Ballroom Physics

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Life is funny.  Sometime last week, I think I was talking about how I needed a break from all the dancing and the mental games.  After this week, I really want to jump back into the studio to keep the momentum going.  But since we’ve already paid for the plane tickets and rental car, I don’t think I could convince my wife to cancel all that so I can hang around and keep dancing.  I might have to do a post on travel at some point since I love some parts of it but really hate other parts of it.  I’m kind of a homebody who still wants to see new places.  But that is for another day.

Let’s come back to that word “momentum”.  I’ve said many times before that dancing is that infinite onion where you can just keep peeling back layers.  There are things I know without really “knowing” them.  And, sometimes, something I may have heard 100 times finally sticks or something else clicks and a little piece of the puzzle falls into place.

Or, I could be making too much out of nothing.  We were doing hustle in group class and working on a step called continuous roll in where you first change places with the lady and end up side by side with her on your right side.  Then, you initiate the step and start her moving and she rolls into you and then back out as you just walk around in a little circle so you are now facing 180 degrees from where you started and she’s still on your right but she’s moved quite a bit.  Then, you do it again but use your free hand to redirect her to turn out so you can get back into a two hand hold and continue dancing.

I’ll have more to say about group class later, but this just somehow made it clear how much of what makes dancing smooth is the transfer of energy and momentum.  As the lead, you generally initiate movement in your partner and then try to use or direct or shape her momentum and energy through what you do.  And, there are times when she gives you the energy and then you give it back to her and so on.  This is done through all sorts of things like weight changes, head position, and body movements.  Do it right, and you can almost become a perpetual motion machine just working off each other and moving around the floor.  Anything that you do that interrupts that flow (like a severe arm lead or something else that knocks her off balance) will create the choppiness because you have to regenerate the energy and momentum.

And some is this is physics.  A body at rest remains at rest until a force acts on it and a body in motion remains in motion as long as no forces act on it.  (Imagine that, a ballroom blog quoting Newton’s first law – Science!)  Now I wish I had paid more attention when I took physics in college.

During group class, I was paired up with the newest instructor.  Yes, they have a new instructor but I’m not even going to dream up a name just yet.  Heck, I still haven’t figured out an appropriate name for Newest Girl so I may have to get on that.  They also just had one giant group class and there was one very new couple who had just started Bronze and this was a Bronze III step in the Famous Franchise world.  I think her problem was that as she rolled in, her momentum wanted to keep carrying her in a circular pattern but her third step was supposed to be down the line.  With more advanced dancers, you don’t have to do much to redirect them but she needed a bit more help.  This is where the issues on group class and lead/follow come in.  Again, not saying I’m some kind of expert but I’m probably smarter than the average bear when it comes to leading.  So I kind of gave her a bit of a “nudge” to get her to keep moving down the line.  It wasn’t perfect but she told me that dancing with me was the only time she actually was able to complete the pattern.  With the rest of the guys, she’d roll into them and they’d have to just stop and reset.  To be fair to them, a lot tried to help her by explaining what they thought she needed to do but for some people, you have to do it before it makes any sense.

I also decided to stay for the studio party which I haven’t done the last couple of weeks.  Because there weren’t a lot of unattached people, I ended up dancing with Kid T a lot.  Or should I say she sought me out several times.  Some of that was to practice dances so we did Swing, Rumba, Tango and Two Step.  Tango is a dance that not too many people do so there weren’t a lot of options.  Same was true for Two Step.  Anyway, I danced with her more than I typically do at parties and we screwed up in a couple of places but it was all good.

But, she also grabbed me for the two hustles they played at party.  I used to do a lot of hustle with Z but I’ve let that lapse for a bit and I think we will eventually add it back to the list.  It was funny because Newest Girl was playing bits of several songs when I first got to the studio – I think to pick songs for use at the party later.  More by Usher came on briefly and I told Kid T that I loved that song.  See, I’ve got well rounded musical tastes although I think that shocked her just a bit.  Well, naturally, More was used during party and she grabbed me for a hustle.  I may have been singing along in a couple of parts (how could you not).  I guess singing to Usher is less embarrassing than singing to Taylor Swift which I did at the last Showcase.  Couldn’t help it, I was feeling the music.  Honestly, she was kind of cutting loose as well which made for a high energy and very fun hustle.

They usually play one Tango at a party and very few people actually dance it so the floor was mostly empty.  That gave Kid T and I a lot of room to move and I decided to work on some styling which was also necessary to keep up with Kid T.  I know the ladies do more and she’s the pro part in our pro/am duo but we have to do a little bit or else the dance looks kind of flat.  Anyway, we’re moving around and I catch a glimpse of that newer couple (the lady I mentioned above).  They are both staring at us and she’s got this large smile on her face.   OK, I’m clearly not a pro but there are times when people like watching me and I think that’s cool.

Our lesson that day (I’m working backwards in time like that Seinfeld episode), was on the routines.  We didn’t get to the Argentine Tango but we did run through the Country Waltz and the Two-Step.  Have to admit that the Country Waltz is starting to grow on me.  Guess that over time you can learn to love a dance even if the first impression isn’t great.  There was one part where I was supposed to pivot but I wasn’t doing it and she starts telling me that I need to get a little leg (hers) so we get the connection to create the momentum.  Just another one of those cases where something said in the dance studio that would get you a quick ticket to HR in most of the corporate world.

She also added the beginning to the Two-Step.  There will be sunglasses involved because it is LA Woman.  So we actually did it to the song with the introduction a couple of times.  And it went really well – even the drop she does went off smoothly.  Got me excited about the potential for this routine again.

Wednesday was our day to work on the “off dances” which are Peabody, Argentine Tango, West Coast Swing and Two-Step.  A lot of people do West Coast Swing so there should be some heats in that dance.  The others aren’t real popular which just means people haven’t tried Peabody because it is a blast.  So I may or may not get to do them at the Showcase in September.  But it is still good to work on them.

The West Coast is difficult because I’m having to readjust to the Famous Franchise version of certain things.  The Sugar Push and Whip are really different and I was fighting the urge to do it the way Mindy wants.  The good thing is that our West Coast Swing is just a couple of steps and not a complicated routine so I think I can keep them straight.

The Argentine Tango felt really good as well.  At one point, she actually stopped counting and let me handle the timing.  It is 90% slows so that wasn’t a complicated task.

Oh, one last note on the party as I skip forward in time.  There were two times – once during a Waltz and once during a Fox Trot when the music just felt so slow to me.  I couldn’t really hear the beat that well in either one but it felt slow so I was going slow.  Everyone else was kind of zooming around me.  My partner agreed with me that it was a slow song but it was weird.

That’s all for now.  Got to do some last minute prep for the vacation tomorrow.

But, I will leave you with some parting music.  I know you’ll want MORE.



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