Tag Archives: Yoga

My Power Flurries Through The Air Into The Ground

This past Saturday when I met up with Sparkledancer and Sir Steven for our normal weekend lesson, we worked on Waltz and Foxtrot. A lot of what we did that afternoon was to work further on our shaping during certain figures, and further practice having Sparkledancer travel moving forward while I traveled backward. What I didn’t know at the time was that a lot of the work we did on the Foxtrot that day would be thrown out the next day as Lord Dormamu took a look at what we were doing in Foxtrot and now he wants us to change our whole focus for that dance. Specifically all the practice we’ve been doing working on doing Three Steps and Feather Steps while traveling backwards, Lord Dormamu said that we should stop doing that for the time being. Going backwards with a Three Step in Foxtrot is really a Reverse Wave, which is a Silver-level figure, so he said we shouldn’t be spending so much time on that until we nail down other things.

But I am getting ahead of myself. We did spend some more time going through the Reverse Turn in Foxtrot, making sure that Sparkledancer brought her feet together quick enough for the heel turn, making sure that after coming around her I would take enough of a step backwards and to the right so that her step could be between my legs, and overall making sure whomever was moving forward was driving the step down the line of dance. That was really the most notable thing that we did which we will continue doing as we move forward. Everything else we worked on that day in Foxtrot essentially got put on hold after my lesson the next day. Sigh…

It’s not my fault! Your coach, who’s also my coach, told me to!

So Sunday afternoon I got to head back to the Fancy Dance Hall to get together with Sparkledancer and Lord Dormamu for coaching. To be honest, I was a bit worried about things heading into this lesson. I had just met up with Lord Dormamu for coaching the weekend before this, and during that session he had given me things to work on in the Waltz. Having a busy life like I do (most of the busyness is due to dance, if you couldn’t guess), I had only gone out to actually practice a couple of times since that lesson, so I wasn’t sure if I had truly mastered everything I had been given to work on in that short amount of time. Lord Dormamu started the session exactly as I imagined, by asking Sparkledancer and I to dance through our Waltz routine. Lucky for me, it went pretty well! Hooray! He had us go back and redo a couple of spots to make sure we knew what we should be doing, but then he turned his attention to Sparkledancer for what came next. Poor girl…

I guess the thing that caught his eye the most this time around was Sparkledancer’s positioning while in dance frame. Lord Dormamu went off on this long explanation for her about how it appeared to him that when she is in frame and attempting to create volume, a lot of the time it looks like she is bending outward away from me from her pelvis and up, instead of from below her shoulders and up. To try to reinforce the point of what position she should be getting into while dancing, he told her that he would show her an exercise to do, but that we (all three of us) would have to go somewhere more private for him to do so. That remark made me a little nervous, since I had no idea what his thought process on this was. After he ran to the back of the ballroom to check and see if anyone was using the smaller ballroom  off the hallway back there, he came out and waved Sparkledancer and I down to have us join him in the other room.

Once we were all in the small ballroom, he shut the door. I was expecting something weird to happen at that point, and I started to think up excuses to get myself out of that room since I didn’t know either of these people well enough for any really weird things to go on. Lord Dormamu pulled a chair out onto the floor near one of the mirrors and asked me to sit there. Once seated, he turned to Sparkledancer and asked her to trust him, then told her to sit on my lap facing me and grasping my forearms. Once we were in position, he told her that she needed to work on bending herself in such a way that would keep her lower back straight while thrusting her boobs toward the ceiling, so to help with that she was supposed to roll herself backward from this sitting position. I was there to make sure the chair was heavy enough to not topple over while she did this, and to help pull her up from that position when finished. As she rolled her body back, Lord Dormamu took a knee on the floor behind her and pushed on her back with his fist to show her where she should be bending from.
  I’m not exactly sure why he thought we needed to be in a ‘private’ room for him to have her do this. The studio holds a Yoga class in the main ballroom once a week, and I’m sure they do poses that are more titillating than what Sparkledancer was doing (see what I did there?). Once she seemed to have a good idea about what she should be feeling, we went back out in the main ballroom to continue dancing. Since I didn’t see either Sparkledancer or I wanting to spend a bunch of our practice time in a dance hall somewhere doing that exercise, I asked Lord Dormamu if there were other ways she could work on stretching like that, like possibly using a stability ball or something similar. He said that would work fairly well if she had one of those sitting around. I happen to have one at home that I use sometimes (there’s all kinds of interesting resistance exercises you can do with one to help improve strength and balance), so I offered to let Sparkledancer use it if she needed sometime.

Halfway through our session Lord Dormamu wanted to shift gears on us and look at a new dance style. Apparently we are doing well in the Waltz, so it is time to add something else to our plate now, and he had chosen Foxtrot to be next, as I alluded to earlier. He had us go through our routine for him. I have been told in the past that Foxtrot is one of my strongest styles, but I could tell by the look he was giving me when we finished dancing that he didn’t think it was good. Without giving any explanation, he asked us to dance it for him again. When we finished, he was looking at us contemplatively for several long moments before he strolled over to where we were standing and started telling us about his theory of Foxtrot.

This was probably the most interesting part of the lesson that day, just listening to him talk about how all the world champions that he has hung out with or learned from, and how he himself (as one of those former world champions) looks at Foxtrot when you are trying to be an advanced dancer. We had a talk like this during our first session with Lord Dormamu when he described to us his philosophy of the Waltz so that we had an understanding of why we were being asked to do things the way we were, instead of him just dictating that we do things his way and ignore what all other dance teachers have told us. I find dance philosophy like this to be interesting and useful, but that’s just me so if it bores you go ahead and skip this section.

====================================================================

Foxtrot, as I was told, was supposed to look smooth while you danced, with a constant flow that moves you from one place to another. The problem with Foxtrot, as Lord Dormamu explained, is that for the most part what you are trying to do is take three steps over four beats of music. It seems like a simple concept, taking three steps over four beats while being very smooth, but it’s nearly impossible to pull off. When you first learn Foxtrot, you divide the three steps among the four beats and end up dancing them as either Slow, Quick, Quick or Quick, Quick, Slow, depending on the figure. What this does though is to halt the smooth flow of the dance when you try to take that one step over two beats, which is why newcomers to Foxtrot look jerky when they dance through the figures.

Apparently in the community of world champion dancers, what you’ll find is that many of them do not dance the steps as written in the book. There are no real ‘Slow’ or ‘Quick’ steps in Foxtrot at the world-class level. Instead, to keep the dance flowing as smoothly as possibly, your steps begin to even out, until eventually you are dancing fairly close to three even steps over four beats. Now, you’re probably thinking the same thing that I was thinking when I heard this: “Wouldn’t that just make it a Waltz with weird music then?” And the answer I was given was that this is why it was so important that Foxtrot does not have any real rise and fall to help distinguish it from a Waltz.

There was a metaphor used that went like this – suppose that you are out at the beach along the ocean or the Great Lakes (both places are nice, and I would recommend visiting either to reinforce this point). Along the beach you will see the waves coming in before they break along the shoreline. This is what you should see if you watch a group of people dancing the Waltz. There is a smooth line as the wave travels on beat one, a crest as the wave hits its peak on beat two, and a lowering as the wave breaks on beat three. The Foxtrot is what you would get if you were to travel out to the middle of the ocean or lake. There, there aren’t really waves. The top of the water is smoother, with just a hint of low hills and valleys on the surface as the currents flow smoothly underneath. That is what Lord Dormamu wants our Foxtrot to be aiming to look like.

(Note: I know that is a vast oversimplification of how waves work, and doesn’t take into account what happens during bad weather. Trust me – I grew up very near a large body of water, so I know. That wasn’t the point of the metaphor.)

====================================================================

We spent the rest of our time that day working on taking all the rise and fall out of our Foxtrot. Because we were staying lowered into our legs while going through everything, this did cause both Sparkledancer and I to take a lot of heel leads in places we shouldn’t have, because naturally when you are lowered you want to take a heel lead on the next step. This is something that we are really going to have to fight against to make sure that the footwork remains how it should without raising ourselves up to step with the ball of our foot. Sparkledancer also told me that doing heel turns like she has in a Reverse Turn or Natural Weave feels weird when lowered down that much. Our homework for Foxtrot for now is to get comfortable dancing things as smooth as possible with no rise and fall at all. Once we master that concept, he will work with us on how the timing for the steps should feel for our next evolution of our Foxtrot.

Whew! Got all that? I hope I do!

Monday night I headed out to the Electric Dance Hall for Latin Technique class. At first it appeared that we would have a small class that night since only a few of us had shown up, but then little Tanya Tiger burst onto the scene with a couple of friends in tow. Her friends were just in town for a bit and wanted to come watch her dance while they were there, but Tanya started to talk them into joining class with us since that was more fun than sitting out. Neither of her friends had danced any partner dances before, but one had had some ballet training, which made her easier to convince to join in than the other young lady. In the end, they both succumbed to the peer pressure, and because of that Lord Junior decided we should stick with some Rumba to take it easy on those two.

‘Taking it easy’ was just a phrase to make the two of them feel more comfortable though, since what we ended up doing was a challenging step for even the veterans of the class. We began by warming up using the Rumba basic for a few minutes – to make sure the newcomers would remember at least that much of Rumba once they left the class. Then we started off with the ladies out in Fan Position and led them into a Hockey Stick. At the farthest point of the Hockey Stick, we had the ladies do a Switchback, which is an Open-level figure I’ve seen several times before. It involves having the lady turn 180° without changing weight, having her point her left leg back and raise her left arm up when she was facing away from us. The men lead this by rotating her wrist slightly. All of this happens on a single beat of the music. On the next beat of music we have the lady turn back around to face us and take two syncopated steps forward and then hold there for beats four and one of the measure.
  After the hold the lady will do three Rumba Walks going forward while we collect her back into closed dance position. The guy will do two steps backward with her and rotate a bit to take the third step to the back and slightly to the left, which will be the start of a Natural Top. We went around in the Natural Top for two measures, and at the end the guy just brings his feet together and rotates the lady around into an Opening Out position. By the time we had gotten to this part it was already close to time for class to end, so Lord Junior said that would be a good enough ending for now and we just danced several repetitions of the pattern with music of varying speeds until we got up to full tempo right before class was over.

On Wednesday night I headed out to Standard Technique class. While waiting for class to start, Lord Junior was wandering around finishing up some business things and asked us what we wanted to work on that night. Both Veep and Sparkledancer said that they wanted to go over something “super challenging” while Bony was quick to speak up saying how much she had really enjoyed Monday’s class, because having newcomers meant that the steps that we did were easier for her to get through. Winking at the other two ladies, I took Bony’s side and said that we should go through something simple that night. I may have gotten punched for that joke…

In the end, we did something that was only halfway challenging in Tango. Two other people joined us for class that night, and while they had danced quite a bit in the past they had given it up for a while, so now they were trying to relearn all sorts of things. A class like Standard Technique would not have been something I would have recommended for that purpose, but Lord Junior didn’t send them away so the figures that we did were modulated a bit to make things easier on them.

We worked on the Reverse Turn that night. The lady from the new couple that joined us got pretty wide-eyed and terrified when Lord Junior started to explain the figure by relating it to Viennese Waltz (apparently Viennese Waltz is really scary for her), so to ease her fears Lord Junior also showed her that she could do the figure in Samba as well to emphasize that it was just the same footwork he was pointing out. That seemed to relax her a bit, for the time being. To start with, we were doing the Reverse Turns over a four count in the music, which is almost painfully slow if you’ve ever done Reverse Turns in Tango before. Once Lord Junior was confident that everyone had the footwork down, he told the newcomers what the timing for the figure actually was, and how we would be able to do two Reverse Turns in a four count when done to speed. He then put on some music and demonstrated the step.
  That demonstration, for some reason, made the new lady who was terrified of Viennese Waltz start laughing. She was laughing so hard, and for so long, that it started to get a bit awkward. Since she wouldn’t stop, Lord Junior said that we could just go on with one less lady until she was ready. We added a couple of figures to the end of the Reverse Turns just to give everyone something else to work on. By the end we had a progression that was three normal Reverse Turns, one slower turn to close both partners facing diagonal wall (backing diagonal wall for the ladies) so that we could go into a Progressive Link. We then took two steps down the line of dance in Promenade Position, and at the end we did a couple of leg flicks – one pointing forward, one behind, a quick weight change from your crossed leg back to the standing leg and finally one more flick of the leg to bring it back forward so that you ended in Promenade Position ready for another step.

What do I have on my dance schedule for next week? Let’s see… I think I have a meeting with my Royal Dance Court group on Tuesday night, and there’s a dance party on Saturday night that I’ve been told by a couple of different people I should go to, so I’ll probably be there. There will also be lots of dance practice I’m sure, since that’s what I spend a lot of time doing on the weekends nowadays. I’m sure I’ll meet up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer at some point on Saturday afternoon, and there will be classes to attend next week as well. There’s always a lot of dancing in my world, if you hadn’t noticed.

But Friday night? I’m not going to do any dancing on Friday. In fact, I’m going to try to leave my house to do something that isn’t dance related for a change. It’s been a long time since I’ve gone out on a weekend to do anything that didn’t involve dancing. Is that weird? Maybe I’ll go out on the town. Maybe I’ll find some lady to ask out on a date. Or maybe I’ll just go see a movie. Hey – do you want to go see a movie with me? I’ll buy the tickets if you bring the popcorn.

Let’s see if I’m successful at pulling that off, or if I end up out dancing somewhere instead!

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?

Turn And Face The Strange Changes

I don’t know about you, but so far 2017 appears to be shaping up to be an interesting year…

Early Saturday morning I got a text from Sparkledancer about meeting her a half-hour early at the Fancy Dance Hall so that we could run through some things she wanted to work on. When I got there, I found that not only was she waiting for me, but so were Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu. Sir Steven had told Lord Dormamu about the questions that we had asked him the previous Wednesday night, and he wanted to have a chance to go over our questions with us personally to make sure we were on board. So, Sir Steven excused himself to run out and grab a quick bite to eat, leaving the three of us all alone in the big empty ballroom to talk.

As Lord Dormamu sat there staring at the two of us expectantly, I racked my brain trying to remember what it was that we had asked Sir Steven on Wednesday. The most notable thing that I talked with him about was the issue with my upper body flexibility, and whether that was going to be something that held me back or not. He told me that right now I look like I spend a lot of time lifting heavy things, so that is all the flexibility my body thinks it needs. As we work to train for dancing, my body should naturally adapt over time so that I can more easily get into the shapes I need. He also said that as I go down this path, I should probably give up going to the gym and lifting weights, and instead take up exercise that would help with my dancing if I felt the need to exercise to stay in shape. His suggestions were to focus on Yoga and Pilates for flexibility, and running and swimming for cardio endurance.

So that’s already one piece of advice I think I am going to throw out. I happen to like being strong and solid, and my flexibility isn’t that terrible as long as people aren’t yanking my limbs in weird directions. I also happen to think that looking the way I do is an asset when I occasionally find time to go out to meet ladies in non-dance settings. Maybe this will be an issue in the future that holds me back, but I’m not going to sacrifice something I happen to enjoy for dancing. I already sacrifice a lot of other things for dancing, so I should be allowed to keep this one thing, right? Plus, having the upper body strength can be helpful in dancing when I get talked into doing showcase routines, since audiences love it when they see performers doing lifts during the routine. At the moment, that’s something I am quite good at. I’m sure any partner I have will really appreciate me continuing to do all sorts of resistance training when I reach over to lift her off the ground!

We talked for twenty minutes or so, and Sparkledancer and I were still feeling pretty good about giving this a try, so Lord Dormamu decided to take us one at a time into the back office to changes1draw up the dark manuscripts that need to be signed in blood which turn over all your spare cash, time, and I think maybe even the paperwork mentioned something about the rights to my first and second born children, to make all of this official. Now, as my bank card screamed in my ear about what it was just put through, he got Sparkledancer and I back together in the same room to schedule our first coaching session with him. We both didn’t have anything going on the following Saturday morning before our normal lesson with Sir Steven, so that’s when we set all this madness to begin.

No matter what happens, this will be another set of adventures to write about, right?

Once all the secretarial work was done and we were back on the dance floor, Sir Steven and Lord Dormamu had a short conversation out of my earshot, and then Sir Steven came over and we got to work. And we really crammed a lot of work in, I’m guessing because of whatever Lord Dormamu told him beforehand. We pulled out all of our International Standard routines and stripped out a lot of pieces so that they were back to being basic Bronze-level routines, and he also had us cut them in half so that they would repeat after the first long and short wall. The only one we didn’t go over was Viennese Waltz, but that’s because Bronze-level International Viennese Waltz is only the four figures (Natural Turn, Reverse Turn, Forward Change, Backward Change), and I was told that as long as I make sure to start with a Natural Turn and stick to those four figures, it could be left to my discretion. Yay me!

We went through Waltz, Tango and Quickstep first so that we could end with and spend the most time on Foxtrot. This also allowed us to continue working on the techniques that we had been going over the last couple of weeks, really putting emphasis on me being able to lead everything from just my core. At one point, I can’t decide if he thought I was doing pretty good changes2or really terribly with this, so he ran off into one of the back rooms and returned with a piece of paper in one hand and a small plastic cup in the other. He then proceeded to set Sparkledancer and I up so that the piece of paper was wedged underneath our ribs on the right side of our bodies, and the cup was pressed between my left hand and her right (not gripped, just pressed against our flat palms). With those tools in place, we then had to walk up and down the floor, moving between ‘normal’ frame and Outside Partner without losing either the paper of the cup. That was fairly easy to do when I was the one going forward, but was not quite as successful when I was the one moving backward since I generally avoid traveling that way if I can help it. Looks like I have the first thing on my list of ‘important stuff I have to start really focusing on.’

On Sunday afternoon I headed up to the White Dance Hall because there was going to be a combination open dance party and showcase going on there, and I wanted to go support the people I knew who would be performing that afternoon. At the beginning of the event, as I was sitting at one of the tables in the back talking with people, I began to hear Bony and Sparkledancer calling my name from the other side of the room. I turned around to see the two of them attempting to wave me over to where they were standing. Standing with them was (much to my surprise!) Lord Fabulous! Shocked by what I saw, I got up to head over to where they were and see what was going on.

When I got there, Lord Fabulous had a huge smile on his face and gave me a big hug. It was kind of an awkward hug, which lasted a lot longer than I was comfortable with, and I swear he was evaluating my back muscles with his hands while he was hugging me. Why do so many people like to feel me up? After I managed to disentangle myself from that, I asked what was up. Bony and Sparkledancer had called me over because Lord Fabulous was going to tell a story, and they brought me in so that he wouldn’t have to repeat himself later.

Since I had last seen Lord Fabulous (which was a while ago), so many things had happened. He changes3and Lord Scarry had finally settled down and gotten married (Lord Scarry was out on the dance floor entertaining some ladies while we were talking). Ownership of the two dance studios where both men used to teach primarily (the Land of the Loft and the Great Dance Hall by the Lake) had changed hands a few times, and no matter what the King tried to do he couldn’t get the owners to work out the issues. Finally in the last couple of weeks, both dance studios had been closed down and the doors were locked without any warning given to the staff and students beforehand. Supposedly there is some paperwork in the works to get the Land of the Loft yet another new owner and reopen it soon, but the Great Dance Hall by the Lake has no potential reopening yet on the horizon.

With nowhere else to go, Lord Fabulous and Lord Scarry started to look around for places to rent floor space so that they could continue teaching some of their longtime students. As you could probably guess, they found the Electric Dance Hall. After talking with Lord Junior and explaining the situation, Lord Junior was nice enough to let them rent floor space from him whenever they needed. Lord Fabulous evaluated his life during his time away from teaching dance as he looked for a new place to teach in, and decided to take this opportunity to work toward becoming full-time at his other career, and only teach dance part-time, rather than being a full-time dance instructor and a part-timer at his other job like he is now. Lord Scarry wants to remain a full-time instructor. So it sounds like there’s a chance I will start running into these two when I am out at the Electric Dance Hall if they happen to be teaching at the same time, or if they decide to come to other dance events that I am attending as they start wandering around the Dance Kingdom to pick up new students and forge new relationships with other dance halls where they could rent floor space.

That was a totally unexpected tale to hear that day.

The showcase event that I had actually come to attend was a lot of fun. Much like the others that Lord Junior has coordinated in the past, he kept the amount of acts down to a decent number so that people wouldn’t get bored just sitting and watching others dance. There were about six acts in the first half, then a break so that the audience could get up and do some dancing of their own, another six acts in the second half, and then the floor was opened up for another two hours of dancing for anyone who wanted to hang around. I spent much of the last couple of hours over on the side of the dance floor talking with Jem, who was back in town for a couple of weeks and had come out to the party. Her job has been keeping her overseas quite a bit lately, so no one gets to see her very often.

As the party was winding down, Lord Junior wandered over to where I was standing and started talking about how he had had a few drinks, and he just had a great idea about changing things up so that instead of doing Summer and Winter showcases, which a lot of studios seem to do and are often interrupted by weather extremes or have low attendance due to people taking vacations, he wants to push his back to be Spring and Fall. I told him if he did a showcase in the Fall a bit before Halloween, then he might be able to get people to do awesome Halloween-themed acts. He got excited about that and told me that if he finishes putting together a new building for the Electric Dance Hall at the end of summer, he would totally do the next showcase in the new building in October, and then I would have to come up with an “awesome and super funny” routine to perform.

Good thing I have some time between now and then to try to plan something that is both awesome and funny out, right?

Lucky for me, class on Monday night Latin Technique class was far more normal than anything that happened that weekend. We got to go through some Cha-Cha that night. What we did wasn’t anything overly fancy or complicated, but the ladies in class were being kind of funny, and that was exasperating Lord Junior in the process. As an example, right as we were supposed to be beginning class, I was standing on one side of the room with Lord Junior (the boy’s side of the room), and we were facing the ladies. He was trying to start showing them the initial figure to look at, but they all kept talking to each other, and any time one of them wanted to make a joke, she would say it loud enough for everyone in the room to hear, even if she was just talking to one specific person. After a couple of tries to get their attention, Lord Junior looked at me and rolled his eyes, and decided to start by looking at the guys steps instead, hoping that the ladies would be paying attention when we finished.

What we ended up putting together that night was a pretty simple pattern that revolved around working on doing New Yorkers. We began with a side step and rock step to the left before going into a normal chasse to the right. Then we did our first New Yorker, a basic one turning to the right, coming back with a Three Step Turn to the left. Next up the ladies got to do another New Yorker, this time on the left side, while men did a lunge to the right and reached over with our right hand to grasp the ladies left forearm. This kept her from falling forward if she pushed a lot when going into the New Yorker, since we could counterbalance her.  The guys would then stand back up from our lunge, pulling the ladies back onto her back leg in the process and turning her. Guys did a normal chasse back to the right side while the ladies did a second Three Step Turn.

Back on the right side we collected our partner’s hand, and then both of us did another basic New Yorker on the right side. We came out of this one by doing a Ronde into a Press Line, and then a three step change of direction that is a lot like the footwork you do at the end of a Hip Twist Chasse, before going back into another New Yorker on the right side. This one was not basic. We held that position for three beats, which is a long time when you are running the pattern to music that is slowed down, but only allows you to take a deep breath if the music is at normal tempo.

After the hold we released our partner and we both took two circular steps away from each other, which rotated us 180° in the process, and then we did a Lock Step heading to the left. Finally we took another two steps which turned so that we were heading back toward each other, after which the ladies would do a chasse forward, giving us their hand as they passed us by which we would use to turn them at the end, stopping them with our hand on their back. The men would just take two steps forward (no chasse) and hold in place as we turned and stopped the lady. We didn’t get any farther than that, since we needed to take some time to run things and get everything up to full speed before class was over.

This past Wednesday night we had a pretty large crowd for Standard Technique class. Luckily, we also had more men than usual turn out for class, so the ratio of men to women was pretty good. Since we had done Foxtrot and Waltz the last two weeks, we opted to look at some Tango this week. Lord Junior wanted to work on a figure that he had recently added into the routines he does with two of his students who were in class that night, a figure known as the Double Chase. The Double Chase is exactly what it sounds like, which is two of the Gold-level figure that is called ‘The Chase’ done back-to-back. We started class by looking at the original figure first, just to make sure the people who had never seen the figure before were on board with what we were going to attempt to double.

The whole progression we worked on that night could cover quite a bit of distance, which changes4makes things a lot more fun in my book. We started out already in Promenade Position and did a Promenade with the man closing, but added in a Natural Pivot at the end to flip us around to face the line of dance again. Then we did the Double Chase. The tricky part of the figure was the transition between the two, ending the first Chase by rotating slightly more than normal to face line of dance again, and making sure that you come out by stepping between the ladies feet as you start the second. Sometimes I would have to move my foot a bit weirdly around where the lady had left her foot to do this properly, but I never kicked or stepped on anyone so I count that as being successful.

After the Double Chase we ended facing center with two beats left in the measure, so we added on a Progressive Chasse to the Right to fill that time and continue traveling down the line of dance. We did this with the assumption that if you put this figure into some kind of routine, the end of the Progressive Chasse would put you into the corner, though when practicing that night, some people ended in the middle of the room based on how we were staggered. After the Progressive Chasse we used a Whisk to put us back into Promenade Position and rotate 90°, lining us up to head down the next wall. Here we did an Open Promenade in that direction, which is a Promenade that ends with the men passing their feet instead of closing them. We stopped our movement at the end with the men stepped forward in Outside Partner next to the lady. She flicked her leg up as the guy held there, then we led her to do an Outside Swivel before collecting her back into normal dance frame.

Well, hopefully this weekend turns out to be fun, and gives me an idea of what I’ve gotten myself into. I have two lessons scheduled for Saturday, the first in the morning with Lord Dormamu and then immediately after that another one with Sir Steven so that we can pick up where we left off last weekend, or change things to work on what Lord Dormamu thinks we should focus on after he sees us. Also this Saturday is the monthly dance party I help host as a member of the Royal Dance Court. We are planning on having someone teach a Foxtrot lesson beforehand, so fingers crossed that there are more Foxtrots played than anything else that night at the party afterward. I’ll let you know if that is true next week!

One Step Closer

I have to say that when I met up with Sir Steven and Sparkledancer this past Saturday afternoon, I did not have much fun. For me, that is pretty sad. I am a firm believer that dancing should be fun no matter what I am trying to do. Sure, it can be a lot of work, difficult and frustrating, but it can still be fun at the same time. This lesson was not fun though. We spent much of the hour looking at International Foxtrot again, much like we did the last week. This time, our focus was on portions of figures where our normal dance roles were reversed, which basically amounts to times that I am moving backwards and Sparkledancer is moving forward. I thought things seemed pretty easy to understand at first, where I was supposed to move my leg back immediately to make room for Sparkledancer to step forward and pulling my ribs slightly back so that she would know that I am letting her drive forward. I guess I didn’t really understand the English that was being spoken, because just following those directions wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was Sir Steven was trying to get me to do differently.

Somehow in the process of all of this, Sir Steven thought that balancing on one foot was my athousandyears1problem, so he had Sparkledancer grab onto my right hand while he held my left and tried to get me to move my leg. This was weird for me, because I wasn’t having issues standing on one foot. I can hang out on one foot for long periods of time – it’s one of those things you learn to do if you go through the balance poses they teach you in Yoga classes enough times. So there I was being held in the middle of these two, trying to push my leg back farther to see if that was what he wanted, or twist my hip backward like I would do in Latin dances to see if that was it, all the while just feeling really awkward, until I had enough and shook my hands free and told them I could easily stand on one foot on my own. I still never figured out what he had been trying to get me to do, but we eventually moved on from that exercise to something else.

We got through things with Foxtrot and then we moved on to some Waltz, specifically the Natural Spin Turn in Waltz. I would have to say that I think if I could master doing Spin Turns, then I would probably make Sir Steven really happy. We seem to come back to this figure quite a bit, always adding on some new thing to think about when doing them. The whole time we were at the Fancy Dance Hall on that Saturday there was a children’s ballroom class going on, and when we got around to working on Spin Turns the class had just started running rounds, so we had to try to stay in the middle of the room while doing things to give them a track to use around the outside of the floor. That was harder than it sounds, since I have long legs and am capable of covering quite a bit of distance when moving. I figured that I was bigger than all the kids on the floor (considerably bigger than some of them), so they would be able to see me even if they were short enough that I couldn’t see them without I tilting my head down. Luckily we didn’t hit anyone while spinning around. I probably would have sent them flying across the room if I had, much to their parent’s chagrin.

Probably the most exciting thing I did this past week was attend another meeting of the Royal Dance Court. Well, to be honest, that started off a bit boring for me, but got better by the end. After the opening rituals where we sacrificed dance shoes as burnt offerings to the dance gods (am I kidding? I’ll never tell!), we began by looking at the listing of our future monthly dance parties, themes and instructors for 2017. Prez, the current leader of the Royal Dance Court, had gone through and changed some of the ideas that we had put down last time for party themes. No one really questioned why she had done that, and they just let her get away with changing things. I guess the rest of the members of the Royal Dance Court are used to being accessories for Prez’s one-woman show. I thought it was a bit strange, but then themes for parties and decorations are not really something that I find all that important (I’m a boy, so sue me), so I didn’t have anything to say about the things she changed either.

I had asked to have the questions that were brought up during the big meeting I went through back in October added to the agenda so that the entire Royal Dance Court could discuss them. athousandyears2Sparkledancer and I had spent a lot of time kicking the questions back and forth between the two of us over the last several weeks, but I wanted to get some input on the answers from everyone else as well. Unfortunately for me, the discussions about party themes and such went on for a long time, so it was pretty late at night by the time we got around to the questions. Many of the other members had already had several adult beverages by that time, and were getting antsy to head home, but I thought it was important to bring things up so that we could talk about them.

The one that several people seemed to come back to over and over again was “Why be a chapter of the organization?” I let the other talk, and tried to make a few notes about what they were saying rather than reading off the dissertation I had written up as my own answer. What scared me was that no one really had a good answer for why our group of people should be a chapter of the organization. They could see no benefits from being members that they could not get elsewhere, though likely for a higher price if they went on their own to procure services. That made me sad. I can see so much potential for this organization on a national level if we took a few steps to really promote ballroom dancing in a different way, steps that could really help to increase the number of dancers in studios across the country. But if the local chapters cannot see a reason to be a chapter, those steps that I can see wouldn’t be able to become a reality. After about twenty minutes of discussing my agenda item, the older people decided that they were too tired to stay any longer and so we adjourned, setting a date to meet up again in January.

A few days later, Prez sent off an email to everyone on the Royal Dance Court that had the questions all listed out, and asked everyone to write up some answers and send them back to her. She offered to compile everything and forward the answers on to the guy who had asked the questions so that it would look like our Royal Dance Court spoke with one voice.

In case you were wondering, I had compiled my answers to the questions using all the notes I had taken from my discussions with Sparkledancer (she was extremely helpful for me to bounce my thoughts off of), as well as some other interesting ideas I had for the organization, into a long email and sent it off to the guy as he requested. I think when I finished writing everything up, the document I was using on my computer was six single-spaced pages long (I had a lot of things to say). I didn’t turn my answers over to Prez or the rest of the Royal Dance Court members for them to read, since I had already sent the answers directly to the guy who had asked the questions long before Prez had asked that everyone send their answers to her. Surprisingly, I actually got an answer back! I think it was partly a form-letter, and partly a campaign email (this guy is running for a position on the national leadership team). Here’s what his letter said:

“Thank you so much for taking the time and deep thought you’ve put into this.  I truly appreciate it and take it seriously.   I love your enthusiasm and creativity!   I want to digest it some more and then I may get back to you some more.

It’s very valuable to me to have someone who takes a very serious and visionary approach to our organization.

When I become the [vice president of social dancing] I plan to work closely with the districts and chapters so that we can make [the Royal Dance Court] an outstanding organization.   I love the ideas, thoughts and comments that you bring forth.

I can tell you that even though dance sport get so much publicity the new and returning national officers are committed to the ‘social’ side of the organization and realize how important it is to our success.

Keep up the good work.  It is truly appreciated and respected.”

(The bracketed edits are mine to keep this pseudo-anonymous, though you could probably guess who this guy is if you’ve seen the ballot…)

Maybe someday I can work my way up to be on the national council. Wouldn’t that be cool? Then I could help dancers out all over the country with my ideas. I have some good ones… at least I think I do. Also, then anyone who reads my dance notes on this site could send me their ideas too and I could bring them up for serious consideration. I think it’s important that we younger people who have taken up ballroom dancing have some say in the way things work, to balance out the extreme number of older people who seem to be in charge of everything now. Together we can make dancing awesome for everyone!

When I got to the Electric Dance Hall on Monday night, it felt like it had been forever since I had gone to Latin Technique class, but it really hadn’t been that long. Last week Monday was Halloween, so class was cancelled, and the week prior I had a work thing going on, so I wasn’t there, so it had really only been a couple of weeks. Everyone in class was tired that night, which makes sense since we were still adjusting to the Daylight Savings Time changes, so we opted to do some Rumba that night. We had a girl from Lady Lovelylocks’ ‘Sexy Lady Formation Team Dance Club©’ join us in class that night. I guess she had missed the team practice over the weekend, and had opted to make up for that by coming to Latin Technique instead. Lord Junior had said he wanted to work on a figure he called a Switchback during class, but since the new girl had never done any dancing with a partner before, he opted to start things off a bit more simply for her so that we could work our way up to the more difficult figure.

We led off with the beginning of one of Lord Junior’s Open-level routines, which wasn’t hard footwork, but involved a lot of syncopated steps to keep things challenging. Starting with your weight on the left foot and right foot pointed behind you, step forward on beat four and hold for two beats. Next is another step forward on beat two, rock back to the right foot on beat three and then take two steps forward to land on the right foot on beat four with the left foot pointed off to the side and slightly back. Ladies would mirror the footwork, but at the end they would step forward to be off on our right side. On beat two the guys would lunge out to the left while pressing slightly forward with the left arm to turn the ladies toward us, and then we would do three steps (almost like a chasse) to the right while the ladies move across our location and out to Fan Position. Finally we would go into a Hockey Stick, with the first half being syncopated and the second half being normal.

We worked through the opening part of the progression until everyone felt comfortable with athousandyears3the steps and could do everything in time to the music and with a partner. Now we added on the Switchback, the figure Lord Junior actually wanted to work on with us that night. As the guys would check forward at the end of the Hockey Stick we would rotate the lady’s wrist a bit to get her to turn 180° and she would raise her left arm and point her left leg behind her. Seems like an easy thing to do, except the ladies would have to get into that line and only hold it for only one beat before we would come out of it. Moving that quickly suddenly makes the figure an exercise in balance. The end of the figure has us turning the ladies back around by rotating her wrist slightly again and taking three steps backward in two beats, while the lady take three steps forward in two beats.

There is a new class that they started offering on Wednesday night right before Standard Technique, so the last two weeks when I have gotten there early there have been a bunch of people I don’t know out on the floor. So what do I do? I stand there and watch them. I don’t know why. It’s supposed to be some kind of intermediate-level class, but so far the people who have shown up have all been beginners so everything they’ve done has been really basic. Sparkledancer was the next to show up for class, and then no one else came for quite a while. A few minutes before the class started, Lord Junior came over to where Sparkledancer and I were standing and watching the people on the floor and asked if there was anything we wanted to work on that night. I turned to Sparkledancer and asked her if she had anything in mind, and she just shrugged. I thought back to last Saturday and said that we should probably work on Spin Turns if she had no other ideas, because for some reason that’s what came to mind. Well, Lord Junior thought that was actually a good idea – you can always use some more practice with Spin Turns, he admitted, so that’s what we ended up doing.

We worked on Spin Turns in Waltz, because that is the most logical way to work on them. Lord Junior joked that we could work on them in Quickstep if we really wanted to, but that didn’t sound like a good idea. The thing Sparkledancer and I were most interested in was any tips for doing Spin Turns while maintaining body contact the entire time, which is what we were having athousandyears4issues with on Saturday. This led us down a path to where Lord Junior was focusing on the ladies and how they were supposed to be providing the power when it was their turn to move forward. He had us switch roles for a little while so that the ladies could feel what it was like to do the inside part of the turn in a Spin Turn both when your partner is helping to drive the turn, and when they are not. Once the ladies seemed to be on board with this concept, we spent a lot of time doing Spin Turns reeeeeeaaaaaalllllly slowly. Painfully slow, even. We would do the initial pivot on beat one and hold to make sure everyone was good. Then we would do the second rotation on beat two and hold while up on our toes at the high point of the rise, and finally when we were just about to complain about being on our toes so long we were allowed to take the third step (a side and slightly back step for me, diagonally forward for the ladies) and lower on the second half of beat three. Whew!

It was a good class, even though we didn’t cover any new material. In the last ten minutes or so of the night we added on a couple of other easy steps so that we could work through things to music without starting and ending awkwardly right at the Spin Turn. We used a prep step and went into a Natural Turn, then the Natural Spin Turn, closing with a Reverse Turn. We then did a Whisk into a Progressive Chasse to the Left, closing back to dance frame on beat two. That was it, all fairly simple Bronze-level steps that I’m pretty sure most of you have done before. I was in a good mood after class was over, feeling much better about things than I did when I walked out of my lesson the past weekend.

There is a dance party that I heard rumors about on Saturday night that has a strange theme related to a not-quite-public-domain musical about two rival gangs rumbling that I’m sure everyone is familiar with. I’m not exactly sure how to celebrate such a theme. The dance lesson they are offering beforehand is Salsa… not exactly Mambo, as would be fitting with what happened in the musical, but close enough. I’ll have to try to think of a costume that is appropriate between now and then. Maybe I’ll see you there!