Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Attack of the Dust Bunnies

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 2

Monday night. Perhaps because of last week, perhaps because it followed the weekend, we both seemed a bit resolved to make something of this practice. This is going to be a light week for us practice-wise due to other personal plans and commitments we have, so we're making them count. Warm up was the usual, and then came our round. Our round was actually quite good, I thought, though we lost it in a couple of places more due to just forgetting where we were than the dancing itself falling apart. Tango is feeling less polite, and I think I've stopped rising in the fallaways, and even the reverse-outside-swivel-of-doom is actually working. I must say though, that Jeff's attempts avoid the dreaded "polite tango" almost made me giggle a few times, as a couple of our promenade closes sounded suspiciously paso-like. I also couldn't help myself in the waltz when we whisked into the corner and disturbed a large family of dust bunnies who flew up around us, protesting about our invasion of their sacred space. I missed it, but apparently Jeff almost impaled the both of us upon the handlebar of a bike in another corner, but of these kinds of dangers I am usually blissfully ignorant. A couple of times before he has tried to impress on me just how close I've come to splitting my head open on a post, or cracking my crown on a mirrored wall. In each case, he has averted the danger and steered us to safety, so that I've come to dance without fear in that regard, though I think sometimes he wishes I knew what perils he's saved me from. At least he can comfort himself with knowing that he's earned my trust to the point that I'm often unaware of these near occasions of death.

I hadn't updated our practice calendar in time for Jeff to sync it with his...so he asked me what we were practicing. I said quickstep, and then, with some trepidation, he asked, "You didn't put down the...not the...you DID..." as I nodded. Yes, the rumba crosses. After the obligatory groans (rumba crosses are my personal white whale of our quickstep; Jeff's are the tipsies), I explained my strategy. We can dance them fairly well and balanced slowly and at a moderate tempo, but once we get up to speed, I feel like we barely keep it together. My thought was that we should practice them at a moderate speed, and gradually increase our speed time after time by using a metronome until we had achieved a faster than comp tempo pace. This would make the performance of them at regular full speed feel easier. Such an exercise used to help my piano practice plenty; my teacher called it "clicking it up." Jeff felt we didn't need a metronome for this, so we went right into it. I think it helped. We got faster and faster, and while we didn't top comp speed, we got accustomed to dancing the piece at a faster pace.

After we'd had enough of the rumba crosses and Jeff's every other word was "pho time," we danced our final lead-follow dance...the Moon River waltz. I still love to dance to this piece; it's so classic, so simple, and so smooth. Just classy all around, like we want our dancing to be. One day it will be more than a dream.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Results of Overextension

Part: Follow
Dances: Cha-cha, Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Bachata (yes, I know)
Hovers: 1

Friday night we skipped practice altogether and just worked out prior to going social dancing. For some reason this week had really done us both in, and we knew we weren't going to get much out of a pre-social dance practice. For me, the dancing began with cha-cha, and from there on out it was the usual Friday night social dance party at Danceworks. It's always a floorcrafting challenge, but we seem to be doing fairly well in that department. Obviously that's almost entirely Jeff's job and so to his credit, but I'll add that it does take a certain flexibility in a follow that I am becoming better and better at achieving. Normally we dance one Viennese there, but the one they played was ridiculously fast, and for the amount Jeff and I like to move...it would have been deadly to attempt it at about a 50% increase in speed! I also got asked to dance a bachata, but was too out of it to realize it until I was out on the floor dancing. No!!! Not only do I dislike this dance very much, but I was just so not in "the spirit of the thing" that I was tensing up in all the wrong places and being very awkward to lead. Under usual circumstances I'd just laugh at myself and go with the flow and enjoy it anyways, but that night my heart was just not in it. I ended up leaving the dance a bit early because I felt so out of it that it seemed pointless for me to be there. I guess I was just very tired from the previous week and even dancing wasn't enough to cure me of that, as it often is.

One thing I did enjoy was dancing waltz and foxtrot to some traditional Christmas music. Greensleeves is quite a lovely waltz.

Resolution for next week: sleep more and don't over-extend. This applies to life as well as hovers. One pulls over your partner, the other your emotional equilibrium.

Back Open Promenade and 5,000 Hits

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1

Thursday night's practice began with the usual warm up and round, which we had ended up skipping on Wednesday. We continue to improve stamina-wise. Not sure about how the dancing looks though...sometimes it doesn't feel pretty, so I guess we'll have to film ourselves again sometime soon to get an idea. Dancing was a little treacherous as well in a certain corner of the floor; it was sooo slippery that we've very nearly wiped out there on several occasions. I'm seriously tempted to take some castor oil directly to the floor.

Practice itself was fairly brief; we focused on tango, the back open promenade piece. I feel like we haven't been consistent about when the rotation happens versus when we keep it straight, and how that fits in with the step alignments. We went through it a few times slowly and had a better feel for it by the end. The key seems to be that Jeff rotates around me on the first half and checks, and then I rotate on the next step to complete the motion. As Jeff commented on this practice, it seemed like one of those figures that feels pretty bad most of the time when we dance through the routine, but then when we go to practice it, it isn't so bad after all. I suggested that it could be what precedes or follows the figure in the routine that is throwing us off, but he reminded me that they are the simplest figures, so that doesn't make a lot of sense. Perhaps it's just a matter of focus; the correct technique on these steps is not habitual yet, and when the focus is trying to get through the routine alive and with some semblance of togetherness, we forget the little things that make some of these pieces work. I'd say the rumba cross in quickstep is similar in that respect.

I think we ended with waltz; sadly, I don't remember for sure.

A quick note of thanks to our faithful readers: Our blog has now topped 5,000 page views and 222 posts! I don't think we realized when we came up with this idea back in May that we'd build this kind of connection with other dancers and enthusiasts here in our community and world beyond it. In the beginning we started this mostly just for ourselves, but thought it would be fun if others also wanted to share our journey, as it were. We've been happy that this has proved to be the case, and speaking for myself, the support has often provided me with that little extra kick of motivation that we all need sometimes. Thank you again; hopefully this is only the beginning!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Spiraling Feathers

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Foxtrot, Waltz
Hovers: 0

Wednesday night was a tough one for me. I joined Jeff for the workout, which was fine, and good for me probably because I don't normally do leg day. It was confusing though because I don't have where I am on the weight stacks memorized for the leg machines. So I'd usually start way too light and work my way up. It's probably just as well though, because my knee is still holding me back substantially.

Instead of dancing a round, we went right into our focused practiced on foxtrot. Well, we didn't exactly go right into it, and it wasn't that focused, but that was the dance we worked on. I had thought we should look at our basics again, the feather three step combination and the extended reverse wave, as that exercise seemed quite helpful last time. We worked mostly on the CBM rotation, but I think we overdid it to the point of pulling off our direction so much that we sort of ended up making a spiral going down the floor. We weren't isolating the hips enough from the upper body, so the upper body rotations were affecting our alignment far too much.

I guess hindsight is always 20/20, right? This practice frustrated me because I felt I would have used the time much better by sleeping, and done my dancing more good as well. Sometimes we have great practices even when I'm tired and it's totally worth it, but some days it seems like we get no where and it feels like I made the sacrifice for nothing. I suppose that's bound to happen, as Jeff has commented before on this blog, "You win some, you lose some." Here's hoping we'll win some more soon.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Double Wide Long Side

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 0

Last night after a focused and fairly efficient workout, we headed in to practice and warmed up with our usual nightclub 2-step, and followed that up with the round. After our salsa experience on Friday, Jeff had some ideas about carrying over some characteristic salsa moves into our nightclub, such as the lady's swivels (not sure what the official name is). Funny thing is, at Century, he was busy trying to incorporate our nightclub 2-step moves into salsa, though sometimes it was just a bit too fast to be entirely smooth. Still, it's fun to try.

The round was next. The video we danced this one to was paced just about perfectly; it had short breaks between each dance, and none of them were quite as long as our routines. The only downside? We didn't make it to the hover, of course.

The focus of practice was quickstep, and again I thought we should work more particularly on our last long side. It's a combination of a natural spin turn, back locks, quick open reverse, and the whole thing ends with a tipple chasse. It's not bad, really, but it could be a lot smooth and more in sync. Actually, this isn't a very hard section at all, but it's one where some basic fundamentals of shape and partnering can make a huge difference in how smooth or bumpy it feels and looks. There were a couple of steps that Jeff feels I rush, and there were some outside partner sections where I was pretty sure his elbow goes back behind his frame line, and then we get too "double wide" when we go outside. I also know I have a tendency to over-shape to the right especially on quick open reverse, for example, resulting in a mismatched frame, so I was trying to level that out and stay more consistent overall. I'm not sure what Jeff worked on, but whatever it was it felt a lot better to me after a few times. I think he ended up dipping less into the shapes and kept things more level, or at least that's what it felt like. Either way, it was good.

We ended practice with the favorite Beegie Adair Moon River waltz. I was freezing yesterday for some reason (maybe because it was cold?), and the only part of practice that warmed me up was the round! It really is winter now, and I think I'll have to start taking note and wearing long sleeves for practice, unless we plan to dance rounds all night.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Salsa 'Till you Drop

Part: Follow
Dances: Salsa, Cha-cha
Hovers: 0

Our normal Friday night practice schedule usually involves social dancing at a local dance party, and since the studio we normally go to was closed last night for showcase prep, I thought it might be a good opportunity to check out a new studio just to see what it was like. So I thought a bit and looked around to see who else had a Friday night dance party. It turns out that this studio up in Seattle did, one I've been wanting to check out at some point since I know a number of standard dancers who've come from there. Jeff was a bit hesitant but was game to give it a try. Because of the timing, we figured it best to skip practice so we could still have some time to dance.

So we showed up at the studio about a half hour into the dance party, and there were all of about six people there. We kind of looked at each other; it seemed hardly worth it. The studio was in a really sketchy area, the cover was $12, and as Jeff said when we walked outside, "Do you really want to pay $12 to dance rounds on a small floor?" I didn't particularly, but since we were already out and dressed up, it seemed lame to just go home. So I remembered that Century Ballroom has salsa on Friday nights, and since I'd never been there, why not go check it out? Jeff humored me and off we went.

Century Ballroom is the place everyone in the Seattle area knows about if they've danced at all. I can't say how many times I've been talking to people, and when they find out I dance, they ask if I go or have been to Century for swing or salsa. Nope! For some reason I just never made it out there, probably because I've been so focused on ballroom particularly. So we entered the dance hall, and the bouncer/greeter guy at the door quipped that he'd have to send us packing because we weren't dressed appropriately. Yeah, we kind of dress up a bit to go social dancing and I guess that's not always the norm there. Anyways, the dance was in full swing, and we got out on the floor and started dancing salsa with the rest. Floor crafting here was almost impossible, but Jeff was up to the challenge, as usual. Just keep it small when you have to and move when you have space, and it works. After dancing a couple of dances together, Jeff sat one out and I immediately got asked for the next one, and the next one, and the next one, and the next one...ad infinitum. Jeff sat out some, and danced a few with some other girls, and danced with me too, of course, but he paced himself well. My normal policy is that I never refuse a dance unless I have a really good reason, e.g. I don't know the dance at all, the guy is a total creep, I'm hurt, etc. But before long I realized that I couldn't keep it up forever, probably partly because I was dying for water, and they didn't have any available except at the bar.

Strangely enough, that night at least, we seemed to be the most confident dancers on the floor. I know there are some amazing salsa dancers out there who could put many ballroom dancers to shame, but they weren't there that night. Neither Jeff nor I are salsa dancers first by any means, but because of his ballroom training and natural posture and rhythmic movement, Jeff does very well and is always a strong lead. Also, we're quite used to dancing together at this point, so we look more in sync and confident about what we're doing just because of that, I think. I personally think I'm awful at salsa, but I have a pretty good sense of rhythm, a bit of flexibility, and was having a little fun with styling, so I guess that gave the impression that I knew what I was doing. We definitely got a good workout, and Jeff had some fun getting creative with mixing nightclub 2-step moves into the salsa.

As for the other guys I danced with, that was interesting. Quite a variety there. You have a few types. The younger shy type guy, who probably took some dance lessons because he thought it would help him meet some girls and get out more socially (and that it does, by the way!), who dances the moves he learned in class very deliberately, somewhat nervously, but precisely. Then you have the older guy who probably is newly single and decided to take dance lessons to try to get out more and meet people; he tends to think he's pretty good because he's taken lessons, but doesn't quite grasp some of the fundamentals of leading and rhythm and so can be very tough to read. Then the are the older gentleman of some foreign heritage, (there were a few of these), who always seem to really really enjoy dancing with you, sometimes smile at you rather adoringly, and sometimes sing softly to themselves, and have a fairly set routine. Sometimes...luckily not always, they'll get a little too happy about the fact that you're dancing with them, and their hands and eyes will start to make you feel that defensive dancing is in order. Luckily I only danced with one (maybe 2) that was anywhere close to creep #1 for the night, so a little defensive dancing and all was well. Just the fact that I was there with my partner helped a lot in this regard, I believe.

That's definitely not a complete list, but after about three hours of virtually non-stop dancing, I was done. I was super tired and also dehydrated. As we were leaving, we passed a tent encampment of the Occupy Seattle movement, a crazy guy who was riding a bike around and yelling as he went, and various sketch and unique characters who inhabit Seattle's hills on weekend nights. I am glad that we went though, and did have a good time. I just don't think I'll feel the need to go salsa dancing again for a good while. All the same, it was a nice change of pace.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Return of the Metronome

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 0

Last night ended up being leg day since we had skipped practice and working out on Wednesday, and since I don't normally do that workout, it was good for me to test my strength a bit more in that area. My knee has still been giving me grief, but as long as I go easy and keep the weight pretty light, it's not too bad, and will probably end up helping my knee in the long run.

Practice began as usual, and I thought our round went better than our last, though Jeff had a memory slip at the end of the quickstep, and we both had a very literal slip when we passed over a particularly "icy" patch in the floor during Viennese. Both of Jeff's feet and one of mine hit it, and it was a dreadful feeling, like when you're in a parking lot walking fast and hit an ice patch and lose all traction. We didn't fall, though we came pretty close!

After that, I suggested that we work on foxtrot, and maybe bring back our old metronome practice to see if we could still do it and because it's just a good exercise. Of course, when I had thought up this plan I hadn't realized we'd be working out legs right beforehand, which makes this particular exercise more difficult, but since we'd skipped practice and workout the day before, I think we felt a little more up for the challenge than we would otherwise.

So, we turned on the metronome and got to work. My strategy for approaching this practice was quite different than before. This time, my total focus was going to be on matching Jeff's movement...in speed, alignment, whatever, as best I could. I was working on strong legs, eeking out the extra time by sliding my feet more slowly and with more pressure across the floor, using my knees more, and always focusing on keeping a consistent center. I thought about bolero and my discovery about the ramrod straight back. As for the metronome, I did my very best to ignore it, and because I was focusing so much on other things, I don't think it really bothered me. I left that part up to Jeff entirely.

We actually did surprisingly well, considering that we hadn't practiced this way in at least a couple of months, and it seemed we were both falling into steps less and had more control over our movement, even at those speeds. A few times Jeff felt that I was dragging him or falling, but I didn't feel that I was at all, and I usually know when I am, but there were a few times where I know I got back-weighted or had a bad curve in my spine, and that would certainly contribute to that feeling for him. With this exercise, it is guaranteed that you will lose your balance sometimes, and not have perfect posture for the entirety, at least for dancers our level. The point is that we try, and in the trying, we improve. I am quite happy with the fact that we got through some really large chucks of the routine at the crawling speed without falling over or having to stop.

One thing we'll have to work on is some of the more dramatic shapes. Jeff feels like I'm pulling us over and falling into the shape, while I feel like he's knocking me over and it's all I can do to keep from falling. Probably we are either breaking our frame or else just not counterbalancing the shapes well; we'll figure that out.

Overall though, I felt this was a very productive practice, and it's a good feeling to know that we hadn't taken any major steps back since we had practiced our tick-tock timing.

Warm down was a little bit of tango. Something I noticed about my promenade that I want to make a note to self to address. A lot of times when I end a figure in promenade, my weight pitches forward too much, so that I have a tendency to bounce off of my forward foot as my weight goes forward and then I pull back into correct position. Ick. I need to stay back the entire time without getting heavy on Jeff's arm.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Balance Rediscovered via Ballet

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1

Tuesday night began as practice normally does, with a nightclub 2-step and round. I felt that my balance was much more under control for this practice, and I think that was due in large part to the ballet class I had taken prior to practice. This was only my second class, but at a different studio than before. I'm still a bit overwhelmed and have a lot to learn, but I think this will be a better class for me to attend consistently to get comfortable with it and will be good cross training.

Our rounds are mainly about stamina and consistency, and I think we're continuing to improve in the stamina department. Sometimes the dancing isn't so pretty, but we keep it together enough to make it with some semblance of ease.

Practice focused on quickstep: our last long side. While we don't usually have any problem getting through this section, it doesn't feel smooth and it's not always entirely together. There is a lot of shifting from inside to outside partner and some interesting footwork. Jeff says it doesn't feel like I know what the timing is. I do, but as Simeon was explaining to me in my last lesson, sometimes a mismatch in shape, connection, or stride length will feel like a mismatch of timing. Or, I could just to be late. Either way, I know I have a tendency to take steps that are too large when I go outside partner for weave type figures, and coupled with Jeff's tendency to let the right elbow go too far back, that makes for some difficulty exiting the position quickly and smoothly. We danced through the entire section very slow multiple times, to get a better feeling for where we were relatively speaking. This was where I noticed that my balance was much better than Sunday and Monday; I wasn't rushing Jeff's steps and wasn't falling into each step as it came.

We concluded practice for the evening with the Moon River waltz. I'm not sure why our waltz is so much better than our other dances, but that still continues to be the case. It takes a lot of control too, so I think that is something we've developed a lot through our practices. Our next hurdle will probably be the flexibility, which is going to help us make some big strides in foxtrot, I'm guessing. (No pun intended.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Back to the Barnacle

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1 (very good, held for an extra measure!)

Last night was Monday, and I'm not sure why I keep feeling like it was Tuesday, but anyways. We finished the workout and headed in to practice. I think we got a pretty good workout in...perhaps that's why I'm confused; I normally don't do weights on Mondays. This week though I'm planing to give ballet another try on Tuesday night at the usual workout hour, so that's why I switched it up.

After warming up to nightclub 2-step, first to a very sleepy song that wasn't much of a warm up, and then to a more upbeat '80s song, we proceeded with the round. Something was a little screwy with our connection, I think partly because I had done some social dancing on my own over the weekend and I had made some adjustments for dancing with other leads and they carried over to Monday. Jeff particularly noticed that our connection was much higher than usual in Viennese. I also think that part of this is due to me not keeping up with my Pilates routine very diligently last week due to the holiday and the accompanying laziness. Those strengthening and stretch routines really tend to stabilize my core and I think it ends up affecting my balance, my center when dancing, and by extension, our connection. So this week, I need to get back on track, because I don't feel as pulled together in my center as I normally do. Funny how much a of a difference that makes.

Since we missed a couple of practice days last week, we just pulled over the practice plan from last Friday, which was to be focused on tango. I had put that we should work on the fallaway section and keeping the frame straight and not "barnacling" as Kora calls it when I fall too far behind Jeff in our V-shaped promenade and end up almost perpendicular to his hip. I'm not sure how she came up with the "barnacle effect," but it was memorable. I think Jeff actually misread the section I intended for us to work on; I was thinking of the fallaway promenades rather than the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivots, but since those need more work anyways I didn't comment when I realized this. I'm glad we worked on these, by the end we felt more balanced, and when Jeff would stop I was less tipped in crazy directions that would pull us over. I've realized more and more that in tango keeping a very straight alignment is critical, any slanting or sway unless directly called for (as in an oversway, for instance), can be quite disastrous for balance. We both have problems with this, so I was focusing on keeping my head, shoulders, back, hips and feet all lined up with one another while rotating my frame around my spine to follow Jeff's movement, and also being very careful to keep my feet close under my body especially on the reverse outside swivel, where I've had a tendency to let my feet get ahead of myself. It seemed to help.

We concluded practice with some foxtrot. While I feel like the quality of our movement is quite good in foxtrot, I think the CMB and rotation is something we'll have to continue to work on for quite some time. As I was discussing with Simeon and last night with Jeff, there are just some things that are impossible to dance correctly until the body has achieved a certain flexibility and strength, and that only comes through lots of practice and usually some cross training. Although we still have a ways to go in that regard, I think we've both made a lot of progress there, and just have to be patient and keeping working away at it to get to the point where we're actually fully capable of that smoothness and fluidity.

Quick added note; since we talked about Jeff's hair updates in his quest for competition hair, I too have taken the plunge and have colored my hair for the first time ever. Normally I think that natural is always better, but for competition, that contrast and dramatic look is pretty much a must for a professional look on the floor. So, rather than dye my head black, scare everyone I know, and show up on the comp floor looking possibly a bit ridiculous, I colored my hair just a few shades darker than my natural color and am giving it a sort of test run to see what it's like. I think come comp time I'll go one more shade darker and call it good. It'll be dark enough to look almost black when slicked back and be a nice contrast with my more fair complexion, but not a hideously unnatural shade that would look awkward in any other setting. We'll see how that goes. So far I think it looks pretty natural.

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Marketing Department

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Bolero, Rumba, Salsa
Hovers: 2

Friday night we ended up skipping the pre-social dance practice (as we did on Wednesday and Thursday). We'll blame the Thanksgiving holiday for that. It was good to get out though and dance after a more or less lazy day on Thursday.

Jeff said he was feeling great on Friday, very relaxed and less worn out from working out right before and also because of the two day break. I was definitely less tired than usual, but I didn't think my dancing was much different than usual. One thing is for sure; I know that I am much more in the moment when I am dancing these days than I was even 3 months ago. I credit that to our daily practice and social dancing. Granted, there are times when I'll get ahead of myself and thoughts about what's coming next will flit across my consciousness, but more and more I find that I'm just there responding and not worrying about what happens next. I think a lot of that has to do with confidence on my part as well. When I was just starting out I tended to be really nervous when social dancing because I had no idea what would be thrown at me and I had no clue whether I'd know how or be able to respond appropriately. Now, I am confident enough that I have the skills to follow most things that could be thrown at me on the social floor if they are actually led; it's just a matter of opening myself up as much as I can to the lead-follow communication and having the confidence that I can actually do this.

Another aspect I enjoy of the whole lead-follow and social dance dynamic is how I, as a follow, can make the lead look really good (or just the opposite, for that matter). So while following is my job, the creative part comes in for me in the styling and the way I respond to the directions so as to show off what the lead is doing, and I find that to be a lot of fun. It's something that I feel I have been able to develop more fairly recently, now that I have a stronger grasp on the fundamentals than I did maybe one year ago. As Simeon and Kora like to say, the lady is the "marketing department" for the partnership on the floor, and I think that's a great way to conceptualize it. Anyways, it's a skill that I think the social dancing has helped me develop a lot more lately.

All in all, a good night of dancing for us. Jeff danced more than I did, I believe, because "gentlemen were scarce," and we didn't get to dance foxtrot, but the dances that we did dance were fairly smooth. Viennese this time was nice and slow, but not too slow, and so actually felt very relaxed, smooth, and natural. Even the fleckrels were relatively successful. That's a win.

After our semi-break week, we should be back in the game this coming week; hopefully a bit rested and with some renewed energy. Recharging is always good.

Quest for the Unforced Heel Turn

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese, Quickstep
Hovers: 0

Tuesday night we were joined for practice once again my our Latin dance friends, but they had their heads buried in some new routines they were trying to learn in a hurry, so it was funny to watch them both dancing around so focused on that little piece of paper. Good stuff. Jeff and I are fortunate in that we didn't really have much in the way of cramming to do, though I guess that was mainly by choice. I had a little catch up to do when I started dancing with Jeff, but it's much easier for a follow to catch on since technically I don't really have to remember the routines exactly.

After our requisite warm up dance, we danced our now usual round. This round was much longer than the one on Monday, but we felt it went pretty well. Jeff even commented that the tipsies are getting better. Ladies and gentlemen, this is HUGE. Nevertheless, I am aware that Jeff reading this will worry about me jinxing them, so let this be my official knock on wood. One consistent issue with our quickstep on the rounds is that we keep running out of space at the end of the long side on our second time through the routine. Since we're usually close to spent by the end of the round and things are close to falling apart, we often just let them and call it good since we "ran out of space" anyway. But sooner or later we'll need to figure out how to get out the jam, since comps won't give us the luxury of quitting because we're tired and out of room.

The focus of practice was the quickstep running right turn. For some reason I hadn't been nailing that heel turn and I keep sliding forward or missing the heel turn all together. To me, it feels like I am being led to pass my feet and that I'm not put in a position where I can get my heels together. After some practice, we did end up with a couple of beautiful ones. I was focusing on staying with Jeff on the shapes and not rushing anything, and I'm not sure what he was thinking about, but in the end I think it was helping. I'm still not sure it's 100% fixed, but I think progress was made. It just doesn't feel good to force a heel turn because I know one should be happening, yet feel that the heel turn action is pulling me away from my partner and the lead. We'll need to work more on quickstep, but slowly but surely we're getting more comfortable with some of the problem areas.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fallaway Foot II

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1

Since I had the day off on Monday, we ended up working out and practicing a bit earlier in the day, which was a welcome change. The energy level for both of us seems to much higher around mid-day versus evening, which obviously makes sense. We just can't practice then on a regular basis since I happen to have a regular 8-5 full time job. Maybe one day...

Practice began with the typical warm up and round. This round was a shorter one, we didn't even get through the entire routines. We're getting used to the feel of a round now though, which is good.

The focus of this practice ended up being the waltz. I had taken a solo lesson with Simeon over the weekend to work on a few issues in my dancing, and one of the target areas was the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivot in waltz coming out of wing position. Interestingly enough, Simeon felt that in the place where Jeff had felt that I was overshooting him, I wasn't driving enough! But he did say that the reason it might have felt that way to Jeff was because of my timing; I wasn't getting back into the position I needed to be in fast enough, and so it might have felt like I was driving to much or too little, when really it had more to do with the body and frame position. At the end of the first two steps, we're supposed to be back in a perfect promenade position, and I wasn't getting back there in time, and sometimes my shoulders would make it but my hips wouldn't, so of course that feels really heavy on the lead's arm. Anyways, we went through it a few times, and I think I'm starting to get more of a feel for it. I have a feeling though that we're both a little guilty of some lack of CBM and rotations in the proper places that would make this combination really smooth.

One huge breakthrough was that I realized, based on the direction Jeff's foot is pointing (angled in, in relation to himself) when he goes into that second step of the fallaway, that my own foot can point a bit out, which makes driving farther on that step much easier for me. It's definitely not there yet, but at least now I have an idea of some things I can think about, and I have a clearer idea of what I've been doing wrong.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Birthday Dance

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Nightclub 2-step, Cha-cha, Rumba
Hovers: 0

Friday night is normally a lighter practice night for us due to being at the end of the week, and also normally our social dance night. This time, it also happened to be my birthday, and a whole bunch of my wonderful friends decided to show up at the usual Friday night dance party to celebrate with me! For practice, we just tried a little bit of Viennese, but Jeff's leg's gave out, and then we worked on this new figure we're trying to figure out in nightclub 2-step.

Then it was off to Danceworks for social dancing. It was so much fun to be joined by some of our friends who practice with us regularly at the gym, our coaches, and other friends, some of whom I haven't seen in way too long! Dancing was much the same as usual, though I think our nightclub 2-step keeps getting better. We had some challenging dances where the music was just too fast for the style, so a midway waltz that was somewhere between a Viennese and a slow waltz, and then a really fast foxtrot.

After dancing, our group headed out for a local happy hour where we ended up staying, laughing and talking, until close to 2:00 AM! We kind of lost track of time, I guess, but it was a great way to spend my birthday evening, and thank you again to my friends for making it so special for me. :-)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pho Time!

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1

After the workout last night, we were joined by a couple of friends, Ed and Cecilia, who decided to come out on a sort of field trip and check out our practice location and routine since they have been loyal followers of this blog (thank you guys!) and also dance and compete themselves. That's one of the things I love about dancing in this community; a lot of the dancers really help each other out and share ideas about what does and doesn't work, and it really feels like a communal effort as we pursue this beautiful artistic endeavor that we all love so much.

We warmed up with the usual nightclub 2-step, though we might have felt a little put on the spot by the fact that Ed whipped out a video camera for it. It went pretty well, though. Then it was on to our round, which also was one of our best to date, and I believe Ed was taping that as well. Their enthusiasm for what we were doing gave us a little morale boost, and our practice ended up being a pretty good one for a Thursday. Our focus was the curved feathers in our foxtrot; we have them in three places, and there are various awkward things about each of them that we wanted to work out. Now at random points throughout practice, and throughout all of our practices this week, in fact, Jeff has been pointedly looking at the clock and announcing "It's pho time!"...rather like when Winnie the Pooh announces that it's 11 o'clock. Generally on Thursday nights, sometimes Jeff and I and whoever happens to be practicing will go out after practice for that delicious hot Vietamese beef broth and noodles, so perfect for a cold and rainy day when you're tired and hungry after practice. On those nights though, we do have to wrap up practice a bit early because of when the pho place closes, so announcing "pho time" has become Jeff's way of saying that he wants to be done with practice. Sometimes it's pho time even before we start, so then I know it's going to be tough night.

Luckily, last night we had real pho time, but only after we had danced a little lead and follow quickstep. We don't generally do lead and follow quickstep, and Jeff started it out as a country western 2-step, just be contrary, I guess. Why that very simple dance is so confusing to both us, I still don't understand, but it just is.

Back to the curved feathers though. The issue is trying to figure out how much to rotate the body and how much to shape. In some places we were shaping to the point of breaking, and in others maybe not enough. I also found that I need to be extra careful to take tiny steps at the end of the curved feather, and really work on the rotation in the sternum/torso as Jeff moves around me, because I am close to stationary in that figure while he has to get around me. If I'm rotating my body in place, it will make it easier for him to get around.

I guess curved feathers feel very different for a lead than for a follow, because to me it feels like a feather step that gets "checked" or stopped, like the lead was doing a feather but decided to change his mind about the direction of travel halfway through. I actually really love the step, especially going into a weave. Jeff, on the other hand, doesn't see it that way. In his perspective, it's almost as painful as a closed impetus, and nothing like a feather step. The one in our routine that Jeff hates the most, in fact, is one of my favorite parts, where we have a change of direction into a curved feather into a weave; I just love the feeling of the shapes and rotation in that combination, but Jeff says it takes way too much energy to feel good. At least we both have a mutual hatred for the zig-zag and at this point I believe we both enjoy the reverse wave.

For those who enjoy seeing what I'm talking about visually, you'll see a curved feather between 1:11-1:14 in this video:

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dump Truck Contra-checks

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango
Hovers: 0

Last night was leg day for Jeff, and therefore not a round day for us. After the usual nightclub 2-step warm up, it was time for the focused dance: waltz. I say, it was time for, because Jeff was really really excited last night about his plans for upgrading his technology and whole computer and networking setup at home, and so naturally he wanted to give me the overview. What I find hilarious is that Jeff likes to accuse me of being a nerd and pull one of the best instances of pot calling kettle I can think of. I may nerd out a bit on dance related stuff, but this guy takes it to a whole new level on the technology side. I'm not about to complain though, as I think the success and edge in our partnership owes an awful lot to our unique fascinations with and skills in certain areas, Jeff in technology for one, and me in my recollection of and interest in the technical details and just general ballroom trivia (in a manner of speaking), for another...among other things. I'd say we do a pretty good job of taking our differences and various skills and putting them to work for the benefit of the partnership.

Anyways, the section in question was our piece with the left whisk into hesitation into contra-check. I think the contra-check is one of our worst figures. It's one of those ones that we never really worry about surviving and we can always do it, but we're pretty sure it looks awful. We should be rotating to achieve the shape more than dipping and breaking to make it happen. Jeff also has to worry about not pulling the "dump truck" look, as Simeon calls it. I need to be smoother with the figure overall, and not hit it too quickly so that I have nowhere left to stretch because I've hit my max too soon. Another issue I tend to have is that I cross my right leg too much across the line of my left, and then I end up teetering off balance because my base is not 100% stable. We danced through it a few times, and found that our turning lock into it is really not bad, so we just did the contra-check multiple times to try to work it out. I'm not sure if it improved a lot, but it got us thinking more about what we're trying to achieve and what we might have to do to make that happen. Jeff doesn't seem to enjoy twisting too much, so that part is not going to be fun for him.

Jeff gave me a choice of what to dance to end with, lead and follow. I picked tango, since we had worked on it the night before. That went fine, though Jeff kept the figures very simple, and eventually broke into the T-A-N-G-O of American social style. He also copied pieces of choreography from some of the leads I've danced with socially who have very set social routines, and after whom I've come to name certain amalgamations. With that, we ended practice for the night.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Running Right (into your partner) Turns

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1

After the customary chest/shoulders Tuesday workout, Jeff and I met up in the practice room and got to work on our nightclub 2-step. For some reason the room was cold last night, or at least I was cold in there, and that never happens! It's usually warm and sweaty and gross, but last night was quite different. Anyways, after attempting the figure we were working on last Wednesday multiple times and getting really frustrated, Jeff finally got the hand switch business figured out, and we successfully danced the new figure multiple times, perhaps to the ad nauseum degree. Jeff just really wanted to make sure he had it. It's a tricky one for him as a lead all around, and for the follow, it's critical that she does not try to assist at all, but stay as loose and pliable as possible so that the lead and do the crazy weaving arms thing. The only part where I assist is a little is in the arm drape over the head bit piece, as it helps if I give Jeff a little extra room and try to do it a bit more gracefully. In the end though, we had it down. Score one for us!

Then it was on to our focused dance; quickstep once again. We started with this instead of the round because the music was in use when we started practice. The section in question was the running right turn that follows the rumba crosses; I'm supposed to have a heel turn there, but I seldom feel that I can even do one there, and when I do it's totally forced, and even then, I often slide the foot forward and cheat. We mostly just worked through it slowly a bunch of times, and we nailed the heel turn bit a few times. Every since Jeff complained about my not coming with him coming out of the closed impetus, that section has been much better, since I realized I really do have more space to come forward in that part than I thought, and it makes the part that comes after much smoother and more together as well. Our quickstep, while still our worst dance, has definitely improved a bit lately with our more focused practice.

Our competition video round came next. We're definitely getting better with the endurance aspect of it, and over all, we danced this one fairly well. I think our foxtrot is coming back to us too, which is good. About halfway through the Viennese, I felt Jeff's hand tense up on my back, so I thought that meant I was falling away from him, so I tried to shift my shoulder blade more into his hand and just come forward a bit, but apparently that didn't help matters, because he told me to stop wiggling. It's funny how the smallest movements can make such a huge difference in feeling for one's partner...any observer would not have seen me "wiggling" for sure, but I can understand how that's what Jeff felt. Another fumble was when I stepped full on Jeff's foot in the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivot in waltz, this time trying not to drive so hard and over shoot Jeff, and instead drastically undercutting it and landing on his foot! He carried on with the dance manfully, however, but I know it must have hurt because I'm pretty sure I landed on his toes.

We ended practice with a little foxtrot lead and follow. I keep forgetting that it's lead and follow until we start dancing, but I take it as a good sign that the fact that it deviates away from our routine hasn't messed me up yet...except this time Jeff tried to do a half waltz box, which I interpreted as a curved feather somehow, I think because I never close my feet like that in foxtrot. The foxtrot ended our practice for the night.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Float Test

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1

Tonight was back to the usual practice schedule; warm up with nightclub 2-step, then a round, and then our focused dance of the night, which was tango. We got started a bit late though, and our nightclub was more of us trying to figure out the figure we were working on last Wednesday when our hands kept getting tangled up. Well, they kept getting tangled up again.

For the round, I decided to run a "float test" to see if the floats on my new ballgown that I'm finishing up are length appropriate, so I put on the dress and we danced our round, which ended up being a shorter one, due to the length of the music on the video. Jeff says he stepped on something (float or dress hem) about four times, plus he almost inhaled the ribbon streamers handing from my right wrist. I was unsure about those, so I may remove them. The big float itself is perhaps a bit long, so I think I will make it a little short so it is less likely to drag when we make any low sweeping motions. Here is photographic evidence of the floats in question, except that you can't see the streamers on the right in this one:

After that, amid Jeff's excited expostulations about various Macbooks and their various virtues, we practiced toughest part of our tango. That is, of course, the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivot into reverse outside swivel section of doom. We mostly practiced it slowly, and I think we evened out our balance a bit. I, for one, felt much more solid over my own feet this time, and I was taking care not to let my body or legs get ahead of each other. What we realized, or had known all a long but need to work on, is that we need to keep the frame rotating consistently throughout the entire figure. Where the wrinkle comes in, I think, is that we also need to move and step in a fairly straight line, so that our frame is rotating on top, but we're still traveling down the floor. Not easy. We tried it once really focusing on that rotation, and the result was a smoother rotation for sure, but we didn't move as much or get as far. The next step will be to isolate the upper body as it constantly rotates from the lower as it drives down the floor.

One problem that we've run into lately that Jeff brought up again today was his wrist just giving out after dancing some of the dances with me. I'm not sure what it is, but something I'm doing is making him have to grip me harder or torque his wrist a weird way. I still think it has to do with the change in our position...now that we're connected lower, things have shifted, and perhaps I haven't accomodated properly for the shift in center. I'm guessing I need to rotate a little to the right as well, but I want to try some things out and see what feels more comfortable for him.

Practice ended with the Moon River waltz. We both love dancing to that piece; it's slow and forces us to be controlled and balanced in our movement, and it has such an iconic waltz feel to it. Jeff observed afterwards, "I think our waltz is ready." I think so too.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Defensive Dancing

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Cha-cha, Salsa, Bachata (that's right), Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Bolero
Hovers: 5 + (lost count)

We skipped practice on Thursday night since we were both tired, me especially, from the festivities of the night before. I figured we'd get better practice and dancing in if we were less tired and spent by the time Friday rolled around. I was still tired, but I think it helped.

After a warm up with nightclub 2-step, and Jeff playing a clip from a lovely cello arrangement of a famous classical piece that Jeff wants us to put together a show with...and to which we tested out some dance steps, it was on to waltz. This week I had purposely put waltz and foxtrot towards the end of the week and the harder dances for us toward the beginning since we are fresher then.

The focus in waltz was the closed impetus into reverse pivot. Jeff used to always complain about this figure because it involves a tough heel turn for him. I have always thought that it feels like we rotate the entire body too much and don't isolate the rotation in the upper body enough, which means that it's more difficult to get that torque and counter-rotational energy that you get from turning one part of your body away from the other. As a result, I often feel like I can't get around Jeff enough and that I'm not rotating enough, and sometimes we fall into the pivot. Jeff didn't really see a problem here, but it's been bothering me, so we danced through it a number of times and tried a few different things. For me, I just have to be extremely conscious to initiate the movement from my left side and make sure to have strong CBM on that first step. Our hovers, on the other hand, are going pretty well. I think we're mastering the timing on the right shape, the slow turn to the left, and then Jeff gradually gives me room to extend out to the end of the phrase, and I keep getting better with the extension, so it's looking pretty good in the mirrors.

Then it was off to Danceworks for social dancing. The dancing was a lot better for us than last week; the floor was less crowded and there was more music we could dance to. We got in some good waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, a little foxtrot, and bolero....and of course nightclub 2-step. Social dancing there for the standard dances is really the ultimate floor crafting test for Jeff though, but he's doing pretty well in that department. He did, however, throw me for a loop by dancing a curved feather in waltz. Did not expect that....but I should have known better after dancing with the Jeff-partner for this long. All in all though, our social dancing seems to be going pretty well these days.

I also danced a rather confusing salsa with another guy there who isn't usually there. He wasn't really leading much of anything, but kind of moving around a lot himself, so it was hard to figure out what he wanted me to do. It seemed like he was used to dancing with someone who maybe knew his choreography and so just knew what to do without being told...I don't know, but I was lost. Granted, I'm not a true salsera by any means, but I can generally follow salsa okay if it is led. And in that case I also found myself having to do some "defensive dancing;" I felt that it wasn't necessary to grab me around the waist and pull me in so tightly and keep me there just because another couple happened to pass by. It's remarkable what a little arm and back tension will do as a defense mechanism. It's funny that as a standard dancer I'm totally comfortable with dancing with full body contact with my partner, teachers, and other good dancers, yet sometimes when social dancing with certain guys the vibe is just distinctly off and you want to maintain that polite distance. That's where "defensive dancing" comes in. Having a partner nearby who can come to the rescue if needed is a blessing as well. Fortunately, those situations don't happen often, but when they do, it's nice to have escape routes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Threshold Days & Leveling Up

Dances:  Nightclub 2-Step
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Legs at the gym.

Ok.  I overdid it today with the legs.  Overall this week has been an interesting one for both my workouts and dance.  For the workouts, I'm doing quite a bit more weight with less and less difficulty.  Dance has been going really well also.  It seems to me that there are specific days that define a new plateau.  I like to call them Threshold Days.  It's when on that day you realize how far you have come on the things you have been working on and how your goals have shifted due to the increased level of proficiency.  You feel like you've truly reached a new level.  The nerd in me can't resist the fact that I've leveled up and my stats have increased.  Plus 2 strength points, 5 morale points, 3 dance points, 1 magic point, etc.  For dance that day was yesterday.  Something clicked and I think we're on a new page with new challenges.  For working out it was today.  The leg workout tested my strength for sure, but for some reason I could just do it.

Practice today was a little strange.  We attempted to dance a round but after the first long side of the Waltz I was done.  My legs were so shaky from the workout, I knew I wouldn't make it through the rest of it.  Sarah had it on the schedule to dance Nightclub 2-Step.  That's it.  I found out it was because it was my birthday.  So we dug up a video and tried to learn a new figure.  It's pretty cool other than the fact that it involves Sarah turning and me switching hands in the middle of that turn.  Timing is everything there and I couldn't seem to get it right.  I kept ending up with the wrong hands.  Since the figure ends with a double head loop, having the wrong hands means it just won't work.  It was pretty funny trying it over and over again.  What made the whole experience even stranger was Sarah randomly stopping and blurting out "I think I'm high."  I almost fell over.  Too funny.  Apparently they had been painting at the church she sings at and the fumes had gotten to her.  It's kind of stupid to hold choir practice on a day they had been painting if you ask me, but awesome that Sarah got high sniffing paint.  I guess we now know her drug of choice.

Practice was pretty short because we had to get to the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate various things.  I was surprised when I got there and realized it was a surprise party for ME.  I honestly had suspected something earlier during the day, but the day got hectic and I completely forgot about it.  Not only was it my birthday, but honestly there were many other things to celebrate.  A friend of ours who was in jeopardy of being deported due to a layoff earlier this year was expecting an offer and a longer project of ours had just hit a major milestone.  Best of all it all happened on my birthday.  :)  Thank you to all my wonderful friends for attending.  You guys are the best!  Also thanks to my wonderful partner for setting it up.  Level up baby!  (Just for you Rob!)

Surprise Party

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step
Hovers: 0

Wednesday night was a bit out of the ordinary for us. Normally it's my choir night so we start practice a tad later, but otherwise things are mostly normal. For the practice plan, I had specified only a round and nightclub 2-step for our "20% project". Jeff didn't understand why I'd do such a thing, until I reminded him that tonight was his birthday, and I wanted to work on something I knew he'd enjoy. Well...he couldn't argue with that, so we went back to our demo videos and starting working on it. We actually attempted the round, but got as far as the first long side in the waltz and the Jeff's legs couldn't take it any more.

The figure we were working on had some awkward change of hands above my head while all four of our hands were up there and close together, and we kept ending up fumbling around up there with our hands and usually ending up with the wrong ones connected. It was pretty funny, actually, especially when Jeff got really frustrated with it and was determined to GET IT RIGHT!

The other challenge I had to deal with was that I felt kind of giddy and jittery; I had probably ingested a total of 4 espresso shots that day (it was a long one and I was tired), plus, I had just been singing in a church that was being painted and wood stained, and the fumes were definitely getting to my head. And then there was the third and perhaps most important thing, which was that I was privy (well, okay, more like chief orchestrator) to a surprise birthday party plot for Jeff that was set to go down right after practice. The best part was that in order to convince him to come out for dinner without suspecting a big birthday party in his honor on his actual birthday, our coaches and friends contrived a bit of a tall tale about cancelled lessons, a job offer that needed celebration, and other embellishments, and then capped it all by telling Jeff he needed to convince me to come out, since I'm usually too tired to go to these week night dinners and happy hours because of my early work schedule. So throughout practice, Jeff was getting on my case for being too tired and not wanting to go out for dinner, telling me it was not optional and that I had to come, when it was really his own party that he was dragging me too unbeknownst to him...that I had essentially planned (though it was really a group effort). It was too good. The only possible wrinkle was that he kept threatening to end practice early and head out to the restaurant...which would have spelled disaster for our plan, so I pulled my usual disappointed, "What? Already?" In the end, we got there after most of the guests had arrived, and Jeff was surprised, or at least enough to make it fun. He claims to have suspected something...but not due to any action of mine, at least.

A good night was had by all, and Jeff's birthday was celebrated with the requisite laughter, friends, food, presents, and general conviviality. Practice = Success.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pay Attention When You're Driving!!

Dances:  Nightclub 2-Step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.

Another great workout today.  Sarah joined me for this one, and in some exercises her form could use a bit more work, but she's sticking to it.  I often joke (much to her chagrin) that her arms look like a snake that swallowed an egg.  It's really not that bad, but she's so skinny that her muscles are all she has.  She's terrified it's going to impact the way she looks when she dances, but I doubt it.  Every girl out there has muscle you can see.

Practice today was awesome minus one small mishap during our round.  We started down the first long side of our Waltz which now takes up ALL of the floor.  I always have to shorten up my steps so as not to crash right into the exercise bikes at the end.  It was during this first long side that I let my mind drift.  I started thinking about maybe moving the bikes in that corner out of the way and how I would go about doing that.  In the brief maybe two seconds (max) that I wandered off, my Waltz fell apart.  I went into some random figure and I just stopped.  I guess dancing is just like driving a car.  You HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION.  No texting, talking on the phone, drinking, etc.  But other than that, we danced the best round to date.  Every dance fell into place quite nicely.  A HUGE contrast to yesterday's abysmal off day.  Even the Quickstep went well.  Our stamina continues to increase as well.  I think dancing the routines once through is fine right now.  It's repeating it the second time that gets taxing.  We'll need to start working on facial expressions soon.  For the most part I think we're ok on that front.  Maybe need to be a bit more expressive, but overall we present the right sentiment.

After the round we started working on the Quickstep.  At first I was NOT happy about the fact that today was Quickstep day again, and Rumba Crosses day at that.  But my tune changed rather quickly.  For some reason they just worked today.  We were in sync and our connection was MUCH more consistent.  I think I figured out a small trick to it as well.  I need to make sure to get completely around Sarah in one go.  Almost as if I was rotating quickly around a pole.  That way I get out of her way and she can do her part.  I'm not sure if it was that or whatever Sarah was also working on, but the Rumba Crosses are now working for the most part.  Moving past the Rumba Cross, the Running Right Turn is still a little shaky.  I don't think I'm truly leading Sarah to do a heel turn into it.  We're still relying on her to fabricate it on her own.  On the bright side, the Closed Impetus after it is working beautifully now as well.  Sarah is no longer falling on top of me or holding me back.

We ended with a little Foxtrot lead and follow.  I'm trying to mix up the routines when I do this.  Both to throw Sarah off and also to make sure I can get back on track.  I find it's quite tiring to lead and follow in an open room.  It's much easier when it's crowded.  Probably because the situation will dictate what you can and can't do.  I think this aspect of our competition game is ready.  We shouldn't have any traffic problems.

What can I say, some days you just nail it!

Trust Theory

Part: Follow
Dances: Nightclub 2-step, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 1

After a chest and shoulders workout, we warmed up for Tuesday's practice with a nightclub 2-step. The week was still young and I wasn't exhausted from doing a cardio workout, so I was feeling a bit fresher than I often do later in the week. I don't know if that had something to with it for me, but our dancing clicked a lot better on Tuesday than it did Monday. We warmed up with a nightclub 2-step, and then danced our now de rigueur round. It actually went much better than most of our rounds thus far; all of our dances were quite passable, the main breakdowns being as we started to get tired as we came around for the second iteration of each routine to finish out the songs. There weren't any real breakdowns though, just some bumpiness and questionable balance as we rounded out each song. The endurance part of it is improving, I believe. Our foxtrot and strangely enough, our quickstep, actually felt quite good. We're funny; going into the quickstep at the end of the round we must both be thinking the same thing, "I'm exhausted, quickstep is the last dance I want to do right now, but we are not going to be the couple who dies at quickstep and I must look happy," because Jeff usually kind of smiles, starts bouncing a little bit to the music, generally acts the though the dances before this were just kind of a warm up to get things moving...I kind of step right up into frame quickly and lightly, as though I'm really excited for this one, jiggle my shoulders a little in anticipation, do a quick happy smile and head turn to the right as we do our prep step, and off we go! It's something I've noticed that we both sort of do naturally since we started dancing these rounds to the competition videos, and in the end it will be a valuable part of the performance when we eventually compete ourselves.

The dance in question for the night was quickstep. Jeff groaned. I already had when I typed up the practice program, so I understood. It was the rumba cross again, but this time our practice went quite well. We went through it slow a few times and focused on making sure we were collected and balanced between the figures, and in the end we felt really together on them, especially in the hips and legs. The shaping is still a challenge, but it felt much better after we worked on it, and I think having that extra stability in the lower body connection gave us a more stable base for the shaping.

We ended with some lead and follow foxtrot. That also went pretty well, but Jeff burned out fast because he said being creative is much more taxing; the routines are getting to be second nature and therefore less work for him while lead and follow takes some serious attention on his part. I think in that regard we're getting quite close, if not already there, to where we want to be for competition in terms of using our routine but incorporating changes where necessary. When we started, Jeff could really only comfortably do our routines as they were with few changes, or just do random stuff and make things up like he was used to doing socially. Now, he can dance our routine...but mix up different parts of it, add other things, and come back to it, but in generally I feel that there's that stable framework of the routine that we can always get back to even if we leave it. I'm also less locked in to our routines as a follow; I'm getting much better at going with the flow and responding to changes of plans or just different amalgamations as they happen.

We had a bit of a discussion on Monday about the trust issue for lead and follow in partnerships that I forgot to mention in that post. Jeff's theory seems to be that if a follow doesn't follow, it always means she's not trusting the lead. I begged to differ, because, while that is one possibility, it also takes a certain amount of physical skill and coordination to be able to react perfectly to a lead's direction, given that the directions are given perfectly. It doesn't have to mean there's a lack of trust. In fact, a "dead" follow could totally trust that her partner will do everything right and everything for her, but look terrible dancing and not feel so light to the lead either, because he has to do all of the work and just drag and push her around. I assured Jeff that I trust his lead absolutely; sometimes my muscle memory interferes with things on occasion, but there is no doubt in my mind that he is in control, knows what he's doing, and I should let him do the driving. I can't say that for all, or even very few leads. I reminded him too that this trust has to go both ways; he's got to trust that if he leads something, as his follow, I'm going go there if he communicated it clearly, and that he doesn't have to tip me off balance or dump me into it to make me go (as he sometimes has to with follows on the social floor). If he tells me to do it, I will do it, and he's got to trust that I will stay with him. Jeff surprised me a little (in a good way) by affirming that he does trust me as his follow absolutely...though it has occasionally come back to bite him when I do something unexpected. I could say the same. But in general, that level of trust in the partnership gives a certain stability, confidence, and uninhibited quality to our dancing that I think is an an invaluable part of what is making this whole thing work for us. Back to that William Pino Blackpool Congress video we watched...he said that trust was one of the most critical components of the chemistry in a partnership. I think he's absolutely right.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

A Poor Beginning to the Week

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.

Today's workout was good.  More weight and I'm able to do the whole thing in less time.  That a good marker of progress.  Unfortunately I can't say the same for our practice.  It was definitely an off day.

Our round was disastrous.  Sarah and I weren't dancing together and the partnership was bouncing around worse that I-5 is during peak traffic hours.  Strangely, this was across all dances.  There wasn't a single one I was happy with.  I didn't let it get us down though.  It's natural to have bad days.  Luckily they are relatively infrequent for us.  After the ill-fated round, we started work on the Tango.  Specifically the Reverse Outside Swivel.  Its still a massively awkward step and Sarah continues to complain about being left behind.  I think because its so awkward a position to be in, it's too easy to let your frame torque to accommodate for it.  Of course on Sarah's end, it's easy to over anticipate the crappy step and do something weird as a result of that.  But I think a large part of why we fail in that figure is due to the preceding one.  The Fallaway Reverse and Slip Pivot while usually successful, is often times rushed through.  Plus I don't think we've really mastered the Slip Pivot part.  So today I danced through that very slowly and in small pieces with Sarah.  Stopping right before the Slip Pivot to make sure everything was in line and balanced before proceeding.  By the end of practice it was feeling a lot better.  That meant we could go into the Reverse Outside Swivel at least in a more stable situation.  I also tried altering the timing of the swivel a little bit.  In part to see what would work better for us, and in part to make sure Sarah isn't just picking one on her own.  We usually just blow right through it.

We also got into a discussion about trust in our partnership.  I guess to sum it up, it all boils down to trust versus muscle memory.  I'm fairly confident that Sarah trusts my leading and driving ability, but usually her muscle memory gets in the way.  Be it a routine from her Pro-Am days, or our own routines, sometimes she likes to just pop into what she "thinks" is happening.  We got a good laugh as I demonstrated how that trust works for me.  I trust her, then I get bitten in the ass (using my hand as an imaginary dog biting down on my left cheek).  I guess you would've had to have been there.  It's funny how that video of William Pino has stuck with us for a few weeks now.  Its great that we think about things outside the act of dancing.  I think it'll be a key component of our success.

Even though it was still a very off day for the two of us, I think we got a good practice in.  We'll need to hammer out that first long side of our Tango just like our Quickstep.  No alternative other than to just beat it into submission.

Reverse Outside Swivel: Tango Style

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 0

After dancing our round, Jeff announced that we were dancing poorly today, but we went ahead with our practice program focusing on tango. I didn't think the dancing felt terrible comparatively, but it definitely wasn't our best...sometimes we both don't feel quite the same about how it's going, but we both know off days are to be expected, and don't let them get us down. It's happened before and it'll happen again. That's life.

Now for tango, we were set to work on the reverse outside swivel. That's always an extremely tough step for us, especially me. This the place where I feel it makes the biggest difference how far outside partner I end up, because if I get too far behind him, I pull the whole partnership drastically off balance when I swivel. Me getting too far behind is caused either by his right arm breaking back from the shoulder (which has been known to happen), or by me taking to large of a step forward outside, which has also been know to happen. So with this step, Jeff experimented a bit with timing the swivel part. He tried it with the lady's step outside into the swivel as one continuous motion on "slow," and also as two sharp and separate movements, the step outside "quick," and the swivel "quick." So from the follow's perspective you've got the right foot stepping forward outside partner, swiveling around into promenade on the step, and then the promenade close either as "slow, quick, quick" or "quick, quick, & slow." I much prefer the second version; it feels more in the character of tango and is sharper and more defined. One thing I forgot to experiment with is keeping my head to the left even as we move through promenade position. I remember when I first saw Kora dance it that way and then tried it, and it was so much easier to maintain balance that way, I think because not having the head turn makes it less likely that the frame will tip or move around as the position is changed. I've just gotten in to the habit of turning the head on all promenades, so I forgot to go back and try that again. It can be done both ways.

We ended practice with the Beegie Adair slow "Moon River" waltz; always a good test of balance and strength. Our waltz seems to be our one fairly consistent dance these days.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Sour Milk Face Sarah

Dances:  Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Salsa, Nightclub 2-Step, Rumba, 3x Swing, Bachata Line Dance
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.

TGIF.  It's been a long week.  At least it felt long.  Sarah joined me for the workout today.  We got started a little later than usual since I had to go back home to get my dance shoes after realizing I forgot them right as I was pulling into the gym's parking lot.  As a result, practice was cut really short.  When we got in the "ballroom" I told Sarah we had about 10-15 minutes to practice.  Her face melted (what I call the "Sour Milk Face") followed by the patented, disapproving Sarah "WHAT?!?!".  I find it funny how high practice ranks on her priority list.  I've called her on it many times.  It's almost as though she feels like if we miss even one second of practice we'll regress.  Of course she denies this (not fully, but mostly).  Too funny.  Probably not to her, but for me.

We ran through Fleckerls in Viennese Waltz.  For some reason we just weren't in sync today.  It felt like Sarah would rise through the Fleckerl.  She swears up and down that she wasn't, but it really did feel like it to me.  Luckily we didn't have to practice it for long.  Just a bad Fleckerl night.

From there we headed to DanceWorks.  It had been two weeks since I had done any social dancing.  I found out right before we left the gym that tonight was and open house night at the studio.  When we got there, the place was PACKED.  I gotta hand it to Scott, the owner and tonight teacher of the HUGE group class.  He really knows how to handle a crowd and is really fun to work with.  After the Rumba class ended, the party started.  Since it was open house night, most of the music was club music.  The only Standard dance played that night were two Waltzes.  Definitely not the easiest driving I've had to do by a long stretch.  It was ok though.  Plenty of opportunities to get our club dances a good work through.  I did manage to get dragged into some crazy Bachata line dance they had everyone do.  Sarah conveniently used the couple next to us as a flimsy excuse to ditch out.  Alas, I was stuck in it.  After the dance a bunch of the regulars hung out and compared crazy, cheesy dance music.  I was able to bring a fair share to that table with the extensive archive I've been building these past 6 months.  Overall a good night with lots of friends and great dancers.

On another note, the hair project continues.  It's getting pretty close though.  I had my stylist look at a picture of Victor and cut my hair like it.  Now it's really tight and short on the sides and longer in the front.  When slicked back though, it works.  Who knows, I may just turn out to be a ballroom dancer after all.

Open House Waltz: A True Floorcrafting Feat

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Viennese Waltz, Nightclub 2-step, Rumba, Salsa, West Coast Swing
Hovers: 4

The Friday pre-practice workout got started a little later today, so that meant that, although we whizzed through it, practice was cut pretty short, maybe down to 10-15 min. or so. We ran through our waltz routine, and then worked a little on Viennese waltz. I'm still very inconsistent with getting into the reverse fleckrels; sometimes I get it in time and sometimes I don't and just peddle around. I've found that if I think about the possibility of doing fleckrels as we're doing reverse turns, I tend to read the lead and go into them correctly, but if my mind is not there then I generally don't get it. I feel like I really shouldn't have to think about it though, I should just feel it and go. Then I was getting flung off balance by the force of the rotation some of the times, so I think that we'll have to work more with our coaches on when and where it happens, because right now we're not feeling that balanced at all. Again, thankfully we won't have to compete with this figure for quite some time.

After that, it was off to the Friday night dance party. Tonight was an open house, which meant a very very crowed floor, very little standard (in fact, only two waltzes comprised the sum total of it), but a free cover! Jeff and I danced the waltzes, some of the rumba (since that was what the pre-party class was focused on), salsa, and nightclub 2-step. We also somehow ended up in a bachata mixer (Jeff and I, the bachata haters), but when we went for the first rotation, the couple after us didn't rotate and I was left out for the rest of the dance, which was really fine with me. Our waltzes were quite a feat of floor crafting for Jeff, I mean, it some places you could hardly move. Perhaps because of the high risk lead follow situation...I had a few fumbles, but I think we did pretty well. I think that as a couple the nuances of speed and shape and power are becoming more unified, especially in situations like this. In some places, Jeff had to really go for it because there was an opening, so I would put my foot on the gas and away we'd go, using the frame it's rotation to give us momentum and space. Other times, we'd have to condense the whole thing, including our frame, and move small and stay compact, but in either case, I think I was doing better about feeling what my partner needed in those terms at that moment, so Jeff could more easily put me where he needed me. Gotta love the crazy Asian driver in those situations though.

We also danced a bolero towards the end, a bit more successfully this time than last, though I think I could benefit from actually learning the dance a little. It's definitely a leg workout, but my feet were actually feeling it the most because of the need to maintain the appropriate rise and fall at that slow and controlled pace. One thing I found that is absolutely critical in bolero to avoid otherwise certain death, and that is to maintain an absolutely straight alignment in the back and connection all the way up to the shoulder blade, any curve backward in the lower back is pretty much deadly as it pulls the balance back and down too soon. Once I got that feeling that my back was basically a straight rod rooted firmly in and perpendicular to the floor, I found that I had that control and balance I was missing. Obviously, a straight back is necessary for all of the dances, but in some there is more give and take, and you can get away with a little backward sway without dying. Since bolero seems to require a bit of extension all the same, I simply took care not to exaggerate it and to make sure it only happened from the shoulder blade up. The position ended up feeling to me rather like a combination Latin and tango frame...quite comfortable, actually.

One thing I noticed about my dancing all night was that I was really on the outside edges of my feet, which is not good. I ought to be using the inside edges more and not rolling out so much, but I suspect my shoes may have something to do with it. They've always been more on the loose than the tight side, and now that they are so broken in, I think they are not providing as much support anymore. I need to look into getting some padded insoles that I could put in to help shore up the support and make them fit more tightly again.

Thus ended a full week of practice. I think in the end, while not all of our practices are equally beneficial, we'll find that it's just the plain consistency of it is going to pay big dividends.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that Jeff's latest haircut looks great! Just like Victor! He's trying to find the best comp look for the unruly Asian hair, and I think he's found it. As I was telling him tonight; we're going to be such Victor and Anna wannabes when we start competing. Jeff with his Victor hair, Asian heritage, musicality, and confident ballroom presence, and me with my (hopefully by then) darker hair slicked back into the low bun with the curlicues on the sides, my similar height, long arms and back, my tendency to break my right shoulder line, my penchant for stretching out and pushing my limits extension-wise, and my Anna style ballgown. That shouldn't be a bad thing though, at least in my book.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Energy Costs of Each Figure; It Adds Up Fast

Dances:  Salsa, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.

Boy was I feeling the previous night's leg workout today.  Even walking around the house was fairly strenuous.  Of course with my luck tonight's practice was Quickstep.  The Six Quick Run at that.  Luckily I chose not to dance a round.  I don't think I would've made it.

The Six Quick Run has always given Sarah and I trouble.  Not because it's really all together that difficult of a step, but due to the speed you need to be at to turn it around in time.  I had to explain some physics to Sarah today.  I found out she never took it in high school.  When you travel in one direction at a certain speed and want to go in the exact opposite at the same speed it'll cost you DOUBLE the amount of energy to accomplish (in the absence of wind and other type of resistance).  So in dancing, if I want to accomplish that very idea, it'll cost me.  I also had to explain that at some point during that transition you will be at a dead stop.  It's impossible not to be.  The whole point of those explanations was the change of direction the Six Quick Run takes.  It's not completely in the exact opposite direction, but the change is enough need a fair amount of energy to accomplish.  Because of this, we're always late.  I'm not sure what we can do to fix this.  Either I'm just simply not quick enough, or Sarah isn't pulling her weight there.  We'll have to investigate it with our coaches further.  For now, I always just pray and borrow half a count from the next figure to cover my debt.

For some reason tonight, Sarah and I were both STARVING.  I had had plans to meet Kora and Simeon for dinner, but I just couldn't wait that long.  We ended practice shortly after we started to go get some pho.  Perfect for such a cold day.

See them Run. See them Run Quick. See them Six Quick Run.

Part: Follow
Dances: Salsa, Quickstep
Hovers: 0

After mixing it up a little and warming up to a salsa, we went directly to work on our quickstep hover into six quick run corner section. Jeff's legs were still toast from yesterday's workout, so we left out the round since we had done one every other night this week.

The six quick run proved to be more of an issue than the hover. (P.S. The quickstep hovers don't count towards my tally). It's tricky because I have to get from the outside partner weave position back to regular position in front of Jeff as while we are rotating, which gives me even more ground to cover, and given that I have to move very quickly on a "quickstep" from the one position to the other, sometimes I get a little behind Jeff on the exit. For me, it's a matter of taking care to take really small steps into the outside partner position so I have less distance to cover coming out, and also making sure to swing my hip out and back into position on the exit so that I can make sure I'm lined up in time for our lock step. Jeff was working on giving me more of a left side lead, which at first felt like a left shape, but after a few tries it really did make a difference. Technically, I'm not supposed to swing myself back in front of him without his frame guiding me there, and that's what the left side lead does.

We were both really hungry last night too and the energy was dwindling fast, so after our focused quickstep practice, we ended for the night.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Slow, Quick, Quick to the Left, Slow, Quick, Quick to the Right

Dances:  Cha Cha, Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Nightclub 2-Step
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Legs at the gym.

Tonight's workout was pretty average.  I am continuing to push my leg workouts harder and harder as I have seen such great improvement in my dancing due to it.  Sometimes I wonder how I should go about preparing for my first, or any for that matter, competition.  Should I not workout for the week prior to it?  Or should I just lighten the load?  Perhaps skip a few days?  Maybe this goes without saying, but I've noticed I seem to dance MUCH better when I've had a lot of days off.  Not sure if it's because of the mental or physical rest.

The Feather Step and Three Step in Foxtrot were on our schedule for today.  We wanted to work on the rotation in the upper body for each of these figures, and of course the transition between the two.  It's actually because of these two steps that I feel no beginning dancer should study International Standard right off the bat.  The learning curve is far too steep and I suspect would suck all the fun out of dancing.  Don't get me wrong, I think International Standard is the way to go, but American Style Smooth definitely has it's place.  The learning curve of Standard is really only cut out for those who are more serious about dancing right from the get go.  While in Smooth is more socially based so you can ease your way into the waters.  Though I think eventually you should make the switch over to Standard.

Back to the Feather and Three.  Sarah and I immediately noticed how back weighted I got when dancing these two figures.  It's really weird, but I'm seldom back weighted.  Not sure why I feel like I need to be for these two steps.  We'll have to work on it some more for me to straight it up.  Next issue was the torso rotation for each of the figures.  Left side forward for the Feather Step then resetting to neutral, and then to right side forward for the Three Step.  All of that has to happen smoothly.  There are many differing opinions as to how and when the rotation occurs, resets, and occurs once more.  I tend to like to stretch it out over the length of the step.  So imagine two bell curves in a row.  Overall I think we do pretty well with these two figures.  We still have a long ways to go, but I think we're ahead of the curve.  They don't call the Feather Step the "Million Dollar Step" for nothing.

Next we flipped it around (as I found out a while ago) and worked on the Extended Reverse Wave.  Somehow it feels much easier to me other than the fact that I'm stepping backwards.  So I'm guessing something is wrong with it.  I hope not, but that's usually the way it goes.  We'll find out once we get to open level.  For now, I'm just going to have fun with it.

Back to Basics

Part: Follow
Dances: Cha-cha, Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Nightclub 2-step
Hovers: 1

Last night I was woefully late for practice due to my participation in a much longer than anticipated but beautiful Requiem Mass for the feast of All Souls at my church in Seattle, and Jeff was heroically patient about it. Next time, I'll know to revise my schedule. It was a full night, since I also got a really good workout in just after work as well. Jeff also had worked out hard on the usual leg day self-torture.

After dancing a not-so-energetic cha-cha warm up while one of our Latin dancer friends was practicing, we danced our round. This round was definitely the longest we'd ever done, with virtually no breaks between dances. It was hard! We almost died at the end of the quickstep, but I think it's a good sign that we made it through. We'll need to practice our endings for our dances though, because we just kind of broke apart at the end of each one and walked away from each other trying to recover our breathe, which is not the most graceful way to finish. One thing at a time though.

For practice, we worked on the most basic figures in foxtrot, but also the most challenging, it seems: the basic feather and three step. It was about rotation, control, and figuring out where our weight was at any given time. I think we both have a tendency to be back-weighted; Jeff sometimes feels me pulling him forward, and I've always felt that his weight is farther back than most other guys I've danced with. I'd so much rather it be there than too far forward though, because at least we normally tend to counter-balance each other pretty well. What we sacrifice is a lack of control. We also focused on the same issues in the extended reverse wave, which, as Jeff "discovered" recently, is the reverse of the feather three combination. It's definitely much more difficult, but we felt that this was a very productive practice as it helped us get more in touch with some of the fundamentals of how we're moving as a couple and how well we are driving and over our feet and balanced, and other essential things that we sometimes don't remember to focus on because of other more pressing problems in the routines. Maybe we should try something similar on a regular basis for all of our dances.

Jeff mentioned a couple of times that he feels me pulling him along to some extent, and that he thought I was falling into my steps. I'm pretty sure I wasn't falling though because I had quite a bit of floor pressure and felt like I had control of my heels landing (and not until they were together, either), and he did stop mid-step several times to test it, and I didn't fall and stopped with him, so perhaps it was the backweightedness that he was feeling.

This led me to think, and to wonder it would be fair to say that to a certain extent a good and powerful follow will provide most of her own movement, as long as the direction and amount of energy to go with are clearly communicated to her. From the lead's perspective, he might feel that, rather than pushing her around, he's driving her around...giving the directions and shape to the movement. On the social floor, I think Jeff and most leads rather like a somewhat lazy follow, who essentially relies on the lead to provide everything, not only direction, power, and shape, but also her movement, rotation, and extension (if she can even have any). While it's comfortable for the guy to know that she can't do anything without him...it seems to me that kind of relationship is less of a partnership of give and take and less likely to result in clean, efficient, and powerful dancing. Yes, it is a constant struggle to find that harmony and balance where the two are performing equally and with power, but in their respective roles, but I think that is something you will rarely find on the social floor, and something that is not going to feel totally comfortable for quite some time. Granted, I'm not the most docile follow you ever saw...not by choice, but because I have a lot of energy of my own that takes practice to channel. But I think that at some point we'll see that, while I'm probably never going to be the social follow Jeff can drag around the floor and essentially throw and dump into various figures, I will be able to provide an energy, power, and control in movement that a less independent follow would likely never have. I say will since I am still only on the journey there.

Practice last night concluded with a nightclub 2-step. As we were dancing, a young guy came into the room and was watching us dance for quite some time. He left, but then as we were leaving the room he approached me and said he recognized me from one of the other studios in the area. It turns out it was one I've never been to so I must look like someone else, but we ended up talking with him about dancing at the gym, and the style we dance, and found out that he used to teach at a local studio at one point. He kept telling us to 'fess up and tell him where we taught, for some reason he wouldn't believe at first that we aren't instructors! In any case, it looks like we may have a new practice buddy. That room is becoming a virtual dance studio!