Tag Archives: Salsa

Some Enchanted Evening


Last Friday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall to attend the party they were holding to celebrate the anniversary of their opening day all those years ago. The actual anniversary wasn’t really on that day, or even during that week, but Lord Junior said that as long as he had the celebratory party during the same month as the original opening day he would call that a win. I showed up at the Electric Dance Hall with tons of time before the actual party started, so the group class that was being held beforehand was still going on when I got there. They were going over some basic Cha-Cha stuff, so I prepared myself to dance a lot of Cha-Cha that night.

I had fun at the party that night. I feel like it had been quite a while since I had just gone out to dance for fun rather than going out to dance for practice purposes, and sometimes you need to just have fun. After all, one of the big three rules is that you’ve got to have fun, right? I believe that it’s right up there with staying safe as rule one, and keeping your form as rule two. I also got to spend time with a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a while, and I did my best to hide my amusement at HotDog’s constant attempts to try to dance with only the youngest, most attractive ladies who were at the party. About halfway through the night Lord Junior gave a brief speech about how awesome the years at the Electric Dance Hall have been, and told us all about his hopes that the success of the studio continue for many years to come.

One unexpected thing did happen that nearly stopped my heart that night. I had just gotten done dancing something, I don’t even remember what it was now, and was going to work my way back to the side of the dance floor to pick up a new partner for the next song when suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned around to see the Dance Robots standing there smiling at me. I love these two – they make me so happy. I see them at lots of dance parties around the area. They are like twenty-times my age, yet they are always the first ones to take to the dance floor on the nights that I see them, and usually the last ones to leave as well. You can just wind them up and they dance all night long! It’s amazing, and I hope I can be just like that when I’m older.

Anyway, when I turned and saw who it was that was laying hands on me, I was happy to see that it was the two of them. I was quick to exchange greetings and pleasantries, and I asked them how life has been treating them lately. The lady Dance Robot tells me that they have been super busy lately because they have been packing up in preparation to move.

What!!?!?!?!?!????!?!?!?!!?!?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!??!???!??????

At that point, I am kind of staring at them with some sort of shocked look on my face, while the two of them are just exchanging looks and laughing about something. I’m thinking to myself how the whole Dance Kingdom would fall apart if these two moved somewhere else. Things just wouldn’t be the same, and it would be super sad!

Sparkledancer happened to be walking by at that point and stopped to greet the Dance Robots. When she sees the dumb look on my face, she asks them what’s going on, so they tell her the same thing about how they are getting packed up to move. She gets shocked too and puts her hand over her face in a gesture of surprise, but manages to hold it together well enough to ask about where they are moving to. The two Dance Robots are really laughing now, and say that they are just looking to downsize their residence, and they managed to find a smaller place just a few miles from where they currently live, so they’ll still be around to cause trouble at all sorts of dance parties for the foreseeable future.

Crisis averted. Those two… they think they are sooooooooo funny. If they weren’t so lovable, I might have to be angry with them.

Saturday morning came far too early. I had rearranged everything I normally have planned for my Saturdays so that I could head over to the Endless Dance Hall to help get everything set up for the big formal party that my little Royal Dance Court group would be throwing that night. I got to the Endless Dance Hall before we were scheduled to get started, since I was hoping to try to get some things out of the way to make sure that I could get out of there on time to be at my coaching session with Lord Dormamu later that afternoon. Sparkledancer had also agreed to meet me there at the same time, since she had to meet up with Lord Dormamu as well, so she was totally on board with getting things done as quickly as possible.

I was pleasantly surprised when I got there to find that all of the tables and almost all of the chairs had already been pulled out of storage and set up by the Endless Dance Hall’s staff prior to our arriving, and that the tables had been arranged in the manner that I had recommended! See, originally the members of the Royal Dance Court had wanted to put a table for the DJ in the middle of one of long wall against the back of the room, and line up six tables on either side of the DJ table curving down the short walls. This would have left a square-ish area for dancing in the middle of the floor. When I had gone to the Endless Dance Hall for the last competition I was in several weeks ago, they had set up six tables lined up along each long wall with a place for their DJ in the middle of one of the short walls, leaving a competition sized rectangular dance area in the middle. I had loved the look of that setup, so I had taken pictures of it and they were shared with the rest of the Royal Dance Court. While Prez was… skeptical about changing the layout, everyone else thought it would be great.

As I was taking stock of the situation inside the Endless Dance Hall, Sparkledancer and one other member of my Royal Dance Court crew showed up. Seeing the boxes with the chair covers and ties sitting over in the corner, I put the three of us to work on getting all the chairs in order. As more of the Royal Dance Court members showed up, I ended up having to tell them what things they should be starting on next, since everyone immediately started in on the chairs as well and no one went to work on any other tasks. Once Prez showed up with the boxes full of the pieces to assemble the centerpiece, I asked two of the ladies to go work with her on getting those put together and to leave the other tasks to the rest of us. I remembered what happened last year when too many people tried to deal with the centerpieces, and the arguments that followed, and how we ended up having to go back and change things several times… Not wanting to repeat that this year, I figured a small group could handle that task, and fewer hands would mean less rework required.

Things came together quickly, which was nice. We could have been slightly more efficient if people had stuck with the tasks I had asked them to do until they were finished instead of getting sidetracked, but overall I was happy to wrap everything up in about an hour and a half. I confess that I don’t often like to be the ‘alpha male’ in the room ordering a bunch of ladies around, but since I had a deadline that afternoon where I had to leave, I felt like exerting that influence was necessary to make sure that things got done. No one stopped me from delegating tasks, or questioned the executive decisions I was making to speed along the setup process, so I don’t think any of the ladies really minded me taking charge like that. Or if they did, they didn’t come say anything to me about it, which for right now I’m also going to count as a win in my book. Hooray!

Finished with the setup, I took off from the Endless Dance Hall to get to the Fancy Dance Hall for my coaching session with Lord Dormamu. This was the first time I had gotten to work with him since the competition I had done at the beginning of April. Because of that, Lord Dormamu decided that I have to go back to having things taken away from me since he still doesn’t think certain aspects of my dancing are right, and he wants me to focus on fixing those points while not worrying about anything else at the same time. Sigh… sometimes I feel like I am not actually moving forward, even though I’m supposed to be the Lead and I don’t walk backwards too often.

So what were the main points that I was able to take away from this session? I think they can best be broken down as follows:

  • I have to go back to keeping my nose in line with my sternum. Lord Dormamu says that, while it’s gotten much better, I still unconsciously lean my head to the right sometimes when I am thinking about other things, so until I can fix that habit I have to force myself to realign my default position to be neutral
  • On Double Reverse Spins in Waltz, he wants me to throw out the notion of “early quick rise” altogether. That is the technique you are supposed to use according to the book, but Lord Dormamu says that no one actually does it that way. To force Sparkledancer to bring her feet together for the Heel Turn, I should now take a shorter step that curves to the left going into the figure, which will force my partner to bring her feet together
  • Going forward, I am supposed to really emphasize the rise and fall in the Waltz by staying down farther (almost like squatting) on both beats one and three in the music, and rising up for beat two. Lord Dormamu said that he will be the one to let us know if rising and falling like that gets to be too much and we need to go back and smooth things out more, but that is how we should do it until he says otherwise

Sparkledancer’s only focus coming out of this session was that she needs to work on spreading her elbows farther and pulling her body farther to the left when in frame. There were lots of comments comparing her to a jet while he was getting her to do this, and the times that she did it right and was able to hold the position the entire time we danced something there were some explicit exclamations of joy. It’s funny when Lord Dormamu swears like that. English is obviously not his first language, and he only swears in English when really good things happen, so it catches me by surprise when I hear him do it.

That brings us to Saturday night at the formal party that I helped to host. All in all, the party went off without a hitch, and people seemed to enjoy everything going on. The dinner was good, but personally I think that the dinner rolls were the best part. After everyone had eaten and they allowed people to go back and help themselves to any of the leftover food, I think I went back to get three more rolls on top of the one I ate with my meal. Then again, the meal itself was much less food than I normally eat for dinner, so I was still hungry after dinner was finished (that is the one downside to building big muscles – you have to eat A LOT).

Throughout various parts of the evening, I was running around the dance hall taking care of things, trying to keep the people who came to attend the dance happy. The one person we had on hand from the Endless Dance Hall’s staff had been up most of the night working on something for his actual job (he just owns a gigantic dance studio as a hobby. Must be nice), so the few times we went back to the office to get things we had stored back there we found him sleeping, with the office lights still on even. That was part of the reason I tried to take care of things, leaving him to get some much deserved rest.

The dancing went really well. We did have a few minor hiccups on the dance floor, but I think those were all due to people having a bit too much to drink. There was one lady who was a bit out of control when she danced, but luckily her “date” who wasn’t actually a date took it upon himself to keep a tight leash on her about halfway through the dance. Lord Fabulous and Lord Scarry had come to the party with a large contingent of their students, and near the end of the night Lord Fabulous seemed to forget many of the rules of good floor etiquette. I saw him take one of his students and dance an East Coast Swing right in the line of dance while everyone else was dancing Foxtrot, and later in the evening I watched as he and Lord Scarry danced together, weaving a Foxtrot through all the other people on the floor doing East Coast Swing. But the worst one I saw was when Lord Fabulous took a girl who, by the look on her face didn’t know what she was doing, and attempted to do a Quickstep with her. They were all over the floor during that dance, not following the line of dance at all, and several times even traveling directly against the line of dance! That one scared me a bit, but luckily the song ended in short order.

Shortly after the halfway point of our party, I saw a new couple enter the building. I didn’t see any other members of the Royal Dance Court nearby, so I excused myself from the lady I was dancing with to run over and greet them. Introducing myself and asking if I could help them at all, they looked around a bit and told me they thought they were in the wrong place, since this didn’t look like the dance party they were looking for. I explained to them that this was my Royal Dance Court’s formal dance, and asked them what they were looking for to see if I could help. They said there was some sort of anniversary party at a ballroom studio, but they didn’t know the name of the studio off the top of their head, so they said they would just head out and call some friends of theirs to ask. I wished them luck, and they took off. Little did I know that this small event would become relevant later…

Even though Saturday was an exhausting day full of dance tasks, there hadn’t been enough time to fit in everything that I had to do, so I went out to do more dancing on Sunday as well. I had rescheduled my normal weekend coaching session with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for Sunday afternoon, so I headed back over to the Fancy Dance Hall for the second time that weekend to see them. There was also a Latin workshop that was scheduled for late in the afternoon on Sunday that I really tried to make it out to, but I hadn’t been home all weekend so when I tried to take care of some things after getting home from my coaching session, I didn’t finish until after the workshop had already started, so I never made it there. Ah well, you can’t do everything, right?

The Fancy Dance Hall was quite a site when I got there on Sunday afternoon. The place looked trashed! All of the tables and chairs had been moved into piles in the corners or were pushed back against the wall, but I could tell that something wasn’t right after I walked through two really sticky spots on the floor as I headed over to take a seat next to where Sparkledancer was already waiting for me. Sparkledancer and I started talking about what we wanted to do to warm up before getting started, and where to go on the floor since I wanted to avoid the sticky spots I had already found, and both Lord Latin and Lord Dormamu were occupying different sections of the floor to give lessons.

Before I had even gotten my shoes on, Sir Steven came over to say hello. He had come out of the back room as soon as he had seen us, and was still eating part of his lunch, so I could tell something was up. He started off by apologizing to us for the state that the building was in. Apparently they had rented out the Fancy Dance Hall as a venue for a party the night before for some group that is associated with the Salsa community in the Dance Kingdom, and the party got to be out of control. They were still trying to clean up the mess that had been left behind, as we could plainly see. The party had lasted until well past two in the morning, and the rough estimates that they got from the people running the party was that just about 500 people had shown up, even though the Fancy Dance Hall is only rated to hold slightly less than 300 according to the fire code for the building.

The two girls from the Fancy Dance Hall’s staff who had volunteered to be on site during the party had started calling Lord Dormamu after midnight when they lost control of the situation, telling him he needed to get his butt back to the studio as fast as he could. Once the party was over, they had tried to clean up as best they could but called it quits after a couple of hours, leaving the place in a functional but messy state so that people could teach lessons on Sunday. Lord Dormamu had already called the service that comes in on Saturday mornings to clean their wooden floors to schedule them to come back as soon as possible and clean the floor all over again. There were sticky spots all over the place, and in the front there was a trail of stickiness that traveled all along the short wall in a curving pattern that looked like a giant slug had crossed the floor. I’m not sure how someone at a party managed to make a sticky mess like that, but it was kind of impressive to see!

So what was the funniest part of the whole mess? As soon as Sir Steven said the name of the event, I remembered the couple that had stopped in at the Endless Dance Hall during our formal party the night before asking about a dance party they were looking for. They had been looking for the party at the Fancy Dance Hall! Had I known that was where they were trying to go, I could have told them exactly how to get there! Small world, right?

Anyway, the stickiness of the dance floor turned out to be a metaphor for what we worked on that day with Sir Steven. He wanted us to slow down some of our movements, and to do so he had us practice leaving our feet ‘stuck’ to the ground for as long as possible in Waltz and Foxtrot. This involved doing something that I had really only done in Tango up until that point: bending my legs so that my knees extended out over my toes as far as they could before moving my back leg, filling up the time for each step. This sounds pretty simple, but it was easy enough to forget at times when trying to remember to also do the various points that Lord Dormamu asked me to do the day before (like keeping my nose in line with my sternum), and it requires you to really engage your core to help maintain your balance the entire time.

I couldn’t tell if taking my steps like that while dancing through portions of my Waltz and Foxtrot routine actually helped to slow down my steps at all, or if the steps just happened to be slower because I was trying to process so much information in my brain that it took extra time for the signals to reach my legs so that they would start moving. Either way, thinking about this did help slow down a few spots that I know tend to get rushed when I’m not paying attention (like coming out of the Reverse Turn in Foxtrot going into the Feather Ending). This is yet another thing to add to my ever-increasing list of items to do during my practice sessions. At the rate that list has been growing lately, I’m either going to have to start dividing the points up to work on only some homework items each practice session, or I’m going to have to find time to spend four or five hours in the studio for each practice session to fit everything in.

With all this dancing, it’s no wonder I have no time for much of a romantic life…

There were other dance things that I did this past week, but the stuff that happened this weekend is the important stuff I’d like to remember for posterity. Next weekend shouldn’t be quite as busy, though there will be some interesting happenings to write about. Outside of my normally scheduled weekend dancing, I have another lesson with Lord Dormamu scheduled for this coming Sunday before he heads out of town for several weeks. We’ll have to see if I am able to get in enough practice before that time for him to see a difference on the points he gave me last weekend. Wish me luck with that!

Practice Makes Perfect Sense To Me

Last Saturday afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for our normal standing coaching session. We started things off by running through just three of our International Standard routines for warm-up, the Waltz, Tango and Foxtrot. When we finished those up and Sir Steven started talking about what he wanted to look at that day, one of the things he said that really stood out to me was that he complimented Sparkledancer and me about how much things have improved lately. He said the difference has actually been noticeable, especially in the Waltz. I know that working with Lord Dormamu is probably the catalyst for this, but I don’t think it has actually been the few sessions we had with him that have really helped. After all, we have only managed to meet with him three times to work on things. We were supposed to get together more than that, but have had scheduling conflicts so it hasn’t happened yet.

No, I personally believe much of our improvement has to do with the fact that the first time we met with Lord Dormamu, he gave us ‘homework’ to do, and ever since that day Sparkledancer and I have set up regular practice sessions every week to spend several hours working on stuff ourselves. Before, we used to practice routines mostly by making plans to get together during social dance parties, but now we are actually spending serious time on the floor going through figures that gave us trouble in our lessons, practicing techniques that our instructors have told us to work on, and running our routines on our own rather than always relying on a partner. I’ve had other people tell me in the last month or so that they have noticed a difference, but most of those I just ignored. But when my primary instructor, the guy that pretty much taught me almost everything I know, says he sees a difference? Then I may actually believe that something has changed.

Sooo…. Anyway, this weekend’s lesson was pretty good for me, but not so much for Sparkledancer. She was the one getting corrected on things for much of our time this week. I know her well enough at this point to know that she wasn’t having a good time during a lot of our lesson since she was being corrected so much. After things were all over and we were walking out to the parking lot together, she told me that logically she understood that most of how well a Follower dances is based on how good the Lead is, so if she is getting corrected more, that means that I am doing things a lot better, so overall we are improving. Still, she said, it kind of made her feel like a terrible dancer. I told her I knew exactly how she felt, since most of the time in our lessons it is me being corrected for all kinds of things, and I know how that can erode your dance confidence sometimes.

The major thing that we worked on that afternoon was Foxtrot again. One of the points that Sir Steven actually pointed out to Sparkledancer and brought me in for as well was the heel turns. He said that it looked like she wasn’t actually bringing her feet all the way around when she turned during the heel turn, which was throwing her off for the next couple of steps afterward since she had to work harder to get into the right place. Heel turns ended up being our homework for this week to work on. Sparkledancer has a couple of heel turn figures in our Foxtrot routine, both a Reverse Turn with Feather Finish and a Natural Turn, as well as a Natural Weave which basically starts out as a Natural Turn. I also have a Natural Closed Impetus with Feather Finish, which has me doing a heel turn too. So Sir Steven said that we should spend some time working on heel turns during our practice sessions, both just doing the footwork on our own and then working on the figures together. Nailing those out would really help for our Foxtrot, and because Sparkledancer also does heel pulls in Waltz and Quickstep during the Double Reverse Spins it would help for those as well.

I must report that sadly, my planned lesson last Sunday with Lord Dormamu did not happen. He was also out competing at the big competition this past weekend, and had said that he would be back by Sunday afternoon and would have time to get together with both Sparkledancer and I. That morning he sent both of us text messages to say that he would be leaving the competition venue in a little bit and would be back at the Fancy Dance Hall “soon” and that he would keep us posted about getting together that afternoon. Well, neither of us heard anything else from him that day. So we’re going to have to reschedule things again. Sigh… is working with world champion dancers always this difficult? I must say it’s kind of annoying.

We got to work on some Rumba in Latin Technique class on Monday. Before class started, Lord Junior was asking us what we all wanted to work on, and said we could do anything but Jive or Samba, since he danced hard at the competition this past weekend and he wanted to have a break from those two. To get everyone warmed up, we started off with an exercise we had done before where we all started on one end of the floor standing on our left leg with the right foot pointed back and took two steps forward, did a Spiral Turn on the right leg on the third step, then took another two steps forward and did another Spiral Turn on the left leg, then did two measures of normal Rumba Walks, then started over from the top until we got all the way down the floor. Some people with long legs (like me) didn’t get to repeat the pattern quite as much as others, but luckily we got to flip around when we hit the end of the floor and start everything over.

For the actual work of the class, one person had suggested doing something using the Sliding Door figure, so Lord Junior made up a solo progression that allowed everyone to do a portion of both the Lead and Follow part of the figure, as well as fitting in some further work with Rumba Walks and Spiral Turns. We started off standing with our feet together and did two Cucarachas, first right then left. Next we went into the ladies footwork for the Sliding Door, doing a rock step backward on the right leg that turned into a Hip Twist with a Press Line. Putting the heel down, we did a Cuban Rock to the left, collected our feet and turned around 180°, stepping forward afterward. As we stood on the left leg, we turned another 180° clockwise and went into the Sliding Door again.

The second time through, instead of the Cuban Rock that we did the first time, we went into a syncopated Cucaracha to the left, which we used as a transition piece to shift into doing the Lead’s footwork of the Sliding Door. As we brought our feet together after the syncopated Cucaracha, we checked our left foot forward and did a Ronde-like move that brought our left leg back behind the right, basically into the same position you would for a Cuban Cross. We then did a Spiral Turn in place (which Leads can do during a Sliding Door if they want to be fancy), pushing out of it hard with the left leg to move to the right, sliding slightly along the floor on purpose as we put the right foot down. Once we collected the feet we went into a Rumba Box. Starting with the left foot we went through the footwork as normal (forward, side, back, back, side and forward, if you know the mantra). As we landed on the right foot we did another Spiral Turn, and for the last four beats we did three steps forward, turning a full 360° on the second step, finishing with a one more step going to the right side.

As I’ve mentioned quite a few times now, there was a big competition going on in the northern regions of the Dance Kingdom this past weekend. Because of that, a lot of the dance halls were shut down since all their teachers were competing with students. There was one dance party that was going on Saturday night to help tide over the other dance peasants in the kingdom, but rather than attend this party, I made plans to meet up with Sparkledancer out at the Electric Dance Hall to practice on Saturday night. Since Lord Junior was off competing that weekend, there wasn’t much scheduled to go on there, so I figured it would be a good chance to get the floor mostly to ourselves.

It turns out I was right about that. There were a couple of private lessons scheduled with one instructor, so that guy had the building unlocked for us during the few hours that we were there that evening. In between his lessons, he decided to go off and grab a bite to eat, so we even got to practice for a while with the place completely empty and full control over the music as well, which was even more awesome. I cannot say that we had the same situation when we met up for our regular Tuesday night practice session at the Electric Dance Hall. Tuesday night when we got to the studio, there were four different private lessons going on already, limiting the amount of free space available on the dance floor. It was probably because everyone had been out competing over the weekend, so they were trying to fit in all the private lessons that couldn’t happen while they were out, but I don’t know that for sure.

Things weren’t all bad having limited space on Tuesday night though. Saturday night since we had the place practically to ourselves we ran through everything, going through all of our routines (including Viennese Waltz this time) all around the room, looping everything a couple of times when dancing by ourselves and dancing together. I also spent so much time dancing by myself holding those stupid cups in my hands that my shoulders were screaming at me by the time we called it quits that night. On Tuesday, since we were limited to pretty much just a corner of the dance floor, we specifically focused on Foxtrot and worked on all of the heel turn figures that we had, just like Sir Steven asked us to do. Those were fairly easy to keep contained, with us only using the figure leading into the heel turn, the turning figure itself and the Feather Finish coming out of it, so nothing really traveled all that far. Nearing the end of our hour on Tuesday, all of the lessons that had been going on finished up, so we managed to also run the entirety of our Foxtrot routine a couple of times before leaving.

And the party with all the people hanging out at the Electric Dance Hall didn’t end on Tuesday night, either. When I headed over there on Wednesday night for Standard Technique class, there were even more people hanging around on the floor. There were so many people on the floor that the class I showed up for didn’t actually happen that night. When I got there, Lord Junior was going over some paperwork with a new student, which took him a bit longer than he expected. There were four of us who had shown up for Standard Technique standing over by a couch together, and he apologized profusely to all of us and said we would get started as soon as he finished up all the paperwork.

At the same time that class was supposed to start, a whole bunch of other things started happening on the dance floor, taking up a large portion of the space. Sir Steven had come over from the Fancy Dance Hall and was teaching a private lesson to a couple in one corner (he still teaches over at the Electric Dance Hall at least one night a week). Sir Digler was giving a private lesson to a different couple along the back wall. There was a new female instructor that I have only seen a few times teaching Salsa to a male student closer to the back wall. And finally, taking up a ton of room in the front of the studio, Lord Fabulous and Lord Scarry were teaching what looked like a group class to a gang of women. Other than the Salsa lesson going on, everyone else seemed to be teaching various ballroom styles, so all of the various groups of people kept shifting around on the floor. With so much activity going on, I was having a hard time focusing on anything in particular.

When Lord Junior finished up all his paperwork, he came and joined the four of us standing off to the side watching all the action on the floor. He told all of us that what he had planned on looking at that night was Quickstep, to go through Turning Lock Steps with us. However, since there didn’t seem to be an open lane on the floor where we could safely do those, he said we’d have to scrap that idea and go through something else, and asked if any of us had any contained figures we wanted to look at instead. Sparkledancer made a joke that it was the perfect night to practice some floorcraft, with so many obstacles to work around. The other guy that had shown up for class said that he had just finished up a private lesson, so he would be happy to just go home, and Prez just shrugged and said she didn’t have anything in particular she wanted to look at.

Lord Junior said that if no one had anything, we could just cancel class and let everyone head home or stay and practice if we could find a small opening on the floor. He said that if anyone stuck around to practice, he would come around and work with them for a while, but he wouldn’t charge anything for the time since he felt bad that the floor was overbooked. So, with a small open space in the back of the room by the mirrors, Sparkledancer and I took to the floor to get some more practice time in. Wanting to stay relatively confined, and since we already spent an entire session working on heel turns in Foxtrot the day before, this time we worked on our Tango Open Reverse figure for the entire time.

When Lord Junior came over to check on us after a while, he asked us what we were doing. We explained to him about how we were told that our Open Reverse Turn looked off, and we were given all kinds of suggestions on what could possibly fix it, but none of them made anyone tell us it was actually good, and some of the suggestions conflicted with each other. So we went through the figure a couple of times for him so he could see what we were doing. After watching, he told us that what he tells his other students is that if he brought in four high-level coaches and they each watched you do the same figure, they would all tell you how to “fix” it. 90% of what they tell you would be the same, but the other 10% comes down to the way that coach likes to do things, which is purely up to their own taste.

For us, he said he would go through what the figure should be doing based on what the official books say for pure footwork and technique. To start with, he said that Sparkledancer wasn’t pulling herself to the back and left far enough, and maintaining that poise through the whole figure. He also said he immediately noticed me turning my head toward her in the middle of the figure, which is also a huge no-no. So those were the first two items to fix. After that, what it all seemed to come down to was that I wasn’t coming around Sparkledancer enough on my second step. For Tango, I’m supposed to be selfish and not really care about making sure there is room for my partner. I need to make sure that my first step is heading straight toward diagonal center, and then my second step turns and becomes a side step that basically also travels diagonal center, cutting right in front of my partner. If I don’t come around far enough, she’ll try to go outside of me, which is why sometimes the middle looks funny.

He also said that my next step doesn’t need to go backward on an angle to make room for my partner’s leg to go between mine. By the book, I just take a step going straight back down the line of dance. If I maintain the CBMP rotation in my body, the lady should naturally take a step between my legs, and I don’t need to step backward on an angle to accommodate her. I guess if she doesn’t want to step between my legs when I do that, I’m supposed to just leave her to dance by herself. We practiced things for a while to make sure that we had everything down and committed to muscle memory. At one point, as he was heading out the door after his lesson, Sir Digler stopped to stand there watching us. I thought he had stopped to talk to Lord Junior a bit, but he told us he was actually stopping to watch Sparkledancer and I, and that he could see the improvement in the way we were holding ourselves lately, and we were looking really good.

That’s another instructor mentioning that we’ve improved noticeably in less than a week’s time. Does that mean that we might actually have pushed past the plateau that we were stuck at before? Or is everyone just being nice? I guess only time will tell…

This Romance Is From Afar Calling Me Silently

Early Saturday afternoon I arrived at the Fancy Dance Hall to meet up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer for our regularly scheduled coaching session. We started things off that day by running through all our International Standard competition routines aside from Viennese Waltz once, just to get started. Before our lesson had started, Sparkledancer and I had been warming up on our own and had been repeatedly running through the Progressive Chasses in our Waltz routine, since that is a place I know that I mess up the footwork when I am not thinking about what I’m supposed to be doing. Well, so much repetition that day meant that Progressive Chasses were on my mind, so when we did our Waltz routine while Sir Steven was watching, I totally replaced the normal Reverse Turn on the short wall with a Progressive Chasse to the Right. That made me feel a bit dumb, but he didn’t call me out for doing the footwork wrong when I did it, so then I felt good about that. I was very conflicted on how to feel about that figure.

Once we got past the opening, we spent a bit of time talking about things, referring to the notes that we had gotten back about our competition heats. Sir Steven told us that people who dance ballroom dances tend to fall into one of two categories: those that are better at Waltz and Foxtrot, and those that are better at Tango and Quickstep. He said that Sparkledancer and I together look like we fall into the first category, which is generally where most people place Sir Steven as well. Lord Dormamu on the other hand was ranked among the best in the world in Tango and Quickstep, so he would be in the second category. Sparkledancer and I don’t do Quickstep all that often, so that explains that one, and according to Sir Steven, it’s not that our Tango is bad, but the characterization of the dance doesn’t always look like Tango. As you can imagine, when our characterization gets off, it starts to look more smooth, like a Waltz of Foxtrot.

Based on that short discussion, Sir Steven said we would focus on Tango that day, and he would be talking to Lord Dormamu about him spending more time on that style with us as well. After all, working on our weakest points should help improve everything overall in theory. We started out with looking at the Promenade Pivot that we do, trying to really nail it down so that the rotation happened quickly and stopped exactly where it should immediately, instead of floating around like a Waltz pivot.

We also went back and looked at the Open Reverse Turn that happened before the Promenade Pivot. That day Sir Steven said that there was something that looked off about what we were doing, but he couldn’t quite figure out what it was. Each of us dancing it independently with him soshedances1seemed to be able to do things appropriately, but there was something that bugged him about us doing the figure together. There were two other instructors that also happened to be practicing on the floor that afternoon, and he called them over to watch what we were doing together. Then he had the two of them do the figure so we could try to find out what was different. I thought that the other two were doing a lot of excess movement in their upper bodies compared to what Sparkledancer and I were doing, but no one said anything about that. In the end we didn’t really change much other than to make sure we were rotated more in CBMP and that we were reaching our legs out of the way more when each of us was moving backward. It didn’t feel any different to me, but I guess that was enough to make Sir Steven happy that afternoon.

Don’t you hate it when one thing you do is bad, and the next thing you do is acceptable, but they don’t actually feel any different to you? It makes it hard to be sure you’re repeating what’s good. Grrr…

As I mentioned last week, this weekend I was helping to host the monthly dance party with my Royal Dance Court gang. Being February, we were having a Valentine’s Day themed party, and had chosen to have someone come in and teach some West Coast Swing to all of our guests to coincide with the big West Coast Swing gathering that occurred at the beginning of this month. Surprisingly enough, I did not really have to participate in the dance lesson this time around, because when the class was starting out we actually had an even number of men and women there. Crazy, right? I hung out in the back of the room watching things to make sure I knew what they had done, so that I would know what figures everyone would know if I danced a West Coast Swing later that night during the party. The class ended up being only an introductory lesson, covering the Sugar Push, Right-Side Pass, Left-Side Pass and a basic Whip – stuff that I’ve done lots of times before.

Hotdog showed up to the party about fifteen minutes into the lesson, and decided to come sit down near where I was standing rather than jump in and learn something new. He had never done West Coast Swing before, but after watching the class for a few minutes, he was telling me all about how he could totally do everything they were doing easily. I just smiled at him and told him he should jump into line then and prove it. He moaned a bit, giving me some excuse about how he had just got done working all day and he wanted to spend a few minutes sitting down before dancing all night. I just smiled at him and rolled my eyes after turning my head back toward the class.

(You can see where I’m going with this, right?)

Halfway through class a couple of new ladies showed up. After fiddling around on the couch to get their dance shoes on, one of the two ladies decides that she wants to participate in the soshedances2class. She came over to where Hotdog and I were and asked if one of us would go out there with her to keep the ratio even. Being the nice guy that I am, I ‘volunteered’ Hotdog, telling him that it was time to put his money where his mouth was. He managed to make it through the Sugar Push and Left-Side Pass with no trouble, but could not figure out the Right-Side Pass. After both he and the lady he was dancing with couldn’t figure out what was wrong, the two of them finally looked over to where I was standing (and chuckling), and gestured me over to help them. Let that be a lesson to you: never make big claims that you can totally do everything after watching it a few times if there is a chance you’ll have to prove yourself and you’re going to fail. Then you just look silly.

The party afterward was fun. Since most of the men hung around after the lesson, I didn’t have to work quite so hard that night entertaining ladies, so I got to walk around and talk to people from time to time. I heard an interesting tidbit from Sparkledancer while I was there – apparently, in the few days before the dance party, Hotdog had been texting Sparkledancer and complaining about being lonely. It was just after Valentine’s Day, after all. He was also asking her if she had any single female friends that she could introduce him to, which she never confirmed or denied. Well as luck would have it, that night at the dance party there was a new girl who showed up, someone roughly our age and apparently single. As you might guess, Hotdog met her during rotation in the group class, and then remained hovering near her side most of the night, as much as he was able at least.

At one point when this new girl was out dancing with some other gentleman who had asked her out to the dance floor, Sparkledancer went over to where Hotdog was sitting and told him that she was watching how he was hanging around with this girl all night, so if he didn’t man up and get her phone number or something by the end of the party than he was not allowed to complain about being lonely any more. Well Sparkledancer throwing down the gauntlet was good for him, and by the end of the night he did manage to get her phone number. Hooray Hotdog! Sparkledancer updated me about the situation before class last night: when he finally called her a few days after the dance party, they set up a date to meet for coffee and some kind of nature walk this coming Saturday afternoon. Apparently, you can find love at a Valentine’s Day dance party. Maybe that means there’s hope for me yet!

I had some amusing thoughts during my practice session this past Sunday afternoon with Sparkledancer at the Electric Dance Hall. I thought they were amusing, so I wrote them down. These are my dance notes to reflect on, so I can do whatever I want. So there.

I met up with Sparkledancer as is becoming normal this past Sunday afternoon at the Electric Dance Hall just for practice. Normally it is pretty quiet on Sunday afternoons, but this past weekend there were quite a few people hanging out there when I showed up. Besides Sparkledancer, I saw Lord Junior working with a couple of his students, running heats of their routines for a competition that they will be attending over the first weekend in March. Lord Fabulous was in a different corner of the room giving a lesson to an amateur couple that I had never seen before, and Lord Scarry was in the middle of the room giving what looked like a group class in Salsa to a bunch of teenagers. Sparkledancer and I did our best to carve out a line we could use to practice going down the farthest long wall from the door, away from everyone else.

While I was practicing, as I would be walking back to the corner so that Sparkledancer and I soshedances3could start over the wall we were running through, I would be watching what everyone else on the floor was doing. I’m naturally curious, so I couldn’t help doing that. Lord Fabulous’ couple especially caught my interest. The male partner was a larger gentleman, who looked like he greatly enjoyed partaking in carbohydrate-laden adult beverages. What I realized though is that this gave him a distinct advantage – he managed to quite easily maintain body contact with his partner, no matter what he was doing. That is something that I struggle with doing during some figures that I dance, because if I am not totally in sync with Sparkledancer and one of us moves more or less than the other, it causes us to break apart briefly. But this gentleman was maintaining contact with ease, and I’m sure he wasn’t even thinking about it!

Is that really the key that I am missing? A big belly? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am quite fond of my low body fat percentage and the strength in my core that I achieved over years of training. Plus, when I actually have time to go out on dates with ladies, I think that is a point in my favor. But does having washboard abs actually work against me when it comes to maintaining body contact while dancing? Would I be better off if I started going to bars with my friends and actually drinking with them, instead of ordering plain water? Should I be eating more greasy foods or snack cakes to make me a better dancer? After all, I have been told that my upper-body musculature is detrimental to my dancing success, so if I go down the complete opposite route, does that turn it into an advantage?

Note: I have no plans currently to head in that direction, but this was the conversation I had with myself mentally when I was watching that guy dance. Maybe someday if I become independently wealthy and don’t have to work a real job anymore, I will have free time to give this idea of getting a huge belly a try to then I can spend all kinds of time after the experiment is over working off said belly. For science!

This past Monday night during Latin Technique class we worked on some Cha-Cha. This week we didn’t do anything overly fancy, we just did some hard work. We began facing our partner in normal dance frame, doing a starter step to the left into a basic chasse to the right. On the right side we did a Hand-to-Hand that did not rotate at the end, instead turning into three Forward Lock Steps. At the end of the third we rotated quickly, switching hands with our partner to do another Hand-to-Hand on the left side and going into four beats of syncopated Forward Lock Steps. At the end we stopped and held in place on our right leg (the lady on her left) before stepping forward and rotating sharply for one final Hand-to-Hand on the right that squared up with our partner into a basic chasse to the left.

Once we made it back to the left side, both partners did a solo Switch Turn, coming back together afterward for another basic chasse to the right. For our final section of the progression, we added on four Split Cuban Breaks (two moving in each direction), using the variation of the figure where you actually change hands as you would in a New Yorker. This was probably the section where you were moving the fastest in time with the music if you rotated properly for the figure. After all four of those were done we did an actual New Yorker with normal timing on the right side, ending with just a basic chasse to the left.

Wednesday night at Standard Technique class we got to do some Viennese Waltz, and much like we did with Foxtrot last week, we looked at things from both International Viennese Waltz and American Viennese Waltz. The figures that we were shown from the American Viennese Waltz syllabus were actually really fun, so I’m writing them down here to remember them for later in life. We started out by practicing our Reverse Turns, lining up at one end of the floor and heading down alone one at a time until we got to the other side. After each person got through that a couple of times, we partnered up and did the same thing. Next we switched over and went through the same exercise while doing Natural Turns. I focused on making sure that I was putting in the appropriate sway during the turns, and completely forgot about keeping my head in the right place a few times, so I may have gotten made fun of for that. Sigh…

Once we finished up these exercises, we switched over to working on a progression of figures that fell into the American Viennese Waltz tent. It started off with three normal Reverse Turns, and in place of the fourth turn the men squared up with the wall and led the lady through a Cross Body Lead and Underarm Turn. That opened up into what I’ve always called an Explosion, which is just the two partners leaning toward each other (sometimes touching their outside hands together) before pushing away and curving their arms up and around to the outside. You know, like an explosion. I’m sure there’s an actual technical name for the figure, but that’s what I like.

From there we did two Cantor Lilts with the first one passing the lady in front of the man and the second passing her behind. This was a bit weird for me the first couple of times I tried. I’ve done Cantor Lilts before, but I’ve always passed the lady in front of me going in both directions soshedances4so that I can easily keep an eye on her and line myself up accordingly. Passing her behind forces you to travel in a bit of an arc to make room for her, and everyone but Lord Junior struggled to catch hands with their partner at the end. I guess that will require some more practice. Once we did catch hands, we led the lady to step forward with us and rotate, kicking our outside leg upward from the knee as we did so before taking three steps back in the direction we came from, turning around in the process. We did that twice, and after the second one the men took a step forward, leading the lady to step with us before leading her into an Outside Turn and ending with a Hesitation. The Hesitation isn’t completely necessary, but it’s useful to make sure you’re back in proper dance frame before moving into another Reverse Turn, or whatever else you wanted.

So, that was my week! Lord Dormamu is back in action this weekend. I guess he went to have his old injury looked at, and there is a possibility that he may need to have another surgery to fix things. But he’s back to teaching for the time being, and this weekend I’ll get to have my normal lesson with Sir Steven, and then two hours later a lesson with Lord Dormamu so that he can see what we need to work on next. There is also a dance party Saturday night at the Cherished Dance Hall that I think I am going to attend, to make sure that I get to have some fun as well. Are you going to be there? I hope so. Maybe I’ll see you then!

I’ve Got To Take It On The Otherside

I had an interesting discussion with Sir Steven on Saturday in addition to the work we got through on our lesson. Where to start? Well, how about at the beginning. Like we sort-of do regularly, we started out by running our International Standard routines in order – Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot then Quickstep. Finishing up those, we switched gears to look at our American Waltz routine. Sparkledancer and I ran through it once from beginning to end for Sir Steven. When we finished, he told us that he wanted some things to end up in different places than what we had originally learned, now that he had seen us do it a couple of different times.

The big thing was the placement of figures in the last two corners. What we had before was a Contra Check that is done about two-thirds of the way down the second long wall that he now otherside1wants to have us do in the corner instead. We have two syncopated Fallaways and a Curved Three Step right before the Contra Check, so I think with my long legs it should be easy enough to cover slightly more ground and put the figure in the corner. That means that the figures that come after are shifted onto the short wall. Because of that, Sir Steven wanted the back check step that I do while Sparkledancer does a Ronde around my right side to be the figure we use in the last corner.

There are still a few figures left after we come out of that Ronde, so if we do everything on the list we end up about a third of the way down the first long wall before we would repeat the routine from the top. This may end up being problematic in the future, since we have been really good about covering a lot of space with the figures on the first long wall to fill the floor from corner to corner, so taking out a lot of the floor means we will probably run out of room. We’ll see how it looks once the changes are really committed to muscle memory.

At the end we spent a bit of time looking at our American Tango routine. Because it always seems like at the end of the Viennese Crosses where we were closing our feet and then try to go into a Reverse Turn we would mess things up (i.e. I would mess things up, for some reason I would often go into a Progressive Link instead), Sir Steven changed the fourth figure in that set to be another Viennese Cross like the previous three. This continues the rotation, and makes going into the Reverse Turn feel much more natural. To compensate for the timing change that causes, he took out a similar Ronde-like figure like the one we have in Waltz that we had been doing at the end of the first long wall in Tango. We also talked about how he didn’t like the way the second long wall looked. He didn’t want to change anything about that right then, but he said he would think about what he wanted it to be instead and we would come back to it soon.

After we got done with our coaching session, Sir Steven and I got to talking about the competition he and the other instructors at the Fancy Dance Hall had put on the weekend prior. Somewhere in the conversation I asked him about whether they would consider allowing amateur dancer pairs to run heats at their competitions like they allow Pro-Am pairs to do. Believe it or not, I don’t mind competing, but I do it for more pragmatic reasons than probably anyone else you would meet. I liked to use competitions as an assessment of how I’ve improved in dancing. When I was dancing somewhere that allowed amateurs to run heats, it was nice because I could run each routine multiple times, and I’d get some kind of score back and a few notes from the judges that then I could take and compare to how I had done the last time I competed in those styles. The competitions I have found available for amateurs lately are all one-and-done style competitions, meaning you go out and run something like Viennese Waltz at some unspeakably early time of the morning if that is when you are scheduled, and if you mess up that was your only chance. At the end you get some placement between first and last place, and no other feedback about how you did. That sort of setup doesn’t really help me see how far I’ve come or get an outsider’s view of things I need to improve.

Sir Steven said that the crew at the Fancy Dance Hall has been having some interesting discussions about that. He told me that they have been cooking up ideas for recreating their Ballroom Boot Camp weekend sessions that they used to run at the Endless Dance Hall quite a while ago. They have discussed including a ‘lite’ version for amateurs that will include competition-style practice heats, workshops to cover important technical points everyone needs to work on, and having outside instructors standing around as pseudo-judges to watch and provide feedback to everyone who attends on what they should work on. That sounds like the kind of thing I was sort-of going for. Apparently they are thinking they can get something like this up and running around December or January, so there may be something else fun I can start doing in my dance career. We’ll have to see!

I did end up going out to that dance party last Saturday night over at the City Dance Hall that I mentioned last week. Since I couldn’t figure out for the life of me what kind of costume would work for the musical-themed party, I just went wearing normal clothes. That ended up being a good life choice, since the people who put together the event hadn’t put a lot of effort into the theme. There were some printed up playbills that they had stapled around the fake candles on each table, and a poster that someone had set up in the entryway, but that was all that I saw that had any relation to the chosen theme. I had at least hoped there would be some kind of dance rumble, like two competing line dances on opposite sides of the floor, to celebrate the theme. That would have amused me. Sigh… missed opportunity. Sometimes I wonder if it’s necessary for every dance club (club as in ‘group of people’, not venue) in the area to go through the effort of picking out a theme for every dance party they put on. Would people be turned off if we sent out a note that read ‘Hey! We’re having a party this weekend! The theme is dancing!’ and left it at that? Maybe that’s worth a discussion at some point.

The party this weekend started off with a Salsa lesson. As I mentioned last week, they really missed something by having a lesson on Salsa as opposed to Mambo, which I think would have been more thematically appropriate, but that’s just me. The steps that we covered in the Salsa class would certainly work for Mambo if you changed the timing, so that’s something. The class was also interesting because there were two people teaching, professional partners who I’m pretty sure I have seen at least the female teaching over at the Endless Dance Hall before. Before they started teaching, the guy gave a little speech introducing the two of them to everyone, and then they demonstrated what it was they hoped to teach that hour. The progression was really long – even the guy who was going to teach the progression acknowledged that it was pretty ambitious. So, we got to work.

The first thing that they did was ask everyone in attendance if there was anyone who had never done Salsa before. Two hands went up, so there was a quick overview of the Salsa basic. Once the two newbies to Salsa had that down, the instructor said he preferred to start off dancing Salsa using a side-to-side basic step more like a Whisk in Samba rather than the normal basic that everyone else does, so we began the progression with four of those before going into two normal basic steps. Next up we added on two Cross Body Leads, essentially turning us all the otherside2way around in a full circle. Now came the hard part – not a hard figure itself per se, but hard because it made some of the ladies uncomfortable. We were holding the lady’s right hand in our left, and he wanted us to reach with our right arm around her side to trade her hand behind her back. It was a weird hug-like position to get into, and some people were just uncomfortable with that. If you did it right, the men would rotate around the lady on her right side to roll her out into handshake hold facing the opposite direction from where you started.

Once we got past everyone being uncomfortable, we got to do some things that could be difficult if you tried to turn too early or in the wrong direction. Facing each other in Handshake Hold, we would reach under our right arm with our free left hand to take the lady’s left hand so that we were holding both hands with our arms crossed. From here we would do an Open Break and lead the lady through a Underarm Turn. As the guys would bring their feet together after the last rock step, we would turn 180° so that we ended up with the lady behind us (I’m not sure what you would call that. Reverse Shadow Position?), holding her hands over our shoulders. While in this position we would do four Cucarachas, breaking in the opposite direction (i.e. when we would go to the left, the lady would step to the right). If you were on top of the footwork, you could also do a fancy thing with the arms, crossing the right arm over your head, then the left, then uncrossing the left and finally the right.

And we still weren’t done after all that! In the next measure of the music, the Lead released the Follower’s hands and flipped around to face them on the first two beats, and then both partners were supposed to Shimmy for the last two beats. I can’t Shimmy to save my soul. I can use my shoulders to lift very heavy objects, but I can’t shake them quickly or gracefully, so I just raised my fists up to my chest and shook those instead. Next we would take the Follower’s right hand in our left again and lead them through another Cross Body Lead, this time overturning it a bit so that we could open up side-by-side. In this position we went back to the Samba Whisk-like movements like we had done at the beginning, doing two sets right then left (or left than right if you are doing the Follower’s part). The instructors gave us some variation we could do here, either adding in a saucy hip bump with your partner, or bringing the Follower’s arm up and over your head and letting their hand slide down your arm if you prefer that. Or both, if you were so inclined.

We finally got to the end section after that. After the second set of Whisk-like steps, we would link back up with the lady by doing a figure that looked almost like a Natural Top, rotating us around enough to face the wall we were looking at before the last Cross Body Lead. Then they had us do two measures of Cuban Breaks, which is something I’d only seen done in Cha-Cha up until then. After the last set of those, we would go back into a normal basic figure, rotating ourselves slightly to be facing one another at last.

Whew! Like I said, that was an ambitious plan to try to teach everyone. Several people dropped out during the course of the lesson, probably due to mental exhaustion. I’m surprised I even remember the whole pattern, writing it out several days later like I am now. To reward us for making it all the way through the class, the two instructors took to the floor and performed a Cha-Cha number that they had used for competitions they were in in the past. It must have been for some kind of solo performance, because the figures they used covered the whole room as they danced.

I felt good about the actual dance party afterward. Mostly because I made a point of dancing International Foxtrot instead of American in a social setting and it went really well. International Foxtrot, more than any other International style, has always seemed to be harder to get through on a crowded dance floor than American Foxtrot. That night though, I was on top of things, and it felt safe and traveled quite well through everyone else. That one point alone made my night, so I felt pretty good about everything else. Ms. Possible showed up to the party super late, with slightly less than an hour left before the dance would wrap up. She had come with a guy who has been trying to date her (he’s a dance teacher at some studio, I think), but she’s not totally interested in him. And yet, because he actually knows how to dance, she keeps leading him on. I’m not sure how this will end, but there’s a part of me that feels bad for this guy. I don’t know how I would feel pursuing a woman I meet at a dance party. I think that would be a weird dynamic, especially if we didn’t have much else in common. But that’s just me. To each their own, I suppose.

Skipping ahead, let’s talk about the thing I did last night that was probably way more entertaining to me than it should have been. Remember what I said last week about working on Spin Turns in Standard Technique class and Lord Junior switching roles with the ladies so that they could feel what it was like if they did and did not provide the driving force on the parts of the Spin Turn where they are moving forward? Well, Lord Junior wanted to get back to an idea from that class. Which idea from that class did we expand on last night? The idea where the guys and girls switched roles, having the ladies dance the Lead part while Lord Junior and I were dancing the Follow steps.

Whhhaaaaaaattt?

That’s right – I got to be such a pretty lady last night, though if I wanted to be prettier I’d probably need to go on an all salad diet for a while since my chest and shoulders are much broader than your average lady. Lord Junior’s explanation for us before we started was that way back in the day, early on in his teaching career, he could get by teaching the footwork for both halves of a figure, but it wasn’t until he really had to sit and learn the proper technique for the Followers part that his Leading really improved. Once he had an idea of what the ladies he danced with were trying to do and how they reacted to what he did, he could totally understand how his movements really affected them. So we were going to spend the evening dancing the opposite part to help us understand our partner, and in the process make us better dancers.

Lucky for us, we didn’t do any crazy steps. We kept with Waltz, like we had done last week, giving us a chance to start out super slowly and work our way up to a nice slow pace. The otherside3pattern we used was almost all Bronze-level figures. We started with a prep step to get moving and then a Natural Turn. Next up we did an Open Impetus into a Progressive Chasse to the Left, closing from Promenade Position on beat two. Next up was a Quick Open Reverse, which is just a regular Reverse Turn but you are starting on the wrong foot, so you have to take two steps for beat one to make up for that. At the end we had another Progressive Chasse to the Left, this one in normal dance frame the whole time, and ending with anther Natural Turn.

I have to say, believe it or not, that switching between one part and the other wasn’t too hard for me. It did help that I got to step through the Follower’s side of the figure once or twice before trying to do it with a partner so I could keep my footwork moving in the right direction while we worked. It seemed like the ladies in class were actually having a harder time with the switch than I was. Sparkledancer was thrown off by her left arm being out and her right arm being in – she said it felt all wrong to her. Veep kept cutting me off when we danced together, because she wasn’t used to having to give someone else the room. Bony had it the worst, I think. She was really unsure of herself, and didn’t like having the pressure on her to start moving. When she and I danced together, she would wait until I started moving on the first step in order to begin her own movements. It didn’t matter that she was supposed to be leading me – if I would wait for her to start moving before moving myself, we would just stand there awkwardly letting measure after measure of the music go by until I finally got us going.

At the end of class, we switched back to our normal dance roles and did the same pattern with each partner a few times. I have to say that I thought it made a bit of a difference. The ladies seemed to be more comfortable with providing the power on the parts where they are moving forward (like on the Open Impetus), and with both people really driving out of their standing leg with each step, we managed to run out of room on the floor using these figures. Plus it was weirdly amusing for everyone. Lord Junior said that this won’t be the last time he has us go through this exercise in this class, so maybe once a month now we will start switching places and using that as a way to improve our understanding and our dancing.

Also, he mentioned that while he has been working on building himself a bigger dance studio, he has been thinking that when the construction is completed he will start offering more beginner-level group classes, but rather than hiring a professional to come in and teach those classes he will open it up so that the higher-level students (like those of us who attend these technique classes) could teach instead. If we wanted to seriously do that, we would have to know both parts of each figure anyway, so really he is secretly training us for the future. How cool would that be, getting a chance to teach newcomers how to dance? I think it would be fun, and since I make enough money at my normal job for everything I’d ever want to do in life, I’d consider doing it for free from time to time. We’ll have to see what the future holds. I’m sure I’ll tell you all about it here if it actually happens!

This weekend is when the Royal Dance Court that I am a member of will be hosting our own monthly dance party. I think we are going to have a lesson in East Coast Swing before the party, so if you want to come and dance, let me know and we’ll have some fun!