Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Other Side of Dance

Dances:  Foxtrot
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.
Data Rescued From A Bad Hard Drive:  32gb

Another interesting day for the two of us.  The workout went well.  Sarah still struggles greatly with chest exercises.  I think I'm going to have to force her to do next to no weight just to get her form right.  Otherwise it'll be a waste of her time since she's not isolating the correct muscles not to mention dangerous.

Practice today was REALLY short.  I knew it was going to be since we needed to come up with a plan on how to make our practices more effective and focused.  We warmed up with a partial round then worked on the Reverse Wave in foxtrot.  Mostly just getting used to the shaping of it.  I'm not sure why, but I often shape left first then right rather than right then left.  Obviously it's too late once you notice.  But in the end Sarah said it felt really good once I got the order down.  We also dabbled slightly in the Tipsies section of our quickstep, trying out the taking of smaller steps.  It seemed to help somewhat, but it still feels really sluggish.  We have in on our agenda to put the metronome to work on this part.

After that, Sarah and I started discussing ideas on how to get our practices better organized.  We came up with a daily calendar system where we list which dance we want to focus on primarily that day, and which figures or parts within that dance get the attention.  Along with that we've allotted time for warming up, cooling down, stretching, and metronomic practice.  This discussion lead to a "bigger picture" talk between the two of us.  It makes sense that if we're going to start planning out on paper what we want to accomplish in each practice, we need to figure out where all this is headed.  It will most definitely affect what goes on that calendar.  Unfortunately we don't have an answer yet, other than to say ultimately our goals are the same in that we want to dance to the best of our ability.  I'm more of the mind that what we're working on now is really foundational.  It doesn't bother me if I have to take a year or two or five to get it done right.  So for right now I have no immediate goals other than to practice and keep hammering out the nuances of each dance and the figures within.  Sarah had a tough time understanding where I was coming from.  I think she functions better with a specific tangible goal in mind.  I explained to her that I thought that we need to take it one step at a time.  We've now reached a point where a calendar will start to become useful.  Compared to when we first started three months ago when just getting together a couple times a week to practice was useful enough.  In time we'll move onto other aspects that will benefit us.  For now I think the calendar to help organize our practices is key.

One other conversation came up last night, which I think the practice calendar will help out with.  We noticed that it's too easy to get carried away and become spread too thin over life.  Time is almost everything, and if we devote too much time to any one activity it invariably leads to an unbalance in ourselves.  We are both noticing this since we both have large projects we're working on outside of our dance lives.  That calendar should help keep us on track not only in the things we need to work on, but also time.  We can have a clear limit as to how much time we dedicate to our dance life and use the rest of it for our personal agendas.  All this is hypothetical.  We're going to start testing out the calendar tomorrow.  I'll keep you posted on how it goes.

New Strategies and Nice Shaping

Part: Follow
Dances: Tango, Waltz, Quickstep
Hovers: 1 (a very good one, I might add)

Yesterday I got kind of a rude surprise when I realized that our week is one day off for the weight lifting, so it was chest and shoulders day and I was expecting legs. As Jeff will attest; chest and shoulders is by far my weakest, and legs my strongest for sure. Anyways, I got through it and am happy that it's legs today.

Practice yesterday was quite short; we decided to take some time to plot out the rest of our week and come up with a practice format or template that we will complete on a weekly basis to help us focus on the issues we are finding in our dancing and also to make sure we allot enough time for a little slow practice daily, warm up, cool down, and plenty for stretching. I was really happy that Jeff brought up this idea, because I've always been one for plotting out the steps, be the project a paper, a sewing project, and assignment at work, you name it. So I think this is going to be really good for both of us and help us really know what we want to get out of each individual practice session. This discussion also broadened a bit to a more general one about our broader and more ultimate goals, and in the end we realized that although some of our ideas about what some of the more proximate goals we should have as a partnership may be different, all we both really care about in the end is getting as good as we can at dancing. We're thinking this new way of scheduling out our practice sessions is really going to help with that.

As for the practice itself, we worked on the tippsies in quickstep briefly, the same issue with timing as always, this time taking smaller steps as Jeff suggested in his last post. It was okay, but I think bringing back the metronome there is going to help. Our waltz and foxtrot felt really good, if I do say so myself, and waltz especially just felt more together and under control; I was rushing less and we were taking our time on the drives and collections. The hover was pretty great too. Jeff mentioned when we finished that he thought it was a pretty good one, and since I thought he was talking about the song we were dancing too I agreed, "Yeah, I'd give it about 4 stars." Jeff chuckled; I suppose we're rating our dancing like Thai food now too? Foxtrot just feels pretty good for us these days, and Jeff worked a bit on the new shaping going into the reverse wave. He did it backwards a few times, and once I did it entirely without his lead (so slap me, I deserve it), but the few times we got it right it felt awesome. Once I was so excited by how it felt that I said "Oooooh...NICE!" as we finished, and Jeff thought that was hilarious. Well, it was nice...what can I say?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Puzzling Promenade Practice Predicament

Dances:  Foxtrot, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.
Happy Hour:  Matador - Bowl of Chili
TV Show Downloaded Today:  Nikita - Season 1

Today was kind of an odd day in that it was Tuesday.  We had to cancel practice yesterday due to another project I was working on.  On the plus side, we did end up having an impromptu barbecue because of it which involved hamburger meatballs rather than patties and expired cheese.  So Sarah and I started out week one day off.  Arms and back was up again and I'm glad to see that Sarah is doing a little more weight now and her form is getting better.  I don't have to worry as much about her hurting herself during our workouts.  After a fairly average workout, we headed into practice.

We focused mainly on foxtrot today hoping to leverage our fresh memories of the most recent lesson.  That of course meant working on our promenade position, both getting into it and staying consistent throughout the entire figure.  This proved to be a challenging ordeal.  We both understand what technically needs to happen, but it's hard to tell whether we've nailed it or completely failed, and if it was the latter, what we need to do to fix it.  Sarah and I tried many tactics from different frame holds to lock our shoulders parallel to each other, to no frame at all.  In the end we concluded that we'd just try our best for right now and consult our coaches for more effective exercises the next time we see them.

Practice ended with a little work on our quickstep.  Primarily the opening section which contains the cursed Tipsies.  We still can't quite get our timing right.  Always a bit too slow resulting is us playing catch-up every time.  I did try taking smaller steps and that seemed to help somewhat.  I'll have to make a mental note to tell Sarah about that next time.  We also ran through the Six Quick Run section a few times.  Now that we've been approved to use a little rise in the lock step section, the part is MUCH smoother and easier.

Sarah and I have both noticed that since our skill level is advancing, the things our coaches work on with us are becoming increasingly broader in scope and finer in detail.  Because of this we've come to find it harder to focus and stay on track during our practices.  It almost as if we're drifting a bit aimlessly.  Tonight we discussed and brainstormed some ways to combat this issue.  I think we're going to try out making some sort of practice calendar that we adhere to.  Kind of like a lesson plan.  We'll need to take some time at the end of each week to plot out the exploits of the following week.  However I'm sure this is a system that will need to altered and honed a few times before it becomes fully effective.  We'll keep you posted on how it goes.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Parking Vulture Evasion

Part: Follow
Dances: Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 0

I'll just start out by saying that today was an off day for me in general; I was tired, but not more so than usual, things were just not going well for me throughout the day and I had the general feeling that life was out to get me today. In any case, I did get to the gym pretty early, early enough to put in a half hour on a cardio machine and try to burn off some frustration, eat something, do my Pilates stretch routine, and then join Jeff for weights before practice.

One noteworthy situation that I often find myself in at this gym that I have not yet mentioned in detail here is that sometimes I like to do the first phase of my workout, and then go back out to my car and get my bag with my dance gear and eat something for dinner in my car before going back in to practice or finish working out with Jeff. Due to the less than satisfactory amount of parking available, there is always someone eager to take my parking space, of course thinking as I am walking out to my car that I intend to vacate the premises. I once had a woman in her car stopped for at least five minutes with traffic piling up behind her as she waited for me to pull my car out, which of course I never did. Often waving the cars on does no good, they are like vultures circling their prey. One time Jeff had come out to my car and completely faked a bunch of would be parkers to the point that they honked angrily at me when I left my car because I had dared to stay there while apparently looking like I was leaving. Now it has gotten to a point where I find myself sneaking out surreptitiously to my car like a criminal, skirting my way between vehicles to lose the scent for angry unfortunates behind the unparked wheels. My latest tactic has involved kind of tacking across the parking lot rather like a sailboat, fooling the excited drivers into thinking I'm parked at the other side that they've already passed, or continuing to walk past the waiting cars, only to skirt around the back and come to my car on the other side of them and quickly dodge into the front seat to eat my hasty salad or yogurt.

Practice itself focused primarily on foxtrot and quickstep. In foxtrot we wanted to work on the content from our recent lesson, but we really struggled to figure out how to actually practice this. While we know exactly what the problem is, we do have a hard time feeling or seeing when it is right or wrong ourselves, so our attempts seemed to have little fruit because it was so hard to gauge the correctness of our execution ourselves. We tried a few funky things with our frame, trying to lock it in in such a way that we couldn't move our shoulders out of the alignment but only our hips going into promenade, but Jeff kept swearing that it wasn't working and that he was still turning the side away from me. A bit frustrating, but we decided that we should ask our coaches for some better ideas on how to practice this.

We then moved on to a bit of quickstep, which basically turned into Jeff lecturing me about how impossible it is to turn and step at the same moment, because I had asked a question about how much rotation happens on each part of the "quick-and-quick" in our tippsies. I tried to get us back on track by protesting that that was not what I meant, but my partner was on a roll and proceeded with full on demonstrations. He's right though, I think, that we are not rotating enough on one of the steps; I was just trying to figure out where I need to focus on helping out that rotation so that I don't focus my efforts in the wrong spot. After clarifying what was in question, we danced through the first half of our quickstep and called it a night. Determining what to practice and focus on has become somewhat difficult for us lately, so we have decided to come up with some kind of official practice schedule for ourselves that will lay out for us what we need to work on for each practice, and hopefully this will help our efforts become more focused, efficient, and productive, as we have been finding that some of focus we had while working on particular issues that are now more or less fixed is gone.

The Worst and Best Promenades in the World

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Rumba, Cha-cha
Hovers: 2

Today, Jeff and I had our first lesson in about a month, since before we started this blog, in fact! Jeff made me pick which dances to work on, and I decided that we should see if our slow practice and exercises in foxtrot and waltz had really paid off. As usual though, we only got to foxtrot. I think we made it down the first long side before we got stopped to work on our apparently dreadful promenade. According to the Robot, since everything else looked relatively good, the promenade really stuck out because it was there our frame was breaking and the connection was somewhat lost. This was due to a failure on both of our parts to keep our sides lifted and forward towards each other, in my case the right and in Jeff's the left. After trying out a few different things, Jeff apparently did something so right that we heard Simeon's voice behind us, "Woah....that was the best promenade I've ever seen!!!" Taken a little aback, we had to asked what the qualification was; I mean, seriously, you've seen Marcus and Karen Hilton dance, what are you talking about? He meant the best he's seen Jeff dance it, but we had a good laugh over it because it was such a contrary reaction to the one he had initially.

That was pretty much all we worked on, as well as straightening out the movement into promenade, and then we added a little shaping going into the reverse wave that looks and feels pretty nice when we get it right. We did it once during the social dance where Jeff did the shaping backwards, and that felt rather odd and made us giggle and lose our foxtrot cool, but I know it's going to be beautiful when we get it consistent. I'm a huge fan of a reverse wave into back feather combination, but since I don't think it's allowed until open I think we'll just have to make do with our simple reverse wave into closed impetus with the nice shaping. Although he never brought it up in the lesson, I had to ask our dear Robot afterwards whether he noticed a change in how smooth our foxtrot was, and whether he noticed the timing issues he had complained about before. He said it was much better, and that he really didn't notice that it was a problem this time. Yay! Hopefully our practice has been working...Jeff says there is no doubt it's better and I can't but agree that it most certainly feels better.

Today during our lesson and in general dancing I was thinking a lot more specifically about keeping my hips forward and under me and trying to follow the direction more with the lower body, to leave my upper body free to read shape only, because so often I get sucked into trying to feel what he's doing with my frame, which can be misleading if there's some funky shape going on. This also means I'm less likely to rush too, because if my leg is tracking with his I'd better not be going faster or quicker than he. I think this is perhaps part of why our Viennese feels so good to me (to both of us, actually), because in that dance I have a much lower connection and don't really rely on the frame for anything but assisting the rotation and matching his shape; my legs just go with his and we take turns driving and being on the inside of the turns and providing the torque; in that particular dance the "he goes...she goes" dynamic seems to flow pretty well for us.

Oh, we also had a moment of vindication when Jeff asked Simeon whether we are allowed to rise a little on the lock-step of the six quick run. He said yes! We've been fighting that figure for a while because I could have sworn there is at least some rise there, but Jeff said someone of some authority on the subject had beaten it into his head 'till he couldn't stand anymore that NO RISE IS ALLOWED! No more frustrating practice where we are both trying to dance a technique that makes no sense...we tested it out with the rise tonight and rejoiced at the new found grace and ease it gave us on this figure. We still don't get the zig-zag, however, but at least I confirmed that I am indeed to slip into wrong side position and can keep my head left there. It works much better than it used to anyways.

After our lesson was the Sunday night social dance. We had some good dances, in general I'd say our ability to deal with floor crafting situations continues to get better; Jeff with being able to mix things up on the fly and me being able to follow them. There were a few times where near collisions caused me to get out of sync and I randomly tried to dance a waltz figure in foxtrot, but otherwise I would say it's feeling pretty good. Tango especially is hugely improved from when we started, and much more relaxed but also sharper. Less serious dances included a congo line our group started during the merengue (which we have a tendency to unofficially boycott, normally) with Jeff at the head and Shaoshu leading some kind of mereguesque synchronized hip sway and tap. Good times.

I'm looking forward to some good practices this week so that we can churn out some more world record promenades for Simeon's future edification.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Lesson #11

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Viennese Waltz, Nightclub 2-Step, Salsa
Part:  Lead
Workout:  None.
Massages and Pies Today:  1 each.

The long wait is over!  Here is our first blog post about a lesson.  This will be the eleventh lesson Sarah and I have taken together.  This evening's victim: Simeon, a.k.a. "The Robot".  The dance: Foxtrot.  The venue:  Washington Dance Club.

On our way over the 520 bridge this evening Sarah was asking me what dance we wanted to work on with Simeon.  I told her I didn't really care since all of our dances need work.  She settled on waltz and foxtrot since we wanted to see if the metronomic practice had done us any good.  I told her she'd better pick the one she wants to start with since we'll probably end up doing that dance for the entire lesson.  This proved to be a true statement, and the dance was foxtrot.

We started off by dancing our foxtrot routine, and roughly half way through Simeon stopped the music and the work began.  The figure in question today was my promenade position.  This didn't really surprise me since it's a common complaint I get from my two coaches.  The short version of the story is that I tend to not to rotate my torso toward Sarah enough and I also drop my left side.  Simeon decided to work on our Hover in conjunction to the promenade it ends on.  As mentioned in a previous post, I don't like turning my head to the right.  The Robot had to keep reminding me to go right as I went into the Hover then back out into promenade, all the while also telling me to lift up my left side.  Finally Simeon got smart and decided to reverse his tactic.  Instead of telling me to lift my left side, the instruction changed to NOT stretch up my right side.  This actually proved to be quite effective despite the first run.  That time I went into the Hover and into the promenade, then realized I had stretched out my right side, tried to correct for it and ended up bouncing around while Simeon just stared in disbelief.  A few tries later and Simeon gasped out "That was the best promenade I've ever seen!".  This made Sarah and I laugh uncontrollably.  I had to ask him if he meant the best in the world ever or just us.  We tend to elicit three responses from The Robot in each lesson:

1.  OMG!  I can't believe it's that good.
2.  OMG!  I can't believe you dance it like that and make it work.
3.  *stunned disbelief*  (mouth open and just looking at us like we're crazy)

These happen not necessarily in that order.  But it's funny that he always goes through each of those in every lesson.  Near the end of the lesson we started working on shaping the Curved Feather and also the Reverse Wave.  It was as good lesson.  Sarah and I will have to keep practicing, although the promenade position will be difficult to do so.  It's hard to tell whether or not you're actually doing it right.  I think I'll have to over exaggerate at first and then come back to a good mean.

Sarah, of course noticed that we didn't get any feedback about our overall movement in the foxtrot.  Later that night, she couldn't hold it in any longer and asked Simeon about it.  He remember having the conversation with us about it in a previous lesson and said he didn't notice the issue as much this time.  Guess the metronomic practice is working.

After our lesson it was time for the usual Sunday dance party at the Washington Dance Club.  It was an average night.  Same people, different Sunday with the exception of Shaoshu.  It was awesome to see him there dancing with us, as he has never done so in the past that I know of.  There were a few guys that evening in particular I kept running into.  It's interesting that it's the same people every time, every Sunday.  At first I was just chalking it up to random chance, but I'm pretty sure now it's not.  I'm not saying they're out to get me, but I think it's just that their floor crafting is just that poor or that they make poor decisions in their figures.  I think I'll start watching how they dance when I'm off the floor and see if the problem persists amongst other couples.  There has got to be a pattern to the madness.  Chaos Theory.  Other than that it was a great night.  Sarah and I got some good dances in.  The new shoes are holding up beautifully even on Washington Dance Club's unusually slick floor.  And as a bonus we got to see Shaoshu dance the Nightclub 2-Step as well as Sarah getting him sucked into the Snowball Rumba.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Tipsy Thursday

Dances:  Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.
Songs Learned Today:  1

This has definitely been an odd week for me.  Circumstances beyond my control have wreaked havoc on my usual schedule so everything seems a little off.  Today both Sarah and I felt the effects of it.

The workout was fairly routine.  We just focused hard on it and cranked it out.  The good news is, I'm down about 3 pounds from when I first started working out 2 months ago.  I'm not expecting to lose that much weight due to the gain in muscle, but it's nice to know progress is being made and changes are happening.  Working out hard is kind of a Catch-22.  While you feel better overall  and are getting stronger, you're generally too tired, worn out, and sore afterwards to utilize that benefit in the real world.  On the other hand, if you stop working out, our bodies are so efficient at tearing down the muscle that you lose all that you've gained in a matter of months or weeks.  Dance is much the same surprisingly.  As a lead if you stop dancing for a few months, amalgamations are much harder come up with on the fly.  Not to mention the loss of muscle mass in all the areas a dancer uses.  They really need to come up with a pill that shuts down the instructions your body sends out to tear down the "unneeded" muscle tissue.  More or less like a useful AIDS.  If you could shut down certain things other than the immune system.  I know they're working on it.  It'll be interesting to see what the future for working out holds.

Practice today was fairly productive.  We managed to hit all four dances.  After a round we hit up metronomic foxtrot, waltz, and quickstep for the first time this week.  Foxtrot was ok.  It actually felt a little less stable than it used to be.  Waltz on the other hand, was lot better.  Even the Hover at the end was good.  Quickstep was just the Tipsies.  Tipsies have always given us trouble.  Not so much the execution of the step, but the timing.  We never come out on time.  I figured out the issue a few days ago and relayed that to Sarah.  The "joints" of our Tipsies were too slow.  After the first quick-and-quick our 180 degree turn is supposed to take place in the space of an "and" then onto the next set of quick-and-quick.  I found out that joints were almost the length of an full quick.  So by the time we hit the second quick-and-quick set, we felt late and would have to speed it up.  The situation the got compounded at the second joint.  Knowing this, we applied the metronome to it and it's mostly on time now.  We'll have to work on consistency next.

In tango it was the Back Open Promenade again.  This step is really strange for us.  It seems to regress very quickly.  We'll work at it until it feels good and everything lines up, then over the course of the week it degrades.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  Not sure why.  I think consistency is an overall theme we'll need to start keeping in the back of our heads.  We're reaching the point where we don't need to think about the easier things such as what comes next in the routine.  Time to start worrying about doing each figure the same way every time.  Hopefully correctly, though I'd settle for being super consistent even if it's wrong.  We can always make it right later.

Sarah insisted on finishing out the practice with a full run through of our quickstep routine, to which I begrudgingly obliged.  I think I'm still feeling the after effects of leg workout day.  Can't wait to get some good rest this weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Focus on the Follow


Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 2

I think I'm done with this week. I've had kind of a persistent heavy head headache for the entire week and the beginnings of a scratchy throat, besides a bit of personal stress too that just compounds it all. I think Jeff would say the same for himself. On the bright side, however, I did both my cardio workout and did weights, plus we got a decent enough practice in. I kept the weights light enough that I knew I could do it without overtaxing myself, and both of us were so out of it that we got through those weights pretty efficiently, and I think we hardly said 10 words the whole workout.

For practice, we did a half-hearted round, meaning we didn't finish all of the routines. Then we pulled up our old friend the metronome again and this time just applied it to our routines. We did our foxtrot and waltz routines to it, and in quickstep we just worked on the tipsies with the metronome to get the timing evened out. This time, I focused entirely on following Jeff's movement when we were using the metronome...not trying to follow the metronome myself, but rather the timing and movement of his hip and leg. That's hard! But it's good practice and I could feel where it was really helping me and why I need to work on this more. I get caught up in my own head too much when dancing, and exercises that involve a lot of thought application to my dancing can be bad for me in the sense that they keep me from letting go and following. Slowing things down to a slow metronome speed and matching that slow beat is hard enough, but matching Jeff's super slow movements and attempts to stay on beat with that tempo might be harder...and ultimately more beneficial to me as a follow. Note to self to work on this more. It's more a mental state approaching the practice, but makes a huge difference as to what I get out of it.

We worked a bit more on the back open promenade in tango since Jeff was not feeling good about it, and it felt much better after that. Personally, I felt that the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivot section of doom was going much better (I don't know that Jeff agreed), and the oversway at the end, because I was taking really tiny steps this time and I felt the turns were cleaner because Jeff had more space to get around me. My heel turn was also very nice and I didn't have to slide my left foot when I went into the oversway, which always happens.

We ended (at my insistence) with a quickstep run through. Jeff wanted to call it quits after a long discussion about I don't remember what, but somehow I like the finality of ending a session with some dance or other, rather than just dropping the whole practice session sort of randomly. Besides, he had said we would do a quickstep run through earlier when we didn't make it through the first time. So run through it we did. And that was it for tonight. We'll see what we feel up for tomorrow, but we're planning to have another session to report.

Here is a link to a photo of the current world champions dancing a very hover-like figure, if not an actual hover...this is what we're going for, I think, except the angle of her feet is kind of different, almost like she's in wrong-side. Hmm...the shape is good though...look a the shape:


Dirty Laundry

Dances:  Waltz
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Legs at the gym.  Installed washer and dryer at home.
Relatives Staying With Us:  Grandma!

It was a really short practice day for us so this post will also be short.  My day started with the hauling in and installation of a washer and dryer for the house.  A few days earlier, the old washer just gave out and leaked water all over the place.  Luckily no damage was done.  Decided to go with a new set and installed them today.  All I can say is DAMN.  That washer was REALLY heavy.  Even with all the working out and weight lifting that thing was a beast.  But after moving both units in place and tracking down a gas leak I'm all set to do laundry again.  On top of all that, today was leg day.  I gave myself a pretty good beating and headed into practice.

Since it was choir day for Sarah, and thus a short practice day, we decided to continue our efforts in the Closed Impetus Reverse Pivot section of our waltz.  I think it's coming together.  Today my heel turns seemed to work without cheating.  Only issue now is stopping in time to do the Reverse Pivot.  I usually over rotate just a little making it quite a bit more difficult to stop, pivot the way I came, and come out on time.  As Sarah has brought up to me before, I think the upper body continues to rotate a little while longer after I stop, then the Reverse Pivot commences.  I also took this opportunity to torture Sarah by NOT dancing the Hover that follows this figure.  Always made sure to get to the step right before it and just drop my frame and walk back to where we started.  She was not amused.  That being said, we actually did get a few good Hovers in today near the end.  A little less shuffling when we reached the peak.  We ended our practice with a round.  Much to Sarah's dismay, I made us dance to random songs so we could rate them.  Luckily they weren't too bad.  We have a full practice tomorrow so it's time to get some rest!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

How many stars?

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz
Hovers: 3

Since we've been dancing a round and a warm up dance (often Night Club 2-step) almost every practice lately, I'm going to start leaving those dances out of my tally. Tonight, however, our practice consisted of little else than the round. We worked on the closed impetus reverse pivot, and I'd say it's much smoother overall...and from what Jeff's told me it sounds as though he's been doing the same thing I've had to make myself do on so many figures: make my heels close on the heel turn no matter what. Sometimes you just have to force it for a while before it comes naturally. That doesn't sound good, but I think it's true with the heel turns. When you're used to cheating it feels so much better to cheat because it's easier; I know because I've done it and still do on occasion with my own heel turns.

Jeff was spiteful tonight; we'd practice that impetus section right up to the half reverse turn preceding the hover, and each time stop exactly before the hover. Of course, I knew he was doing it to get a rise out of me (no pun intended, and I made sure he didn't), and after every single one he chuckled sadistically exactly like a big brother does when he's teasing the little kids. He knows all too well that I like dancing the hover, so was milking that for what it was worth. We ended up with a couple of fair ones in the end though.

Since Jeff really wants to get his gargantuan music collection all rated one through five stars, he's decided that we're playing random music so that we can rate it for a while, and not dancing to the "good stuff" for some time. Now every time we dance to music it's like we're ordering Thai food. "What do you think, 4 stars?" Let's just say that some music is less than inspiring to dance to; we've definitely run across a considerable number of ones and twos, including our famous "Supermarket" quickstep and the "Little Shoemaker" quickstep.

I've been wanting to share this picture of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers for some time, because when I saw it it reminded me of my overdone hovers. Fred looks totally cool with it though.



That was it for tonight's practice, other than our round. We were both tired from our various pursuits today; me mostly from the lack of sleep and Jeff from hauling appliances around, but tomorrow we're planning on a more regular practice.

Cheater, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater

Dances:  Waltz, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym, detailed a car (inside and outside), and mopped one floor.
Happy Hour:  The Parlor - Cheeseburger and Hot Wings.
Puppies Cleanly Groomed:  1

Despite being pretty wiped out from my day of doing chores (detailing the car, mopping floors in the house among other tasks), the workout today went really well.  Sarah HATES chest and shoulder day.  Mainly because she has almost no measurable strength in both those areas.  I keep telling her if she stays consistent with the workouts, it'll feel A LOT better after a month or so.  I, on the other hand, like chest and shoulder day better than the other ones.  Let's not kid ourselves, it's all hard work, but there has to be a ranking order of preference.

After the workout, we put our noses back to the grindstone.  Quickstep was the main focus again.  I think it's great we're dedicating more time for quickstep now since it's our weakest dance, mainly because it's the last one we learned, therefore our newest and most inexperienced routine.  The part specifically in question today was the second short side.  It's really not a difficult one except for the stupid Closed Impetus.  I HATE Closed Impetuses.  It's a close second to the Zig-Zag.  Only difference is that it's actually useful.  I have a tendency (and I think this is a VERY common issue) to just cheat my way through it.  Sometimes I don't even get back onto my heels.  However we ran through it slowly and I was able to concentrate not only on the heel turn, but also keeping the whole thing more compact and tightly wound.  I noticed that it helps tremendously when I keep Sarah close around me as if she was a tether ball near the end of it's rope.  Pole dancing is another good example but we won't go there.  You get the point.  My Closed Impetuses are very poor across all the dances that have them.  At least I'm consistent.  In quickstep it happens so quickly it's almost just begging me to cheat.

Waltz was the second dance we worked on.  Not surprisingly we worked on the very end of our routine which is a Closed Impetus Reverse Pivot followed by a Hover.  Sarah finally got her Hover practice in.  This Closed Impetus is usually a timing issue for us.  Either we take too much time doing the Closed Impetus and then have to rush the Reverse Pivot, or the Closed Impetus is over too quickly and we are half to one beat ahead.  Luckily, it's a good place to cheat since we have half a waltz box before we go into the Hover.  A great place to makeup or create time.  Our Hovers started out great and gradually got worse as we became more tired.  Finally we did one that was just awful and I decided it was time we call it a day.  Sarah doesn't like it when we end on a bad note, but seeing how tired we were it would've been unwise to chase after a good note today.

If any judges are reading this blog post, please do not commit it to memory.  Or better yet, just look the other way when I dance these sections.  I don't like cheating but I will if I have to.  Hopefully it won't be an issue when we start competing, but I like to keep my options open.  :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Grace Not(e) to Graceful

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Night-Club 2
Hovers: More than 5!

After our usual round and warm up dance, today's practice focused mainly on quickstep, in particular our second short side which had gotten a bit of short shrift since we've been working on all of the other tough spots but never that part. There was some confusion at the beginning about which side we were working on and I wish I could have recorded our back and forth on that one because I think we sounded so stupid (especially me)...we were both really tired today and it was coming out like, "So this is the short side after our 1st long side"..."No, it's the 2nd short side"...."Yeah, I know....the one after the Big Fish"..."No, not the Big Fish"..."Huh? Oh...the rumba cross"...."No."..."Uh...the part after the rumba cross?"..."What are you talking about?"..."The part after the rumba cross!"...."Here, lemme show you..." And then I go randomly locking my feet because I'm confused and that's what it felt like to me, even though I knew there was no lock step anywhere near that section. I felt like a moron because we know this routine. I do think the focused practice helped though.

We also tackled the rumba cross bit again after Jeff asked what else I thought we need to work on, and I pointed a finger at the side of the room we always dance that part on as though at a map to indicate my pick. I have a mental map of all of our routines, and since we generally dance them starting in the same place on the floor, I know where each part goes on the floor and so it only occurred to me afterwards that it's kind of silly to be pointing at parts of the room to indicate parts of the choreography, but Jeff knew what I meant.

Then we moved on to waltz and did some extra work on the closed impetus reverse pivot into hover. The closed impetus has always felt a bit off balance and to me and the reverse pivot coming out always seems rushed, or at least we seem to rush it, so it comes out less like an eighth note and more like a grace note or an afterthought. I think the focused on practice on this part, as painful as it may be, actually helped a lot, and it was feeling much smoother by the time we ended. Jeff's part of this sequence looks pretty hard; it's one of those times I'm grateful to be a follow. Towards the end though, our hovers started getting less and less balanced, and finally we decided that that was our sign to finish up practice for the night. Bring on the foam rollers!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Full House

Dances:  Waltz, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arm and back at the gym.
Number of Broken Washing Machines Dealt With Today:  1

Since the conception of our 24 Hour Fitness ballroom practice program, our membership has more than doubled!  It was a full house today with Shaoshu, Patrick, and Caroline, bringing our total to 5.  Now if only John Stamos and Bob Saget could join us.  Throw in the Olsen twins too.  I love practicing around others.  For some reason it helps keep me more focused.  Hopefully our numbers keep growing!

Today was Monday, which meant the typical arm and back workout.  I ended up having to go the gym early on in the day due to a washing machine incident earlier this morning.  But it ended up being a good move since I was able to help out my parents in the evening and arrived at practice more rested than normal.

I should mention that we started another phase of my initiative to create the ultimate ballroom dance music collection.  Since we have been using the large and ever-growing library, we've started to make an effort to rate the songs as we dance to them.  Obviously our favorites were the first to be rated.  That meant that we had to try out new songs in order to see how good they were.  As expected, most of them have scored a three (out of five) since they are for lack of a better word: average.  However some of them have managed to surprise us at how great/awful they are.  If we keep this up, over time we should be able to rank most of the songs.

Quickstep was our poison of choice this evening.  Our last short side has kind of eluded us for some time now.  Mainly because we always run out of room when we get to it.  Sarah apparently couldn't handle the mystery anymore and put her foot down so we worked on the section.  Not too bad.  A few shaping issues here and there but overall it's an easy side.  One thing that I finally did bring up today was what I like to call "Sarah-In-The-Box".  Whenever I put Sarah in a situation where she shapes up and left, such as in a Hover in waltz, she tends to shape a little at first, then all of sudden just springs into the rest of it, not unlike a Jack-In-The-Box.  I'm not quite sure what's causing that to happen.  Either she's just overzealous, or perhaps I'm doing some to trigger that response.  If I use my track record as a gauge, I'm sure it's my fault.  Good news is, after I explained it to Sarah, she fixed it.  I just don't want her fabricating a response if I'm leading something wrong.  Our quickstep was interspersed with waltz which is feeling better.  We're still breaking a good sweat doing it (more so than I would like), but it's smooth.  One thing I need to keep reminding myself of, is the fact that I need to BREATHE during my dances.  One would think that with all my years of experience as a breather, I wouldn't need to think about it.  I swear, dance takes everything you do day-to-day naturally and makes you suck at it.  Alas.

Hover and Hesitation Calibration

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Night-Club 2
Hovers: 4!

For me, today was back to working out after a bit of hiatus...four days, to be exact! I think my body appreciated the break, but I was glad to get back into my routine, 45 minutes on the cross trainer machine and then lots of stretching and my Pilates routine. Today I also spoiled myself and got a bottle of kombucha at Whole Foods; it's expensive, but that stuff is seriously a wonder energy drink for me...much better and more wholesome feeling than caffeine, but just as effective, and it's so good for you. I did have a busy weekend so I was still tired, and I think that stuff really helped me tonight.

Practice was good. Since we had not both killed ourselves with a workout immediately beforehand, we were both less fatigued and able to give more to the dancing, and everything was more under control too. After running through our round, we worked on some slow waltz, and kind of petered out on that; I think the metronome practice is losing it's novelty and it's getting harder to focus. We then switched to working on some "trouble spots" (as my piano teacher used to call them) in quick step. Jeff was feeling so good about the whole thing that he expressed a jovial confidence that we could "take Victor" someday, and that we weren't so far off right now anyways. I just laughed, as usual.

The parts we worked on were specifically a combination of quick open reverses and reverse pivots all in a row, which I always feel are too precarious and about to fly apart (Jeff thought the fact that we survive every time was a good enough sign). Again, for me it's about delaying the reverse pivots and then incorporating my head weight into the turn more by leading with my head turn. Jeff could feel the difference in the speed of the turns when I was conscious of using my head, so I know it was working. Jeff then enlightened me with the knowledge that I am often a jack-in-the-box on hesitations because I rise to soon at the end of them, I think because I extend out too fast and draw in my foot too quickly. So we worked on that hesitation that ends that particular section, and I worked on taking my good sweet time with my extension to the left, and Jeff said it felt much better. That's good! I think sometimes I don't realize how much time I have and then freak out and go all the way too fast because I don't think I'll have to time to get out there if I don't.

We then also worked on the hover in quickstep, where apparently I was doing the same thing. There, however, I was artificially creating a shape because I knew there should be one there, and when we figured that out Jeff started shaping it more like he does in the waltz, and this smoothed it out a good deal, because then I could at least attempt to fill the space he was giving me rather than make my own space! That took a little calibrating though, because he once gave me a bit too much, and as both Simeon and Jeff know too well, in general if I am given space and the go ahead (however slight, and sometimes without) I will go with a vengeance, and woe to the lead if he didn't actually mean to let me go that far! So in that particular instance we almost lost balance because I curved over a bit too much for the time allotted, even though Jeff technically gave me the space to do it. It's all about calibration.

Something I have to figure out myself is how to feel how much sway I'm supposed to have when going outside partner with a right shape going into foxtrot weaves and quick-open-reverses and the like in quickstep. I always tilt way too much, so my left side is very lifted and my right shoulder tends to drop, giving me a broken looking frame, even though it would and I believe does feel fine and pretty light from the lead's perspective, because if anything I'm lifting my side too much. So it's not something Jeff tends to complain about, but it's been commented on and I've seen it in pictures, so I want to work on that.

We had quite a nice group tonight practicing together, five of us all together, two Latin dancers, us two standard, and Pat who practices all 10. Tonight Jeff also wanted to continue our project of rating his music 1-5 stars...which means we don't get to dance to my favorite pieces anymore because we're trying out new stuff so we can rate it. This also brought up the discussion of how our dancing rates on a scale of 1-5, if 3 is average. I guess it all depends on who's in the pool, right?

We ended on a fun note with the Jeff cut of a Viennese waltz from "Tangled" that sounds exactly like a medieval circle dance. Viennese is probably our easiest dance, yet is also the most like sprinting. I'm ready for sleep now!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

It only looks easy

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, West-Coast Swing, Rumba
Hovers: 1

As Jeff mentioned, yesterday's practice was a bit of an anomaly, because normally Saturdays are our days off, but since my schedule had precluded practice the previous two days, we decided to fit in a quick make up session. Our coaches were supposed to join us but got stuck in evil traffic, and since I had to leave at a certain time to get to a fundraiser I was helping out with that evening, we missed practicing with them this time.

I was pretty amazed by how much better and more under control the dancing felt for my part since my muscles weren't tired at all. I slept in late Saturday morning and hadn't worked out in a couple of days, and it felt great! One thing I particularly noticed was that I felt that I had no problem at all keeping my left side lifted and forward; normally that takes a bit of effort because everything wants to sag when my body is tired. The tough part of the tango keeps feeling better, for me at least. There were some things I was doing that were making it particularly rocky, and I think I am getting a much better sense of the required lengths of the steps involved, as well as my foot timing in relation to Jeff...plus, I'm waiting for him more in general. Also, he's been sharpening it up and moving from foot to foot much quicker and taking longer between steps, which I had kind of already been doing because I had been "yelled at" for not making my steps quick and sharp enough; but now that we both are moving more or less the same way it is meshing better. On my fallaway-reverse-slip-pivots in all dances I am feeling much better about it; I'm taking a smaller fallaway step now, and longer second step with my left foot angled out, and a very small tucked under cross step, and also waiting longer for the slip pivot and then making sure the foot goes between his for the pivot. I used to always crash into his right leg, but now not so much, and I'm also bouncing up less on this figure, which is also good.

Jeff thinks our waltz is requiring too much effort. Yes, we've got lots of energy going into it and it feels powerful, but he doesn't think it should be this hard. I don't really know. It always looks so easy when Arunas dances, for example, but I tend to think that is an illusion and that they are putting a lot of strength, energy, and power into the dancing. I've seen our coaches and most serious open dancers come off the floor after a round pretty much gasping for breath. I don't think anyone would say waltz, or any standard dance for that matter, is easy or requires little effort. Of course, the better you are, the more efficient you are with your movement, which means that you can produce bigger shapes and more power, but essentially I think you're putting just as much in, you're just getting more out of it. Simeon once explained to me that no matter how good your physical condition, you always want to give 100% physically when you're competing, and if you're not pretty much spent by the end of the round you weren't dancing hard enough. It's a tough question, because I think in comparison to our foxtrot, for example, Jeff is right that our waltz takes more effort. We'll see if it gets easier over time, but somehow I think that particular dance is always going to demand a lot. I wonder if it looks like we're trying really hard when we dance it, because ultimately it's all about how it looks on the floor...not how it feels for us.

I was just realizing yesterday that Jeff and I have been training together for almost three months. In that time we have learned four gold level routines (I had just come out of silver when we started), and now could technically dance a competition round with those four dances. That's not bad! We still have a lot of work to do to make us really competition ready, but I think we've come a long way. This week we're going to have to catch up with a lesson or two and see what our coaches think of our progress to date. I'm kind of nervous, but looking forward to getting some fresh ideas for practice.

A Rainy Saturday, A Tough Waltz

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  None
Whole Chickens Consumed Within 24 Hours:  1

After two days of rest (well maybe not rest, but a break from practicing) Sarah and I were back at the gym for a rare Saturday practice.  It really was a great day to practice since the weather was pretty crappy.  Not only was it rainy, but it was the kind of misty rain that's too light for you to keep your windshield wipers on, yet heavy enough to soak you in a few minutes.  Since we're in Seattle, this is a common kind of rain.  I miss the rain in California.  On the rare rainy day down there you got the SUPER LARGE drops and crazy downpour.  This would last for a few hours then it would be sunny and dry up again.  But enough about rain.

Since there was no workout today, that meant that our muscles were fresh going into practice.  We started off with a round which went well, then proceeded to work on waltz.  I don't have any specific complaints or trouble spots in the waltz at this point (though I'm sure Kora and Simeon would beg to differ) but overall it feels like we're just trying too hard.  Sarah pointed out that it's only supposed to look easy and graceful.  While I know that's true, I don't think it should be THAT hard.  Not to mention that it's the routine I've had the longest overall.  Waltz is the only dance where I really feel like I'm busting my rear end to dance.  I'm not saying that the tango, foxtrot, and quickstep aren't hard or that I don't try hard when dancing them, but they generally feel like they take less effort and energy to dance.  All this being said, I'm sure our coaches will give us something to work on in the other three dance that will make them just as tiring.  Other than the waltz, we ran through the other dances a little which all felt great.  All in all a good practice to get us back on track.

Kora and Simeon were supposed to join us for practice today, but they got held up in traffic.  Apparently the 520 bridge was closed so I-90 was jam packed.  They showed up right as we were leaving.  Sarah and I are going to try and schedule a lesson with them for next week.  I wonder what our report card will show.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rumba in the Quickstep?! Really?!

Dances:  Foxtrot, Waltz, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Legs at the gym.
Emails Sent Today:  9

Leg day at the gym is always a tough day to practice, though today was a rare exception.  I'm not sure if it was because of the new shoes, but the usual rubber legs syndrome didn't occur.  And I'm sure I worked out hard.  Sarah decided not to join me today so I was able to crank out legs in less than half an hour.

As mentioned, today was new shoes day.  I love the first few days of wearing a new pair.  Everything from my balance, to heel turns, to swivels to Feather Steps, were all magically upgraded.  Not that I'm a salesman for Ray Rose, but they definite know their craft.  If you haven't tried a pair yet, do so.  By far the best ones I've owned yet.

Sarah and I focused on Quickstep today.  Specifically our Rumba Cross section.  We even applied a little metronome to it.  By the end, I think we were getting the hang of it.  It has a lot to do with the timing in our steps, head position, and shaping.  Of course this is the case with any step out there, but the Rumba Cross can easily go to hell in a hand basket in the blink of an eye and the proper alignment of all of those variables is far less forgiving if executed incorrectly.  The second heel lead always troubles me, kind of like the Three Step in Foxtrot.  Just feels awkward and I keep cheating with my toe.  However, I've been instructed to do so and I guess I just have to suck it up.  The cross of the right leg behind the left at the end doesn't help matters any as well.  All in all, I seem to have a love hate relationship with this pattern.  I love and hate the way it feels all at the same time.  Actually to be more specific, I love the way it moves from the waist up and hate the way it works from the waist down.  Our Rumba Crosses exit with steps 5 to 11 of a Running Right Turn.  Another fun one to lead.  It's definitely a challenge making sure Sarah gets a good lead for her heel turn then right back out on her toe again.

Overall it was a great practice.  We peppered in a little waltz and foxtrot.  Those two dances are definitely smoother and easier to control.  We'll be taking a break for the next few days since Sarah has some family and work events to tend to.  Hopefully we'll have some updates over the weekend!

If the shoe fits...

Part: Follow

Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Night-Club 2
Hovers: 1


For me personally, this was the best practice of the week so far, thanks to Jeff ordering me home early last night, I think. I also didn't lift weights today; just did the cardio machine and stretched. We started practice with a warm up dance and then a round; it was great to have the music again! Waltz and foxtrot are undeniably smoother, and even I could feel Jeff's new Ray Rose shoes, due to the added stability and balance we had with him wearing them. I was so inspired that I decided once and for all I need to retire my flimsy, ripped up Supadance year and a half old shoes as soon as I can, so I'm ordering another pair of Ray Rose shoes myself (the ones in my icon) so that I can start wearing the pair I have now for everyday practice. I find the balance so much better myself, especially for heel turns, so I'm looking forward to converting my "competition shoes" into workhorse every days. It's crazy to think that I'm to a point where I need to have a pair of "everyday" dance shoes as well as a "competition" pair, but that's what it's looking like. I trash my dance shoes, so they can't do double duty.


We worked a lot today on the quickstep rumba cross, for which I was grateful. It always feels iffy to me because of the dramatic shape, speed, and rotation, but Jeff seems to like to grade this particular figure and section with a pass-fail, and he usually thinks it's a pass because we don't wipe out or lose connection, but I still wasn't comfortable with it. Some breaking it down and slower practice today helped a lot, and I figured out some specifics of foot placement for myself that had been fuzzy going full speed and not entirely sure what I was supposed to be doing.


The waltz we danced at the end felt particularly powerful; on one initial spin turn we kind of flew apart because it was too out of control, but we pulled it together and really covered a lot of ground and could both feel the energy. I was driving much better today and using my head weight, as well as taking plenty of time to both lower and drive, and I think that made a big difference. Today too I especially focused on my head position, trying to pretend as though the ceiling is the most exciting thing in the room, but without sticking my chin in the air.


Lighter moments included us performing an "experiment" (which failed, by the way) regarding our practice buddy's inexorable tendency to resort to the spin bikes at a given point in any practice session, a discussion of whether certain male actors were "man's men" or "pretty boys," a description of boar intestine sweet potato sausage, and an argument (which I won) about whether this quickstep was the Victor show quickstep (it wasn't), and Jeff's opening rant about the girl who lolled around on the machines twirling her hair at him while he was trying to get through his work out.


Once again, a good practice, and now we have a bit of a break due to my crazy schedule for the next few days. We're hoping to having something to report over the weekend, so stay tuned!

Zumba Girl and the Return of Mr. & Mrs. Robot

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, tango, foxtrot, quickstep
Hovers: 0

Practicing this week was off to pretty good start; we've been working specifically on some known issues and have become better at focusing our efforts. Yesterday evening, however, I was truly exhausted and had little energy to spare, so Jeff ended up sending me home early, and by that I mean ordering me to leave multiple times to get a real night's sleep. It's just that I can't physically keep up with the physiological and mental demands we're making on ourselves on 5-6 hrs. of sleep per night, and though Jeff refuses to admit the validity of this problem, he nevertheless was very good to me and let me/made me cop out early last night. After getting about 7 hrs. in last night, I'm feeling much better today...so I'm hoping I can be more helpful in tonight's practice session.

Last night we were joined in our practice room at the gym by "Zumba Girl"; a young Asian girl who came in just as we were and plugged into the music system and got right down to it. Man, that looks like a workout! She obviously knew what she was doing too; she had all the routines down pat and was so focused that it seemed she hardly noticed she had company. Of course, for us that meant no music and no metronome, but we went ahead and ran through some things slowly, and then worked on some of the issue areas, such as the back open promenade in Tango, and the contra-check in waltz. After about 45 min. of practice we headed over to the ballet studio where our coaches teach a few classes and lessons on Tuesday nights. It was great to see them again, newly crowned Bulgarian Standard Champions (congrats, guys!), and hear a few stories about Blackpool, including the Latin couples who attempted to incorporate lifts into their Paso routines. Now that they're home, we need to get back to lessons again, and won't those be fun to blog about! We'll have some good stories to share about Kora "breaking" Jeff in half, and Simeon being impressed by our "convincing prep-step," that "makes one think that your dancing is going to be really good," at least, we will if past experience is any indication.

Nota bene: Mr. & Mrs. Robot are our coaches, Simeon and Kora, thus christened by Jeff. Ask him to explain that one.

Abdication of the Supadance 9000 - Wide, Black Patent

Dances:  Tango, Waltz
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.
Happy Hour:  Ruth's Chris Steak House - Cheese Burger and Caesar Salad.
New Pairs of Dance Shoes Remaining:  2

Today is a special day.  It marks the retirement of my first pair of dance shoes used in competition practice.  For those of you keeping score, it's only been two and a half months since I started training to compete with Sarah, and a month before that with Natalia.  Rest assured that Supadance's quality in shoe making has not declined.  This pair has been used for a little over a  year total and just happened to carry over once I started to train.  Boy did they age quickly once that happened.  Not to get sappy or anything, but I'm always a little bit sad to see a pair of dance shoes go.  I'm not sure what makes dance shoes so special, but call me crazy, I seem to develop a certain bond with them during their service.  Anyone else feel this way?  I still have my first ever pair sitting around.  However, change is good.  Tomorrow I get to start wearing my new pair of Ray Rose Sandstorm Black Patent shoes.  I'm pretty excited (see, dance nerd).  From what I've tried so far, I think these will be amazing shoes.  Thank you to the Supadance 9000 and your faithful aid in my dance career.

Sarah and I are on a roll this week with the workouts.  Today was another excellent day.  We both felt well exercised going into practice.  Another rant about the gym.  I HATE people who don't rack the weights after they're done with them.  Throughout the day, people take the free weights into other rooms and just leave them there.  So in the evening it's hard to find anything to use.  The other weights used for machines are strewn all over the floor which in turn leads to you tripping all over them.  The staff there should really crack down on this.  Not sure what I'm paying them for.  As Shepherd Book from Firefly would say:  "You're going to burn in a very special level of hell.  A level reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theater."  Add people who don't put things back where they belong after using them please.

Practice today was rather short.  Sarah and I worked on our back open promenade in tango again.  It's starting to feel better, but definitely not consistent yet.  After about a half hour of that we headed over to Premiere Dance Center to say hello to our coaches Kora and Simeon who had just returned from Blackpool and Bulgaria.  It's good to have them back.  I need to remember to schedule some lessons with them next week.  We'll find out how much good our metronomic practice has done us.  While we were at Premiere, Sarah and I took a little time to work on our contra checks.  Still much to be desired there, but it's improved from what we started with.  Looks like we'll have our first blog post about a lesson here soon!

Monday, June 13, 2011

1,100+

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.
Wrong Number Calls Received Today:   1

Before I forget, I want to start by thanking everyone who has expressed an interest in our blog.  We've had over 1,100 hits in just 14 days.  I know that's not a huge viral number or anything, but it was definitely a lot more than we thought we were going to get.  So thank you and I hope you continue to enjoy our adventures.

Sarah and I started the week off strong.  Our arm and back workout was great.  We are both getting a lot stronger and the pacing of our workouts are improving.  There is one thing about our gym that bothers me.  For some reason (and I've been to many gyms in my life) there are A LOT of stinky patrons.  Now I understand working up a sweat and not smelling like roses, but the stink I'm talking about is well beyond the norm.  I don't understand it.  It's not that hard to prevent this problem.  It doesn't even take that much effort.  But apparently some people are just fine with it.  Odd.

Practice today was as good as our workout.  Patrick and Shaoshu kept us company this evening.  We started with a round, then proceeded with our metronomic exercises.  Sarah and I are going to start cutting back on these slow practices and start mixing in our regular material.  In fact, we think it's a good time to come up with some sort of routine for our practices and end up with a good variety of things to work on.  Don't worry, the metronomic exercises will still be a part of it.  When we figure it out, we'll let you guys in on it.  Practice ended today with tango.  We've been struggling with the back open promenade for a while now.  Something about the balance and the two checks we're supposed to accomplish just isn't working.  But near the end, we had a pretty good handle on it.  One thing worth mentioning is the first long side of our tango.  It's a pretty brutal combination, and today, we nailed it!  I'm going to say it's a fluke until we can consistently execute it, but that day will come.  Hopefully soon...

One last thing to mention.  Today during the last part of our waltz, we have a whisk in the far corner which we ALWAYS run out of room for.  I suppose it's a good thing that we're running out of room, but today I ran Sarah into the garbage (more or less on purpose) can and everything fell apart.  It then felt like a good time to just go crashing through the door that all the basketball players do so often.  I got some really confused looks from people on the court.  Sarah and I found it quite amusing.  Maybe one of these days, we'll both go crashing out there and see what happens.

Free Spin Balancing Every 6,000 Steps

But I wouldn't count on it...

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Night Club 2-step
Hovers: 4!

Today I was really tired, and for some reason after doing my cardio workout I felt pretty light headed, and I kind of thought it would go away, but my head felt really heavy and kind of dizzy all night. That wasn't helpful, but otherwise I got a pretty good workout in. My arms are getting stronger, for sure.

We warmed up with night club 2-step, "Lady in Red" since Jeff let me pick the music, and then of course had to tease me unmercifully about it because I always want to dance night club 2-step. It's great for just getting into the groove of dancing though, because it's really chill and easy and smooth. And sometimes, after working out, I'm lazy...what can I say?

After that we danced a round minus Viennese, thought we did try about two bars of Viennese with a track from the Narnia soundtrack. My little sister would be so proud! Waltz is overall more controlled, tango is getting much more together as I said yesterday, foxtrot is more stretched out and quickstep is a lot smoother and less frenetic on the first long side, but other parts still need some work.

Then we did more of the deathly slow practice, and deathly is indeed an apt descriptor. I was a bit too tired today to maintain full command of my movement, and I did fall more than usual, especially in waltz. I'm also having a very difficult time driving forward into a natural spin turn at that speed...somehow I just feel like I don't have enough room when we're going that slow. And then again perhaps it's just that old fear that we long legged ladies have of really going for those drives when we're dancing with someone who is not significantly taller. It's no excuse since with proper technique it should work out just fine, but I get nervous all the same about that slight risk of a fatal collision. Still, it was good practice.

In tango we spent some more time on the back open promenade, and I like the way it is feeling much more now that we have the rotation figured out, as it ends up balanced and less twisted up. We also danced our really hard fallaway-reverse-slip pivot section of death probably the best we ever have, and that time I really stayed in my own space on the inside of the turns.

I tried doing the exercise where I put both of my arms up in front of me and off to the left on the left side of Jeff's frame while simultaneously dancing to the slow metronome in foxtrot, but that was a fail. I still can't multi-task that well yet. I can either keep my balance or keep my balance, but not both at once. In other words, I can't focus on keeping my arms properly balanced out in that awkward position and also my whole body and legs as I'm crawling along at that pace. One or the other, thank you very much. Combining drills will be really good down the road, but right now it's like a harder version of patting your head and rubbing your stomach.

Oh, and Jeff conveniently decided that our hover doesn't actually need that much work after all. After last night's hover-taken-too-far, he had promised me that we needed to work on this so that we could avoid similar mishaps in the future, and I of course had enthusiastically agreed. "We get to practice the hover? Over and over? That sounds like a good idea." But today Jeff had changed his mind about how good it was. We did have a couple of nice ones today, I will agree, but no hard core hover practice. Sad day.

Cup Tango

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Cha-cha, Rumba
Hovers: 3

Yesterday evening was the Sunday night dance party, and Jeff and I got there a little early to warm up and do some practice run throughs. I think this "take Sunday's easy" approach is working out better; we are both making a conscious effort to be more relaxed in the dancing since normally we both have a tendency to just go for it and almost crash into people and sometimes have a bumpy ride around the floor. I also have a penchant for getting out of control when I'm trying to move and stretch as much as I can, as Jeff's post below will attest. That was a pretty funny hover though. I think what happened was that normally I try to stretch back and out from my sternum up, but somehow when I reached the max there I let my lower back go and then I basically bent myself in half backwards. I didn't even realize I ended up between another couple; I think my eyes were clearly focused on the ceiling.

More and more I would say that our lead and follow is improving with regard to mixing up the routines and navigating the social floor. Jeff is right, I'm starting to freak out less when there's a sudden change of plans, but I think a lot of that is due also to the fact that he's been less violent about suddenly whipping me around in another direction or changing things up, and the leads are coming at the right time for me to be able to do something about it. All good stuff.

Although I do wonder if we're deluding ourselves about the improvements we've made by doing the slow practice for the three weeks our coaches have been gone, we decided that there really can't be any doubt that the foxtrot and waltz feel a whole lot smoother and more controlled. Now whether they look better will be for the expert eyes to judge, but we do hope real progress has been made.

I titled this post "cup tango" because as I was walking across the floor last night as a tango was playing I came upon Jeff in one corner, who had incidentally been taking a water break. Without a word he put me in tango hold with his right arm, keeping the cup of water in his left hand, and we tangoed all the way down the long side with half of a frame and a cup of water. The best part is that none of the water spilled, and we weren't dancing the infamous basic T-A-N-G-O tango either, but moved in and out of promenade and outside partner positions quite cleanly. This is a good sign, since tango stays relatively quiet in the upper frame...no sway or rise and fall, and also the lead should be coming primarily through the body, so to be able to lead me clearly to promenade without arms and without spilling water I think was good. Personally, I think our tango is getting much more in sync and more together, and a little less stiff, as I know I personally have had a dreaful time trying to loosen up since all that sharpness that you want to have tends to translate itself into stiffness and immobility of the upper body for me, which is really no good.

I really don't have anything else to report from last night, other than that things overall felt good and it's fun to be able to see the progress in a non-practice setting.

The Kissing Hover

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, V. Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Salsa, Cha Cha, Nightclub 2-Step, Rumba
Part:  Lead
Word of the Day:  Sully - verb - To make soiled or tarnished, mar the cleanness or luster of, defile

I found out today just how much the foam rolling had paid off.  Taiki started off the massage with my back and just kind of assessed how bad the damage was this week.  Turns out, most everything was within normal limits.  My back was in good shape as were my hamstrings and quads.  What a mistake my foam rolling had turned out to be.  Because everything we usually work on was doing well, Taiki decided to work on the stabilizers on the outsides of my leg.  It was brutal.  I think I'll try and focus the foam rolling on those muscles more this week and see if I can minimize the pain during my next massage.  All that being said, I felt great afterwards.  Linda also made me a delicious pie and ensured I left with a healthy supply of cookies.  I think she's secretly trying to sabotage my efforts and make me fat.

After watching Men In Black this afternoon, it was off to the Washington Dance Club in the evening for social dancing.  Sarah and I arrived an hour early to stretch and warm up.  As the dance got under way I noticed a few things about my dancing.  Floor crafting is getting easier.  I'm able now to make some steps up to get us out of trouble and hop back on track with our routine.  I think taking Sundays easy is helping me a lot with that.  I'm able to focus on floor crafting more instead of worrying about things like my frame, my foot position, leading sides, etc. provided everything is within reason.  Sarah is also following better recently.  She doesn't freak out quite as much when I veer off the chosen path.  Though she's still not as responsive when my frame wilts.  We should try practicing just body contact a little and make sure we're still as responsive to lead and follow then.

Only a few things to note about the dance tonight.  First off, Linda (I know you're lurking), you'll be happy to know that our dancing was cookie powered tonight.  Second, Patrick is having a hard time with social dancing, and it's understandable.  For a man, social dancing is a formidable foe.  You not only have to worry about leading a woman, of which there are many, each with a different feel and style, but you also have to worry about traffic and floor crafting as well as coming up with amalgamations.  All the while keeping everything else in check (frame, posture, technique, etc.).  I keep telling him to just relax and have a good time, but I know it's hard.  It also doesn't help that some of the people are a bit more judgemental than others.  If he keeps at it, he'll get used to it soon.  I just hope he's brave enough to get over the initial learning curve.

Our last waltz tonight was interesting, only in the last step: the hover.  As mentioned before, Sarah LOVES the Hover.  I'm not sure why she finds that figure so intriguing, but I guess it's fair that she has a favorite.  In this particular execution of the step, she had stretched out to what I felt was a maximum.  Then all of sudden, her head disappeared from my field of vision, and I felt a sudden and violent shift in the balance.  I corrected for it and we didn't fall over, but she had managed to stretch so far back that her head had ended up in another couple's frame (they just happened to be dancing by).  Right in the middle, facing the guy.  She could've kissed him.  It was pretty funny.  I'm not a fan of the Hover but I know we'll have to spend some time practicing it to find a good balance.  Though most of the time it's not bad as is.  So long as she doesn't decided to suddenly stretch back further without warning.  :)

Overall I feel like our dancing has improved quite a bit over the last few weeks.  We'll see what our coaches have to say soon.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Cinderella Shins

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Night club-2, Bolero (sort of)
Hovers: 1

When I was doing the arms and back workout with Jeff yesterday, we did assisted pull ups and drops on one of the machines, and for some reason my shins are really sensitive to that thing you kneel on, and I always end up with bruises afterwards. Jeff was giving me grief about my "princess shins," hence the post title. It seems like Jeff said an unusual number of really silly things yesterday (for those of you who know him, obviously not atypical), but as usual many were not publicly quotable material.

Yesterday's practice was a little ho hum; short, and not terribly intense, but it was still helpful for sure. We were both getting a little burned out on the slow metronome exercise, so after a little of that in waltz, we worked on some "trouble spots" in waltz and tango, and I think figured some things out. Apparently I've been rushing my shaping on the left whisk and contra check, so we worked on that, and I think it improved. I've also personally been very conscious of my fallaway-reverse-slip-pivots, and I think they are going smoother for me. We also spent some time on the back open promenade in tango, which is a really tricky figure to balance. Turns out we were rotating the upper body too much on the last step and not enough on the second, when we should have been rotating/checking, and then straightening/checking. I've also been really bad about leading my own head shape on this one, and this practice I discovered that I was basically doing my right shaping independently since Jeff had decided to give up trying to lead that check for the time being. That would explain it! I had just been yelled at by a certain teacher...you know who you are, for not turning right there, and so I was trying to do it no matter what I felt, and it was backfiring.

Speaking of tango, Jeff has some pretty cool tango music. Tango is one dance for me where having really "in character" music makes a huge difference in my performance. I know it shouldn't affect me that much, but it does. Actually, the same goes for almost any dance, but in tango I notice that I am clearly less "polite" with it when we dance it to certain music. One of our favorite tangos is actually from a video game! The Pirates IV one is getting up there on the favorites list too.

We will be taking a practice break tonight and will be back in the game sometime this weekend, but stay tuned since we are making some overall blog updates, such as posting bios, photos, and other fun stuff. I am particularly proud of our "competition results" page...quite impressive if you ask me!

Foam Rollers & Porn

Dances:  Waltz, Foxtrot
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.
Happy Hour:  The Parlor - Blackened Chicken Pita and Hot Wings.
Bios Written Today:  3

Another interesting TV day at the gym this evening.  Again, while I was on the elliptical trainer, I looked up at one of the TVs and found myself watching a show on how porno videos are made.  From the short amount of time I had to watch, it seems like they were showing how and what sets were chosen, interviewing porn stars, and discussing how story lines are created (I know, what and who cares about story lines right?).  Of course all this was interspersed with those cheesy, blurry, silhouette style, slow motion, TV transition scenes you see depicting sex.  It was really quite hilarious.  Last week was a show about pies and how they are made, and this week, porn.  Can't wait to see what they are showing next week.  Arms and back day was pretty uneventful.  Sarah and I got a really good and thorough workout in today.

Practice started about 20 minutes late due to our long workout.  Shaoshu was in attendance today.  We started off by running waltz, tango and foxtrot, then proceeded with the metronomic exercises again.  I think we're going to forgo slow quickstep for now and focus on waltz.  Since the tempo is so slow, it takes a lot of time running the routines, not to mention all the times we stop or fall over and try again.  Foxtrot is good enough to where we can run the whole thing without stopping most of the time.  So waltz it is.  Hope to have it feeling completely under control by the end of next week!

Ever since I started working out again and dancing so hard, I've come to realize the importance of stretching.  So at the beginning of every workout and end of every practice I make it a point to stretch thoroughly.  The result has been, increased flexibility and reduced soreness.  One item in particular is really helping out;  Foam rollers.  They are AMAZING.  If you haven't tried using one yet, DO SO.  I can't tell you how much better I feel after I roll out my back, quads, hamstrings, shins, glutes, and anything else I can use the foam roller on.  I'm going to order one for home use soon.  Unfortunately they're pretty expensive for what they are.  I can't think of any possible way a clyindrical piece of foam could cost $35 to make.  Go figure.  Time to check online.  It's worth it though.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Hump Day

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Legs at the gym.
Amount of Gas Filled Today:  15.09 gallons.

Another Wednesday practice!  I really should stop writing about how rare these are because apparently they're not.  As mentioned above, today was leg day at the gym.  I had plenty of time to stretch out, run, and do the workout.  I've noticed that my legs are the one part of my body where each week there has been a significant increase in the amount of weight I can handle.  I guess it makes sense with all the dancing, but I'm really surprised the curve has been so steep.  I'm not going to complain though.  The stronger my legs get, the easier the slow exercises will be to accomplish.  I can then worry about other things like my frame, shape, head position, etc.

Sarah actually had choir today and we started off practice at around 8:30.  Since it's a bit later than usual and with the leg workout, we generally take Wednesdays a little easier.  I gotta say though, today wasn't bad energy wise.  We started off with a round.  I didn't feel horribly out of breath at the end.  I remember when I first started, I could barely finish the waltz.  After the round we decided to do one of each of our routines, beginning to end, metronomically:

Waltz is still shaky.  There are many places where either I'm rushing the beat or she is (usually it's when we fall over).  Closed Impetuses are a bitch and a half that slow.  Something tells me we're not doing them quite right so I'll have to ask Kora or Simeon about it when they get back.

Quickstep is just weird.  It's surprisingly hard to remember the correct amalgamation of quicks and slows to your routine at caterpillar speeds.  However, since this is only day two, I'm not too worried about it.

Foxtrot is easily (and obviously) the best of the bunch.  This will be halfway through week three of our exercise.  I think we're finally got it under control for the most part.  We're even hitting most of the offbeats dead on.  The next step will be to apply it to music and see how it goes.

Last but not least, we ran another round which went well.  On our way out of the gym Sarah and I got into a conversation about treating your body right both from a workout and diet perspective.  With the amount of physical activity she performs per day she really needs to eat more and better.  More on this in a future post as I'm sure the topic will come up again.  Unfortunately not much else to report today.  It was a very mundane day overall.  Don't worry though.  Crazy stuff will happen soon again.  It always does.

Turning: Becoming an Insider

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 3 (including 1 really good one)

Before I get into tonight's practice session, I have to tell about the basketball guy who staggered into the practice room last night, since I nearly died laughing and to some degree it's a regular occurrence. The aerobics room we practice is right off of the basketball court, and the door is just a ways behind the hoop, I think. Often enough, the guys playing out there run in for a lay up or to catch a rebound and can't stop themselves and so crash against door, so every once in a while our practice is punctuated with a loud crash on the glass door, kind of like when confused birds fly at a window and you wonder what that thudding was. Anyways, last night some guy really had taken it too far, and somehow hurled himself at the door with such force that he propelled himself with a thunderous crash through the door, and landed, staggering, about halfway across the room. He stomped about for a few seconds with a dazed look on his face with a look of "What planet did I land on?" especially when he saw us dancing a deathly slow waltz to a loud and invisible clicker.

Tonight, we had no such interruptions; the only guests were a personal trainer and his client whom he was making "mop the floors," according to Jeff, by dragging around gym towels with his feet. As for us, we danced a round, then the slo-mo waltz, quickstep, and foxtrot. Slow quickstep was especially bad, and the waltz wasn't as good today. There were two reasons for that, I think. Jeff did his legs workout today and so had jelly legs to some degree, and I was just plain tired due to being short on sleep (what else is new)? I had a much harder time concentrating tonight, and since thinking was hard for me I tried to focus on feeling and following for today's practice. I think I'm following much better in the tango now, as in, not jumping the gun quite as much. It's not exactly as smooth as it could be, but I found that if I delay certain steps more than I'm used to (such as the slip pivot in a fallaway-reverse-slip-pivot) it makes certain things less bumpy all around. I have also been trying to be more conscious of when I am on the insides of turns and shorten my steps accordingly. I have the uncomfortable habit (uncomfortable for Jeff, that is) of taking really long strides whenever I have the opportunity, forgetting that it is not always my turn to do so. I think this has helped me smooth out the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivots in our waltz in foxtrot, as I am now taking a smallish under the body step for the first step, and longer and more angled out step second, and very small tucked under step third, and then making sure to delay the slip pivot a bit so as not to crash into Jeff's knee. This way I am less likely to outrun him by driving down the floor as he is trying to get around me. Apparently he still has a hard time getting around me in tango though, so I need to work on that more and figure out what else I'm doing wrong. Probably something to do with the upper body.

We "cooled" down with another round, including a very good hover; Jeff was great and counterbalanced me beautifully, and I was very good and delayed my head turn and extension for a couple of counts so that I could extend fully right before slowly and gracefully swinging the other way and extending over his arm. I even remembered to bring my knees bent and forward as I extended back!

Finally, we stretched and "rolled our backs out." We've both become somewhat enamored of those big foam rollers that you can roll around on and loosen up all those tight muscles, especially in the back, quads, and hamstrings. If you've never tried it, you don't know what you're missing; it really is a miracle remedy for hurting muscles. After a few days of rolling on any particular very tight and painful muscles, I usually find that I can hardly feel the tension anymore, or else it is notably less. Since I don't have the luxury of a weekly massage like my worthy partner, this foam stand-in has been a boon indeed.

Waltz Unclunkified

Part: Follow
Dances: All five standard and Latin, except Paso
Hovers: 3

A blog post in 10 minutes; can I do it? Yesterday was another good practice. As Jeff mentioned, we had more company, including a couple of friends, bikini girls, and the break dancing kids, who obviously thought they were pretty hot stuff and sooo much cooler than those silly adults trying to dance to a loud clicking noise. Besides, they had speakers! What they forgot is that Jeff had the whole sound system...so when they started getting really obnoxious he just coolly pumped up one of the more aggressive techno style tango tracks and we charged around the room (with some pointed promenades in their general direction) to show who was really boss. They eventually left, as I think they found us rather boring to mess with anyways since we were obviously not going to pay any attention their goofing off.

We did more waltz to the metronome, and Jeff was heard to say, "I really enjoy practicing to the metronome . . . well, maybe enjoy isn't the word," and I finished the thought by agreeing that it's really fun to see the results of the exercise so quickly. For example, last night after our metronome exercise, we had figured out where we are falling in the weave figures, had fixed that, and we had also discovered for the first time that I always rush a certain step coming out of it, which I fixed. The result was a really smooth, together, and "unclunky" first long side in the waltz; plus, we covered a lot of ground. We're pretty thrilled to have made so much improvement already, just after two days of this exercise with the waltz. We did more of the same with foxtrot and quickstep. In quickstep we quickly realized that when we danced it that slowly, we both had a hard time remembering the rhythm of our routine, since quickstep rhythms are like drum beat patterns, and when slowed down that much it doesn't feel anywhere near the same.

We finished the practice session with a Latin round, just to mix it up. Another good practice session for the books. In the next post I will talk about the basketball player who fell into our practice room like an alien from outer space.

The Decibel War

Dances:  Foxtrot, Waltz, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.
Happy Hour:  McCormick & Schmick's - Cheeseburger
Amount of Data Downloaded/Uploaded in 30 Days:  250gb/1tb

Boy was I running behind today!  I usually try to get to the gym a little before 7pm which gives me roughly an hour to stretch and workout before we start practice at 8pm.  Today I arrived at around 7:20 which meant I had to work fast.  I took 5 minutes to stretch, then jumped on the elliptical for 5 minutes to get my heart rate up.  After that I did my fastest workout to date.  I managed to do the entire thing in 15 minutes.  That's 3 sets of 10 reps over 6 exercises (180 reps) split between chest and shoulders in just 900 seconds (that's 5 seconds per rep which includes rest time and getting water in between each exercise).  The last 15 minutes I spent on abs.  Needless to say, I was burnt afterwards, but felt great.  Also recovered just in time for practice so I wasn't dead.

Now why was I late?  Well recently I've been accumulating ballroom dance music of all kinds.  It's been a long time goal of mine to create the ultimate dance music collection.  That means not only having a great and varied song selection, but also making sure all the songs are tagged properly including: name, artist, album, tempo, dance type, track number, and album art.  Doing this makes choosing music a breeze.  I simply type in the dance I want to do and it lists all the songs I have for that dance.  I can then sort it by tempo, name, album, etc.  I got a little carried away this morning and just couldn't stop working on it.  I added over 1,100 songs to my archive today alone.  So that made me leave the house a tad bit too late.  But I know this sacrifice will be worth it in the long run.  I only have to organize it once.

Practice began with a full house today.  Patrick was there as well as Shaoshu, the bikini girls were already strutting around, and these punk kids who were trying to break dance were also in there.  As usual, I patched into the sound system and started up some music at a low volume.  The next thing I know, the kids (who had this little sound dock for iPods) had turned their music WAAAAY up.  *sigh*  After putting up with it for about 10 minutes (hoping they'd be considerate and lower the volume once the song ended) I decided being passive wasn't going to solve anything going to get us anywhere.  So I went back over and just cranked up a tango which easily drowned them out.  I think they kind of got the hint as they left soon after.  Now I don't mind sharing music at all, but SHARING is the key concept there as well as just general courtesy.

Other than the music war, practice was great.  The metronomic waltz and foxtrot continued to make progress and we started quickstep today as well!  That one is tough dancing super slow since we're so used to normal tempos where you can just fall over everywhere and get away with it.  But give it a few more days and I think we'll have it under control.  Our waltz is already feeling A LOT better with just one day under our belt.  Despite a few hiccups, including Sarah yelling out "I'm having a hard time getting between your legs!", we're on balance, more controlled, and smoother across the board.  I can't wait to see what it's like at the end of June.