Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Out of Control Merry-go-round

Part: Follow
Dance: Viennese Waltz
Hovers: 0

Yesterday was a lesson instead of practice, though Jeff and I still managed to hit up the gym for our respective workouts, though at different times. Since we made it every week day this week, I feel guiltless and free going into our two day weekend break, though I may have ruined the efforts by eating too much good food at a pool side party today. Jeff keeps trying to convince me that it won't make a difference if I eat unhealthy food or more than is optimal every so often, maybe once a week, but I'm skeptical. I definitely feel different when I do. Then again too, I haven't quite put on the muscle mass and probably never will (yes, I've been convinced) to burn calories at the rate that my partner seems capable of.

Jeff and I like to dance the Viennese waltz because it somehow just works out better for us than the other dances (maybe now with the exception of Foxtrot), with the added benefit of looking that much better by comparison because most social dance couples really struggle with this one. I think it's because we both like to move a lot, and have gotten a pretty good feel for the interplay between the partners on the drives and the swings, so at least we each can fulfill our respective parts and really cover some ground as we dance it. There's also the fact that following Viennese is a cinch; there are so few options that it's almost impossible to misunderstand the lead, plus, the lead has fewer options to think about himself, though that can make floorcrafting quite a dangerous undertaking. Given all this, I thought it might be good to find out if it is actually any good (I was guessing not), and hopefully learn how to do fleckrels for those frightening moments when your only recourse seems to be a retreat to the center of the floor.

Turns out our basic Viennese did need plenty of work. I was glad when Kora targeted my head first head is seriously the bane of my dancing. It's one of those things I have the toughest time calibrating; it's too forward, the it's too back, then it's too straight, then it's too curved, then it's too tilted...and always, I get neck pains and stiff neck. This time my head was too stationary and too far back. More recently my chin had not been high enough; now it was too high. Sigh. So the idea was that I needed to work on creating the shape with my head more by simply rotating and turning it on the axis of the neck rather than stretching back or to the side. Then I was suppoed to move it straight at the end of the second half of the natural turn, which feels really strange because it seems like I'm in Jeff's face, which has always been a no no. But really, it just feels that way because of where his head normally is in relation to his body; but in that figure our configuring is such that I can bring my head more in line with my own upright body because Jeff's head is off to the side, and then I can resume my left stretched position when I'm on the inside of the turn.

In the reverse turns, Kora had me work on swinging my sides up and forward. She didn't talk so much about my head on the reverses, but I noticed that her head shaping on the reverses is very smooth and quite beautiful and not like how I do them; it's like she's drawing a graceful curlyque to propel the rotation around. When I try to "assist" a reverse turning figure with my head, I tend to sort of just turn it in a more abrupt motion to help get the turn going, but hers looked so smooth. I guess the finesse just comes with time and practice. I thought it was odd that Kora said that in order for Jeff to swing his own sides more (which he apparently also needs to do), I need to do it first to allow him. So in that case, it seems like the lady leads how much swing is allowed? Sort of like how the lady determines stride length and the guy adapts to that? (Jeff still argues with me on that one though). It was kind of an odd thing, because while I felt I could swing more than I normally do, I had always tried to match my swing to Jeff's, and I think we usually do pretty well matching our swing and stride in Viennese, so it was odd to try to do more than he was on purpose. It did feel awkward, but it also felt a lot more active and powerful. Once we get it smoothed out I think our Viennese will be much more effecient; we'll work harder but cover more ground and have a better effect than before.

Fleckrels were hard. I'd learned the natural fleckrels before a long time ago, but we worked on the reverses this time, which I'd never done. Jeff spent the first while staring at his feet and holding on to me in practice hold, which I think is part of why my feet kept flailing out behind me. I also kept freaking out about being behind and rushing like crazy. Part of it is that I have this clear visual in my head of Anna Mikhed dancing these at a certain speed to certain music, besides having worked on the naturals before at full speed. I realized then that there's a certain rhythm you get into with them in terms of foot, head, body movement, and slowing it down as much as we did seemed to make it an entirely different step. So that just shows how insecure I was in it; I really didn't know fleckrels any better than Jeff. That was me being the out of control merry-go-round. We have a lot to practice with those, and will probalby employ the newly introduced "hug" practice hold that forces you to mainatin body position and contact while executing extreme rotation and swift steps. In any event, I expect that eventually these figures will be a valuable floorcrafting strategy on the social dance floor.

Just for fun and for reference, here's my favorite standard dancer follow, Anna Mikhed, dancing a Viennese Waltz show with her then partner Victor Fung (they were 3rd in the world). The fleckrels start at 1:02, but they only do the naturals in this show, no reverses. Look at her head though, you can definitely see how she uses it to facilitate the turns:

One thing I like about Viennese Waltz is that it's really all about technique, and the principles you work on here will apply to all of the swing dances in some way or other. It's as though you take a lot of the concepts you have to apply in Waltz and Foxtrot, for example, and exaggerate them, because you have to in order to make Viennese work. That means that these things Kora is telling me about my head position on the naturals is definitely going to apply in Waltz, and my swing in the reverses will help my Foxtrot, I am sure. That's why I suggested we work on it, even though we won't be competing at champ level for quite some time.

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