Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Moment of Truth

Part: Follow
Dances: Quickstep, Foxtrot
Hovers: 2

Today was chest and shoulders day for the workout, so we got that out of the way and then headed in to practice. Another couple were practicing salsa there and had their music going, so we went ahead and warmed up to their music and danced something resembling salsa. They finished up right as we were starting, however, so then it was our turn with the music and the clicker.

Practice centered once more on tick-tock timing, this time applied to both quickstep and foxtrot. We're trying quickstep a little faster now, and it's definitely easier at a slightly faster speed. We actually got through the entire routine, without stopping, with the metronome at one go...and it was a pretty good run too. Even the weird part at the end that we never practice came out pretty smooth. I think we're figuring out the double reverses at the super slow tempo as they were much more together. In any case, we intend to continue patiently clicking it up from there. Another hiccup happened in quickstep, which I will mention below as it was part of our round.

Foxtrot worked out much better today, with the metronome, and I think we got the old feeling back. For me, as Jeff was mentioning in an earlier post, it's all about following his lead alone, I must not ever listen for the metronome myself as my job is only to follow Jeff's interpretation of it. Now he's usually on with it so it works out fine, but it's a really tough frame of mind for this metronome beaten former piano student to assume. After much practice and painful detachment I feel that I've improved in my ability to tune out the music and dance to my partner's rhythm instead, but with the metronome it's even harder because, let's face it, a loud clicker is pretty unmistakable. Like I said, normally Jeff's on time, but if it ever gets off, sometimes it's really hard to separate the two "leads" I'm getting. Now as a follow, I've got to be pliable in my ability to adapt to different ways of interpreting the music and rhythms, so my ingrained natural impulse to move in accordance with the rhythms I'm hearing is something I've really had to fight. While I know this is still something I struggle with (and Jeff too by extension), I know that I can and will improve in this because I know I have gotten much better with this even over the past few months. Unfortunately, not dancing to the rhythm I'm hearing is something I still have to think about much of the time; I actually have to make a conscious effort to let what I'm feeling from the lead override everything else and focus my attention on that alone. Usually when Jeff mentions to me that I'm rushing in these situations, the problem is either that I've been thinking too hard about something I'm doing, or else I've stopped thinking entirely and let my body go where it feels the lead...and unfortunately for me it sometimes takes it's cue from the music, clicker, or muscle memory...rather than from Jeff's movement alone. Sometimes when we're social dancing, for example, I get in this awesome zone where I'm not thinking at all and I feel like I'm just there, along for the ride, and continuously reacting to his movements, and although I'm not really thinking about it there's sort of a conscious focus on what he's doing that isn't the same as "thinking and figuring it out." That's what I'm going for all the time, or I'd say it's my goal to be able to dance like that all the time...but it's not easy, especially when you're working on technical details that require mental engagement.

Finally, Jeff had decided to videotape us dancing a round, just to see where we were and help us in our self-evaluation. As scary as that was, I think it was a very good thing to do. Ultimately, I think found our dancing about how we expected...not better and not worse than we thought, though everything looked smaller and much less energetic in the video than it felt. Jeff said it could have been the video quality though...maybe. A couple of mishaps included me getting my heel caught in my stretchy skirt and giggling during the left whisk and contra check bit, and Jeff wondering why I was "so nervous" because he didn't see what was going on with my skirt. Then, in quickstep, I completely messed up at the very end in the transition from the end of the routine from the beginning, and when into a driving step when I should have been doing a lockstep. It was my fault, I freely admit, and Jeff gave me the what for because he had clearly led a lockstep. He was right; I should have followed...but obviously I didn't. Shucks. Sometimes it happens and I hate myself when it does, but didn't have any other explanation. I continue to be thankful for one thing in this partnership, however, and that is that we both are extremely honest with each other yet good about not taking complaints or problems personally. I am glad when Jeff tells me that he's frustrated about something I'm doing, even if I have no immediate or logical solution; and he appreciates it when I tell him what I am feeling as well. That way we know what issues we are contending with, including ones we'd never have discovered on our own. It's not fun...but it's the only way we can improve. That's why we're in this together.


  1. I seem to remember once hearing of a dancing couple that practiced with the lead wearing headphones, and the follow not hearing the music. (Maybe it was from you?) Have you tried that?

  2. That's a great idea, and we haven't tried it yet. I think it would be very helpful for the metronome at least, and Jeff's bluetooth headset would make it easy...though I'm a sucker for music and will be sad if I don't get music anymore. It's the metronome that I find even harder to tune out. I could see this making the whole exercise one notch more difficult, but it could be very beneficial for my following skills. Maybe we can try this next week.