Dance: A standard round, plus Viennese Waltz
Last night was our first practice in almost two weeks! We have both been very busy, but it still seems like it was such a long time ago. After hitting up the weights, we went into practice wondering how we'd fair after our longest break to date since initiating our partnership.
A quick note about the gym where we practice. Jeff was going on about the much nicer gyms (in the same club) he visited while in California. I'll be the first to admit that this one is not the cleanest or in best repair or in least need of air freshener...however...the room we practice in is great, and it's been kind of fun to have become regulars there and greeted familiarly by the staff with inquiries about how the dancing is going. At some point, they really should consider sponsoring us; we've already brought in some new members because of dancing there! I think this approach that we are taking of working out and dancing together all towards the same goal has done something for our dancing that I think may not be that common. We're training ourselves physically the same way (in general) for the same end...and I think that's going to give us an edge in our dancing. Speaking of which, after several months of working out pretty hard, I haven't lost any weight, as far as I can tell...but I do think my physique has changed a little bit; I'm definitely stronger and I think a bit leaner and toned now, so those are all good things. Jeff has also been making visible progress, I'd say more than I have. Go us!
As for the practice itself, we were both wondering how it would feel given the break. We started with a night club 2 warm up dance to a new song Jeff had found, which was good, and then we went in to our round. Personally, I thought it felt pretty smooth; better at least than the last few practices before our break. Tango especially was good, I thought, after Jeff forgot the first piece and I totally messed up the reverse outside swivel of doom on our first run. Foxtrot is still smooth as ever; our best dance for sure, though the songs we danced to this time were pretty fast and it was harder to gauge our control. Quickstep was a little scary on the tipsies, but the hairy section at the end with the quick open reverses into reverse pivots one after the other ending in double reverse felt the smoothest it's ever felt to me. It always feels out of control, and last night I felt like my head and body were listening to me during that section, instead of flying every which way because of the momentum and turn. Jeff always cuts us off on that piece just before the end though, so I didn't get the true test of control with the hesitation at the end.
While Jeff was gone I had attended a couple of standard technique classes our coaches teach and the focus was on fallaway-reverse-slip pivots, perfect for the issues I've been having, and I credit the in depth technical look at this figure in the class with my much better success with this figure in practice last night, especially in tango and waltz. As I suspected, I've been focusing too much on my foot position and not enough on body position in a relative sense, and after I realized that it's more about keeping my frame turning and in a consistent position with Jeff while my hips do the fun stuff underneath, it works out a lot better, and my feet just go under my body and do what they need to do to match it. If I focus too much on the bottom half, my frame tends to follow that and then our connection gets all wonky. In general too, I've been trying to work on feeling the lead and following from the hips and lower body connection rather than the frame, and to rely on the frame only for shaping rather than direction. I know that sounds kind of obvious, but I've realized that in attempting to stay in a good position with the frame I've focused so much on that connection at times that I take that as my lead, which can be a really bad idea sometimes when the frame and shape don't match the hips and direction. The unfortunate part is that a lot of guys do lead with their frames, so it's an easy habit for a beginner follow to slip into. Once again, it's all about isolation.
Speaking of a lower connection, we focused our practice session on our basic natural and reverse turns in Viennese waltz per our last lesson. It's more bumpy now than it used to be because we're not used to moving this way, but I found that my neck was much much less strained than normal as I tried to only turn it on its axis rather than stretch to the side and back. I think we also covered much more ground and it felt super powerful and a little scary too. In the reverses I was working on sending my sides up and forward much more aggressively and I could feel it giving us that momentum, but it didn't feel as smooth and controlled as it normally does. Jeff sarcastically commented that more power and length in our steps is exactly what we need at the social dances where we dance this (we're always almost dying in fatal crashes in this dance because we seem to move about twice as quickly around the floor as most of the couples). Because of the way we're moving now (lower in the legs) and also because of the lower connection it requires, apparently I came frightfully close to grievously insulting my partner's manhood on several occasions. These are the times when I wish I had shorter legs. I've got to make absolutely sure to drive forward with straighter legs and to lower at least as much as Jeff does, if not more. When you're the proportionately tall one in a partnership your legs get more of a workout, that's for sure. This is why I'm allowed to skip "leg day" at the gym!
All in all a good first day of practice, and I must admit I'm happy to have Jeff-partner back!