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?


We Only Stay In Orbit For A Moment Of Time

Since I posted last week, there has been lots of stuff going on! I’m kind of excited that next weekend I don’t have nearly as many things scheduled. So far. That’s not to say I won’t go out and do something that I haven’t scheduled, but as of the moment that I’m writing this, next weekend looks relatively clear. Yay!

I started off last Saturday meeting up at the Fancy Dance Hall with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer. Sir Steven had come out to watch us compete the weekend prior, so he had lots of things to say about that. As we were standing in the middle of the dance floor and talking, the Princess happened to show up and parade through the studio regally. She stopped just as she was about to pass the three of us to tell Sparkledancer and I that since she had been asked at the last minute to be a judge at the competition we just did, she was glad that she happened to run into us. We got compliments on how well we did that day, but she wanted to ask why it was that we had been talking during some of our rounds while we were dancing…

Trying to tell her that it was just meant to be funny to help us calm our nerves while we were performing solo wasn’t a good excuse for the Princess, as you can imagine. She did say that she had actual dance notes that she noticed while she was judging that she wanted to tell us about, but she felt bad interrupting Sir Steven. Since she offered to go over what her ‘judge’ notes with us, we set up a time to meet with her next weekend to get her perspective. That should be interesting to hear. Plus, who is crazy enough to turn down an offer like that from the Princess? Not me, that’s for sure!

After that, Sir Steven went over some points with us that he had noticed from where he was watching from the sidelines during the competition. Some of the things he saw we had already picked out to work on ourselves during practice, so he only had us briefly touch on those items. One point that he wanted to pick on was my head in the Waltz. I had been turning it when I closed for my Natural Turns, but not enough for his liking. He wanted me to look all the way over, basically so that I was looking over Sparkledancer’s left shoulder. That’s… a lot of turn. I have gotten to the point where I can turn my head so that my chin lines up with my sternum and then get it back into place without throwing me off, but turning it more than that just makes me feel unstable. I don’t know why. Maybe practice will help.

We also spent some time looking at Quickstep. There was a point during the Quickstep in the competition where Sir Steven caught Sparkledancer doing a heel step at the end of a Backward Lock that he wanted to be sure that she knew about. On top of that, he mentioned that he still thought that I needed to work on traveling more on my second step of the Natural Spin Turn. I have some questions about whether doing this is a good idea or not, since A) my Quickstep already travels more distance than available floor space in most situations, and B) the Natural Spin Turn is a figure with a lot of rotation, so normally I’d say it isn’t supposed to travel a lot. It will take some practice to figure out what works best to make the energy throughout the figure look consistent without traveling too much more and running myself further off the floor.

Also on Saturday, I headed out to the Endless Dance Hall to do some work with Sparkledancer and Lady Tella. There really wasn’t much information specifically for me in this session, mostly it was the girls talking about girl things and using me as a warm body to practice with. I do have some notes on what Lady Tella told Sparkledancer though. I figure that if they are written down, it will be easier for one of the two of us to remember her words of wisdom. For me, ‘remembering’ usually means ‘reading through it again later’ when I forget, but it’s totally like the same thing.

During this session with Lady Tella, we started out by looking at Foxtrot. Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to make sure that during the Foxtrot she is reaching even further left and keeping her chest turned up. In the Feather she told her to avoid letting her right shoulder rise up. Next, during the Reverse Turn she told her to delay the head opening a bit and let her body come around first. She wanted to see her keep her body shifted to the left with shoulders down and to take her weight into a bent knee when we went through the Change of Direction. Finally, in the Three Step she said that Sparkledancer should ‘breathe’ and not stay so flat. I’m not entirely sure what she meant by that, but Sparkledancer seemed to understand, so I’m just noting it here because that’s what I heard.

Once we got done looking at Foxtrot, we switched over to look at Tango for a little while. The ladies spent some time discussing what Lady Tella prefers in the Tango hold and how to adjust that for Sparkledancer’s different body size. Have I mentioned that Lady Tella is tiny? Super tiny? I have trouble dancing with her because I’m afraid to extend my legs. I feel like I’m going to knee her right in the naughty bits accidentally if I do so. So obviously there are some differences between what Lady Tella does while she dances with me versus what she recommends that Sparkledancer should do.

One point that I remember her mentioning about Tango was that she wanted to see Sparkledancer connect against me higher up on her ribs while shifting her rib cage to the left more. Lady Tella also asked me some questions about how I usually hold my right arm around Sparkledancer’s back. She said that she prefers her partner to hold his hand up higher than I do, but ultimately if Sparkledancer felt comfortable with where I was placing my hand, that was what was most important.

While we were dancing, Lady Tella told Sparkledancer that she wanted to see her open up more (i.e. create more volume) while we were in Promenade Position. What she was seeing was OK, but could have been better if there was more. I think that’s always going to be the case though. Will there ever actually be enough volume? The only other thing we really spent time looking at was the Reverse Turn, Lady Outside. She said that while we were dancing through the figure, we were losing connection to each other just a bit. She actually told me that it was possible that my steps were too big at that point, so I should try shorting them a bit to not pull away from Sparkledancer as I moved.

One thing that I did that day which I noticed because this session wasn’t about me, was that I managed to cover the entire floor of the Endless Dance Hall, corner to corner to corner, while dancing the Foxtrot. I would have managed to get to the fourth corner where I started, but they keep the stereo equipment and some other things on the floor in that corner, so I had to stop before I ran into something expensive. I may have pulled off this feat before, but since I wasn’t being given much instruction that afternoon I could pay more attention to how I was dancing, so I really noticed how far I traveled.

That’s the actual path, as best as I can draw…

I know that it doesn’t sound super impressive to dance from corner to corner, but consider this: the dance floor at the Endless Dance Hall is well over 7,000 square feet. Yeah. That changes the equation slightly, doesn’t it? Yup, I did that. Sparkledancer too. Hopefully she didn’t feel like I was dragging her around the whole time, since my legs are slightly longer than hers.

Late Sunday afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu for some coaching. As you can probably imagine, the first thing that we sat and talked about was how the competition went. Being one of the judges in the competition, Lord Dormamu had his own take on how the competition went, but he wanted to hear ours as well. What he said was that based on what he knew that Sparkledancer and I were capable of when he watches us in our lessons, the way we danced when we were out on the competition floor was not the best that we could do. That was partially expected – Lord Dormamu only knows one person who actually dances better when competing and under pressure than he does when he is taking lessons, and that’s not me.

What Sparkledancer and I will have to work on is decreasing the amount of disparity between how we dance in a competitive situation versus how we dance during our lessons. So if we consider that how we dance in our lessons is our 100% baseline, we don’t want to be dancing at 70% when we compete. We want to learn to dance 90-95% at minimum, or maintain 100% optimally.

A big part of fixing this issue is going to involve just competing more frequently. If this becomes a ‘normal’ thing for us to do, then there will be less nerves and adrenaline coursing through our systems when we compete. That’s going to take time though. We talked about trying to do some kind of event once a month through the rest of the year, but there are some months where there really aren’t any convenient competitions that we could do, so even without considering the expenses related to competing and traveling all over the place that will be a nearly impossible thing to schedule. Maybe there’s another way, but I haven’t thought of one yet, so this is what we’ll be attempting for the time being.

Aside from that, Lord Dormamu thought that we were still moving in the right direction that will allow us to do well. The overall recommendation for Sparkledancer was to set up some more sessions to work with Lady Tella on her positioning and shape, because he can really see a difference with just the few sessions that the two of them have already had. For me, I need to continue to work on mastering the transitioning when using my legs, where I move from pushing with my back leg to pulling with my front as I travel. These two skills are well beyond Bronze techniques and will take time for the two of us to get down, but if we can master them now it will prove to be invaluable as we move up the ranks.

With the discussions out of the way, it was time for dancing. We started off by looking at a bit of Waltz. A lot of what we were doing made Lord Dormamu happy, but there were places throughout the dance where he thought that Sparkledancer and I were rising too much too quickly. He told us to spend some time this week practicing by doing a bit of a strange exercise: dance through the Waltz and take out all of the leg rise, using only foot rise where we would otherwise be going up.

This is a strange feeling. I have gone through this a few times since this lesson, and while it definitely keeps me from popping up too high through the whole routine, it also causes me to bang my knees against Sparkledancer’s in a few spots. Hopefully by the time I see Lord Dormamu next, practicing this way will have corrected the actions that he was unhappy with so that I can go back to dancing Waltz normally.

Next up, Foxtrot. It’s official – I am able to move enough during my Foxtrot to cover the entire floor of the Endless Dance Hall from corner to corner. I had considered, when I managed it on Saturday while Sparkledancer was working with Lady Tella, that it might have been just a fluke, but I did it again on Sunday with Lord Dormamu so obviously it wasn’t. Yay?

As impressive as the feat sounds, dancing like that actually caused some issues on the short wall for Lord Dormamu. He could tell that I had risen up at the end of the Three Step on the short wall, and I did not lower down again until after the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish in the corner. What I told him was that I had risen up to pull my steps short, because that Three Step took us extremely close to the chairs that line the wall that we were moving toward, and I didn’t want to put Sparkledancer into one of them. When we danced through the short wall again starting further away from the wall, all the issues he saw with me rising up went away.

We stopped to talk about this a bit, because I keep running into this problem. It wasn’t enough to just change the angles on the figures that comprise the short wall, since the origin of the issue is the fact that I am so close to the wall when I turn the corner on the last figure of the long wall. What we ended up doing was going through the entire long wall of the routine and adjusting the angles on most of those figures slightly. This would allow me to continue traveling as much as I am able to, but still end further away from the wall on the short side.

This helped a lot. However, I ran into a different issue when I danced around the room again with Sparkledancer. See, I didn’t begin the routine further away from the short wall in the corner I started, so by the time I got ¾ of the way around the room I was back hugging the wall again and had to pull my steps for the second short wall. Sigh… I need to remember that there are always going to be four walls. If I remember to start away from the wall in whatever corner I start in, then adjust all the angles of the figures on the long wall, I should be able to dance the routine mostly in the middle of the room away from all the walls.

That’s the new path, with crappy arrows added since the paths cross at points.

Unfortunately, this does mean that my figures on all sides will travel further into the center of the room, which on smaller floors means that I could very well be cutting into traffic that is moving the opposite direction on the other side of the room. I just don’t think there is a way I can win here without throwing out these routines and starting over from scratch. Lord Dormamu has told me that when he recreates my routines after he moves us up into Silver he will be taking this into account, but am I going to be able to wait that long?

Let’s spend a little bit of time talking about Latin Technique class this week. It feels like forever since I’ve mentioned it!

During this week’s class Lord Junior had us look at some Rumba. Much like last week’s class (that I never talked about… oops), this week we spent some more time discussing concepts that Lord Junior had picked up from the fancy high-level female coach that they had come in a couple of weeks ago to work with his competitive Latin students. I know she was someone pretty well known, but I only know her first name, and it’s a fairly common name, so I don’t know exactly how to find out any of her background. I’m absolutely no help sometimes…

That night Lord Junior had us doing a progression that was only a couple of figures long to have us focus on techniques. The pattern started out with us doing half a basic on our right side, then leading the ladies out into Fan Position. From there we took the ladies through an Alemana, ending with them out on our right side. This allowed us to link on a couple of Opening Out actions. The ladies were told to do these with a delay before they closed from the Opening Out and cut across our bodies into the next one, and along with that there was some kind of weird double arm action. I was told to also try to do two actions with my arm to match the ladies’ double arm motions, but that made me feel like I was flailing my arm around, so I maaaaay have abandoned that after a few tries.

As for the techniques that the coach talked about which Lord Junior wanted to demonstrate, we started off with the positioning in the legs as they moved. He stopped and had us do some Time Steps to demonstrate this best. In the Time Step, you’ve got the weight on one leg, the heels of your feet more-or-less together, and one knee out in front of you. The object when in this position is to pull the hip of your standing leg backward as you drive the knee of your bent leg forward, trying to create as much space as possible between your legs where light could shine through. This position needs to become your default anytime you pass through this action, like during normal Rumba Walks, or in our pattern as the ladies closed from Fan Position and stepped forward.

We also talked about the connection between the partners as the ladies closed from Fan Position. The coach Lord Junior had worked with described the feeling as a ‘Pull, Push, Pull’ feeling if you are doing it correctly. While out in Fan Position, as the lady is pulling back her right hip and closing her legs you should create a ‘Pull’ on the connection between partners. As the lady shifts her weight between legs, the roll to have the opposite hip backward should cause her to ‘Push’ against the connection. When the ladies finally are about to move, the roll back on the hip that sends the other leg forward should create another ‘Pull’ on the connection. All that change, all in just a few moments of movement if everything is working properly.

That just leaves Standard Technique class to talk about, then I’m done. Wednesday night I was back out at the Electric Dance Hall to work on some Waltz with Lord Junior. I thought class was fun, but I’m sure some of the ladies did not enjoy it as much as I did. Part of that was because there were six of them, and only Lord Junior and I to dance the Lead part. A third guy was there before class began, but then something came up and he had to leave. That meant no breaks for me that night!

With a mischievous glint in his eyes, Lord Junior started class off by telling us we were going to go through one of his favorite warm-up exercises – Waltz box steps over a count of nine. He said that he was making us do this to help us practice controlling our rise during the Waltz. Based on what Lord Dormamu told Sparkledancer and I to practice to work on controlling how much we rise, I wondered to myself if the two of them had talked this week.

The exercise itself is fairly simple, but requires a lot of balance and leg strength to do well. Doing a non-rotating box step, take the first two steps in normal time, but the step to the side and the rise while you drag your legs together happen over seven beats, making each half box a nine count. You should be able to feel this a lot in your inner thigh muscles if you are pulling your legs in slowly and correctly. Once your feet connect, do the second half of the box and repeat. Halfway through the warm-up time, we switched to box steps that rotated the other direction.

Once we were all warmed up, we did a short and simple progression that required a lot of control of the rise and fall to pull of well, with some modified timing to change which step the rise was done on. On top of that, there were places where you could add in some fancy head rotations if you wanted to make the movements look more dynamic. I always get thrown off by moving my head the first few times I try it, so it took me a few rounds to get that action to even look passable, and I can’t say that I ever got it to look good.

What we did was to start out facing diagonal wall and, using whatever kind of preparation step you’d like,  go into a Natural Turn. We did a full 90° rotation on this Natural Turn, ending with the guys backing line of dance because the next figure that we did was an Overturned Natural Spin Turn which also ended with the guys backing line of dance. That little extra turn on the Natural Turn makes it easier to get around that much on the Natural Spin Turn. The only other figure that we added was two Turning Locks to Right, back-to-back. Because we were doing two, the first one ended with a Natural Pivot to put us back facing backing line of dance for the second, but we ended the second one by the book, going into Promenade Position heading toward diagonal center.

That was my week! So much fun, right? I’m hoping that this coming weekend stays slightly quieter. I changed up my workouts this week, which also means I changed up my diet, so my body is feeling slightly more trashed than usual (it usually does the first week I rotate to a different workout configuration). I kind of want to find some quiet time to just stay home and stretch out for a while. Will I manage to do that, or will other crazy dance adventures come up that will take away my free time? We’ll have to wait and see!

If I Had One More Day I Could Be Better

There were so many things going on this past week! I’m probably going to leave a few things out to try to avoid making this super long. Let me try to arrange what I think is most important to remember into some sort of coherent framework…

Let’s begin with events from last Saturday. The first thing that I did in the morning was to head out to the Fancy Dance Hall to work with Sir Steven. There is not a whole lot here to make note of – we were mostly running rounds because of the competition coming up in a couple of weeks. I know that’s not the most interesting thing to talk about, so I’ll just move on to what I did next that was new and exciting.

After finishing with Sir Steven, I got a bit of a break to hunt down something for lunch and then I headed out to the Endless Dance Hall for the coaching session that was planned for that day between Lady Tella and Sparkledancer. In a surprise twist, it ended up that Sir Bread, who is Lady Tella’s professional competitive partner, was also hanging around at the Endless Dance Hall that afternoon, so Sparkledancer and I actually got input from the two of them that day. Double the fun! The majority of what we spent time on was exactly what I had originally planned on, which was Lady Tella talking with Sparkledancer about the position that she is working on twisting her body into. I was just there as a male body who was roughly Sparkledancer’s size.

That’s an important note right there. As I’ve mentioned in the past, both Sir Bread and Lady Tella are tiny compared to me. Sir Bread told me that day as he was showing me something that he is only 5’6”, and Lady Tella is shorter than him. Since the two of them look like typical dance instructors that you’ve probably seen (i.e. extremely thin from spending all day doing cardio training), I felt like a giant when I was next to either of them, since I am at least half-a-foot taller and much, much more muscular. When Lady Tella would get into frame with me to demonstrate something for Sparkledancer, I instinctively tried to hold on very gently because I was afraid of accidentally breaking her!

Luckily no one was crushed by me that day, and what Sparkledancer and Lady Tella were able to go over was extremely useful to her. Sparkledancer told me afterward that a lot of what Lady Tella said wasn’t necessarily groundbreaking – many of the points are things that Lord Junior, Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu had been telling her to do for forever. The difference here is that Lady Tella could actually bend herself properly in the manner that she was asking Sparkledancer to bend. If she told Sparkledancer to keep her core straight and bend her body backward from the ribs up, she would then show Sparkledancer how she did that, and get into frame with me to give her a rough picture of what it would look like.

The entire session was spent on Waltz, except for the last few minutes when Sir Bread threw out a challenge to see if we could go through our Foxtrot routine a couple of times while applying the pointers that he and Lady Tella had given us that afternoon. While we were going over things, the staff at the Endless Dance Hall was setting the venue up for some kind of event that was taking place in the evening. Because there was a lot of noise and movement going on around us, I was easily distracted, so I only caught about half of the things that Lady Tella was telling Sparkledancer. I know, I should have been paying more attention… but they weren’t talking to me, and sometimes my attention wanders.

But there were a couple of things that I was asked to do, and those I did pay attention to. Hooray for me! The only major note that I got from Lady Tella was about the Hesitation Change that is in one corner of the routine. She watched Sparkledancer and I go through the figure, and didn’t think that there was enough going on that separated the figure to make it seem like a deliberate hesitation, versus just pausing like someone was in my way. She told me that I could help Sparkledancer shape properly for the step by keeping my right leg bent to stay low, but driving out slightly to the right with my right hip. This very much changes the way that I have normally done this figure, so it feels very different to me now. I assume that means it looks very different as well.

Sir Bread interjected a bunch of pointers for me throughout this session, so I didn’t feel like I was just being used as a Dance Dummy the whole time. One point that he told me which was different from the rule I have been operating under for years was about my left arm. He personally thought that I was keeping my left arm too low. I told him that I had been told by several people over the years that I should be keeping my hand (and thus the lady’s hand) level with my partner’s eyes, which is why my forearm was down. He told me that he has always been told to keep his hand level with his own eyes.

According to him, if my partner keeps bending herself backward over my right hand further and further, keeping my left hand level with her eyes is going to make it drop lower and lower as Sparkledancer improves, which is no good. On top of that, as we progress further through the ranks, I will come across spots more frequently that are like the Hesitation Change we were looking at earlier, where Sparkledancer is trying to extend herself further create a particular line as we pause. Keeping my hand level with her eyes means that I will be adjusting my arm every time that she does something like that. By keeping my hand up higher and in a permanent spot  will help my partner maintain her own shapes better by working off my arm.

Another point where Sir Bread stopped me to talk about something was with my Natural Turn into the Natural Spin Turn. He thought that I should be shaping my whole body more as I went into the height of the Natural Turn, bending myself into more of an arc with my left hip out. This is something that I do during the Reverse Turns that are in the routine, but I guess it doesn’t look that way when I do the Natural Turns. Interestingly enough, when I put some emphasis into that shape, it made it much easier for me to remember to turn my head slightly and look over top of Sparkledancer like Sir Steven asked me to do. Maybe that is what I was missing the whole time.

Coming out of the Natural Turn and going into the Natural Spin Turn, Sir Bread thought that the first pivot looked like it was struggling. Sparkledancer and I never fail to turn enough, but Sir Bread thought that it looked like we were forcing the turn too much. His advice for me to fix that was to not let my heel come down on my left foot until it absolutely has to. To do this, on my first step backward onto my left foot, I have to try to stay on the ball of my foot the whole time. There is a point in the pivot where my heel will naturally kiss the ground before I am able to take the next step, but Sir Bread told me that the rotation will be much easier and there will be no mid-turn crash action if I always think about taking the step this way.

On Monday night I was excited to head back to Latin Technique class. Two weeks ago in Latin Technique class Lord Junior had worked with us on some Pasodoble. The last figure that he wanted to go over with us that night was The Twists, which is a Gold-level figure off of the syllabus. As I mentioned two weeks ago, the figure did not go super successfully, but since we had started working on it near the end of the class, Lord Junior didn’t have any time left to devote to correcting the issues that were popping up. He promised all of us who were there that after the Easter vacation, the next time we all met up for Latin Technique class he would do Pasodoble again, this time starting with The Twists so that he could help everyone through any troubles they ran into.

So that is exactly what we got to do this week. For me, the figure went fairly well. Other than having to run through the steps slowly for a couple of the ladies the first time I danced it with them, I was able to get through my steps and add in the proper shaping. Of course, I did have the opportunity to practice the figure a fair number of times two weeks ago and then again that night, since there were far more women than men. That might have had something to do with my success. Boys don’t get breaks! Also, I didn’t have to do any Heel Turns, unlike the ladies. For a couple of them, the Heel Turns were the part that they struggled with the most, especially as we tried to do it with music and increase the tempo more toward normal speed.

We started The Twists on beat one of an eight-count measure,  and ended them by holding in place while lowered down on our standing leg for beat four of the next measure. To come out, we did six beats of continuous syncopated Forward Lock Steps heading toward diagonal center, slowly rising ourselves up as we traveled to look even bigger by the time we finished. Not content to have us rest on our laurels after struggling through The Twists, Lord Junior decided to have us finish up that night by doing a set of continuous traveling Natural Pivots as well.

Switching up our arms so that we could hold on to our partner’s rib-cage with our right hand and keeping the left arm out as we turned, we did two slow Pivots and two or three faster ones, depending on what direction you were facing as you finished. Lord Junior didn’t expect us to force these to travel straight down the line of dance, so most of us ended up curving toward the center in the process. The trick was to come out so that both partners were facing forward, which is why sometimes you needed an extra pivot at the end to do that. At the end of the Pivots the guys would release their partner and we ended traveling in an Open Promenade Position, ready for whatever would come next.

With several competitions going on during April, Lord Dormamu has his weekends pretty much booked with out-of-town events. To make up for that, he was able to set aside some time on Tuesday night to work with Sparkledancer and I. He was especially interested that night to look over how Sparkledancer was doing after her coaching session with Lady Tella, and he thought the results were very pleasing. Based on what he saw, we were asked if we could schedule a few more sessions where Sparkledancer and Lady Tella could get together (with me as a Dance Dummy to help out) before our competition at the end of the month.

There are other things going on this month, so finding the time to do these sessions is going to be the hardest part. It’s entirely possible that we may have to drop coaching sessions with someone else to fit in more coaching sessions with Lady Tella. I mean, I wouldn’t feel terrible about doing that – if you’ve been reading my notes here for a while, you know that Sparkledancer and I have almost exclusively worked with male instructors up until this point, so I have gotten a lot of help to make my dancing better. The problem is, male instructors can talk with Sparkledancer about what she should be doing, but they generally won’t be able to show her what she should look like very well. You know, because they’re male and whatnot.

The few times we have scheduled coaching sessions with female instructors up until our last session with Lady Tella, the ladies that we worked with ended up spending most of the time pointing out things that I could improve rather than helping Sparkledancer. That’s been great for helping me, but I always felt bad about how those sessions turned out. Finally having a female coach focus on Sparkledancer the whole time was awesome, and Sparkledancer told me that the lesson was extremely useful. If Lord Dormamu recommends we do a few more sessions like that, then I will do my best to help her out if they need me to be there.

Aside from that, we also talked about the upcoming competition that we were planning to dance in at the end of the month. Guess what? Lord Dormamu was asked to be one of the adjudicators for that event! Now, not only is he focused on making sure that we are ready before stepping into the venue, but he is excited about being able to directly review the results of our work when we are under the pressure of competing. So, you know, that doesn’t add any more stress or anything. Not at all!

Moving on… we went back to Foxtrot again that night. The major point I took away from what we covered that night was that I need to be careful that I don’t lower myself too far while dancing the Foxtrot. One thing that apparently Sir Bread had noticed that he mentioned to Lord Dormamu was that sometimes he sees me doing this weird double bounce thing. It is especially noticeable coming out of whatever starter step I may use to get into a routine, but there are other points where Lord Dormamu saw me doing it too while he was watching me Tuesday night.

After he and I went through and tested a few things, he found that since I am trying to keep myself fairly low to the ground to begin with, if I do something that causes me to lower even further (like taking a really long step which extends both of my legs, thus lowering my center toward the floor), I end up having to raise myself up in order to move my back leg underneath me. Because my legs are fairly muscular, I can’t get around this – if I don’t come up, my leg just doesn’t fit. So the obvious fix for that is to make sure I am not doing anything that causes me to be so far down that I can’t get my leg underneath me without rising up.

The other thing he told me to think about while I practice to try to fix this is to think about the four beats in a measure of Foxtrot like a limbo bar, not a high jump bar. Normally what you would see if you were watching someone exaggerate the actions is that person taking a step on beat four and then, as if they were high jumping over beat four, coming down as they are carried toward beat one. Instead of that type of action, Lord Dormamu wants me to lower earlier as if I were going under the bar at beat four and then holding myself at that level as I travel through into the next beat one.

Obviously this would create a very strange way of dancing if I were to do it all the time, especially during a competition, but the point of this exercise was not to make a permanent change to the way I understand how to dance the Foxtrot. This exercise is only to be used to correct the problem that Lord Dormamu was seeing. Theoretically, once I no longer have this issue, we will slowly go through and relax this abnormal action until it is no longer needed. Kind of like taking medicine for a sickness, if that simile makes sense.

We also spent some time talking about the Change of Direction. I guess when I go through the figure I have this tendency to bring my feet together holding only the ball of my left foot on the ground. As we were talking about it, Lord Dormamu also mentioned that he sees me doing the same thing during the starter step in Foxtrot as well. What he wants me to do instead is bring my feet together with my left foot flat on the ground as I twist my upper body to create a right-side lead briefly.

While he watched Sparkledancer and I step through things, he told us that he wanted us to go back to practicing the figure with a pause in the midpoint. We are supposed to use that hesitation during practice to check that we are in the right position for the Change of Direction specifically, and also to reset our thinking before moving on to begin repeating the routine. So I’ll have to try to keep that in mind as well during practice.

Finally, I just want to do a brief recap of Standard Technique class last night. We also covered some Foxtrot in that class, but because we had a new face in class who hadn’t done much International Standard before, Lord Junior put something together for us that took some figures from American Foxtrot as well so that there would be some pieces that this new girl was familiar with.

Discussing the figures gets a bit confusing because of this amalgamation, so you’ll have to follow along carefully. In International Foxtrot, generally when you talk about a figure and use the word ‘Open’ before it, that means that the figure ends with you being in Promenade Position. In American Foxtrot, if you use the word ‘Open’ before a figure’s name they are usually referring to the figure having an ending where you pass your feet instead of closing them together (i.e. continuity ending). We used a lot of ‘Open’ figures in this progression, so I’ll try and point out which is which as I go through them for you.

With that in mind… we started off with a Simple Twinkle toward diagonal wall that ended in Promenade Position. Next up we did an American Open Left Turn, and then added on an International Open Impetus which ended with us heading toward diagonal center in Promenade Position. From here, Lord Junior had us do a syncopated Grapevine action, taking the first step as a slow, which meant that we had plenty of time while taking the step to really drive forward with a heel lead. This Grapevine action required both partners to cross their foot behind on the third step as they traveled.

Once through that first Grapevine we did another American Open Left Turn and then another syncopated Grapevine action. In this Grapevine, we essentially started out backward from what we did during the first one, and because of that we had to cross our feet in front on the third step. As we finished the second Grapevine, we did an International Open Telemark and Feather Ending, which would align us heading back toward diagonal center as we finished the progression.

Let’s just call it good right there. Maybe I can shorten this a bit when I read through it for editing before I post. Probably not though. Usually I end up making things longer as I edit them somehow. I have too many words…

Enough To Make My System Blow

Let’s start this week off with a funny side note that’s sort-of dance related. I can tell you quite sincerely that this story was the thing that made me the happiest on Saturday…

I had just gotten to the Fancy Dance Hall. The studio is actually a part of a shopping complex, with a number of varied shops surrounding it. This weekend there was an event scheduled to celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday, where the area between the fronts of all of the stores and the parking lot had been taken over for various Easter-related activities. There was an egg hunt planned, and a local radio station was going to be there, and someone was going to be dressed up like the Easter Bunny to take pictures with all of the kids. All of the stores in the shopping complex were going to have some of their staff involved to make it into a fun morning for kids of all ages.

…except the weather didn’t want to cooperate that day. The morning ended up being cold, cloudy and windy, and it was just plain gloomy looking outside. I was wearing a heavy sweatshirt so that when I parked my car and walked to the front door of the studio I wouldn’t be cold. Not too many people seemed to have shown up for the planned activities, because the parking lot had tons of open spaces for cars to park. I’ve had lessons scheduled before at other times when holiday-themed activities are planned, and usually you have to either get there super-early to find a parking place, or you are fighting with a bunch of people to grab one when someone else leaves.

As I was walking toward the front door of the studio, I could hear music playing loudly from the table set up by the radio station. They had just finished one song and were starting another, a slow and heavy rock song that holds a record for spending the most weeks on some chart or something. You may be able to guess what song it is if you’re smart about my normal clues, but if not I’m sure you’d know the song if you heard it. Anyway… as I finally got off the parking lot and set foot on the walkway that surrounds the stores, I looked off to my right toward where the radio station table was, and saw something pretty amazing.

In the midst of the overcast gloom of the day, there stood a guy wearing a white Easter Bunny suit, and his head was turned down to look toward the ground. In front of him was some young kid, lying on the concrete, doing the worm as the Easter Bunny watched.

I had to stop and watch for a bit as well. This was not something that I expected to see by any stretch of the imagination. As the song finally wound down, the kid stopped and picked himself up off the ground, and the Easter Bunny bent forward to give him a hug. If I had been closer, I would have given the kid a round of applause for being able to do the worm for so long on concrete. Truly an impressive sight to behold!

On to normal business now. Once I got inside the Fancy Dance Hall, things were a little more subdued. There was a class going on for a local youth dance group, and they were all running rounds of their competition routines. They kept that up for the entire time that I was having my lesson, barring a few breaks here or there so that the kids could catch their breath. Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I staked out a section of the floor to work in along the back wall of the studio, and we went back to work on Viennese Waltz that day.

We managed to stay away from working on the opening sequence of our Viennese Waltz routine that morning, thankfully. Unfortunately, that meant that the rest of what we did was just slow and methodical movements through the Natural and Reverse Turns. Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world to talk about, so I’ll spare you all the details. The hardest part of our session was trying to work around all of the kids running their rounds. I had managed to talk to the older ones while Sir Steven was working with Sparkledancer, letting them know that we were using a lane along the back wall. They managed to steer clear of us after that, which was nice.

Some of the younger kids kept darting into our lane though. I think they were just doing it to get our attention, because if I looked at them when they were in my way, they would get these huge smiles on their faces and then scamper out of the way as fast as they could. It reminded me of growing up with my younger siblings. When they wanted attention, they would sometimes knowingly do something they shouldn’t, and then laugh jovially about it and run away when they got caught. Kids… they are so silly sometimes!

Next up, Saturday night. There was one big event going on at the Electric Dance Hall that night, and with no other options open for dancing that was where I ended up. A bunch of people who I knew ended up being there as well, but unfortunately I didn’t actually spend a lot of time talking to them because I got side tracked talking with someone else that night. It was also raining really hard that night, starting just about the time that the party started, so a lot of people who were expected to come out to the event did not show up. One of those people happened to be the DJ that Lord Junior had asked to play the music that night, amusingly enough. After the class that he gave at the beginning, Lord Junior ended up having to run the music himself. Poor guy.

He told me later on that he contacted the DJ during the party to find out what happened, and the DJ told him that she just forgot about the party. How do you just forget something like that? I bet she won’t be getting any more paid gigs from Lord Junior after that stunt.

Originally I hadn’t planned on showing up for the class being offered before the dance party, but I got done with everything else I had planned to do earlier than expected, so I headed out and arrived about twenty minutes after the class had started. The place was packed with tons of people, but even with all the other people watching him intently for instruction, Lord Junior still stopped what he was doing when I walked in and told me to get my shoes on quick and jump into the class. I thought that they were desperate for men, but when Lord Junior finally had everyone find partners to try the step I saw that there were almost even numbers of men and women, so I’m not sure why he wanted me to join in so quickly.

The class was covering some simple American Rumba. The part that I got there to help out with had everyone doing half a basic box step, and then on the second half we led the ladies to do a Underarm Turn and pushed them out to our left side, almost like they were in Fan Position. Then we would bring them back across in another turn and push them out to our right side, and then one more turn back across pushing them back out to our left before turning them to be in front of us as we collected into the basic box step once more. Nothing too difficult if you’ve done a lot of American Rumba in the past, but there were a large number of newcomers in the class that night, so I ended up helping a number of ladies figure out their steps as I rotated through.

During the actual party I spent my time dancing, but in the middle of that I got a chance to have a chat with Silver for more than just a couple of minutes (which is what derailed me from talking to others). She was struggling with a bit of a crisis of identity that night, so it was good that I talked to her, but most of the credit for making her feel better about dance goes to Sparkledancer. See, there was a point in the middle of the dance party when I finally got a chance to dance with her for a Foxtrot. I figured that was a safe enough dance for us to do together, since that was the style that was used in the first Standard Technique class we were both in together.

Silver seemed a bit nervous as I walked out to the dance floor with her. Trying to assuage her fears, I asked her whether she wanted to go with American or International Foxtrot, promising that we could do whichever she was more comfortable with. She chose to go with International, so I started off with just some basic figures, trying my best to avoid anything with a Heel Turn since I knew she hadn’t done many of those. I think I managed to get through a Feather and Three Step heading toward diagonal wall in a wide arc, and then a Change of Direction to turn back toward diagonal center – nothing super fancy.

By the time we got halfway down the first long wall it was pretty clear that she was struggling, and then she asked me if we could transition to American Foxtrot instead. I made the switch, trying to stick with figures that I thought were on the Bronze syllabus (it’s been a long time since I’ve studied American Foxtrot, so I’m not entirely sure what the syllabus looks like anymore when I don’t have it in front of me). The American Foxtrot did not go much better than the International though, and there were a couple of times I had to stop and do the Swing Step (or Side-to-Side Sway, depending on what name you were given when you learned it) which allowed her to get back on the correct foot.

When the song finished and we exited the floor, she seemed upset and started talking about how she once felt so good about her dancing, because (her exact words) “I was teaching this at <insert franchise studio name> for God’s sake!” Now that she was out and dancing with people like me, it’s like everything she learned and was teaching to others was all wrong. She told me that she has been trying to learn the correct way to do the steps and techniques, but then she runs into people who were students at her former studio where she worked, and they want to dance with her doing things the old way, and it really throws her off trying to do things both ways.

Lucky for me, Sparkledancer had shown up at that point. I am a guy, so I am kind-of terrible at managing emotional situations with ladies, so I was super happy that Sparkledancer could step in and help Silver out. Sparkledancer actually told Silver about how she had met me at a franchise studio, back in the days when we had initially decided to compete together, so she totally understood Silver’s frustration because she had been through it herself.

She continued and told Silver that when Sparkledancer and I and many of our original ballroom dance friends outgrew the franchise studio model, we escaped into the bigger world of ballroom dancing, and we had to go through the same transition that Silver is going through now. A lot of the techniques we had learned that had been emphasized at the franchise we found out were just plain wrong, and people outside the franchise used a different syllabus than we had originally learned (which actually turned out to be nationally and internationally standardized syllabus, so it is the franchise studio’s syllabus that was incorrect), so Sparkledancer admitted to Silver that she felt like a terrible dancer for months as she tried to acclimate to the non-franchise way of dancing.

That right there seemed to be the magic connection that Silver had been missing. She was really glad that Sparkledancer had told her that story – to hear that it was possible to escape the franchise world and eventually dance the way that Sparkledancer dances now. It was great to see her come to that realization, even though I hadn’t really done much to help her get there. Good job Sparkledancer! Yay!

I talked it over with Sparkledancer later, and I think that the two of us are going to try to help Silver out. My thought is that Sparkledancer and I could help show Silver the world of ballroom dancing that she was missing when she was locked into the franchise way of doing things. That is, if she really wants to become part of this wider world, which I think she does. Lord Junior is helping her learn the proper figures and techniques to teach dancing outside of the franchise, so that’s already being covered. Sparkledancer and I can be her guide to the various dance halls in the Dance Kingdom, and introduce her to all sorts of other instructors or high-level coaches that we know if she wants to meet people. I like helping, so this will be a lot of fun!

I was tired on Monday night, so when I got to Latin Technique class and people started throwing around Cha-Cha as the style they wanted to do that night, I was unhappy. Lord Junior decided to put it up for a vote to see what everyone wanted, and he said that we couldn’t vote for Rumba (because that’s what we did in class last week) and we couldn’t choose Pasodoble. I sighed loudly, since Pasodoble is always the Latin style that I want to vote for, and Lord Junior took pity on me and said that we could do Pasodoble if everyone else wanted. Only Gatekeeper still wanted to do Cha-Cha after that option was available, so we ended up working on Pasodoble that night. Hooray for me!

One of the ladies in class that night had never done any Pasodoble before, so this ended up being a real treat for her (in my expert opinion, of course). Lord Junior spent a little time at the beginning of class showing her a few of the most basic steps, like the Sur Place and all of its moving variations. On top of that, he showed her the idea behind the shaping used in Pasodoble and why it was so important. This lady watched the whole time with wide eyes, and I couldn’t tell if she was impressed by the demonstration or terrified by what he was asking her to do. Obviously I’m going to assume she was impressed, and asking herself why she had waited so long to begin working on Pasodoble!.

We didn’t actually cover a whole lot of choreography that night, because the last figure that Lord Junior went over with us needed more work than he expected. The first figure that we did was the Open Telemark, which everyone got through with little trouble. After that we went into a normal Promenade, which gave us some work on both moving in Promenade and shaping in Promenade. Once Lord Junior was convinced that everyone could do the steps with minimal trouble, he upgraded our Promenade so that it had three Natural Pivots in it as we traveled down the line of dance. That definitely upped the challenge factor of the figure, but also made it much more exciting.

The final figure that we looked at was a Gold-level figure called ‘The Twists.’ We were told that if you watch any professionals doing a recent Pasodoble routine, you are more than likely going to see them do this figure at least once because it is so exciting. Basically, the guy is traveling down the floor, cutting in front of his partner every couple of steps while she does a Heel Turn, and then he hooks his right leg behind his left and untwists himself before doing it all again. The figure is aptly named, and feels a lot like doing a Twist Turn in Tango repeatedly.

I thought that my part was fairly straightforward, and I think I was getting through it successfully. A couple of the ladies were struggling to make the Heel Turns work properly, so it was hit-or-miss as to whether the figure worked correctly when I danced with a partner. Lord Junior admitted as we were running out of time that this figure was more difficult than he originally thought it would be, so he should have started class by going through it rather than waiting until the end. He promised us that next time we met up for Latin Technique we would do Pasodoble again and start with this figure. Class won’t happen next Monday because of the holiday this weekend, so we’ll have to wait until two Mondays from now to get it right.

Finally, on Wednesday night I went back out to the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class, and we worked on Viennese Waltz there as well. Viennese Waltz? Twice in one week? How did that even happen!

I mostly think that Lord Junior chooses to work on Viennese Waltz in this class so that he can watch the warm-up section of class where he asks us all to try doing Natural and Reverse Turns down the floor by ourselves. Getting the angle right, turning the right direction and using the right foot to start with are all things that I am pretty good at, since I have to lead and generally have to do those things already. The ladies in class, on the other hand… for the first couple of tries several of them just didn’t get things right. They would start on the wrong foot, or turn the wrong direction, or start and end at the wrong angle. A few times they would start turning and not stay on a straight line, heading right toward someone else on the floor! As much as I feel bad about laughing at that, it is kind of funny to watch.

Once the torture of the warm-up was over, we worked on adding in the two Gold-level figures to the mix: the Contra Check and the Natural Fleckerl. Lord Junior told us all about his theory of Fleckerls, and how he sees a lot of Pros nowadays leaving them out of their routines with students. You don’t technically need to do them to win no matter what level you are competing, but Lord Junior feels like you are missing out on a lot if you just do Reverse Turns, Natural Turns and Change Steps all the way through Gold when you are competing.

He did say that the lead to get into the Reverse Fleckerl was a bit sudden, and that’s where he usually runs into problems with his competitive students. You can start a Reverse Fleckerl at any time if you do Reverse Turns up to the point where the lady crosses her foot in front. Lord Junior said that he likes to warn his ladies verbally before doing a Reverse Fleckerl during a competition. The Natural Fleckerl is slightly easier to do, especially if you do a Contra Check beforehand. Then there is no question about what is happening even if Lord Junior gives no verbal warning, so there is less of a chance that the lady will be surprised when the rotation happens.

That is an interesting thought. Perhaps I’ll have to file that idea away for later when I manage to start competing at Gold-level with Viennese Waltz.

And that’s it! Man, I wrote a lot of things again this week. I am just terrible about keeping these posts short…

I think there are a few things going on this weekend, but I’m not sure how many people will be wandering around to dance with the holiday on Sunday. Easter was never really a holiday for traveling to see people when I was growing up, but I have heard several people mention that they will be doing just that this weekend. So maybe that is an invitation for me to just take it easy. I could probably use the break to do some other productive things that I have been putting off (like my taxes…). We’ll have to see what happens!