Monday, January 30, 2012

Revisiting the Old Haunt

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Rumba, Night Club 2-step, Cha-cha
Hovers: 3-4?

Due to the snow and ice storm we had a couple of weeks ago, the usual Friday night dance was cancelled, so Jeff and I decided to head out to our old weekend dance haunt, the Washington Dance Club. I'd been there occasionally on my own since we'd started going to the Friday night dances regularly, but Jeff hadn't gone in quite a long time. I do love the size of that just feel more freedom to move there. Unfortunately, for some reason Jeff finds it more of a challenge to navigate among the couples there, and he says it has something to do with the unpredictable pacing and the fact that some couples don't really move and some do erratically. At Danceworks, no one moves much, either because they can't or because they're just used to working with the small floor, so I guess it's easier for a driver to gauge what he's dealing with.

I'll be honest. I didn't think our dancing was at it's best. We didn't really let it get to us this time though, and neither one of us really commented on it. I did tell Jeff later in the evening that while I feel more grounded and stronger in my legs since we've started this new workout regime, I also felt just heavier when I danced that night, heavier into the floor, but also heavier on him and through my upper body. I used to feel a lot lighter and more lifted and like I could kind of float along in the frame, but somehow it felt forced and like more of an effort. Jeff commented that he hadn't been going to mention it to me, but yes, his right arm was more sore than usual and I did feel more heavy than he's used to. It may be that he knew I'd come right back and credit our hiatus from practice with the seeming regression and so hadn't wanted to bring it up, but I think we both know it's pretty fair to expect that our form isn't going to be as good when we've basically had a schedule of dancing together a few times at a social dance once a week versus consistently practicing almost every day. It's fair. (And I'll be blogging soon about a more recent social dance where I think we danced much better).

Nevertheless, we got in our waltz, tango, foxtrot, nightclub 2-step and Viennese. We tried one side of our quickstep and kind of crashed and burned. I can't remember how far we got, but we didn't finish. Surprisingly though, I think our tango has been getting better. I feel much more on balance myself throughout, and I think I'm pulling us over in awkward directions much less. There was a strange moment in the waltz though, where I felt that Jeff had added an extra step or something as we were going into a whisk, and so I also did that to try to get on the same foot that he was on, but I guess my perception was off because he just could not get over the fact that I took 4 steps in the normal space of three. It really felt like he was doing something I thought I was following; what can I say? Either the lead was funky or I just plain misjudged it...but, no matter. Just another indication that our connection was off.

Viennese is getting easier though; we're less winded afterwards and it seems less of a strain. The fleckrels are still rather dreadful (I can feel my neck tensing up and I'm sure I look like a demented chicken being swing around by its neck), but at least the lead and follow in and out of them is starting to work much better. It's probably going to end up as our best dance, which could be a good thing later, as most standard dancers like it least (they find it boring to dance) and practice it the least (because there's so little to the choreography, if it can be called that). It's hard to pinpoint exactly why we like it so much...I guess because, when it's working, it feels really good. To me, it feels like I guess that may bring with it a bit of an adrenaline rush. Plus, we both like to move a lot - as much as possible, and that's basically what Viennese waltz is all about.

After the dance we headed out for a late dinner with our two friends who had come out with us. We had all four carpooled and purposely not taken the new toll bridge...just to show them what we thought! Between $28 to $40 in toll revenue was likely thwarted between the four of us. So there!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Running out of Floor

Part: Follow
Dances: Rumba, Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese, Nightclub 2-step, Bachata
Hovers: 2

We have more Friday night social dancing to report. This followed upon another day of insanity workout, but we're all doing much better this week. My legs are no longer killing me, and the muscle tension and soreness has moved to the upper body now. It's not terrible, just sore shoulders and chest and a tight neck. Not exactly fun for Viennese waltz, but I can handle it. It's not like I've never had that problem before. Anyways, tonight is going to be the fit test, so we'll how much we've all improved in the two weeks we've done it.

For some reason I ended up at the dance studio before Jeff got there, so I ended up doing a bit of people watching. There were a lot of new faces there, and a whole group who were dressed and dancing like they were used to country dancing (complete with a black cowboy hat).

I was thinking about this general observation that I am sure would make perfect sense to any guy who goes out dancing...I've noticed that there does seem to be a close correlation between how often I get asked to dance and what I happen to be wearing, or how I wear my hair. Don't laugh! You know it's true. Now what is tricky is that there is a fine line between looking like a dancer who knows what's what and just looking intimidating, or looking like you don't care. Okay, I'll admit it, I like dressing up, I like wearing dance clothes...but sometimes I think it backfires. Guys get scared to ask me because they think I'm some sort of professional teacher or something, not true of course, but I could see how that could be intimidating. Plus, I'm on the tallish side, adding more to the intimidation tally. Two things I've definitely noticed: guys like skirts...I think it's fun for them to spin a girl and have the skirt swish out, etc, and hair down rather than hair up. Hair up looks more dancer, but hair down is less intimidating and more inviting somehow, and in my case makes me look pretty young, I think, because it's so curly and crazy. A red flower in the hair brings hair done up to the same level as hair down, I believe. I should recruit some girlfriends and do a study on this sometime! This week Jeff and I were unintentionally both in all black, which happens fairly often. Or just "going Goth" as my siblings like to say. I'll add that this only applies to getting asked to dance by people with whom you don't regularly dance. Jeff is so not intimidated by me regardless, and knows what my abilities are even if I were to show up in jeans. It's just less fun that way.

Our friends Steve and "Von L" showed up again, so again, it was fun to dance with those two and generally goof off with them. Jeff and I danced a couple of waltzes, I believe, a nightclub 2-step, a tango, and Viennese, as well as a good "rumba box" American rumba. Jeff believes in the rumba box; it is a man's ticket to popularity with the fairer sex at any party, he explains. Sounds about right. I do wish that floor were larger; we move a lot in our waltz and it seems like we get through maybe two figures before we have to round another corner. Another thing I like about our waltz that probably needs a ton of work but still is such a fun feeling, is that swooping, dipping, turning shape that we create as we rotate and bank into the turns while moving down the floor. Our shape is pretty big and it counter balances with what the lower body is doing, and while I know I probably overdo it sometimes (I can feel his hand slipping on my bad or trying to get a better grip on me), and that the frame overall is sometimes quite broken, it's still a great feeling. It's really why I love standard so much. Foxtrot is lovely too, but it's more of a movement down on the floor like water flowing than a sweeping and or dipping one. The Viennese that night was quite slow, and didn't feel bad at all, except that my neck seized up part way through. I credit that to the workouts and the push ups, but in all fairness, I felt that our control and power in the legs was improved overall, also likely due to the new training regime.

I'm hoping we'll be able to get a little normal practice in this week, but that depends on a lot of things. I'll need to start preparing some more practice plans again!

Monday, January 9, 2012

It was the Best of Times...

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Tango, Nightclub 2-step, Cha-cha, Rumba, West Coast Swing, Polka!, Viennese Waltz, Foxtrot, Salsa
Hovers: 2

It's gotten to the point with the insanity workouts that my muscles are done before my cardio endurance gives out, which is the opposite of what used to happen for me. Not sure whether that's good, but at least my endurance is improving even if my joints are begging for mercy. Anyways, I wasn't going to let any of that stop me from dancing Friday night...Jeff was going too, so it was off to the Friday night dance party to see how we could dance on jelly legs. The insanity workout bit is the "worst of times" part of this post. I just wanted to get that over with.

It turns out we did okay. I did trip up pretty dramatically in one section of the waltz where I could have sworn I was led inside partner but apparently that wasn't the intent, and because my muscles were so tired I lost my balance pretty badly, but other than that, we did okay. My neck and upper back were really tight though, but that was because I had been trying to do push ups beforehand, key word being "trying." Jeff and I danced a really slow nightclub 2-step which felt really nice, I thought, very together and well as a waltz, foxtrot, tango, and Viennese. I actually thought the tango felt more controlled and together than it often does, especially throughout the trickiest section. I was keeping my steps more compact and beneath the body, and our connection was good.

A couple of our friends showed up to the dance who don't normally come, and it was a blast having them there. One was one of our Latin practice buddies, nicknamed "Von L" by Jeff, and he only dances Latin but was a lot of fun to dance cha-cha and rumba with. Then there was our friend Steve who competes at the pre-champ and champ level in both Latin and Standard and is just an all around accomplished dancer, also great fun to dance with. He is in a lot of the photos on Jeff's photography page; he and his partner are that gorgeous dark haired young couple. Anyhow, Steve and I tried to lap Jeff and his partner for an out of the blue polka (and Jeff got mad because we accused him of cheating because he didn't stay in frame). We also danced a jive, which I almost never dance because, well, no one knows how to dance it! That was kind of a challenge after doing "power jacks" all week, but still great fun. Jeff made sure to denote the figures with the goofy names by yelling out "Mooch!" and "Miami Special!" whenever we threatened to dance them.

Afterwards, a group of six or seven of us went out for happy hour and spent the next hour or two laughing and recalling a number of crazy stories from the dance competitions and dance related trips various members of the group had taken over the past few years. Good times.

Given some recent developments in our dancing lives, our practices for the next couple of months will likely be more scattered and less consistent. I'd like for Jeff to be the one to introduce the story on that since he's been involved for quite some time in a very exciting project that is going be a wonderful thing for the dance community here. People ask us all the time why we're not competing yet...and, as much as I'd like to, Jeff does have a pretty valid reason. I think we've all been learning a lot about the value of patience and hard work in the last year, and finally, we're going to begin seeing it come to fruition. A lot of unknowns lie ahead still, and even more work, but I'm really looking forward to this year.

And in 45 minutes, more Insanity. Shoot me now!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Holidays Were Upon Us!

Part: Follow
Dances: Waltz, Nightclub 2-step, Foxtrot, Tango, Viennese, Hustle (sort of)
Hovers: 2

Though this blog post is technically supposed to be about our social dancing on Friday, Dec 23rd, I feel like there is more catching up to do. Our apologies for leaving this hanging for so long; as the post title references, the holidays were indeed upon us, and what with family in town and extra preparations to be made, practice had to play second fiddle for the past few weeks.

We did end up making it out for social dancing on the Friday before Christmas, December 23rd, and there we joined the usual crowd at Danceworks for waltz, foxtrot, nightclub, and other dances. This time the dance music was a bit more holiday themed, as would be expected, but that meant a slower than usual Viennese, which was quite smooth. Considering we hadn't danced in about a week, our dancing was quite passable, I'd say. As long as Jeff doesn't keep trying to dance our quickstep routine in waltz, I'm happy. I also danced a very nice nightclub 2-step with the studio owner there; he is a fun lead to dance with especially in the club dances and I like his musicality. A good evening overall.

Speaking of my partner, I suppose anyone who is still reading at this point might wonder what's become of his blog posts. Because, come on, we must admit, we all know his posts tend to have the most entertainment value. Jeff is a odd fellow in a number of ways, and he'd return the compliment in feminine form I have absolutely no doubt, but one thing he likes to do is write his blog posts without posting doing your homework without turning it in. I have yet to understand why, but apparently the posting is a big hurdle and takes more time and effort. All that is to say, he actually has been keeping up with the posts to some degree, but has not yet graced our readers with access to them. So, as I do, just have faith that they will come one happy day, and don't think that he's abandoned our little project here. The Jeff-partner wears a lot of hats these days, so finding that spare time to do justice to a post is understandably hard to come by. Ahem...I could actually say the same, but that's not my job as a good partner. My job is to assure you that he's got it covered, never fear. Trust, remember.

Since that pre-Christmas social dance, we've both been engaged with celebrating and spending time with our families for the holidays, and therefore have not had a practice session since then. Starting this week, however, Jeff has decided to take the workout regime to a new level. On Monday, Jeff and I and another good friend started the "Insanity" workout, a fitness regime comprised of 60 days of workout videos about 40 min. in length of extremely intense cardio and strength training. And they are not kidding. Think about dancing jive for 40 minutes straight, and you're pretty close. Jeff has been feeling the need to just take the bull by the horns in his quest to really get in shape, and I was intrigued by the idea of doing something new and challenging (and less boring) that would both boost my cardio endurance and provide that strength training. The only big downside to all of this is that Jeff cancelled practice for this week at least, just because he knew we'd be hurting after the workouts. While that has definitely been the case, I still think I could dance. But that's me...Jeff thinks I'm crazy. So today, we just finished day 2, after doing day 1 and the fit test on Monday. I've actually been pleasantly surprised by my abilities in the cardio department, as I was sure I'd be winded very quickly. I guess my workouts have paid off. The pushups, jumps, and strength training exercises have been killer for me though, and I was one big sore aching muscle group all day today. Still, I expect a number of these workouts are going to be great cross-training for dance; one of them yesterday I know was perfect training for CBM in foxtrot and tango, oh yeah! And I suppose the jumping and leaping around will help quickstep. Ow. To help with this process and just my general peace of mind and well-being, I recently made a meal plan of sorts for myself to help avoid the "nothing to eat" problems and impulse buying of less than optimal sources of fuel. I'm going for a diet based mainly on lean meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and good fats. I'm pretty much getting rid of grains and dairy because I feel more like I'm running on high octane fuel that way and I don't think my body really understands what to do with those things. It burns cleaner. So it's kind of low carb, but not really intentionally. Wish me luck!

Because of the new workout regime and several unknowns, it isn't likely we'll have another dance practice to report until at least Friday. But if you're patient enough, stay tuned!