Give Me The Secret Mancub, Clue Me What To Do

So much going on this past weekend! I hope everyone else was out doing as much dancing as I was. If you weren’t, then next weekend you can come out with me to make up for it. Let’s see, what did I end up doing…?

There was an open dance party being held last Friday night at the Electric Dance Hall that I decided to go to. Since I have a habit of showing up for events early enough to give me a few minutes to collect my thoughts (and put on my dance shoes), the group class that precedes the party was still in full swing when I arrived. As I was finishing up tying my shoes, Lord Junior called over to me and started motioning for me to join class. The group class held on Fridays is an all-levels class that doesn’t usually cover anything difficult, so I hesitated to jump into things because I didn’t want to make the people who had spent all hour in class feel bad if I could just step in and do all the things they just learned so easily. Lord Junior was WannaBeLikeYou1having none of that though, and told me to just get my butt onto the floor. He paused class briefly and had me lead him through the Waltz pattern the class had spent all hour working on while he called out the figures so that I could see all the steps once. They hadn’t done anything I hadn’t seen before in other classes: after a prep step to get onto the right foot, we did a Natural Turn, then an Open Telemark that finished moving toward diagonal center, followed with a Basic Weave, and finishing everything up with another Natural Turn. Once I had gone through everything, I got put into the rotation in between the other men. I found out while dancing that the ladies had been struggling with the pattern since the men in class had been struggling with the pattern, and they couldn’t work out their footwork if the men were leading them wrong. I managed to dance through everything a couple of times with almost everyone before the class was over to help the ladies figure out what they should be doing.

The dance party itself after the class wrapped up was pretty quiet. Sparkledancer and I spent some time talking with Lord Junior about what was going on Sunday afternoon, so that we would know when we needed to be at the White Dance Hall before the upcoming showcase started. We wanted to get in a bit early to go over things on their floor, block out our entrance and exit, and warm up before the performance. Lord Junior was also excited to talk about how he’s looking at building a much bigger studio, and if things go as well as he hopes, next year he could be holding showcases in his own building rather than having to rent out a bigger space like the White Dance Hall for these events. As he was talking, I noticed that there were some white-chocolate covered pretzels on the snack table within arm’s reach of me that looked really good. I may have snagged four or five of those…

During my lesson on Saturday with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer, we actually went back and spent a lot more time looking over our showcase routine than I thought we were going to. He gave us some points on what he thought we could do to change our entrance onto the floor to fit things onto the layout of the dancefloor at the White Dance Hall, using the stage in the back where performers would be walking in from. Since there was also no plan to have any seating set up on the dancefloor like there had been at the Fancy Dance Hall for the showcase, we looked at how we could stretch out the Quickstep portions to use more of the available floor space. The Lindy Hop sections weren’t going to change, since we would keep those pretty much in the middle of the room so everyone could see us. We ran through things over and over again for about half an hour, allowing me to work up a nice sweat once again by picking up Sparkledancer several times during each run-through. Sparkledancer and I both got called out for going through the Lock Steps and Progressive Chasses in the Quickstep and taking a heel lead on the last step instead of a toe step that lowered as the other foot passed through. I wasn’t even paying attention to what my feet were doing there, so I didn’t notice when it WannaBeLikeYou2happened. To correct us, Sir Steven made us stand next to each other in the back of the ballroom and walk side-by-side toward the front doing very slow Lock Steps, making sure we got the footwork right. Once we had finished up our ‘punishment’ to Sir Steven’s satisfaction, we completely switched gears and started looking at our International Standard routines. We ran through the Waltz a few times, and then finished up by going over the Foxtrot as time ran out.

Later in the evening, I went out to a dance party at the City Dance Hall to have some fun. They had advertised a Samba group class available before the party was to start, and even though I don’t really like Samba (it’s fine, but not my favorite), I was at the City Dance Hall early enough to take part in the class. The guy teaching that night had started things off saying that we would go through the Samba basics, so I was anticipating that things would be no problem for me, but as we were going I found that I had trouble in class because the instructor kept counting the timing for the figures in regular half-beat intervals – even for steps that should use the ¾ note, like the Samba basic and Whisk. It wasn’t until we were almost completed with class that he thought to mention to everyone that we were doing American-style Samba rather than the International Latin version. Ooooooooooh… suddenly I didn’t feel so bad for always being off time with his counts. The instructor told us that American Samba is much more relaxed and fun, and doesn’t have the quick irregular footwork that the International version uses.

Other than the revelation that there was an American-style Samba to go along with the International Samba (who knew?), I didn’t get to go over anything else that was all that exciting in the class. We covered only the most basic of figures and technique in the hour. And by technique, I mean that we spent a good fifteen WannaBeLikeYou3minutes or so on just the Rhythm Bounce. A lot of that time was just spent by everyone in class watching the instructor wiggle his hips back and forth, as he was “demonstrating” the movement. It’s uncanny how often my pursuit of dancing has me watching some guy I’ve never met before wiggling his hips in front of me, I must say. After he felt satisfied with our Rhythm Bounce action, he started to show us some figures, which felt a lot like a class on the Samba Line Dance, aside from the Samba Walks he showed everyone. We looked at the normal Samba Basic step, added on four Whisks with the last one turning us into Promenade Position, then he had us do two each of the Forward and Side Samba Walks, followed by four Botafogos, and finishing up with a brief introduction to the Criss-Cross Voltas. We were running out of time, so he didn’t cover the Volta step in detail for those who didn’t know the figure, but based on the number of people who just went ahead and started using the Voltas to travel down the floor, it seems like there weren’t that many actual Samba newcomers joining us in class.

The dance portion after class was amusing to me because the DJ wasn’t there. She got called to do two events on the same night, and since the other event was a grand-opening party at a different dance hall, she opted to head there in person. That didn’t mean that she wasn’t at our dance party in spirit though. I guess the organizers of the dance opted to have her do the music anyway, even if she wasn’t going to be there in person, so she had created a recording that would play until she could get there in person to take over. The recording was made specifically for that night’s party, since all the songs went along with the theme for this dance. The theme was ‘Safari’ or something like that. I have never even heard of a party using that theme before, so I don’t think the DJ would have had a recording that strung together songs related to animals or the jungle just sitting around on hand for when events like this happen. She was also kind enough to lace into the recording a running commentary of her voice between songs, so that we all felt like she was there on the microphone telling us all about the music she chose. It was a rather amusing way to spend the evening.

Then late in the day on Sunday was my last showcase performance of the summer. The structure of this showcase was markedly different from how they had run the event that was the week before. One major difference was that there were only thirteen performances scheduled during the four-hour event. One similarity I saw right away though I found by going through the schedule (there was one laying on the table I sat at to put on my dance shoes). It looked like there were only five men performing. Though there were more than twice the number of acts during the showcase last weekend, there weren’t that many more men in that show at the Fancy Dance Hall. In fact, the man who danced in the most routines last weekend was in the White Dance Hall this weekend performing again! Of the five men in this performance, I did one number, two ladies who also performed with me last weekend brought Lord Latin over to do a repeat of their numbers, Lady Humperdink brought her instructor up to go through a piece she had been working on for the last few months in front of an audience, and then there was Mr. Rubber-legs who did a unchoreographed Shag number with his professional partner to promote some near-future workshops that he would be running soon at the Electric Dance Hall. As an added bonus routine, a large group of ladies (I have been affectionately referring to them as the “Sexy Lady Formation Team Dance Club”) did a medley of Latin-style pieces. All the other performances that evening were Lord Junior performing with a number of his students.

The atmosphere for this event was also vastly different from last week’s showcase. We were much more relaxed, without having all the movements of every show number dictated by the act that went before or after your performance. There was also a lot of social dancing throughout the evening, compared to just a few songs in between the two acts at last week’s performance – several hours’ worth of social dancing, to be exact. Lady Lovelylocks had brought her two young daughters along with her to enjoy the show (one had just learned to walk a few months ago, they are WannaBeLikeYou4that young), and they were following her around and dancing up a storm whenever they got a chance. They really liked to climb up on the stage that was at the front of the dance floor and ‘dance’ with their mother. Their form of dancing is mostly holding onto one of her hands and wiggling their little bodies, but since their mother dances professionally I’m sure the two of them will be ready to teach classes to me in just a few years. With everyone being so laid back that evening, there was no reason to feel nervous at all about going on stage this time.

So how did my performance go? Well, the crowd thought it was pretty funny when Sparkledancer and I finally walked down the stage steps to take the floor, which is exactly what I was going for. We had audience sitting on three out of four sides of the dance floor, so when we had blocked out the choreography beforehand we chose to make our ‘front’ the long side that had the most tables along it, which we assumed would be where most of the audience sat. That did mean that anyone sitting along the other side of the dance floor got to look at my butt during some parts of the Quickstep, but I didn’t feel too bad about that. After all, I do a lot of squats with heavy weights, so my butt can’t look all that bad (I can’t turn my neck enough to see it, but I’m going to believe it looks OK). The song we had been using is actually a pretty slow Quickstep, so it gave us ample opportunity to really stretch out the figures and cover the larger floor without getting off time at all. The crowd really seemed to like what we did too, which I believe is a good way to tell that we had a good performance. This time around, we didn’t have any mistakes that I noticed, so I’m pretty sure we did everything to the best of our ability. Hooray for us!

Well, now that all of that’s out of the way, it’s time to start figuring out what we should start working on next. I’ve had people at both the Fancy Dance Hall and the Electric Dance Hall tell me that they are looking at doing another showcase in the December/January timeframe, so that’s one option to think about. I also hear there’s a competition coming up at the end of September/beginning of October, but I might be out-of-town that weekend, so that option’s sort of on the table too. Then there’s always more work to try to improve my technique, so I will definitely be doing that no matter what happens. We’ll just have to wait and see what sounds like the most fun before deciding what to do next, now won’t we?


Summertime And The Livin’ Is Easy

One performance down, one to go…

This first showcase I had signed up to perform in this month turned out to be very different from any other dance showcases that I have either performed in or gone out to watch, as I found out during the dress rehearsal last Friday night. Before we started the run-through, Lord Dormamu gathered everyone out on the floor to spend a few minutes talking about what they had envisioned for the performances at the Fancy Dance Hall, and how this first event would hopefully be the start of a tradition for them. He and his team had imagined a night that Summertime1emphasized the ‘Show’ part of the showcase, complete with set pieces in the background, other ‘actors’ on stage during some of the performances, and songs that transitioned from one into the other with no break in between – building something more like a musical rather than just a dance recital. This was why the dress rehearsal was such a big deal – the dance numbers had to flow from one into the other seamlessly, so everyone had to know their place in the rotation and get out to the floor at the right time, or else you could disrupt the show and every act that would follow until either the intermission or the end, depending on where the act fell. So, you know, no extra pressure on the performance or anything, right?

First though, before we started our rehearsal of the show, the director wanted to run through the curtain call that would happen at the end of the night. The director wanted to have all the performers walk back out on to the ‘stage’ from wherever they happened to be after the last act finished up – some people were planning to hang out backstage, the last act was just going to stay on the dance floor, and some people wanted to go out into the audience and sit with family members during the intermission. We all were given four eight counts of music to make our way back to the front. During those eight counts, each person was to take seven steps and on the eighth we were supposed to rock our heads back, until we all got to our assigned place on the stage where we were supposed to line up. Once in line, at the end of the fourth eight count, we changed over to clapping in time with the music as we shuffled from side to side. Here a recording was started that read off the names of all the performers, letting each person walk down the stage when their name was called out, heading toward the audience before going to the end of the line on either the right or left side of the floor. The whole idea for the ending was reminiscent of an old TV show that I bet you’ve seen before.

With that out of the way, we were all given a ten-minute warning and then we were going to do a dry run of the actual show. Sparkledancer and I got elected to go in slot six of the first act, so we were going to be done super early in the evening. Since we were entering and exiting the dance floor from the upper-right corner (from the audience’s perspective), we would be stuck backstage until the end of the first act. During the dress rehearsal, I took the brief intermission we had between acts to find a seat out on the fancy bleacher-like seating that they had rented for the event so that I could watch the performances that were in act two for myself. I figured that it would probably make more sense for me to hang out in the back on the actual night of the performance, since my costume would probably be distracting to people who I would sit next to, but since there were only staff members sitting in the seats for the rehearsal I would be OK. After all the acts finished up, even though some of the other students who had dance in the first act had already left for the night, we had another practice go at the curtain call before we all got to go home and rest up.

The run through of our number that night was the first time pretty much everyone who was around (outside of Sir Steven and the lady that had sat in on one of our lessons) had seen us go through our routine, and it was definitely the first time everyone had seen it with Sparkledancer and I in full costume. The dance went great. There was only one spot during the first transition from Lindy Hop back to Quickstep where we tripped up a little, but we didn’t do anything that looked out of place, so you could hardly tell that something had changed unless you knew the Summertime2original choreography of the routine. Even though the crew putting together the bleachers and mounting the cameras were supposed to be working while we were practicing, they stopped what they were doing to make noises when I lifted Sparkledancer off the floor and clapped a lot when we finished up at the end. One of the instructors who was also performing in the showcase must have thought our routine was pretty amazing, because he was grinning and chuckling every time we caught eyes for the rest of the night, and he gave me the ‘thumbs up’ several times (I’m pretty sure English isn’t his first language, so maybe he thought that was an easier way to communicate with me?).

The actual night of the performance was a lot of fun, even though for me it was long periods of inactivity punctuated by a few minutes of excitement. After the rehearsal the night before the staff found a big television and installed a camera pointing down to the stage portion of the floor, giving those of us waiting in the back room the ability to see what was going on in the performance (though the video was a bit choppy streaming from the wireless camera to the laptop they had set up) without sneaking glances through the curtains that were blocking off the ‘backstage’ area from view. That way there was no confusion about which number act was currently performing – you could just check the video to see who was on stage and look at the schedule to see where they were in comparison to when you were going onstage. It also had the added benefit of allowing me to see large parts of the first act, which I wasn’t able to watch during rehearsal since I was stuck backstage out of the way before and after my performance.

I was required to be at the dance hall really, really early… like two hours before the start of the showcase. That sounds like a lot of time to hide out backstage doing nothing (which it kind of was…), but it was probably a good thing that I did get there so early. While most people were getting their hair and costumes in order backstage, the dance floor was completely empty, so Sparkledancer and I got to run through our routine a few times. Also… I ended up having a bit of a wardrobe malfunction pointed out to me. It turns out that the pants I was wearing for my costume, which were some black Latin-style dance pants that I got long ago for one of the first competitions I was ever in and I hadn’t really looked at until the dress rehearsal the night before, had a split seam in a very… unfortunate place. I have no idea when that happened. The undergarments that I was wearing were brightly colored, so they kind of stood out if you were in a position to see through the hole. Luckily Sparkledancer had some emergency thread and a needle I could use to sort-of jury-rig the hole shut, and there was a general store next door to the dance hall, so I was able to get some black underwear to match the black pants, just in case my rushed sewing job didn’t hold until I got home.

The fix did in fact hold, in case you were wondering, but better safe than sorry, right?

Pants-related humor aside, our performance that night was awesome, if I do say so myself. With all the running around making sure everything was ready to go both Friday and Saturday, I hadn’t gotten to work out like I normally do, so when it came time for me to do my ‘intense two minutes of physical activity’ for the night, I was fired up and ready to go. I managed to keep myself from speeding up my footwork as the adrenaline flooded my system when I got on stage in front of the audience, which was great, but all the extra fuel in my system and my lack of activity going into the performance meant that I picked Sparkledancer up really high off the ground during all the lifts that we did. She told me after the performance was over that the difference in height she felt was noticeable, especially in how long it took her feet to hit the ground again compared to what we had been doing in all the practice sessions. And the crowd loved it! Every time I helped her get her feet off of the floor, they went wild. Almost all of the performances that night were very formal affairs, with everyone wearing dress clothing, or competition dresses that sparkled, with their hair and makeup done just right. In the middle of it all was this one act with two kids that looked a lot younger than everyone else, wearing outfits Summertime3that wouldn’t have looked too out of place on Halloween night, and me lifting and swinging my dance partner around all over the place. It felt kind of surreal. At the end of the routine, as I held Sparkledancer aloft over the floor, I told her to release one arm and wave to the crowd as I held her back a foot off the ground. Then I swung her up and over my left shoulder and walked (strutted, really) off the stage with her. Just before I reached the curtains covering the stage exit, I let go of her with my right hand and raised my fist in the air triumphantly, holding it there as I walked the rest of the way off stage. After the curtains closed behind us, I gently set Sparkledancer back on her feet.

The best part is, I get to perform the same thing again this coming weekend as well. Hooray!

The one thing that I noticed during the final curtain call of the night was that this event was mostly a show full of professionals performing with each other. At the end of the night, when Lord Dormamu was thanking the Princess and the staff of the Fancy Dance Hall for their work, he had them all step forward. There were only about twelve or thirteen non-instructors left on stage when he separated the group. Since Sparkledancer and I performed together, that means there were only ten or eleven students who put on a Pro/Am dance number that night, out of the thirty-five or so dance numbers that made up the entirety of the show. I mentioned when I signed up for the event how expensive the sign-up fee was compared to the other showcase I am going to be in. I wonder if that cost kept a lot of people from taking part in the event…

On a different note – Standard Technique class this week was also fun (though not nearly the same level of excitement). We had a pretty small group compared to what we have had the last several times I’ve been in class – only four people total, if you count Lord Junior. No one had anything in particular they wanted to work on in class, so we asked Bony to tell us which dance style she hated the least that night (Bony has a complicated relationship with dancing). Based on her feedback, we went with Foxtrot and covered two variations of a particular figure in the hour. We started by looking at a figure in the book, the Bounce Fallaway with Weave Ending. This is a Gold-level figure, but it doesn’t really seem all that hard, if I do say so. The Bounce Fallaway is really a lot like a normal Fallaway, but you are doing the footwork much quicker, so the rise you put in the step on beat two looks kind of like a small bounce. At least, that’s how it looked to me, so I’m going to believe that’s where the name comes from. I could be wrong, so don’t quote me on that. After we all seemed comfortable with the syllabus footwork, Lord Junior changed the ending to make it an Open-level figure, the Bounce Fallaway with Tumble Turn and Feather Ending (that’s what he called it). This is the second time I’ve done a Tumble Turn in Foxtrot, and the figure is a lot of fun. I’ll have to start remembering this figure to use it in my normal dancing from time to time.

Having a smaller class was a nice change of pace. Without so many ladies wandering around on the floor, Lord Junior was actually able to pay attention to what I was doing when I danced, so I got a lot of critiques. I mean, it’s never fun to get critiqued on what you are doing wrong, but the only way you can get better is by having someone point out what you’re doing wrong so that you can correct things, right? Each of us in class was given specific things to work on for the class period. For me, as you probably guessed, keeping my head in the right place was one of Summertime4the things I got called out on. Stupid head, it has a mind of its own (See what I did there? I’m hilarious!). Another point I was given to work on was my shaping during the Feather Finish we used as a starter step before going into the Bounce Fallaway. Lord Junior told me that I could shape through my body a lot more than I was doing at first. I was told to aim for making it look like I was travelling more sideways with my left side leading, because the effect would be much more dramatic if I could work that in. The third point I was given was to keep my left arm bent at the same angle for the whole sequence, and my shoulders down. This mostly came into play during the Tumble Turn – apparently, from the outside, it looked like as I did the rise in the Tumble Turn, my neck would disappear because I was thinking about the footwork and not keeping my shoulders down, and I was extending my arm during the rotation instead of keeping it bent. So, as we ran repetitions at the end of class, those were the things I worked on. I felt pretty good about the way the figures looked by the time we finished up.

This weekend is going to be another busy weekend for me, full of all kinds of dance things. There’s a dance party on Friday night, a lesson on Saturday afternoon, another dance party on Saturday night, and then Sunday afternoon will be a combination dance party and showcase performance. So much dancing to do! I hope your weekend will be filled with as much dance related stuff as mine looks to be. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it next week!

Show Me How You Want It To Be

Meeting up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven during our normal slot over this past weekend, we spent the whole time working on our showcase routine, as you might imagine. The lady from the Fancy Dance Hall who is putting together the show sat in on the lesson because she wanted to take notes about our costumes and what we were doing so that she could figure out where the lights should be pointed and how we would walk on and off the floor to transition between acts, and also give her general ideas about things she thought would improve the show. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about some of her ideas for how she thinks we should dress for the showcase. There was no overarching theme for the night, since it is the first showcase the Fancy Dance Hall is holding after their opening. Supposedly their future events will have themes and all the acts will need to fit in with that theme to make it more of an overarching show, but since this is the first showcase they were going to let everyone do whatever they wanted just to show off the students. At least, that’s what I was originally told when I signed up for the event. This new lady wanted me to add things to my costume (like cuffs and collars and a bow tie) to make me look fancier and fit in with the ‘theme’ of the night. I had actually brought my costume with me that afternoon at Sir Steven’s request so that we could run through things once or twice while wearing it. When I pulled it out of my backpack and put it on, the first thing the lady says to everyone is “Well, I don’t hate it as much as I thought I would.” Glowing endorsement, right?
BabyOneMoreTime1  We ran through the routine a lot in that hour. Since it was a warm day outside and the Fancy Dance Hall is always sort-of warm, and I was picking up another human being over and over again during each run-through, I will tell you that I got pretty sweaty by the end of things. It wasn’t because I was struggling to pick Sparkledancer up or anything, but we would go through the routine, Sir Steven would take a minute or two to go through some notes on what he saw with us, and then we would do it again. There were a few times I had to tell them to give me an extra minute so that I could go find a towel and make sure my hands were dry so that I didn’t risk my grip slipping when I grabbed my dance partner. That was about the longest break I got between runs. I was the one who wanted to make sure that our routine was more athletic than all of the other ones being performed, so I really have no one but myself to blame for this, right?

There were only three real changes of note that we made during all of our runs of the act. We actually were a couple of beats behind in the music, as I had counted last week, so to correct that we added in two steps before the second chorus to ensure that the second Lindy Hop section starts at the transition. They really are just two additional steps forward after I finish up rolling her out from closed dance position, nothing fancy. Adding in something fancier would have required changing some other things, so this was just the easiest solution to get everything working on the counts we expected. The next change that we did was to work on how we were transitioning onto the dance floor at the beginning. The previous act will be walking off, and as they start the music for our song there are a couple of measures that we left open at the beginning that we are now going to cover by walking across the floor toward our starting spot. I spin Sparkledancer out as we get close to allow her to settle into position, and then walk up behind her to take my place in Shadow Position. When timed correctly, I get in place just moments before we’re supposed to actually start dancing, so we are not standing there awkwardly waiting for any amount of time. The last change was to the ending. Everyone watching wanted us to do something more than just stand up and bow and walk off the stage. I threw out my suggestion for the ending when they were thinking, and everyone actually loved it. So now we are doing the dip as I mentioned, ending with me holding Sparkledancer parallel to the floor on my right side as she sticks her feet up toward the sky. From there, rather than put her back on her feet, I am just going to lift her and throw her over my left shoulder and walk off stage carrying her. Sir Steven suggested that I run off stage rather than walk, just to keep up the energy that we had while we danced. The first time I tried that, Sparkledancer clamped down, driving her pointy elbows into the rear of my shoulder as I ran. That hurt. The second time we tried was much better.

When I got home, I looked at my costume with some of the changes that were thrown out. With the changes, things looked too… contrived. I like my original costume idea better without adding on any of the other accessories mentioned. For the ridiculous amount of money I’m paying just to do a two-minute performance, I’m going to stick to my guns and do it my way.

Saturday night there was a member appreciation dance being held at the Endless Dance Hall for a local ballroom dancing group that practically everyone who dances that I know is a part of (including me). It was an interesting party to attend. The theme was something about ‘around the world’ and people were supposed to dress up in globally cultural attire. I did not find this out until I arrived at the party, so my costume was not that great – you might even say non-existent. Since it was a free dance party for members and also a charity event, monies to be raised couldn’t come from admission payments, so they had to come up with a different plan. They had gathered up a number of dance teachers from places all around the Dance Kingdom, and you could pay a token fee to sign up to dance a song with one of them. The money collected from all the purchased dances would become the pot given over to the charity. Hooray! The list of songs had been set before the party, so everyone could sign up for a particular dance style they wanted ahead of time, rather than just sitting around waiting for a particular type of song. As you can imagine, I didn’t sign up for any dances. Being one of the few males in attendance, I had my hands full dancing with ladies who hadn’t paid for a dance with one of the male instructors (there were a lot of them), and there were also only three female instructors participating, meaning their dance cards were pretty full all night even if I had wanted to purchase a dance. I did win two free dance tickets I could have used in one of the raffle drawings of the night, but I gave both of those tickets to Ms. Possible so she could sign up for two more dances with different male instructors (she had already purchased a couple before the event started).

One of the three female instructors who was auctioning off her time that night came to the party wearing a costume that was made up of really short shorts and a tiny shirt. I’m not sure what country that was supposed to represent exactly. At the beginning of the night there might have been a hat with the get-up, but she must have taken it off when the dancing started. Hatless, she had her hair in pigtails, so she looked really young. Like dancing-schoolgirl-from-a-music-video young. Every time I saw her out on the floor dancing with all the older gentlemen that looked so much older than her by comparison, it was almost creepy. I don’t know why that stuck out to me so much. There was also a guy who was dressed in a garb that made him look like a samurai, other than the suede-bottomed dance shoes of course. His pant legs were really billowy, so when he was out dancing he was quite noticeable as well. Let me tell you, pants like that really help accentuate your leg movements.

Monday night at Latin Technique ended up covering Cha-Cha, and turned out to be another one of those nights where it was mostly a workout for this guy. We had a new student of Lord Junior’s join us in class that night, a young lady who looked barely old enough to be driving the car she showed up in if I had to guess. She had only had one lesson with him so far, but looked like she already knew way more than I did as I watched her working on the figures. Based on the extreme turnout of her feet and some of the comments Lord Junior made about things she was doing, she has to have had a lot of ballet training, so it probably won’t be too much of an adjustment for her to pick up ballroom styles. With her in class, we ended up with seven ladies to two men, but Lord Junior still wanted to work on things with partners.

What we covered in class was a similar pattern to things we have done before in Cha-Cha. To keep things simple, we started out with the ladies already in Fan Position. We went into a Hockey Stick, overturning the twist in the middle using a subtle wrist rotation so that we do the Lock Step at the tail end of the Hockey Stick in something akin to Shadow Position. At the tip of the Hockey Stick the ladies will rotate back around as the men do a forward check, and coming out the ladies will do a Lock Step forward while the men were supposed to do the first two steps of a Backward Lock Step followed by a step to the left. As we worked through things, it became easier just to do a Slip Chasse and step to the left instead as we link back up into closed dance position with our partners. From there we went into a Natural Top. At the end of the first chasse in the Natural Top, the men would step forward instead of behind to put the ladies on our right side so that we could go into an Opening Out action, coming out with the ladies doing a Hip Twist Chasse and the men doing a Ronde Chasse. To keep things simple, we stopped there for the night and used the time to go through the pattern repeatedly to make sure everyone could get the steps as the tempo was increased in the music, until right at the end when Lord Junior put on a song at full speed for us to try everything a few times.
BabyOneMoreTime2  During Standard Technique class this week we decided to go through Waltz. Since all the ladies who had shown up for class had scattered about the studio, lost in conversations with each other, Lord Junior and I were standing in the middle of the floor just before class started and he was trying to figure out what we should do in class. After racking his brain and coming up blank, he asked me what I would want to work on in Waltz. I said that I wanted it to be hard, even though some of the ladies who were there wouldn’t like that too much. He thought about things some more, then asked if I wanted to look at a pattern of things that he had shown me back in December again. I thought that sounded like fun, so that’s what we did. The pattern wasn’t much changed from the first time we had gone through it: starting out in Promenade Position facing diagonal center, we went into a basic Promenade Chasse. From there we did a Quick Open Reverse with Reverse Pivot. Lord Junior spent a few minutes talking about what the difference between a Waltz Reverse, Open Reverse and Quick Open Reverse was for those of us who were interested. In case you were wondering yourself… I’m assuming if you’ve read this you have certainly seen a normal Waltz Reverse Turn by now. An Open Reverse is like a normal Reverse Turn except you don’t close your feet at the end. The Quick designation at the beginning of a figure tells you that you are starting the figure on the opposite foot, so you need to add in an extra step (usually a syncopated step) to finish things up on the correct foot. So a Quick Open Reverse is an open Reverse Turn that you start by stepping forward on the right foot followed immediately by a syncopated step forward on the left foot. At the end of the figure, rather than just pass your feet on beat three, you also add in a syncopated Reverse Pivot to flip you all the way around so you are moving forward again.

Once we got through that small lecture on what the prefixes on figures mean, we moved on to the next step which was a Double Reverse Spin with Reverse Pivot. Much like the Quick Open Reverse with Reverse Pivot, the Reverse Pivot on the end of this figure is a quick turn at the end of beat three to turn you 180° again, setting you up to add on the Throwaway Oversway. To come out of the Throwaway Oversway we just shifted our weight back to the other foot slowly over two beats while the men helped the ladies back up from their shaped back bend, coming out in Promenade Position facing diagonal wall at the end. Once we all had gone through things enough so that everyone felt pretty comfortable with the figures, we started to run through the pattern to music. Lord Junior had all the ladies line up on one side of the floor while he and I stood at the front so that we could dance down the length of the floor. The ladies were supposed to dance with him and then rotate to dance with me before heading to the back of the line again, but most of the time the ladies finished up dancing with Lord Junior and then walked toward the line of ladies, leaving me standing at the front of the floor all by myself. Even after pointing it out to them, the ladies still sometimes forgot I was there, much to everyone else’s amusement.
BabyOneMoreTime3  Well, this weekend is the first performance of my showcase number. Friday night there is supposed to be a dress rehearsal that will take most of the evening, so no dance party that night for me. Hopefully this first run through goes well and sets us up in a good place to repeat the performance the next weekend at the second showcase. After that, we’ll have to figure out what to work toward next. Are you excited? Are you coming to the show? If not, then I’ll tell you how things go next week!

Feel The Fire Burning Bright In The Night

For a change of pace this past week, I spent my time at a completely different location for StrikeOfTheNinja1dancing than where I am usually found. This is not the first time I’ve gone out to this particular studio, but it’s been two years since the last time I was there based on my recollection, so it was definitely time for a return trip (That reminds me, I haven’t gotten out to the Star Dance Hall in a long time. I should find a time to go back there as well…). Looking through my list of names, I don’t see that I have already christened this particular studio with a name, or if I did, I didn’t write it down. So let’s refer to this place as the High Five Dance Hall.

Probably the most random thing that I ended up doing at the High Five Dance Hall was going to a class that covered Nightclub Two Step. I was looking through the list of classes that were offered during the week, and this one seemed like the most fun one that I could get to, based on the times that classes were offered and the distance I had to drive to get there. I have heard people discuss the various “Nightclub” style dances before, but I have never looked into learning any of them myself until this recent brief introduction. They offered two classes at the same time, one for Nightclub Two Step beginners and one for intermediate students. I will admit to going online and watching several videos on the basics of the dance style before heading out to the studio, because I was pretty sure that I could pick up the basic footwork pretty quickly and handle myself in the intermediate class, but when I got to the class I still ended up jumping into the beginner class anyway. Not exactly sure why I decided against moving up a level at the last-minute, but I did. That decision was probably for the best though. The intermediate class was huge, and it appeared as though they only covered one pattern during the hour. The beginner class I was a part of was small, and we got through a whole lot of different figures in our hour. The instructor actually mentioned that he was surprised at how fast we were picking things up, and the last couple of figures I think weren’t on his original plan for the evening, since he had to stop and think about how to do the footwork a couple of times.

The instructor began class talking about Nightclub Two Step the same way I often hear people talking about West Coast Swing. He stressed that Nightclub Two Step was a super-versatile dance style that could be used for almost any kind of music, but it works best with slower songs. He may have even referred to them as “more romantic” songs to try to get a laugh. A couple of the people in class were really young (early teens or younger, but I’m only guesstimating), so they didn’t really get the joke. We started the evening by covering the basic step in open hand hold, which was the same footwork I had looked up online before coming to class, except we were hand-to-hand rather than in a closed hold that looks similar to a Latin-style closed hold, just not as strong. Once we had gone through the basic footwork with StrikeOfTheNinja2every partner, we moved on to turns. We did both the Inside and Outside Underarm Turns for the ladies without pause, and then since we had no problems with those we added on the man’s right and left side turns as well. Coming out of that, we were shown how to get into Closed Position and then we looked at the Opening Out figure on both the right and left sides, which again looked a lot like an Opening Out you would see in something like Rumba, except not as strong. Once we finished those, the instructor seemed surprised by how much time we had left in class, so he showed us the Traveling Crosses to the Right. He only had us turn 90° in the figure, but as the name implies it’s a lot like a Cross-Body Lead like you would see in other Latin dance styles, so you could use it to turn a full 180° if you wanted I bet. We looked at the Traveling Cross on its own, and then later also with adding in a turn for the ladies as you did the little three-step to the right.

Overall, it was a fun change of pace to look at a dance style I’ve never seen before. I’m not sure when I would ever use this new knowledge, since A) I only know the figures I’ve listed above, B) the music choice and tempo makes me want to dance Bolero or International Rumba instead, and C) I don’t know if many people where I normally dance know the style, so finding a partner could be challenging. Still, it could be a useful skill at some point in the future, right?

Saturday night I went out to a social dance at the High Five Dance Hall as well, just to see what their social scene was like. It was a good thing that I managed to convince Sparkledancer to come with me to the dance party, because it ended up that there were more men than women at the dance. It wasn’t a huge delta, there were only a couple more men than women, but still… that never really happens at dance parties that I attend. This studio focuses on social dancing as opposed to training students for competitions, so the style of dancing that we saw most of the people dancing was a lot looser than we are used to seeing, even though the dances were familiar. It’s not really sloppier per se, just… different. No really strong frames, no worry about proper alignment, just people out having fun. So as you can imagine, when I did dance with Sparkledancer, we looked really different from everyone else on the floor. That difference StrikeOfTheNinja3attracted attention. There were several instructors that made a point to come talk to us to ask us about where we learned things and where we could normally be found dancing. If they saw me in the Nightclub Two Step class earlier in the week, they were also confused by my apparent skill level and had to ask why I was in a beginner class when here I obviously wasn’t a beginner-level dancer. One instructor was super excited when he was talking to Sparkledancer and she mentioned that she knew Viennese Waltz – apparently that isn’t something that they did at this studio very often, much to his chagrin, so he was going to make sure that one was put on for us (and for him and a student of his whom he was teaching the style to). There were a couple of songs played that night where I saw that most people were dancing Nightclub Two Step, but I opted to dance other styles I knew better during those songs rather than try out the things I had just learned. It was a really fun night!

The one other thing that I did at the High Five Dance Hall while I was in the area was set up some floor time to work with Sparkledancer on our showcase routine. The routine is meant to cover the floor, so it doesn’t fit so well in the little space I have for practicing in my own apartment or space that we can find in hers. We can sort-of practice outside, but a lot of the turns are hard to do on grass and impossible to do on asphalt. So, since Sparkledancer was going to meet me out at the High Five Dance Hall anyway, we just called ahead and asked them if we could pay for some floor space for about an hour to practice while we were in the area. There were a couple of private lessons going on at the same time as we were there, but they were sticking to the outside edge of the floor, so Sparkledancer and I just kept to the middle area to work through everything of ours. Let me tell you, it was really good practicing with an actual wood floor where I could stretch my legs for a change, and the cost for the hour of floor space was a lot cheaper at the High Five Dance Hall than it would have been if we had tried getting space at the other few places I know of where I’ve seen the rates posted. We ran through things quite a bit to make sure that we had everything down and could do the routine repeatedly without screwing anything up. Going though things so much leads me to believe that there are a couple of counts missing. I say that because the second Lindy Hop section doesn’t start quite at the same time as the second chorus, so either we’ve messed something up based on what we were practicing using the videos we made of the choreography, or Sir Steven counted something differently when he put the choreography together than we put on video. So we’ll have to make sure to look at it with him this weekend to re-review things. Just when I thought I had everything committed to memory, it turns out I may have to change it again. Go figure…

So, after the excursion this past week to a different location, this coming week the plan is to handle things more like normal. One exciting note that I will mention to anyone who is interested is that there is a dance party being held at the Endless Dance Hall on Saturday night, where admission is free but the hosts are selling off dances with local dance instructors throughout the evening to raise money for some kind of charity. Free admission probably means that there will be a big turnout for the party. Are you going to come along? I hope to see you there!