Opening Night

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It turns out I did have a lesson last night.  When we left a week and a half ago, it was kind of up in the air.  The new location was supposed to be open but OwnerGuy wasn’t sure if JoNY was going to be around.  But she called me in the afternoon to let me know we were on.

The place officially opened on Saturday but this was my first glimpse at the new studio.  The floor now goes wall to wall over part of the studio and it is more like a square than the long rectangle we had at the old place.  This is going to be better because Showcase floors are in hotel ballrooms where they piece a floor together and it is always more of a square than a rectangle.  So we’d develop routines to take the entire long side at the studio and they’d need to be severely rotated anytime we had to do them at a Showcase or other event.  The ceilings are lower which I’m hoping makes the ceiling fans more effective.

I never really asked OwnerGuy why they were moving the studio.  I would guess it had to do with an increase in rent.  When they first moved into this location, there was just the one strip mall they were in and lots of vacant land because there was no development.  As the economy has picked up, the place has boomed with lots of strip malls and chain restaurants sprouting like weeds.  But it doesn’t appear that the residential part has kept up with the commercial part so I’m guessing it wasn’t cost effective to stay.

The new location is technically in the wealthiest suburb in town although it is on the far western fringe.  The strip mall is older.  You can sense that from the outside design.  It was hard to get a “read” on the area.  There was a grocery store nearby which contained a branch of my franchise coffee place so I was able to caffeine load before the lesson.  The cars in the parking lot were a mix.  It is an established area of town so it isn’t booming with new growth but the money hasn’t moved enough north to give it a run down feel.  And it is closer to more neighborhoods and Z said they’ve already had a lot of walk in traffic.  Why do I care about this?  Well, dance studios open and close and a move is always a risk because you have to spend money for the move and the question is whether you make it up.  Normally, any change to the studio causes some people to leave so do you pick up enough new business to make up for that.  I do have an interest in making sure the place doesn’t go under.  Not that I think they are close but just trying to get an overall impression of the new place and the “vibe” it gives off.

So the rest of this post is going to be a lot of “inside baseball” stuff.  I do keep notes from all my lessons but, to be fair, I kind of let that lag when Kid T left.  It is something I need to get back to and did last night but I realize this gives me another opportunity to write stuff down.  I may never go back and look at it but the action of writing it down helps to commit things to memory.

The Rumba starts with a Switchback into Swivels which is a step I did with Kid T so I have that one down pretty well.  Half a box and then step into her for a cross body lead to bring her past me and then I go under my arm to end up in a double hand hold for the swivels.  Now, swivels are one of those steps where you can really tell if your partner is working with you.  As the guy, my one job is to stand there and be solid to provide support so she can work off me to make the swivels work.  From my experience, this is something that only more experienced instructors really get because, with most ladies, you don’t feel anything while they are swiveling so they are trying to do it all themselves.  And that just gives the guy the feeling of just standing there and being useless.  Currently, JoNY falls into that camp so the swivels just kind of die on the vine and it breaks some of the momentum because we don’t have a good connection.

Then we do some Cuban Promenades (full disclosure, I may not have the names exactly right) which are just some open walks where I come around her in between walks and end up cutting her off on the last one.  Again, this is an early Silver step and one I did with Kid T so nothing really new except that OwnerGuy wants it to travel more so it doesn’t look like a back and forth thing.

That steps ends with something that resembles a move in Hustle and then he wants me to take three steps backward to bring her with me to get into the next move which is an overhead wrap and fan.  After the three steps, I bring her past me and fan with her.  Then there are a series of weight changes where she goes out and I bring her back and wrap her up and then walk out and we end up outside partner.  The footwork is easy but it really needs a strong connection to provide the momentum needed to initiate the movement.  Part of that is complete weight changes and part of it is us stretching away from each other at key moments.  I was only starting to get into this with Kid T right at the end and it made a world of difference in how the step felt and moved.  The connection really makes it feel like dancing.  Otherwise, you are just doing weight changes and they seem to happen for no real reason.  Needless to say, JoNY isn’t where Kid T was yet and so I also struggle to try and create the connection.  The step moves just fine but it doesn’t yet feel right.

After an opening out, we go into a back roll which is a pretty cool step.  Starts with a second position break and then I do a little box while she walks around me and then we connect again and end up doing a back spot turn.  Here is where OwnerGuy through in a change.  I’ve been used to the second position breaks being a complete weight change where you bring the heel of the other foot off the ground.  He says “nope” that I need to keep that other foot completely on the ground which requires more weight in it than I was used to.  Doing that supposedly keeps her from closing her feet and it applies in other steps as well.  Also, we are side to side when I do this and he wants me to keep my left hand (which is connected) in front of my body rather than bringing it to my side which I seemed to be doing automatically.  This is to keep her in a good position to get around me.  If I bring my hand to my side, then it brings her into me which isn’t good since she is supposed to be going around me.

Then we do another opening out and go into an alternate shadow break.  There is a little trick to it because after the opening out, I close my feet but then there is a little action after the weight change to expand the frame just slightly to show her the path to go since she has to get around me so we can get into shadow but I’m not supposed to really spin her as that would put her off balance.  My step is something like a cross body lead.  This was a step I struggled to do with Kid T so it is even harder to get right with JoNY.  The footwork is easy, the lead/follow is a bitch.  It all relies on having a good connection so that when I initiate the move, she is able to use that to generate the momentum needed.  Again, we aren’t there yet.

So once we do the moves in shadow, I bring her back around and pick her up and do an open box to one more opening out which leads into another swivel.  The difference is that my step after the opening out is to get around her so we change places before she does the swivel.  OwnerGuy gave me another little trick which is on the second step of the opening out – I start to come around her and turn to face her and slightly expand the frame.  Most other openings are just a pure side step but, by doing this, it sets up the move and makes it easier for us to change places.  The swivels suffer from the same issue the ones at the beginning of the dance do.  The move ends with me sending her away and then coming around her and doing a little syncopation (to fix the issue we created getting into shadow) and then we are ready to loop it.

After several little tweaks and fixes, we did dance it all the way through right at the end of the lesson.  The steps feel less awkward now and we do move slightly better than we did before.  But, the feel just isn’t there yet because we haven’t established a solid connection that we can use in the spots where it is most needed.  This is where the lead/follow becomes important and where you need to be connected to really feel where the other person is so that the dancing is more two people responding to each other and not just two people doing their own steps.  This is clearly what I want to get back to and it is on both of us to try and find a way to make that connection stronger.

Hope that wasn’t too boring.  With the opening of a new studio, it is like a new chapter in the story.  Still not sure how it ends yet or when I’ll feel like doing one of the events or a routine again.

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