You Put Your Arms Around Me And I’m Home

I had thought that my life would relax a little as the holidays drew closer. It seems like I was totally wrong in that assumption…

When I got together with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer on Saturday morning, everything seemed to have finally fallen into place. Sparkledancer and I had been given the entire choreography for our showcase less than a week beforehand, and had only managed to meet up for an hour on the Thursday evening beforehand to run through the sequence to try to memorize everything, but we managed to get it all down. It helped that I had gotten a video of Sparkledancer and Sir Steven dancing through the routine from start to finish the night we got the routine. I watched that over and over again, which helped me know which figures I needed to lead in the right order. Hooray!

I also think that I have my costume done. To keep things rather simple and inexpensive, large chunks of what I am wearing are items that I already had at home. For instance, I am just planning on wearing a pair of my dance practice pants during the performance. The look I was told to go for was semi-formal, but I need to have full range of motion for my legs to be able to squat down far enough so that Sparkledancer can hop up on my shoulder. Normal dress slack have the right look, but are too stiff for me to bend down like that. My dance practice slacks do flex in that manner, so they are a great choice.

Also, I actually saw the Artistic Director at the Fancy Dance Hall this weekend! We didn’t really get a chance to talk much though… she came walking through right at the end as we were finishing up our lesson. Sir Steven had her stop to take a look at what the lift which ends our performance, to help her figure out how to cut the music and give us enough time to draw the lift out dramatically. I wanted to ask her about all kinds of things related to the acting pieces that I’m going to have to do, but I was told that those questions would be answered during the blocking rehearsal that was scheduled for Thursday night.

So much for getting any time to practice that part of the show…

All that remains now is to continue practicing the routine to make sure it is comfortable and hits the few marks on the floor that I have. The performances are a little over a week away now. I am feeling pretty good about how things are going, but I’ll admit that I still feel no attachment to this performance. I guess that it’s good that I’ll be portraying a specific character, rather than trying to play myself while dancing. Having to give up all my ideas for this performance really disconnected me from the dance, and I don’t think anything is going to change in that regard between now and the first performance date.

I also managed to make it out to the Waltz workshop that was being held at the Electric Dance Hall on Saturday afternoon. This workshop was being put on by Lady Lovelylocks, who is Lord Junior’s professional partner. Lord Junior was also there milling about in the back of the studio, practicing some choreography from the looks of things. He jumped in near the end of the workshop when we started dancing with partners. There were quite a bit more women than men, so it was nice of him to help even out the ratio a little bit.

It felt like we spent most of the workshop on just stretching. Lady Lovelylocks wanted us to all get warmed up and work on using all the various parts of our bodies isometrically, so she showed us all sorts of different stretches to help with that. First we did all the stretches slowly, so that everyone could learn what they were supposed to do. Next she put them into a pattern so that we could all do them in the same order with some rhythm. Finally, we did the pattern with some Waltz music playing. That sequence lasted for multiple songs.

When we were finally all super warm, Lady Lovelylocks got down to business and had us focus on our rise and fall. To do this, we started with normal rotating box steps on our own. The points we were given to work on while doing these box steps were to make sure that we kept things slow and use all of the music, and to make sure that we didn’t come crashing down from our rise on beat three. I had somehow gotten stuck in the middle of the floor with people all around me that took tiny steps, so I felt like my box steps didn’t move a whole lot while I was practicing them.

There was only a little choreography used at the end of class that we danced with a partner. We looked at some Open Natural and Open Reverse Turns in Shadow Position, and the Change Step to switch between the two. I think I’ve mentioned this before at some point, but the Change Steps that you do while in Shadow Position are actually just three steps forward or backward.

These are not like a Three Step in Foxtrot, however. Lord Junior yelled at me from across the room because he saw me at one point doing my footwork like a Foxtrot Three Step. I didn’t even realize that I had done it until he said something, so it was totally my fault. Slightly embarrassing! The footwork should be like a normal Waltz Change Step, so make sure not to do a heel lead on the second step, or else you’ll get yelled at like I did…

The remainder of the class was spent switching through partners and dancing through these figures. We started off in Shadow Position already and did two Open Reverse Turns, then a Change Step followed by two Open Natural Turns, and we could finish with another Change Step if we had the room before we hit the wall. As the ladies were asked to rotate through the guys to practice, I seemed to be forgotten quite a bit. I was in the front of the room, because I didn’t want to get stuck behind anyone while I was traveling down the floor. When we all lined up on one end of the room and the ladies paired off with a guy, I was constantly having to wave my arms at them to have a lady come dance with me. Were they afraid of me or something?

Last Monday night at Latin Technique class I got to work on Rumba. We started off the class by warming up using Lord Junior’s new favorite Rumba exercise that involves doing Three Step Turns from side-to-side. Once we had gone through that enough times to make him happy, he had us do some work looking at basic Rumba walks. We used four types of Rumba Walks to start with, which were: the Forward Walk, the Checked Walk (which is what everyone does when they do the basic Rumba movement), the Turning Walk (which has you take a step forward and then turn 180° without moving your feet), and finally the Backward Walk.

Lord Junior wanted to build us a sequence of figures that night that focused on all of these walking movements, plus the Delayed Walk, which is basically just a normal walk but with some different (i.e. ‘delayed’) timing. We started things off facing our partner with our weight on the left leg and our right leg pointed back, ladies on their right leg with the left pointed forward. Our starter step was a step forward on beat four. Next we did a delayed Check forward, holding the check until just before the next beat four, when the ladies then would step toward us while the men just switched their weight to the right leg and pointed the left behind them.

Next we wanted to get the ladies out to Fan Position, so the men would lunge off to the left while twisting their upper bodies to press forward with the left arm, which would lead the ladies to collect and turn 90° clockwise, and then the men did a chasse to the right as the ladies did a Turning Walk to get into Fan Position. To give the ladies even more practice with their Turning Walks, we next led the ladies to do an Alemana. The men would shift slightly to the left as the ladies did this so that we could close with the ladies on our right side.

The last thing that we did was to lead the ladies through Opening Outs. Making things more difficult, Lord Junior asked the ladies to do these using the Delayed Walk action, where after doing the rock step backward, they would point their leg forward without moving until the absolute last second, and then step and turn to go into an Opening Out on the other side.

This was probably the most difficult thing we did that night. As a guy, you had to be careful not to push the lady forward too much after letting her open out. It had to be a balance of pushing enough so she came forward to get on her leg and point her other toe, but not enough to actually step forward through both legs. We did two Opening Outs with this delayed action, and then a third where we brought the lady forward as normal and then led her into a Spiral Turn before sending her back out into Fan Position.

The last thing that I want to talk about this week was the coaching that I got signed up for last night. Lord Dormamu had a good friend of his, who much like Lord Dormamu is also a world-famous International Standard coach that many of you have probably heard of, in town on Wednesday. They were meeting up to discuss some business propositions about putting together a new competition in the Dance Kingdom. I’m sure this means that Lord Dormamu will tell me that I’m going to be competing in this event when they get it all up and running.

Since there was some extra time in the schedule between and after their business discussions, this gentleman offered to hold some coaching sessions for any students that were interested, and Lord Dormamu signed Sparkledancer and I up. Because I had things going on at work yesterday, I could only get to the Fancy Dance Hall late in the evening, so I ended up getting the coach’s last time slot of the day. In a way this worked out very nicely because there was no rush for us to complete our session so that he could move on to other students after us. Our lesson went waaaaay over the time it should have as we looked over all sorts of material together.

Once Lord Dormamu introduced us, he asked that we spend our time having the coach look over our Waltz and Foxtrot. With those marching orders, we got started, though we didn’t stick to the script we were given for the entire session. The lesson basically went like this: the coach had us dance through our routines once for him with music, and when we finished up we would talk about what he saw us doing through his adjudicator eyes. Throughout the night we were given specific notes about each dance style we completed, and by the end of the session I also had several overall takeaways that covered all dance styles universally that he wanted me to think about.

Let me start with the notes on the individual dance styles. Though we were told by Lord Dormamu to work on Waltz and Foxtrot, apparently our Foxtrot was pretty good so we didn’t spend much time going over it, and had time left over to look at Tango as well. Sparkledancer chose to start with the Waltz, so that’s what we received notes on first.

There were really only a couple of things specific to the Waltz that he picked on, and some of these may just be his particular preferences when he judges competitions. These were his notes:

  • He wanted to see us doing more distinct rise and fall during the Progressive Chasses throughout the routine. As we tried it out, I thought that it felt overdone, but he said that it looked better from where he was standing.
  • Next up, he thought that I was taking far too small of a step going into the Double Reverse Spins. I asked him about how I’d always been told to take small steps with early quick rise to lead a Double Reverse Spin, and he said that by the book that’s what I should do, but it looked like I wasn’t traveling anywhere on my first step when I did that.
  • The final thing he wanted to talk about was when going into the Whisk, it didn’t look to him like I was taking a complete step onto my left foot before rising up and taking a step to the side and slightly back onto my right foot. To make sure it looked the way it should, he wanted me to take the first step and have all of my weight over my left leg (almost to the point where I could stand on one foot) before moving to my right leg.

Foxtrot was definitely where I felt the strongest that night, and there were only a couple of items that he said looked out-of-place in his eyes (the last one is definitely a personal preference of his, since I have been specifically told by Lord Dormamu to do it differently):

  • I was told to put more emphasis on moving slower during the slow steps. He wanted me to really extend my legs and push myself as far as possible during those two beats before putting my foot down and going into the quick steps. It wasn’t that I was rushing when I danced it as he watched, he said, but I wasn’t using my timing to its full potential.
  • There were a few points, like on the first Feather in the routine, where he said that it seemed like I was rotating too much and Sparkledancer was ending up beside me rather than in front of me. He wanted me to lessen the rotation through my body to avoid that, and instead change the placement of where my steps were going to help keep her in front. If I feel like she is ending up beside me on my right instead of in front of me, I need to take my step slightly more to the left to compensate.
  • During the Weaves that we do, he wanted me to add shaping through the progression. On the Natural Weave for instance, Lord Dormamu has always told me that I would be shaping with the left side through the Natural Turn, then level out through the actual Weave, and then shape to the left again through the Feather Finish. The coach wanted me to shape to the right through the Weave to emphasize the difference in those steps. This I think may just be a personal preference thing, so I’ll run this item by Lord Dormamu before I work on adding it into my practice.

With some time left, the coach wanted to keep going and switch over to the Tango. Before we got started, Sparkledancer and I warned him that our Tango was still a work in progress, and it was what we considered the weakest of our dances. After we finished dancing through the routine once, he stopped us and said that he thought our Tango actually looked fairly good, which was nice to hear. There were a few points that we managed to talk about that he suggested we change:

  • He thought that we were too low in our Tango frame, which he said explained why we always had to air close our feet because our partner’s knee was between our own. I was told to bring my legs together and stand with Sparkledancer in front of me, with her legs also together. We then bent at the knees until we met resistance from each other’s legs. That was as far down he said we should be while dancing.
  • The coach specifically mentioned leading my partner to roll into Promenade Position through rolling my right hip forward slightly. This goes directly against what Lord Dormamu said last time we got together when he told me to stop doing exactly that. What…??? This is definitely something that I am going to have to discuss with Lord Dormamu.
  • We spent a bit of time looking at the Right Lunge in the corner. He wanted me to adjust the rotation in my upper body so that as my legs are lunging toward diagonal wall, my upper body is pointing more line of dance, and thus is pushing Sparkledancer to shape out more line of dance with her upper body as well.
  • Much like with the Foxtrot steps, he wanted me to make sure to slow down when bringing my feet together at the end of a figure. Usually the close happens over two beats in the music, but I am closing my feet immediately and then just hanging out. He prefers that I hang out with my legs still in their previous position and my body split-weight between them, and then close my feet at the end of the two beats.

There were some additional comments he made about our overall dancing as competitors that he’d like to see us work on. One note he told each of us was based on our positioning when dancing together. He told me that I needed to watch my right elbow, to make sure that I was not pulling it back too far. I was told to think about when dancing with a partner that there is essentially one-and-a-half people for my arms to get around. There’s the front half of my body, and then my partner’s body. To ensure that my right arm is capable of covering this distance, my arm needs to be bent enough so that my elbow is out in front of the front half of my body. I had never heard it described like that before, and I thought that was an interesting way of looking at things.

Sparkledancer was told that her upper body needs to lean on an angle more to the left. She has been working a lot lately on bending herself back to create more volume, but not as much on leaning herself to the left side at the same time. Leaning in this direction essentially presses her left lat muscle into my right hand as we stand in frame. This will probably be something that we will have to focus specifically on during practice, to move while having her lean to the left while bending backward instead of just one direction at a time.

The last thing that we talked about last night went off on a weird tangent that I had never heard anyone talk about before. It came up while we were looking at the Right Lunge in the Tango. At one point he wanted me to lead him through the figure. When I got into frame with him, he said that I was not holding him tightly enough with my right hand. Afterward, when I got back into frame with Sparkledancer, he said that I was also not holding her tightly enough as well. What gives?

He told us a story about how he once had a coach work with him back when he was competing. This coach wanted to have him demonstrate a figure with her, so she asked him to lead her through it and got into frame with her with a considerable gap between their bodies. This made him uncomfortable, as he had been told over and over again that the lead should come through his body, so having to lead her through the figure without body contact felt wrong to him. Then she asked him: why should it be a problem?

This coach explained to him that we need to use our arms to lead our partners properly, even in International Standard. They are an important tool that should be used to communicate with our partner. People who dance American Smooth have to lead like this all the time, because many of their figures obviously break body contact. Why should people who dance International Standard handicap themselves by trying to only lead with the body, she asked him. The trick is to learn to lead with your arms correctly, so that you can do it without your partner complaining that it feels like you are pushing and pulling her all over the place.

His suggestion for me was to get into the habit of having a more firm hold on any partner that I danced with. This would allow them to clearly feel what my right arm is doing around their back, and take away any confusion that could arise from the leads with my body. While I should be leading my partner to turn to Promenade Position through a roll of the hip, for instance, I should also be pulling back slightly with my right arm to make the implication for her to turn to Promenade Position unmistakable.

Learning to lead like this will be challenging after being told for so long to lead solely through my body. Even the coach admitted that it took him quite a while to learn how to lead certain figures after his coach told him to start using his arms. He said that as he started to lead like this, whenever he had a partner complain that they felt like he was pulling or pushing them with his arms, he would take that as a sign that he was doing it wrong and then have to reevaluate what his arms were doing and try again.

That was quite an interesting concept to end the night with, and I have been thinking about it on and off ever since. I’m not sure what exactly I would have to change to use my arms more in this manner, but it might be helpful that I started out dancing doing only American Smooth, so maybe some of that training will be useful here? I guess I’ll have to talk it over with Sparkledancer the next time we meet up to practice to see what she thinks too. After all, this will probably affect her more than it affects me.

It’s been a long night. I had the blocking rehearsal for the showcase performance tonight, to get everything mapped out before dress rehearsal next Thursday. I haven’t really had time to process that yet, so maybe I will talk about it next time. I have another super busy week ahead of me with all sorts of dance-related activities, so I’m going to leave it here for now, take a deep breath, and get some rest before jumping into it. I hope your week is just as fun!

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Banging On A Kettledrum Won’t Make You Notice Me

I know you’re probably mostly interested this week in hearing about the competition that I just finished, so I promise that I’ll talk about that first…

Last Saturday was a busy day for me. I spent most of the day out at the Dance Death Arena to compete. This was another one of those competitions where, as an amateur, once I paid the entry fee I could register to dance in as many different rounds as I wanted. I signed up to take part in the same rounds that I had done during the last competition I had gone to the Dance Death Arena for back in the beginning of October. That meant I would be doing four different two-dance rounds that day.

Also just like the last competition that I did at the Dance Death Arena, two of the rounds that I danced in had practically no competition, and the other two were super contested. This time around, Sparkledancer and I had only one person dancing against us in the low turnout rounds. With only two couples registered and a big floor, they put in dancers from a couple of other categories to make better use of the space (and the judge’s time).

The other two rounds I did though… those were nuts. When the rounds finally showed up on the board listing the numbers of all the competitors, I think there were twenty-four couples listed in one, and twenty in the other. Because the rounds were so big, they had been divided up into Quarter-Finals, Semi-Finals and Finals, and then the Quarter-Final round also had to be split in half to give the judges a chance to see and evaluate everyone properly.

One thing that they offered at this competition that I had not seen before, was the ability for people to sign up to dance in a category without a registered partner. There were a number of people registered that had a partner listing of “TBA” and it took me a bit to figure out what that was all about. These individuals weren’t allowed to dance solo, since no solo proficiency rounds were offered during this competition, but anyone who wanted to compete could find a partner just before taking the floor and dance if they wanted to.

President Porpoise was actually at this competition offering his services throughout the day for any ladies that needed a last-minute partner. Being the experienced dance host that he is, he thought it would be a nice way to volunteer to help out at the competition. The last competition I saw him volunteering at, he was stuck at a table checking people in. This job seemed to suit him much better. He’s such a presidential guy… this is why everyone votes for him.

Let’s get this out of the way before I get any farther – I did very well at the competition, even better than I did at the last competition I did at the Dance Death Arena. They gave out ribbons at this competition for everyone that was sixth place or above, so I got four ribbons to take home as a souvenir. Good job me!

I mention the ribbons because they are kind of funny… I noticed the day after the competition that half the ribbons that I received had the name of a completely different competition printed on the front of them. When I saw that, I took a picture and sent it over to Sparkledancer to show her. Turns out that three of the four ribbons she took home had the name of this other competition too! I can’t find any information online about this other competition, so I wonder if these are just recycled ribbons from an old competition that no longer exists? That struck me as funny for some reason.

There are a couple of interesting points of note I want to mention about this competition so I can reflect on them later. First off, a serious note about my scores: I managed to see the breakdown of how I scored with each judge. For the most part, all the judges rated Sparkledancer and I the same as the place that we got at the end of the day, which explains why we took home ribbons with those place numbers when we left. However, there was one judge that rated us last in every round we danced, which is a huge discrepancy when compared with all the other scores we got.

Since finding that out, I’ve been wracking my brain to try to figure out why this judge would do that. Did the judge just not like the way that I looked? Did I offend him in some way early on in the day, and thus he always rated me last? Was there something technical about my dancing that he thought I was doing wrong compared to everyone else?  It’s too bad I didn’t get a chance to ask the judge (if they would have allowed me to do that). I would have loved to know the reason why his marks were so different from all the other judges’ marks.

Funny note now: in between every few adult rounds they would do a round of junior dancers, which is always fun to watch. Many of these kids are barely half my height, and they are already way better than me at dancing. It makes me wish that I had started out at that age…

Anyway, I was in line waiting for one of my heats to begin when they had these little kids out doing a four dance International Latin final. They started out with a Cha-Cha, then did a Samba. Next up, the emcee announced that all of these young dancers would do “the dance of friendship.” When the DJ put on a Rumba, the whole crowd started to laugh. Apparently when you are that young, judges don’t expect to see any romance in your Rumba. Too funny. I’m going to start referring to Rumba as the dance of friendship whenever it comes up in conversation to see if anyone notices.

After driving back home, unpacking all my stuff from my car and sitting down momentarily to take a few deep breaths, I left the house again to head out to a dance party. My Royal Dance Court group was putting on an event that night, and though I was tired out from driving all over the place all day, I knew that I would be needed for a short while at this party.

I got to the venue a few minutes after the lesson we had planned had started. The big reason that I thought it would be good for me to be there was that my Royal Dance Court group had planned on bringing in someone to teach a lesson on American Viennese Waltz. Knowing that not many people feel comfortable with Viennese Waltz at first because they think it is so fast, I thought it would be prudent for me to jump into the lesson to help guide any ladies who were struggling through the footwork.

As I walked through the door and took a moment to assess the situation, I was pulled into a different problem that had nothing to do with the group class that was going on. The DJ was having trouble getting the equipment that they had brought in hooked up into the existing sound system at the venue. Apparently the DJ had played at this venue before and had no trouble, but that was because a specific cable had been plugged into the back of the sound system control box that would easily plug everything into the DJ’s setup. That cable as nowhere to be found.

Being male, and having plugged in enough stereo equipment in my youth to know a thing or two, I went over to see if I could help. I had already arrived late, I figured that if I could get the DJ to tell me what kind of cable was missing, I could run out and pick one up if needed. The problem with that plan was that the DJ couldn’t give me a good description of what the end of the cable looked like, so I had to wedge myself behind the stereo cabinet and look at all the inputs myself.

While back there, I found one cable lying along the floor that wasn’t plugged into anything. I moved it out of the way to avoid accidentally stepping on the cord and breaking it while I looked at the inputs. When I did that, the DJ reached down and picked it up. There was some sort of adapter on both ends of this cable, and when those were pulled off, it turned out to be the type input plug that was needed.

Once I was told that was what everyone had been looking for, I helped get the cable plugged into the back of the stereo system, since I was already wedged back there anyway. When the DJ plugged in the other end, we were able to test everything and verify that we were getting sound from the speakers. First crisis of the night averted! Hooray!

After extracting myself from behind the cabinet, I finally managed to get my dance shoes on. I surveyed the group class again. Sparkledancer had been watching the class while I was helping out with the sound system, and she pointed out to me that there were several ladies that didn’t have partners in the back corner of the room that were struggling with getting their footwork right.

The instructor was just going through the basic Reverse and Natural Turns at the moment, so I jumped in and worked with a couple of the ladies in practice frame to help them get their steps down. Prez told me later that she thought that I had the patience of a saint for working through the figures slowly with those ladies who were struggling.

Most of the lesson centered around just doing Reverse and Natural Turns and Change Steps, since those figures are pretty much a requirement for getting around the room. In the last ten minutes, the instructor went over a figure that would actually be considered American Viennese Waltz. After a half Reverse Turn, we would then do a Cross Body Lead with Underarm Turn, releasing the lady to open up into Side-by-Side Fan Position.

Next he had everyone do that classic move where you bring the lady back toward you so that you can meet up in the middle palm-to-palm – or you could rub noses, or kiss (if you were really good friends) – before opening back up to Side-by-Side Fan again. In place of the standard ending, the instructor had us do something more like Tango Swivels, where we would turn to face each other and point the right leg (left leg for the ladies) to the side, then step forward, collect the lady back into frame and point the left leg (right leg for ladies) to the side, and then we could start up with the Reverse Turns again.

This last piece seems fairly simple if you’ve done any American Viennese Waltz before… based on my description, you may be able to picture exactly what it looks like in your head. They are fairly common movements. However, when we were all given the last part of class to practice, I found even more ladies that were struggling to figure out what their footwork should be. I did my best to try to help out as many as I could, but I didn’t manage to get to all of them before class was over unfortunately.

The DJ didn’t play many more Viennese Waltz songs than normal than night – maybe one or two extra over the two or three you would hear at an average party – so there wasn’t really much opportunity for people to practice what they learned. One of the first songs that the DJ did play was a super slow Viennese Waltz, which everyone got out on the floor to do, but the later songs that were more normal tempo didn’t see as many participants. Ah well, hopefully this class took some of the fear out of the dance style for these people.

Sunday afternoon I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for our normal weekend lesson. With the competition over, it is time to buckle down and get super-serious about the showcase performance coming up. After all, it is less than a month away to opening night!

Before we even started to go over the choreography, Sir Steven had to talk with us about the show. It turns out that one of the instructors from the Fancy Dance Hall had some kind of project at their day job that had to be scheduled for the performance weekend, so he wasn’t going to be able to dance in the production! The other male instructors were going to take over dancing the routines that had been prepared with his female students, but there were a few holes in the storyline of the show where this instructor was going to be performing with one of the females on staff.

That was where Sparkledancer and I would come in. The Artistic Director of the show had asked Sir Steven if we could move our performance to fill in one of those holes in the plot. They had a different act that could easily take over the spot where we were going to be originally plus the next plot point, so one number could be eliminated. However, there was a pivotal moment in the story that was still missing which our number could be used for without changing too much of the choreography.

This would mean that other things about the act would have to change though… our costumes, for one, are going to have to be  completely different. I had only gotten two pieces for mine so far, so that wouldn’t be too hard for me to accommodate. The portrayal is the other thing though. Sparkledancer and I had talked about doing this number to work on portraying an emotion during our dancing. Since I am generally a happy and comedic person, we had wanted to try dancing something somber and sad.

Taking our routine and moving it to this new slot means that it is no longer going to portray a sad part of the story. In fact, the part that it fits now would be mostly happy, with a bittersweet ending. Still… I said that moving the routine would be fine, and Sparkledancer agreed as well, so for now that’s the new, new plan. One of these days I hope to actually get to talk to the Artistic Director, but we haven’t both been at the Fancy Dance Hall at the same time in quite a while, so that just hasn’t happened.

By the time we finished our lesson that day, Sir Steven had mapped out what he said would be the first half of the routine. There is a bit of an intro that still needs to be put together, but that piece will involve knowing where one of the set pieces will be placed, and no one has marked that spot on the dance floor yet. Combined with the section that uses that ‘Horse and Cart’ figure and the ending with the big lift, I’m not sure how much of the choreography we still have left to learn.

Sparkledancer and I actually timed out what we have already during our practice session earlier this week, and from that clock it feels like we still have a lot more that needs to be added. The big piece that Sir Steven gave us that he said comprised ‘the first half’ of the routine is barely 42 seconds when danced to the tempo of the song. That seems… short.

The ‘Horse and Cart’ piece doesn’t seem to be safely workable to the song’s tempo, with the number of steps we were given and the way Sparkledancer was told to stretch her arms… it feels too frantic, and trying to move my feet so fast involves me taking tiny steps. However, if we manage to use the figure as I was told it should be, that only adds another eight seconds. Unless we are looking for our routine to be only a minute and-a-half, it feels like we need quite a bit more.

We’ll talk about it with Sir Steven come Saturday and see what his vision for the rest of the choreography looks like…

Because of the holiday this week, the group class that I normally go to on Wednesday night was cancelled, so the last thing that I did this week was go out to Monday night’s Latin Technique class. As class was getting started, Lord Junior gave us all the option to do either Samba or Cha-Cha, and I was the most vocal in my choice of doing Cha-Cha, so that’s what we did. Before I went to class, I had gone to work out and done mostly plyometric exercises, so while neither Samba or Cha-Cha sounded particularly ideal to me, Cha-Cha seemed like the least-worst choice to me.

We warmed up by practicing Lock Steps slowly. After some explanation about the specific things that Lord Junior wanted each of us to focus on (for me it was making sure to put my heels down at the right time), we did sets of three going forward and backward on our own. Next we partnered up and did the same thing, with the men traveling backward for the first set of three and forward for the second, and the women doing the opposite.

After Lord Junior felt like we had warmed up sufficiently with Lock Steps, he wanted to have us all go through an exercise that he had been doing with a student of his right before class started. This exercise had us doing Three-Step Turns to the right and then back to the left on our own. This was a figure he wanted to use in the choreography we would do during class, so he wanted to make sure everyone could do it well before we started on that.

The final bit of choreography mostly consisted of adding together our Lock Step practice with the Three-Step Turn. With both partners facing each other and our weight on the right leg (ladies on their left), we did one Hand To Hand and then did three Lock Steps with both partners traveling forward. At the end of those three we changed sides and did another Hand To Hand. Coming back we only did two Lock Steps traveling forward and then squared up with our partner to do a basic chasse to the right (ladies to the left).

At the end of the chasse we did a New Yorker to the man’s right side, then pivoted back 180° to go right into a Three-Step Turn. At the end we would catch hands with our partner, do a New Yorker to the man’s left side, pivot around again and finish with another Three-Step Turn. The goal was to make sure at the end that we finished up being solid and balanced and on time with the music.

Most of the class was spent rotating partners and just practicing this simple choreography with the music. However, the first time that Lord Junior rotated through the ladies to dance with Bony, something funny happened… I was dancing, so I didn’t see what actually happened, but suddenly from the other side of the room I hear Bony yell out “Turn!” Lord Junior starts laughing then and says really loudly “Bony! You’re supposed to actually turn there, not just yell ‘Turn!’”

That made the whole class break out into laughter for a little while. Lord Junior ended up telling us all that we needed to go through that round again with the same partners so that he could see if his partner could turn correctly on her second try. Good times.

Look at me, posting things on a holiday! I must be really dedicated to this, or something. I hope that everyone manages to get out dancing this weekend to burn off all those extra calories. I know that I’ll be out somewhere this weekend. There is at least one dance party I know about going on, and I think I have some dance lessons scheduled, and for sure I’ll be getting in some practice time. The dancing never ends!

I Cry Out For Magic, See It Dancing In The Light

Most of what I did this week involved practice. I won’t bore you with practice stories, since they are boring, but it was something that I had to put in time for. After all, I am competing again next weekend, and this time around it looks like there will actually be other people on the floor with me. Hooray…?!? I mean, that does mean that whatever results that I get will be earned, but it also means that I will actually have to earn my results.

On top of that, so many people who I know seem super interested in knowing how well I do at this competition. That makes it feel like there is a lot more pressure to do well than there was when I used to just compete for fun years ago. I have a few people who have already asked me to send them a text message with my results as soon as I get them the day of the competition (Lord Dormamu and Sir Steven were the first two to ask for that, obviously), and others who will want to see or hear  some sort of update from me before the day is out.

Here’s hoping that I will have good news for them come this Saturday…

Flashing back to last Saturday, my day started out meeting up with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu for coaching, and we spent our time continuing to work on the Tango. I’m actually starting to believe that Tango could improve from being my worst dance to actually being passable on a competitive stage. Granted, there is still a lot of work to do, but I’m starting to feel hopeful.

There were a couple of interesting points that Lord Dormamu told me about while we worked on Tango that morning. First of all, the issue of our frame never came up during our lesson. I specifically asked him about how it looked as we were finishing up our paperwork when we were all done, and he said that it had looked good the whole time, so he hadn’t needed to comment on the frame at all. Yay! I guess the strange comparison to an accordion actually works for me, because that’s all I was thinking about whenever I got into frame.

One thing that we did spend a bit of time discussing was moving in Promenade Position. Lord Dormamu wanted us to drive into Promenade Position much more like an attack than what we had been doing. During the Progressive Link, he made sure that Sparkledancer was coming around me more so that she was offset from me, with our front legs bent inward so that our knees were almost touching. As we compressed into the back leg to begin the drive forward, he wanted our front knees to open out, turning the foot at the same time so that we could power forward.

I stopped to ask about that foot turn. Up until this point, I had heard the official description of the footwork as being a “side-step in Promenade Position” and was taught to take the step with the foot slightly turned inward. He told me that I should never drive forward with my feet like that. According to Lord Dormamu, I can only create real power while moving if I am moving my legs forward or backward, and my toes should always point in the direction (or backing the direction) that my leg is moving. If I am trying to move to the side, I cannot create true power.

Side steps are fine if you are doing something like a box step in Waltz, since the initial step is either forward or backward and then the side step carries through on the momentum. If I want power on my initial step in Promenade Position, I have to rotate my hips and feet to drive myself forward.. The body remains turned toward my partner, so it gives the illusion that I am moving sideways, but my feet are not.

I had never thought about it like that before… once again, this shows why he was a world champion. He knows all the things!

The next big thing we looked at was the Promenade Pivot. Lord Dormamu thought that we looked like we were working way too hard to get around in our pivoting action. He had us go back and step through the figure slowly, and told me to make sure to come around Sparkledancer a lot on my third step. Once again, I had to stop here and ask questions. Several weeks before when Sparkledancer and I had that coaching session with the Princess and she looked at our Tango, she specifically told me to take my first three steps of the figure in a straight line, so that’s what I had been doing since that night.

Lord Dormamu stopped to think about that for a moment, and then told me he wasn’t sure what her train of thought was when she told me that. If I didn’t rotate my third step around Sparkledancer, then I was putting the onus of the turn completely on her. She has to put a lot more force into rotating me than I have to put into rotating her, which is likely why it looks like the pivot is out of control. When I come around, it simplifies everything, and we can pivot under control and stop easily facing the right angle, so I should always be doing it like that.

There was one other big overarching comment that Lord Dormamu made, having to do with rainbows. Apparently on some of the figures it appears as though I am ‘arcing’ over from one leg to another, like a rainbow. He referred to the action as “body flight” and told me that I shouldn’t have that while dancing Tango. In Waltz or Foxtrot, there should be controlled body flight created by the rise and fall of the figures, but Tango does not have that feature. He told me to work on keeping my shoulder line level as much as possible to eliminate the rainbows from here on out.

Once we finished up our lesson with Lord Dormamu, Sparkledancer and I had a bit of a break before our early afternoon lesson with Sir Steven. When we got together, the three of us continued to work on our showcase routine. Sir Steven didn’t give us the completed choreography that day like I thought he would, so I still don’t have that to work on. But we did put together two large chunks of the routine, and I know where on the ‘stage’ that those pieces should execute, so I can at least put those pieces into context now, which is more than I was able to do before.

The one major thing that I had Sir Steven look at for me was the lift that Sparkledancer and I had been working out on our own. Up until that point, while we were working out how to do all the pieces of the lift she and I had been practicing at either her house or my house with some sort of cushioned platform on the floor nearby, in case something went terribly wrong and dropping her was the only way to get out of the lift safely. That really only happened once, when she did something unexpected and her left arm got stuck under my right arm, and I had to drop her because if I had tried to pull her into the proper hold I would have likely dislocated her shoulder.

While I felt safer learning the initial points of the lift with that cushion nearby, the side effect is that I don’t have a mirror in front of me where I can see what is going on. This makes it difficult for me to see what is going wrong when things aren’t working the way that I would like. That’s why I wanted to go through the lift a couple of times with Sir Steven watching that afternoon, so that he could walk around me during a part that I was unsure about and tell me how things looked.

Doing it at the studio that day also allowed me to have a mirror in front of me, so I could see from one side and Sir Steven could see the other side at the same time. Amazing! Unfortunately, the downside of practicing a move like that at a busy dance studio is that lots of people will stop everything that they are doing to gawk when they see me basically shoulder press a human being over my head.

Lord Latin was giving a lesson to one of his female students, and they both stopped what they were doing the first couple of times I did this to openly stare at me. There were some kids that were waiting for a children’s group class to start that were pretty amazed as well. I’m not going to lie – from what I could see in the mirror, it looks pretty cool for me to be holding Sparkledancer up like that. I’d probably have stopped what I was doing to watch as well, had I not been the one doing it…

I think we figured out a way to possibly help with the issue I was having, but it is going to involve Sparkledancer bending herself like a snake as she curls around from laying across my shoulders to ending up in my arms in front of my chest. Spinning around should help her get there, since the momentum of the rotation should help her curl around from back to front. So far, most of our practice of this lift has been done without moving around too much. The end result should be that I am rotating counter-clockwise during most of the lift, but we’re not there quite yet.

Unfortunately, we probably won’t be able to really work on this movement again until after the competition this weekend is over, since I feel like my practice time this week was better spent trying to nail down my Tango so that I can do well this weekend. Oh well…

For a change of pace in Latin Technique class this week, Lord Junior wanted to do something simple in Rumba, but have us all focus on our arm motions. Yay… since all the competition stuff I do now is in a never-broken dance frame, arm motions are not something I spend a lot of time working on, so this class just felt awkward to me. Maybe this is a sign that I need to start doing more dances that involve my arms?

Does this mean that I’ll have to look into picking up American Smooth competitively once more?

Anyway… most of the class time was spent with Lord Junior talking with the ladies about what to do with their arms. That is to be expected, since there was only one of me and a lot more ladies to worry about. His comment to me was to move my arms while I moved my body, and make it look masculine while I did so. That was the extent of my instruction on arms that night.

Because the focus was on the arm motions, there were only a few figures strung together for this class. The figures that the ladies were given allowed them to do some variations with their arms for further practice. We started out with the ladies already out in Fan Position, having them close and going right into a Hockey Stick. This involved just normal inward and outward motions with the free arm as you walked. At the end of the Hockey Stick, the guys would check forward while rotating the lady’s wrist slightly to have her go into that Switchback figure that Lord Junior likes, turning to face away from us and putting their left arm up over their head and their left leg pointed backward.

Coming out of that was another quick rotation and then a few steps backward in the direction we had come from. The ladies were given some sort of fancy over-the-head movement to bring their arm down as they rotated. We ended things at that, allowing us to go back and practice everything quite a bit, and also allowing Lord Junior to make fun of me for how awkward my arm movements were.

I didn’t do as bad as Bony did though. The first few times we went into the Hockey Stick and she was moving her arm while walking, it looked like she was trying to backhand someone. That certainly caught Lord Junior’s attention, and he had to make a point to tell all the ladies that wasn’t really a good arm motion for a Rumba. That became a running joke for the rest of the class that night – do something wrong, and you’d get backhanded by Bony’s ‘arm motions.’

For Wednesday night’s Standard Technique class, Sparkledancer somehow managed to convince everyone else in attendance that we should work on Tango for the evening, so that she and I could get what would essentially be monitored practice in while we were there. I was all for it, since practice is really the only way I’m going to get any better with the Tango!

Lord Junior knows that Sparkledancer and I are going to compete this weekend, so he wanted to have a few figures that were basic steps we could use to practice, and also some Open-level challenging steps to push us a bit. According to him, all of these figures are things that are leadable in a social setting, assuming the lady I am dancing with has a basic understanding of International Tango. Sometimes I question when he makes claims like that… the Natural Pivots we did that night, for instance, just seem dangerous to try with a random partner.

We started the pattern off facing diagonal wall and doing two basic Tango Curved Walks, and went right into an Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside. To mess with the timing a bit, in the middle of the Open Reverse Turn Lord Junior had us add in two extra quick steps backwards before completing the figure. I’ll admit, half the time I did the figure that night, I totally forgot to put in those two extra steps!

Coming out of that, we went into a Progressive Link and then added in what I thought was the most challenging figure of the evening: the Fallaway Whisk from Promenade Position. When I first saw Lord Junior doing the step, for some reason I thought he was rotating as he crossed his foot behind, so I ended up doing the step just like a Twist Turn a few times before I managed to figure out what was going on. We did two of these right in a row, which we ended up putting into a corner of the room based on how much rotation was created before we came out.

I was told that, with practice, I could have made them travel more down the line of dance, but trying to get them to turn that much on my first night was not going to happen. Since we had now shifted to travel down a different wall, Lord Junior decided to keep up the rotation that we had started and add in three Natural Pivots that continued down that wall. As we came out of the third one, we had to immediately stop our rotation and bring our feet together, facing either wall or diagonal wall. Right at the end, we added on another Progressive Link to possibly go into something more, but by then we had run out of time in class.

So it’s on to the competition this weekend. Hooray! Once more, I will be journeying to the Dance Death Arena to test myself against other worthy adversaries. How will I do this time? That’s the big question that everyone seems excited to find out.  Tune in next week and I’ll let you know how things went!

All Around, Things To Tantalize My Brain

For this week I’ll probably limit what I talk about here to what happened over the weekend, since there is so much information to cover from just Friday and Saturday…

This past weekend I was lucky enough to attend the famous ballroom dancing weekend extravaganza that is held annually at the Grand Dance Hall. They make a point of bringing in some fabulous dinners to serve to the attendees, hold formal dance parties on both Friday and Saturday nights with a live orchestra providing the music, and offer some pretty fun workshops for both beginner and advanced students during the day on Saturday. This year marked my fifth time attending the October-weekend festivities, because I happen to find it so entertaining.

I made the hour+ drive out to the Grand Dance Hall mid-afternoon Friday, hoping to get there with a little extra time before the welcome reception started so that I could find a place to change into my formal attire. I’ve made the long drive while wearing a suit the first few years and it is super-uncomfortable, so I just don’t do it anymore. Once I had found a quiet corner to change into my formal attire and stowed my street clothes back in my car, I met up with the small group of people I knew by the dance floor to begin the evening’s events.

The main dance hall was opened up an hour before dinner would be served to allow everyone to come in, mingle a bit, eat some snacks that were set out at the back of the room, and even partake of a few adult beverages from the cash bar if that was your thing. A quartet of musicians was playing some dance tunes during the reception, giving everyone a chance to take to the dance floor and begin warming up their legs before the bigger dance party that would start after dinner, when the rest of the orchestra would join the quartet.

Not recognizing too many people at the reception, I stuck with the ladies that I did know when I went out to dance. The times that I went out to dance with Sparkledancer were apparently very noticeable to others in attendance. Near the end, just before the group I was in began wandering off to get some dinner, people started to approach either Sparkledancer or I and ask us if we were dance instructors, or if we were in fact THE dance instructors who would be teaching the workshops the next day. That was a bit strange.

One gentleman approached me and told me that I made him look bad by looking so good. I laughed and apologized to him for that, thinking he was just joking around. He then got quite serious and asked if I would be attending the workshops the next day. When I told him that I would be there, he asked me if I would be able to help him out if he got stuck on anything during the classes. I was really surprised by that question. Of course I told him I would do the best that I could, but it still surprised me that someone would go out of their way to ask me in advance for assistance with dance figures. I’ve never had that happen before.
Dinner was a delight, as always. The food that they bring in for the event always seems really extravagant compared to what I normally eat. I even had a fancy dessert, which is the part of any meal that I rarely (if ever) partake of. Around nine o’clock, the orchestra began to play and we all made our way back out to the dance floor to dance for a few more hours and burn off all those calories that we had consumed. Hooray!

Making my way back to the Grand Dance Hall early on Saturday morning to attend the first workshop being offered, I got to work on Tango for a while. These workshops that they hold are to give people new choreography to work on, rather than to focus on technique. This is a nice change of pace for me from what the lessons I normally attend focus on, so I was having fun.

The choreography we learned was fairly easy to put together if you’d seen all the figures individually before, and because we never broke frame you could theoretically use this when dancing both International or American Tango. I see it as more of an American Tango progression though, but that’s just my take on the matter.

We began facing diagonal wall and did two basic curved Walk steps. Next we attached a 180° pivot to the left and went into a Back Corte. Coming up from that, we did another 180° pivot to left and led the lady to do an Outside Fan, ending with a three-step-close like you see in American Tango. Next we did a Reverse Turn, closing our feet at the end, and then a Contra Check. At the end of the Contra Check we went into a Cobra Fan (another figure from the American Tango syllabus). When we close lady from the second Outside fan portion of that figure, we did two 180° pivots turning to the right this time, finishing with another three-step-close from American Tango to put you facing diagonal wall once more.

Next up of the three workshops offered that day was a Cha-Cha lesson. Everyone in attendance got a brief ten minute break after finishing up the Tango to prepare, and then we got to work immediately. Much like the Tango, the choreography wasn’t all that hard to remember if you had seen all of the individual figures before. Based on how everything was put together, I would guess that you could also do this pattern in Rumba with some minor variations.

The instructor had us begin by doing a full basic, mostly to get everyone’s mind out of Tango and into Cha-Cha. At the end of the basic as you chasse’d back to the left, the Lead would drop the lady’s arm down  to waist level. This set you up to push the lady backward into a diagonal Lock Step as we would do a chasse back to the right. With the lady moved away from us, we then did a Slip Chasse as we brought her back forward, which would make her do another Lock Step. Once we were back together, we led her into a Underarm Turn on left side, then a pair of Cross-Over Breaks, one right, one left, and then a set of Cuban Breaks on the right side.

Finished with the Cuban Breaks, we went into Solo Spot Turns on the left side. one last Cross-Over Break on the right, and in place of the next chasse both the Lead and Follow did a Three-Step Turn to the left. At the end of all that spinning, we linked hands to do two steps backward and then a backward Lock Step, ending in Aida position. To finish the whole progression, both partners turned to face each other, did a Stationary Chasse, and then we led the lady through a Cross Body Lead, releasing her at the end to lead her into one final Spot Turn on the left side.

We broke for an hour at that point so that everyone could grab lunch. When we all got back together, it was time for the last workshop of the day, which covered East Coast Swing. In this amalgamation we once more started out with a full basic movement to help everyone change mental gears, then transitioned into a Continuous Tuck-In with a full turn at the end. As the lady is turning, the Lead should back away so that she completes the turn out away from you, ending up in the position she would take to begin the Sliding Doors figure.

The next figure is kind of like the Sliding Doors, but not. You would bring your partner in front of you as normal, but stop her with your right hand when she gets directly in front of your body. Here you would lean from side to side, first to the left, then right, then repeat, while the lady leans in the opposite direction (right then left x2). This creates what the instructor described as a ‘Peek-A-Boo’ effect. If you know your partner pretty well, you can place your opposite hand on her waist as you lean – this is not a requirement on the first three leans, but on the fourth one you will need to place your left hand on your partner to signal the finish.

Using your left hand, you will lead the lady to turn to the left and roll away from you while you do a full basic movement. She can either do a half-turn, or one-and-a-half turns, depending on how much she likes spinning. After the next rock step you will take both of your partner’s hands in your own and lead her to step forward as you do, getting really close to each other and there hold for a beat. Then each of you will take a step back and hold there as well for a beat. To finish everything up, you do two Sailor Shuffles (right then left), lead the lady through a Underarm Turn, both partners go through Solo Turns, and then you can catch her hand once more to go into whatever you want next.

That all seems pretty normal for workshops at the Grand Dance Hall, right? So what was different about this year, to make my fifth time coming to this event special? Well, I’m not sure what I was doing differently, but it seemed like this year a whole bunch of people really wanted to approach me and ask for my help on how to do all the figures that the instructors were going over that day. I felt like I must have had some sort of neon sign hanging over my head that read “HELPFUL!” or something, drawing people over to ask me things when the instructors were busy with other people..

Remember that gentleman that I met at the reception who asked me if I would be willing to help if he got stuck? He actually got stuck, so I definitely had him approach me early on in the Tango class. What he forgot to mention at the reception was that he had come to the weekend’s events with a whole group of dancers from his home dance studio, and apparently he had told all of them about both Sparkledancer and I. So on top of him coming and asking me for help, other men from his group also asked me for help when they got stuck, and I could see women from that same group collecting around Sparkledancer on the other side of the room to ask her for help too.

When the instructors wanted the men and women to practice the figures together during class, Sparkledancer and I ended up frequently getting shepherded together so that the whole gang could stand around and watch as we demonstrated how the pieces worked with a partner. When these people felt confident enough to try things out with a partner from their group, they would ask either Sparkledancer or I to watch them to validate they got everything right, or if they got stuck they asked us to step through the trouble spots with them until they got things right.
On top of that, being the center of attention of these ten people in one corner of the dance floor started to attract the attention of others in the workshops, and soon we had even more people who would stop either one of us for assistance too! One older gentleman even came and found me during the morning and said that he took a lot longer to process the figures than most people, so he asked my permission to record me walking through the steps so that he could use the video to learn at his own pace.

I agreed to his request, of course. Not wanting to be in some stranger’s video all on my own though, I made Sparkledancer be in the video with me. That allowed him to see how the steps were done with a partner.  To be even more helpful, I also talked through what I was doing as I did the steps – I thought having some kind of audio cues could help keep confusion to a minimum when he watched the video in the future. He thanked me profusely when we finished.

With so many people talking to me all through the classes, I ended up cutting out of the East Coast Swing lesson a bit early to go find a secluded spot to collect my thoughts. It had been kind of an overload to talk to so many people, and while helping people is always thoroughly enjoyable, I needed a little bit of quiet time to reset afterward.

Once the workshops were over and done with on Saturday, the main dance hall was closed off so that the staff could prepare the room for that night’s final reception before dinner, and prepare for the dance party afterward. However, there was a smaller room closer to the front of the building that was opened up as a practice hall for anyone who wanted to use the few free hours that afternoon for practice. I was only too eager to get some extra practice in, so I wandered around until I found Sparkledancer and convinced her to come with me.

The dance floor in this practice room was much smaller than I had hoped for, so Sparkledancer and I ended up just running through pieces of our Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot routines for about 45 minutes until the floor really limited what we wanted to practice. I noticed that the back wall of the room had a mirror attached to it that hung about chest height for me over a carpeted section of the room. Limited on space to dance big steps, I suggested to Sparkledancer that we spend a little time working on something that was a bit more stationary instead: the lift for our upcoming showcase routine.

The last section of the lift I already felt pretty good about, so we just ran through that a couple of times and called that good. This time around I wanted to work on making sure we mastered the first section, because that would be where I get her off the ground as the whole thing starts. Basically, without going into too much detail, I end up crouching down as low as I can go with my feet still under me, then I help Sparkledancer hop up onto my right shoulder and stand up again with her sitting there facing behind me. The mirror on the wall was actually really helpful for this, because as I stood I could see how she was sitting without having to turn my head, using that view to help me figure things out.
There were a couple of important notes that we worked out while going through this section. Getting Sparkledancer up like that was the easy part – as I’ve said, she’s pretty light, and I’m positioned in such a way when we start that I can use both my legs to lift myself and her, so that’s no problem. The first note is that I needed to make sure that she hops up onto my shoulder so that her right hip ends up right where my shoulder starts to curve up to my neck. If she’s seated too far over to the right, she’s liable to start sliding off the rounded end of my shoulder and down my right arm as I begin to stand.

The second big thing we found out was that Sparkledancer really needed to remain engaged in her core the whole time while up off the ground. For the second part of the lift, I need to be able to move around with her up there, and then I start to manipulate her position with my arms. If she is loose and wiggling around, trying that becomes difficult. Funny, but difficult. Keeping her core in place to keep her solid and steady fixes that issue.

Finally, there’s the arms. When I stand up, I have my right arm bent at a 90° angle so my hand is behind her back, and my left hand is holding her right hand to keep her stable as I stand up. Once up, I must be able to let go and start moving my hands to their new positions for the next section, so I can’t rely on just holding Sparkledancer in place. Once I reposition my hands under her right arm and left leg for the next section, my arms become useful again, but there is that brief moment where I do actually have to move them and can’t hold on that can be a bit scary. As we tried things out, the first few times either I or Sparkledancer were holding on too tight to move my arms at all, which caused all sorts of problems.

We ended up stopping there for the day, promising to work on the middle section later. That part will involve a lot of rotation of her body and lifting on my part, but she ends up behind my head, so I wanted to keep things safe. For that piece we will have to do our initial tests somewhere where I can have a big cushion available for Sparkledancer to drop into if something goes really awry. I don’t expect anything to be terrible, but just like I mentioned before, safety is always rule #1 when doing lifts, especially during the learning phase.

Plus, I think word had gotten out that Sparkledancer and I were practicing this overly athletic dance move, and people kept poking their heads in to see what we were up to. Fellow dancers spying on us was unnerving enough, but when members of the staff started doing it I thought it might be best to call it quits for the day. I didn’t want anyone who worked for the Grand Dance Hall to start having conniptions about me letting a girl sit on my shoulder as I walked around the room…

Saturday night’s reception was a lot like Friday night’s, though many of the attendees broke out attire for the evening that was even more formal than what was worn the night before. The same four piece band provided the music during the reception, though their tempos seemed to run a bit looser in their interpretations of the songs than what they had performed the night before. It was an entertaining time, and I got to eat a plate of super fancy cheese slices on top of that!

The dance party that night after dinner was the big one – the last chance to pull out all the stops and leave everything out on the dance floor. The set list that the orchestra had picked out for the evening did leave a lot to be desired, but that’s just my own take on things. To me it felt like they only played Waltz, Foxtrot, East Coast Swing and Cha-Cha songs that night. There were a couple of other styles interspersed in occasionally, but those were very rare. I think during the few hours they played they did only one Rumba, I know they only did one Tango, and there were no Viennese Waltz numbers at all. There was one song that I heard as a familiar Quickstep tune, but a bunch of dancers took the floor early on and started to dance Swing instead, and many were all in the line of dance instead of in the middle, so Quickstep would have been super dangerous.
Overall this year was another really good time, and I snagged a flyer on the way out that night that contained the sign-up sheet for next year’s event. I’ve already mailed in my form along with the down payment to reserve my spot, so I’ll for sure be back next October to party at the Grand Dance Hall once again. Do you all want to come along with me? We could make it into an even bigger party! Just let me know and I can send you a link to all the information you’ll need to reserve your spot too!