Tag Archives: West Coast Swing

So Can I Get A Handclap?

Man, this past week has been full of all sorts of twists. If there were any more, I’d almost swear I had my left hand on blue…

Since last time I posted my notes, the first thing I did was to meet up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven at the Fancy Dance Hall for my normal Saturday lesson. Except this week we didn’t meet up at the normal time. Apparently the Fancy Dance Hall had been rented out for the afternoon and evening by some group for a big West Coast Swing workshop and dance party extravaganza. In order to avoid being in the way when their event started, we had moved our lesson up to way-too-early o’clock on a Saturday morning so that we could be finished and gone before the event started. I’ve mentioned lots of times that I am the farthest thing from a morning person, so I can’t say that things really went perfectly for me that morning, even though I had consumed copious amounts of caffeine before arriving at the studio that day. Such is life…

I will admit honestly that what we worked on that morning is a bit fuzzy to me. I didn’t sleep all that well the night before, and with all the other things that happened that day the things I was supposed to remember from early that morning have eluded me. I know we started out by running through all of our routines except Viennese Waltz. I remember that when we finished up we looked at one corner of our Foxtrot routine again, and we worked on Tango a bit and I think also Viennese Waltz toward the end, but don’t quote me on that. Now that I’m sitting here at the end of the day trying to write everything down, I feel a bit stupid for not being able to remember exactly.

One thing I do remember (because it came up again later) was that as we were finishing up that day Sparkledancer told Sir Steven and I that she wasn’t going to be in town next weekend, so if I wanted to still come in for a lesson it would have to be on my own. Sir Steven asked me if I still wanted to do that, and I told him that I could go either way. He said that we could pencil something in, and he would ask around to see if any of the female instructors who teach at the Fancy Dance Hall would be interested in either filling in for Sparkledancer during my lesson with Sir Steven, or working on things with me on her own. I just agreed, and headed off to find a quick bite to eat (and some more caffeine) before the coaching session we were supposed to have that afternoon with one of the judges who was in town for the competition that Lord Dormamu was helping organize on Sunday.

The coaching session was something that Lord Dormamu, Sparkledancer and I had worked out via text message on Friday to find a time that worked out for everyone and to figure out what this would cost each of us. Since there was that event going on at the Fancy Dance Hall in the afternoon that had required us to move our lesson with Sir Steven to the morning, the staff at the Fancy Dance Hall had actually rented out the City Dance Hall for the afternoon so that all of their students could have coaching sessions and workshops with the judges before the competition. As I was heading over to the City Dance Hall, I couldn’t help but think that it was funny that the staff from one dance studio had rented out another dance studio to give lessons.

Just as I pulled my car into the parking lot at the City Dance Hall, I got a message from Lord Dormamu telling me that there had been a bunch of flight cancellations for one of the big airlines, and unfortunately one of those cancelled flights was the one that the judge/coach that I was scheduled to work with should have been on. So he wasn’t going to make it in time for our session. Instead, Lord Dormamu said that he would work with Sparkledancer and me instead, but he was going to be half an hour late since he had to deal with the fallout from the judge not being around on time before he got to us. Since I didn’t really want to sit by myself in the parking lot, I headed inside the City Dance Hall to wait until everyone was there.

Working with Lord Dormamu that afternoon was really good for my dance confidence levels. After Sparkledancer and I danced through our Waltz routine for him once, he told me that he could really see a difference in my posture and frame, so all the practice I was doing dancing by myself holding those cups must be paying off. I wasn’t told that I could stop doing that, but he did say that when I was dancing with Sparkledancer, I was now allowed to turn my head to face 45° to the left, and also start pulling my body to the left while she pulled her body to her left (though I am not pulling left anywhere near as dramatically as she is). Anytime I dance with Sparkledancer, this will now be my new ‘home’ position, and I should always come back to it until such a time as he tells me I need to change things again. So yay! He said I improved noticeably! Now I can move on to other things! Progress can be made!

But as much as I’d love to gloat about my own personal progress, there were still points that were given to me to work on. Lord Dormamu said that he didn’t like the way my upper body looked when I was moving backward. He said that sometimes it looked like I was leaning up chest forward as I moved backward, making it look like I was off balance. To help break that behavior, he wanted me to start leaning my upper body backward anytime I would be taking a step backward with bent knees. My knees have to be bent because that is the only way to counter-balance the weight of leaning my upper body backward. I couldn’t think of any times I’ve ever taken steps backward while my knees aren’t really bent (as if I were walking backward during the rise in the Waltz), so for now I am assuming that I will be leaning back slightly every time I take a step backward. That certainly makes it easier for me to practice.

Sparkledancer definitely got it worse than me that afternoon. Now that my posture and frame were less on Lord Dormamu’s radar, he could focus more on her and manipulate her posture and frame. He was trying to get her to pull her body even more to the left when she was in frame with me. Lord Dormamu at one point took Sparkledancer over to a chair and had her sit. He asked me to gently hold her waist in place on the chair so that she didn’t move anywhere while he pulled her upper body to the left, trying to get her spine into almost a 45° angle with her hips. Once he positioned her and let go so he could verify she could hold herself in that position, we helped her up gently so that I could take frame with her and we could dance for a while.

With things like this, it amazes me that anyone, especially me, does this for a hobby. The more I dance, the more it seems like the only way you know you are doing things right is if you are super uncomfortable. Why do we do this to ourselves?

As we were wrapping things up, Lord Dormamu told Sparkledancer and me that if we can remember the things that we had gone over that day and apply them during the competition that was going on the next day, then we should do fairly well. That stopped us in our tracks, since Sparkledancer and I hadn’t signed up to be in the competition. I told him that, and asked him if, since the competition was on the morrow, if we were too late to even consider signing up. Lord Dormamu just laughed and told me that since it was his competition, he could sign us up at the last minute if we wanted to take part. He told us to think about taking part during the morning for the heats in International Standard, and also later in the evening for the championship or scholarship rounds, and just let him know before the end of the day what we wanted to do so he could add Sparkledancer and me to the list, and he would see us early the next morning if we were going to run some of the heats.

Afterward, Sparkledancer and I stood in the parking lot for a while discussing what we should do. I still had something going on Sunday afternoon I wanted to be able to do, and the championship and scholarship rounds were scheduled to start super late in the evening on Sunday, so it seemed like our best option was to join in for just the heats in the morning. I sent Lord Dormamu a text telling him that we talked it over and would be good with doing two or three heats in each International Standard style in the morning, so whatever he thought was best he could put us down for and let us know the approximate cost at some point and we could get it paid for soon. Neither of us heard back from him that day, but he had already told us what time to show up the next morning, so I guess he just assumed we were all set.

With that, on Sunday morning I was once again awake much earlier than I would have wished so that I could be out at the Endless Dance Hall for the competition. I had not gotten a reply back from Lord Dormamu to the message I sent him Saturday afternoon, so as I walked through the door I had no idea what I was getting myself into that day (or how much it was going to cost me, for that matter). It turns out that I wasn’t the only person like that who was supposed to be competing that day. The lady at the check-in desk did not have a number or a heat sheet printed out for me, but told me I was the second person who had already shown up who had that problem. Lord Dormamu was wandering around getting things situated, so it was pretty easy to flag him down and get everything straightened out. He pulled a number out of the stack that wasn’t in use yet, handed it to me and told me to go ahead and start warming up while he put my number into the heats he wanted me to do.

As I was waiting for Lord Dormamu to finish up, I got roped into helping the Princess set out some noisemakers on all of the tables around the room. That basically means that I carried around a large box full of all the noise making props and followed her from table to table, while she just took what she wanted from the box and arranged things to her liking. I guess my strong arms are actually useful for some things in the dance world. By the time I had finished up with that and gotten back to the table where I had set my dance shoes, Lord Dormamu had delivered a note to the table with a bunch of handwritten numbers on it. That was all the information I got about the heats I was to be dancing in. The numbers told me I was dancing in three different five-dance sets spread throughout the morning. Unfortunately, I was also starting in heat one, so it was time to change gears and get ready to go!

With only a little time before the event was scheduled to start, I tracked down Sparkledancer and got to work warming up. Sparkledancer had recently found, fallen in love with and purchased a new competition dress that she had decided to debut that day, so it was important that we spend a bit of time getting used to dancing with her wearing that piece. The dress had a really unique design that made Sparkledancer stand out, so she was easy for me to find while scanning the room. Our initial practice was important for me because the bottom of her dress flared out a bit, and I wanted to make sure that hitting it with my lower legs as I took steps wasn’t weird. Everything felt good, and all too soon the DJ changed the music to signal that the opening remarks were going to begin, so Sparkledancer and I made our way toward the on-deck area to get ready to go.

In some ways, the competition went exactly as I expected. The first five-dance set of heats did not go as well as the two that we danced later in the morning. For the most part the dances were OK, but the Viennese Waltz left something to be desired, and the Foxtrot was a bit of a disaster for the first two walls. The Foxtrot was completely my fault though. In practice that morning, we had been running through each of our routines starting on the short wall, since that’s where we had room to work on things. When we began the first Foxtrot heat we were already in a corner to start on a short wall, so I figured we’d just go with that. Somehow by the end of that wall I had messed something up, so I was off for the beginning of the long wall, and I maaaaaaay have gone into an American Foxtrot Open Reverse Turn instead of an International Foxtrot Reverse Turn at one point (shhh… that’s a secret. Don’t tell anyone I did that). Still, I picked up enough from the first five dance set to make adjustments to all the routines for the next time through.

Even though the floor at the Endless Dance Hall is pretty huge, I was still finding myself compressed for space to fit all of the figures in during most of my routines. I took that as a good problem to have, since that meant Sparkledancer and I were really stretching our steps and pushing with our standing legs as we traveled. For the second and third five-dance sets I ended up cutting out some figures if I felt I was getting too close to the wall. Sparkledancer was awesome and able to follow me without me having to say anything to her when I did that, as well as the few times I had to break routine because of other couples on the floor getting in the way. See folks, that’s why I keep saying it’s important to go out social dancing: it really teaches you to properly navigate the floor and learn to adjust your steps on the fly to avoid other people. I hope someday they give out bonus points in competitions for floorcraft skills.

In a surprise twist, even though we only had three five-dance sets on our handwritten heat sheet, during one of the later five-dance sets that weren’t on my list the MC called out my name and number for the Viennese Waltz right in the middle of the set. I was a bit stunned, but they were looking right at where Sparkledancer and I were sitting, so I knew it was no mistake. Shaking off the surprise, I went out to dance. So in the end I did three full five-dance sets plus one random Viennese Waltz heat that morning.

Afterward, there was a short break as they transitioned from all the International Standard heats to American Smooth. Since I wasn’t doing anything else that day, I took the opportunity during break to change back into some street clothes and, after watching some dancing for a little while, I took off to go get some lunch with Sparkledancer to discuss how things went. If this competition is anything like the last one I did, I should get back my notes from the judges when I am at the Fancy Dance Hall for my normal lesson next weekend, so I can see what things the judges think I should focus on during practice to improve further. I feel pretty good about things though. For a competition I decided to join and then finished dancing all in less than twelve hours, it was a great experience.

Going back to something mentioned earlier, I got a text from Sir Steven the next afternoon. Apparently they had a short wrap-up meeting after the competition was over, and he had asked around with the female instructors there about working with me next Saturday. I guess the Princess actually told him she knew some things she wanted to work on with me based on what she saw me doing during the competition, so she volunteered to have a private lesson with me. Sir Steven wanted to make sure I was OK with that before putting it on the schedule officially. I’m a bit nervous to find out what she saw that would make her volunteer her limited and highly valued time to work with little old me exclusively, but I’m not stupid enough to turn down an offer like that from the Royalty. So I have something officially scheduled on Saturday now. We’ll have to see what she has to say about how I danced during the competition!

Back to more normal things… yesterday night I spent some time out at Standard Technique class working on Tango. Because Lord Junior is still studying for his upcoming advanced certification test in American Smooth, what we worked on that night involved some steps that would be American Tango, and finished up with a figure from International Tango. At the beginning of class it looked like we were going to have even numbers of Leads and Follows, but there were two ladies that showed up late that threw off the ratio. Not that I was complaining. Before class started, an older gentleman who was there for class was telling me all about his bad knees and ankles, and how he was going in for hernia surgery soon. I don’t know how I got roped into that conversation, but it was rather depressing. Luckily class was about to start when he began repeating himself, so I managed to get away before hearing the sad stories all over again.

What we ended up doing that night in class started out with both partners in Promenade Position. We took two steps in Promenade position before squaring up to our partner and taking a side step, then crossed our foot behind (the Lead’s right foot, Follow’s left) and did a Ronde with the other leg. You can lead the Follower to do this by sliding your hand down to their elbow as you take the side step and then use that hold and some rotation in your body to ‘push’ their right side backward. As you bring your foot down after the Ronde, we would take another side step in the opposite direction, release our partner’s left hand from our right, and turn to take a step forward, kind of like a Crossover Break, before rotating to face our partner again. As the Lead takes a step forward onto the right leg, we would bring the Follower back around in front of us and into closed dance frame once more.

After that whole section, which took much longer for many of the people in class to pick up than I expected, we took a page from the International Tango syllabus and did a Four Step. This would take you toward diagonal wall, but we did this as if we were in a corner, rotating slightly to finish up to come out in Promenade Position facing diagonal center on the new wall. The older fellow who told me all about his upcoming hernia surgery had trouble doing this figure in time with the music when we were doing things at full speed. He managed to finish things up a few beats behind where he should have, which wasn’t too bad, but the transitions between the figures and the speed of the steps in the Four Step were what kept getting him off time. I only got called out for having my head in the wrong place once during class, so I’m feeling pretty good about that overall. Yay me!

So what do you have on your dance plate for this weekend? I’ve only got a couple of things that I need to do. There is that lesson with the Princess on Saturday, and then on Saturday night I have a dance party hosted by my Royal Dance Court gang that I will be helping to organize. Oh yeah, I was supposed to put together a mini-speech about floorcraft to give before the social dance portion of the night. I wrote a few things down, but I never finished that up. Looks like I will be spending some time tomorrow night putting that together before I go to bed. Sigh… who needs rest anyway, right? It’s such an overrated luxury.

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!

Engine Running Hotter Than A Boiling Kettle

It’s been another crazy week for me here in the Dance Kingdom. Maybe I need to start coming to grips with the fact that I will just never spend any time at home any more, and learn to live comfortably in a dance studio somewhere. It feels like that is the direction my life is heading at least…

Let’s start out with what I did on Saturday. That afternoon I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer, and we spent our time looking at Tango for most of the session. I did have one question I wanted to look at right off the bat dealing with one of the warm-up exercises that we had been asked to do for all of our practice sessions. I had to ask about how we were having some trouble dancing our practice boxes without rotation, since I felt like I was always fighting to get my leg in-between Sparkledancer’s when we did the Natural Turns. I mean, I thought it was because I worked very hard to have strong legs, so they are several times bigger in size than the gap between Sparkledancer’s legs, and I was worried that in order to do the exercise properly she was going to have to take up some weird bow-legged pose. It was an actual concern for me!

Lucky for me, Sir Steven said that while this was a good exercise for warming up, actual figures in Waltz have to rotate. We didn’t seem to have issues doing Natural Turns when we rotated during the step, so it wasn’t something to be too concerned about. If we felt like we were fighting each other during warm-ups when trying to go straight, then we should just start rotating the box step as we warmed up to make it easier on ourselves. Sir Steven said it would be better for us to rotate than to start doing something weird and put Sparkledancer into an awkward position where it was easier for me to fit my leg through.

Now, as I said earlier, we worked on Tango. Sir Steven spent some time watching us do the routine at first to make sure that we were dancing through the figures with our weight split between our feet like we were supposed to be doing. I was told that it looked funny when I was trying to close my feet together completely at certain points, since the more we compressed into our knees the more Sparkledancer’s knee ended up between mine, so I could just do an air-close instead to avoid crushing her leg (I may have accidentally bruised her on both sides of her right knee by closing my feet together with her knee in-between mine as we practiced).

We also spent quite a bit of time looking at the two Promenade figures at the end of the long wall that afternoon. The first one is a Promenade Pivot, and for that we worked on making sure the rotation during the pivot snapped into place more sharply at the end, rather than letting the pivot take its time turning us to the right angle. Snapping into place is much more staccato, which looks more like Tango and less like a Waltz pivot. The second Promenade closes with a nosleeptilbrooklyn1right-side lunge for me going into the corner. From there we are supposed to do two rock steps before shifting our weight to my left leg. He wanted Sparkledancer to not only turn her head to look at me during the rocking, but to also bring her forehead toward mine to add a bit more dramatic flair to the movement. I tried to tell him that I’m not really a dramatic person, but more of a comedian, so it would be more natural for me to be making faces at her or sticking out my tongue, but he didn’t seem to like that idea. Sigh… maybe someday.

Even though it was already late on Saturday night and the parties were well underway, I did manage to make it out to the ballroom dance party being held as part of the big West Coast Swing weekend at a venue downtown. As I got there, they had apparently just finished up a big West Coast Swing competition in one of the two dance rooms, so there were a number of very sweaty people wandering around the hallway, which was amusing to me for some reason. I made my way over to the room dedicated to the ballroom dance party and found most of the other members of my Royal Dance Court group hanging out in the back of the room. There were a lot of faces in the crowd and on the dance floor that I recognized, but also quite a few that I did not. I’m guessing a lot of those people I didn’t know were West Coast Swing enthusiasts who had come to see what was going on during ballroom dance night, or to partake in some of the other dance styles they knew that weren’t West Coast Swing for a change.

At one point during the party, I asked Sparkledancer to wander with me over to the other room that was set aside for dancing to see what was going on. That room was dedicated to pure West Coast Swing all night, and since Sparkledancer is the only person I knew who also knew West Coast Swing, I wanted to have her along just in case I felt the need to jump in. The two of us stood in the doorway watching everyone on the floor for quite a while. The dance floor there was packed, with very little room available for anyone else to participate. We never actually made it out to the floor, because after the first song Sparkledancer told me that she was going to hide behind me so that none of the guys in that room would ask her to dance with them. I guess she was watching them, and to her it looked like all of the men were using a lot of force to lead their partners through things, and she just didn’t want to have to go through that.

Otherwise I got to dance the night away. Since this was actually a competition-sized floor (this same space has been rented out for actual ballroom competitions in the past, using the same sets of floor tiles they had lain out for the dance party), I danced all of the ballroom numbers with Sparkledancer that night so that we could get a bit of extra practice in. The party was supposed to go well into the night, but the crowd mostly dissipated with about an hour left before the DJ was going to leave. As you can imagine, the people who remained out dancing on the floor were younger than those who left, and since a majority of the ballroom community seems to fall on the older side, there weren’t all that many of us hanging around late into the evening. Oh well, that left tons more room for me to dance! Hooray!

Here’s an interesting note from this past Sunday’s practice session with Sparkledancer:

We were out in the evening at the Electric Dance Hall to work on our homework for the week. No one else was around, since there was some sort of big event being televised that the rest of the world was at home watching, so we had complete control of the dance floor and the music as we practiced. As we got to the point where we were going to start dancing through our routines by ourselves, I told Sparkledancer that she could start first, and then I would start when she reached the next corner so that she could always be about one wall ahead of me. I counted her off and then I watched her start down the floor, waiting for my turn.

As she got through the first Progressive Chasse, the timing of her steps did not match up with the timing the figure should have used in the music. I called out to her to let her know that, and she stopped to look at me dejectedly, then came back to restart the routine. I stood behind her quietly as she started over, and she started off on the wrong beat and didn’t correct the timing through the next few steps, so I stopped her again and asked about it. She told me that she thought it was right, but has never really thought about the timing too much before since I usually keep it for her, or she just follows whomever is leading.

This led us into a discussion about basic music theory, a topic that I am very familiar with since nosleeptilbrooklyn2I used to be a professional musician in my youth and spent many years studying music because of that. I tried to give her pointers to help her distinguish the first beat of each measure from the other beats, and how to recognize the phrasing in the music to associate the order of our dance figures with the phrase. We went over this for quite a while, and she seemed to really think the way I explained things was helpful. When she tried to run the routine again on her own without me counting, she was able to get through everything without missing a beat. Yay!

So on top of our other dance homework, we may start spending ten minutes or so each practice session working on some music and music theory work to help her out. For a hobby that is so dependent on music, I sometimes forget that the way I was brought up in that world and how I hear songs is very different from other dancers on the floor, so this could help Sparkledancer out a lot, which could help her when we are forced to dance our routines separately in the future. There’s rumors that we may be asked to start attending these super competition practice sessions once a month, and having all partners dance their routines on their own is a part of that, so it’s best to start preparing now!

During Latin Technique class on Monday night, we decided to work on some Rumba, and Lord Junior wanted to have us specifically go through some things that Ms. Possible was having trouble with in her private lessons so that she could get some more practice in. Before that though, we got to warm-up with some Rumba Walk exercises. This variation was different from any I had done before: we all started lined up along one wall of the studio with our weight on the left leg and the right foot pointed behind us. From that position we took two slow steps forward, and then on the third step we did a slow Spiral Turn on the right leg. Next we switched sides, taking two slow steps forward starting with the left foot and then doing a slow Spiral Turn on the left leg. After those walks with turns we did two sets of normal Rumba Walks with no turn on the third step, and to finish we repeated the walks with the Spiral Turns. At the end of the last turn on the left leg, we flipped around wherever we ended up on the floor and did the same pattern going back the other direction.

Finishing that up, Lord Junior had us working on a pattern that would allow us to use those slow Spiral Turns during the progression. We started this with the men standing on or left leg with our right foot pointed behind us, while the women stood on their right leg with their left foot pointed forward, holding on to each other with one hand. On any beat four in the music we took a slow step forward, then the men did a forward check and closed our feet while leading the ladies to do a backward check before going into a Curl, ending with them  turned 90° to their right so that we could go into a Reverse Top. After one full measure of rotation in the Reverse Top, we released the ladies out into Fan Position on the second measure. I’ve never ended a Reverse Top like that before, but it is a fairly simple ending to do, and I’m not sure why I never thought of it before. Give it a try!

From Fan Position we lead the ladies to do half of a Hockey Stick, getting them to the point nosleeptilbrooklyn3where they were standing in front of us and then leading them through a very slow Spiral Turn that covered three beats of music. The turn should flip them to head back in the direction they just came from when completed. We then sent them back out into Fan Position again, but this time at the end the men took a step forward after them. To make the ending interesting, we led the ladies to go through a Switchback as we checked forward, rotating the ladies wrist slightly to get them to turn. This was a fast movement since we didn’t have the ladies hold the Switchback for more than one beat before we led them to replace their weight backward, turn back around and step forward on the next beat. The men just walked backward as we led the ladies through their steps, helping to steady them as they turned and moved so quickly.

Tuesday night I had a session scheduled to get together with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu once he was back in the country. Sparkledancer and I had been talking about things over the weekend, and we decided to start out this lesson by asking him if there were any items that we would need to acquire for this journey that we were heading out on, specifically like new outfits that may have to be custom-made or tailored to fit properly. We wanted to start the process of gathering everything now while we still had no events on the calendar, rather than schedule something and then be handed a list of things to we would need, forcing us to run around in a panic trying to find everything. You know, like planning ahead! It’s a crazy idea, but I wanted to push for it anyway.

Lord Dormamu told us that he would want us to get some actual fancy competition attire. I’ve always just worn a suit in the past when competing in Smooth or Standard, and that’s worked out pretty well for me. I was told that using a normal three-piece suit would work out for small events, but for larger events I should invest in an actual ballroom tail suit. Lord Dormamu thinks that my new outfit will be fairly inexpensive – only a couple of thousand for the actual outfit and then whatever it costs to get it tailored to fit me properly from a local tailor. Apparently his definition of inexpensive is very, very different from mine… Lucky for me, since I am a boy my outfit will really never change, so I can wear it until it falls apart, which will save me money in the long run.

On a positive note though, he did say that my new dance shoes that I just got will work out perfectly, so I am good with those at least. Yay!

Sparkledancer was definitely given much worse news than I was. Lord Dormamu talked to her about getting a budget for a dress from her, and using that he would call around to some of the people he’s friends with overseas to have them look for a used competition dress in her size (her size is taller than average and thin). According to his estimates, a decent used dress he would like would probably run her five to eight thousand to acquire, and then whatever additional costs there are for final alterations to make it fit perfectly. He thinks that getting a dress like that will be good for her for a year or two before it is time to look at something new.

Wow. Yeah, guys definitely have it better off when it comes to clothing.

With the shock to my wallet of that discussion out of the way, we continued to work on Waltz. That night we spent a lot of time looking at the Double Reverse Spin. The first issue he wanted to work on was with Sparkledancer. He was happy that she was really driving as she came around me to finish up the turn, but he said that she was doing it way too fast. According to him, when a ballroom adjudicator is watching someone do a Double Reverse Spin, they don’t really care about how much you turn or how quickly you can get around. What they really want to see is the dancer risen up on their toes, balanced and spinning effortlessly for as long as possible. Moving too fast like Sparkledancer was will cause her (and me, by association) to wobble as we rotate, and that will definitely get us marked down. So working on our Double Reverse Spins was added to our homework this week.

We also spent a lot of time looking at our chasses. We have one Progressive Chasse to the Right and one Progressive Chasse to the Left as we travel along the first wall of our routine. nosleeptilbrooklyn4Lord Dormamu wanted to make sure that every time I go through those figures that I am really compressing into my leg on the first step in both directions. I guess it looked like I was starting to rise somewhat on the first beat to him. On the Progressive Chasse to the Left, since we start out in Promenade Position, we also have to make sure to close by bringing her around on the second step, and then on the last step with my left leg I am actually changing the angle of my movement slightly to move more toward my partner rather than continuing in the same direction the Progressive Chasse to the Left was already heading. It is a subtle change, but by altering my angle I am less likely to leave my partner behind since I am driving straight toward her.

Tuesday night was a good night because we actually made it through the whole routine this time around, which feels like improvement to me. Because of that, we had a chance to look at the two Reverse Turns that occur at the end of the short wall. Lord Dormamu really wanted me to do a lot more bending to the left on the first of the two. When he put me into the position he liked, it felt a lot like I was doing a Standing Side Stretch in Yoga with how much he bent me. Luckily, on the second Reverse Turn I am able to level out. The other figures along the short wall (the Double Reverse Spin, Whisk and Natural Turn) are all similar to figures we did elsewhere in the routine (the Whisk is basically a Progressive Chasse to the Left), so all we had to do was make them exactly like the earlier versions of the figures and we would be perfect. It sounds so easy, doesn’t it?

The other thing that happened while I was at the Fancy Dance Hall Tuesday night was that all of the staff members that I saw that night were asking me if I was going to be in the competition going on at the studio on Saturday. I had heard it mentioned before, and there were signs hanging around the building advertising the event, but Tuesday night was the first time anyone had asked me directly about going. Even Lord Dormamu asked if we were going to participate at the beginning of our lesson, to which I told him that no one had formally asked me about it before that night nor told me how much being in the event would cost. Sparkledancer also told him that she had another event she was signed up to go to late afternoon on Saturday too, so I figured that there would be no way we could participate at all.

After we finished up our lesson, we ended up back in Lord Dormamu’s office again. I’m starting to dread being brought to that office, because it always seems to end with me kissing my money goodbye. Lord Dormamu told us that though we weren’t given any prior information about the cost, he thought it would still be a good idea to have us come in and be looked at by the outside adjudicator that would be judging the event. He said he would do us a favor and take our entry fee which would normally have been used to cover tickets for the all-day event and the catered lunch, and allow us to put that toward doing more heats instead. The heats for International Standard would only be in the morning, and we could both take off after we were done rather than getting lunch, saving us money and allowing Sparkledancer to make it to her afternoon engagement on time. So we decided to go for it, and we each paid half the cost for ten heats, which by my math meant two heats in each International Standard style. Based on the timeline we were given, we would be done in an hour or so.

As we were leaving the office, the Princess was standing outside the door working with some of the staff to get the venue ready for the weekend competition. She seemed excited when Lord Dormamu told her that we were going to be participating this weekend. Lord Dormamu and the Princess started talking, and she asked if he thought we should be in included the three-dance championship round. He started to think about that and pulled out his notepad, telling her about how many we had signed up for and how it was possible that he could take us out of some heats to make that happen, or even just throw us in with everyone else if there weren’t too many people signed up already. After going on for a while and totally ignoring Sparkledancer and I, the two of them finally turned back to look at us standing there wide-eyed, wondering what we were going to be doing. Lord Dormamu told us not to worry about things, and they would let us know Saturday morning what we would be doing.

So, surprise! I’m getting judged this weekend. Since I haven’t had time to really practice things between then and now, I guess I will be staying out late on Friday night with Sparkledancer to go through our homework and get things right before then. Sleep is overrated, right?

So Cups In The Air…

Last Friday night I was asked to go out to an open dance party at the Electric Dance Hall, and to bring a snack item along. Well, it wasn’t that I was ‘asked’ so much as ‘threatened’ to ensure that I would show up and bring a very specific food item with me. See, Bony was arranging a birthday extravaganza to happen at this particular social dance, and all week she had been asking various people to attend, and to bring some things along to help her out. The big problem I had with what she asked me to bring was that I couldn’t for the life of me find a place that sold the snacks she wanted, so I ended up having to make them myself. I’m a fairly OK cook, but I’m a terrible artist, so what I made tasted great from what I was told, but I thought they looked less-than presentable when I loaded them into a case to take them to the dance party. Lucky for me, every last one of the snacks were eaten by someone that night, so I didn’t have to see them again once I put them on the table and went off to dance.

shots1

So many ladies!

As I walked through the door and made my way to the front desk to plop down some cash for my entry fee, Lord Junior stopped by to tell me that he was really glad I had shown up. There were actually two different ladies that had their birthdays that weekend, and both had decided to come out to the dance party and celebrate. One of the ladies had brought almost a dozen people with her, and almost all of them were women. So there was a major shortage of men when I got there. Lord Junior spent a minute pointing out some of the rookies to me as we were up at the desk, giving me some names in the process (I’m terrible with names though, so I’m pretty sure I forgot them all before I finished changing my shoes). Once I stood up, I took a look around the room to assess the situation, and then I got to work.

Luckily most of the newcomers that I had never met before weren’t really interested in small talk when I danced with them, so I didn’t have to try to be super charming all night. One of the two ladies whose birthday was being celebrated was probably the most talkative of my partners. She told me a story all about how she was just turning fifty, and decided that she was bored with sitting around at home doing nothing after work, so she decided to take up ballroom dancing a couple of weeks ago. By the time we were dancing together, she had gotten through two private lessons with Lord Junior earlier in the week, the Salsa group class that had been right before the party, and then the party, and she was really enjoying dancing so far. Maybe this is a good sign that she’ll stick with it for a while? It’s hard to tell with people. I guess time will tell if I end up seeing her again around the Dance Kingdom.

Saturday morning I headed out to meet up with Sparkledancer at the Fancy Dance Hall early on so that we could warm up together before our scheduled session with Lord Dormamu. It turned out that we didn’t really need to do that. He was teaching someone else when Sparkledancer and I arrived, and he ran that lesson so far over its time limit, that if Sparkledancer and I had shown up right on time for our lesson we would have had just as much time to work on warming up as we had shown up early to get in. As you can imagine, that also meant that he ran our session way over its time to make up for it. We worked on things with him for close to ninety minutes once we finally got started. My normally punctual brain may just go crazy having to adjust to such a fluid schedule!

We spent the entire time working on International Waltz with him that day. There are a couple of interesting notes that I jotted down during the session to remember. The first thing happened as he had us show him the box steps that we had been doing to warm up, which apparently he was watching out of the corner of his eye while he was teaching his other lesson. As he was going over something about how we should be dragging out feet together, he lifted his foot to rub his hand against the inside edge of his shoe, to emphasize dragging that portion of the foot. I noticed that on his shoes, the suede that covers the bottom was actually wrapped up and over the inside edge of his foot, so that he could use the suede on the floor as he dragged his feet together. I thought that was a really neat thing, and I had never seen shoes like that before, so I made a note about those shoes so I could remember.

The next, and probably most important thing for me, involved Lord Dormamu fixing my posture. We had been working on dancing the figures in the beginning of the Waltz routine, and he said part of my problem was that I was letting my frame get out of alignment sometimes as I moved, and that coming out of alignment was the root of my problem with my head and shoulders being in the wrong place. He had me dance the first half of the Waltz routine by myself so that he could watch and think of a way to fix things. After a few figures, he ran off to the back room and came back a few minutes later with two clear plastic cups. Calling me back down to where he and Sparkledancer were, he had me open up my arms like you would in a topas stretch (i.e. pulling my arms out to the side, expanding my chest, and pointing my palms upward). Then in each hand I got a plastic cup. He told me to hold the cups like that and dance the same portion of the Waltz.

Yes, these are the actual cups he gave me. I kept them. That's not weird, is it?

Yes, these are the actual cups he gave me. I kept them. That’s not weird, is it?

I guess that did the trick. As I danced like that, I was able to keep myself in position without focusing on where each individual part of my body was. Apparently Lord Dormamu was super impressed by the change as well. Sparkledancer told me that as he stood near her watching me, he was talking to himself about how much better I looked, that there was the dancer he saw the potential in, about how smart he was for figuring things out, and various other things in his native tongue that she couldn’t understand. With that, my new homework became to work on dancing like that for fifteen minutes whenever I practice. Sparkledancer can dance with me if she wants to get into the weird hugging dance frame, but it works if I dance by myself too.

As a side note, keeping my arms in that position for long periods of time is not a very nice feeling…

There were a few other notes we fixed, like making sure that my early quick rise before a Double Reverse Spin is not so early or quick, and making sure that I’m not doing anything funny to lead Sparkledancer into Promenade Position. I was told that since I work with Sparkledancer so much, I don’t need to worry about doing anything overly crazy with my hips or body to turn her to Promenade Position, I just need to turn my nose and toes in the right direction and that should move my body enough and she should just know. That seems to be a little too easy in my mind, but I’ll give it a try to see what happens. Sparkledancer was also told that she needs to work on how to go forward and not be shy when in Promenade Position as well, so we should add that to the list of things to do in our practice sessions.

Our lesson that afternoon with Sir Steven was supposed to begin well before our lesson with Lord Dormamu had ended, so obviously we started a bit late. To make up for that, and since Sir Steven wasn’t paying attention as he was having us work on some things, this lesson also ran way over the time it was supposed to end, even if you adjusted the end time for the late start time. I ended up being in these two lessons for slightly less than three hours that day. I guess that means I definitely got my money’s worth? Either that or neither of these guys had anyone else on their schedules to teach that day, so they spent so much time working with me to keep from being bored.

We started out by continuing to work on Foxtrot, picking up where we had left off last weekend. Nothing really new there, we just spent more time ironing things out and repeating things until they felt natural. Then we switched over to look at our Tango routine. Since this was the first time in several weeks that Sir Steven had looked at our International Tango routine with us, I took the first couple of minutes to walk through the changes that Lord Dormamu had told us to make to the alignments on several of the figures, so that everyone was on the same page before we started. Then we talked about Sparkledancer’s head for a while. At the beginning of our routine, and a couple of places in the middle, Sparkledancer is supposed to do a flick of her head. Right at the first figure it happens when we do a Corte – as we are taking the step for the Corte her head turns quickly from one side to the other. Sir Steven asked me how it was that Sparkledancer was supposed to know she should be doing that.

Being full of hilarious logic, my first answer was obviously “because you told her to.” While funny, that was not the answer he was looking for. I was told that there was a way that I could be the one leading that movement, though it was something I would need to do carefully because Sparkledancer is so much smaller than me. There is supposed to be this light body flick action that I give her as we go back for the Corte. If she feels the body flick, her head should move. No body flick, no head movement. Seems simple, right? Well, try flicking someone’s body who weighs so little as you are moving your own body at the same time. There is a lot of potential to put way more energy into that flick than needed, and cause her to have whiplash. OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme, but it’s a scary thought. So we worked on that for quite a while, and since it still didn’t look natural by the end of our lesson, it was added to our homework to work on during our practice time. We were also told to focus on making sure that most of our steps during Tango are done split weight, because when we are thinking about other things (like flicking bodies to move heads) our Tango starts to look too much like Foxtrot.

I personally like Foxtrot more than I like Tango, so I don’t see this as a real problem, but I guess it’s frowned upon by people outside of my own head. Silly people, they should just get on board with my way of seeing things!

Back to the dance shoes I made a note about earlier that day… as we left the Fancy Dance Hall after our marathon lessons were over, I mentioned to Sparkledancer how cool I thought Lord Dormamu’s dance shoes were, with the fancy wrap-around suede sides. My theory was that the shoes probably came from one particular shoe manufacturer, since there are boxes of dance shoes floating around the studio all from one particular company. Sparkledancer told me that several of her pairs of dance shoes come from that company as well, and she loves them since they make shoes that actually fit her feet. My ballroom shoes are starting to get a little beat up, so when I got home I looked up this shoe company online. I found that they had a couple of different pairs of shoes that had the wrap-around suede on the sides, and they apparently also wrap the suede around the back of the heel to make sliding along the floor during heel steps smoother as well. How fun is that?

These fun and fancy shoes didn’t seem to cost all that much more than my last pair of dance shoes did (I had to use a conversion tool to get the cost into a currency I know to be sure), so I ended up ordering a pair. New dance shoes for me! Surprisingly enough, even though they were shipped from someplace overseas, they actually showed up today! That was really fast! I’ll probably wear them to my next lesson this weekend to start breaking them in, and hopefully they will be as awesome on the floor as they are in my head.

Look at that fancy heel!

Look at that fancy heel!

Now for a funny story from practice this week: on Sunday afternoon I met up with Sparkledancer out at the Electric Dance Hall to work on our homework for a couple of hours. I spent quite a bit of time again this weekend helping her out when she was dancing our routines by herself. Two of the thing that Sparkledancer struggles with is the order of the figures in our routines, and the alignments on the floor in ballroom dances. These are things that she hasn’t really had to worry about before, since ever since we decided we would compete together back in the day, I have worked on learning how to keep figures and alignments straight in my head, and she has learned to just follow and trust me as I do that. Now that she’s been told that part of her homework is to be able to dance through the routines by herself, she’s had a hard time getting through the figures and facing the right direction, so I have been helping her try to master these skills.

The last routine we were walking through separately during our practice time on Sunday was our International Foxtrot routine. In the routine, coming out of the first corner there is a Basic Weave followed by a Three Step. The Basic Weave travels toward diagonal center and the Feather Finish at the end lines her up backing diagonal wall for the Three Step that travels toward diagonal wall. I was standing in the middle of the room watching her go through the steps, and at the end of the Basic Weave she rotated her Feather Finish so that she was backing line of dance. I called out to her that she should be backing diagonal wall, so she looks over at me and then hops up in place and lands backing diagonal center. I chuckle and say “Nope, backing diagonal wall.” so she hops up again and lands backing wall, then looks at me and sees me shaking my head and turns so that she is facing diagonal center.

I finally walk over and put my hands on her shoulders to rotate her to face the right direction. She laughs and says that she was totally facing that direction before, but since she has scoliosis it just looked like her back was turned in the wrong direction. I stare at her open-mouthed for a bit, not knowing what to say to that as she just stands there giggling, and then she shrugs and tells me that she really was diagnosed with a minor case of scoliosis several years ago, so her spine really is bent a bit, and it’s totally a legitimate excuse. At that point I broke down laughing and had to walk away for a while.

Sigh… does anyone want a competitive partner with a bent spine who tells bad jokes? I’m willing to trade!

On Wednesday night out at Standard Technique class, we opted to go through some Waltz. Much like we did the last week in class, Lord Junior wanted to have us look at a progression of figures that he uses with some of his more advanced students in their routines since they were in class with us that night. That way those two ladies could get in some extra practice on the figures, and the rest of us would get a chance to try them out as well. All but one of the figures were ones that I had done before at some point in my life, so things went pretty well for me overall. I still got caught sometimes taking a toe step instead of a heel step on the second half of my Spin Turns if the lady wasn’t moving a whole lot, but I think that could be fixed with some more repetitions with those partners. I think. I’m pretty sure.

The pattern we ended up with that night is pretty easy to get through slowly, but there are a lot of syncopated steps so you’ll be moving quickly if you dance at tempo. We started off facing diagonal wall and taking a prep step before going into a Natural Turn. From there we did an Overturned Natural Spin Turn, which has you coming out in the same direction you started in (which was backing line of dance for the men). Then we did a Turning Lock to the Right to put us into Promenade Position facing diagonal center. Next we did the figure I had never seen before, which was a Running Weave. It’s basically taking four steps heading toward diagonal center, changing from facing diagonal center to backing diagonal center halfway through. At the end we put in a Side Cross, which is basically like a Change Step except at the end the guy crosses his right foot behind his left while the lady crosses her left foot in front of her right, which also turned us to start heading down the line of dance for the next step.

We danced in a chain so no one worried about running into someone else.

We danced in a chain so no one worried about running into someone else.

Another busy week for me! What’s next? Supposedly there is a big ballroom dance night this coming Saturday night at some festival the local West Coast Swing enthusiasts group is putting on. There’s a good chance I will head out to attend that, depending on what time I finish up the things I have to do for work that night. I was told that since this shindig is being run by the West Coast Swingers the party will be running possibly very late into the night, so even if work stuff takes me a long time I could still probably make it. We’ll have to see what happens though. It may be nice to have a quiet night at home with my cat instead, resting up my legs for all the dance practice I’ll be doing next week.

Man, does saying that mean I’m getting old? I better go find a mirror and check for any gray hairs…