Shapes and Spines

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I had a lesson last night and did the group class before my lesson.  For some reason, the group classes are better attended than they’ve bin and we had an even number of men and women in the advanced group.  The other level class was full of people.  Not new people but people who haven’t been as active suddenly coming to group classes.  As I’ve said before, this is a good thing because a dance studio should be full of people.

The waltz step was something in my routine so I was very familiar with it.  The actual step was a spiral turn and check and we had just been working on our Waltz last week so it was pretty fresh in my mind.  So since I didn’t have to worry as much about the footwork, I was focused on things like frame and posture.

On a side note, the lady I was dancing with made a comment about the music and how it is harder for her to hear at the new place.  I think I’ve mentioned that before here but I had noticed the same thing.  The new studio does have lower ceilings – I don’t know if that would interfere with the acoustics but it is harder to pick up the beat in this new location.

Our lesson was Viennese Waltz and OwnerGuy wanted to hammer a few points home.  So he did what he’s done lately – had us dance around and then he started in on the sections that needed work.  Some of it was things he’d mentioned before and I remembered him mentioning them but it is too easy to slip back into old habits.

A consistent theme was head weight and getting your head over the proper foot.  We do some hesitations in the beginning and he wants my head to follow the foot so I get all my weight over each foot.  This helps start some momentum for the dance so you aren’t starting from a dead stop.  I always thought the hesitations were just there to catch your breath but they are there for other reasons as well.

After an advanced left turn, we do a double hesitation and back run.  This is where we spent a great deal of time.  The purpose of the hesitations is for me to go around her so she’s moving down the floor while I’m in front of her but moving backwards – hence the back run.  The first part of that step doesn’t require a lot of work because the head weight is supposed to be neutral which is pretty easy to accomplish.  I just need to remember to look over my left shoulder which is the opposite way of where I’m going.

In the second part, I’m supposed to step back on my right foot and then get my head weight stretched out over my right foot as this is to make her do a little kick.  Well my body was not understanding the movement that I was seeing OwnerGuy do.  You have to stretch your neck and head a bit to get the head weight where it needs to be but you don’t want to have your frame tilt while you are doing this which is what kept happening to me.

Part of it was also making sure that I continued to look over my left side because I kept finding I’d try to stretch to the right and my head would want to look right which just messed everything up.  It took several tries for OwnerGuy to find the right combination of words so that I could translate the concept into action.  There was talk about the spine (represented by the buttons on your shirt if you are wearing a shirt with buttons) and how you want to move that over your right foot but still keep it straight through to the top of your head.

Did I fully get it?  No but I was at least able to do a reasonable facsimile of what he was looking for.  Fell into my little trap again where they are giving positive feedback but I’m not believing it.  I mean, they want me to feel good about the lesson so they kind of have a built in incentive to give positive feedback even if I’m not getting it.  This is an old argument of mine from way back.

On the back run, he brought up shaping again because we did a back run in the Waltz and the same concept applies here.  I’m supposed to be running straight back but rotating my upper body so my right shoulder is pointed in the direction we are going.  This keeps my from being flat to her and gives her some room to move.  But it feels weird and twisted.

Then we have some shadow spirals which he reminded us needed to cover the short side of the dance floor so they don’t need to curve as much.  They are still spirals but he wants them to progress down the floor more.  This involves pushing out of the back leg to create more power.  Which is relatively easy for me to do on my own.  It becomes harder for me to do in shadow position because I start getting all caught up in where JoNY is and I don’t want to move a lot because it feels like I’m going to run her over.  After OwnerGuy’s talk, she did take off but then it felt like we weren’t together.  I guess this is just one of those things we have to develop over time.

The last part he touched on was the natural turns we do close to the very end of the routine.  Again, he wants them to cover the entire short side of the dance floor.  (This is a theme – move more).  He did tell me that the way to make it happen was to rotate my body more on the back step – to turn my “belt buckle” more towards her (good thing I don’t wear suspenders).  This again creates a little bit of a twisty feel but it is like a coiled spring because it kind of makes your next move automatically rotate and move more as you untwist.

The funny thing is that these are just small adjustments in various places but they make a big difference in a lot of steps.  And, I guess it makes a lot of sense with a dance like Viennese Waltz which has the need for speed.  You need to do things to create momentum and power.  Is that kinetic energy?  Who knew that I needed to pay more attention when I took physics.

Why do I suddenly feel like just screaming “Science” on my next lesson when he introduces a concept like that.  (Yes that a reference to the video for She Blinded Me With Science by Thomas Dolby)


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