Go Into the Scary Spaces

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So how was the coaching lesson, you might be asking?  Well, OK, you probably aren’t asking since I doubt you spend your free time wondering about how my ballroom life is going.  It was just a figure of speech.  I was going to tell you anyway whether you asked or not.

This is someone I’ve never worked with before.  That has good and bad points.  The good thing is that they have no first hand knowledge of my dance life and never worked with me when I was dancing with Z.  The bad thing is that they have no first hand knowledge of my dancing ability so they can only judge based on what they see on the first run in the studio.

Oh, and I should mention that Kid T had not discussed a goal for this coach.  I think some people have real good ideas on what they want to work on.   I’m not one of those people.  If I was under oath, I would have to admit that none of them really suck.  They are just in various stages of needing additional polish.  Some of them have become boring (looking at you closed Rumba) and need some refreshing.  Since we had just worked on Cha-Cha, Waltz and Tango, Kid T tossed out the closed Viennese Waltz because my ability to loop the routine is limited since I can’t always get the alignments right on the last move.  Also, the Viennese is getting a bit stale.

We didn’t have time to practice before the coach was there with her “show me what you’ve got”.  The good thing is that the closed routines are so familiar that it was pretty easy to just jump right into it.  Kid T did warn her we were doing it cold but it went OK.  We did get to the loopy part and it was a struggle but that was good because that was the part we wanted help on.

The coach comes over and the first thing out of her mouth is a compliment on how good a dancer I am.  Then, she starts talking about how she usually finds working on Viennese Waltz to be a little cringe worthy given the problems she usually sees.  But she was very complimentary about my frame, my posture and how the dance moved.

Then, she wants to dance it with me.  This is a bit new.  I do normally end up dancing with the coaches but it is normally after they’ve shown me something new.  Well, we get through the routine and she tells me that I’m fun to dance with.  (Later on, she made a similar comment when watching us that she really just wanted to dance with me)

How did that make me feel, you might be wondering?  Well, again, you might not really care that much but you’ve probably made it this far so you might be just a little curious.  OK, you have to understand that I’ve got this very strange split in my head.  On the one hand, I really do need validation and positive feedback.  I mean I’m borderline needy about it when I’m doing something like dancing which is something that I still see as a little outside my comfort zone.  But, the other part of me just ends up feeling embarrassed and then this whole “I’m not worthy” vibe kind of takes over.  Then comes the questioning.  “Why is she saying this?”  and the doubt “I bet she says this to all the students” and “this is just a way to make me feel good”.  Even though she told me that she’s not normally so free with the praise.

So, for better or worse, I’m going to try and take that little doubting part of my mind and lock it in a closet.  What comes to mind is a quote “It isn’t bragging if you can do it”.  I know there are variations on that theme but the general thought is the same.  With the doubting part locked away, then I’m left with the conclusion that I can dance and, even beyond that, I’m pretty good at it.  Yeah, I have to keep reminding myself of that from time to time but it was nice to hear.

Well on to the technical stuff.  The issue we had was at the end where we do a pair of shadow spirals and fans and then there is are a couple of turns leading to an explosion.  That goes into a butterfly and ends with an underarm turn.  From there, we change places and I’m supposed to then bring her in for an advanced left turn to start the whole thing over again.  But if the butterfly doesn’t end up where it is supposed to then I’m screwed because I end up having to over rotate some part to make it work.  Even then, the pick up is always awkward.

She diagnosed that the shadow spirals were where the thing got off the track.  She wanted me to take them more into the corner.  Then, she changed the two turns after that.  I’d tell you what they are but I don’t really know.  She called it a gingerbread man turn but that was just her name.  The main point is we end up with our backs to the edge of the floor.  Then, the butterflies and the underarm turn but she then had me do a twinkle and pick her up and then a change step to an open natural to another change step and that put us in position to start the whole thing over again.  But what she was really able to do was give me targets and angles to shoot for and once I knew that, it was a piece of cake to get properly lined up.  The twinkle to the change step to the open natural to the change step flowed a lot better than what we were doing and was much more repeatable.

As she’s watching, the next thing she wants is for me to move more.  I’ve heard this before.  You’re tall, you should be taking bigger steps.  But, what she told me is that I need to be much more grounded with my feet and have my knees bent a bit more because that would make it easier to use my legs to push off and that is how you get bigger steps.  We did that and I can tell you it was faster and more powerful and moved a lot more but felt a bit out of control and on the edge.  Kind of like getting behind the wheel of a powerful sports car when you’ve been driving a Prius (well that’s a bit of an overstatement since my current Viennese has more power than a Prius but maybe you get the picture)  I can tell I was using different muscles because my legs are sore today.

The other thing she wanted was for us to just take it around the dance floor and use the space.  This was a bit of a problem because Z had a group class on the other side of the floor and their movements were not predictable.  Also, there was a Christmas tree in the corner so we didn’t have a lot of room to get around the group and turn the corner without knocking someone down or hitting the Christmas tree.  But she was like “GO” so off we went and we had to veer around a couple once and weave in between the Christmas tree and Z but it worked.

On the loop, she wanted me to take the twinkle and change step into the corner and then use the open natural to get out.  We were doing this at our end of the floor but there was a giant, inflatable snowman taking up space in the corner.  She just told me to dance right up to the snowman.  When I hesitated just a bit, that’s when she hit me with the “go into the scary spaces” line which titles this post.  (Yeah, I made you wait 1300 words to explain my title, hope you got this far)

The bigger point is that, like the last coaching lesson, this was not a major overhaul of my Viennese Waltz.  It was some minor adjustments and tweaks but it made a huge difference in the results.  Before Showcase, I had been in this mental rut thinking that I had reached a plateau and that real progress was too far away.  This coaching lesson, like the last one, suggested that isn’t the case.  That’s pretty exciting.

Because we had time left, we moved to Bolero.  Didn’t have as much time to work on it but it followed the same pattern.  First, Kid T and I did our routine and then she wanted me to lead her through it.  The funny thing was she was following with her eyes closed.  I guess that was so she could better feel what I was doing.  At the end, she said most of the leads were “organic” which I’m taking to be a good thing but that there were a couple of places where I was doing more than was needed and kind of disrupting the flow of the dance.  I guess to make the lead more of a gentle suggestion.  But, again, the tweaks were minor and they really did smooth out some of the rough edges.

Have to be careful though because some followers need more than just a gentle suggestion.  But, for dancing at Showcases and other events in pro/am, the lighter touch keeps the dance flowing a bit better.

Had a lesson with Kid T after but I’ve already taken up too much space.  We just worked on the Swing routine for Showstoppers and applied some of what she said for Bolero to our Rumba.  But I’ll talk more about the Swing routine once we get through Showstoppers on Thursday and I get to debut the Death Drop.  Should be fun.


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