Prepare The Laser-Beam

During this past week, I ended up going to work with my dance coach Lord Dormamu twice in a short span of time. He will be leaving to go run around the country doing things, so if I didn’t take the opportunity to see him now I would have had to wait two weeks before seeing him again. I think he said that he was going to go give coaching lessons for a couple of days in two different major cities, go to a big competition to compete with a couple of his Pro/Am students, and also go be a judge at another big competition. All of that with no time to come home and rest in between! Sometimes I think that guy is crazy for flying around the country so much, but he seems to enjoy it.

Let’s start off by talking about the first session I had with him that was last Saturday afternoon. That day we started out by looking at the Waltz again, but this time we did manage to move on and look at a second dance style rather than getting stuck on Waltz the whole time, which was a nice change of pace. I know that our Waltz is coming along quite nicely, but sometimes you just need some variety in your life, right? For me, that variety ended up being Tango.

The main point that we spent a lot of time talking about for the Waltz that afternoon was balance. Lord Dormamu could see the effects of all of the practice that Sparkledancer and I have been doing in our Waltz going really slow, but in his eyes it looked like something was off about the first step in a number of the figures. He told us that it was as if the second and third step were solid and grounded and had substance to them, but the first steps seemed to move too fast, almost like it was floating across the floor. What he told us was that we needed to make sure that all three steps had the same look of substance to them, as if they were balanced.

I thought about it for a minute, and then I asked Lord Dormamu if what he was seeing was happening on the first step of every single figure, or if it was just happening on the first steps of figures that came after previous figures where I had held the second beat longer than the music and thus was moving faster through the third beat and the first beat of the next measure to compensate. He told me that could have been part of the problem so he would keep an eye out for that next time, but even if I was moving faster through some of the steps, I should still be able to do them in a manner that makes all steps look connected to the floor.

So can you guess what his recommendation to fix this was? Yup, it was more practice doing the steps stupidly slow. The only difference would be that now we would want to be thinking the whole time about having the same effort for all three steps of each figure to help promote that look of balance. Or four steps I suppose, in the case of chasses. Yeah, can you feel my excitement? It’s not really there. I think I’m going to develop repetitive stress injuries in my ankles from doing all of this super slow movement all the time.

The second point that came up while we were talking about the Waltz, but is really something that applies across the board for me, was my back. Last time we had gotten together, Lord Dormamu had asked me to start working on pulling the upper half of my body away from Sparkledancer while we were in frame. Remember how he compared the look he wanted us to show to a funnel? As you might guess, I have been working on this, but I still can’t bow my back as much as he wants me to, so he was pushing me to do more. I guess I am going to have to find some way to work on that safely. I used to be able to get into Wheel pose in Yoga, but I don’t think I can anymore. Hmm…
Before we finished with the Waltz we took a minute so that Lord Dormamu could review my progress with the changes he asked me to make with the Whisk. Overall the figure looks much more like he wanted – all the steps I am taking progress nicely in the same direction, giving the figure continuity from start to finish. One subtle adjustment he asked me to add to what I was doing was to rotate my upper body more as I transition into Promenade Position on the third step. I felt like I was rotating myself a lot already, but he wants me to twist up to the limit of my flexibility. That’s easy enough to figure out – twist until I can’t. Sounds so simple!

With that we got to move on to the Tango for the remainder of our session. After going through the routine once, there were a couple of overall points Lord Dormamu wanted to make about how we danced. First off, much to my chagrin, like in the Waltz earlier I was told to bow my back further when in frame for Tango. Secondly, he told both Sparkledancer and I that it looked like we were sliding a lot while we danced through the routine, and it was breaking the sharp and staccato look that Tango is known for.

His diagnosis was that he thought that we were trying to move too big through the steps, like we normally do in a Waltz or Foxtrot, and because of that there were places that we would literally slide across the floor because of the momentum that we would build up as we moved. There were a few spots where the sliding was more noticeable than others. For example, at the end of the first Natural Promenade Turn we go into another Closed Promenade. That Closed Promenade starts moving toward diagonal center and we close facing diagonal wall. As we closed the Promenade on our run-through, even after we closed our bodies and I was facing diagonal wall we still moved toward diagonal center somewhat before we came to a halt.

To that end, Lord Dormamu told me something that some famous coach he had worked with when he was young had told him about Tango (I didn’t recognize the guy’s name, but Sparkledancer did). He said that he was taught that his steps should be no wider than his shoulders. After saying that, he made a joke that obviously I would still be taking bigger steps than him if I did that because my shoulders are much wider than his are, and then punched me in the shoulder a few times while laughing.

Sometimes I think that Lord Dormamu likes to hit me because he is amazed at how solid I am. He really does hit me a lot just for fun. You can ask Sparkledancer – even she has mentioned to me before that she thinks Lord Dormamu likes to hit me a lot!

Anyway… we walked through the routine again keeping that in mind. It did help make all of our steps sharper, and surprisingly we didn’t really cut out any distance in our movement by taking steps of that size. I had thought that for sure we would, but we ended up in the same spot along the back of the floor when we finished the first long wall. Weird.

Next up he wanted to have us work on making our rotational movements, like when we would close from Promenade back into normal dance frame, sharper as well. That was another action that Lord Dormamu said sometimes he saw us gliding along the floor as we did. We went back to the figures that we talked about earlier to work on this, with the Closed Promenade after the Natural Promenade Turn. He told me that I needed to think about not traveling at all when I closed the Closed Promenade, almost like I was locked between two points as I squared up to Sparkledancer.

For some reason, when he had me try it out dancing with her, a picture of a door closing popped into my head. So that’s what I tried to do – I planted my right foot and let the left side of my body ‘close’ to Sparkledancer at the end of the Closed Promenade. Lord Dormamu came over and told me that it looked perfect, so whatever I did I should always repeat that action. I was surprised that it worked so well, so I told him about the thought that popped into my head. He grinned at me and said that a door closing was a perfect analogy, and he was going to remember that for the future. Hooray for me! Sometimes I can be super smart!

One item that he mentioned for Sparkledancer that I made a note about was that he wanted her to work on pulling herself even more around me when we are in Promenade Position. If she does so, it will really increase the distance between our heads when you look at our position either from the side or from straight on. That way, no matter what side of us a judge happens to be standing on, the amount of volume will appear to be super impressive.

One last thing that I thought was funny – at one point in our lesson, Lord Dormamu suddenly thought about laser tag, weirdly enough, so he was telling Sparkledancer and I about how much fun he remembers having the last time he went and played. That’s something I haven’t gone out and done, or even thought about, in probably… like fifteen years. Lord Dormamu then decided that going out and playing laser tag in the near future would be a lot of fun. There is a guy that he knows who also teaches dance at the Endless Dance Hall, a high-level Latin competitor that I’ve met a few times, who Lord Dormamu said he was going to talk into playing laser tag too, and then he told both Sparkledancer and I that if he was going to go, the two of us should come as well.

So… there’s a chance in the near future that I could go out and play laser tag with my dance coach. When I try to picture this happening in my head, it seems so surreal that I think it would be hilarious. That’s the crazy thing about the stuff that happens on my dance adventures – I can’t even make up stuff that’s half as funny as the stuff that actually happens. Laser tag, of all things! What in the world even brought that up in the first place?

When I went in for my second coaching session with Lord Dormamu on Wednesday night, I happened to run into the Latin instructor that Lord Dormamu said he would be inviting to play laser tag. I spent a few minutes talking to him because I thought it was funny that his name came up the last time I was at the Endless Dance Hall, and then he appeared the next time I went there. I wonder if that trick would work with anyone that I talked about at the Endless Dance Hall, or if I would specifically have to talk about a dancer in order for that person to show up. Hmm… I’ll have to try to do some science next time I am at that studio to answer that question.

Lord Dormamu hadn’t told the guy about how he was going to play laser tag at some point in the future, so that was news to him. I did hear all about how the two of them have been spending a lot of time together lately because he was helping Lord Dormamu rip apart rooms in his house and re-finish them. It started with his office, where they tore the whole thing apart down to the studs and joists, then put it all back together with new wiring, a new floor, new walls and a new ceiling. He showed me the pictures – it is a nice looking office now.

The two of them were so happy with the results that they decided to do the attic in Lord Dormamu’s house next, and then they have plans to tear apart the back wall of his house this summer to attach a whole new patio that will connect the back of the house to the edge of the pool. Just for fun, apparently. I know so much more about the design of Lord Dormamu’s house now than I could have ever imagined that I would. Who ever said that you only learn about dance when you’re at a dance studio?

Our lesson with Lord Dormamu that night focused on more of the same as the one we had on Saturday, with time spent on Waltz and Tango. I had only managed to find time to go out and practice with Sparkledancer twice between the two lessons, so the points we had worked on during the lesson on Saturday were still works in progress to me.

One item that was different that we spent time talking about at the beginning of the lesson was our upcoming competition calendar for the next couple of months. Originally, we had been planning on doing a medium-sized competition at the end of this month, then a smaller competition in March and a large competition in April. Sparkledancer had been looking over the entries for the event in January though, and based on what she could see it looked like all the people signed up for that competition were the exact same people that we had danced against when we had done the competition last year, which didn’t necessarily make it seem worth the money and the time we would have to spend driving out to the venue.
Because of that, we changed our plan to take out the event this month and replace it with a different event next month. This other competition is going to be larger and is also farther away, so we would have to fly out to get there. The advantage of this event is that, because it is in a completely different area of the Dance Kingdom than we have ever gone to before to compete, it should pit us against a completely different set of competitors. That should make for a better test of how we’re doing than going to the one this month and dancing against all the same people we’ve danced against before. So I’ll take care of booking my flight and whatnot for that this weekend. Fun times ahead, right?

One item that we worked on a lot in the Tango that evening was trying to bow my back even more while I was moving. We had talked about this on Saturday, and between the two lessons I had gotten to spend some time on my stability ball at home, trying to gently increase the amount my spine is able to bend in that manner. But I could only do so much in just a few days. No matter how much Lord Dormamu wanted me to bend yesterday, I was just hitting my physical limit.

At one point he asked Sparkledancer and I to try out something different – he had me plant my feet for the start of our routine, and then bend myself to the extreme so that my chest and head were facing toward the ceiling while putting my arms out straight to the sides. Then he had Sparkledancer come stand in front of me and wrap her arms around my neck to hold on as we started to dance.

This… was an interesting way to try to move. A lot of the steps were fine for me after a bit of adjustment in my center of balance. The place where we ultimately had to stop and reset was when we got to the first Natural Promenade Turn. As you might have guessed, it is nearly impossible for Sparkledancer to rotate around me when my arms are sticking straight out to the sides like Lord Dormamu had asked me to do, so everything we were doing just fell apart at that figure.

The point of this exercise was to show me the feeling that I was to be going for when I am finally able to spend time increasing the flexibility in my spine. Obviously I won’t be bending in quite the same way at that time, since my head needs to be upright to see where I am going when Lord Dormamu isn’t following me down the floor to keep the other dancers out of my way, but the feeling should be similar. After a couple of times dancing like this, he had me come back to the start and bring myself back upright, bowing my spine as much as I could on my own and still pulling my shoulders back somewhat so that my head was looking upward toward a point closer to the ceiling.

It wasn’t an impossible position for me to hold, but I can’t say that it was the most comfortable position I’ve ever tried to dance Tango in. Even though I felt like I was bending my spine up like a snake, Lord Dormamu told me that the look I had from his point of view was that I was standing straight and powerful. My advantage over other dancers, he said, was that I have a much bigger chest than most male dancers because of all the muscle I have. If I can bend in the way that he wants while dancing Tango, it will put all that muscle on display and look really strong and solid. So, I guess that’s the goal I am working toward. With that as a goal, in some ways it will be kind of nice that Lord Dormamu will be gone for a while. That will give me time to practice and work to get better at what he is asking.

But that doesn’t mean that I won’t be out doing other things in that time period! This coming Saturday is actually shaping up to be rather busy for me as far as dancing goes. Sparkledancer’s new friend (the franchise studio guy that she met on New Year’s Eve) has been begging her to go with him to any kind of dance events outside his studio. He has finally worn her down, and she has agreed to do so this weekend. As you might have gathered, she begged me to go with her so that she can pawn this guy off on me if he gets to be too much. Sigh…

As far as what I’m going to end up going to – Judge Dread will be in town on Saturday giving workshops at the Endless Dance Hall, so I will be going to hang out there. After that, there will be a social dance at the City Dance Hall on Saturday night. The group running that event is having someone come in and teach a lesson in East Coast Swing before the party starts, which sounds entertaining.

And, as always, on top of that I’m sure I will try to get some practice in on Saturday, since that is a day I try to use for practicing. It all should be a lot of fun. If you’re around this weekend, I hope to see you at one of those events!

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To The Window, To The Wall

 When I finished up my lesson with Lord Dormamu on Saturday morning, I felt… surprisingly good about my dancing.

  Things just seemed to start off on the correct foot that day. I got to the Fancy Dance Hall early, as usual, to warm up. Sparkledancer and I decided to spend most of our time that morning warming up with Waltz, even though we both were pretty sure that when Lord Dormamu finished up with his current lesson he was going to come over and have us work on Foxtrot. That was a correct assumption, so we ran through our entire Foxtrot routine for the first time that morning while under the scrutinizing eye of Lord Dormamu. Turns out that he thought our first run of the routine was the best that he’s ever seen us dance a Foxtrot. He even had us run through it again and got Sir Steven to stop teaching the other student he was with for a few minutes to watch us.

  I didn’t think it felt all that different from what we normally do, but Lord Dormamu was so excited! I even got one extremely positive comment that gave me something to look forward to – as I mentioned, when we started working on Foxtrot with Lord Dormamu, he was telling me that when I danced he wanted me to stay extremely low, almost like getting into a Yoga Chair Pose and then trying to dance. A month and a half ago I had compared dancing Foxtrot in that position to doing the prisyadka, and I still find that comparison to be accurate. During our lesson that day, Lord Dormamu was once again telling me that I needed to get down into the lowest squat I could while still being able to move my legs and dance the routine.

  After a couple of times running through the first part of the routine that day with Lord Dormamu pushing on my shoulders to lower me even further toward the floor, he gave me a break for a minute and told me that no matter what anyone else said about how weird it looked to be dancing Foxtrot in this manner, I needed to keep working on this technique for the time being to make my movement in Foxtrot better. He compared the technique to what he had me do with my head back in March, telling me to keep my nose in line with my sternum to ‘reset’ all the bad habits I had of moving my head around while dancing. It took a few weeks, but after he considered me to be reset to a new default, I was then told to start putting my head in the right position.

  Lord Dormamu’s comment that day was that dancing while being so low to the ground in Foxtrot is not the correct way I should dance. He knows this to be true, other judges will know this, so if I hear instructors make comments about me looking weird, they aren’t wrong. He told me that this exercise is like a doctor giving me medication to cure a sickness. Sure there might be a side effect that no one likes (i.e. me being so low to the ground), but once the sickness is cured then I won’t have to be on the medicine any longer and the side effects will go away, meaning that I will get to come up to a more reasonable height while dancing.

  That is definitely something to look forward to for me. Also… since the ‘sickness’ that he’s curing is the movement of my Foxtrot, does that make it… motion sickness?

  Why yes, I totally did just high-five myself for typing that.

  After Lord Dormamu got us through our movement drills (or got tired trying to fight against my strong legs when he was pushing me down), he had us focus on the Three Step for quite a while. He said that although it is one of the first steps in International Foxtrot that anyone learns, and it is only three steps down the line of dance, the Three Step is one of the hardest figures to master. What he asked us to do was to go slow and pause and balance with every step, giving him a chance to adjust our position if needed and really lock in the feeling of each position before moving to the next step.

  This… was harder than I would have thought. I will admit that working on the isometric portion of Yoga is not my favorite thing to do for a lot of positions. I enjoy the flow and the movement, but holding really uncomfortable positions for long periods of time is something I will actively avoid if I can get away with it. Dancing through the Three Step slow like we were was a lot like only doing the isometric portion of a Yoga routine.

  The second step was really what caused us all the problems. Lord Dormamu wanted me to work on sliding my left foot forward as much as possible in the step, so I would end up with both my left and right legs almost completely straight, still low to the ground, and also trying to twist my upper body to create the right-side sway I should have. Then on top of that, he wanted me to hold that position, maintain my balance, and add in Sparkledancer to the mix and allow her to make micro-adjustments to her position to get in her proper place without knocking me over!
  We worked on this for probably twenty minutes. Ten minutes in, Lord Dormamu got a phone call he had to take, so he left us to work on it on our own for a little while. That was probably for the best, since it allowed me to curse about what we were trying to do without him listening. When he got back and continued to watch and comment on what we were doing, he told us that this was something we should set aside time to work on during our practice sessions. He made sure to say that he realized what we were doing was terrible when going so slow (he had to go through this exercise quite a bit himself over the years), but going slowly is really the best way to practice everything.

  Finishing up, Lord Dormamu had Sparkledancer and I meet him in the office to sign the paperwork for our lesson and schedule our next session. As we were each going through our calendars to find a time that worked for all three of us, Lord Dormamu called Sir Steven in to the office as well. He took some time to go over with Sir Steven what we had just done, and told him to continue to avoid working on Foxtrot for the time being. That day he specifically wanted Sir Steven to spend time with us focusing on getting Sparkledancer to extend her body even further out away from mine to create as much volume as possible. The slight look of panic on Sparkledancer’s face when she heard that comment was enough to let me know that she was super excited about that.

  As soon as we finished with all the paperwork, Sparkledancer and I were back out on the floor to work with Sir Steven. He decided to have us work with the Waltz while working on Sparkledancer’s position while in frame. I think my Saturday was all about fun times while moving slow…

  One of the notes that I made after the lesson was over was about a story that Sir Steven told me while working on Sparkledancer’s position. Sir Steven said that I really needed to make sure that I kept myself as straight as possible when Sparkledancer is trying to create volume with her frame, and not to try to ‘help out’ by pulling my upper body away from hers. He has seen me doing that before, so he wanted to squelch the behavior before he sees me doing it again unintentionally. This behavior was something that he himself got yelled at for doing in the past, so he knows firsthand that I shouldn’t be doing it.

  The story goes that some undisclosed time ago, Sir Steven was working with the Princess on his own dancing as he was getting ready to do a competition with his professional partner. In the middle of the dance, the Princess stopped him to ask him what he was doing. Not knowing what she was talking about, he just stared at her blankly until she pointed out that he was leaning his upper body away from her during the figure they were dancing. He said that he was just trying to increase their look and volume during the step, and she just stopped him and said “We can’t both be flowers. I’m supposed to be the pretty flower opening up away from you. Are you a pretty flower?”

 From then on, the Princess would make fun of Sir Steven whenever she saw him start to lean his upper body away from his partner. There would be times he and his professional partner would be practicing, and the Princess would be in the studio doing other things and would yell out across the floor “Sir Steven, who’s the pretty flower?” to remind him to keep himself straight. And for the amusement of everyone else, I’m sure. So the warning I was given that afternoon was to keep my own frame strong and straight if I don’t want to be yelled at by the Princess when she’s around.

  One figure that we focused on in particular that afternoon was the Outside Change that is between our Progressive Chasse to Right and Chasse from Promenade Position. I guess that the way we were coming out of the Outside Change into the Chasse from Promenade Position didn’t look quite right to him. He spent some time making sure that Sparkledancer was heading straight down the line of dance for her first two steps instead of curving off to her right as I was stepping to the right to get out of her way. I spent a lot of time just standing in the position I was in at the end of the Progressive Chasse to the Right as Sir Steven went over the step with her.
  Let’s talk about Latin Technique this week instead of Standard Technique, like I did the last week. I’ve gotten particularly verbose lately when writing these posts, so I’ve decided to try my best to keep them as controlled as I can. There are just so many dance-related things that I want to remember!

  Monday night I was out at Latin Technique class as usual. Our favorite fierce Latin cat Tanya Tiger was there that night, having finally finished up her long-running obligation that had kept her away on Monday nights. To celebrate, she got to pick what we worked on that night, and she picked Samba. I personally don’t think that is much of a way to celebrate, but that’s just my personal opinion.

  The big reason that I wasn’t having much fun that night was because of my dance shoes. I have one pair of Latin shoes, and lately I only wear them for this class. I got them quite a while ago from some website that had a pair of really nice Latin shoes on clearance for 25% of normal price. The problem was that the closest size that they had of these clearance shoes was a half-size smaller than what I usually wear for my ballroom shoes. Since the deal was too good to pass up, I ordered them anyway. The left shoe fits just fine, but the right shoe is too tight. I spent the week after they showed up using all sorts of things like sticks and ice and shoe stretchers to stretch out the right shoe just a little so that it fit, but over time it slowly shrinks until one day I put on the right shoe and my big toe hurts. Then I have to stretch the shoe all over again.

  Monday night it was fairly obvious that the shoe had reached the breaking point that my foot could handle, so I need to stretch it out again. I’m kind of sick of doing this just to make the shoe usable, so I’m contemplating breaking down and ordering new Latin shoes. What holds me back is that I really only use the shoes once a week, just for Latin Technique class. They aren’t like my ballroom shoes which get used all of the time, so replacing them when they have issues is a necessity. I think that it’s finally time to bite the bullet and just order a pair in the right size though. Who knows? Maybe if my shoes fit well I will be more inclined to compete in International Latin again someday. Maybe. I wouldn’t hold my breath for that though.

  What we worked on in Samba was a set of figures that Lord Junior is starting to fit into his Samba routine with Tanya Tiger, but he modified it slightly so that we could all dance the progression without partners that night. I think he did that so that Tanya would end up with an exercise that she could use to practice without him that would help her directly with her routine. We started the progression on one end of the long wall, and those of us who really pushed out of our standing legs could get all the way to the other side when we finished so we could just turn around and go back.

  We began with a Three Step Turn to the left, ending in a sort of lunged-forward position on the left leg. From there we did some Cruzados Walks and Locks, with the Lock Steps being syncopated to make them more interesting. After two sets of the syncopated Lock Steps on the right side, we did three Samba Locks on the left side with no pause in between each one, ending once again in a lunged forward position on the left leg. We held that position for two beats of the music to allow the musical phrase to finish before the next steps.

 Here Lord Junior wanted us to do a non-syllabus figure to make things more interesting. He called the step a ‘Merengue Twist’ so that’s what I’m going to go with. It was a lot like doing a Hip Twist in Rumba or Cha-Cha, where you twist your body so that one leg ends up forward in a press line with the back foot turned perpendicularly. Lord Junior initially told us that he wanted everyone to try twisting as much as possible, so that’s what I was doing, but I felt like I was twisting so much that my front foot was crossing too far in front of my back foot, making it hard to do that step a second time. He watched me go through it once, laughed at what he saw, and told me that I was twisting waaaaaaaaaaaaay too far. I backed off to where it was more comfortable and then the step was much easier. We finished up the progression after those Merengue Twists by adding few more repeating Samba Locks on the left side.

Waaaaaaaay too far, for sure.

  It’s summer, so it’s time for me to do some out-of-the-ordinary dancing. I plan on making the hour drive out to the High Five Dance Hall to attend one of their parties. I know that doesn’t seem like much of a drive for some people who have to take long trips every time they want to dance, but I have all of these other dance studios within 20-30 minutes of my house, so going to one that is twice as far doesn’t usually seem necessary. Still, I’ve been trying to get out there at least once a year to help support them and see all the dancers in that area.

  I also saw an email go out that some dance hall I have never heard of before in the area is having an Intermediate/Advanced West Coast Swing class that sounds interesting to me. It is tonight, which is why I am posting this earlier than normal so that I don’t have to worry about trying to get home after this class to finish this post up. Summer dance adventures, here I come!

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.

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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.)

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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?