Finding the Next Level

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Last night, one of the judges from Showcase was in the studio to give private lessons and a master class.  He and his partner are one of the top smooth dancers in the Famous Franchise world and he’s also a great teacher so I jumped at the chance.  I would have taken two lessons but that might have been greedy.  He introduced a whole different way of thinking about the Fox Trot.  Not sure if it is now the new standard or just something that he likes.  We’ve always been taught to lower and push out of the back foot but he was saying you need to pull yourself from the front foot.  And we talked about knees and lowering the knees and using them to move the lower body which will in turn rotate the upper body.  Of course it all felt weirdly awkward and my knee was still sore from Sunday but it did make a difference in how easy it was to move with a partner.  One thing I do hate about some of these dance concepts is that they sound good in theory but they can’t explain how to make your body actually do what you are supposed to.  For example, how does one pull from the front foot.  I actually found it easier to move backwards than forwards.  Maybe I’ll just change up my fox trot and dance it backwards.

On our private lesson, we talked a bit about what I wanted out of it and settled on another technique thing that will help my rhythm dancing.  We went through all the critiques and there were some very common themes relating to what he talked about in Fox Trot but also about using the standing leg in Rumba.  If I understand the concept correctly, you are supposed to feel like you are straightening your leg almost to the point of bringing the knee backwards to use that to move the other foot and the stretch doesn’t end until you go flat on the other foot and transfer weight.  At that point, that leg should be bent so you then go through the straightening process on that leg and then move the other one.  He talked about having a laser in my belt buckle (the Famous Franchise loves using the laser analogy by the way) and that the laser should point from side to side but not my head.  In other words, move my freaking hips!  He actually got behind me at several points and physically moved me through what I was supposed to do so I could feel it.  I will say that even with my personal space issues, I didn’t find it awkward at all.  I think it was because he was really clinical about it – just getting behind me and doing it without giving me time to think or react.  Of course, he didn’t play off my discomfort which also helped.

We moved on to West Coast Swing and talked about weight change and connection and moving my body weight almost before my feel while keeping my arm from moving.  So you start to shift backwards and establish a positive connection and then you can move her with your body weight and not with the arms and then I’m leading rather than her knowing what we are supposed to do and just doing it whether I lead it or not.  It was a boatload of information and it will take time to sort it all out and incorporate it into the various routines but he said this is what I need to move to the next level.  He started in on how with a dancer at my level, I should look different each time he sees me or else there is no real progress.  He mentioned that this time I looked more in control and more like I was having fun than when he was here a year and a half ago.  And he wants that progress to continue.  Z, of course, was all over the comment about improvement since I’ve mentioned that I don’t see or feel tangible improvement but here was evidence.

I may be in danger of over interpreting here but the lesson had a weird kind of vibe to it.  And it was similar to the last coaching lesson I had from a previous Showcase judge back before Houston.  It was like the underlying message was “Your good but you could be so much better and it is time for you to start doing some of this stuff”  In other words, if you’re going to be serious at events like Northstar, then they want to see a more advanced level of dancing.  That would require just getting over all my inhibitions about how I look trying to do the strange things they want me to do and just work on them over and over again.  I don’t suspect it will be fun but maybe that it where I need to go.  We’ll see how tonight’s lesson goes and whether Z is able to build on that coaching lesson.

I do have a goal for the next showcase.  If you do three solo routines, you get a little extra special award.  It isn’t much but I’ve done two at past showcase so adding a third shouldn’t be a problem.  We’ll do the hustle routine again but I decided to do another country dance with 3 of 3 and a Quickstep with the Body Double.  OK, I didn’t decide to do the QuickStep with the Body Double, I said I wanted to do a Quickstep and Z pushed me towards the Body Double.  I’ll still work with Z on the closed and open routines for the main dances but now I guess I have three instructors to deal with.  Not sure how this will all work out but I want to pick up Quickstep again and the country dancing is fun so that’s the plan for May.

A couple of last random notes:

1.  The critiques contained no comments about posture and very few on timing.  Instead they were focused on the technique things I’ve described above.  Not saying I’ve conquered those particular demons but I’m guessing that I did enough right that they started to look at other things.

2.  I was talking to the judges before the event and they remembered my West Coast Swing routine from a year and a half ago.  They see so many routines since they do a lot of Showcase judging so it made me happy that they remembered mine.

3.  There was one heat where I was lined up and a random guy from another studio asks me why I wasn’t doing the Quickstep.  I’m terrible with names and I spend so much time dancing, that I don’t always get a chance to meet and talk with other students and it still freaks me out just a big when someone I don’t know calls me by name.  I guess I’m out there enough times that I’m easy to recognize.  And, I guess he remembered my Quickstep routine from a year ago because that’s the last time I did a quickstep.

4.  Things never look as bad as they feel.  I told Z that our Two-Step was a hot mess and she said it wasn’t that bad and there was only one obvious screw up.  She actually called it “inspirational” but she meant that we did a lot of cool moves so it might cause others to want to do the Two Step.  This is not the first time when I’ve felt I’ve messed something up but people say it looked OK.  Again, I have to learn to stop trusting my feelings about my dancing since they generally seem to be wrong.

5.  Had a strange conversation with Tex yesterday.  He asked if I had ever taken a break from dancing.  It sounds like he’s getting a little frustrated with his progress.  Or it could be that since he’s started working with Z, he has an idea of how much more he needs to learn which can be depressing.  I’ll have to keep talking to him though to make sure he doesn’t give up.

The studio is doing their twice yearly promotion where you get points for all your activities.  I’m actually going to have to learn the country dance and quickstep by mid December.  Well not the whole routines but just enough to do 30-40 seconds.  Maybe after that, I’ll slow down and rest up.

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