Dance to the Rhythm

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As we move into Showcase prep, last night’s first lesson was all rhythm dances.  We were doing something like rounds.  If you are new to that term, it is what OwnerGuy calls a specific type of lesson.  The point is to get you ready for an event or a comp where you will often be required to dance multiple different dances consecutively.  So this prepares you to switch your mind quickly from one dance to the next because they all have a different feel.  Last night was Rhythm so it was Cha-Cha, Rumba, Swing, Bolero and Mambo.

Normally, to better simulate an event, OwnerGuy plays the songs right in a row and you only do each dance once and he cuts the music to no more than a minute and a half per dance.  That’s typically how long an individual heat will last.  Also, you are not supposed to stop and start over.  You dance no matter what happens since things can and will go wrong at an event or comp.

I don’t think JoNY was on the same page as OwnerGuy usually is because we did go through all five dances but instead of cutting the music, she let the song play out and then would go change to the next one.  I wasn’t timing the length but we looped each one multiple times so I know it was much longer than a minute and a half.  And it was exhausting.  I think I’ve lost a little (or maybe a lot) of endurance over the summer because I haven’t been taking as many lessons.  It has been a year since I’ve done one of these things and it concerns me a bit about making it through all the heats.  If I’m lucky, there will be gaps between my groupings.

We also stopped a bit between each to make sure we were on the same page about the problem points and we drilled a little bit on some of those before writing stuff down for OwnerGuy to help us on since I had a lesson with him and JoNY after group class.  I’m happiest with the Cha-Cha and Rumba at least as far as knowing the steps and making things move.  Mambo is pretty solid as well.  The Swing and Bolero were a little rough so that’s what we were going to have OwnerGuy focus on.

I ended up skipping the group class (Tango) which was unfortunate because it looked like OwnerGuy taught a pretty cool variation.  But I was hot and sweaty and not really feeling like subjecting one of the ladies to me.  Its just one of those things I get self conscious about.  So I just walked around outside the studio to cool off and came back in to watch the end of the group classes and then we picked up.

I have a love/hate relationship with Swing.  I love the music.  I love the energy of the dance.  I love watching it when done well.  I hate how it feels when I try to do the triple steps.  It always seems so fast that I think I end up cheating a lot because I’m just not confident that I can get the steps to be distinct in the time it takes.

But the part we asked him to look at was the Twin Cities which is close to the beginning.  He’s talked several times about using an anchor step for one of the triples in a few places.  This is kind of a West Coast Swing thing but, if done right, it sets you up with a more pulled away connection so you can more easily snap into the next part.  Its the rubber band analogy.  Stretch the band till it almost breaks and then watch it snap back.  Also, I was holding on to her too long in the Twin Cities.  I’m actually supposed to release her sooner than I had been doing.

Oh, I forgot to mention this earlier, but one of the things we discovered doing the rounds is that we’ve got fallaways in the Cha-Cha, Swing and Mambo.  The fallaway is when you are face to face in a normal frame but then I pivot on my right foot and she does it on her left foot so we end up going from facing each other to side by side.  Then we both pivot back to face to face again.  The backwards motion of the first step is likely what triggered the name “fallaway”.  The problem is that the step right after is different in all three dances and we both screwed up and ended up going into a different dance after the fallaway.  That’s why you do these things though because you have to be able to shift your mind to the dance you are doing.  Trust me, the cha-cha part doesn’t work in the Swing.

Back to the second lesson and the Bolero.  I had a specific part where I was totally confused on my footwork.  We have a switchback which ends with her facing forward and me to the side with my right hand on her back.  Then, I step on my right and bring my feet together and then step side with my right.  She’s gone past me and then she steps to match me so we are face to face.  There is an opening out for her where I do nothing and then I’m supposed to bring her in and we create a nice shape before I turn her out.  But, what I didn’t remember was the counts.  My first part is quick, quick slow (QQS).  I’ve got two counts to hold while she does the opening out.  I’m not supposed to rock away like a typical opening out.  What I am supposed to do is extend my frame to give her room and lower a bit into my right knee and hold it for the QQ and then transfer weight to my left foot on the slow.

And, OwnerGuy said I didn’t need to go too low but that didn’t seem to matter.  It did require me having all my weight on my right foot while my right knee is bent.  I seriously struggle to bear weight on a bent knee.  So I was subconsciously coming out too soon – which I think was mostly to avoid having to spend any period of time with my weight on a bent knee which was more painful than you might think.  As always, I had my training session earlier in the day and he had me do some assisted squats and other things so my knees had already been worked over once.  Guess they weren’t up for a repeat session.

This is the curse of the Bolero.  It requires being in your knees and my knees don’t work all that well.  Kind of felt like the Tin Man.  Too bad I couldn’t just have someone oil my knees and loosen them up.

But I can do a passable Bolero.  I don’t think it is going to get high marks but it is what it is.  Showcase is in 18 days.  It sounds longer if I say it that way rather than 2.5 weeks.  I wasn’t at the last one so I don’t know how much dancing JoNY did but this could also be a big event for her because I’m not sure she’s been someone’s primary partner before.  So we’ll see how it goes.

I suspect we’ll touch on the rhythm again on Thursday but we might need to leave time to go through the smooth dances.  I’m in that window before an event where you start getting the anxiety and imagine all the things that could go wrong.  It just makes every little mistake in practice a big problem.  In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten to the point where I’m more relaxed at the event than in the practices leading up to it.  Strange by true.  But we’ll just keep working on trying to ignore the negative stuff during the lessons and just focus on getting the dances to a good place.



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