What Rhymes with Hug Me

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Yes, it is time for another post.  This has been quite a week.  Today was another great coaching lesson. Seriously great.  Great in the way that I wish I could work with this lady more often.  Great in the way that she’d be worth driving a significant distance to take lessons.  Great in that she can really pin point what needs work and has so many exercises and ways to explain things.

Now, I am going to have to temper my enthusiasm a bit.  If yesterday taught me anything it is that there is still a lot of work in front in me and more difficult days ahead.  I know you probably had trouble keeping up with my swinging emotions and I also know I need to do a better job of steering a middle course because I just feel the highs and lows too strongly.  But I am still jumping for joy a bit on the inside because she took my weakest dance (bolero) and made some major improvements.

I’ll start with the group class which was Rumba.  What was interesting is that she didn’t focus on a particular pattern or more technical areas like some of the other coaches did.  She focused on how we can better capture and present the spirit of the dance.  Everyone described Rumba as “sexy” or some other variant and she made the good point which is that it can be very hard to just get to a dance after a day at work and flip on the sexy switch.  She didn’t really use sexy switch but I just thought it sounded cool.  Pretty sure mine is stuck in the off position but that’s a topic for another day.

So she taught us a few tricks just to bring out that side of Rumba.  One was even how you get into frame.  She did this “Don’t Touch, Touch” thing.  Both partners start by rapidly bringing there left hands together with fingers spread out but stop before actual touching.  Then, they slowly weave their hands together to create the connection.  You can do the same thing with the arm that goes around the back.  Sounds a little silly but it doesn’t feel silly when you do it and it kind of flips your brain into the right mode.  We also practiced looking at each other since Rumba is a dance where you are allowed to look at your partner.  We intentionally did it longer than comfortable but it helped to show that you can create a connection in other ways.  She talked about on crossovers finding a point to look at and then getting right back to your partner so your eyes and head aren’t wandering.  All little things but a lot of little things add up to improving the overall look and feel of the dance.  Loved it because it wasn’t hard but it just isn’t stuff that is normally covered (at least at our studio).

Then I had my private lesson in Bolero and the anxiety kicked in.  That whole part of me that hates being watched and judged in practice.  The part that self-consciously tries to protect myself from the criticism that I assume is coming.  We had to dance our closed routine for her and I had to do it cold but we ended up not making any major issues.

The first thing she said was that my timing was fine which kind of blew me away.  Then she said I had a decent feel for the dance and that there was nothing really wrong with what I was doing but that there were some tweaks she could do to just take it to the next level.  I don’t know if that was true or not but something about hearing that there was nothing wrong just made it easier.  She wasn’t going to tear me down but just build on what I was already doing.  Yeah, I’m that sensitive to criticism so it was really a nice touch.

We worked on pointing the lead foot on the slow and then staying down and only rising when I get on the foot since I had a tendency to come up too fast.  It was easier getting on to my left foot but harder on the right since that is my bad knee and staying down and collecting all my weight into a bent knee was a challenge.  She did say I really didn’t have to bend that much if I could create the rise through my body.  We drilled on that for a bit.  She tried to incorporate it into our pattern but it was way too much for the little gerbil in my brain and he fell off the wheel.  She recognized the symptoms of brain overload and we just reduced it to simpler Bolero patterns so I could focus more on the technique.

Then we had the conversation about frame and body contact.  She changed my frame to a more smooth frame with elbows stretched out and we did some basics and she said it was good but that my frame kept dropping because we weren’t close enough.  Then she asks me if I knew what the “hug position” was.  Hadn’t really heard of that but it is exactly what it sounds like.  You basically hug each other.  And not the type of friendly hug where you may make contact with your shoulders.  This is the type you’d give a significant other with arms wrapped around each other and bodies pressed together.  Don’t worry, she was offset so we didn’t have to worry about really inappropriate touching.  And that was miles outside my comfort zone but it was incredibly helpful.  Trying to do a Bolero in an embrace is interesting to say the least.  Then, she had me do the same thing with Kid T.  To be honest, I’m not sure Kid T was any more comfortable than I was but we managed to make it work.  She said it was something we should do during warm up just for a couple of minutes because it would train me to get used to it so that when we got into frame, it would be easier to keep body contact.  We did end up dancing in frame but in close contact and it was not as strange.  If you can survive the hug position, you can survive normal frame.  It really was helpful to get used to moving together in a close position because that isn’t natural but I know it will help because that is really how she’s going to be better able to feel my leads.

It was another mentally exhausting coaching lesson because she was giving me a lot of information and it did push me a bit out of my comfort zone.  But it made a difference and I can see a path forward in bolero now.

I seriously hope the next two weeks leading up to Showcase are a little less choppy but I’m super glad that we ended on a high note and I’m really happy that I got a second opportunity to work with her.



  1. Your hug hold sounds like the “backpack” hold my teacher has had me do, where I’m hugging him but my arms go up his back and my hands rest on his shoulders, like the straps of a backpack. Definitely gives you a whole different feeling trying to dance that way, but I agree, it’s helpful!

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