Do The Dance Sensation That’s Sweepin’ The Nation

I am happy to report that I actually took a day off from dancing for once! I mean, it was only Easter Sunday, so I kind of cheated by using the holiday to my advantage so that I could relax and rest a little bit, but it felt great. Also, my cat enjoyed having me around so that she could curl up on me and fall asleep. Plus I managed to get my taxes all done that day too! Man, I was totally restful and also productive! That’s a pretty awesome day, isn’t it?

But I did do a lot of dancing on Saturday in order to prepare for my day off on Sunday, because I can’t just take a whole weekend off. That would be way too much time without dancing, and I have a schedule to keep. It isn’t a schedule of my own creation either, which makes it all the more strange that I am trying so hard to keep it, right? So… Saturday I had scheduled times set up to meet with both Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu for lessons.

First up that day: Sir Steven. Sparkledancer was already waiting for me when I got to the Fancy Dance Hall, and on top of that there was some sort of dance fitness class going on that was being led by Lady Tella. The class wasn’t super huge, so there was space on the edge of the dance floor that Sparkledancer and I could use to warm up, but the music was loud, so it made it hard to hear anything Sparkledancer and I said to one another.

The class was attended by all women that morning, and they made a point to gently chide Sparkledancer for not showing up early enough to join them. Of course, then I showed up and they started giving me a hard time for not being in class as well, but I think it would be a little weird to be the only male in a class like that. Also, I’m not a morning person, so getting up early to exercise is not my favorite thing to do. I always thought that those people who jumped on the trend of getting up at 5:00AM to work out were crazy! Even 10:00AM feels too early to me. I prefer to work out after I get done with work for the day, which guarantees that I am fully awake and ready to go. But that’s just my personal preference.

Anyway… we started off with Sir Steven that morning looking at Viennese Waltz. Most of that period was spent looking at the Natural Turn, making sure that both Sparkledancer and I got the swing through motion correct as we went into the second step. Sir Steven wanted me to keep my upper body rotated more to my left as I took the first step, but I was already turning myself as much as I could on my own. He could yank my upper body into the position he wanted (it’s not a pleasant feeling to be rotated that much), but I couldn’t turn myself enough to get there without help. Ah well, maybe someday, right?

Next we spent some time looking at the slower Waltz for a change. Here we also started off by looking at the Natural Turn, but we got slightly farther in this version of Waltz by also adding on the Natural Spin Turn,  Reverse Turn and Double Reverse Spin that come afterward. The hardest thing that Sir Steven asked me to change with that whole amalgamation of steps was to put back in the action where I turn my head and look over top of Sparkledancer’s head at the height of the Natural Turn. I don’t know what it is about turning my head in figures, but it really throws me off for some reason if I turn my head to look further to the right. Looking further to the left is no problem for me – I go into Promenade Position often enough, so I know that works fine. Weird, huh?

Once past the initial Natural Turn and all the head movement that threatened to drive me crazy, we went into the Natural Spin Turn. Here was another point where Sir Steven wanted me to attempt to rotate my upper body even more than I was already trying to, which meant trying to turn more than my range of motion allowed me to turn on my own. I don’t even know a good way to try to stretch to increase my flexibility in that manner that isn’t awkward. What if I glue some shoes to a wall to put my feet in, and then lie on the floor and try to roll my upper body around? As long as I only do that when I am home alone, then no one else would see me being weird, right? And eventually it would help… probably. Maybe I should think about this a bit more before getting out the glue.

We finished up that morning by running through our Quickstep routine a couple of times. Just as we were about to close out for the day, Sir Steven told us to be careful in our Quickstep because it wasn’t looking as grounded as he would like. That’s probably my fault. Lately in practice I have been so focused on Foxtrot and Tango that Quickstep has just kind of taken a back seat. I should find some time to go back to it and try to apply some of the things I am working on in Foxtrot, which I know would help fix this issue with the Quickstep.

After wrapping up my session with Sir Steven that morning, I only got about fifteen minutes to catch my breath and make my way over to the Endless Dance Hall before starting up a session with Lord Dormamu. Rest is for the weak, right? Something like that.

Just like the weeks prior, we started out by looking at Foxtrot. Lord Dormamu had us dance through the routine with music when we started so that he could get an idea of how our practice has been coming along. Things are looking better, but it is still not where he would like us to be (though I’m not sure we will be where he really wants us to be until we win some sort of World Champion title somewhere). Lord Dormamu told us that for the time being, when we practice Foxtrot he thinks that we should do it slowly and without worrying about music. Staying on time with music is not an issue that we have (Yay!), so he isn’t worried about us missing out on things by practicing without music for a few weeks.

Obviously we went back to looking at the Three Step again. All of our practice that involved pausing after the second step of the Three Step to check our shaping has improved the way our Three Step looks immensely according to Lord Dormamu, so he wants us to keep pausing there for the time being. However, he wasn’t too happy with the way the third step of our Three Step going into the first step of whatever figure comes next looked. As we worked through the steps so that he could figure out what we were doing wrong, what he found that he wanted us to change led to an interesting discussion about the next upgrade for the way our Foxtrot moves around the floor.

What I was asked to do (since I am the one moving forward most of the time) was to start incorporating both legs into my movement for Foxtrot. Because the idea of Foxtrot is to move more smoothly around a room than a Greaser trying to pick up ladies at a doo-wop concert, just driving yourself around by pushing off of the standing leg isn’t enough. That will get you by in Waltz, Quickstep, Tango and Viennese Waltz, but Foxtrot requires you to add in the other leg to the mix. As you move from one leg to another, even before you finish pushing off from your standing leg completely, your other leg should start pulling you forward.

It’s a weird thing to try to explain, especially if you’re a Follower who doesn’t travel forward all that often. If you can picture what I’m talking about, you might be able to see in your mind how this action of pulling yourself with the front leg before you finish pushing yourself with the back leg will help you smooth out the transition as you switch from one leg to the other. I was told that this is one of the most advanced concepts for Foxtrot movement to work on, but if we are able to start planting the seeds for this now then by the time Sparkledancer and I finish competing in syllabus then we should be pretty good at it when we move to Open-level routines. I’ll just have to practice. A lot. More than a lot. And then probably even more than that.

For the second half of our coaching session we switched over to Tango to give ourselves a short break from Foxtrot. Per usual, to begin with Lord Dormamu queued up a Tango song and had us dance through our routine first so that he could take a look at everything before going over specific points with us. As we got down to the end of the first long wall in our Tango routine, I heard Lord Dormamu calling to us, so I stopped and stood up to turn around and see what was going on. He was waving his arms for Sparkledancer and I to come back down to where he was standing, so we trekked back down that way.

He had stopped us to tell me that he was actually impressed with something that we had done. For those of you that have never been there, I’ll tell you something about the Endless Dance Hall: it’s big, sporting the largest dance floor I have ever had the privilege to dance on. The ‘short’ wall on this floor is fifty-five feet in width, and the long wall is easily two-and-a-half times that. Lord Dormamu was impressed that, without taking huge steps that looked awkward for a Tango or changing any of the angles of the figures, I had easily covered the entire length of the long wall, and still had to pull back the size of the steps I took on the last couple of figures in the far corner to avoid bashing Sparkledancer’s head into the wall. All that time we have been spending on improving the movement in our dances seems to really be paying off, I guess.
Of course, it also leaves me with a huge problem – no competition venue that I will be on in the near future will be anywhere near the full size of the Endless Dance Hall. Even in the recent past when I’ve been to competitions that are actually hosted at the Endless Dance Hall, they usually set up tables and chairs and a stage around the outside of the floor, which greatly reduces the area that competitors get to dance in. So moving that much in a competition means that I will drive myself right off the floor if I’m not careful. Lord Dormamu seems to think that is something to be proud of, but I am worried about it!

Now for the specific points that Lord Dormamu wanted us to work on in practice: first off, I was told that I am still turning too fast during the Natural Promenade Turn. I have slowed the turn down a lot, but he wants it to be even slower still. That will give a greater dynamic between the movements of the Promenades going into and coming out of the turn, and the turn itself. In conjunction with that, when I am getting into Promenade Position, Lord Dormamu wanted me to work on using my legs even more during the Progressive Links.

After one of the Progressive Links that we do, we then go into a Natural Twist Turn. Lord Dormamu wanted Sparledancer to use that figure to work on the position of her body when she is in Promenade Position. According to him, when he is judging couples in competition and he sees them going into a Promenade in Tango, he wants to see both people’s heads from two angles, otherwise he will mark them lower. If he is looking at them from the front, there needs to be enough volume between the partners so that both of their heads are visible and separated. If he is viewing them from the side, the lady needs to be offset enough to that her whole head is visible over the man’s right shoulder. If there is overlap, then he will mark the couple lower.

(Obviously that is only the case for people with normal size heads. If one member of the competitive couple has a giant head, then overlap is bound to happen. There will probably be a host of other issues as well if one person has a giant head, so a little overlap would be the least of that couple’s worries.)

Finally for Tango, we spent some time looking at the Right-side Lunge that is in one of the corners. Lord Dormamu told me to watch the timing on when I move my head as I enter the lunge – I need to make sure that the head movement happens at the same time as when my right foot reaches its destination; I was moving it too early when he was watching. He also told me to work on raising my left side further to create even more of a downward slope across my shoulders from elbow to elbow, which will put me in a better position for Sparkledancer to work off of. She needs me to do that because he then asked her to try to create even more volume between the two of us during the lunge, but to make sure not to accidentally rotate her chest away from me while doing so.

The class that I normally attend on Monday night was cancelled this week due to the holiday over the weekend. I did end up going out to the Electric Dance Hall anyway that night to meet Sparkledancer for some extra practice, since Lord Junior had said that the studio would be open if people wanted to use the floor. Besides practice, the only other thing of note that I did this week was to attend Standard Technique class on Wednesday night. Many of the schools around the Electric Dance Hall have been closed for Spring Break this week, so a lot of people who would normally attend class had gone off on vacations with their kids. That meant that there were only a few of us brave souls who were in class that night.

Lord Junior gave us some fun things to look at in the Waltz that night, giving us some figures to do that were intended to get us running. We started off pretty basically with a Natural Turn, but then took that into an Overturned Running Spin Turn which had us coming out backing line of dance rather than backing diagonal center. To change direction, he then had us then do an Open Impetus and come out into a Running Weave from Promenade Position. The Running Weave figure ends with three steps that are like a Reverse Turn, except you cross your right foot behind the left (or left in front of the right if you are a Follower). Finally we closed up the progression with a Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot.

And I’ll just leave it there! Look at that, I kept things sort of shorter this week. Yay me! I can’t promise that next week will be this short, since there won’t be a holiday for me to use as an excuse to take time off, but I will try my best.

On an out-of-the-ordinary note, Lord Dormamu is going to be out at a competition this coming weekend, but while he is gone he set up a session for Sparkledancer to work with Lady Tella, who in addition to leading dance fitness classes also happens to be one of his Professional female students (i.e. an instructor who competes with another instructor, and together they have forsaken the world of Amatuer competitions to move up to the Professional level). The plan is for the two of them to talk about girl things. This was something that Lord Dormamu had discussed with us months ago, but we hadn’t actually set up until now. Surprise!

I was asked to be there to give Sparkledancer someone to work with. I’ve met Lady Tella before, and also her Professional partner, and the two of them are considerably shorter than Sparkledancer. I think Lord Dormamu wants me to be there because I’m taller. At least, that’s what I have been telling myself.

It should be fun, and if I hear any interesting notes, I’ll be sure to jot them down.

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Enough To Make My System Blow

Let’s start this week off with a funny side note that’s sort-of dance related. I can tell you quite sincerely that this story was the thing that made me the happiest on Saturday…

I had just gotten to the Fancy Dance Hall. The studio is actually a part of a shopping complex, with a number of varied shops surrounding it. This weekend there was an event scheduled to celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday, where the area between the fronts of all of the stores and the parking lot had been taken over for various Easter-related activities. There was an egg hunt planned, and a local radio station was going to be there, and someone was going to be dressed up like the Easter Bunny to take pictures with all of the kids. All of the stores in the shopping complex were going to have some of their staff involved to make it into a fun morning for kids of all ages.

…except the weather didn’t want to cooperate that day. The morning ended up being cold, cloudy and windy, and it was just plain gloomy looking outside. I was wearing a heavy sweatshirt so that when I parked my car and walked to the front door of the studio I wouldn’t be cold. Not too many people seemed to have shown up for the planned activities, because the parking lot had tons of open spaces for cars to park. I’ve had lessons scheduled before at other times when holiday-themed activities are planned, and usually you have to either get there super-early to find a parking place, or you are fighting with a bunch of people to grab one when someone else leaves.

As I was walking toward the front door of the studio, I could hear music playing loudly from the table set up by the radio station. They had just finished one song and were starting another, a slow and heavy rock song that holds a record for spending the most weeks on some chart or something. You may be able to guess what song it is if you’re smart about my normal clues, but if not I’m sure you’d know the song if you heard it. Anyway… as I finally got off the parking lot and set foot on the walkway that surrounds the stores, I looked off to my right toward where the radio station table was, and saw something pretty amazing.

In the midst of the overcast gloom of the day, there stood a guy wearing a white Easter Bunny suit, and his head was turned down to look toward the ground. In front of him was some young kid, lying on the concrete, doing the worm as the Easter Bunny watched.

I had to stop and watch for a bit as well. This was not something that I expected to see by any stretch of the imagination. As the song finally wound down, the kid stopped and picked himself up off the ground, and the Easter Bunny bent forward to give him a hug. If I had been closer, I would have given the kid a round of applause for being able to do the worm for so long on concrete. Truly an impressive sight to behold!

On to normal business now. Once I got inside the Fancy Dance Hall, things were a little more subdued. There was a class going on for a local youth dance group, and they were all running rounds of their competition routines. They kept that up for the entire time that I was having my lesson, barring a few breaks here or there so that the kids could catch their breath. Sir Steven, Sparkledancer and I staked out a section of the floor to work in along the back wall of the studio, and we went back to work on Viennese Waltz that day.

We managed to stay away from working on the opening sequence of our Viennese Waltz routine that morning, thankfully. Unfortunately, that meant that the rest of what we did was just slow and methodical movements through the Natural and Reverse Turns. Not exactly the most exciting thing in the world to talk about, so I’ll spare you all the details. The hardest part of our session was trying to work around all of the kids running their rounds. I had managed to talk to the older ones while Sir Steven was working with Sparkledancer, letting them know that we were using a lane along the back wall. They managed to steer clear of us after that, which was nice.

Some of the younger kids kept darting into our lane though. I think they were just doing it to get our attention, because if I looked at them when they were in my way, they would get these huge smiles on their faces and then scamper out of the way as fast as they could. It reminded me of growing up with my younger siblings. When they wanted attention, they would sometimes knowingly do something they shouldn’t, and then laugh jovially about it and run away when they got caught. Kids… they are so silly sometimes!

Next up, Saturday night. There was one big event going on at the Electric Dance Hall that night, and with no other options open for dancing that was where I ended up. A bunch of people who I knew ended up being there as well, but unfortunately I didn’t actually spend a lot of time talking to them because I got side tracked talking with someone else that night. It was also raining really hard that night, starting just about the time that the party started, so a lot of people who were expected to come out to the event did not show up. One of those people happened to be the DJ that Lord Junior had asked to play the music that night, amusingly enough. After the class that he gave at the beginning, Lord Junior ended up having to run the music himself. Poor guy.

He told me later on that he contacted the DJ during the party to find out what happened, and the DJ told him that she just forgot about the party. How do you just forget something like that? I bet she won’t be getting any more paid gigs from Lord Junior after that stunt.

Originally I hadn’t planned on showing up for the class being offered before the dance party, but I got done with everything else I had planned to do earlier than expected, so I headed out and arrived about twenty minutes after the class had started. The place was packed with tons of people, but even with all the other people watching him intently for instruction, Lord Junior still stopped what he was doing when I walked in and told me to get my shoes on quick and jump into the class. I thought that they were desperate for men, but when Lord Junior finally had everyone find partners to try the step I saw that there were almost even numbers of men and women, so I’m not sure why he wanted me to join in so quickly.

The class was covering some simple American Rumba. The part that I got there to help out with had everyone doing half a basic box step, and then on the second half we led the ladies to do a Underarm Turn and pushed them out to our left side, almost like they were in Fan Position. Then we would bring them back across in another turn and push them out to our right side, and then one more turn back across pushing them back out to our left before turning them to be in front of us as we collected into the basic box step once more. Nothing too difficult if you’ve done a lot of American Rumba in the past, but there were a large number of newcomers in the class that night, so I ended up helping a number of ladies figure out their steps as I rotated through.

During the actual party I spent my time dancing, but in the middle of that I got a chance to have a chat with Silver for more than just a couple of minutes (which is what derailed me from talking to others). She was struggling with a bit of a crisis of identity that night, so it was good that I talked to her, but most of the credit for making her feel better about dance goes to Sparkledancer. See, there was a point in the middle of the dance party when I finally got a chance to dance with her for a Foxtrot. I figured that was a safe enough dance for us to do together, since that was the style that was used in the first Standard Technique class we were both in together.

Silver seemed a bit nervous as I walked out to the dance floor with her. Trying to assuage her fears, I asked her whether she wanted to go with American or International Foxtrot, promising that we could do whichever she was more comfortable with. She chose to go with International, so I started off with just some basic figures, trying my best to avoid anything with a Heel Turn since I knew she hadn’t done many of those. I think I managed to get through a Feather and Three Step heading toward diagonal wall in a wide arc, and then a Change of Direction to turn back toward diagonal center – nothing super fancy.

By the time we got halfway down the first long wall it was pretty clear that she was struggling, and then she asked me if we could transition to American Foxtrot instead. I made the switch, trying to stick with figures that I thought were on the Bronze syllabus (it’s been a long time since I’ve studied American Foxtrot, so I’m not entirely sure what the syllabus looks like anymore when I don’t have it in front of me). The American Foxtrot did not go much better than the International though, and there were a couple of times I had to stop and do the Swing Step (or Side-to-Side Sway, depending on what name you were given when you learned it) which allowed her to get back on the correct foot.

When the song finished and we exited the floor, she seemed upset and started talking about how she once felt so good about her dancing, because (her exact words) “I was teaching this at <insert franchise studio name> for God’s sake!” Now that she was out and dancing with people like me, it’s like everything she learned and was teaching to others was all wrong. She told me that she has been trying to learn the correct way to do the steps and techniques, but then she runs into people who were students at her former studio where she worked, and they want to dance with her doing things the old way, and it really throws her off trying to do things both ways.

Lucky for me, Sparkledancer had shown up at that point. I am a guy, so I am kind-of terrible at managing emotional situations with ladies, so I was super happy that Sparkledancer could step in and help Silver out. Sparkledancer actually told Silver about how she had met me at a franchise studio, back in the days when we had initially decided to compete together, so she totally understood Silver’s frustration because she had been through it herself.

She continued and told Silver that when Sparkledancer and I and many of our original ballroom dance friends outgrew the franchise studio model, we escaped into the bigger world of ballroom dancing, and we had to go through the same transition that Silver is going through now. A lot of the techniques we had learned that had been emphasized at the franchise we found out were just plain wrong, and people outside the franchise used a different syllabus than we had originally learned (which actually turned out to be nationally and internationally standardized syllabus, so it is the franchise studio’s syllabus that was incorrect), so Sparkledancer admitted to Silver that she felt like a terrible dancer for months as she tried to acclimate to the non-franchise way of dancing.

That right there seemed to be the magic connection that Silver had been missing. She was really glad that Sparkledancer had told her that story – to hear that it was possible to escape the franchise world and eventually dance the way that Sparkledancer dances now. It was great to see her come to that realization, even though I hadn’t really done much to help her get there. Good job Sparkledancer! Yay!

I talked it over with Sparkledancer later, and I think that the two of us are going to try to help Silver out. My thought is that Sparkledancer and I could help show Silver the world of ballroom dancing that she was missing when she was locked into the franchise way of doing things. That is, if she really wants to become part of this wider world, which I think she does. Lord Junior is helping her learn the proper figures and techniques to teach dancing outside of the franchise, so that’s already being covered. Sparkledancer and I can be her guide to the various dance halls in the Dance Kingdom, and introduce her to all sorts of other instructors or high-level coaches that we know if she wants to meet people. I like helping, so this will be a lot of fun!

I was tired on Monday night, so when I got to Latin Technique class and people started throwing around Cha-Cha as the style they wanted to do that night, I was unhappy. Lord Junior decided to put it up for a vote to see what everyone wanted, and he said that we couldn’t vote for Rumba (because that’s what we did in class last week) and we couldn’t choose Pasodoble. I sighed loudly, since Pasodoble is always the Latin style that I want to vote for, and Lord Junior took pity on me and said that we could do Pasodoble if everyone else wanted. Only Gatekeeper still wanted to do Cha-Cha after that option was available, so we ended up working on Pasodoble that night. Hooray for me!

One of the ladies in class that night had never done any Pasodoble before, so this ended up being a real treat for her (in my expert opinion, of course). Lord Junior spent a little time at the beginning of class showing her a few of the most basic steps, like the Sur Place and all of its moving variations. On top of that, he showed her the idea behind the shaping used in Pasodoble and why it was so important. This lady watched the whole time with wide eyes, and I couldn’t tell if she was impressed by the demonstration or terrified by what he was asking her to do. Obviously I’m going to assume she was impressed, and asking herself why she had waited so long to begin working on Pasodoble!.

We didn’t actually cover a whole lot of choreography that night, because the last figure that Lord Junior went over with us needed more work than he expected. The first figure that we did was the Open Telemark, which everyone got through with little trouble. After that we went into a normal Promenade, which gave us some work on both moving in Promenade and shaping in Promenade. Once Lord Junior was convinced that everyone could do the steps with minimal trouble, he upgraded our Promenade so that it had three Natural Pivots in it as we traveled down the line of dance. That definitely upped the challenge factor of the figure, but also made it much more exciting.

The final figure that we looked at was a Gold-level figure called ‘The Twists.’ We were told that if you watch any professionals doing a recent Pasodoble routine, you are more than likely going to see them do this figure at least once because it is so exciting. Basically, the guy is traveling down the floor, cutting in front of his partner every couple of steps while she does a Heel Turn, and then he hooks his right leg behind his left and untwists himself before doing it all again. The figure is aptly named, and feels a lot like doing a Twist Turn in Tango repeatedly.

I thought that my part was fairly straightforward, and I think I was getting through it successfully. A couple of the ladies were struggling to make the Heel Turns work properly, so it was hit-or-miss as to whether the figure worked correctly when I danced with a partner. Lord Junior admitted as we were running out of time that this figure was more difficult than he originally thought it would be, so he should have started class by going through it rather than waiting until the end. He promised us that next time we met up for Latin Technique we would do Pasodoble again and start with this figure. Class won’t happen next Monday because of the holiday this weekend, so we’ll have to wait until two Mondays from now to get it right.

Finally, on Wednesday night I went back out to the Electric Dance Hall for Standard Technique class, and we worked on Viennese Waltz there as well. Viennese Waltz? Twice in one week? How did that even happen!

I mostly think that Lord Junior chooses to work on Viennese Waltz in this class so that he can watch the warm-up section of class where he asks us all to try doing Natural and Reverse Turns down the floor by ourselves. Getting the angle right, turning the right direction and using the right foot to start with are all things that I am pretty good at, since I have to lead and generally have to do those things already. The ladies in class, on the other hand… for the first couple of tries several of them just didn’t get things right. They would start on the wrong foot, or turn the wrong direction, or start and end at the wrong angle. A few times they would start turning and not stay on a straight line, heading right toward someone else on the floor! As much as I feel bad about laughing at that, it is kind of funny to watch.

Once the torture of the warm-up was over, we worked on adding in the two Gold-level figures to the mix: the Contra Check and the Natural Fleckerl. Lord Junior told us all about his theory of Fleckerls, and how he sees a lot of Pros nowadays leaving them out of their routines with students. You don’t technically need to do them to win no matter what level you are competing, but Lord Junior feels like you are missing out on a lot if you just do Reverse Turns, Natural Turns and Change Steps all the way through Gold when you are competing.

He did say that the lead to get into the Reverse Fleckerl was a bit sudden, and that’s where he usually runs into problems with his competitive students. You can start a Reverse Fleckerl at any time if you do Reverse Turns up to the point where the lady crosses her foot in front. Lord Junior said that he likes to warn his ladies verbally before doing a Reverse Fleckerl during a competition. The Natural Fleckerl is slightly easier to do, especially if you do a Contra Check beforehand. Then there is no question about what is happening even if Lord Junior gives no verbal warning, so there is less of a chance that the lady will be surprised when the rotation happens.

That is an interesting thought. Perhaps I’ll have to file that idea away for later when I manage to start competing at Gold-level with Viennese Waltz.

And that’s it! Man, I wrote a lot of things again this week. I am just terrible about keeping these posts short…

I think there are a few things going on this weekend, but I’m not sure how many people will be wandering around to dance with the holiday on Sunday. Easter was never really a holiday for traveling to see people when I was growing up, but I have heard several people mention that they will be doing just that this weekend. So maybe that is an invitation for me to just take it easy. I could probably use the break to do some other productive things that I have been putting off (like my taxes…). We’ll have to see what happens!

Freeze This Moment A Little Bit Longer

I swear, I’m going to try really hard to keep this post slightly shorter. I feel like I have gotten to be absurdly verbose lately, and I need to rein it in just a little. Let’s see what I can do…

Saturday was definitely the day when most of the noteworthy stuff that I did this week happened. To start things off, I had a coaching session with Lord Dormamu scheduled in the morning. We had planned to meet up at the Endless Dance Hall that day, and the place was crazy busy when we got there. By the time our coaching session started, there was a group of people at one end of the floor that were doing some sort of dance fitness class, and they had commandeered the music for their purposes (and had the volume turned up super loud, making it difficult to talk about anything), there were also a few other private lessons that were trying to take place at the same time.

Judge Dread happened to be one of the people giving one of those private lessons – he usually comes down to the Endless Dance Hall once a month to give coaching and teach some workshops, and I didn’t realize that last Saturday was the day he was scheduled to do that. His first workshop class started before our coaching session with Lord Dormamu finished, so we ended up having to dance around them as well. Coincidentally, the first workshop that Judge Dread was teaching that day was on Foxtrot, which is the dance style that Sparkledancer and I worked on with Lord Dormamu that morning, so we had quite a few people from Judge Dread’s class stopping to watch us dance very intently because the Foxtrot we were doing did not look like the Foxtrot they were doing.

There were a few notable points to take a way from what I went through that morning. The first thing we discussed after we ran through the Foxtrot for Lord Dormamu were all the figures where Sparkledancer has to do a Heel Turn. In practice, since we have been working on extending our legs to drive through all figures, Sparkledancer asked me to take smaller steps when leading her into a figure with a Heel Turn because she was having trouble bringing her feet together if the steps were big. Lord Dormamu said that taking these smaller steps were interrupting the flow of our Foxtrot, and he wanted us to move into figures that have Heel Turns using steps that were the same size as the other figures. This does make things harder on Sparkledancer, so making sure that each step is not rushed and giving her as much time as possible to close her feet is essential for success here.

Next we talked about the Three Step. Lord Dormamu wanted to further refine the shaping that Sparkledancer was doing in the middle of the Three Step. He explained that the Three Step, in his opinion, is actually the hardest figure to do properly in International Foxtrot. It doesn’t sound like much – it’s just three steps forward (or backward, if you’re the Follow), but making it look perfect takes a lot of work.

To do this properly, he threw down a new challenge for us: every time we do a Three Step in practice, he wants us to stop and hold as my foot hits the ground on the second step. When we hold, we should be able to review the position that we are in. There should be a clear right-side lead from me, and my left leg should be fully extended behind me so that my left foot is rolled forward and only the tip of my big toe is left on the ground when we stop. Sparkledancer should be using my body like a wall in order to shape herself off of, creating even more volume than she has when we are in normal dance frame just for that one step. If we hold that pose for a few beats and everything feels correct, we can then continue on.

Balance is a tricky thing to get when stopping like that, especially if you are going into the Three Step from another figure with a lot of movement, like a Basic Weave. If you don’t take that second step properly, you can end up fighting to hold yourself up. I’ll confess – the toes on my right foot hurt after we finished our session that day from gripping the ground so hard to maintain a balanced look. I guess that what we were doing was working though, since Lord Dormamu told us that our Three Steps were looking fantastic when we would hit that position, better than he’s ever seen them before. Now all we have to do is make them all like that consistently, and then be able to hit that pose without stopping every time, and we’ll be golden! No big deal, right?

We also talked about the Basic Weave that we have in the routine that day. The Basic Weave is the first figure that we do on the first short wall of the routine, and it goes right into a Three Step. Lord Dormamu told us that the Three Step we do there never looks as good as the other Three Steps we do in the routine. I hypothesized that it was because of all the momentum that we build up in the Basic Weave traveling toward diagonal center, which might not be bled off properly by the Feather Finish when we try to start the Three Step heading toward diagonal wall. After running through the two figures a couple of times, Lord Dormamu agreed with my assessment.

His analysis of the situation was that we weren’t properly using the slight pivot that is between the Basic Weave and its Feather Finish to halt our progression toward diagonal center. To improve this, he suggested that we practice doing just that by forcing ourselves to stop there. Once we hit the pivot point, we should get used to coming to a complete stop before taking the last two steps in the Feather Finish, which should train us to use the pivot to bleed off the momentum. If we can get used to that feeling, he is confident that we can go through the whole thing without breaking continuity and get rid of the pull toward diagonal center that is making the first step of the Three Step look awkward.

Finally, we talked about the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish again. While the figure is looking much better than it used to, Lord Dormamu is still not completely pleased. There were a couple of additional points he wanted to have us work on in practice to help. The first was that he wanted Sparkledancer to be the one actually doing the turning. His thought was that there are times I go through the figure where I don’t think that we are going to make the turn, so I attempt to force it by moving my upper body, which pulls Sparkledancer around, but also throws off our frame until I reset it during the Feather Finish. He wants me to stop thinking about turning entirely and just worry about bringing my heels together. That of course means that Sparkledancer will have to drive with slightly more power as she comes around me to do the turn for both of us.

He also suggested that we alter the angle of the Natural Turn preceding the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish. If we end the Natural Turn so that I am backing diagonal wall instead of backing line of dance, that means that the Closed Impetus with Feather Finish has to turn an eighth of a turn less, which makes the turn easier on everyone involved. Of course, that will put us closer to the wall when we end the figure, so we will have to be careful not to end up off the floor if we are dancing in a smaller space.

Later that afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for even more coaching. This week we opted to work on Viennese Waltz, which of late has been the International Standard style that I spend the least amount of time on in practice. In fact, with everything else I have been working on in Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango and Quickstep, I can’t remember the last time I dedicated any real practice time to Viennese Waltz. That will have to change, I guess.

The majority of our time was spent on just getting into frame. Now, before I write any more, I will have to say that I am not a huge fan of this opening sequence that we go through to get into frame. It’s different from all of our other routines, and I find the whole experience to feel awkward. Normally I am totally cool with being awkward in any situation, especially when people are watching me, but I just don’t like the awkwardness here. We don’t compete with Viennese Waltz with any regularity yet, so I haven’t really had to worry too much about how I feel doing this opening jig. Spending a ton of time on it in one of my lessons though, that makes it super apparent how much I don’t enjoy doing it.

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, imagine this: we start out with me facing center and Sparkledancer a few steps away facing me. Each movement covers one three-count bar of music, so on the first we both step forward and I take her right hand in my left. On the second we both step to the side (left for me, right for her) and raise our held hands while throwing out our opposite arm. We bow to each other on the third, and originally on the fourth bar we were supposed to step to the side (left for me, right for her) and wind up a bit to go into a Natural Turn to begin traveling.

There were a bunch of things that Sir Steven wanted us to change about this opening progression after he watched us go through it. First of all, as you can probably imagine, he wanted me to work on how I was moving my arms. Apparently I looked like I was flailing when I moved them. Maybe that is a sign that I should think about switching  to dance styles that don’t require me to move my arms around? 😉

Sir Steven went into this whole thing about moving my arms using rotation from my upper body as the catalyst, bringing Sparkledancer and I over to the mirror to watch what we were doing as we practiced. Trying to move my upper body gracefully enough to initiate movement in my arms wasn’t working too well for me though, because when I tried I still looked pretty goofy. Based on where he wanted my arm to start off and where he wanted it to end up when I was finished moving it, I tried moving my arm instead as if I were doing a chest fly while holding a weight. That is a movement I am very familiar with, and as luck would have it, the movement produced a result that Sir Steven approved of. As long as I keep my mouth shut, he can believe that I am using his advice on how to move my arm to make it look like he wants. It will be our little secret.

The last thing that Sir Steven wanted us to change in this opening sequence was the timing. As I mentioned, each movement we do covers one three-count bar of music, and there are four movements in total. Sir Steven thought that our opening would work better if it could cover a full eight-bar phrase of music, so he wanted us to do the first three movements as normal, hold for four bars, and then do the step to the left on bar eight so that our first Natural Turn would be on bar one of a new eight-bar phrase. If I wasn’t already feeling awkward about this whole opening progression before, adding in all of that stillness made sure to fix that. If I was in a competition and Sir Steven wasn’t around to watch, there’s a good chance that I wouldn’t do any of this starting progression. We’ll have to see if it gets any better with time, patience and practice.

After that, the rest of the session was spent working on Natural and Reverse Turns. There was nothing too fancy here, we spent time making sure that there was a lot of drive on every first step by extending the time for that step slightly and then doing the last two steps of each turn at normal speed. In some ways it felt more like dancing Viennese Waltz in a ‘slow, quick, quick’ rhythm rather than in three equally spaced steps. Working on the drive of each turn also helps to emphasize that Viennese Waltz is a traveling dance, not just a spinning dance like a lot of people tend to think. This emphasis is something we are just doing to practice the feeling and drive we want, but in an actual competition we would not purposely try to change the timing of the steps from what they should be.

Last Saturday was also when my Royal Dance Court group had planned to hold our monthly dance party. Before I arrived at the venue, I had been a bit worried that the party might be smaller than usual since it was St. Patrick’s Day after all, but my worries appeared to be unfounded. We still ended up with over fifty people coming out to dance the night away, and we weren’t even serving drinks! There were a number of people who showed up a bit late to the start of the party, saying that they had gone out for dinner beforehand and the restaurants they visited were swamped, but better late than never, right?

To celebrate St. Patrick’s Day we had opted to bring someone in to teach a lesson in East Coast Swing before the party started. That person was Sir Steven! I saw him twice in one day, at two different places. How weird is that? Anyway… when the class started we had a couple more women than men who wanted to take the lesson, so I ended up joining in to try to even out the numbers a bit. What we did in class was fun, but none of the figures Sir Steven showed everyone were new to me. That gave me an advantage, and I used it to help out a number of ladies that I danced with who were having trouble with their steps initially.

I didn’t actually do much during the open dance portion after the lesson. By the time class finished, we had an even number of men and women, so I spent most of the night keeping on top of little things to make the patrons happy rather than dancing, like a good party host would. I did find out later that apparently there was one guy making a hubbub about the party and how there was some unnamed individual(s) wearing jeans there. Scandalous! I happened to be wearing jeans that night, since I wasn’t really expecting to dance so much that I needed the full range of motion for my legs, so maybe this guy was talking about me. Of course, I also didn’t really dance that night, so I don’t know if I even registered for this gentleman.

Sigh… I never really get to wear jeans anymore, so if I was really the one he was talking about who made him unhappy, he can bite me. I have to be dressed formally for work every day of the week, and when I’m out practicing or taking lessons for dance I wear a pair of practice slacks, so sometimes it’s nice just to dress casually. I don’t do that too often nowadays, so I make no apologies for deciding to wear jeans to a dance party that I helped organize and host. How does the saying go again? Something something my party, something something dress how I want to, right? Close enough.

Finally, I’ll mention Standard Technique class from yesterday for a couple of reasons. First off, we worked on some Tango, which is always a fun thing to do. After class was over last night, it may have dawned on me that I no longer think that my Tango is terrible anymore. Remember how I used to say that it was my weakest International Standard style? I might now think that it’s one of my strongest, after Foxtrot of course. Secondly, the new ‘instructor’ girl who I mentioned was in Standard Technique class with me last week actually did come back, and I got to talk to her a bit more about life and dancing. I’m such a good Dance Ambassador!

The progression of figures that we worked on in class wasn’t very long, but the transition between figures two and three could be a challenge if you didn’t anticipate what was to happen. We started off facing diagonal wall and did two basic Curved Walk steps, with enough curve to end with us facing diagonal center after the second one was done. Next we did a Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot, transitioning from that directly into an Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside. We closed our feet at the end to set us up for a Back Corte, and then finished up with a Progressive Link into a Natural Promenade Turn.

The Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot gave me the most trouble that night, because most of the time when we went through the figure the ladies wouldn’t go into Fallaway Position on the second step. That made the next two steps difficult to get through without some force on my part. I think Lord Junior was so busy going over the footwork with the ladies that he inadvertently forgot to tell the ladies they would need to be in Fallaway Position, but I don’t know for sure. Also, all the steps for the Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot are quick, as are the first two steps of the Open Reverse Turn, Lady Outside, so you really have to keep yourself under control as you come to the first slow step in the Open Reverse Turn or else you will just float through. Floating doesn’t look very staccato, as you can imagine.

New dance ‘instructor’ girl told me last night that we were going to be stuck with her in class, because even though she was frustrated that she is having to relearn large portions of what she thought she knew, she still likes it. So, maybe she really does need a name. How about… I call her Silver. When she actually starts teaching, I suppose I’ll have to promote her to Lady Silver, but for now she is just training, so Silver will be good.

Anyway… Silver still seemed frustrated with the figures in class, much like she was last week. There were a few times I danced with her and she messed up her steps, and rather than continue on she just stopped dancing and walked away from me. I did offer to go through the figure again with her when she messed up, but she didn’t often take me up on that. The frustration was easy to see, even for someone like me who is kind of terrible at reading cues from ladies, but this week she didn’t look like she was going to break into tears, so I see that as an improvement.

Going through the Progressive Link really surprised her. Here is a figure that is probably one of the most common steps people do in Bronze International Tango, and she said that she had never been shown how to do it before. Hearing that really made me wonder about who was teaching her International Standard at the franchise studio where she used to work before she got to the Electric Dance Hall. Whomever that was probably needs a talking to about what they are covering. Do you think I should find them and let them read my copy of The Book? 🙂

Well, it looks like I failed miserably at trying to keep this short. Sigh… maybe next week I can do better.

Unbelievable Sights, Indescribable Feeling

Last Saturday morning I got my result sheets from the pseudo-competition I was in the Saturday prior. Someone who works at the Fancy Dance Hall had been nice enough to type up all of the notes for me so that I didn’t have to try to read all of the judge’s handwriting, but since I danced in so many heats the feedback still covered more than one sheet of paper. My lesson with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer that afternoon was focused on some of the specific notes that we were given, much like all of the practice sessions I have had since I got the sheets back.

Let’s start by talking about the results from the last round that I did that day, which was the five-dance challenge round that Sparkledancer and I opted to be a part of. The only reason we decided to dance in that round was because at the level we are dancing right now, none of the competitions we take part in have us dancing all five International Standard styles back-to-back, so we wanted to give that a try to see how we did. Initially I thought that this round would just give us feedback from the judges, like all the other heats, but I was wrong. Apparently they scored this round with placements, like you would get at a real competition.

Sparkledancer and I were ranked second or third by all judges in all five of our dances, but when all the scores were added up we were placed third overall out of five. I know that doesn’t sound super good, but being ranked in this way overall wasn’t a good idea to begin with, for a number of reasons. First of all, we were the only Amateur pair that danced in this five-dance round – everyone else was Pro/Am, so we definitely had that working against us. Secondly, this was not a leveled challenge. The Pro/Am couple that took first? That lady was doing her Gold-level routines. The second place Pro/Am pair I know competes in Silver regularly, so I assume they were using those routines that day as well. Then there was us, dancing our Bronze routines.

I’m sure that makes it slightly more impressive, seeing as how the people who beat us are definitely dancing at a higher level, but I still don’t feel right about it. Had I known that we wouldn’t be getting feedback and would be ranked, I probably would have made the argument with Sparkledancer that it wasn’t really a good idea to dance in the five-dance round, and instead would have signed up for five more single-dance heats. Still, what’s done is done, and it is nice to know that at least we didn’t take last place against a while field of Pro/Am couples.

With that out of the way, the more interesting thing I got was the notes on the single-dance heats. Many of the notes are only semi-helpful, because they aren’t overly specific. There were quite a few that mentioned something about keeping the frame stronger or more consistent, but they don’t specify where I need to do that, or even tell me whether it is Sparkledancer or I that should be doing it. Those comments I just skimmed over, because frame and posture is going to be a constant point to work on (at least, until I figure out how to replace large portions of my upper body with cybernetic parts).
There were also a lot of comments about how Sparkledancer and I were fun to watch, or looked like we were having fun. While that is good to know, and was something I was actively working on that day, those notes don’t really help me focus my practice. In fact, all of the comments that talked about how I did something well I just skipped over. When all was said and done, I highlighted just the comments that were actually useful information on things I should work on in each dance style.

Because I’m not ashamed to admit my own faults, I am going to put that list here. Also, it will make it easy for me to look up the notes if I lose my copy of the results sheet, which is entirely likely to happen at some point…

For Waltz – More rise and fall actions need developing; More lowering and rising; Man’s left side up and forward; Beautiful closing action on the natural turn. More consistent with this; Closing action in natural turn could be more precise; Maintain a good head position.

For Tango – Powerful movement but inconsistent; Keep Tango flatter.

For Viennese Waltz – Stay in your left space at all times; Work on bigger steps; Head position needs to be more aware of space, too much rotation in the head, needs to be longer; Needs more depth on the first step in both natural and reverse turns.

For Foxtrot – Use your standing leg; Too steppie at times; Use your sides to pass one another; Shape gets slightly distorted because of foot position; Knees need to flex more when receiving the weight on the slow; More projection outwards needed; Slows need to be fuller to show contrast from quicks.

And finally, for Quickstep – Too steppie at times; Use your standing legs and divide the feet; Longer steps; More confidence; Great energy, but inconsistent.

(All notes are verbatim as on the papers I got)

Based on those notes, if I didn’t know any better I would feel like Tango is my strongest dance style all of a sudden. How in the world did that happen? Quickstep seems to come in as a close second though. I mean, if I think back to the results that I got from the last actual competition I was in, that would follow with the scoring that the judges in that event gave Sparkledancer and I, so I guess maybe that has some merit, but Tango and Quickstep are definitely not the dance styles I feel like the strongest in. I always thought that Foxtrot was my strength, with Waltz behind that. Maybe this means that I will have to devote more practice time to those two styles to keep them at the top of the heap.

Saturday night was a big night for me. This past weekend was the scheduled weekend for the monthly dance party that my Royal Dance Court group hosts, but this month was special. Many months ago I had asked the Princess to come in to teach the lesson that we hold before the dance party, and Saturday was the night that she actually did it, and oh man did things turn out great!

First of all, we had so many people show up to see her that night that there was barely any room on the dance floor during the lesson that she taught. People didn’t seem to mind that though – they were enraptured listening to her talk about American Tango, and entranced by watching her demonstrate the steps. Second of all, though she didn’t have to, the Princess actually stayed for the majority of the dance party afterward, talking with anyone who wanted to talk with her and dancing with any man (or woman) brave enough to dance with her. All the while using her magical princess powers to liven up the room.

(I’m not even kidding about that. If you’ve ever spent any time in the same room as her, you know that she has a way of commanding attention if she wants to. Her personality is a force of nature, and it sweeps anyone nearby up in its wake. Good thing she’s also super nice. If she were a villain, she could be really dangerous and manipulative.)

So what does a Princess tell her subjects if she is giving a class on American Tango? Well, first she made everyone dance for her so that she could stroll around the room and evaluate how everyone danced currently. Then she split up the class and gave everyone a look at some important Tango technique that would make everyone better, but was especially good information for those more advanced dancers in the crowd. Finally she showed everyone a fun and challenging combination of figures that would help people practice the technique she taught, but would also give them something that could be pulled out during dance parties to impress others on the floor.

The technique that she spent time going over in class was something that she had been discussing the weekend prior, after the competition I was in was over, with that multi-time world champion who had come in to judge that I mentioned. Apparently they had somehow gotten into a conversation about taking steps in Tango. I guess if you are both world-class dancers, like the Princess and that judge guy are, these are the sorts of things that just come up in normal conversation when you talk…

The technique that they discussed really was about how to take steps in Tango. Whether dancing American or International Tango, to make it look and move differently than any other ballroom dance you need to drive out of your standing leg and step on the beat and then hold, split weight, body weight in-between your legs. On the ‘&’ of the beat (or on the ‘&’ of the second beat, if you are taking a slow step) you will shift your weight to the new leg, and the old leg essentially becomes dead weight until it is collected. This driving and then holding action is what, more than anything else, will give your Tango the powerful staccato look that it needs to really look like Tango at a world-class level.

To practice this, the Princess had people just do the American Tango basic a few times down the floor alone, then she partnered everyone up to have men and women try it together. As soon as she had people partner up and give it a try, she had to split the men and women up again to tell all the men about being in frame correctly with a lady and having a right-side lead the whole time while dancing Tango. Apparently watching the men near her try to dance with a partner offended her so much that she had to stop everyone to fix it.

By the time she was finished having us work on walking, everyone in the room had been drawn into her lesson in some way. Normally we have people who show up for the dance party and spend their time during the lessons on the sidelines, just sitting and chatting with each other, but even these people were standing next to the chairs and paying attention to everything the Princess was saying. Even Lord Junior and Sir Digler, who had both stopped by the party at different times just to visit with people they knew for a little while, ended up in line with the men so they could work on the things that the Princess was talking about. I wish that I had a magical air of command about me like that!

Splitting the men and women up again, she now went through a small progression of Tango figures. None of the figures were super difficult, but she made it look amazing. Have you ever watched a world champion-level dancer dance a Bronze-level routine before? It makes the Bronze-level routines I practice look terrible by comparison. Luckily, I wasn’t the person she asked to help her demonstrate the routine. Sir Digler happened to be standing in line near the Princess, so she called him out and told him that she would just back-lead him through the sequence. The whole time she kept calling him ‘darling’ (or “dah-ling” in that accent of hers), which made him blush a lot. Poor guy…
The progression began with a normal American Tango basic – two curved steps followed by a three-step close. On the last step of the basic, she had people shift to Promenade Position heading diagonal center. Next we did a Promenade that ends in a throwout to get the lady into Open Fan position. Here we led her through a Underarm Turn with an extra spin on the end to get her into Shadow Position. While the lady turns, the man just has to rock in place.

From here we did an Open Reverse Turn in Shadow Position, ending the figure with a right-side lunge/picture line that stretched toward diagonal wall. To finish, the guy takes two steps backward to settle on right leg and holds while lady is turned across our body to collect back in Promenade Position, before taking off into a basic closed Promenade that ends facing wall so you could start all over if you wanted.

So yeah, things went well. The class was challenging for a lot of people – most people who only dance socially don’t usually think about their technique, so the Princess really pushed them outside their comfort zone to help them improve. Plus there were so many people trying to dance in the class that the floor was super crowded, which also made things challenging. All those people stuck around afterward for the party to hang out and dance with the Princess more, and because of that anyone who was dancing had to keep themselves really contained. I didn’t hear any reports of injuries throughout the night, so I’m going to assume that everyone was successful. Hooray!

I dealt with an ever-so slightly smaller crowd on Monday night when I went out to the Electric Dance Hall for Latin Technique class. Lord Junior still wanted to use class that night to give his competitive students who joined class some extra practice for the competition they are going to in a couple of weekends, and tonight’s class was primarily for the benefit of Gatekeeper. She had gotten her feedback from the competition she participated in with me two weekends ago, and one of the comments that the judges made repeatedly was that she needed to work on straightening her legs completely in her Latin dances. So tonight we worked on Rumba to let her practice that.

When we really focus on doing the Latin dances on Monday with super straight legs, it hurts me on the inside. Straightening my legs like that is pretty much anathema to everything I have been practicing so hard for International Standard to improve my movement. Also, there is this very fine line that I walk while straightening my legs like this, between really flexing the bottom of my quadriceps to hold my leg straight, and just being kind of lazy and letting my knees settle back a little farther to lock in more of a hyperextended position. Because I don’t do Latin all that often, if I’m not thinking about what I’m doing I have a tendency to allow the latter to happen, which ends up being painful when I get home.
For the first twenty minutes, we drilled the basic steps and New Yorkers extremely slowly to make sure that our legs were straightened perfectly when they needed to be. I’m talking music so slow that dancing sloths would have told Lord Junior to kick it up a notch. If they danced ballroom, that is – I have a feeling that dancing sloths usually end up at raves for some reason, slowly waving around glow sticks. Yeah, you can picture that too, can’t you.

When we had been tortured enough with this extended warm up, Lord Junior gave us a few more complicated steps to use to continue working on our legs. We did three New Yorkers (to the right, left, then right) into an Alemana that ended with lady on man’s right side. Then we finished with a Closed Hip Twist that sent the lady out into Fan Position. There weren’t too many figures, but if the fastest you dance them is to 80% of International Rumba music tempo, it takes a long time to get through what little is there. By the end of class, I started to wonder if what we were doing was practice, or punishment.

There was much less torture for me on Wednesday night when I went out to Standard Technique class. Once again, we took to working on a style and a figure so that one of Lord Junior’s competitive students could get in some additional practice with it before competing. This time it was Foxtrot, and the specific figure she wanted some more work on was the Reverse Wave.

We didn’t get through a whole lot as far as steps were concerned because a few of the ladies were struggling to get through the few figures we did use. What we ended up doing was just a prep step into a Feather, then an Open Telemark with a Feather Ending. We took that into an Overturned Reverse Turn that flipped us 180° so that we ended up backing diagonal wall, and now we added on the Reverse Wave, which curved to head down the line of dance. To get out of that easily, we just did an Open Impetus that turned us to head toward diagonal center in Promenade Position.

The most difficult part for me was going through the Overturned Reverse Turn into the Reverse Wave. Lord Junior had told all the ladies about turning their heads to the right as they started the Reverse Wave. This had the unintended effect of making the ladies want to go in that direction. If the lady did not want to dance in body contact with me (there were two in class who really didn’t like doing that), then I had very little ability to control where they ended up, so they would drift off toward outside partner on my left side. It didn’t matter how strong I held my arms, or how many times we went through the figure and they were told not to do this, those two ladies kept trying to shift to that side for some reason.
On a funny note, Lord Junior spent some time getting on the ladies to make sure they took a heel step for their first step when we were in Promenade Position. After the third or fourth time telling them all to do that, he threatened to make the next lady who didn’t take a heel step run a lap around the outside of the dance floor using all heel steps. We all thought it was a pretty funny threat, until Bony stepped up to dance through the progression with him… and failed to take a heel step for her first step in Promenade Position.

Lord Junior told her to go run her lap, and to make sure to go around the outside of the dance floor, which would take her behind the other group class that was going on down at the other end of the floor. Bony told him that she didn’t run, so she just started sauntering along slowly. When she got to where the other group class was, rather than go around them she stopped to talk to one of the people on the edge of the class. At this point, we were all laughing, and Lord Junior started calling across the room to her to keep moving because this was not supposed to be a break for her to socialize.

The instructor leading the other class stopped what she was doing to ask Lord Junior what was going on. He told her that Bony was supposed to be running her lap as a punishment. Everyone in the other group class started laughing too, so the instructor fought to get her class back under control and told them all not to talk to Bony because she was being punished. Finally Bony sauntered her way around the room and back to our side, looking pretty pleased with herself.

The funny part was, after going through that exercise, Bony never messed up her heel step in Promenade Position again that night. It was a hilarious method of getting there, but apparently her punishment really did teach her the right lesson. 🙂