Two Lesson Tuesday

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I can’t come up with a catchy phrase for Tuesday that really captures the moment. It is the day that I’ve got two lesson plus a day that I workout with the trainer. Lots of physical activity packed into one day. Yesterday was also my last in the series of three shots so it might have been best for me to take it easy but I’m a bad patient. My knee is complaining a bit today but that could also be because it is damp outside and the joints hate damp weather. Now I feel like some old man sitting outside a store in a rocking chair. “It’s going to rain soon, I can feel it in my bones”.

Many things to discuss but we’ll start with the dance and see what else I can cover after that. OwnerGuy made a rare double appearance working with us on both lessons. There is an interesting dynamic when he’s on a lesson because he’s giving JoNY pointers as well as me. I get more but we are both kind of the students while he’s the teacher and she does act a little differently. Sometimes, we end up like the two kids who can’t stop talking in class and get sent to the principal’s office.

I know when OwnerGuy gets pressed for time, he just gives her the step he wants me to learn and sends her to the library of Famous Franchise videos. It doesn’t seem like the video captures everything. It may just focus on the steps but I think she has to guess at a few other things.

For example, the reason we brought OwnerGuy on the lesson was to fix a Cha-Cha step that she had shown me but that wasn’t going so well. I discussed it in more detail in an earlier post. So OwnerGuy is watching us and then he shows me how he would do the step. This is another difference between learning from a video and learning from an actual person. It is like the video is the basic version of the step but there is room for people to tweak things and that’s what OwnerGuy does with a lot of the stuff in the syllabus.

The biggest thing was on the progressive lock steps. It was out, in, and then out and JoNY thought the steps shouldn’t move but that we couldn’t move straight sideways. OwnerGuy said they do move forward but just slightly so it creates a zig zag pattern if you were to be able to draw it with your feet. He also didn’t want us facing away from each other on the “out” part because he said that was more like swing. On the “in” part we could look at each other but on the “out” parts, he just wanted us looking straight ahead.

Then he talked about connection and said we didn’t do enough to establish it so the step probably felt lame. On the cross body lead, I need to get out of her way but move slightly so we get a strong negative connection. This is one of those tricky things because you don’t want your arms all the way extended but there has to be enough distance so you feel like you are pulling away from each other. Then, he told us that once we had the connection, we had to maintain it even on the “in” part and there is something I’m supposed to do in how I twist to start going back towards her to make that happen. This is one of those things I’ll have to feel my way through.

At the end of the step, I was supposed to roll her in and we changed hands. He said “don’t do that”. I think JoNY said something about that being on the video and he said something like “well I just don’t like that”. So I roll her in but keep connected with my left hand. I sort of mini lunge away from her and get on my left foot to create space and keep the connection. Then, instead of just rolling her back into frame, I rock back and turn her and do a lock step to pick her up.

With those tweaks, the step flows a heck of a lot better. And it now gives me a couple of solid things to work on and things I can feel to know we are doing it correctly. I honestly can’t remember if we did anything else. I thought he showed us a next step and, if he did, its in my notes but I’m blanking now.

Probably because my brain had become somewhat mushy be the end of the second lesson (more on that later). I am more of a morning person so I get a bit worn down through the night. Ballroom is as much mental as it is physical when you are learning new steps or techniques. You see somebody do something and they explain what you need to do and then your brain has to translate that into something your body can understand. Steps are actually easier than some of the technique stuff. And, at the higher levels, the technique stuff becomes more important because you’ve got moves that require you to use more than just your feet.

I do have to say that he complimented me on my forward poise in the cha-cha. That’s another thing that seems simple but finding the sweet spot where you can shift the weight to the balls of your feet while still standing tall and not tipping forward was a challenge for me.

Group class was between lessons and I’ll come back to that. The nightcap was the Viennese Waltz because he wanted to add the next piece. He was a little late getting on the lesson so we went over the pattern again and tried to focus on the part where we added the new stuff. That’s after the traveling spin when I have to cut across her to pick her up and then start the open naturals.

We did it but it was inconsistent. OwnerGuy gets on the lesson and watches us once and it was funny because he kind of got all serious and started talking about how nicely it flowed. This was not his standard dance instructor “great job” stuff. We might have wowed him just a little bit. He did notice that the pick up needed work and he said it was all about “swing”. Not the dance. I guess on the second step I need to create more action and bring my left side around more. OK, its a hard concept to explain because it involves the core and moving things that don’t normally move that way. This is what I was talking about earlier – trying to get the brain to translate the words into something that the body can do. Another thing I’ll have to feel my way through but I sort of know how it feels.

The new stuff is more funky canter steps. He said this was the Viennese Waltz version of the chassis used in Waltz and Fox Trot because you wouldn’t have time to do a chassis in Viennese Waltz. But a chassis is much easier because it just adds an extra step. Waltz is easiest because you can make those two steps take up a beat pretty easily and since you bring your feet together, its pretty easy to remember where you are. But the canter takes a step away. He tells me it is like a speed bump. You rise instantly on the one, hold the two and step on the three. But it is still fast so you aren’t holding that long.

The actual step is a hinge to a …. I’m blanking on the second part but its in my dance notes. Sorry, I don’t feel like going to dig my notebook out of my shoebag so I’ll just leave it blank. But this step takes over after we finish the canter spirals which ends with us getting back into frame. I do an advanced left turn but then canter on the back part and turn her out into the hinge while I just hold three counts. I bring her back in (this is the second part where the name escapes me) and then I have to canter while going backwards. As OwnerGuy says, the canter is a fake and it gets you on the wrong foot so if you do one, you have to do another to fix it. I don’t really remember much about the rest of the step but we didn’t spend too long on it so I know I’ll have more lessons to deal with it.

Boy that was a lot of “inside baseball” dance stuff. Hope it wasn’t too boring for you non dancers who stop by from time to time. I did want to briefly mention group class which was also cha-cha. I only mention this because one of the ladies I was dancing with has a habit of locking my thumb in a vice grip. Not sure why but since this step required me to roll her out, it didn’t work so well when she was attached to my thumb. I kind of had to break out of it to make it work.

This brings up the age old dilemma of whether you should say something in a situation like this. Part of me says you should (but it should be done nicely). I mean it doesn’t really feel that great to have someone clamped on your thumb so that’s a reason to do it. The other part of me is thinking that I’m not an instructor so it probably isn’t my place. In the end, since it was just group class and we were rotating rather quickly, I let it go.

Which now brings up a completely random observation that just came to me. In group class, one of the biggest differences between dancing levels is whether your partner gets into an offset position. For those of us who do more than social dancing, this gets drummed into your head and if you do pro/am, it happens automatically so you get used to it. I know they eventually try to teach it to the couples who come to social dance but, until it sinks in, they just get into frame standing right across from you. And, that seems perfectly reasonable. I mean if you are being social, you should be looking at the person you are dancing with. But so many of the patterns work better if you are offset because it just creates more room. Don’t know why that came to me but it did and I just thought I would share it.

And I think I’ve written enough for one night. Other than to say that I’ve got a lot of random parts that are sore today from the dancing and the training. This physical stuff ain’t easy.

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