Days of Future Past

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The title?  Because Showcase Part 3 sounded boring.  Was trying for something that spoke to the past and the future.  Maybe that will be clear once you read.

I swear something about dancing all day on Sunday has just thrown off my internal clock.  I didn’t go to work on Monday and I was about to write about my lesson last night thinking it was Friday.  I got momentarily confused because I knew I had two lessons but wasn’t last night the party?  Today is just Wednesday and last night was Tuesday.  There are still two days left in the week.  OK, glad we got that settled.

Yes, I had two lessons last night and a master class sandwiched in between.  The first lesson was just JoNY and I and we spent the entire time working on Bolero.  If you don’t know Bolero, the basic tends to start with a long sideways step where the man is supposed to lower.  You bend the right leg and use it to push the left leg to the side.  Staying in a bent right leg, you then slowly rise and transfer weight to the left leg.

That’s one of those steps that my knees are not built for.  Well, they may have been built for it at one time – I really can’t remember.  Now, there is no way I could hold that without really ending up in pain.  This kind of keeps my Bolero at one level and so it looks a little flat compared to those who are able to provide the elevation and levels.  This is something I mentioned to the first judge and she suggested a way to fake it and compensate for my inability to really lower.  That’s what we were working on.

If you can’t go low, then go high.  It still creates elevation differences which gives it the illusion of Bolero.  (For some reason, my mind just went to the Seinfeld episode where Kramer was going to build “levels” in his apartment.)  So, instead of trying to lower on the first step, I send my left leg out.  Well, I can lower just a bit.  The knee isn’t totally locked in place.  It just can’t offer much support when bent.  Then, I come up to the balls of my feet for the two rock before settling back down to a flat foot.  Kind of using reverse rise and fall.

I also took the opportunity to try and practice getting my head and spine over each foot.  Got to say that this kind of blew my mind a bit trying to get used to balancing in that position.  I think I eventually got the hang of it but then we tried to apply it to other parts of the dance where it wasn’t as obvious and then it became a bit of a struggle.  At one point, we did get OwnerGuy out to help us through some parts.  I know there’s a spot where I circle around her and then go backwards with her coming at me.  He said we could rise up on the quicks on the part when I go around her and then sink for the first step backwards but rise again for the two quick steps and finally sink again for the last slow before the contra check.

Right now, this is all new and different so it makes steps I’ve done before now feel alien and I actually got lost a few times.  Imagine being in the middle of a step and then having no idea what the next part is supposed to do.  I did manage to keep the frustration under control – in part because there was a weird absurdity to what they wanted me to do.  But we have to do it multiple times so my body can unlearn the old way and lock in the new way.  Good thing the next Showcase is in May.  Now, I just need to figure out how to strengthen my ankles.

The other judge (male) was in the studio so the normal group class was replaced by a Master Class.  Master classes are a mixed bag.  The studio needs to sign up a bunch of people to make it worthwhile for everyone so you get all different levels in there.  Which means that the instructor isn’t going to toss out some complicated pattern because most of the class would be lost.  So it is normally an easier pattern and the focus is on some bit of technique.

In this case, the dance was Tango.  We did a Tango Rocks followed by a Flair Promenade but the steps were just the vehicle for the rest of the lesson.  He was giving us some things to think about when doing Tango to add some style.  Of all the smooth dances, Tango is supposed to be the most dramatic and there is supposed to be tension between the partners.  So he started by telling us we could use our heads to create drama.  Normally, we are told to look straight ahead at all times, but he was saying you could look at your partner on certain steps or you could look away or you could be in a neutral position.  In a choreographed routine, you’d probably set things up so the guy is looking at the lady while she is looking away but we were just doing whatever we wanted.  It sounds silly but it was fun.

He also talked about how the Tango should move.  I’ve heard this before but it was good to hear it again.  One option is what he called sticky which creates the classic Tango look.  You are basically stopping your motion after each step.  In Waltz or FoxTrot, you are continually moving the legs so as you step with the left, you are swinging the right into position for the next step.  With this Tango, you stepped on the left and then your foot was stuck to the floor and your body didn’t move until you took the next step.  This is the staccato look of Tango.  He also showed us a way to make it more smooth but the difference is that you stay lower in the knees and there is no rise and fall so it distinguishes the Tango from the Waltz or Fox Trot.  He kept the class light and it was fun to play with the different ways of doing things.

After the group class, we had our coaching lesson.  He again told me how much he enjoyed watching me and that the one thing he would say is that I need to keep my head pulled back more.  Part of that is me just making sure I’m not turning to look at JoNY.  I am taller than her and I think it pulls my head forward if I’m trying to look at her.  Anyway, we used the lesson to do some Argentine Tango and to start the choreography for a solo routine that we can do in May.  This is early and we don’t have a song so he didn’t work on the beginning or end so we were just learning the middle part which is where the dancing happens.

He introduced three technique things.  Again, things I’ve heard before but things I’ve forgotten since I probably haven’t danced Argentine Tango in at least 10 months.  The frame is different and closer.  If you see really advanced dancers, the lady may even have her head on the guys shoulder or they could be touching foreheads so it is supposed to get really close.  We’ll see if we get there.  But he also talked about leading by rotating the body so we practiced that with all of the steps.

JoNY doesn’t know my full history with Argentine Tango.  I did a routine with Z many years ago and I was setting up to do one with the Body Double when she left.  I’ve done one with Kid T but also danced it with Sunny.  So I don’t think she was able to give the coach the whole story and I use my standard answer “I’ve danced a little Argentine Tango” when he wanted to know my skill level.  There’s lots of stuff buried and I just needed to start moving a bit to pull it all out of muscle memory.  While he was giving us some new stuff, it was similar to things I’ve done in the past so I was picking it up pretty quickly.  He made a remark about me being a fast learner.  I keep my previous experience to myself.  If he wants to thing I’m an Argentine Tango prodigy, who I am to correct that?  Using my past to work my future.

One thing that I really enjoy about Argentine Tango is the contrast.  You can have a series of steps that just move in a very limited area but then you can break out into something that cuts across the floor.  Sometimes, that comes with timing changes so it creates even more contrast.  And that’s how he choreographed it so I’m looking forward to seeing how this routine develops.

I’ll leave you with two random Showcase notes.  I don’t do a lot of social dancing at Showcases.  When there are breaks between sections and people have to do costume changes, they’ll turn the floor over for some general dancing.  If I’ve been sitting for a bit, I’ll do some just to get warmed up but I’ve if danced a bunch of heats, then I’m plenty warm and don’t need to do anything extra.  Well, at one of those points, I’m sitting and an instructor from another studio who I’ve seen at plenty of these events asks me to dance.  I told her the song was probably about to end and it did before we really got to do much.  Later in the day, there was another one of these breaks and I see her walking across the floor and she stops to point at me and gives me the come here gesture.  So we danced a swing.  I only mention this because her way of asking didn’t really seem to be proper Famous Franchise format but, hey, it worked.

Lastly, at the very end of the day, there was a couple from our studio who was going to do a routine.  I hadn’t seen them dance all day so I think they were just there for their solo which was strange.  Well, as they called them to the floor, about 30 people followed in with phones at the ready.  My first thought was that it was nice that so many people wanted to see them but it did seem odd.  Well, towards the end of the routine, he does a little move, gets down on one knee and offers her a ring.  She, of course, accepted.  Funny thing is we all thought they were a wedding couple but, I guess they are now.  Got to say that was a pretty cool way to do it.  And then I’m wondering did he have this in mind from the first time they walked into the studio and then specifically worked towards doing a routine at Showcase.  Kudos to some major advanced planning if that’s the case.

And, with that, Showcase is now in the rear view mirror.  Having not done one in a year and doing it with a new partner after learning nine new dances in six to seven months, I’m happy with how it turned out.  And, it felt good to be back on a dance floor for an event like this.  All in all, it was a very good day to dance.




  1. If you don’t like doing balance work in Yoga to help strengthen your ankle, one neat trick that you can work on with your trainer on instead is to start doing upper body strength training while standing on one foot. Much like Yoga, this will force you to use the muscles in your ankle to compensate and balance, except here your upper body is getting some work at the same time.

    Biceps or shoulders are the easiest things to picture working like this if you’ve never thought of it before – for example, you can try doing a set of straight arm bicep curls while standing on one leg, then switch to the other leg and do hammer curls for the next set. Or stand on one leg and do a set of shoulder presses, then switch to the other and do lateral raises.

    Options like these help keep workouts interesting. Sitting there with a resistance band wrapped around your foot is an effective but boring way to work on the ankle if you do it over and over again, and Yoga is… well, Yoga. I have to be in the right mood for it to enjoy the classes, otherwise it just bores me.

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