic step that involved rocking forward toward your partner and then backward. This is probably what threw me off the most for this class (other than just doing four-count Hustle, which I never do any more), since normally I either rock back only, or just point my free leg to the side while I dance Hustle. After the basic step, the instructor showed everyone how to do a “Tummy Turn” – every other time I’ve ever done this step in various Swing styles, this has been called a Waist Roll, but for some reason this guy kept calling it a Tummy Turn. I really tried not to laugh when I heard him call it that, but there were times I just couldn’t help myself. Then we looked at a Lady’s Underarm Turn, the Man’s Underarm Pass, and switching between Open and Closed Dance Position. At the end he tried to show everyone how to do the Hammerlock, but this was only mildly successful in the little time remaining.

Since I had other things planned for the evening, I didn’t end up sticking around after the class was over for the social dance they offered, so I bid Sparkledancer farewell and took off into the night. Based on the comments I got from all the other ladies who were in that class with us, I don’t think I would have gotten to dance with her much at the party anyway if I had stuck around – all the ladies were super eager to do more dancing with me, and I kind of felt bad disappointing everyone. But I had said I was going to try to spend some time on other things, so it was good that I left to get some of that work done. Plus I was super hungry, and assorted dance party snacks just weren’t going to cut it for me that night, so I also left to find some food before I got home.

This past Saturday ended up being a busy dance day for me. First stop was my normal coaching session with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven. We began by going back to our American Waltz routine to start cleaning some things up. There were still points that I would draw blanks on as I danced through the routine, so I might not have the pattern as committed to memory as I would like, but I feel like I have the majority of it down. Really it’s the last short wall that constantly seems to elude me when I get there. Next we went back to look at the new figures that we started working on in Viennese Waltz. Since these figures are not really connected in any way, I have a feeling that mastering them will mean that I can throw them in any time that I dance a Viennese Waltz, even before we finish up the actual routine. That’s exciting to me, since I feel like I don’t know much in the way of Viennese Waltz figures.

We finished up the hour by looking at the American Foxtrot. This routine is still rough, because even though Sir Steven, Lord Latin and Lord Dormamu worked out the choreography together one afternoon and wrote things down, the sheet of notes isn’t entirely clear on what they were thinking, and the group never got back together to discuss the choreography. Sir Steven told us that he had gone through and worked out most of the choreography on his own earlier in the week, but even so there are still parts that he doesn’t feel that flow together as well as he would hernandoshideaway2like, so he’s going to end up changing things. Based on how we were stepping through things and how much Sir Steven relies on the sheet of notes while we are working, it feels like we are the first people who this routine is (really all of these new American Smooth routines are) being taught to. We got through three chunks of the Foxtrot that are not connected together before Sir Steven said he would have to put some thought into the rest. After recording the pieces that we did work on so that Sparkledancer and I could practice them, we all headed out for the day.

Last Saturday night I got to host another dance party with my fellow Royal Dance Court members. I got there super early to help clean up and set up the venue before the party started, so I had a lot of time to kill before people began showing up. The party we had planned gave the whole evening a Tango theme, and we were lucky enough to have the famous Judge Dread come and teach some American Tango to everyone before the party started. We asked everyone to come dressed in black and red, and once the lesson was over we turned the room lights down really low to set the mood.

Unlike the Hustle class I did yesterday, Judge Dread was a master at going over a lot of information on Tango with everyone, but doing so in such a way that everyone picked it up well and was able to perform things successfully throughout the class. The figures that we covered in the Tango weren’t all that difficult, but there were a lot of people who came to listen to Judge Dread’s wisdom, so finding enough space to move around on the floor was. He had us start off already in Promenade Position and take one slow step forward. The men then took two quick steps while coming around and cutting the lady off while she just continued walking forward. We would then lead the lady to lunge out to our right side, heading toward diagonal center. The lunge was meant to be done in the corner of the floor, so the rest of the figures are used to turn and go down the next wall. Three rocking turns were used to turn us back around so that the men were facing wall again, and then we went into a syncopated Backward Lock Step which traveled toward diagonal center on the new wall. At the end of the Lock Step we did a Chasse to the Left, pointing our left foot at the end which set us up in Promenade Position for whatever we wanted to do next. Easy enough, right?

After we had made it through that harder part of the Tango figure, Judge Dread had us add on to the beginning and ending so that we didn’t have to just start awkwardly in Promenade Position nor end that way either. At the beginning we put on a simple American Tango basic (two slow steps forward followed by the three steps to close), and turning into Promenade Position and doing a normal Promenade with Ladies Close at the end without using a Link. The whole shebang became our ‘Pattern #1’ for the night, and Judge Dread wasn’t going to stop there. Judge Dread provided everyone with one variation on the pattern, just to keep things interesting. He knew that the Backward Lock Step was a tricky figure to use in social situations, because you never know who might pop up behind you. He showed everyone that you could abandon the Backward Lock Step in favor of just doing a backward basic close figure. We all did that a few times just to make sure everyone knew how to do that well. And things didn’t even stop there!

Next up we looked at boxes, much like we did in Samba the last time I saw Judge Dread. We hernandoshideaway3started with box steps where we closed our feet at the end, and then did a box step where we passed our feet at the end instead. Obviously boxes are not exactly the safest thing to be doing in one place while everyone else is traveling the room around you, so Judge Dread had us do the box steps with passing feet while moving down the line of dance. Turns out this is a pretty tricky way of showing people how to do the Reverse Turn in Tango. We used this as our ‘Pattern #2’ for the night – a normal American Tango basic with two slow steps forward and then the three quick steps to close. Then the box steps with passing feet moving down the line of dance (a Reverse Turn with open ending, if you want to be technical), then another where you closed your feet at the end. That was all that Judge Dread managed to get through before we ran out of time for the class.

We did a lot of Tango at the dance party afterward, to give people a chance to really work on practicing the figures they learned. First off, before too many people wandered off after the lesson was over, the DJ called for us to have a Tango mixer, and because there were so many people out on the floor, to try to give everyone as many chances as possible the DJ wanted to have us do it using three couples going down the floor at a time. I put myself at the head of the line of men so that everyone else could line up behind me, and Sparkledancer did the same for the ladies. Because I have long legs, I managed to get down to the end of the floor pretty quickly. When I looked back, I could see that the people in the lines were struggling to figure out what to do. The DJ was in the back trying to direct things and get all the men to loop back around in line to keep things moving. I stopped her for a second and told her to grab Sparkledancer when she got down to the end and have her direct the women up front to keep things in order. That made a huge difference.

The party was really good. Having Judge Dread come in certainly brought a lot more people out to the party than I had expected, and almost all of them hung around for quite a while to dance even though Judge Dread had to leave early in the party to go catch a flight. I danced with a lot of people that night, but only got to work with Sparkledancer a couple of times to practice the material we were supposed to be working on. She was very popular with all the older men that night – I think it was because she wore some sort of crop-top to the party, which is not something a lot of older ladies would do. At the end of the night, as the few remaining members of the Royal Dance Court and I were cleaning things up, we wandered around munching on all the broken pieces of cookies that were left over. All the non-broken cookies got put away for someone to take home, but there was almost a whole plate full of broken chunks for some reason, so we all decided to eat them as we cleaned up. It was a delicious way to end the evening.

When I got to Latin Technique class on Monday night, no one had any strong feelings about what they wanted to work on. We decided on our dance style that night through silent voting. I of course voted to do Pasodoble, because it is my favorite Latin dance style, and it turned out that what I voted for won. Hooray!

Our pattern was pretty straight forward for the evening. Much like the other times we’ve done Pasodoble lately, we started in frame and holding the first eight count so that whoever started the music could make it out to the floor. After the Appel we did a Promenade into a Counter Promenade, passing our feet at the end rather than closing them, ending with us facing diagonal center. Next up the men took one step forward and led the ladies through a Grand Circle, bringing us all the way around to face the wall once more as we closed. Then we did an Ecart, which is a figure similar to a Whisk from International Waltz, putting us back into Promenade Position.

From here we took a break from syllabus figures for a bit to work on something harder. The next eight count involved the guys coming around the lady to cut her off so we could go into three pivots down the line of dance. The ladies were holding on around our chests during that hernandoshideaway4movement, to make us as small as possible so that the pivots moved easier. It was kind of like getting a hug, except we were spinning. We came out of the pivots by splitting apart and taking one step forward into a lunge, with the men on the left side and the ladies on the right, our hands on the back of our partner’s nearest shoulder and the other arm spread wide. That movement looked kind of like a bird of prey landing. After a brief pause in that position, we pushed off the front leg, leaping forward a bit and landing in a standing position facing one another with our back leg crossed behind the front. We balanced on our toes like that for two beats, and then we would unwind our legs, finishing the spin so that we were facing down the line of dance with the man’s weight on the right foot and the lady’s on the left. There was one last dramatic push out of the standing leg from there to go into a side step, back to facing one another, slowly dragging the other leg inward.

Apparently this past week was the week of Tango, because we also looked at that style during Standard Technique class. Lord Junior was working on Tango with a student of his when we all started showing up for class, so before that private lesson was over he called over to those of us who had gathered and asked if we minded working on Tango so that his student could continue practicing some things.

We worked on a Gold-level figure known as The Chase – the whole pattern that we used during class was built around that. We started out in Promenade Position and took one slow step forward, and then two quick steps where the man cuts around the woman, adding on a Natural Pivot on the end. After the Natural Pivot we went right into The Chase. After going through the figure by the book a couple of times, we then overturned the last step so that we ended up facing center to do a Progressive Chasse to the Right that traveled down the line of dance. After the Progressive Chasse we did a Whisk to flick the lady dramatically back to Promenade Position.

If you’re following the alignment, you will see that we were facing the wrong way down the floor at this point. Rather than fix that immediately, we just went with it and continued on in that direction. Here we did a Promenade against the line of dance that had two Natural Pivots in the middle. After the last Natural Pivot we came out with a side step to the right, putting us back into Promenade Position facing the correct way down the line of dance once more. If done right, you could do this whole pattern and end up basically where you started, allowing you to do the whole pattern all over again, all without actually traveling anywhere.

This weekend is going to be one of my favorite dance events of the year – once again it is time for the Grand Dance Hall’s annual weekend ballroom dancing extravaganza! There will be formal dance parties on Friday and Saturday night with the live orchestra playing all the music, and I think the rumor I heard was that the workshops they are running Saturday during the day will cover Waltz, Rumba and East Coast Swing (they seem to do East Coast Swing every year though, so that one is no surprise). Are you planning on coming out for the event? If so, stop by and say hi to me while you are there. It should be a lot of fun!

I Don’t Need Dollar Bills To Have Fun Tonight

A very happy National Ballroom Dance Week to all of you! I hope everyone has gotten out to do a lot of dancing this week!

Well, as I mentioned last week, the big party where most people showed up last Friday night was the Endless Dance Hall’s anniversary party. Everything was free that night to anyone who wanted to show up – free entrance to the party, a free basic dance lesson before the open dance started, all kinds of free food and tons of prizes were being given away raffle-style. All of that, plus good music and dancing on the huge dance floor that the Endless Dance Hall provides. Where else would you have wanted to be? Obviously you weren’t there, because if you were there and you didn’t at least say hello to me, I would be super sad!

Since the dance lesson before the party started was billed as being a beginner lesson, I didn’t show up until about halfway through so that I wouldn’t interfere with all the new students. Sparkledancer was sitting at a table in the back corner of the room that had an empty seat, so I went to join her there to watch what was going on. There were a number of people in class, a lot more than I thought there would be, that seemed to have quite a bit of dance experience, and I wondered what they were doing joining in on a class for newcomers. A lot of the people looked like they didn’t have any dance experience at all though, and they were kind of adorable to watch as they fumbled around and got their feet all mixed up. I thought to myself that it wasn’t too many years ago that I probably looked like that when I was trying to dance, and I sympathized. One younger couple in particular caught my eye, both because they were in the back of the class near where I was sitting, and because of what they looked like dancing together. The young lady had some ballroom experience before, and was dancing through some figures while the instructor taught that weren’t among the set he was showing everyone that night. Her partner did not know what he was doing at all. They were quite the mismatched pair, and there was an instructor who was floating around (not the guy teaching the class) who would split them up so that he could dance with her, encouraging her along, while the guy was shuffled back and forth between other ladies in the class whom he apologized to profusely when he would do things wrong. I felt kind of bad for him.

The funniest thing I got to do that night though was a Waltz. I had this older woman ask to do a Waltz with me, which normally wouldn’t be all that out-of-the-ordinary, but this woman I don’t cheapthrills1think even made it to five feet tall in her dance heels. I’m up over six feet tall, so getting into frame with her was a bit awkward. I couldn’t just bend my knees more to lower myself either, since she wasn’t afraid to be in closer contact with me. I thought if I bent my legs any more, I’d end up pressing my knees into her stomach. I asked her before we started dancing whether she wanted to do American or International Waltz – she chose American. After the first time we broke frame to open up for some figure (it was probably Passing Twinkles or Open Change Steps, or something similar), I struggled to get my right arm back into the correct place around her shoulder without making things awkward. That made me try not to open up for too many other figures until the end of the song. I must have been a funny sight to watch from the sidelines, I’m sure, since I probably had a look on my face that reflected my discomfort. Good times, right? It was fun though. I danced until I wore myself out and then went home to get some sleep to prepare for more dancing the next day.

Saturday night I finally got the opportunity to go to a ‘70s Disco-themed dance party. Can you imagine, I’ve been dancing for all these years, and I’ve never gone to a Disco party until this point? There’s been quite a few of them that I’ve known about over the years, but I always had other commitments that I couldn’t get out of before. Well, now was the time, and there was the added bonus that this was the monthly dance party hosted by the Royal Dance Court of which I am a member, so I was even helping to run things. That meant that I had to go out and find a costume for the party beforehand, since I didn’t have anything sitting around. Lucky for me, a store near my house had recently started putting out all their Halloween costumes and accessories, so I took the easy route and went and found something simple to wear there. Not too many other people put any effort into getting dressed up for the party, which was kind of disappointing. All of the people from the Royal Dance Court wore theme-matching costumes, but only four or five other people did anything. We handed out glow sticks to everyone who came, as a way to help them get into the groove, and I tried to say ‘jive-turkey’ throughout the night whenever appropriate to do my part as well.

We had invited Sir Steven to come in and teach Hustle at this party for us, to keep the spirit of the era alive.  The class didn’t manage to cover a lot of figures in an hour, because as excited as some of the people were to be going through the Hustle, a lot of the ladies really struggled with their footwork. I’m not trying to be mean to ladies or anything, but if you’ve danced ballroom-style Hustle before, you know that it’s a dance where the men really just shift around in one place while they spin the ladies. Our footwork was super easy. We covered the basic footwork for the dance in both Closed Position and Open Position, and how to transition between the two. Then we looked at the Roll-In/Roll-Out figure. If you haven’t seen that before, basically you do a Throwaway to bring the lady to one side of you, and then you would roll her in along your arm in a wrapping motion, and then flip around 180° and roll her back out. You could do this movement as many times as you like (for the whole song, in fact!), but eventually you roll her in, take her free hand in yours, and then turn her under your arm to have her come back out into Open Position.

This last figure really did in a lot of people. Some ladies seemed to get really confused about cheapthrills2where they should go, so they tried to roll in and stand really far in front of the Lead. One lady could not move very fast at all, so when she would roll in it would take three times as long in the music as she should have been moving, and even at that pace she kept saying that she was getting dizzy. A few of the men were trying to put way too much energy into rolling the ladies around, and I thought someone might end up finishing the lesson with whiplash. It was highly amusing to watch what everyone was doing. I had done this figure before in a few different dance styles (it’s actually one of my favorites to use in both Hustle and West Coast Swing), so I would calmly walk through it with anyone who came to dance with me while keeping an eye on others around the room for fun.

The dance party afterward was where I really struggled that night. Once the lesson was over, they turned down the main lights in the room, and there were a whole bunch of decorative light and strobes and things scattered around to give the place a ‘trippy’ feeling. I could not dance in front of those lights. I don’t even know why. The first Foxtrot I tried to do, when I moved in front of one fixture and accidentally caught it right in the eyes, I could not figure out what was going on for quite a while. I ended up hesitating along the short wall until I got my senses back. But that didn’t last for long because as I went down the next long wall the same light was being reflected off of the mirrors along the back, so I got it in the eyes again, which caused me problems all over again. After having the same issue for a few different dance numbers, I ended up sitting out for quite a while, trying to get my head back on straight. Eventually someone found the light fixture and turned it so that it was pointing almost straight at the wall it was sitting next to, which took it off of the dance floor, and that seemed to help a lot. But man those lights really messed me up – I thought I was losing my mind for a while there!

This week during Latin Technique class, we had a lot of ladies show up. It seemed like all the ladies that skipped out on class last week decided they all had to make an appearance this week to compensate. Once everyone found out that we had done Pasodoble last week, there were some lamentations to be heard from the group that wasn’t there. Because of that, Lord Junior decided that we could do some more Pasodoble this week. Hooray! That made me happy.

We started our Pasodoble pattern again this week by holding for the first eight count in the music (giving whomever started the song a chance to get out on the floor) and then going into a Promenade/Counter-Promenade combo. This one was altered a bit over what we did last week to make things more interesting. Our Promenade started out traveling down the line of dance, but as the guys crossed in front of the ladies to go into the Counter-Promenade, we rotated everything 90° so that we were traveling toward the center of the room. At the end of the Counter Promenade, we rotated things again another 90° and took one step in Promenade cheapthrills3Position against the line of dance on our outside foot. That whole thing covered one more eight count of music. Our next eight count was a figure called the Grand Circle. This one was done strictly by the book, and rotated us back around to face the line of dance. Then we did a Separation, bringing the lady back to our right side at the end. This was the fourth eight count. The next two movements covered the four count to the first highlight and an additional four count afterward. With the lady on our right side we did a curved basic movement for two steps and then a Fallaway movement for two steps, and then we rotated to face our partner and ended with two slow side steps to the right.

Standard Technique class this week was all about drills for footwork and frame, and we used the most difficult dance style to work through such drills: Viennese Waltz. Actually, the conversation at the beginning of class went something like this…

Lord Junior: “What do you guys want to go over tonight?”
Class: <Mumbles>
Lord Junior: “If no one has anything else they want to work on, I’m going to have you work on Viennese Waltz.”
Sparkledancer: “I’d love to do Viennese Waltz. Let’s do that!”
Class: <More mumbles in affirmation>

(Can you totally tell that I’m an aspiring playwright?)

We did a lot of movement on our own, really working to have everyone driving forward when they were the outside half of the turn, and not driving so much when you were the inside half of the turn. All the while we had to ensure that we were only rotating certain amounts on each step. Facing the right direction after each rotation is super important in Viennese Waltz. Lord Junior talked about watching people dance the style, and sometimes they don’t turn quite enough on one rotation, which makes the next rotation harder, and the rotation after that, and the one after that, until you find some way to compensate for the mistake (usually by using a corner). To make sure everyone could get things right, we spent a lot of time dancing the rotations on our own, heading down the floor in small groups so that Lord Junior could watch everyone and call us out if we messed things up.

We did dance with partners a bit during the evening, but it wasn’t anything super complicated. Once paired up, we would do either all Reverse Turns or all Natural Turns from one end of the floor to the other. This was done one couple at a time, with the ladies lined up along the wall and the men lined up along the front – kind of like a Viennese Waltz mixer (think about how crazy that would be at a social dance!). Our practice was done at two different speeds with music: the “slow” rounds were done using American Viennese Waltz songs and the “fast” rounds were International Viennese Waltz.

Near the end of class, to force all of us to really work on listening to the music and moving in time, Lord Junior had us change things up a bit. First, he put on an International-tempo song and told us only to take steps on beat one of every measure. The other two beats were only to cheapthrills4be used to follow through with the other leg, but you weren’t supposed to put your foot down (unless you were falling over). After doing that while moving both forward and backward a few times, he wanted to finish up by having us move in a Grapevine pattern in Canter Timing. This was a bit harder for Jack and Diane, since they had just started dancing again after taking so much time off. Neither one could remember what a Grapevine pattern looked like, or when to step in Canter Timing. The rest of us finished things up while Lord Junior traveled down the floor holding each of their shoulders to get them to do the right thing.

So it’s National Ballroom Dance Week, if you didn’t know. The name is a bit misleading, since they scheduled this ‘week’ over a 10-day period, but no one said dancers had to do a lot of math, right? There’s a big dance party that we’re running at the White Dance Hall on Sunday afternoon, hosted by the Royal Dance Court, to celebrate the end of National Ballroom Dance Week, which should be a lot of fun. Since it’s the fourth Saturday of the month this weekend, I believe there’s also a dance party going on at the Cherished Dance Hall if you’re interested. Based on the crazy fun way they ran the music last month at their party, Sparkledancer already asked me if I would head out there if they are having a party this weekend to see if they do that again. Plus, if you’re looking for something a bit more relaxed, there’s an open dance going on Friday night at the Electric Dance Hall that should be a lot of fun as well. Will I see you at any of those places? I hope so!

Where Have All The Good Men Gone?

This weekend when I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer, we abruptly changed pace from everything we had been looking at the past few weeks to look at something completely different. Apparently we are going to seriously look at doing the showcase performance, and we have to start getting things into gear so that we can put everything together into some sort of functional state before the first weekend in August, which would be the first performance of the number. The song that I had thrown out as something that would be funny to do as a Foxtrot and Quickstep mashup didn’t sound like Foxtrot to Sir Steven. He hears it as more of a combination Quickstep/Lindy Hop/Samba piece, so that’s what we are going to go ahead and do. We spent the hour on Saturday starting in on the most exciting and difficult pieces that will be put in the routine, which are basically the parts where one of us gets to leave the ground during the dance. That’s right: one of us. I had made some comments to Sir Steven in the past about wanting to do a showcase where I get to pick Sparkledancer up and ‘throw her around’ (that might have been the exact phrase I used). But instead of doing just that, Sir Steven had a different take on things to present to us. He wanted to do something where I would pivot away behind Sparkledancer for a few steps, then she would duck down and I would step back toward her and jump over her as if we were playing leap-frog. Once I land on the floor in front of her, I cross my arms (left over right) and bend over to reach between my own legs, take her hands and pull her through so that she comes out in front of me. My arms have to be crossed because as she swings forward through my legs, I can untwist my arms and rotate her around to land on her feet facing me when all is said and done. So that, we were told, was going to be probably the most difficult piece to nail down. We will also end up doing some assisted leaps for HoldingOutForAHero1Sparkledancer, which I have seen (and maybe even done) before a long time ago. That’s where I would put my hands underneath Sparkledancer’s hand and give her an upward push as she jumps off the floor, giving her more height in her leap as well as helping her maintain longer airtime, since she can lock her elbows and I can hold her off the ground. There was also a different lift that he mentioned doing before we started, but I’m not sure if he was just using it to help describe pieces of what we were going to look at or if we would be putting that lift in as well later. We’ll have to see what we end up with as the choreography gets outlined further next week!

Later that evening I was excited to go out to a dance party that was being held at the City Dance Dall, hosted by none-other than everyone’s favorite dance host: President Porpoise. Not only that, but they were having a Hustle lesson before the social dance, and that was being taught by my friend Indiana, which was exciting to me because I hadn’t seen her around in a while. Things got weird at the party though, and I’m not really sure why. It’s like… no one wanted to pay attention to what else was going on while on the dance floor, and just wanted to do their own thing no matter what anyone else was doing on at the time. Case and point (and the thing that sort of sums up the night better than anything else): early on in the evening the DJ put on a Samba. She tried to let people know that if they were going to do the Samba line dance they should stay on the far side of the floor near the windows, and people dancing with partners should stay near the DJ booth, just to keep things safe. Most of the people refused to listen to the instructions, so we ended up with two competing line dances going on at the same time. The two groups were never facing the same wall, and were only separated by about five feet. The people who wanted to dance Samba with partners ended up careening all over the place, weaving in and out and all around the floor between the two groups of people doing the line dance and not even trying to stay to the half of the floor that had been left free for them. I just stood on the edge of the floor and watched all this with an amused smirk on my face. Also, a few times throughout the night I even saw one guy who thought it was cool to travel against the line of dance during ballroom-style dances (everybody needs a hobby, right?). From the way he moved his body, it appeared as though he had gone through some dance training before, but it’s hard to say for sure since one of the first things you are taught anywhere you take lessons is to make sure you are traveling counterclockwise around the room. He was definitely moving clockwise, and getting a lot of angry stares from other dancers as he would sail by. None of that phased him, however – he seemed to be in his own little world. He had shown up to the dance with two ladies whom I had never met before, and only really danced with them that night. Those ladies didn’t try and stop him from leading them against traffic, so either it was something that they had planned on specifically doing when out on the floor, or none of them knew any better. I never asked, so I guess I can only speculate.

As an added bonus this past weekend, on Sunday afternoon I got to go to a Waltz workshop at the Electric Dance Hall. Like we had done in Standard Technique class the week prior, this workshop really pushed everyone to work on having proper rise and fall with every step that we did. Unlike the previous Wednesday night’s class though, I hadn’t worked out my legs just before heading to the dance hall, so my calves were much happier with doing all the rising this time around. Hooray for me! We also had one other guy show up that I haven’t seen in class in a few weeks, so the ratio of men to women was better than it had been up until that point. Still not the best, but not terrible. We started out the class with the same basic warm-up that we had used the previous Wednesday – a simple box step where the first two steps were normal but the rise over the third step was stretched out over four beats, so that each half of the box step took a six count instead of three. A couple of stragglers showed up to the class in the middle of the warm up and took forever putting their dance shoes on, so they didn’t have to work on that like everyone else did. Did they do that on purpose, or were they really that slow? Once we were done warming up, we started looking at a figure where the rise and fall is important – the Double Reverse Spin. Most of the talk about the rise and fall in this figure centered on the way that it is needed to properly lead a heel turn. The term that once again came up was ‘early quick rise’ which is something that the ladies didn’t have to memorize to get through the class. Once we had done the Double Reverse Spin enough times so that most of the ladies felt semi-confident doing one, we added on a couple of other pieces before that to get into the figure more gracefully than just starting there. At first we just used a prep step followed by a Natural Turn and then a Natural Spin Turn, which worked out pretty well. A couple of the ladies had never done any Spin Turns before, so we got hung up for a while going over that figure rather than moving on. Finally, Lord Junior decided to do away with the prep step and start the progression off straight away with an Outside Spin. Much like the Spin Turn, a few of the ladies HoldingOutForAHero2had never seen an Outside Spin before. Because we were running low on time, we couldn’t spend as much time on this figure as we had on the Spin Turn, so we got them through it the best we could so that we could spend a few minutes at the end running through the whole progression to music. Since there were four men in class, Lord Junior had each of us take a corner so we could practice dancing the pattern down the line of dance as the ladies rotated around the room a few times.

Last Monday night at Latin Technique class we ended up doing Samba because Merlot was able to stick around for class that night, and she wanted to work on some things that were in her own Samba routine. Seeing as how she hadn’t joined us in several weeks, we all acquiesced to HoldingOutForAHero3her request. Nothing that we ended up looking at were things I hadn’t seen before, which was good since once again it was just Lord Junior and I as the only Leads to dance with all the ladies that had come to class. We began by warming up with some basic Whisks, dancing without partners. When we were all ready, we partnered up and ran through a Samba pattern that is coming to be fairly familiar to me, with only the last bit after getting into Shadow Position being some on-the-spot improvisation for fun. The sequence we went through started with four Whisks, and on the last one we rotated slightly to open up into Promenade Position. We did a series of Samba Walks next to travel down the floor – a Forward Samba Walk, then a Side Samba Walk, another Forward Samba Walk, and the last was a Side Samba Walk where we released the right arm in the process. Next we would turn the ladies to do a Spot Volta while men did Stationary Samba Walk. The Spot Volta was slightly overturned so that, if the ladies allowed their arm to move freely as they turned, their left arm would wrap around their torso allowing the men to take the left hand with our right hand, putting us into Sweetheart Position. In that position we would do one Forward Samba Walk together, then the ladies would roll off the man’s arm out to the right and tap their feet together while the men did a Whisk going to the left. From there we would turn the ladies to roll back in toward us while we did a fake (taking two steps while the ladies took three) so that we could link up behind them in Shadow Position. With a bit of time left in class, from here we went into some Cruzados Walks and Locks just for fun. First we did two Cruzados Walks and a Lock Step in normal timing. Coming out of that we did two syncopated Lock Steps back-to-back, ending in Shadow Position with our weight on the left foot, ready to go into something else.

Here’s a slightly funny personal note about my Wednesday night for your amusement: when I went to Standard Technique class this week, I got made fun of a bit for a new admirer I have seemingly acquired. The young college girl who has been joining us for class lately while home from school (you know what, let’s just call her Miss ShortDress) has the hots for me, so I’m told. HoldingOutForAHero4Sparkledancer was actually the first person to bring it to my attention, and then on Wednesday when Miss ShortDress arrived at the studio and I was sitting along in a chair just on the edge of the dance floor putting on my shoes and talking to the others sitting on the other furniture nearby, she grabbed another chair from farther away and pulled it right alongside of mine to sit nearby, and kept glancing at me when she thought I wasn’t looking. I did see this however, and was trying not to acknowledge anything. I don’t know if she realizes that I’m probably at least ten years older than her… aside from the casual ribbing I got after class was over for that incident, we worked on Foxtrot that night. There seems to be a theme going with what Lord Junior has been choosing to work on in Standard lately, as we continued with rise and fall practice like we had worked on last week and on Sunday in the Waltz. Lord Junior even wanted to throw together something that used the Double Reverse Spin in Foxtrot like we had done in the Waltz workshop on Sunday. We ended up with a short pattern that could be used for practice, and could also stretch from one end of the floor to the other if you give yourself a good push off of your standing leg as you travel. We began with a simple prep step and then went into a basic Feather and a Three Step combination. These two basic steps are really good for practicing footwork and rise and fall, and you could travel around a whole room with just these two figures to practice your basic techniques if you want to. Lucky for us, we used a couple more figures than that to keep life interesting. After the Three Step we went into a Natural Twist Turn followed by a Hover Feather. Interesting note: The Natural Twist Turn is something you’ve probably seen before in Tango. For some reason it is a Bronze-level Tango figure, but a Gold-level figure in Foxtrot. I’m not sure why that is, but if you look at the syllabus you’ll see the same thing. Weird, huh? Coming out of the Hover Feather was when we finally went into the Double Reverse Spin as promised at the start of the evening, and we ended with a basic Feather Finish. As it was just Lord Junior and I dancing the Lead part with the five ladies that had joined class, I got lots of practice in with this sequence before I went home that evening.

One final thought for this week to leave you on: I’ve mentioned recently that since summer has started, it seems like there have been a lot of ladies showing up for group classes, but even fewer men than usual. Well, apparently it is a problem that is happening all over the Dance Kingdom. I saw an item in the local dance newsletter that came out this week that said this Friday night (tomorrow!) there was going to be a social dance at the Prime Dance Hall… and men get into the party for free! It’s like you would see advertised on posters for lady’s night at bars that are near college campuses. I guess the problem is pretty widespread. Have all the other men who dance disappeared? Hmm… if it wasn’t for other commitments I have tomorrow night, I would be out there for sure. You really can’t beat a free dance party, right?