To Make It A Place Worth Fighting For

Kind of a quiet dance week this week for me. There only ended up being two things of note that I feel I need to write down. Can I keep this post from growing to be verbose? We’ll have to see…

The only dance-related thing that I did on Saturday was to meet up with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu for a coaching session. We continued to look at the Waltz this week, picking up right where we left off last time. He had us run through our routine for him once with music playing, then brought us right up in front of the mirrors so he could watch us go through a few repetitions of the exercises that he gave us to work on last weekend. After about five minutes of that, he stopped us so that he could give us his impression of how our practice had gone over the last week.

Overall he said that he was much happier, and he was definitely seeing an improvement. He called it a ‘30%’ improvement, but when he throws out numbers like that while smiling, I can’t entirely tell whether he’s just making up numbers to be funny or if he’s being serious. Specifically he said that the actions that we were doing from beats one to two and two to three were much more in line with what he was looking for, but the action from beat three to the next beat one still needs work. Based on that assessment, you would think that we were doing 66.67% better, right? I mean, that’s how the math works in my head…

I brought up the fact that it would make sense that the actions from beats one to two and two to three would show improvement, since the exercises we had been given really focused on those actions. The one exercise I was thinking about which would specifically help was the exercise where we would extend the box step to a six count, taking steps one and two with normal timing and then closing our feet together slowly over the remaining four beats. So, I asked, were there any exercises that we could do which would help with the action where we still needed work?

As it turns out, there is… sort of. It’s really the same exercise, but you just change the timing of the steps. Rather than slowing down after the first two steps to practice the action of closing your feet, you could take the second and third step of the box at normal timing and slow down the next step for a four count to focus on the transition of lowering into the next box step. So now, in addition to the exercises we were already told to do, we have to add in an additional two minutes of working on the action between beats three and one. Can you feel my excitement about this?

I suppose, theoretically, you could also do the same idea and take the third step of the box and the first step of the next box in normal timing, slowing down the second step for a four count to work on the middle action. There is a variation available for everyone! Well, really there are only three variations, but you get my point, right? Sigh… math again…

Once we got through looking over the practice exercises, we turned to looking at things in the actual routine that needed some attention. One concept in particular that Lord Dormamu spent some time discussing with Sparkledancer was the amount of volume she was creating while in frame… or actually the lack of volume. Sparkledancer was telling him that while he was having her to do all this work on how her legs were moving, she was totally forgetting to think about anything else, which is why the volume appeared to be decreased as we were dancing.

Lord Dormamu told her that he was more concerned during our sessions with him with how our leg action was progressing, since that was the key to bringing our Waltz up to the next level. His advice to her was (for the time being) to focus on practicing the leg action while working with him, and to focus on her volume and position while working with Lady Tella. Eventually the two techniques will have to be put together, obviously, but for the time being he wanted to make her life a bit easier. He’s such a nice guy, isn’t he?

There were a couple of figures that he wanted to cover at in particular that day based on what he saw during our initial dance-through. The first one was the Hesitation Change in the first corner… again. It seems like there are so many things about this simple figure that Lord Dormamu really wants to be different, doesn’t it? This time he told me that he didn’t like the way that the backward step I take from the Natural Turn right beforehand looked. We went through a number of changes to try and fix it, with me dancing with Sparkledancer, or by myself, or with him, as he assessed what was going on and tried to think of a way to make me look the way he wanted. The lowering action was what he decided was causing the problem – something about the way that I was lowering from the Natural Turn and going into the Hesitation Change seemed out of sorts.

We moved off the Hesitation Change for a little bit, but came back to it again later after he had some time to think. This time he asked me to try to just lower straight down before taking the step into the hesitation. This was a surprising request, because we have been working so hard over the last couple of weeks to make sure that none of the figures that we do are lowering straight down, but rather lowering while continuing to travel forward/backward (depending on the step). So I gave it a try, and apparently that did the trick.

He said that watching from the outside, the brief pause at the height of the Natural Turn and lowering straight down before taking the step into the Hesitation Change made the transition between the two look clean and precise finally. For the time being, he wants me to practice stopping and lowering like that between the two figures to work on control, and once that improves he’ll go back with me and start to reintroduce the lowering on an angle while moving aspect.

The other figure that we looked at quite a bit was the Whisk. For this particular figure, it wasn’t the steps themselves or any of the actions that he wanted to have me adjust, but rather the angle. I had been coming out of the previous figure and generally aiming the Whisk straight down the line of dance for pretty much the entire time I’ve ever done this routine. Lord Dormamu wants to change the angles so that I finish the previous figure facing diagonal wall, then take the first two steps of the Whisk heading towards diagonal wall, rotate to Promenade Position on the small step that crosses behind while pointing my Promenade toward diagonal wall, and continue to travel in the Promenade Chasse that follows in that same direction.

Now this made a lot of things weird. First of all, as I said I had been taking the Whisk down the line of dance for forever, so trying to turn it like this fights against all of the muscle memory that I have built up in all of that time. Secondly, the amount of rotation when I move my upper body to Promenade Position that is required to get Sparkledancer into her correct placement is a lot, and my upper body is not particularly happy with rotating that much. That’s something I can fight through with practice, but it’s not the most pleasant thing to do.

The biggest issue with this change though is that now we are traveling straight toward the wall. With the amount of movement that we usually get during the Whisk and the Promenade Chasse attached, we just ran out of space the first few times we tried this. That was an easy enough fix while working specifically on this figure because we could just back up away from the wall far enough to fit everything in. Easy-peasy, right?

But (I’m sure you saw this coming), when attaching the Whisk heading in this new direction to the rest of the routine, we were still too close to the wall. The Whisk is a part of the first short wall in the routine, and with the way that the short wall was built, most everything travels laterally down the line of dance. Even when I rotated the three figures prior to the Whisk so that they were moving solely toward diagonal center, I still couldn’t create quite enough room to fit in the Whisk and Promenade Chasse heading toward diagonal wall. You know, because the wall was in the way and whatnot. Silly wall!

Am I the only person you know who talks about issues with moving too much?

This means that, in order to make this change fit, I have to remember to purposefully short my steps a bit on the first long wall so that when I finish the first corner, I am starting the first short wall farther away from the edge. That’s really the only way I am going to be able to fit everything in properly. This was something that felt OK while we were working on things in the Endless Dance Hall. The floor there is huge, so cutting down six to eight feet on a long wall doesn’t make my steps look short. But what happens when I have to try to do this on a much smaller floor? I’m afraid that it will make my steps look teeny-tiny!
Who knew that being able to move so much while dancing would cause me so many issues?

Latin Technique class on Monday night was entertaining, but full of a bunch of stuff that made me feel like a terrible dancer. Those are two wildly conflicting emotions, I know, but that’s how the class went for me. When I first got to class, I thought that I was in for a rough night since there were five ladies sitting there, waiting for class to start, and no other men besides Lord Junior. A few minutes before class, he walked by all of us and said that we would be working on Samba that night, so that was red flag number one for me. Of all the Latin dances, Samba is my least favorite. For some reason I always feel wildly uncoordinated while dancing Samba, and I know I doesn’t look very Samba-esque while doing it either.

As Lord Junior continued to talk with us, he said that he was considering doing a bunch of stuff in Shadow Position, which would give him and I a little bit of a break since there were so many ladies to dance with. However, there was supposedly one more person who had mentioned coming to class that night, so he wanted to give them time to show up. Rather than get started early we all just hung out and talked amongst ourselves.

When the front door did finally open, it actually ended up being more than just one person who showed up… it was actually three. And they weren’t ladies, but girls, each of them being probably twelve years old or less. I’m terrible at guessing ages, but I know that they were all super young. These girls were sisters, and the youngest of them was barely half my height, if that helps put it into context. I felt like a giant standing near her, and I knew there was no way I would be able to dance in Shadow Position with someone that small. It would have been easier for me to just hold the tiny girl off the floor by her arms in front of me and dance! Luckily, Lord Junior had only been expecting the tallest of the sisters to show up, so he modified his plans for the night and threw out all of the partner work in favor of having us all work on exercises by ourselves to accommodate. Whew!

Totally would have worked perfectly.

Since there were so many of us now, Lord Junior had us line up in three lines so that we could travel down the floor in sets. The first section of figures that he gave us to work on was two Cruzados Walks, two syncopated Locks, and then two more Cruzados Walks, which should fill an eight-count bar of music. The first couple of times I went down the floor, Lord Junior made a point of telling me that I looked really good… if I was dancing Foxtrot. My Rhythm Bounce action left quite a bit to be desired. I will freely admit that. What can I say, I only compete in International Standard, and we don’t do crazy bouncing actions with the hips and core in any of the figures I’ve seen so far!

Adding on to that section of figures, the next eight-count bar of music was one more Cruzados Walk (to put you on the right leg), then repeating Samba Locks for the next three-count. At the end you need to pull your right leg in quickly because you go right from moving forward in the Samba Locks to moving backward for a couple of Batucadas. The Batucadas were pretty easy for everyone to get through while we were doing the figures slowly, but the transition between the Samba Locks and the Batucadas threw a lot of the ladies off. When we sped up the pace, you could collect your right leg to the left before taking the step backward, but personally I found that action just took too long, and then I was off time. I found it worked best to just bring my right leg up close to my left leg where it would go for the first step of the Batucada and then just transfer my weight on beat five. That worked best for me – your mileage may vary, of course.

For the last few minutes of class, to give us a break from struggling with the Batucada movements at tempo, Lord Junior had us all work on Body Rolls. I have only ever gone through the Body Roll action a few times in my life. I can’t say that I’m all that good at it… but I’m not as terrible as you might think. With all the exercise I do regularly, I have a lot of strength and control over the muscles in my core, so bending myself like I was being asked to for a Body Roll wasn’t so bad. Granted, we didn’t do this action very fast, so things could change if I was told to try it out to the tempo of your average Samba, but I could probably do it to a Rumba song and not look terrible. 😉

I do lack some of the flexibility in the middle part of my back when compared to all of the women that were in class with me that night (especially those really young girls, who could bend like they had no spines), but I wasn’t as bad as you might think. It’s really twisting actions where my muscularity holds me back the most, and there is no twisting in a Body Roll so I was able to get through it pretty OK. Yeah, pretty OK indeed.

Maybe having so many ladies in class on Monday night wore Lord Junior out, because Standard Technique class was cancelled on Wednesday. You would think that I would have used that extra time that I wasn’t expecting to have to do something productive. I was actually going to get some studying done for some new material I am trying to learn for work, but as soon as I sat down on the couch my cat came and curled up in my lap, and then I couldn’t reach my computer without disturbing her, so I ended up just sitting there quietly for over an hour letting her rest on me. Silly cat…

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This Is Where We Dance Tonight

I mentioned last week that I had some stuff to take care of at home last weekend, so I didn’t actually go out and do much in the way of dancing, but what I did go out and do made my head spin a little. I’m sure that you’ve seen in the past that I’ve referred to Lord Dormamu as my ‘coach’ and not just my ‘instructor’ – that is a very deliberate choice of words. Sure, I do get together with Lord Dormamu for instruction on how to improve my dancing, because he has lots of things that he can teach me. However, on top of that, Lord Dormamu also helps my competitive partner and I play the games that are involved with doing well in the competitive dance environment. When I met up with him this weekend, we spent a good long while discussing just that.

The lesson block that I had scheduled with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu ended up running really long last Saturday, but that was because we spent a large portion of it just sitting around a table talking. We went over the results of the last competition, my analysis of the results, and made a bunch of plans for what Sparkledancer and I would do going forward for the rest of the year. You know, all sorts of coach stuff.

Between the three of us looking around online, we managed to find a large number of competitions for Sparkledancer and I to consider signing up for before the end of 2018. We narrowed the list down to six finalists. Several of these are being held at venues that are only a short drive from my house, so those ones are more than likely to happen. A couple of them will involve traveling quite a bit… like hopping on a plane to get there, because driving to the location would require taking extra time off of work. Plane tickets obviously drive up the cost of those events considerably, which is always a little bothersome. It’s not that I can’t afford to do these things, it just makes me think about how much money I actually want to spend to travel and compete while Lord Dormamu is still holding me at Bronze?

One other point that we looked at was the historical evidence that we could find to give us a rough idea of how many people we might be competing against in these chosen competitions. I personally don’t think it’s super worthwhile to dance unopposed – I mean, unless I screw something up pretty terribly, I am guaranteed to get first place. For some people, getting a first place ribbon/trophy while dancing unopposed is something that they celebrate. I know a pair that competes in Amateur competitions for both Latin and Standard, and there have been lots of times I’ve run into them at competitions where they exalted me with stories of all the first place ribbons that they won so far… only for me to find out later that they didn’t have anyone else dancing against them.

While it does make me happy that they are happy for winning those first place ribbons/trophies, for me, it doesn’t really feel like I earned anything if I win that way. I say this because there is one competition in particular that Lord Dormamu wanted us to go and do that was like this – it’s a new event this year, and based on the registration information we could find online, no one else was signed up in any of the events that we would be heading out there to do so far. Because it looked like there was a chance that we would just be paying a bunch of money to travel out there and dance unopposed, I argued that it wouldn’t really be worthwhile.

Lord Dormamu had a different take on the matter. He knew the people who were the organizers of this new competition. Apparently, in addition to organizing events like this throughout the year, they are also well-known adjudicators who are brought in to judge many high-level competitions that he wants Sparkledancer and I to end up going to as we move up in the world. His view was that it was more important for Sparkledancer and I to show up and support this competition, even if we end up dancing unopposed, so that we can get in good with the competition organizers. If they see us at their brand new event, and then see us later competing at an event that they are judging, that could be the little bit of political capital that we need to get marked better than someone we are competing against if we are otherwise dancing at the same level.

There it is, the dreaded Dance Politics coming back into the picture. Going to this event sounds like it is purely a political move, not really a test of how well we dance in front of the judges. That means that when I go there, the most important thing that Sparkledancer and I will have to do is to say hello to the competition organizers when we see them (not ‘if’ we see them, ‘when’ – we will have to seek them out to make sure it happens), tell them how much we loved this brand new event, and pass on greetings from Lord Dormamu so that they know that he is our coach. The dancing part of the competition is almost secondary.

Sure, there is always the hope that someone else will sign up to dance in the same rounds that we do, but unless the rounds fill up with eight to ten more couples, I’m not sure the priority level will change. Is that weird? It feels weird to me, but apparently playing this political dance and meeting with and supporting the right people in the right competitions is an important part of being an up-and-coming competitor. Sigh… I’m going to register my distaste for this part of the game here so that I can get it all out of my system before I have to go out and play these games. Is this is how Champions are really made?

Moving on… one of the competitions that was added to our list in October actually happens on the same date as a different event that I’m pretty sure I have to be around town to help out with. Do you remember me mentioning last week that I was talked into being a part of another dance non-profit? Well, during that meeting where I was brought into that group, they talked about throwing a fundraising event in the fall. The date that they wanted to book the fundraising event for is the same weekend as the competition Sparkledancer and I were told to do in October. I didn’t realize it at the time last Saturday when I was going over all of this with Lord Dormamu, but when I got home and started adding all these potential competitions to my calendar I saw the overlap. I’ll have to confirm with Lord Dormamu, but most likely that competition won’t actually happen.

With the schedule of what we are planning for more-or-less set, we next spent some time discussing the results of our last competition – not our placements, which were good and didn’t really warrant discussion, but how Sparkledancer and I felt we did, and what we thought didn’t go so well when we were out on the floor. I brought up the basic data analysis I did of the results, and showed Lord Dormamu and Sparkledancer how the math showed that Waltz was our weakest dance style based on how we’ve done during the last couple of competitions. While neither one of them seemed to care about the math too much, Sparkledancer agreed with my assessment, so Lord Dormamu agreed to look at our Waltz first that day when we finally got around to dancing.

I also showed him how there was one judge that marked us with significantly different placements than all the others in all of our events. This was something that Sparkledancer and I had experienced before – I even mentioned it here if you remember. This time around, when I mentioned the name of the judge who had done this to us, Lord Dormamu didn’t just chalk the placements up to the couples who were placed higher than us by this judge being students of his and leaving it at that. No, this time Lord Dormamu actually knew who the judge was quite well. In fact, there is a competition that Lord Dormamu is running in August, and he said he was flying this particular judge in to… well, judge.

I’m sure you can guess where I’m going with this. Now there is a plan that, while this judge is here, Lord Dormamu is going to set aside one of the coaching sessions that this judge will be running the next day so that Sparkledancer and I can work with him. This is another one of those Dance Politics moves, as explained to me. If Lord Dormamu arranges this coaching session and introduces us to this judge at the start of the session, then this judge will, from that day forth, associate our names and faces with Lord Dormamu. The judge (supposedly) will then think to himself ‘Hey! Lord Dormamu was cool enough to bring me in to work on this competition and pay me to judge, but he also entrusted some of his students into my hands to get my advice on how they can dance better!’ – which should change his opinion of how we dance if he ever sees us in a competition he is judging in the future.

This is one of those places where dancers who compete Pro/Am have an advantage. Sparkledancer and I have to put in the face time with judges if we want to be able to subconsciously improve their opinion of us when they see our names on the list of competitors. Lord Dormamu already knows a lot of these judges. He talks about being friends with lots of them. When he goes to competitions to dance with some of his Pro/Am ladies, the judges can clearly see that it is him, and they know the lady is his student. That automatically brings along the subconscious improvements of their perception of how the lady is dancing.

Unless Sparkledancer and I figure out how to start competing in some sort of weird three-way hold with Lord Dormamu, we can’t purely get by on his name – we have to build this kind of recognition for ourselves. Lord Dormamu told us that he can introduce us to all the right people, but we’ll still have to put in time with those people so that they will remember us after the initial introduction is over. The best way to do that is to take coaching lessons with the judges, unfortunately. It’s an expensive method of gaining recognition, but it is by far the best way to have one-on-one time with a judge where everyone can get to know one another.

Dance politics… what in the world have I gotten myself into?

We were lucky that Lord Dormamu had a bit of extra time between when he had scheduled his lesson with Sparkledancer and I and when his next lesson was scheduled, because after all of that discussion we still hadn’t done any dancing! True to his word earlier, he had us start off by showing him our Waltz so that he could see what changes we would need to make in order to bring it up to the next level. One lap around the floor was all that Lord Dormamu needed to see in order to make a plan about what he wanted us to work on.

The biggest problem that he told us he saw with our Waltz was that there was too much ‘floating’ on the floor while we danced. Yeah, that’s actually a problem that you can have in the Waltz. The dance style should give the illusion that you are floating as you move for anyone watching your upper body, but the lower body needs to tell a completely different story. That is what Sparkledancer and I need to improve the most in order to bring our Waltz up to the next level.

What I need to work on first and foremost is to show more connection to the floor. This is actually the easiest thing to change for me. Sparkledancer has to work on grabbing the floor with her feet and holding onto the connection, which is bound to make her feet sore after we’ve been practicing for a while. But me? I’m a couple hundred pounds of muscle who, for some unknown reason, walks very lightly. I just need to let the weight of my upper body hold my lower body down properly. This goes against all of my natural inclinations while I’m moving around, but I’m heavy enough that it makes a real difference with my connection to the floor. Sounds easy, right?

On top of that, Lord Dormamu said that we can always work on showing more drive from the standing leg, which is something you’ll probably never hear a judge tell you that you see too much of. For me specifically he also wants me to work on smoothing out my transition to the “second standing leg” as I move. I’m sure that you can figure out what that is if you’ve never heard of it before – if you are pushing yourself forward with your right leg, your left leg eventually has to hit the ground and start absorbing your weight. Along the way you will reach the point where 51% of your weight has transitioned to be over your left leg and only 49% is left over the right leg, and that’s when you’ve changed which leg is the standing leg in the same step. The new leg now needs to pull you forward for a bit before it can transition behind you and start pushing to create power.

Lord Dormamu said that sometimes he can tell when I make that transition between legs, because there is a bit of a wobble going on, which is why I need to work on smoothing the transition out to get rid of that. This is the same concept that I am working on in the Foxtrot, basically, though with different timing, different rise and fall, and less continuity of motion in the Waltz. This type of usage of the legs is a very advanced concept, and supposedly if I can master it early on while I am still competing in syllabus events it will make my life much easier as I move into the world of Open choreography.

What is the best way to practice this kind of change for our Waltz routine? Well, we were told to take things all the way back to basics – plain old box steps. Just Reverse and Natural Turns, no rotation, focusing on our legs and the floor. Until we are told otherwise, he wants us to start each of our practice sessions by doing the following exercises for two minutes each: standing side-by-side, Sparkledancer and I will do box steps by ourselves for two minutes starting with the left leg going forward, then two minutes that start with the left leg going backward. After that we will stand in front of each other and hold our arms wide (not real dance frame) and do two minutes that start with my left leg going forward, Sparkledancer’s right leg going back, and finish with two minutes of my left leg going backward, Sparkledancer’s right leg going forward.

But wait! There’s more! To help practice for smoother transitions between legs as we move, we do one last set of the exercises where we are standing in front of one another, but this time we extend each box to a six count. The first step forward/backward and the step to the side are normal, but dragging your feet closed while rising should cover four beats. We do two minutes in each direction of those as well. When all is said and done, that’s ~12 – 15 minutes of work, staying in roughly the same spot on the dance floor.

Doing those exercises makes practice all kinds of fun, let me tell you… <feel the sarcasm here>

Enough about that. I seem to have prattled on forever on just one thing that I went out and did last weekend! Oh boy, that does not bode well. Tell you what, I’ll only talk about one more thing, and leave it there for the week. Let’s… let’s talk about Latin Technique class, since that seems to be the class I seem to discuss the least lately.

This week in Latin Technique we looked at some Cha-Cha. There were three ladies in class this week that are relatively new to International Latin, so the figures that we covered in class weren’t all that difficult, but we never got to a point where all of the new ladies could do them well enough to do everything with music up to full tempo. I could do it though, but that’s probably mostly because I get to repeat the figures a lot more than any of the ladies as I rotate through class to dance with all of them.

What I danced with everyone was as follows: starting off facing your partner with your right leg back (ladies with their left leg forward), we did a prep step on beat one, then a normal Cha-Cha Checking action. The guys then did a Slip Chasse while the ladies did a Forward Lock, ending with leading the ladies through a Curl. Rather than do the normal ending for a Curl which sends the lady out to Fan Position, Lord Junior had us instead collect the lady back into dance position and go into a Reverse Top, just for fun.

We went around in the Reverse Top over the counts of two measures, and then the guys would turn the lady through another Curl and lead them to follow him through a Backward Lock into an Aida. After the Cuban Motions of the Aida, we came out of it with a Forward Lock, then went into side-by-side Switch Turns, coming back together at the end for a basic chasse action to the right.

Let’s call it good there for the week. This next weekend I have some work stuff to do, so I probably won’t go out much again. I have just one lesson scheduled, another with Lord Dormamu, but that’s about it. Hopefully we won’t get into another long conversation about our competitive plans this time around. Documenting all of that is a lot of work!

Until next time, keep on dancing!

Well I’ve Got One Foot On The Platform

Last Friday night I was back in pre-competition preparation mode, and I met up with Lord Dormamu for one last run-through of everything before the weekend’s event. There were only a few things that Lord Dormamu pointed out that he wanted to see changed that night, because he knew that we would have very little time to practice before actually taking the floor in front of the judges. Mostly these points were items to file away and begin work on once we get back from the competition, to help improve our dancing going forward.

The big overall note that Lord Dormamu wanted us to work on changing was the connection point that we had while in frame. He wanted to see Sparkledancer up higher, and pulled around my right hip a bit more. The changes that Sparkledancer had been making with Lady Tella were obvious to him, and he was quite pleased with the difference it was making in the amount of volume that we showed while moving, but he personally preferred the connection point to be in a different spot than what Lady Tella had been recommending. Next time that Sparkledancer gets together with Lady Tella to look at her positioning, we’ll go over the changes requested with her to see what her take on the matter is.

I also discussed with him the note that Lady Tella had given to me about trying to look more ‘haughty’ and ‘arrogant’ while I’m in frame. He thought about that for a few minutes, then told me that he understands what Lady Tella is trying to get at, but he doesn’t want me to worry about trying to convey one of those emotions through my frame and posture. Instead, he wants me to hold myself as tall as possible, but not do any weird tilting of my head, just look normal. That was quite the relief to hear, let me tell you. Have I mentioned that I don’t know how to be haughty? 🙂

After that, we ran through everything in the order that we would be doing the routines during the competition, got a few notes back on things to look at, and then ran through the dance style again before moving on to the next. Starting with the Waltz, the big item that he pointed out was the Hesitation Change. He liked the way that Lady Tella had moved Sparkledancer and gotten her to grow the volume over the course of the hesitation, but he wanted to see us put a lot of sway into the figure. A lot. When he was moving me into the position he wanted to see, I felt like my left elbow was almost going to touch my left thigh!

Aside from the Hesitation Change, he also told us that he wanted to see us slightly extend out closes at the height of all our Natural Turns to really emphasize that “perfect, beautiful moment” there. In the Double Reverse Spin he wanted to see Sparkledancer create a diagonal line from her foot to her elbow on the second step, and also have us be sure to step out of the Double Reverse Spin straight down the line of dance. Some of these notes would be easy to remember for the competition, but there was really no way to repeat them enough to make them muscle memory, so I am writing them down to work on in practice later.

Quickstep was next, and that style didn’t have much in the way of notes. As I’ve mentioned several times, our routine is pretty simple, so there isn’t a whole lot of fancy technical points we could do to make it look any different. We were told to continue working with Lady Tella so that Sparkledancer can increase the volume during the dance style even more, and hold it more consistently, but that was about it.

Our Tango had only one point, but it was kind of a big item, at least in my opinion. Somewhere along the way, with a couple of different instructors emphasizing the staccato nature of the dance and how I should always wait until the last possible moment to bring my feet together, I have taken to closing my legs with a lot of power before moving on to the next figure. Lord Dormamu told me that what he actually wanted to see was still for my feet to close together at the last moment, but they would do that because the closing action should have very little energy, moving much more slowly than I was doing. So no more ‘slamming’ my feet together – now it’s nice and gentle, while the steps before and after are sharp and fierce.

We finished our runthrough with Foxtrot, and this one, like Quickstep, didn’t have much going on that Lord Dormamu wasn’t happy with. His told us that the Foxtrot was the most obviously changed dance he can see from how things looked when we started working with him a year-and-a-half ago. That makes sense, since he told us long ago that International Foxtrot is the hardest of the Standard styles, which is why we’ve spent the most time working on this style with him early on in our competitive career. I believe the way that he phrased it during this lesson was that our Foxtrot was looking well beyond Gold level, so now we can work on making sure all our other dances are like that. If the hardest dance style is already looking that good, the rest should be easier, right?

Let’s talk about competition weekend. All of my rounds that I had signed up to actually compete in were on Sunday morning, but I was also out at the competition venue on Saturday as well. My primary reason for going there was to see if I could test out the floor a little before having to dance on it in front of the judges. Different floors have a different feel to them, which sometimes makes my shoes respond differently, so I wanted to know what I would be dealing with. Around lunch the organizers had scheduled a break so that the hard-working judges could get a little food, which was a perfect opportunity to meet with Sparkledancer in the actual competition hall to try dancing a bit.

Some of the other competitors who were there practicing talked with Sparkledancer and I and told us the same thing that I was feeling – that the floor was unusually sticky for some reason. This was one of those snap-together dance floors that you sometimes see, where they click together a bunch of wooden squares to make a floor of any size desired. Usually what I worry about when I see floors like that is getting a heel caught by one of the seams, but every seam that I tested in numerous parts of the floor was smooth and flat, so lucky for me that was something I didn’t have to contend with this time around.

Sliding my feet along the floor was a worry though. A fellow competitor that I talked to described the floor as being “one of the slowest floors” they had ever danced on, and I like that description. I could get my feet to move, but it took a lot of force to cover the same distance that I am used to covering in practice. Rotational figures were also tricky. When Sparkledancer and I tried dancing together in practice hold to test things, I started off with the Waltz, and on my first Natural Turn my left foot stuck to the floor on the second step so the figure was pulled short, and my right foot closed to my left a lot faster than I wanted because all of my momentum seemed to transfer to my right leg when my left stopped moving. Yikes! It was really good idea to head out there a day early to figure out how to work on this floor. If I hadn’t done that, I think things would have gone terribly on the day of my actual rounds.

I said that this was my primary reason for going out to the venue both days this weekend, but it wasn’t my only reason. The competition organizers had also invited a well-known West Coast Swing competitor and judge to come in and teach a class that was free for all registered competitors of the competition, and I wanted to go to that as well. What? Two back-to-back weekends with fancy West Coast Swing classes? Unpossible! But it’s true, it totally happened.

The instructor for this class spent some time showing everyone a progression of figures, and talking about his ideas on how to make the dance more interesting. The way he liked to do it, as he explained to all of us, was to always think of figures to use in West Coast Swing as multiples of two. Almost all the figures you will ever see start with the same action on beats one and two, and finish with the same action that covers the last two beats. If you keep the beginning and ending of your figures constant, you should be able to dance with most partners and be successful.

But in the middle of those two pieces, almost anything is possible, as long as you always use a number of beats that is a multiple of two. Do you want a slow and dramatic turn for the lady? You can change it from a two-beat turn to a four-beat, or an eight-beat, or a thirty-two beat turn if you want (though the lady might get bored if the turn is that slow…). That was how he thought of dancing West Coast Swing musically. It’s a different take on things from the idea I got about musicality in the last West Coast Swing class I went to, but it is still an interesting and valid point, so I thought I would mention it.

The amalgamation of figures he used to show the class these ideas was built around a basic idea, where each figure uses what most people would call its “normal” timing, and we were also shown some variations that could be thrown in if you wanted to extend the figures by two-beat increments. I’ll just list the basic figures, since there were so many variations demonstrated by the instructor for many of the figures that I could go on for pages and pages just trying to describe them all.

This pattern started off with a basic Sugar Push just to get moving. From there the man would lead the lady to do a Left-side Pass, with or without a turn thrown in depending on how advanced you were. The tricky part was that at the end the men would also turn themselves through a Waist Roll, changing hands in the process to be in Handshake Hold for the Anchor Step and beyond. The Waist Roll that the guy does needs to add in at least two more beats to the figure, so at a minimum the whole thing becomes an eight count, but you could hotdog it if you wanted and make it longer.

From there we did what the instructor called a “Surprise” Tuck Turn, which was really just a basic Tuck Turn while in Handshake Hold where the partners don’t change places in the slot. As the lady finishes her spin from that turn, the guy needs to catch her right hand with his left underneath your other arm so that now you are in a Crossed-hand Hold. In this hand position the instructor had us do what he referred to as the Hustle basic without the butterfly-arm action – basically the partners changing places in the slot with no lady’s turn for the first three beats. We repeated this Hustle basic action for the second three beats of the figure, but this time we turned the lady to unwind our arms as she moved down the slot to our former location.

The men actually didn’t change places with the women as we unwound them here, we just stepped out of the slot to the left and stayed there while we turned the women. That put the ladies into a position perpendicular to us on our right side. Now we could take the next two beats (or four, or more – however many you wanted to use, as long as it was divisible by two) to let go of their hand with our left hand and slide our right hand down to pick up their left. This would allow us to use the arm to lead the lady through a Free Spin across the slot while we moved to get back into normal dance position with her for the Anchor Step of the figure, which is where the instructor ended the pattern for the day.

On Sunday I was back at the Dance Death Arena early in the morning. My rounds weren’t the first scheduled that day, but I was in the fifth or sixth one, so I was on the floor pretty early, which is never fun. I got up at the buttcrack of dawn that morning so that I could eat some food, get ready to compete, drive out to the venue, and still have some time to stretch out and warm up with Sparkledancer before the day’s events began. That was probably the least fun thing about the day.

Overall, my rounds felt good. The results I got once the judges’ scores came back were pretty good too. I didn’t manage to sweep the results and get first place from every judge in every dance I did, so obviously I still need to work on improving my dancing and my prowess in dance politics, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. With the numbers that I got back I can analyze the data, along with the data from my previous competitions, and refine my practice focus and my work with my instructors to get closer to that goal.

If you’re interested in the brief version of the analysis of the results I got for this competition compared to the scores that I got at the last competition, I can tell you that I definitely show a specific area that I need to improve in – the Waltz. That is definitely the style that the scores show the most weakness in when compared to the other International Standard styles. Foxtrot is still definitely my strongest, without question. That is completely understandable though, since that is the style that Lord Dormamu has worked on the most with Sparkledancer and I, as I mentioned earlier.

The other two styles that we did in the last couple of competitions are kind of a toss-up. Tango has definitely been improving, so it has been very strong recently. Prior to that, when we didn’t work on it at all, it was obviously much worse. Quickstep just… is. We do fairly well in the Quickstep, based on the aggregate scores that I see over the last few competitions that I have pulled up here in front of me. That is good, considering that we don’t put as much time into working on the style with any of our instructors as we have with any of the other dance styles, but that also means that there is likely room for improvement in there somewhere.  The scores across the board haven’t gotten better or worse over the last few competitions. Like I said, it just is what it is. I should probably spend some more time working on Quickstep and getting some feedback on improvements I can make if I want to see any change in these scores next time I compete.

Moving on… I also want to mention briefly that I skipped Monday night’s Latin Technique class this past week to go to a different dance-related meeting. I maaaaaaaaaaaaaay have gotten myself roped into helping out with another dance nonprofit endeavor. This one is very different from the Royal Dance Court group that I am also a part of, since this dance nonprofit has a focus on helping out children, but the two definitely have similarities, which is why I think that I was asked if I would help out.

In reality, I was probably asked to help because I know a bunch of the people who are helping to run this nonprofit. Lord Dormamu works with this group, as does another dance instructor friend of mine, Indiana. You may remember her as being a part of the Royal Dance Court in the past, but then having to leave because other dance commitments took up her time? Well, this was one of those other dance commitments. Also Sparkledancer is a part of this group. And now I guess I am too, since they officially voted me in at the meeting on Monday night. Hooray for me?

What does this mean for me? I’m not sure. So far, in the meeting that I was in this past week, I just threw out some ideas I thought would be useful for the projects that they are already working on. There is a new project that Lord Dormamu wants to start for this group that he said that I am going to help him with. Because it sort-of directly relates to my non-dance career, I am considered the ‘expert’ for this project. He and I are going to have a dinner meeting next week to draw up an outline of what he is thinking for this new project, and then I can take a look at his ideas and figure out if it is even going to be feasible. That could be fun, right?

Man, I just get pulled into helping with all kinds of dance things. At the rate I’m going, I’m going to end up with my fingers in so many different aspects of the Dance Kingdom that my real name is going to be well known in the dance community soon. That’s actually kind of a scary thought. I prefer to help out and work on things in the background, and let other people take the fame. Am I going to be able to keep that up if I’m going to get really involved with every new club/group/nonprofit/council/board/gang that comes to ask for my help? Will I long for the days of anonymity in the future? We’ll have to see…

This weekend will be focused on reviewing our results from the competition and putting together a plan for going forward toward the next competition on my calendar, which I think is going to be in August. I have a lesson scheduled with Lord Dormamu, and then Sparkledancer asked me to meet up with her and Lady Tella so that they can continue working on improving her positioning and volume. I don’t know if I’m going to make it out to any other dance events this weekend though. I have some work that really needs to be done on my house, which I wasn’t able to do last weekend because I was competing, so I was hoping to make that a priority for this coming weekend. But it’s always possible that I’ll be talked into going out dancing somewhere. Apparently I’m easy to talk into doing dance-related things…

5-4-3-2 What Are You Waiting For?

Last Saturday I did several dance-related things, with one being more thought-provoking than the others. I’ll probably spend a lot of time talking about that, as I sit here staring at this blank page and mull over what I will end up writing. Hopefully you can handle that. If not, well… I’m probably going to write about it anyway, because I find it fascinating. So nyeah. Take that.

Before that though, the first thing that I did on Saturday was to meet up with Sparkledancer and Lady Tella. The two of them had agreed to get together for a short session on Saturday to look at things, and then another short session on Thursday night for a final review of how practice has been going before Sparkledancer and I run off to the Dance Death Arena to compete next weekend. I also have a final pre-competition review with Lord Dormamu scheduled for Friday night, and then I leave on early Saturday morning to make the drive out to the venue. So many things to do!

Anyway, back to last Saturday… we started off with running through all of our competition routines in full once so that Lady Tella could see everything and pick out what we needed to go back and touch on. The dance floor was busy before our lesson started because there was some kind of children’s ballroom class going on that took up the whole floor, so aside from the stretching out I was able to do on the sidelines I walked onto the floor and performed our routines cold that morning.

Because of that, when Lady Tella came over to talk to us about what she saw, she said that overall our Waltz (which was the first one that we did) looked the weakest, while our Tango looked the strongest. That made sense to me. Tango is what Sparkledancer and I had been spending a lot of our practice time going over during the week prior to this lesson, so I can imagine that it would look more ‘practiced’ than the others.

We talked about specific notes for Waltz, Quickstep and Foxtrot during this lesson, and left out the Tango because of that. Overall for me, the only real note was to continue to try to lean back slightly to avoid looking like I am toppling over my partner at any point. I had been working during practice on pulling my upper body back slightly, especially in rotational figures, based on the note that I got from Lady Tella last time I saw her about how it looked like I was coming forward slightly in rotations. She said that it helped make me look like I was even more upright, even though my lower back muscles feel like I am leaning backward. I guess I can count this as a good thing, and work on keeping it up.

Lady Tella’s notes for Sparkledancer were a bit more in-depth, so I tried to jot down what I could. The overall takeaway was for her to continue focusing on creating more volume while the two of us are moving, which you probably guessed. For the specific dances, we started with Waltz. Lady Tella wanted Sparkledancer to think about keeping her sides long the whole time, and to lean back slightly (like I am doing), especially during rotational figures. She told us to watch our transitions to Promenade Position and to make sure that we are not dipping down on my left/Sparkledancer’s right side. Also, she told Sparkledancer to make sure that her head openings were slower, and to make sure that she takes the long way while doing it… whatever that means.

By the time we finished working through the Waltz, Lady Tella told us that it was looking much better than it had when we danced through it the first time. We promised her that on competition day we wouldn’t be taking to the floor cold, so if the issues we had were caused by that, it would be an easy fix. That just means I have to get up even earlier on competition day… no big deal, right? Who needs to sleep?

Quickstep was brief for us, since there isn’t much to it. There was a question that we had that had for Lady Tella that had come up recently in our practice about the Running Finish at the end of the first short wall. Lady Tella had told Sparkledancer to open her head at a certain point, but I was actually creating the sway in the figure at a later time, so it looked like the head opening was disconnected from the sway. When we showed it to Lady Tella, she agreed, and refined what she had told Sparkledancer so that she was now waiting until I create the sway in the figure to make the head opening action match.

We had some issues going through the Foxtrot because the staff at the Endless Dance Hall were starting to set up for an event, and they were dragging tables out onto the floor that I suddenly had to work around. It was hard to find a line of floor that was long enough to get through all the figures we wanted to look at contiguously! I wonder if they did that on purpose to try to get us to leave? We were the only dancers in the building when they started doing this…

Lady Tella wanted to have us run a portion of the routine at the beginning, so I changed the angles of several of the figures slightly to avoid running into any tables. THe way I had done that though made Lady Tella think we had a problem with our Reverse Turn with Feather Finish. However, when I managed to find a section of floor big enough to run through the figure with the right angles (which required taking smaller steps as well), the problem went away. Assuming that there won’t be a bunch of tables in the middle of the floor at the venue during the competition, we should be alright. Other than that, she wanted to make sure Sparkledancer was leaning back and keeping the volume while we were dancing the routine.

Later in the afternoon, I ended up at the fancy West Coast Swing gathering, just like I mentioned last week. A local West Coast Swing club had advertised that they were bringing in some high-level West Coast Swing coach to teach this weekend, and during the afternoon he was going to be giving four group lectures on top of private lessons. I wasn’t able to get there for all of the workshops that they were offering that day unfortunately, but I was lucky enough to make it to two of them.

Originally I had only thought about going to one of the two that afternoon – the one that promised to show me some new, fancy figures that I didn’t know. It’s been a while since I’d learned any new West Coast Swing figures, so I thought that could be fun. But later in the week I read through the description of the second class, and it peaked my interest enough that I decided to stick around for it on Saturday. Boy am I glad that I did, because the lecture that the guy gave during the class was fascinating to me, and gave me a lot to think about for the future of my own competitive dancing.

Let me write out the figures that I learned in the fancy moves class first before I start writing about the other class though, because it is likely I will go off on a tangent talking about that material, and I want to make sure to document these figures so that I won’t forget them…

We started off in closed position, which looks like the basic hold for East Coast Swing. The instructor wanted to show everyone a six-count starter step. Most people who have done West Coast Swing normally only do a four-count version – a triple step to one side, then to the other, then go into like a Sugar Push or something. The instructor had us add on two steps before the two triple steps, making it into a six count.
I know that sounds easy, but we had one gentleman in class who could not for the life of him get this down. He struggled through just the starter step with several partners, unable to overcome his many years of muscle memory that had only done a four-count starter, and then he gave up and sat out in a chair along the side for the rest of class. Talk about a rough start!

For the amalgamation we were given, we did the six-count starter and then went into a Spinning Side Pass. A Spinning Side Pass is just a Left-side Pass with a lady’s Underarm Turn thrown in. Not too tough yet, right? After that we did a more complex variation that began like a normal Whip, but at the end of the first six beats the men over rotated to put the lady into Outside Partner on our left side. On beat seven the guy would step across the lady with his right leg and on beat eight he pivots 90° to the right without changing feet to end up back in closed position just like at the beginning.

From there we went into a Sugar Push. Since the guy is perpendicular to the lady, his first step is to his left side and then he rotates before taking his next step backward, which puts him back into the normal position you’d expect for a Sugar Push. Next we did a slow and fancy Underarm Turn that had sort of a ‘peek-a-boo’ moment in the middle. This figure extends the normal Underarm Turn to an eight-count and doesn’t have the partners changing places. The guy starts with two steps back like normal, then the triple step. As you step forward on your left leg, you hold in place while bringing your left arm slowly over the lady’s head. In the middle of the rotation, her body should be bent to the side slightly with her right hip out and she should be able to face you. On beat six you finally rotate her back in front of you, and you both do your Anchor on seven and eight.

Almost done, just two more figures to go (maybe three, depending on how you look at it)! We started another Sugar Push basic, but this time we ended with something that the instructor called a ‘Rock and Go’ ending. Basically, instead of doing the Anchor portion of the Sugar Push, the guys will do a rock step and tie the next figure into the first. In our pattern, that figure was another Spinning Side Pass. The rock step became both the last two beats of the Sugar Push and the first two beats of the Spinning Side Pass at the same time. When all is said and done, these two six-count figures share two beats, so you end up with what looks like a single ten-count figure.

To wrap things up, we finished with a Same Side Whip. The figure starts out like a basic Whip, but instead of taking a step around the lady on beats three and four, the guys just step off to the left and do our triple step while she comes forward and rotates, but then we send her back the way she came from while stepping back to our starting position before the Anchor. In the process of sending the lady back, you have the option to just let her walk and rotate, or you could give her a Underarm Turn or a Tuck Turn to do, just in case you want to make things challenging for her.

OK, maybe that note about the pattern wasn’t as short as I would have hoped. I apologize.

Let’s talk about the other class now. The description of the class that intrigued me talked about learning how to dance properly with the music. I thought it sounded like a fun thing to do that was worth some of the money from my wallet, which is why I decided to attend, but what the class ended up talking about has gotten me to thinking, as I mentioned. Anyway, to set things up, during the first section of the class we were given a bit of choreography to work with – a basic pattern, and then some variations to those figures to try to throw in while we were dancing.

The basic pattern went like this: a Sugar Push, then a Left-side Tuck Turn, then a lady’s Underarm Pass, then a double-spin for the ladies of some kind (the Lead could choose to do two inside or outside turns), and finally a Whip to finish off. Pretty basic, right? We were then shown specific accents to do during each of the figures, and they were as follows:

  • Sugar Push: replace the first step with a kick-ball change
  • Left-side Tuck Turn: syncopate the timing on the first triple step while the man is out of the slot
  • Underarm Pass: both partners do a side break to the man’s right on beat five before the Anchor
  • Double spin: no changes
  • Whip: replace the first step with a kick-ball change

Again, pretty easy variations to remember, right? You could use these whenever you are dancing a West Coast Swing if you do one of these figures, and people might think that you are cool. But there is a reason that they are in there. Did you try dancing the pattern? Did you feel the reasoning? I admit that I did not see it until it was pointed out to me in the last section of the class, so if you didn’t feel it either, I’m right there with you.

The basic pattern itself is built the way it is built for a specific reason. There are four six-count figures followed by one eight-count figure. Thirty-two beats of music total, or four eight-beat measures. In most songs that you would dance West Coast Swing to, that is one musical phrase. Are you starting to see it now? If you don’t, look at the timing where each of the variations we were given were thrown in: the first beat of the Sugar Push, the third beat of the Left-side Tuck Turn, the fifth beat of the Underarm Pass, nowhere in the double spin, and the first beat of the Whip.

Musically, those line up with beat one of each of the eight beat measures in the phrase. Essentially, you are dancing and putting the more complicated variations in while you are dancing to show that you can hear each bar of the music. The double-spin, being the most complicated turn for the ladies, is specifically slotted into the pattern during a period in the phrase where there is no beat one – it starts on beat three of its eight beat measure, and finishes on beat eight. That is why it is the only figure to have no variation.

Once this was explained to all of us, we were told to go back and try dancing the pattern again, but this time to try counting along with the music in counts of eight. This threw off a lot of people, because many of us have been taught by our instructors over the years to count out the parts of the figure, not count with the music. This isn’t a bad thing when the figures line up with the measures in the music (like basic Natural and Reverse Turns in Waltz), but with a dance like West Coast Swing where we are doing six beat figures to music that is not built on six beat measures, you tend to lose something.

I had a different problem, which the instructor also mentioned to others in class. He said that some people tend to count the music they are dancing to more like how the measures are written rather than how it sounds. You may have spent time around a conductor if you were in a band or choir class in your youth, and have heard them count the music as “1,2,3,4; 2,2,3,4; 3,2,3,4” etc. That is basically how I hear music if I’m not counting it out loud. I had a lot of musical training in my youth, so that’s what I’m used to doing internally.

This presents a problem though, because it essentially gives you a beat one every count of four, rather than in counts of eight. Think about the average song that you would dance a West Coast Swing to. I like to think of slow rock songs for West Coast Swing – that’s just what I feel is the most appropriate music for the dance style. If you think about the vocalist singing above the music, generally you can hear that the first four beats are strong, while the second four are slightly softer, so the song feels like it is built in counts of eight. Examples off the top of my head from songs most of you probably know…

Give me one reason to stay here / and I’ll turn right back around.”

Black velvet / and that little boy smile.”

She could tell right away / that I was bad to the bone.”

If you can’t hear the song in your head after reading those lyrics, you can use them to look up the song and listen to it online. <Brief pause so you can listen> See what I mean? So based on that, emphasizing the first beat out of eight strongly is something you want to consider to really make it look like you are dancing with the music, not just dancing a memorized pattern. If your pattern repeats (as most patterns dancers learn do), but the pattern is not built to repeat on musical phrase (or floorcraft requirements took you off pattern briefly) and you start over at a point that is in the middle of one of those eight-beat measures, it is entirely possible that your variations will have to be on different points of the figures the second time through.

That, this instructor said, is what musicality means. And that’s the point that got me thinking. I’ve had brief discussions with several instructors that I’ve worked with about musicality in the past, but when they talk about dancing musically, they usually give examples of changing the timing of the steps in your figures. The example that comes up most is in the Waltz, where they want you to hold the step on beat two of three slightly longer than the other two beats to give it more emphasis. If you’ve done competitions in Waltz before, you may have been told this as well.

This particular example from class shown through West Coast Swing immediately brings to mind Foxtrot, for me at least. The music that is chosen for Foxtrot, while having different qualities than what I think of as a ‘West Coast Swing song’ is built the same structurally. When I am practicing Foxtrot without music playing, normally I count it in four. But is that right, or should I start thinking about them more in eight-count increments? Will I have to add in different emphasis in parts of certain figures to show that I know where the first beat of each measure is in relation to what I am doing? How would I even begin to do something like that? International Foxtrot doesn’t usually have ‘flair’ in it, you know…

The opening of my Bronze Foxtrot routine was built as follows: a simple starter step that is a count of eight, a Feather that is a count of four, a Reverse Turn with Feather Finish that is a count of eight, a Three Step that is a count of four, and a Natural Weave that is a count of eight. That is the first four eight-beat measures, much like the instructor in the West Coast Swing class put together. If you walk through the counts, you’ll see that not all of the figures start on beat one. The starter step obviously does, as does the Feather, but the Reverse Turn does not. The Feather Finish of the Reverse Turn does, however. So, do you really want to do something to show emphasis on beat one of each measure if it the emphasis subdivides a figure like that?
Another possibility: In contrast to thinking about the Foxtrot being built in eight-beat measures, I could see it to be better to think about dancing the Foxtrot by phrase instead. That would definitely provide the continuity between the figures that International Foxtrot is known for, at least during each phrase. In a competition setting though, to do that properly you would have to be sure to start the routine at the beginning of the musical phrase – if those are thirty-two beat increments, that means that I would have to be sure to start exactly on beat one of the song, or else I am waiting until beat thirty-three. Starting anywhere else means that my routine does not line up with the phrase in the song. Would the judges think that it is appropriate if I hung out at the beginning unmoving for thirty-two beats? Something about that strikes me as wrong, so I probably wouldn’t.

I’m not sure if any of this line of thinking really interests anyone else, but I find it fascinating, and could probably ramble on about it for much longer. I took a lot of music theory classes in my youth, and I hadn’t really thought about that material in a long time until after I went to this class, so now I have all these interesting connections going on in my brain that are a lot of fun for me. I’ll spare you the full force of those connections though… for now. Maybe I’ll touch on it again in the future for other dances as new revelations about musicality come to me.

Well, a weekend devoted to competition is upon me again. Even though I go through all my rounds in the time span of a few hours on one day, it always seems like the competition sucks up my whole weekend somehow. What’s up with that? This time around, I didn’t schedule anything else for this weekend, just in case. No lessons, no work stuff, no parties – the plan is just to focus on what I’ve got to do, and not worry about anything else until Monday.

Will having a clear schedule this weekend make a difference in how the competition goes? Not from the standpoint of my results, but rather from the mental and emotional drain that running around to these competition events causes? We’ll have to see! I’ll tell you all about it next week!