Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Happy Birthday Toby!

Dances:  Tango
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Legs at the gym.
Steaks Toby Consumed:  1

As the title says:  Happy Birthday Toby!  Today, the 31st of August, is his actual date of birth and not the day I received him (that's the day before Thanksgiving).  At the old age of three, he's still cute and mischievous as ever.  Another uncommon event today was Sarah joining me for my leg workout.  It's a rare day where both of us go into practice having destroyed our legs.

Today was full of surprises.  We got into the "ballroom" a little later than usual to find three of our friends in there already practicing.  Due to recent schedule and partner changes, our numbers in that room have dropped off significantly.  It was good to see them again.  With Tango as our main focus, we joined the fray.

Overall our Tango is feeling A LOT better.  The politeness factor is dropping and our frame is leveling out.  However, there is still a lot of work to do.  I grabbed the bar and starting making mental notes of all the places my frame still teeters.  It's not easy when you're rotating that much over and over again.  Another thing Sarah and I need to be careful of is rise and fall.  We tend to pop up every now and then which is a BIG no, no.  And while Sarah is hating on carbon fiber, I need to make sure I don't lead any rise.  One last thought is our final long side.  It still seems WAAAY too simple to be true.  But if we're doing it correctly, then who and I to complain.  Just seems like the routine is really top heavy.

I also found out yesterday at dinner that Kora disagrees with the book on timing of our Tipsies.  It's funny how the the syllabus is either the Bible or the Anarchist Cookbook to her depending on her viewpoint of any giving figure.  *sigh*  According to Kora, the Tipsies are supposed to be Glen Miller style instead of Bach style.  What a pain.

And with that I'm off to feed Toby his birthday steak!  What a lucky puppy!

"Perfect" Rhythm

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

After participating in the drill that is leg day Wendesday (which I usually miss due to my choir rehearsal, cancelled for this week), we headed in for our mid-week practice. Three of our friends were already there practicing, music and everything, so we skipped our night club 2-step warm up and talked a little more about the quickstep tippsies. Apparently one of our coaches says that the quick-a-quick timing is perfectly kosher, so with samba music blasting in the background (those Latin peeps!), we attempted to try them. The first few times my heel kept hitting Jeff's, I think my feet were too far forward in general in my attempts to keep them under me, and then Jeff kept saying that we were still too slow. It was hard to tell because we had samba music playing and no metronome, but he claims he can just tell. Apparently he has perfect rhythm like some people have perfect pitch. What a lucky partner I am! You may take this assertion both with sarcasm (in reference to said perfect rhythm) and without (with regard to most other things).

Tango was next, and after dancing it through once, we resorted to our good friend the bar. Jeff was getting frustrated by how often our frame was tilting, slightly, yes, but still tilting. His flash of brilliance for the evening involved an exciting plan to create a dance frame leveler, like those levelers you get for hanging pictures or construction work, that would essentially be a clear tube with water in it and enough air to make a bubble that the perfect frame would cause to balance in the middle. Essentially you'd gauge the straightness of the frame by the position of the bubble. When I suggested that you could have the whole tube made of carbon fiber with just a clear opening for the bubble, my partner was totally sold on the concept. Carbon fiber is his, and I quote, "material of choice" because it's light, durable, and has some kind of awesome wow factor that still escapes my comprehension. Nevertheless, another item has been added to the Jeff list of someday-I'll-do-its.

Tango with the bar was pretty much the extent of the rest of our practice, which again was a bit shorter than usual. Jeff's super puppy Toby (featured in his own page here on the blog, but whom I like to call "Tobias") was turning three today and Jeff wanted to be sure the little guy got a steak in honor of the occasion. Since he has essentially become the unofficial mascot of the partnership, I really couldn't complain. Birthdays only come once a year, even for super puppies called Tobias.

For any faithful readers who've been dying to hear Jeff's side of things...he'll be catching up on posts soon. He's had a number of other important things going on and has had to prioritize, but the blog is still on the radar. Hang tight!

Limited Slip Frame

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.

Sarah's favorite workout day of the week: chest and shoulders.  I think she's making good progress there.  Definitely MUCH stronger than when we first started.  But her fear of getting too big still persists.  Part of me wants her to go through a routine designed to get "big" for a week or two.  Only then will she realize how far off she actually is from achieving that size.  That aside, the workout went well!

Practice started off with a Waltz.  Still going strong there, especially our Hovers.  I think I've figured out how to balance Sarah without going completely split weight.  Before the issue was me being forced to split my weight to maintain a stable frame in the Hover.  That lead to a really ugly and ungraceful clunking out of the Hover into the beginning of our routine.  But I think I've figured out how to gradually adjust my weight distribution over the entire length of the Hover so that we come out lightly and dignified.

Tango was next.  Sarah has begun to complain about her frame in Tango again.  The reason I say "again" is because something odd has been happening more and more recently.  Halfway through most dances, my right hand on her shoulder starts to slip down a bit.  Over time it moves probably about an inch.  Not sure what is causing that, and if it's also the cause of Sarah's point.  My frame still feels good and looks fine in the mirror but I wonder why my hand is slipping.  Either I'm dropping my frame on that side or Sarah is somehow moving around enough to cause the difference.  That aside, our Tango frame has always been an issue.  I think it has to do with the basic geometry of our bodies.  Something about our arm length and shoulder width is not completely ideal for the Tango frame with her hand wrapped under mine.  We'll need to ask Kora and Simeon about this soon.  Other than that, Tango still continues to improve and feel better.

We ended on the Foxtrot.  That dance has become quite tiring for me lately.  A lot to think about.  Footwork-wise, where and when to drag my heel versus not.  Also working on keeping my butt tucked under me.  And of course not nose diving into my promenades.  All things that will get you killed for sure on the competition floor.  Alas.

Keeping the Momentum

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

Tuesday was chest and shoulder day for the workout, my least favorite always...however, I do believe I held up a bit better than I have in the past. Jeff complained less about my form, but maybe he's just giving up on me. All I know is that I can actually pull some weight now, so that can't be so bad.

Since I went home to shower, change, and eat between the workout and practice last night, the front desk guys were dully impressed when I returned an hour later, "Back for a second workout? Woah!" I had to confess that it was dance practice this time, but I would agree with them that it counts. Practice began with a night club 2-step, and then on to Waltz. We've kind of been making a habit of dancing through our waltz routine once after our warm up, I guess it just feels right to do that. It's a good habit to get into as that is how it works in competition. Because practiced ended up starting a bit late last night, it wasn't as long as usual and we mostly just ran through a few of our routines. We danced some tango, and while certain heretofore frustrating and dreaded parts are now relatively pain-free, I'm realizing more and more that my frame is kind of wonky in tango and I don't like what my left shoulder is doing. The fact that I have to wrap my arm over his and then have this sort of upward tilt to my elbow yet still have my shoulders down and back and my neck in a decent position is really not happening for me. I think I need to be farther left in general, but when I try that Jeff gets all disoriented and tries to reel me back in, so we'll have to get some "professional help," on this, I think. Anyways, at the end of our run through Jeff commented that I got really heavy, so something is obviously not right.

Foxtrot was fine; the reverse wave is my favorite I think, or maybe the curved feather into weave bits. I'm afraid our connection still gaps a lot in places it shouldn't; so maybe we need to get back to specific focus on this as I don't think it will improve if we just keep dancing and randomly keep it in mind when we happen to think of it.

This was one of those days where the practice was helpful to keep the body in the habit of moving this way, to keep the juices flowing and our momentum going for the week. Although it didn't really feel like we fixed any "issues" with this practice, at least we continue to get more and more familiar and comfortable with our routines and with moving together. And that, after all, is a huge part of why we have been committed to our almost daily practice sessions.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Bach Quickstep

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

*sigh* It's Monday again.  Coming from the opposite angle from my Friday post, Mondays still suck even when you're unemployed.  For some reason you still feel like you're supposed to be accomplishing something this week and it begins on Monday.  In my case, that holds really true as I have a lot of work to get done.  *sigh*  Arms and back was good today.  I pushed myself pretty hard and I'm getting quite a bit stronger.  Soon I'll have to start taking it easy or it might affected my overall look in Standard dancing.

Practice today started with a Nightclub 2-Step warm up.  Shaoshu was there and he likes to laugh at us when we dance that dance.  Everyone in our dance circle knows I love that dance.  The reason behind it is how laid back it is.  The timing is easy, and the dance just flows well.  Not to mention how easy it is to lead.  It's the ultimate dance to lead any lady in.  I've never had any problems leading it successfully no matter how experienced of inexperienced the woman is.  Awesome dance.

Sarah had her Standard syllabus with her today and we looked up the exact timing of the Tipsies.  As predicted, it's Bach timing.  Straight eighth notes, quick-and-quick.  Somehow I think Kora will disagree with this.  I'll ask her tomorrow at dinner.  In the meantime, Sarah and I continued to try the Tipsies with both timings.  The metronome was clicked up to a faster tempo than usual today.  We're really trying hard to work our way up to competition tempo.  Tipsies are the only thing holding us back in this regard.

After the Quickstep we moved on to Foxtrot and Waltz.  Foxtrot was doing better.  Not sure why it suddenly took a dip for us.  But it's improved.  I think our timing still needs a bit of work.  We're pretty good at delaying it at the beginning of our routine but slip back into our old habits as the dance goes on.  Much like someone writing a ransom note using fake handwriting but as they continue to write, they slip back into their own handwriting.  Rookie mistake.

Take a Deep Breath; it's the Pirate Ship!

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

Monday night; warm up was night club 2 step once again, and this time Jeff was determined to figure out how to exit the shadow position figure we've been doing on the right footing, so in the end he figured it out. Now we have another figure to add to our "Youtube Special," "Left-whisk contra-check" and of course, the immortal grapevine. Jeff can never get enough of that, or passing twinkles for that matter. A social dancer born and bred for sure.

We then danced through our waltz, and proceeded once more to investigate our quickstep issues. I had my syllabus book with me this time, so I looked up the tipsies to confirm the timing, and turns out that they are actually quick-and-quick, with the beat value of 1/2, 1/2, 1, so really no syncopation, and rather flat. We also watched a video of Mirko dancing that figure (I posted it in an early blog post, actually) to see how it looked, and sure enough, it was pretty even, and not really bouncy at all. Practice a la tick-tock timing followed, and as we worked on it to a slightly faster speed than we were used to, we focused on making the chasse part like a simple change (the larger steps were slowing us down), and I worked on sending my left side past Jeff as we entered the turn with enough energy to help us get going and hopefully pick up the pace faster. Because of the dramatic swing in this section, Jeff likened it to a pirate ship, in particular the pirate ship ride, where essentially the whole ride is sitting in a "ship" as is swings up and down and back and forth. I broke down in giggles a couple of times though, because Jeff was concentrating so hard that he took a huge gulp of air right after the prep step as we headed into the figure, as though he was about to dive into the deep end, and I could definitely feel it. Here comes the pirate ship, take a deep breath!!!

We ended with a foxtrot, which felt decent this time. I have decided, however, that I am not a fan of my feather finishes. They don't feel right to me and they didn't look good in my video. Something is wrong with the second step, but I haven't figure out exactly what. I've been called on it before too, but the fixes suggested just haven't worked yet. This is something I'm going to need to figure out as I can't get far without the feather finish.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Question Mark Quickstep

Dances:  Too Many to List
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.

Ahhhh.  Friday at last.  It's a funny thing that even being unemployed, Fridays are still awesome.  I guess it comes from being busy with many other projects during the week and working with people during normal business hours.  So even with no real daily responsibilities, Fridays are still just as awesome.  Chest and shoulders went off without a hitch.  Pretty average workout day.

At practice Sarah and I just ran through our dances.  We're still working furiously on Quickstep.  Specifically the Tipsies at the beginning.  Recently we've called into question what the exact timing of the steps in that figure are.  Either completely straight Bach style eighth notes (quick-and-quick), or syncopated Glen Miller style dotted eighth-sixteenth note (quick-a-quick).  Sarah didn't have her Standard book with her so we're going to make it a point to see what it says on Monday.  In the meantime we've been experimenting with both timings.  I tend to like Back style better.  Seems easier to manage as well as get up to speed.  I'm pretty sure the book is going to reflect that since simple deduction from the other figures I know of not having any other weird timing would dictate that.  Who knows?  Stranger things have happened.

After practice Sarah and I headed over to DanceWorks for their Friday night dance.  It was a lot of fun.  Jackie and Lorenzo (also Kora and Simeon's students and friends of ours) were there.  So between the four of us we got a lot of dancing in.  One particularly interesting floor craft engineering I had to do was in the Quickstep.  They rarely play a Quickstep, if at all.  So Sarah and I got out on the floor to try it.  However the floor is simply just too small.  So in order to fit the end of my first long side and my short side in, I managed to weave it back and forth kind of like a question mark or a radiator.  Worked like a charm though we quit the dance shortly after that.  Too dangerous with all the Swing and Lindy Hoppers around.  One other funny thing happened when I asked Jackie to dance a Foxtrot.  Her response was "I don't know how to Foxtrot", which was weird to me.  She's been dancing for a while now.  How could she not have danced the Foxtrot?  When I asked her, she explained her strategy.  At her competitive level, Foxtrot isn't one of the dances you do, so she just put it off.  We all got a good laugh at this.  It's exactly like the Viennese Waltz.  You don't dance it in competition at all until your in Championship Level so most people just let it slide until then.  All in all a great night of dancing!

Quickstep Quandaries

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Night Club 2-Step, Salsa, Rumba (box)
Hovers: 3

Friday night was a good night dancing wise. I did a cardio workout (which was really tough because of how hot it was), and then I went home for a bit and came back to the gym for practice, which really threw the guy at the front desk for a loop, since when I came back I was all cleaned up, dressed in my dance clothes, and ready to go out social dancing. He said there must be a few versions of me.

For practice, we mostly just did some run throughs, without the metronome. We did some slow quickstep, and once again tried to figure out the timing on the tipsies. A bit of self-doubt ensued as we suddenly weren't sure if it was supposed to be quick-and-quick or quick-a-quick with the syncopation, and had we been doing it wrong this whole time? In the end we determined that we had had it right, we're just not fast enough or right on the music with it.

In general our connection was feeling good, so the lead and follow was smoother, except for where I messed up again at the end of the quickstep. Jeff later let me have a chance to redeem myself, which I did, so that was good. Overall a good practice, I would say.

Then we headed out to Danceworks in Redmond for the Friday night social dance. A couple of our friends who take lessons with our coaches were also there, so we had fun visiting and dancing with them. Our dancing went well; I think Jeff really enjoys the challenge of navigating that floor, tough as it is, and it's always good following practice for me. There was a funny and awkward moment where my long elbow somehow ended up in the middle of another couple's frame, and instead of moving or trying to maneuver out of it, the guy point-blank grabbed my left elbow firmly and shoved it out of his way, as though I had done it on purpose. Of course, when I'm dancing I can't really drop that elbow and the frame it creates really is a form of protection for me in situations like this, but I've never encountered such a response! Jeff didn't see it at the time, but when I told him about it later he said if that ever happened in a comp situation he would be seriously tempted drop frame and punch the it was it was a social dance situation and we just laughed about it. We even danced a salsa, during which I nearly took out Jeff with my swinging medallion chain belt (oops) and where he also figured out half way through that he could do any night club 2-step figures in salsa by just tweaking the timing slightly. That was fun. We also tried a quickstep, but the floor was much too short for it to be very effective. Jeff was quite proud of his question mark shaped alignments, however. I am also becoming less and less surprised by oddities such as reverse waves in waltz and contra checks in salsa...if that is how he rolls, I'll do my best to sell it.

We danced a lot, fairly well, and both enjoyed ourselves. Another good night of dancing for the books.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The One Night Stand of Ballroom Dancing

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

After taking Wednesday off (just wasn't feeling it as we all get sometimes) Sarah and I were back at the gym with our usual schedule.  The arms and back workout is going well.  I think I've found a good strategy as far as the workout schedule goes.  For each body part there are both exercises that take up a lot of time to complete and ones that don't.  I've grouped all the ones that take longer into one day, and the rest on another.  But I do less of the ones that take up a lot of time and more of the ones that don't.  That balances out the time commitment quite nicely.

After warming up with a Nightclub 2-Step, we started off with the Waltz.  It still feels really good to both of us other than the Wing.  As I'm sure one of us has mentioned in a previous post (or multiple posts), the Wing is really not our favorite figure by a long shot.  Nothing good ever comes out of the wing.  I told Sarah "The Wing is the one night stand of ballroom dancing."  Explaining to her the similarities.  Its not bad going into it, usually feels good and looks pretty.  Then afterwards you are filled with regret and awkwardness.  Its hard to get out of and you question your judgement after which you vow never to do it again, only you realize that it WILL happen again.  Maybe Sarah and I are just dancing the Wing wrong, but it's definitely not working for us.

After the Waltz we ran through all our other dances.  The Quickstep fell apart right a the Rumba Cross.  We are continuing our experiment with the metronome on that dance.  I think if we fix the Rumba Cross section as well as the Tipsies, we'll be good to go.  Our Foxtrot tonight was off as well.  Kind of like a bad hair day.  Nothing you can do about it.  Something about our connection and timing was just completely off.  Only thing you can do is grit your teeth and danced on hoping tomorrow it'll be better.

Overall it was a dance intensive session.  I like to think of it as a good cardio workout.

Putting Good Mileage on the New Shoes

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Night Club 2-Step
Hovers: 2

Last night included both a good workout and a productive practice. I'm getting better with the arm and back weights, for sure, since I've been increasing weight and finding it easier every time, so I guess that's a good sign. I'm still close the "rule of halves" however, because Jeff continues to get a lot stronger too and as a consequence keeps pulling more weight...pun definitely not intended.

We began practice with waltz. Jeff had acquired a number of new songs by Secret Garden, and most of them happen to be waltzes, so we wanted to give a few of them a whirl. Our waltz is fast becoming one of our best, if not our best dance. We're so much more controlled with it, and when we practiced to a slow metronome the other day we found that we hadn't really lost it either and could maintain it pretty well even at those slow speeds. Once I get my head fixed for good and Jeff permanently straightens out all promenades, we'll be in very good shape. I still think our contra-check needs help; it doesn't rotate enough and dips a little too much, maybe.

Slow practice was vetoed for the night; instead we ran through all of the routines with music, only we only got about half way through quickstep. The rumba crosses killed us, and I think our slow practice actually made us too relaxed on the tipsies, as we came out pretty behind. Tango was pretty good, aside from a few hiccups where we got really out of sync and lost connection once. Probably the parts to work on now are the contra-check and the back open promenade; I guess our checking movements aren't the best, but the fallaway bits are smooth these days.

For a change, foxtrot didn't feel so hot last night. We weren't entirely together, and I think I was a bit ahead of Jeff, though I attribute some of this too the fact that our connection wasn't very good; I had a harder time feeling the nuances of timing in the lowering and drives since our connection was so high. I also slipped waaayyy outside partner a couple of times, and that makes it really hard for Jeff to lead or me to follow when I get stuck behind him like that. One section that I think feels particularly nice right now though, is our two hover feathers followed by reverse wave; it's very...undulating. That is the word I want. In my opinion, that's the adjective you want to aim for in a good foxtrot; rippling, waving, like water in a brook or small stream.

We also danced a tiny bit of Viennese, and apparently my hover-like tendencies evidenced themselves again. Jeff thinks I'm doing whatever it is on purpose, but my theory is that I'm becoming too floppy with my back when we get into that heavy swing and rotation and so my head and back just whip around and get heavy on Jeff's frame. When we tried once more, I focused on keeping my back and entire frame steady in relation to his frame, turning my entire body to match his underneath my head (so not thinking about moving my head at all, really). That seemed to help. I think this problem is going to involve psychological tricks on my part to get the technique right.

Practice involved a lot of just plain dancing last night, and I think that was a good thing. It's good that we have some practices more heavy on the mental and technical side of the dancing, and others that give us a lot of physical practice. Both aspects are extremely important.

One thing I forgot to mention is that my new pair of Ray Rose shoes came in the other day, so before last night I sprayed my current competition pair of Ray Rose's with Scotch Guard as a protectant, covered the heels thoroughly with two layers of black suede, and inserted brand new red cedar shoe trees (Jeff's idea, and a good one at that). I couldn't believe the difference these shoes make for my balance and control; I'd say it's comparable to getting new tires on a car. Click on my profile and you'll see the shoes I now get to wear for practice. It was high time! My old Supadance shoes had become slick-soled, ridden with holes and tears in the satin, had a broken down shank and sole, and were a strange shade of bronzy dark brown from my attempt at dying them black. Now I have a brand shiny new pair of satin Ray Rose's set aside for competition and possibly showcase type events, and the ones I already had are now converted into my practice shoes.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Recovery

Dances:  Waltz, Foxtrot, Tango
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.
Number of Bug Bites:  7

Last night's practice was kept pretty short.  The camping trip I had been on had me pretty wiped.  Between the predatory tubing down the river, the junk food, the bug bites, and general lack of sleep, I wasn't in very good shape to practice.  But like any good student of dance does, I found the time and motivation to do so.  After a good chest and shoulder workout, practice began.

This practice started off a little unusually with Sarah and I dancing to metronomic waltz.  Honestly I was impressed at how much we have both improved in terms of our balance together.  No longer are we falling from one figure to the next.  Now it's only a few select figures that topple over.  I think the key factor there (other than just practicing like crazy and getting used to each other) is the leg workouts.  It feels like those workouts have really paid off.  The rise and fall now requires minimal effort as does the slow and painful Tick-Tock Timing.  So all good things.

After the waltz we dance through the foxtrot a bit.  Again, the same result.  Everything feels more balanced.  After last weeks refresher course in metronomic foxtrot our timing was improved.  Again, the leg workouts are paying off here.  It feels like foxtrot really taxes the quads pretty hard.

Last but not least was tango.  Overall it is catching up to our waltz and foxtrot.  I'm still struggling to keep my topline level, but the first half of the routine is greatly improved.  It feels like Sarah isn't getting dragged along anymore as well.  Now we'll need to work on the other half.

One GIANT focus I have now is straightening out my promenades.  As I've mentioned before, I have tendency to tip downward out of them.  I think this is a product of the social dancing leading I do.  It's a much easier lead to just dump the woman into promenade.  It also ensures that she crosses her leg in front rather than behind.  But alas, it's no good for competitive dancing.  I'll need to come up with a new fool-proof plan to lead women into promenade.

Slow and Steady

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

Yesterday's practice was on the short side...Jeff was still in recovery mode from a camping weekend and we had both worked out pretty hard, so after warming up, we started with waltz to slow metronome. We haven't practiced waltz that slowly in a while, so we wanted to see if we had lost some of the control that it felt like we had gained. It actually went pretty well; there were a few times we lost balance or ended up in funky positions, but overall I think it's safe to say we hadn't lost it and can still dance it slowly.

Foxtrot came next, just a couple of run throughs with music at different speeds, first a faster and then a slower one. Even though it's more challenging to dance it slowly, I definitely prefer slower foxtrot in general. Still my favorite dance too.

Tango came last, again, just a run through of the whole routine. It wasn't bad, particularly the first long side, so much so that we are now becoming actually comfortable with it. Maybe something's wrong, because Simeon said this side will never feel easy...perhaps I wouldn't go as far as to say it feels easy, but so dramatically improved. I'm no longer worried about surviving it.

Practice ended with the slow jazz piano "Moon River" waltz. Later, after practice and happy hour, I ended up a fortunate witness to a spontaneous foot race sprint off between Jeff and Simeon in a parking lot, with Simeon in standard shoes! Definitely the highlight of the evening.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Video Aftermath

Dances:  Waltz, Foxtrot
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms, back, chest and shoulders at the gym.
Wake Up Call Tonight:  3:50AM

Today was yet another short practice.  Since I am going on a camping trip starting tomorrow, I had Sarah and I make up Friday's workout today.  That meant all four body parts in one day, much to Sarah's dismay.  Though I gotta say, she held up well.

Practice was pretty iffy but from the looks of it Sarah took away a lot more than I did.  That's the way it is sometimes I guess.  As long as we make progress.  We ran through our waltz and foxtrot.  Both felt pretty good.  I focused on some of the problem spots I had seen in the videos we took.  Mostly just promenade.  I think if I can solve the promenade issue we'll have pretty solid looking dances.  I wish I had more to write up today, but it was such a short practice there wasn't much to reflect on.  Couple that with the 3:50AM wake up call I have and I need to get some rest!  Kora had decided we should leave SUPER early in order to get a good campsite.  I hope her theory pans out otherwise we're going to be all sleepy and cranky for nothing.  Until next week!

Curved Feathers...Definitely not "Yucky"

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Foxtrot
Hovers: 2

Thursday of this past week was our last practice of the week since Jeff was taking off for a camping excursion for the weekend and was leaving on Friday. That meant combining work outs as well, but Jeff was merciful and didn't make us do twice as much work to do that. I'm not sure if it was because he took pity on me or was just tired himself or a little of both, but I was grateful.

We were both pretty tired this Thursday, so after warming up to a night club 2-step and experimenting a little with some shadow position figures, we decided to forgo the slow practice and work on the smoother dances, namely, foxtrot and waltz. Our shorter practice essentially consisted of dancing through these dances a few times.

Apparently after watching our video footage, Kora thought that waltz was our best dance, and Simeon thought Viennese. Waltz has been good lately, and on Thursday again it felt very smooth; I'm especially appreciating the control with which we're lowering, and our waltz promenades seem to keep the connection well, without either of us falling away from the other into that ever so common (especially for us) V-shape. Perhaps our frame tilts in some places, but it's feeling good. Apparently our prep also continues to be a winner. I wish the rest of our dance was as good, but we'll take what we can get. One figure that's been a bit tough for Jeff in the waltz is the closed impetus....I think that it involves a heel turn for him, and as I well know, sometimes those are very difficult to execute cleanly in certain situations. On our first run through, I'm not sure exactly what happened, but I felt like Jeff so over rotated me that I couldn't keep my body over my feet and I was losing my balance. The tricky thing with that figure is that you have to rotate the upper body very strongly independently of the hips and legs, but I think that sometimes in order to get that strong rotation the hips get turned too when they shouldn't and then we get all screwed up and I lose my balance. Now maybe it was something I was doing...thought I don't think so, because I trying really hard to stay over my own feet and keep a good balance, but I do know that the next time we danced it, it was really smooth and balanced and felt great, so if Jeff changed something it was definitely working. Our hover was also very nice as well...slow and controlled.

Foxtrot was good; the curved feathers in particular were kind of yummy. Jeff also got the rotation right on for the reverse wave, so that was fun because I love the shaping on that figure. Anyways, at the first curved feather in our routine, for some reason I almost always feel like I get so curled up and twisted that I have no choice but to pick up my foot to drive forward out of the position, but somehow this time our configuration was just perfect, and my foot was able to slide along the floor while my leg stayed connected with Jeff's...and it was quite beautiful. I was very proud of us. I mentioned in my title that they're no longer yucky because Kora once called Jeff "yucky" because of what she found to be a poorly executed excuse for a curved feather. Not anymore! We're also doing well with our lower connection, though I still feel that we are started well but as seem to lose it a bit as we get farther into our routine. It's not quite to the habit stage yet, and we're going to have to think about it for a while longer.

That was pretty much it for Thursday night. One thing I discovered from Jeff this week that I suppose isn't all that surprising but is rather nice since we're partners...I think we rate all of the standard dances in the same order, most favorite to least. For me the ranking right now from most favorite to least is foxtrot, Viennese waltz, waltz, tango, and quickstep. The bad part is that we both have a tendency to want to push quickstep aside, for example, or dance more foxtrot than the other dances. On the plus side, it's another way in which we're of one mind about our dancing and have similar stylistic preferences. It might (and it's very likely) have something to do with our proficiency in each dance, but it's the chicken or the egg, really...are we better at one because we like it more or do we like it more because we're better at it? It really doesn't matter. Foxtrot just feels amazing, and quickstep is still a lot of work for little least, it is now. I'm not sure if that will change once we get to open.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Rubber Legs, Fleckerls, & Pie

Dances:  Viennese Waltz
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Legs at the gym.
Bonus Today:  Homemade Blackberry Pie!

Since Sarah had her choir session on Monday, it left Wednesday free this week.  Unfortunately it was a really short practice.  I had over worked my legs during my workout and just didn't have enough juice left for much dance.  On the bright side, we did get a practice in!

Today we pretty much ran through our dances then decided to get back to Fleckerls.  What a pain.  They are hard to dance and lead.  Sarah is having a lot of trouble figuring out when I've decided to go into them.  I don't blame her, I've never lead them before so how should anyone know?  I need to ask Simeon about the lead the next time I see him.  Can't be that hard.  For now I told Sarah to cheat.  Since she usually realized about 3 beats too late I told her to figure out exactly which foot and where the fourth beat has her and to just roll into that should she find out too late.  I can't say the Fleckerls are getting better, but at least we're taking some time to figure out how they work.  Since we won't be dancing the Viennese Waltz at any competition any time soon, we have the luxury of taking our time with this one.

Another exciting piece of news is the response from our coaches about the videos we shot yesterday.  I took my laptop to "Family Dinner" (we call it that because our core group of dancers and friends are our family) Tuesday night for them to see.  I told Kora she wasn't allowed to say anything during the videos, but true to form she couldn't refrain from doing so.  But the greatest thing was that they thought we looked good!  Of course there are things to work on, but overall our dancing was given a clean bill of health.  Kora thinks Waltz is our best dance, while Simeon, the Viennese Waltz.  I think I'll start taping us maybe once a month and start a video archive to track our progress.  Not sure if I'll post them up here, but it'll be good for us in the future for a good laugh.

Saving the best for last, Sarah made blackberry pie!!  So after practice we headed over to her place for some.  It was SUPER tasty.  She really knows her way around an oven.  Can't think of a better way to end practice!

Twisted Contra-Checks

Part: Follow
Dances: Viennese Waltz
Hovers: 1

Practice was very short last night. It was leg day for Jeff, and I think he might have pushed himself a little too hard, because he was having a tough time dancing at all because of it. I hardly did a workout at all myself because I had resolved that last night would be the night I would bake a fresh blackberry pie. It was just one of those things I had to do before summer is over. I'm sure Jeff didn't mind too terribly...he likes pie crust too much.

Our practice began with a night club 2-step warm up, and our Latin dancer friend laughing at us for "warming up" with that dance because it is one of the most lazy and easy dances to do. We tried to explain that it's about just getting moving together and getting a feel for where you are and where your partner is and your balance, etc...but he just didn't get it. Jeff was experimenting with a few new figures too...he's invented some fun ones and stolen some figures from our other standard dances that work pretty well, and I really like the new shadow position one that reminds me of smooth Viennese waltz. We've pretty much decided that we're going to enter the open night club 2-step event at our first competition, just for fun.

Since Jeff's legs were precluding any slow practice, we decided to see if we could get any closer on the fleckerls. We can actually get through them alright, but then for some reason Jeff kept doing 3 half reverses and then trying to put me into a contra-check and almost killing me because my feet are completely crossed the wrong direction at that point. I'd like to see him try to contra-check starting with a right leg crossed in front of the left! We had a good laugh over it though, because he kept swearing that he was doing it right and that he was only doing six counts, yet when he went to demonstrate...the same thing happened, 3 halves, 9 counts, no go contra-check! I got a kick out the fact that he thought I was rushing so much that I got a whole 3 beats ahead of him in that space of time...but the scary part was that I almost believed him...I really can be an out-of-control merry-go-round with those things. Jeff decided that we should invent a new kind of contra-check in which the lady keeps the feet crossed in front of her just bends backwards. No one else will be dancing it, that's for sure! Our contra-check, when we were positioned correctly going into it, was still iffy and we'll need to work on it. It's really tough because of how you're interrupting rotation and then have to rotate the opposite way. We didn't spend too much time on this though, because Jeff's leg workout had really done him in for the night. We ended with a slow waltz and good hover, and called it a night.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What You See Is What You Get

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.
Number of Bags Carried Into the Gym:  5

Today was a big day.  It'll be the first time Sarah and I take videos of us dancing and see how bad we really are.  After a good chest and shoulders workout we headed straight for our inevitable doom.

First things first though.  We started off with metronomic Foxtrot.  I'm glad to report that it all came screaming back to us after a few minutes.  It wasn't as hard getting used to it this time around, but still pretty damn hard.  I have to say that our balance is very much improved since the last time we did this.  There tends to be less "falling" into the next step.  I attribute this not only to our hard work in practice but also to the weight lifting.  Our whole bodies are quite a bit stronger than when we first started.  As a result, it's becoming easier and easier to hold any position without great strain.  So overall satisfied result for our Foxtrot.

Next came Quickstep, again with the Tick-Tock Timing.  I think it's slowly getting better.  Sarah and I plan to continue to increase the speed gradually until dancing it at competition tempo is just second nature.  One thing I did notice today was that our Double Reverse is getting better.  I'm getting better about settling myself right into the middle of it so as to maintain my balance and Sarah is doing a better job of propelling the partnership around the required amount of rotation.  Another good thing was that we actually got through the entire routine and was able to loop it back to the beginning.  This is a pretty big step for us since I usually cut the final linking part out.  The floor is just too small for the last short side into the connecting piece to the beginning.  But I took a few liberties tonight with alignments and was able to make it work.

Finally the moment of truth.  I had setup the camera on a tripod in the far corner of the room and after a few adjustments we were ready to make history.  I have to say, other than Sarah getting her dress caught on her shoes we danced really well.  We did a full round of all five dances.  Then came the painful part:  watching ourselves dance.  To be honest, I was really happy with the result.  I didn't cringe at any parts, but did notice the spots I need to work on.  All in all it looked almost exactly like it felt.  That's great news in my book.  I'm going to show the videos to our coaches and see what they think.  I'll update once we get our report card!

Moment of Truth

Part: Follow
Dances: Quickstep, Foxtrot
Hovers: 2

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

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

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

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

Forgetting the Foxtrot

Dances:  Quickstep, Tango, Foxtrot, Waltz
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.
Salmon Consumed Today:  1 whole salmon!

Another solid practice day.  I'm glad we back to our usual level of practice again.  I made it to the gym a little later that usual today since Sarah had some choir thing going on and wouldn't be meeting until 8:30.  The workout was quick and efficient.

It was back to the Quickstep grindstone tonight.  Again the metronome was clicking away mercilessly while Sarah and I struggled with keeping up and falling ahead of it.  Tonight especially, it felt like Sarah was constantly ahead of me.  I think this is due to a variety of things.  The partnership could be losing balance at such a slow speed.  Sarah could also be trying to keep time with the metronome.  Now I'm trying to keep time as well, but even if I'm a little off she should technically still follow my lead.  In short I guess she needs to ignore the metronome.  One other thing that is an issue is our energy levels in any particular dance or step.  Tonight her eagerness to do her part was very apparent.  Sometimes our energy levels don't sync up too well.  She's too spirited or lethargic and vice-versa.  This is where experience and knowing your dance partner well comes into play.  Only time will solve this issue.  But even through these somewhat frustrating times our no fighting partnership still perseveres.

The Tango got a little work with the bar today as well.  Just checking to make sure things are still straight.  For the most part they are.  I'm going to need to start applying the bar to the second half of the routine and make sure that part is level as well.  But both Sarah and I have noticed how much easier the Tango feels now.  Most dancers know this feeling can mean one of two things.  Either yes, you've nailed it, or no, you've tragically failed.  There's really little leeway in between.  It think we've nailed it though.  At least the bad habits are starting to crumble.  It'll be sometime before we can clear most of the rubble though.

We ended practice with the Foxtrot.  This was a bit of a disappointment.  I thought it'd be a good idea to dance it to Tick Tock Timing to see how we're doing.  Honestly, it took some time for us to remember how to dance it like that.  We'll need to work on this tomorrow just to make sure we haven't forgotten too much and to continue our progress with the Foxtrot.  Can't complain though.  It was a good practice.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Questionable Quickstep

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 2 (or 16+ depending on Jeff's perception of my Viennese head position)

Monday night it was back to business as usual, though our schedule was slightly different since I had a couple of choir related commitments in the evening, so I wasn't able to work out. Practice involved dancing through all of the dances to some degree, in fact we danced quite a lot this session (versus talking about what we're working on (or not), or trying to figure out rough spots, etc.).

The focused practice centered primarily on quickstep, for which we once again pulled out tick-tock timing and applied thoroughly. Each time we're speeding it up just a little, hopefully so that when we get to full speed the balance and control we've gained from dancing it so slowly will cary over. That's the idea, anyway. I do think though that this dance will take more than a metronome. It helps with the precision, but I don't think the timing is the only problem. We've got to be sure we can execute the figures correctly as well, with or without the correct speed and timing, and by that I mean with the correct shapes, swing, and rotation.

We also tried to dance some metronomic foxtrot, and it didn't go so well as we remembered. I guess we've gotten a little rusty, though in the end it seemed it was more a matter of us forgetting how many click beats go where than actual ability with the technique. We'll be trying it again tomorrow to see how it goes as we really don't want to lose our slow foxtrot skills. We're pretty sure we can get it back.

Waltz, tango, and Viennese waltz were all essentially run throughs, but we did dance them all. Other than quickstep, I think our dances are starting to level out a bit. I'd say that now we could say we're comfortable with our routines (again, excepting quickstep); definitely not anywhere close to perfect and there are lots of little things to work on, but at a point where we don't have to worry about surviving or just crashing half way through (again, except quickstep). This is why we plan to keep hammering away at quickstep. Perhaps it's time for us to invent yet a another practice technique. We've got the bar for tango and metronome for foxtrot and waltz...what does quickstep need?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Dancing In The Home Country... Well Close Anyways

Dances:  Everything
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.
Pictures Posted (Facebook):  Seattle Star Ball - Parts 1 & 2

I got my workout done early in the day today.  Sarah and I wouldn't be practicing because we had been invited out by one of our dance friends to go to Chinatown (or if it makes you feel better to be politically correct: International District) for a dance party.  So here were the details I knew going in.  The dance was at a restaurant in Chinatown called Ocean City.  The deal was, each person is required to spend a minimum of $15 for food.  That covers both your food of course and the dancing.  Sarah and I have been trying pretty hard to branch out recently with the social side of our dancing.  We have stopped going to Washington Dance Club for now because it's always the same people, the same music, and it's relatively far from our other options.  It's also a $12 cover.  That's annoying on two fronts.  One because it's kind of expensive for what it is.  And two because it's $12.  I've ranted about this before, but with $12 you always need to either carry singles, or get $8 back.  Just annoying.  Ok, back to Ocean City.

When we got there we were lucky enough to find a parking spot in the Ocean City garage.  Now Chinatown has gotten a lot sketchier from when I remember it as a kid.  It's not the most desirable place to be at night.  This garage was PACKED.  And I mean Asian style packed.  People double parked, cars parked at odd angles, etc.  When we got into the restaurant we heard loud music coming from upstairs so we headed in that direction.  Turns out it's live music!  Not really good live music, since the singers were a bit out of tune and the instrumentation was cheesy MIDI samples, but still awesome because it was LIVE!  The floor was very small though.  I would say roughly the same size as DanceWork's floor.  Only difference is, now you have all crazy Asian drivers (more on this later).  We found our friends already seated at a table and joined them.

Overall the dance was ok.  The dancers there are quite obviously beginners so navigating through them is always a challenge.  Not to mention that Asians tend to drive quite recklessly both on the floor and the road.  So this lead to even more creative leading than normal.  Also Karen had a great quote that night.  It was during a Cha-Cha or perhaps another Latin dance when we noticed a large group of people on the floor in line dance formation (exactly like you would see when people do the Electric Slide at weddings) attempting to dance the basic.  I asked Karen what was up with group class on the floor to which she replied "Oh yeah.  Sometimes they behave that way."  Sarah and I laughed pretty hard at that.  It really was pretty random.  This "behavior" spanned several dances including a few Standard ones.  That was EXTRA tricky to circumvent.
We ended the night with a quick stop for some bubble tea.  I gotta say, it was nice having this drastic change of pace.  Good food, great friends, good dancing.  What more can you ask for.

Social Dancing, Chinese Style

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Foxtrot, Viennese, Tango, Night-Club 2, Swing, Cha-cha, Bolero
Hovers: 0

Friday night Jeff and I had been invited to join some dance friends for dinner and social dancing at a Chinese restaurant that features live music and a dance floor, all included for the price of dinner, which was fairly reasonable. This was at Ocean City in Seattle's China town, and in our group at one table we had about eight people, some Asian, some not...friends from the Washington Dance Club, etc.

I didn't find the food anything to write home about...but I'm not Chinese so I'm really not the best one to judge since I don't have a lot of experience with the cuisine, though I've had some I liked much better. I kind of liked the idea of eating a little bit, dancing a little, eating a little, and dancing a little though. The live music was not amazing, but it was still fun, and it was different. The floor was small, and when there were lots of dancers on it; it was worse than Danceworks from a floor crafting perspective. I'm really spoiled with Jeff though, because I don't realize sometimes just how great those Asian driver skills are until I dance with other leads on floors that crowded.

I danced a number of dances with Jeff and with a couple of other guys who were at our table. It was one of those venues where all are purely social dancers, some knew a few steps...and some were just making it up as they went, so as the only competitively trained couple there...we kind of stuck out and people kept getting on us to dance every standard dance we sat down for. No one could convince Jeff to try quickstep on that floor, and I certainly didn't try. One dance felt particularly good even on that tiny floor: Viennese Waltz. I don't know what it is, but we just seem to move very well together in this dance...even though I know I cheat (like I miss some heel leads and other things). Our connection felt lower this time and I've been working on swinging my body beneath my head versus moving my head independently...and I think it's working much better. We've gotten some compliments on it recently too from friends who have seen us dance it all along, so maybe it really is getting better. Who knows? Sometimes feeling can be deceiving. Viennese is still one of my favorites; when I first started it was my favorite, but foxtrot trumped it quite some time ago. Viennese doesn't have enough complexity and variety to compete with foxtrot, but it's more the adrenaline high that you get from rotating and moving and swinging at that speed that makes it such fun.

One thing that cracked me up was how at random points during some of the songs, a whole group of people would get out on the floor and just start doing basic dance steps all lined up in a row, so Jeff immediately dubbed them "group class." We never quite knew when "group class" was going to start up, so it was a little hairy in floor crafting terms. One of our Chinese friends at our table informed me that she didn't know why (she found it just as odd as I), but they "just behave like that sometimes." She had been there on a number of occasions, and she said this was standard behavior. Apparently "group class" is a strange "behavior" that can be often observed among dancers dining peacefully at Ocean City.

All in all, we had a good time. It was different, not something I'd want to do every week, for sure, but a fun way to mix it up. The evening ended with bubble tea (I feel like I'm definitely becoming an honorary Asian these days) and Jeff helping one of our friends pull her car out of a ridiculous parking space in the sketchy parking garage beneath the restaurant. No more dancing until Monday night, when we plan to be back on task with our practices. This past week I felt was overall a good week of practices, so I hope the trend continues into the coming week.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Baby Steps

Dances:  Quickstep, Viennese Waltz
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.
Number of Pictures Sorted Through:  1,778

Today started out fairly amusing.  Sarah had thought she was off the hook this week for chest and shoulders since her schedule had pushed her workout day to Monday and Thursday.  Lucky for her, I had thought of this already and she was disappointed that I remembered.  Sarah has got to improve her general posture when working out.  Of course a lot of it comes from not only practice and repetition, but also from the increased strength you gain from the workout routine.  Hopefully it'll sort itself out soon.  In the meantime, I still need to keep a close eye on her or she'll definitely get hurt.

Practice today started normally.  We busted out the metronome for our Quickstep as we continued to pound that dance into submission.  Quite honestly, I'm not sure if we're getting any better.  We haven't danced it to music at regular tempo for quite some time now.  Hopefully when we do, we'll notice the improvement.  In the meantime, we shall persevere and continue the battle against balance, timing, posture, connection, etc.

After the Quickstep we did something out of the ordinary for us, the Viennese Waltz.  Before our first major break in practice when I went to L.A. we had had a lesson in Viennese Waltz and we thought it would be a good idea to review it so as not to waste that lesson.  Overall I would say our Viennese Waltz is smoother now.  Both Sarah and I trying hard to keep our shaping up instead of swooping down into it.  She is also trying various things with her head.  I have to keep telling her when she takes it too far and it starts to feel like we're doing a hover every 6 beats.  That's something we need to make a note of checking on with our coaches.  It feels like Sarah is simply trying too hard with her shaping and in the process throwing me off balance and forcing a stretch in my frame.  Though this is hardly new news to both Simeon and I.  We all know how much Sarah loves her shaping.  So much so that she likes to launch herself into each one and surprise both of us.  Sometimes on purpose and to get a rise out of Simeon and I, and other times just because.  All that being said, it seems like the learning curve for that kind of movement is fairly steep.  From the lead's perspective I wouldn't say it's the final shape that's difficult, but rather the movement to get there.  Sure the final shape isn't easy, but if you just pop into it the lead has to counterbalance that all at once.  Versus the gradual easing into that final position that makes it a delightfully transition.

Aside from that, we began working on Fleckerls.  I've had two lessons in this step with Kora and I must say that is something she needs to work on.  While I understand she wants to show me everything that is involved in dancing that step correctly, sometimes you just need to take baby steps otherwise it's simply impossible.  It would be like you wanting to run a marathon having never done one before, then having a coach tell you to start practicing by running 26 miles everyday.  Instead of starting with say 1 mile for the first week, then slowly increasing the distance.  Sarah and I decided to take the baby steps approach.  Basically we just danced through Fleckerls.  I'm sure they looked as bad as they felt.  But I think with practice we'll get the basic idea down and can then benefit from the more thorough explanation Kora offers.

First Look at Fleckerls

Part: Follow
Dances: Quickstep, Viennese
Hovers: 2

Last night was a normal day, for once...workout, then practice. Since I had missed the Tuesday workout this week and done Monday instead, I had realized that I was going to end up doing arms and back twice and miss chest and shoulders this week. I can't deny that this didn't bother me too much; I figured it wouldn't hurt me once. Unfortunately, Jeff had also thought of this and proceeded straight for the cable cross and popped my bubble by informing me that he switched the schedule just to make sure I got in the chest and shoulders day. No days off for me!

Practice involved me forgetting my shoes and taking all of 10 min. to run home and back to get them (yay for living so close now!), and Jeff "testing" out a whole bunch of new songs that he had looked up after Seattle Star Ball.

Although we ran through bits of all of the dances, our primary focus was again quickstep. Once again we brought out the slow metronome (now a.k.a "tick-tock timing") and just worked through the first long side mostly, though a few times we did get as far as the rumba crosses on the second long side. Naturally, the whole thing works out a lot better that slow, so we'll just keep patiently clicking up the speed. The really tough part slow is the double-reverse, and we actually ended up doing double the rotation we should have on one of them because we just kept spinning since we had so much more time. It was a funny moment when we realized we had ended up aiming to go back the way we had come. In quickstep too I think we were both focusing on the lower connection as in foxtrot, since the slower speeds made it easier to be conscious of. We didn't really talk about practicing it specifically but it seemed that were both thinking about it.

Finally, we dedicated a little time to trying to understand fleckerls in Viennese Waltz, how they work, and where we have to be to actually dance them. By the end we could actually get through a set of reverses, check, naturals, and exit, though we're no where near consistent and usually one of us messes up and crosses in front when it should be behind or the reverse. For me the toughest part is getting out into the natural turn after rotating that fast and hard...for Jeff I expect it's leading me into the darn things in the first place. It's a great feeling though when you get going and really take turns making the rotation happen, and I just love the feeling of the quick torque you get when you whip the leg behind. These will need a ton of work, but we're happy that we at least know the basic steps and know what we're generally shooting for.

For those unfamiliar with fleckerls (and just how hard they are), they are in this video, in the middle...reverses into naturals, just like we were practicing. It's the figure with all the turning in place:

Tonight we have an opportunity to do some social dancing at a new venue, so we're going to check that out instead of practicing tonight...and hopefully will have an interesting new experience to report.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

It's Good to be Back!

Dances:  Quickstep, Tango
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Chest and shoulders at the gym.
CDs Purchased Today:  14

Sarah's choir practice was moved to today so that meant I was flying solo on my workout.  I got to the gym a bit late today so I really had to work hard to catch up time wise.  In the end my timing was almost perfect.  Finished up right as Sarah was headed in.

I felt today's practice was the best one we've had in a while.  Last week just wasn't that great.  Felt like we just had trouble getting the ball rolling.  Today's felt like we were back to our old selves again.  Thank god.

Most of the time was spent on a Tick Tock Timed Quickstep.  Our balance is getting better, though one major trouble spot when dancing this dance so slowly is the Double Reverse.  The man's part is brutal at that slow of a pace.  I'm going to have to ask Simeon if even he is capable of dancing it that slow.  Other than that everything felt fine.  Even the Rumba Crosses went well.  I must sound like a broken record by now, but we have to keep hammering away at the Quickstep.  It's getting closer!

Tango was the second dance we focused on.  The bar came back into the mix.  Overall my frame is maintaining it's parallel line to the floor more consistently now.  Sarah says she can feel a big difference so I must be doing something right.  Though only time and our coaches will tell.

We ended practice with a little Viennese Waltz.  It continues to feel quite smooth.  I'm really quite skeptical about whether or not we've made progress there.  Oh well, it feels good.  :)

Introducing the Last Waltz

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Hovers: 2 (good ones!)

It's true, I think we actually worked on all of the dances last night! Practice was about an hour long, and it seemed we got a lot of good work in on the dances. We're becoming very familiar with what our problems are now (which is great), so we know exactly what to work on, and I think getting to vary it and not spending too much time on one thing keeps us from burning out as quickly. We'll have to get back to practicing individual problem areas soon though.

We ran through waltz a couple of times. I was rushing a bit in some parts, apparently, though I think it was more that I was trying to be more dramatic with my leg sweep in the left whisk than Jeff was actually leading, so that came out a little out of sync. Otherwise, it's going pretty well, and the usual problem areas are improving.

We worked on tango with the bar again, but before this we ran through the first half of the routine without it. It felt great! Seriously, I am not nearly so terrified of that fallaway reverse slip pivot section of doom anymore. The one thing left is that we still need to confirm what we're doing for the timing of the reverse outside swivel, because I still think we're cheating...but otherwise we're together and not falling over. That's huge.

Viennese was just a run through; Jeff said it's feeling smooth to him again now, so either we've gotten used to applying the principles from that lesson the broke that dance, or else we've reverted to our old ways. I hope not though! I think my head is better; it doesn't hurt or feel strained nearly as much, so that's a good sign. I still think we could be lower into our knees throughout though.

Foxtrot is pretty smooth, but Jeff told me after a run through that he feels like I'm rushing the slows. I'm glad he mentioned this, because it means I'm probably reverting back to the old step on the beat habit, so now that I know this is happening I can really focus on waiting for his movement and trying to move my body versus step on the beat, per the concepts we had worked on with our uber slow foxtrot practice. Jeff is consciously working on delaying weight transfers to get that smooth foxtrot transition from step to step, but if I'm just stepping on the beat by default it's no good. We ran it again after this and he said it felt a bit better, so it's definitely something for me to continue to be conscious of.

Finally, we worked on quickstep with the slow metronome. Of course, the rumba crosses are so much easier slow, though the timing of our first long side was confusing at first because of all the quick-and-quicks mixed up with quicks and slows, and the slows you think are quicks at that turtle-like speed. I think it's helping though. The rumba crosses really aren't too terrible; it's recovering after them that's a problem.

Practice ended with our Beegie Adair very slow waltz. I think we're going to start ending practices with this; it's a good note to end on, and ending with a waltz is a dance tradition. Jeff had wanted to quit after we both fell apart out of a crazy quickstep figure, but I can't stand ending on a bad note. That "Moon River" waltz is perfect.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Damage Control

Dances:  Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep
Part:  Lead
Workout:  Arms and back at the gym.
New Songs Added to Dance Collection:  219

*sigh*  It's the beginning of another week.  After getting our butts kicked from lack of sleep at Seattle Star Ball, Monday seemed just that much more sluggish.  Sarah joined me for weights today.  Not too bad a workout to start the week with.

Practice today was basically a glorified round.  We danced though each of the dances a few times a piece to get a idea of where we stand on each one.  Waltz felt pretty good despite a few brain farts on my part.  We're covering more and more ground on out first long side.  It won't be long until this room starts to feel small.  That's a good thing I guess.  Tango was A LOT more stable and my frame quite a bit straighter.  This meant our first long side of death would benefit from it and sure enough, it did.  Aside from that, our Tango feels much sharper to me.  Definitely not nearly as polite as it used to be.  Next up was Foxtrot.  As usual, it felt good.  So far I haven't shaped the wrong way in our Reverse Wave part recently.  I'm sure it'll happen again at some point.  Quickstep was still our weakest, not surprisingly.  But I think we're making good progress.  The enhanced focus on that dance last week helped.  We should continue to do so this week just to get it caught up.  Those damn Tipsies are still the bane of my existence.  Finally, the Viennese Waltz.  After Kora broke this dance a few weeks ago, it has never quite felt right.  Today however, either we're improved or just reverted back to our old ways.  Either way, it felt quite smooth.  No complaints.  I think we'll need to apply Tick Tock Timing (metronomic practice) to it at some point.

All in all a good start to the week!

A Diagnostic Round (or two)

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Quickstep, Night Club 2-Step
Hovers: 2

Last night was essentially a glorified round that was kind of a diagnostic practice, I suppose you could call it. We're trying to get back on a good schedule and just see where we are with all of the dances in order to know what to tackle next.

This time we danced through all dances maybe twice or so, with music to see where we were. Here's what I thought about each of them:

Night-Club 2 step: Kind of our "go-to" warm up dance these days. I think we should keep it that way and plan on entering the open night-club fun competition event at our first competition. We both like it, it's relaxing, relatively simple, and a good warm up.

Waltz: Feeling powerful; lots of movement, and we keep running out of floor. Spots that need work include the fallaway-reverse-slip-pivot into double reverse section, all out of wing (much improved but still not great), and the drag hesitation or whatever it's called in the last corner. Also the closed impetus still feels over-rotated to me, or like we aren't isolating the upper body enough from the lower in the rotation. Good things included our movement, balance, and promenades, which we seem to fall into much less. Also, I know I'm now being much more patient as a follow, because during a part that I used to rush (so Jeff has told me) where we do a left whisk into right shape with hesitation into contra-check, Jeff really slowed down and maybe got a bit behind...but I stayed behind with him. This is good.

Tango: Our long side of doom is dramatically better. Like I said before, much tighter, straighter, and balanced. I'm keeping steps close beneath the body and rotating the upper body more, and it's working for me, while Jeff is busy keeping his frame in a straight line. We're also moving more quickly and sharply too, and becoming less and less polite. To work on: my head snaps...they're still too slow. Also the second long side is just kind of boring and dead, and we need to figure out how to make it look interesting.

Viennese: Felt pretty good last night, for once after that last lesson. I'm getting smoother with my head, and actually enjoying the feeling I get from using my head to help the turn in the reverses, and on the naturals, focusing on letting my body swing under my head versus actually doing anything with my head. I think that may be why it felt better to Jeff; sometimes you just have to think about the same concept differently for it to have the effect you want. We still move a lot. I still could work on swinging my sides more though, and I still turn out my feet quite a bit on this dance, I think.

Foxtrot: Still good. We're working more on the lower connection thing, and we'll need to continue working on that. The reverse wave shaping needs to be consistent; when Jeff remembers it's pretty good though, except for once last night where he turned into a dump truck and almost landed me on the floor. The zig-zag is actually working now, but we still refuse to like it. I'd like to get back to our slow practice on this dance though to see if we've reverted or still have the control we developed when we practiced like that for a period of time.

Quickstep: Jeff had some fun new music to try. Quickstep music tends to be either terrible, or really fun to dance to. This dance obviously needs the most work; it's just a little out of control right now. Jeff and I both tend to dance with quite a bit of energy, and when we don't have the necessary finesse in a particular dance or figure it can get messy and be a wild ride. I think it'll look good once we get some issues hammered out. Just going for it when you're not entirely sure what you're going for can be a little dangerous in this dance, it demands a lot of precision in shaping and step placement because of the speed, but it's really kind of an all or nothing kind of dance. Jeff likes to say that it's "pass/fail," but I think there are definitely degrees of good, it's just that you can't really dance it half way without failing miserably, but if you go all out you can die a terrible death. Quickstep is always risk; we just need to work on reducing that risk level a bit. Tipsies, rumba crosses, and maybe the closed impetus continue to be problem areas.

Seattle Star Ball 2011

Phew!  What a weekend.  After only 5 hours of sleep over two days, roughly 2,000 photographs, and countless heats of my friends dancing, I made it home alive.  Dance competitions are always really interesting to me.  It's great to see your friends go through the motions of getting ready, figuring out what they have forgotten or left out, getting nervous, dancing, winning or losing, and ultimately doubting the very decision they have made to dance.  That aside, we always end up with an awesome collection of bizarre stories that come out of each comp.

I started my day around noon on Friday.  Everyone was already in the ballroom getting ready to dance so I just setup shop, took a few light readings from the room, adjusted the white balance and off I went.  Most of the Friday session went off without a hitch.  All of our friends danced really well.  The best I'd seen them dance.  Of course each and every one of them came off the floor growling about something they had messed up or executed poorly.  Then always comes the question of didn't you see it?  I always have to remind them that not only did I see it, but I always do so in great, scrutinizing detail through the camera.  Also that I know their routines now after seeing and shooting them so many times, and that because of that experience I can tell them whether or not it was better or worse.  Not to mention that I'm a dancer and a pretty good judge of it.  Of course they never believe me and wander off mumbling or collapsing into fetal position, sucking their thumb and crying.  Ok, maybe not that bad, but you get the point.

Friday was split into two sections, the daytime event and nighttime.  The ridiculous thing was that there was only a 30 minute break in between the two sessions.  So in that time we had to get back to Kora and Simeon's room, everyone had to get ready, and most importantly get something to eat at the hotel restaurant.  It was insane.  If you had taken an X-Ray of my stomach that night, you would see the sandwich I choked down still whole in it's original state.  Aside from that, the night well really well.  All the scholarship events were in the evening and true to form, all of our posse did well.  There was also the Amateur Open Champion and Pre-Champion Standard event.  Steven and Sophie danced really well though I think their Latin is better.  They placed second in the Pre-Champ.  To end the night, Kora and Simeon won the Professional Showdance event.  They came off the floor much like their students, really upset about how they had danced.  I felt they danced the routine really well since I had see it in competition now for the fourth time.  Then after a late dinner I was in bed by about 3:30AM with a 7:00AM wake up call.

Saturday started with me picking up Sarah at 7:30 and heading down to the ballroom (Sea-Tac Hilton).  Our dance family was already close to being ready and some were even warming up already.  After a quick breakfast the dancing began.  It was just like Friday except today was Standard instead of Latin.  It was during the morning session that my first interesting thing occurred.  I had a break in between some heats where our group wasn't dancing when I noticed this guy and a girl handing out business cards to people as they made their way down to our corner of the ballroom.  It turns out, they were the professional photographers brought in by the organizers to shoot the comp.  When they got down to our end they gave one of group a card and she told them she didn't need it since I was there taking photos.  Now I was busy dumping my memory card onto my laptop as this was all going down, when I got a rough tap on my shoulder.  I turned around and this guy was already walking away, and he looked back motioning me to come with him.  I walked over and this is what happened:

First off, Stephen Marino the photographer is an POMPOUS ASSHOLE.

Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  What's your name?
Me:  Jeff.  You?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Are you shooting pictures of the competition?
Me:  Yes.  Are you?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Are you charging for your photos?
Me:  No.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Really?
Me:  No.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Are you sure?
Me:  No.  Why don't you ask me again and see if the answer changes?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Because the people over there said you are shooting pictures of them.
Me:  Yes.  They are my friends.  I shoot my friends who are competing.  Isn't that what friends do?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Well that's a problem for me.
Me:  So?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  You're affecting my business.
Me:  So what?  I'm allowed to shoot photos, just not videos.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Well you shooting photos and just "giving" then to your friends affects my business.
Me:  Well that's really not my problem.  I'm going to go back to shooting now.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Do you know who I am?
Me:  No, and I don't care.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  You should know who I am. *shoves business card into my hand*
Me:  *throws business cards over my shoulder*  I really don't care who you are.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Ok
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  Do you want me to go to the organizer and have him talk to you?
Me:  Go right ahead.  In fact I have some things I need to tell him too about bringing in asshole vendors that harass paying patrons.  I'm sure my friends will back me up too.
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  I flew in from Atlanta and you're affecting my business.  You need to stop.
Me:  Well if you were to shoot better photos and charge more reasonably for them we wouldn't have this problem now would we?
Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino:  *wanders off muttering*

Can you believe it?  What a jackass!  First off, it's none of his business who I choose to shoot as long as I'm not selling the photos at the comp.  If I choose to sell them outside of the comp on my website, that's my business.  Which I don't.  I've never charged for photos before.  Then he has the balls to tell me I can't run around the ballroom to shoot and that I need to stay in my assigned seat.  Has this joker ever been to a ballroom competition?  While you are technically assigned a seat, no one ever really pays attention to it.  At least never to my knowledge.  For him to have to resort to bullying and intimidation for his business to succeed is ridiculous.  Jokes on him though.  Not only did he screw himself out of any business from our group of dancers (which is quite substantial) but he also screwed himself out of any business that Sarah and I might give him later when we start competing.  What a dumbass.  I'm a firm believer that if you provide a good service with quality products at a reasonable price, people will buy it.  It doesn't matter what your competition is, as long as your products are sound and your people skills are above average.

Back to the dancing.  After the morning session we all headed back to the room where everyone shared their fun stories so far from the day.  Simeon had stayed behind to watch a few students who were dancing in the afternoon.  It wasn't long before he texted us saying he was falling asleep.  Sarah, Patrick and I went to relieve him.  After the dance events were done, Lucy, Patrick, Sarah and I decided to go get food.  We walked about a mile down the road to a Subway.  After that Patrick needed a milk shake so we made it over to a Jack in the Box.  Then of course seeing the milk shake, Sarah had to have "real" ice cream so we all ended up at Denny's.  In her defense though, that sundae really was delicious.  More crazy things happened on our lunch trip including Patrick acting like a 10 year old with a milk mustache and insisting on playing the crane game in an attempt to win a stuffed dinosaur for his daughter, three sketchy males getting arrested outside the Denny's, and the waitress misinterpreting my response to her "have a nice day".

Going into the evening session we were all back in the room getting ready for the night's events.  Sarah was over helping Lucy (who was painfully under prepared in supplies) with her hair.  During this time I thought it'd be a good idea to start experimenting with my hair since we'll need to figure it out eventually.  So I told Sarah to slick it back.  It took Simeon and Sarah, half a can of industrial strength hairspray, a comb, a brush, and a hairdryer, 30 minutes to get my communist hair to comply.  The result was a Yakuza looking Jeff.  Everyone got a kick out of it.  So it's back to the drawing board.  I think we'll try the Victor Fung approach next time.  Grow out the top middle part of my head and shave the sides really close.

One in the ballroom, I was getting a lot of confused looks.  With the new hairdo everyone asked if I was competing that night which puzzled them even more because it was Latin this night.  I love messing with people.  Sarah and I actually made it out onto the floor during their social dancing section.  I discovered how grooved the floor really was.  I've been to a lot of comps and this floor wasn't really that great.  They could have done better.  After that more scholarship events as well as the Amateur Open Champion and Pre-Champion Latin, and Professional Champion Standard event.  Simeon and Kora did really well, placing second.  It was funny watching their Quickstep through my viewfinder.  About halfway through I realized Simeon was doing his long side over and over again.  Three times to be exact.  Turns out he had to modify his routine because they kept running into another couple on the floor and couldn't quite get back on track.  What made things funnier was when Simeon actually thought the song was over and dropped his frame, only to realize it was just a lull in the music.  We all had a good laugh about this after.  Once all the dancing was done Sarah and I met Kora and Simeon along with their coach and adjudicator Glen at 13 Coins for a LATE dinner.

To wrap up this long post, Seattle Star Ball, as with all dance comps was a combination of A LOT of fun, too little sleep, and unhealthy food.  I have glossed over MANY other crazy things.  You really need to come out and join us for one of these events to really get an idea of what it's like.  You won't regret it.  I'll be posting up the photos from the competition soon on our photos tab as well as Facebook.  Congratulations to everyone who participated!  All of your hard work has paid off!  It's the best I've seen everyone dance so far!  Keep it up!  And don't buy anything from Pompous Asshole Stephen Marino Photography!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Asian Hair meets Got2B Glued

Part: Follow, Hair Stylist, Spectator Extraordinairre
Dances: Waltz, Foxtrot, Cha-cha, Mambo
Hovers: 0

Yesterday was day two of Seattle Star Ball, and since some of our friends and practice buddies were competing early on Saturday morning, Jeff and I headed out to SeaTac to cheer them on, provide moral support, and in Jeff's case, shoot some great photos.

This event brought back a lot of memories for me because it was here, exactly one year ago, that I had my first ever competition experience. This time I was just an observer, watching our friends get nervous for their pro-am events and trying to reassure them, helping them talk through their self-critical analyses afterwards, and in my case, whipping out my sewing kit from my purse to tie shoe buckles together, fastening and unfastening necklaces, zipping and unzipping ballgowns, and generally trying to make myself useful. I was kicking myself for not bringing all of my hair and makeup supplies; normally I'm an over packer because I would always bring backup things just in case things go sideways, but this time I hadn't even thought about it because I wasn't competing.

Everyone danced well, and after the morning session the afternoon involved a few of us walking about looking for food options, which brought us first to Subway for sandwiches, then to Jack in the Box for one vanilla milkshake (only one of us wanted a milkshake and the rest were "real ice cream or nothing" types), and then, true to form, we "ended up at Denny's" for ice cream. We were talking about how one never really plans to go to Denny's, you just end up there. Well...we just ended up there. Then it was back to the hotel for preparations for the evening's events.

Back at the hotel, everyone was busily getting ready for their various events, and I helped one of our friends who was dancing pro-am standard with Simeon with her hair; she had brought a grand total of a small false pony tail, about 9 hair pins, a hair elastic, and a bottle of hair spray and a small comb. Anyone girl who competes knows that in general, you need a minimum of about 2 hair nets, a bottle or two of hair spray, (maybe different kinds) hair gel, about 4 dozen pins, a brush, a comb or two, several hair elastics (thick and thin clear?), and in general some kind of hair ornamentation. Elmer's glue helps too. So here I was, trying to make a neat, standard comp worthy bun with much less than sufficient materials. In the end I got a hair net like effect by spraying and compressing the bun by hand to glue down all the little wisps and frizzies, and repeating this process until the bun was acceptable, and then I sprayed and froze everything with the hair dryer until immobile. The most fun though, was gluing down Jeff's spiky Asian mop. I guess he got inspired by all of the preparations and decided that this would be a good time to test out a competition hair style, since the spiky look is generally not standard kosher and we've talked about what he's going to do with it come competition. So I laid into him with a comb and the hard core hair spray (glue) that our coach uses, and between Simeon and I and a hair dryer and brush, in about 30 min. we had an Asian mafioso on our hands, or at least that was the general consensus. It was so different that I couldn't get used to it, and generally didn't like the effect much, but our coaches said it wasn't a bad competitive look. I think that next we're going to go for a more Victor Fung inspired look with the sides shaved close and the top long and slicked back.

Since I hadn't originally planned to attend the evening session, I had worn jeans and was worried about attending the later much more formal part of the competition (since I had decided to stay) with jeans...that just seemed like a big no no to me. So I went down and browsed around at one of the local dancewear vendor's booth, and tried to find some practice pants or a skirt that I could slip on for the evening and of course use later for practice. I was getting discouraged because all of the pants were too short and the skirts much too expensive for what they were (especially since I sew), and then one of the shop owners took this crazy looking jumpsuit off the rack and said that it was intended especially for tall girls. After looking at the price tag, which seemed relatively reasonable, I slipped into the dressing booth to try it on. It was basically flowy black pants and a cowl neck black and white sparkly top, but in one piece. Maybe a bit more dramatic than I usually go for, but then again, I like sort of artsy clothes when done right, and everyone around said it looked really good. So I bought it! I think it will be fun to wear for social dancing.

The competition itself was fun to watch. Our coaches' students did very well; I was quite happy for them, and then we got to see Simeon and Kora compete professionally as well, which is always a lot of fun. A special treat was getting to see show dances by the invited guest couple, Andre and Natalie, world show dance champions. They are Latin dancers, but I loved their style, so classy, smooth, and very heavy on the rumba side. If I ever were to dance Latin, I'd want dresses just like Natalie's; they were long and slinky and elegant...a much classier look than what you usually see in Latin. I could see why they were show dance champions; they are brilliant performers...their love for their dancing and their ability to draw you in to the story they were telling was so compelling.

Jeff and I also ended up dancing a few of the social dances played between heats in the evening, a waltz, foxtrot, and mambo. I also danced a cha-cha with a one of our competitive friends in his tail suit (hi Thio!) while Jeff danced with his wife in her big white standard gown. It was great! Jeff and I did not take kindly to the cracks in the competition floor though, and due to the huge crowd and that and the general excitement, our dancing was a little rocky. That's was just that dancing was in the air and we just had to get out there and dance at least a little bit.

Following the evening session, we joined our coaches, some other competitors, and one of the judges for a very late dinner before heading home. For me it was about a 21 hour day...but a good time was had by all. I don't think it's possible to avoid funny experiences at a dance competition, but why would anyone want to? A worthwhile if exhausting day.