Hurry Boy, It’s Waiting There For You

I didn’t do a whole lot of dancing this past week. Lots of people seemed to go on vacation over the weekend, so I ended up just hanging around at home sorting through some old drawers and getting rid of a bunch of stuff I no longer use. That was kind of liberating. I probably could have done it in a lot less time and still gone out dancing at some point last weekend, but my cat decided that she wanted to “help” me with my cleaning, which made everything take a lot longer than it should have. She’s just too fuzzy to ignore…

So Monday night was my first notable time out dancing when I decided to get out of the house and go to Latin Technique class. Some notable faces who had been out on vacation for the last few weeks also came back to real life that night, so we had a fairly large turnout. Unfortunately, large turnouts also mean that my vote on what to do in Latin Technique got easily overridden, so we ended up going over some Cha-Cha during that class.

We started off by looking at the Curl figure from the Silver Cha-Cha syllabus. To get into the Curl gracefully we used a Forward Lock as a starting point. Once everyone had the Curl down, Lord Junior decided that we would take out the syllabus ending for the figure, where the Lead would lead the lady out into Fan Position, and instead replace that with a Reverse Top for fun. I know, that sounds like so much fun, doesn’t it? Starting the Reverse Top after the Spiral Turn portion of the Curl isn’t so bad if the lady knows what you are going to lead her through, but if you want to pull off this combination of figures socially you have to be really confident in your lead between the two to make sure the lady doesn’t try and step off in the wrong direction.

After two measures of rotation in the Reverse Top we finished with a side step to the left. While we were practicing the choreography really slowly Lord Junior gave us a set amount of rotation to shoot for so that we would all come out of the Reverse Top facing the same direction, but as we tried to speed up the figure that idea got thrown out the window. We had started class all lined up in one row to make rotation through partners easier, but as we added on more figures after the Reverse Top we had to stagger everyone to different parts of the room so that there would be space around us no matter which direction we ended up coming out in. Even staggered as we were there were still a few times when someone had to pull their steps short to avoid a collision. Barely controlled chaos, I suppose.

Once we took that side step to the left, we led our partner through another quick Spiral Turn, and then started walking backwards while leading her to follow us before rotating her into an Aida. We did the basic rocking action in the middle of our Aida, but rather than coming out and leading the lady through a simple Spot Turn we instead came out by turning into Solo Switch Turns side-by-side. After the turns we were able to link back up with our partner and go into a basic chasse to the right to finish for the evening.

At the end of class Lord Junior thought it would be funny to have us all try this out at full speed. One of the ladies in class opted to sit out from that exercise. She said that the spinning action in the Reverse Top was making her dizzy, so she just watched the rest of us try things out from the sideline. I felt like I got through everything fairly well, so yay me! Also no one intruded into my area of the floor, so I didn’t have to worry about diving in front of my partner to avoid someone running into her. Also yay! What a good way to end the class.

On Wednesday night when I got to Standard Technique class, the only other person that I saw there for class was Sparkledancer. It was good to see her again, since she was one of the people who had gone off on vacation and hadn’t been around for a week or so. While waiting for others to show up for class we were looking at our calendars together to plan out when we would be meeting up to resume practicing now that she was back in town.

But by the time class was going to start no one else had shown up. Lord Junior told the two of us that a number of the other regulars in class had told him that they weren’t going to make it that night. Many of them are in the midst of preparing for a big Pro/Am competition that is happening this coming weekend, so they all have been working hard and just wanted a night off to rest, or were nursing some kind of injury and didn’t want to aggravate it by doing more physical activity. With Lord Junior all to ourselves for the next hour, Sparkledancer and I decided to look over some Tango for fun.

Because the two of us don’t often work with Lord Junior by ourselves, he had a few things that he wanted to go over with us that he told us he notices when he has seen us dancing – either in Standard Technique class or during the days when we go to the Electric Dance Hall to practice. Because these things were more for various points that were unrelated, we ended up looking at just a couple of unconnected specific figures to work on only the ideas that he had in mind, rather than trying a string of new choreography that we would need to spend time learning.

There were some interesting notes that Lord Junior gave us about figures that we had in our routine. Two in particular came up: the Back Open Promenade and the Fallaway Promenade. The notes were interesting because based on what Lord Junior said, the way we do these figures in our choreography may not actually be legal. For the Back Open Promenade what we do is that we start in Promenade Position moving toward diagonal wall, then on the third step I close around Sparkledancer so that I am backing line of dance. On the fourth step we had been told to put our feet down (my right foot, her left foot) and do a small pivot so that we end up facing diagonal wall against line of dance. That pivoting action is not something that is actually in the syllabus.

This particular variation wasn’t that bad though, and Lord Junior said that he could see what Lord Dormamu was trying to accomplish in the routine by having us add it there. In the Fallaway Promenade however, things are a little different. I think I mentioned that on the fourth step of the figure we were told to do a Ronde action with our outside leg. Lord Junior told us that there were no Rondes in any figures of the Silver syllabus. He’s never even heard of anyone trying to add one in before we showed him how we did it in our routine, because if he had he told us that he would have added it into his own routines for fun. So that… may be something to watch out for. If I get called out by an Invigilator for doing that variation, can I just tell them that Lord Dormamu told me to do it that way? Is that a valid answer?

Anyway, the last thing that Lord Junior was most interested in having the two of us work on was making our top line bigger. He had gone through quite a few of the coaching sessions with Lady Kate the Great just like Sparkledancer and I had two weeks beforehand, and that was one thing that she had told him he needed to work on with all of his students. Most of this involved Lord Junior helping Sparkledancer stretch even further up and to the left during the figures that we walked through. I could pull myself a bit further in some ways, but doing too much to how I hold myself risks distorting my frame, which in turn would have made it super hard for Sparkledancer to do any of the things that Lord Junior wanted her to try.

So it was just a fun bit of playing around to see how much bigger we could make ourselves look while walking through a variety of figures. Like I mentioned, we did the Back Open Promenade and the Fallaway Promenade, but we also tried it out with the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot to see if we could hold ourselves out bigger through some major rotation like the pivots in that figure require.

Now that Sparkledancer is back in town, I’ll be back to practicing a lot starting this weekend. It looks like it will be hot this weekend, so hanging around inside the studio might keep me cool. At least, until we decide to work on Quickstep or something. Then it may not be so easy to stay cool. Maybe if I brought along a fan that could help? Or some sunglasses? That could improve my coolness.

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We Must Conquer From The Sea

I managed to get out of the house two Friday nights in a row! Man, I am proud of myself for that.

Rather than going out grocery shopping (which has been my usual Friday night activity lately), this past Friday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall for a party that they were having there. I had gotten a text from Sparkledancer earlier in the day asking if we could meet up to practice in the evening. Rather than try and find some free floor space somewhere else, I suggested that we just meet up at the party and use that time to get some practice in.

In my head, doing so would give us a chance to get in some practice time, and also allow us another chance to attempt to run our routines with other people on the floor. I always feel more confident about dance choreography if I know it well enough to use it while there are other distractions going on. Like other dancers on the floor that I would have to work around, as in this example. Getting used to working around people without breaking the choreography is always the first step, and then after that I have to get used to being able to break the choreography as needed without inserting any figures that could get me invigilated.

Based on how things went last Friday night, I think I have achieved step one for most of the dances. The only reason that I am not sure about all of them is because there was no Quickstep played that night. All the other ones were there – Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and even Viennese Waltz, but not Quickstep for some reason. I am fairly confident that I would be able to use the routine to get around as needed, but I can’t say for sure until I get a chance to try it once or twice with other couples on the floor who are also dancing Quickstep. So it will just have to wait until next time.

Breaking the choreography didn’t exactly go quite as well, so some work is still needed there. My problem was that the times that I broke it and had to add in a different figure to get around a couple, I couldn’t get back into the choreography cleanly until I got to the next corner. That was fine when I was almost there anyway, but it started to get weird if I had to alter things right at the beginning of one of the long walls for whatever reason. I’m feeling good that I should be able get this step down in the near future, but I just want to make a note that I haven’t achieved this level of mastery quite yet.

Sunday afternoon I did manage to snag a bit of time with both Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu to look over a couple of our routines for the first time since he gave us the choreography for them. There was some event going on in Lord Dormamu’s life that had a bunch of people hanging around at his house as he told us, so while he couldn’t stick around and work with us for an extended period of time, he was happy for a chance to get away and catch his breath for a little while. We managed to look at the Waltz and Tango before people started calling him and he had to wrap things up and head back to his house to see what was going on.

Since we have had some time with these new routines now to work on them in practice, and even to try them out a few times at social dances with other people on the floor, both Sparkledancer and I were feeling really good about going through the new routines when Lord Dormamu asked us to show the routines to him. What made me really happy though was that after we got done dancing through our Waltz routine once, Lord Dormamu came over and told us that moving up to Silver really suits the two of us, because even though we had been looking really good in Bronze, this new routine looks like it is on a whole different level. The phrase that he used was that he could see a “beautiful calmness” in our movement while watching us that hadn’t been there before.

While I was worried that the praise we got might just be for the Waltz, since we got that routine first and have had the most time to practice it, the same held true when we ended up going through the Tango afterward, even though that was the routine we got last and have had the least amount of time to practice. So hurray for us! Moving up in the world apparently really has been a good step for us. Hopefully that difference will show when next we have a chance to compete. We seem to have taken to this new proficiency level like ducks take to water.

That being said, we haven’t taken to things like a fish would take to water. There were some spots that need to be cleaned up a bit in both the Waltz and Tango. I figured that there would be, so none of these points we looked at lessened my good feelings about how everything seemed to be going so far. In the Waltz there were just a couple of minor things that Lord Dormamu wanted to point out to us that were really obvious to him while he watched.

The first note was for Sparkledancer. He told her that there were a couple of places he saw where we had shifted into Promenade Position and he said that her connection to me got a little off. From where he was standing, he said that it looked like she had been trying to create volume between her head and mine, which was good but it had looked a little like she was bending at her hips to do so instead of bowing outward from her ribs up. This was the same idea that Sparkledancer had talked about with Lady Kate the Great during the coaching session they had done just a few days prior. I know it was on the list of things that we had to practice, but we had only gotten one chance to get together to work on that between that coaching session and this lesson on Sunday.

One other spot that Lord Dormamu wanted to point out was for me was on the last wall, where the Half Reverse Turn goes into a Basic Weave. He told me that it looked like I was rising slightly as I stepped back into the checking action on the first step of the Basic Weave. I didn’t notice it at the time, but to make sure that it doesn’t happen again I can just think about starting to lower as I step backward into the checking action. That seems to be enough to prevent me from doing what he saw.

In the Tango, before he told us about the items that he noticed which needed to be fixed, I asked about a spot that wasn’t feeling good to me. At the end of the short wall we do an Open Reverse Turn that travels down the line of dance, then a Progressive Link that sets us up to head toward diagonal wall, and then a Natural Twist Turn that is used to turn the corner and come out toward diagonal center on the new wall. That Natural Twist Turn has never felt good when we have gone through it in practice, and I was thinking that it was because we are essentially only doing an eighth of a turn in order to come out in the right direction.

Lord Dormamu agreed with me that the amount of turn was the problem, but the reason he said that it was problematic was because of the number of steps that Sparkledancer is trying to do there in so little rotation. Because some crazy person trained the two of us to move so much while dancing, it seems like she was trying too hard to take tiny steps there so as not to over rotate the two of us. An easy fix he told me was to just swap out the Natural Twist Turn for a Natural Promenade Turn. Because the pivoting action in the Natural Promenade Turn removes all the extra steps Sparkledancer is doing, rotating for only an eighth of a turn doesn’t feel so awkward.

After we got done discussing that, there was only one other spot that Lord Dormamu said he really needed us to look at to correct something, and that was the Fallaway Promenade figure. The first thing that he tells Sparkledancer and I is that this is an important figure for us, because it is the first place that we are allowed to do Fallaway Position in any dance style. Waltz and Foxtrot also have syllabus figures that involve Fallaway Position, but you don’t see them until Gold. Showing that we can master Fallaway Position here in Silver will give us a leg up in the future according to Lord Dormamu.

It wasn’t that we were doing the figure wrong per se, but he really wanted to have us adjust the angles at which we were moving so that we could make the Fallaway action more clear. We start the figure after a Progressive Link that lines us up to move toward diagonal wall. On the third step I had only been coming around Sparkledancer enough so that I was moving toward the wall, but he said that I should be coming around further so that I am moving toward diagonal wall against line of dance. As we take the next step backward in Fallaway Position he wants us to be moving straight down the line of dance now, and only rotating away from that direction on the last step of the figure, where we finally turn enough so that we end up in Promenade Position facing diagonal wall again.

The last thing that I did this week was Standard Technique class last night. We spent time in class looking at the beginning of the Open Waltz routine that Lord Junior likes to give his students. He admitted to us during class that this small combination of figures used right at the beginning of the dance is a lot harder than it needs to be. When Lord Junior has coaches come in to look at things with his students, the coaches are always surprised that they would choose to start off the routine in this manner. But, to his credit, he has asked his students if they want to change the routine and start differently and his students always tell him no, so he keeps using this amalgamation.

Personally I think that the first figure is what makes this hard. You start this routine with a side step to the left and a little wind-up, and then you go into a Double Natural Spin. The figure itself isn’t hard – if you’ve done a Double Reverse Spin (one of the most basic Bronze figures in International Waltz) you can do a Double Natural Spin. It just uses the opposite feet and turns the opposite way, but otherwise it is the same. However, if you’re like me and you’ve done a lot of Double Reverse Spins in your life, trying to do a Double Natural Spin just feels all kinds of wrong, and you have to fight against all of your learned inclinations to make sure you get through the figure correctly. I will admit that there were more than a few times when we first started that I came out on the wrong foot without thinking.

The bit of choreography that we looked at started with the Double Natural Spin and came out into a basic Half Natural Turn. From there we did an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, coming out so that we were moving down the line of dance afterward. That set us up to do a Turning Lock to the Right, but we added an extra Pivot at the end to rotate us so that we were backing line of dance once more, allowing us to do a second Turning Lock to the Right. The second one ended normally in Promenade Position moving toward diagonal center. To finish we did a Running Weave from Promenade Position and a Cross Chasse.

The Cross Chasse is a strange place to finish if you want to try this out for yourself, but we ran out of time in class and weren’t able to add on anything else afterward. If you cross enough during the figure you can line yourself up to move toward diagonal center next, which would set you up perfectly to go into a Double Reverse Spin. It doesn’t take much effort to make this small set of figures cover the whole long wall, and I think that there is something nice about starting the wall with a Double Natural Spin and ending with a Double Reverse Spin. That’s just my feeling though, so take that with a grain of salt if you want to give it a try. 🙂

Watch Out, I Ain’t Lying, Yeah

In a strange turn of events, I ended up out at the Prime Dance Hall on Friday night. Things got to be a bit weird while I was there.

The idea for going out to the Prime Dance Hall started with Sparkledancer. She is one of Seedling’s favorite people to talk to about dance, and from what she has told me he will usually send her at least one message a day about some sort of dance topic. One day he told her that the instructors at the Prime Dance Hall told him that any of their students can sign up to do a performance at any of their Friday dance parties for a low cost. Seedling thought that was just the coolest thing, and was all gung-ho about performing, so just two weeks before the dance party I went to last Friday he had signed up to perform.

Two weeks to learn and polish a performance doesn’t sound like much, but it gets even better. Apparently his instructor didn’t like the choreography that they had put together, so the Tuesday before the performance she scrapped the whole thing, chose a brand-new song for Seedling to dance to, and started over. Then on Wednesday Seedling went back to the studio after finding what he called ‘cool moves that he saw videos of Pros doing’ and told his instructor that they needed to include at least one of those moves in the performance. She agreed, so they ended up having to redo large sections of the choreography again just two days before the performance… with no lessons on Thursday to work on it, and only two lessons on the day of the performance to get everything finished.

By this time, Seedling was asking Sparkledancer if she wanted to go to the dance party to watch his performance. Being such a nice person, Sparkledancer also extended the invitation to other people, including me, which is how I ended up at the Prime Dance Hall on Friday night to see what was going to happen. When I got to the studio on Friday night and met up with Sparkledancer, I was surprised to find that I was the only other person who came. Evidently everyone else had headed off to one of the many other Friday night parties going on in the Dance Kingdom rather than come to the party at the Prime Dance Hall.

I had gotten there early enough to be a part of the group class that happened before the party. The class went over the basics of the Tango and the Cha-Cha. Most of the ladies in the class had only been dancing for a few weeks at most, so even though the guy teaching the class only went over the American Tango basic and Left Foot and Right Foot Rocks, and in Cha-Cha he only covered the basic and the Crossover Break, these were all new steps for almost all the ladies I danced with.

A couple of the girls were talking with me a lot during the Tango section of class simply because I was starting off with all my weight on my right leg and my left foot pointed off to the side – because that’s a habit for me at this point. They had never seen anyone start a dance like that before, so two of them made a big deal about telling me that they were going to do the same as me because of how cool they thought I looked. I thought it was funny because it’s very rare that anyone calls me ‘cool’ which leads me to believe that anything cool that I do is completely by accident. ‘Accidentally Cool’ will be the inscription I ask for on my tombstone.

The party afterward was kind of weird. I ended up dancing with mostly Sparkledancer for the whole night. I’m sure that was kind of my fault – after the first time we danced together during the party, it was pretty obvious to everyone that we weren’t just newcomers like everyone else. There were a ton of the Prime Dance Hall instructors at the party that night, and almost all of them came to talk to either Sparkledancer or I (or both of us if we happened to be near one another) to ask about where we had learned to dance.

However, I think that dancing in the manner that we do also scared other people away from us. The only men that came to ask Sparkledancer to dance were myself, Seedling, and two of the instructors. Plus, the times when Sparkledancer and I danced together, even if we weren’t doing anything I thought was overly fancy, people were cheering for us. For example: a simple Back Corte in the Tango. It’s an easy figure, one of the first I learned in Bronze ages and ages ago, but more than once during that party people were applauding Sparkledancer and I when we did that figure. I have no idea why.

About forty-five minutes into the party they stopped the music and had everyone move to sit against the back wall for Seedling’s performance. The dance was a Rumba, and to sum it up… it was pretty much what I expected a performance that was choreographed, thrown out and re-choreographed and wasn’t practiced much to look like. What I mean by that is that the entire dance was the instructor. She wore the fancy costume and did most of the movement, while Seedling only did a handful of figures and then stood in one place for much of the dance while she used him as a support for the movements she was doing.

Don’t get me wrong – it was OK, but I honestly don’t think that it was what Seedling was hoping to show off. I think that his instructor took it a step too far with what she was doing, Her Rumba looked like an attempt to display her sexuality and power as she stalked around the room and engaged with the audience, while Seedling’s choreography looks like it was added as an afterthought. Her movements were egregious and bawdy, and the majority were done while separated from her partner, while he occupied a spot off to her side or behind her and did a few easy steps, like Cucarachas and some awkward arm movements. The end of the performance involved her grabbing Seedling’s tie (the sole costume item he was told to wear) and leading him off the floor like a puppy.

I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I spend so much time in the Amateur world and don’t compete or perform with an instructor that I noticed that the whole performance was done by the instructor. Or maybe if I had talked with others in the crowd afterward they would have told me that they saw the same thing. What do you tell someone about how well they danced when that’s all you noticed? I kind of gave Seedling a sideways ‘good job’ afterward because I thought it might be rude to tell him what I thought. That’s why I am writing it out here instead. I can say whatever I want here because only one person I know in real life knows that this site exists, so no one’s feelings will get hurt.

Last Saturday night was a different story for me. There was a dance party going on at the Electric Dance Hall that I had heard about. I decided to head out to that so that I could spend some time being social in a place where I knew pretty much everyone.

Lord Junior was offering a group class before the party started. Only about a dozen people showed up early enough for the class, so he decided to change up his plan for the evening. Originally he had planned to do a class that covered just the beginner steps of the Foxtrot, but since Lord Junior knew that most of the people in the class had been dancing for quite a while he thought that he would try covering something a bit more challenging, so we ended up looking at Viennese Waltz instead.

There was one couple that came to the party that no one knew. From what the gentleman said, the two of them had come in from out of town to visit their son over the weekend, but had decided to go to the dance party that night just for a change of pace. They were active social dancers in their hometown, and the idea of going out to a studio they had never seen before in a different town intrigued them. The two of them told Lord Junior that they had done a little bit of Viennese Waltz years ago, but didn’t remember very much of it. He told them it would be no problem, and then asked Sparkledancer to work with the lady and for me to work with the gentleman if they needed any help.

After Lord Junior started talking about the footwork for the Reverse Turn, it became clear that neither of these people had actually done Viennese Waltz before… the guy admitted that he mistook the dance for something else they had done. So rather than just helping them out, Sparkledancer and I ended up giving the two of them extended help on just getting the Reverse Turn and Natural Turn down to a point where they could get from one end of the floor to the other. Halfway through the class we switched so that she could dance with the guy while I tried it out with the lady. Things were going pretty well for both of them, but then the lady said that the dance was making her dizzy so she went to sit down for the rest of class and just watch.

I’m not sure what other sorts of things that the class covered that night since I wasn’t really paying attention. By the time they finished up, I didn’t even think to ask someone if they had talked about anything else other than the Reverse Turn and Natural Turn. I assume that they did, because you need at least a Change Step to switch back and forth between the two as you go around the floor. But maybe not. Maybe all the people in class are going to go around the room only rotating one way. That could be silly, right?

The party afterward made me happy for a couple of reasons. For one thing, Sparkledancer and I finally decided to try out our new routines on a floor where there were other people dancing the same style at the same time, and all the ones that we did went great! I say ‘all the ones that we did’ because there wasn’t a Quickstep played that night, so we only really got to test out the Waltz, Foxtrot and Tango routines. Funny enough, there also wasn’t a Viennese Waltz played that night either, even though the class beforehand covered that style.

But the other thing that made me happy was the antics of Lord Junior. I guess someone had given him a nice bottle of rum that he had forgotten about, and he found it at the studio earlier in the day. During the party, he decided to give it a try… and ended up having several glasses of it while telling people that he was training to be a pirate. That made me laugh. Also, he had gotten a bag of cheesy poof snacks for everyone to share at the party, but it was him and Sparkledancer that polished off the majority of the bag before the party was even half over. I don’t know why I thought that was so funny, but I did.

Wednesday night was a bit different for me this week. Normally I go out to the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class, but this week Lord Junior had invited a high-level female coach to come in and work with his Pro/Am students for the day. One of the ladies that signed up to take a session with the coach was Sparkledancer, and since she doesn’t dance Pro/Am she asked me to be there for the lesson so that there was someone to dance Lead while the two of them worked together. This coach was actually someone that Sparkledancer had the opportunity to work with before, way back in the day in early 2017, a coach I gave the name Lady Kate the Great to way back then.

Sparkledancer had a few different points that she wanted to work on that evening, and luckily she was able to get some time on all of them using just one dance style. We started off the session by running through our Waltz routine for her once so that she could get an idea of what she was working with. When finished, the first thing she wanted to talk about with Sparkledancer was her positioning. She wanted to have her make some minor adjustments to her contact point with me. To practice this, she took Sparkledancer over to the wall and had her stand with her toes about two inches away, then bend so that she could make contact with her knees and chest while leaving her upper back free. Once the position was better in the body, she turned Sparkledancer’s head slightly so that it was pointed between the elbow and wrist of her left hand while in frame with me.

After those adjustments, we began to work on the meat of what Sparkledancer wanted to look at – Promenade Position. The first place in the routine that we go into Promenade Position is right near the beginning where there is an Open Impetus. Lady Kate the Great wanted Sparkledancer to delay her head opening during the Open Impetus to help keep her shoulders down when going into Promenade Position. She said that if you think about turning the head on beat three rather than on beat two, that will help get a better look out of the Promenade Position.

The next place where we transition into Promenade Position is a couple figures later after an Outside Change which goes into a Chasse From Promenade Position. Here, like before, she wanted Sparkledancer to delay the head opening. She also told her that during the Chasse From Promenade Position she should keep her shoulders down and arms long. I’m not quite sure what that means, but it seemed important so I’m noting it.

By this time we had decided to just keep stepping through the routine one section at a time so that Lady Kate the Great could look at as much as possible with Sparkledancer. Next up they went over the Natural Spin Turn into Reverse Pivot. She told Sparkledancer to make sure not to rise during the beginning of the figure. Her description was kind of funny – she said this was one of those figures that should look like something else (in this case a normal Natural Pivot), and then it’s a “surprise” when we do the checking action into the Reverse Pivot. To make the surprise actually be surprising, she wanted Sparkledancer to exaggerate the left shape during the checking action. She wanted the exaggeration to feel like bending over a bar situated at the bra line.

From here, the next figure we stopped to spend time on was the Wing from the Turning Lock. The way that Lady Kate the Great did the Wing was rather interesting. I was able to feel it since I was the dance dummy while the two ladies were working. She called it “Extreme Outside Position” to emphasize what she wanted Sparkledancer to feel. She said that Sparkledancer should detach the hips when going around, and take a much bigger step on beat two to cross my body further. By her third step she wanted the connection at the back left of Sparkledancer’s outer hip and the front left of the ribcage.

Basically, without bending herself too weirdly, she was on my left side with her hips behind me and her ribs in front of me. Truly a strange feeling for me while holding her in that position. She told Sparkledancer that a good way to play with the position was by using her arm, holding it up as guidance to show where the body should be. Coming out of the Wing she wanted me to step straight forward into the Double Reverse Spin while Sparkledancer was moving backward.

The last bit of the routine that we looked at before running out of time was the Cross Hesitation into a Back Lock and Outside Spin. Much like the Wing, she said that Sparkledancer should feel like she is in that “Extreme Outside Position” during the Cross Hesitation as well, only being on the correct side of my body this time. She told Sparkledancer to keep that same position throughout the Back Lock and into the Outside Spin. For the Outside Spin itself, she recommended that stylistically she should avoid opening her head on the Outside Spin, and instead try to exaggerate the shape like they had worked on in the Checked Natural Spin Turn earlier.

So that was a lot of great information. Much, much, much more useful than the last coaching session that I went to, even if the information wasn’t specifically for me. I still found much of what the two ladies talked about interesting to listen to.

Also funny: after the lesson was over, Sparkledancer and I were out in the parking lot, talking and comparing notes on the lesson. She told me that when she had to dance with Lady Kate the Great it felt weird for her. She doesn’t get to work with female instructors very often anymore, so she was surprised how tiny and light she seemed when Lady Kate the Great was in frame with her. Sparkledancer said that she felt like she was going to accidentally break her when they were dancing together.

I thought that was super funny because the two ladies are pretty much the same size, and I always feel like I’m going to accidentally break Sparkledancer when we dance together. Now she knows how I feel!

They’re Just Lousy With Loyalty

If you remember, last Thursday night I was asked by my normal coach Lord Dormamu to take a coaching session with a visiting adjudicator that he knew. This gentleman was only going to be in town one night, and had an opening at the end of the evening that worked in both my Amateur partner’s and my schedule, so we ended up out at the Endless Dance Hall to have him look at how we were doing. I was reluctant to do this coaching session, but Lord Dormamu wanted us to be there, so before I knew what was going on I was meeting up with Sparkledancer in the parking lot of the Endless Dance Hall at the time we were told to come by.

OK, let me back up the train here – to say that I was feeling reluctant about doing this would actually be an understatement. By this point, we had only finished three of the four new routines we were getting choreographed. The third one of those was done right before Lord Dormamu left for his two week trip overseas. None of the routines we just got had even been looked at by Lord Dormamu to make sure that we had everything down correctly after he gave them to us. There just hadn’t been an opportunity to do that. If we had managed to get an extra lesson with Lord Dormamu scheduled before this coaching session, I would have wanted to get the last routine choreographed instead of looking over the other three.

So having a visiting coach be the first person to give us any kind of feedback on our new routines  had me worried. On my drive over to the studio that night, I wondered to myself how much we would end up discussing with this guy that would not come up if Lord Dormamu had looked over the routines with us beforehand and pointed any minor issues out to us first. Which would also be a lot less expensive, since the visiting coaches that Lord Dormamu knows always cost an arm and a leg to work with. My normal sessions with Lord Dormamu only cost me an arm OR a leg because we are regular, ongoing students of his. That would have saved a whole limb!

Lucky for us, this visiting coach didn’t tell Sparkledancer and I that anything looked super out of the ordinary. We spent some time looking at all three of the new routines that Lord Dormamu had recently created for us – Foxtrot first, then Waltz, and finishing with the Quickstep. There was really only one comment that he made during the whole session while we were working together that I thought was interesting, which no one had ever mentioned to me before. Sparkledancer may have gotten a few things out of the coaching, but it was really that kind of lesson for me: tons of money spent for just one interesting comment that I made a point to write down.

As I said, we started out with the Foxtrot. After dancing through the routine once, the coach asked me about the figures that we were doing. I walked him through each one slowly in order from the beginning: Feather, Reverse Turn with Feather Finish, Open Telemark, Natural Turn, and then the Outside Swivel. When we got to that part, I mentioned to him that Lord Dormamu had told us to hold after the Outside Swivel for two beats before going into the Basic Weave, because even though that’s not technically how the figure is written in the syllabus, if we didn’t fit in an extra two beats somewhere we would end up off phrase with the music.

The coach kind of nodded along as I explained that portion, then told me that doing the figure like that should be fine unless we run into an invigilator who was a real stickler for how the figures were written in the book. What he said that I found interesting was: back in the day when the figures for these dances were originally designed, which was way back when the only ballroom dancers were probably dinosaurs wearing sophisticated top hats, the figures were created without the idea of connecting them to the music. Yes, each figure has a specific number of beats given to each step, but there was no thought into anything more than the number of beats. Talk of fitting the choreography to a musical phrase never came up back then, apparently.

I don’t know why I find that so interesting, but I do. It’s cool to think that we have managed to evolve a little bit since the days of dancing dinosaurs in top hats. Although, I admit, if I got the chance to dance with a real dinosaur wearing any kind of a hat, I would take it in a heartbeat.

My main issue was with the rest of the session. Much like other male coaches that I am asked to work with, this one was convinced that I would look so much better if I just changed the way I held my frame to be more like how he likes to hold his frame, rather than sticking with the way Lord Dormamu has been telling me to hold myself. It feels like a lot of the male adjudicator I am told to work with have this same opinion, that their way of holding frame is the best way, and everything I do would be better if I was more like them.

Maybe it’s an ego thing? It doesn’t matter what works best for the flexibility in my shoulders, or what Sparkledancer and I talk about when she asks me to change things with my frame for her benefit – obviously I’m not smart enough to realize that their way of holding frame is the most elegant, most solid, and best looking way of holding frame of all time. Someday (if I pay for enough coaching from any one particular adjudicator) I would be able to see that they are right, and then I too will be preaching the gospel to others so that they hold their frame the same way.

This visiting coach was another one who learned the “correct” way to dance decades ago, back when everyone did things differently than is done today. His particular quirk that he wanted to show me was that I should stop using my body so much to direct my partner. Instead, he wanted me to start using my arms and hands more to ‘steer’ my partner while dancing. Yes, there was an analogy to a car thrown in there somewhere during this session.

He was especially keen about how I could be using my right hand on my partner’s back to tell her when to turn by actually pressing either with my fingers or with my palm to initiate the rotation of her upper body. I mean, I sort-of understand where he was coming from, since when he danced with me to demonstrate he didn’t get into body contact, and without that there was no way I could use my torso and hips to direct him. But that’s not a problem I have when dancing with Sparkledancer. Lord Dormamu preaches dancing International Standard in body contact when he trains us. Using my arms to do anything never comes up.

So yeah, a lot of money spent for only one interesting tidbit that I didn’t know before. Was it worthwhile? It’s hard to say. So much of the dance politics game goes on behind my back, it’s hard to ever really know if all this extra money is actually doing anything for how well I score. And if it is making a difference in how I am scored, I don’t know if I actually feel good about that. After all, isn’t getting good placements supposed to validate how well I can dance? If I can sway my scores somewhat just by spending more money with the right people, then that’s not necessarily validating my skills – it’s really validating my wallet.

Sigh… what a weird competitive world I spend time in.

Moving on: last Saturday afternoon I managed to hit a milestone – I finally got the last of my new routines that actually needed to be choreographed. Hooray! That is a step in the right direction! With the Tango routine put together, that means that Sparkledancer and I should have everything worked out after a few weeks of cleanup and then we can finally look at testing these new configurations out in front of some judges to see how we do.

Before we got to the Tango that afternoon though, we spent a few minutes talking about our other routines. Lord Dormamu told us that he had gone out to dinner with the visiting coach after we got done with our session that previous Thursday, and the coach had nothing but good things to tell Lord Dormamu about how good we were looking. Then he asked Sparkledancer and I if there was anything that we wanted to look at in those routines before we got to work on the Tango.

I had something that I wanted to ask about that was an issue for me, but probably wouldn’t have been a problem for the average person. I wanted to go over the last short wall in our Quickstep with him, because with the way that the choreography was designed, I was not able to fit all the figures in on any of the dance floors where I go practice without shortening the steps in an awkward manner.

If you remember, the last short wall in our Quickstep consists of a Running Right Turn, a Quick Open Reverse, a Progressive Chasse, a Forward Lock and a Natural Turn. Now, do you also remember how I described Standard Technique class last week and I said that I was able to cover the whole short side at the Electric Dance Hall with just the Running Right Turn into a Natural Turn? That should give you an idea of how tiny I was having to make all the steps in these figures in order to stay on the floor in any room that wasn’t the size of the Endless Dance Hall.

Lord Dormamu said that I had a couple of options, depending on the size of the floor I was dancing on. First, I could always cut out the Forward Lock and just attach the Natural Turn to the end of the Progressive Chasse.  For a wider competition floor, this would easily get me all the way across. On a smaller floor, I could always do just like Lord Junior had shown me in Standard Technique class and attach the Natural Turn to the end of the Running Right Turn. This way the Quickstep routine has some options available for me to adjust as needed.

Once we had worked through that issue, we moved on to look at the Tango. This routine is a bit different than the other routines that we had done previously. For one thing, it is choreographed so that we start in the middle of one of the short walls rather than in a corner like the others do. But the most notable difference is that this routine only has one long wall instead of two. That should make it easier to memorize. The figures look like this:

S Wall 0.5 L Wall 1 S Wall 1
Back Corte Open Promenade Two Walks
Progressive Link Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside Brush Tap
Back Open Promenade Outside Swivels Progressive Link
Four Step Promenade Link Open Promenade
Natural Twist Turn Back Corte Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside
Progressive Link Progressive Link
Fallaway Promenade Natural Twist Turn
Right Side Lunge
Left Foot and Right Foot Rocks
Back Corte

I think that the only figure we added that I hadn’t seen somewhere before was the Back Open Promenade. I’m not entirely sure about the Fallaway Promenade – it sounds familiar, but the footwork for it didn’t feel familiar once Lord Dormamu showed the figure to me. Everything else listed I at least had a vague idea how the steps went. Most of the non-Bronze figures I know for sure that I have done in a group class somewhere (probably the Standard Technique class I go to most Wednesday nights), so that made my life easy.

The last thing that I did this week was to go to Standard Technique class. This week in class we had a new gentleman join us. Well, sort-of new – this guy is someone who has been hanging around the dance community in the Dance Kingdom for a while after being convinced to go to a dance party one night by Sparkledancer of all people a couple of years ago. Good job Sparkledancer! Because he travels so much for his job, he realized that he wasn’t going to improve all that quickly just by occasionally attending group classes, so he found an instructor to start taking private lessons from to help learn new things on his schedule.

Six months ago his instructor convinced him to try out a competition, and he discovered that he loved it and wanted to do more. His instructor had been trying to find ways that he could continue to improve as a competitor that would work with his travel schedule, and she recommended to him that during the weeks when he was in town he could come to Lord Junior’s advanced classes to help with that. Since the classes are technique focused and don’t require showing up every week of the month to keep up in the class, she thought it would be great for him. So his instructor contacted Lord Junior to let him know the guy’s story, and now we have a new friend who will be joining us whenever possible. Hooray for new friends in class!

This week when class started, all of us who were regulars to the class didn’t have anything specific that we wanted to look at, so Lord Junior decided that it would be a good week to look at the Reverse Wave in Foxtrot. I was on board with that idea, since I had been told that being able to do the Reverse Wave well was a critical part of anything I wanted to do in Foxtrot from now on.

The progression that Lord Junior put together for us in class ended up being only a handful of figures. Our new friend in class had really only ever done American Foxtrot up until recently, so a lot of the simple things that the rest of us knew already had to be explained to him, which took a bit of extra time. We only ended up getting through a Feather into a Closed Telemark, coming out of that with another Feather and then attaching the Reverse Wave, finishing up with an Open Impetus. We would have done more, but time ran out.

That’s all I’ve got this week. There may be some crazy things on the schedule for this weekend. Nothing is confirmed yet, but I have the times blocked off in my calendar just in case. Assuming the thing I am being asked to go to ends up hitting at least three LOLs out of a five LOL scale, then I will tell you all about it. We’ll see what happens… it could be weird!