Crab Walking and Pressure

I never updated you guys on my lesson last week. My lesson schedule is all thrown off because of the sickness and the snow, and therefore, my updating is a work in progress.

Lady J, my new favorite teacher, tried to teach me to walk like a crab in Rumba. I’m told it’s actually called crab walking, so maybe this ocean-themed Rumba isn’t so off this time around. She want’s me to walk in this manner during the step that I can’t think of the name of. Was that vague enough? We open and I walk. But it’s supposed to look like I’m walking almost straight, but on a slight curve. I’m just as confused as you are. She told me I did well, but since I can’t even explain what the heck I’m doing, I’m not sure this was a win.

Clyde taught me the new Rumba routine. They wonder why I never bother to fully learn the routine in the first place because it keeps changing every time I go in. I blow it off as something that dance is famous for, but I don’t have a lot of time for you to figure out what’s going on. Teach me right the first time. Fix me up already. The Cha Cha routine is finally the same, so I can safely learn that one.

Part of the reason that I  waited to update is that I needed to push aside my mood. Since I told the studio that I was needing to switch studios they have all started treating me differently, like they think they can change my mind. The amount of fuss they’re making over me is off-putting. I’m not a show off. I don’t like it when people stare at my unfinished product. I don’t need the whole studio so stop what they’re doing and say goodbye to me each time I leave. It’s weird and it’s a change of habit.

Clyde is really irritating me with the competition talk. He’s not listening to me. He wants me to do a “real” competition with the studio. Summer Invitational to be specific. He tells me I haven’t done one in a year and a half. The Team Match doesn’t count (even though I did competitive heats) for some reason. I keep telling him I can’t afford to do what he wants me to do. I can’t ever afford to participate in a three-day competition in both styles of dance, I have to choose and only do one style. I don’t want to have to do that. That’s why I do Team Match. He just keeps going on and on about it. It’s making me glad that I’m leaving, to be honest. Teach always understood and knew when to stop.

Wrapping up here, my lessons are going very well with Lady J, ok with Clyde. The pressure and weirdness of Studio business practices are pissing me off. I’m getting attention because I’m thinking of leaving. In comparison to most, the piddly amount of money I spend isn’t worth this amount of attention. I hate confrontation and once it’s over, I want it to be over. All this sweet talking me and extra pressure is making me want to run outta there! I did make my last payment on my package, and I scheduled a lesson with Teach at the studio in the chain that he’s managing now. I’ll let you know how it goes. That’s it for now. I don’t feel like exploring the emotions above right now, so happy dancing!

All About Them Arms

My lessons yesterday were all arms. Team Match is getting closer and closer and I’m still an unsure about what to do with those appendages. It was a breath of fresh air after all the footwork heavy lessons I’ve had lately.

The first lesson was a semi-coaching with my lady teacher, Lady R. She said my footwork is gorgeous (!!!!) but that it was blatantly obvious that I have no idea where my arms should be. And the times where I do know where they should be (Crossovers and UAT) there’s no intent. She made it all better with a few things to remember. If the arm is going up, lead with your finger (keep elbow in). If the arm is going out, lead with elbow. When arm comes in, lead with elbow. Who knew it could be that simple. Well, it’s not really THAT simple. We applied the arms in only Cha Cha, but the basics happen through all the Rhythm dances. Specific arm styles were applied to the butt pinch move (Chase Step) so that each turn with lock steps has something different to look at. My deltoids hurt just typing this.

My lesson with Teach was a bit of new choreography for Foxtrot so that all the arm styling could percolate for a bit. Then we went back and applied the same arm technique to Mambo. He also taught me a few new steps for Mambo. It was fun to finally have a few lessons where all the scrutiny was somewhere other than my feet/knees/hips. Now I just have to do all of this at once. I wonder how long that will take.

After lessons, Teach and I spoke to Manager Lady about Team Match. I’m dancing 42 heat evenly placed around 7 dances. I wanted to add either a Championship or Scholarship to it so that I would feel like I did a real Comp, and therefore, not feel the need to sign up for something that I can’t afford. I’m already paying the entry price for this one. I might as well just do it! The problem is this: The studio was only going to do a few Championships. Two for Bronze, two for Silver, one for Gold. The age categories were only 45 and below, and over 45. Teach dances with several ladies of all ages for Smooth and I didn’t want to hog up all his dances. I think he only dances with me for Rhythm, so that’s not too bad, but he will be super tired by that time. The end result was a Smooth Championship and a Rhythm Scholarship (that I don’t plan on winning – who can beat a 20-something year old girl with no inhibitions? Not this lady.) So I added that on. Plus, Lady R and Manager Lady both want dances during Team Match. I love lady dances. I can only have so many men in my life at a time and I’m capped now. So bring on the ladies. (Note: I am not a lesbian or bisexual. I was raised without a father and am completely awkward around men.) Teach was happy to give up a Cha Cha and Rumba to Lady R. He seemed less happy to give up a Swing to Manager Lady. Interesting.

An interesting note. Lady R said that I have a big personality both on and off the floor. I said the appropriate things, but I don’t believe it. I’ve never thought that about myself and it kind of threw me. I laugh loud, that’s true. But a big personality? Is that code for something that I don’t understand? It bears thinking about.

Teach is off to visit his in-laws in Japan for my next lessons, so I’ll be having a double with Lady R next time. I’m thrilled about it. I hope she brings more arms and sexy lady stuff. I could use all the help I can get! Happy dancing everyone. I will catch up on all your blogs one of these days!

 

Organizing

There are some problems with only having lessons every other week. One is that I have a longer time to spiral downward in between shots of logic. The Land of the Endless Perky Bottoms gives you a little lesson sheet that has room for things worked on and comments. The problem is that the correct notes don’t seem to go on it. “Waltz – footwork” doesn’t quite trigger my memory once I get home. With the Team Match looming on the horizon, I really need to figure out what’s going on! Thank goodness I have a decent relationship with Teach. I told him all this and then spent out lessons organizing my brain and giving me solid info on Team Match this summer. Sounds like fun, huh?

Team Match – This is set up like a competition, but it’s not one. It’s an excuse to get all the 5 studios in the chain to get together and compete to get “Top Studio”. It’s one day long – so great for those on a budget, because they have heats for all styles of dance on the same day lessening overall cost. This year every heat is going to be a proficiency heat (judges give tips). There will also be a few multi-dance events which will be ranked. It tends to be much more informal and loud (which I don’t like). At the end of the day you recieve an overall competancy score. I know all studios have different terms for their events, so I thought a bit of description would be nice.

As I said, we just spent 4 lessons over the past few weeks on organizing my brain. I now know what I’m supposed to be working on in 7 dances in preparation for Team Match.

For Smooth I’m working on artuculating my feet, or, as I call it, the middle stuff. What the foot is doing between steps. I’m only dancing Waltz, Fotxtrot and Tango at the match because of time (money) constraints. Each of those dances have an individual thing to work on. In waltz, I need to lower and prep my leg at the same time. In Foxtrot I need more springy knees action, especially in the side steps (I’m still a bronze lady). Tango needs the most work. I need more clarity between closed and open position (fancy way of saying promenade position needs some work). I’m also working on making it look sharper – the freezeframe moments, dancing like it’s a flipbook. So, tango is my current smooth beast.

Rhythm is a bit different for goals. I just started Mambo. My Swing isn’t well practiced. I could go on and on. But basically, for Rhythm I’m working on how to take a step. Yes, learning to walk takes a long time. In Rumba repeating “toe,heel,knee, hip” in my head with each step. Oh! Then remember that on the slow steps it’s toe on the 1, then heel, knee, hip quickly on the 2. And people wonder why I’m crazy?! In Swing it’s the whole pendulum action coming into play. That’s ok, but I also need to stop panicing and stiffening up before the free spins. And arms. Don’t get me started on arms. Cha Cha needs to be sharper with clearer feet. This also has 3 clear picture moments that need to be hit. For mambo, I need to go on the floor and stay on time. The freeze and switch in important too, but staying on time seems to be the real beast here.

Yesterday we went through the mixture of Intermediate and Senior Bronze steps that he’d be using for Rhythm at Team Match. No routines for Rhythm. There’s not point in telling you the names of things because everyone learns different names for things. Now it’s just to practice them. We have to go over our smooth routines next time. I’m also having a lady lesson to help with arms. I hope it sticks this time.

I officially signed up for August 20th Team Match. I’m dancing 42 heats (the most I’ve ever danced!). Now it’s time to practice, practice, practice!

Hope this wasn’t too boring. I wanted another place for all my notes and this blog is it.

 

Too Much Info or My Fried Brain

Now that we’ve established that I’m the wimp of the ballroom community, let’s move on to the lesson after the good lesson. (Just go with me on this.)

If you remember I had a marvelous lesson where I learned all kinds of wonderful things, my brain was open to all the possibilities… and then I had the non magical lesson that comes after. When you go that far up, it’s a long drop back down to reality.

Last Monday we spent 1 1/2 hours on making sure my Foxtrot doesn’t look like Waltz. In this studio’s syllabus, Full Bronze mixes the Bronze basic slows and quicks with a few twinkles that have Silver slows and quicks. (I don’t know if other syllabus are like this.) The timing isn’t the issue – I can slow and quick either way – I tend to go up on my toes too Waltzlike. It’s supposed to be a bit shaper and slinkier. Teach wants people to know by looking at me, even without music, which dance I’m doing. Ok, fine. I get it. He made some great progress with me on that. Then he decides to teach me “the highest level Grapevine footwork I’ll ever need to learn”. All right, fine, I’m game for that, too. That also comes with instructions on how to land properly when on your toes in smooth. Toe, heel, then bend your knee. Ok, fine, I almost got it all up to speed. Then he started talking about how I need to be a more active partner. I now need to do the routine on my own so he can watch me. Ladies and gentlemen, this is where my brain broke. I think I just stared at him, slightly katatonic at this point. In Teach’s defense, he knew without my saying anything what the problem was. The conversation went something like this,

Teach: “S*#&, I went just a bit too far today, didn’t I? Let’s just dance for a bit.”

Me: …….. *grunted my ok*…………

I am a perfectionist. I bring everything I have to these lessons. I want to learn. But sometimes I hit a wall and it’s just ENOUGH. It was too much instruction with not enough progress. I couldn’t quite get where I wanted to be with the Foxtrot and I just shut down. My brain exploded. It was a too much information lesson. I hate it when that happens. HATE IT. On the other side, Teach handled me well. We danced a bunch of times without him giving me any input during the dance (bliss for my fried brain), then we moved on to 15 minutes of Cha Cha hips.

Did you know that there are three types of hips in American Rhythm? Of course you did, I’m just trying to lighten the mood. Anyway, there are deep, normal, and shallow. We practiced all of these briefly and then I ran out of the studio and went out to dinner with my daughter (who still won’t talk to teach after the April Fools joke gone bad). I had a giant Pina Colada and it was wonderful. Another lesson to go to this coming week. I hope I’m up to the challenge. No more TMI. That was no fun.

 

 

I Got What I Wanted and I Liked It

Those who read yesterday know that I had a semi-sick lesson last Monday. This was my first lesson after Teach threw a GIANT April fools joke at everyone… and we all feel for it. So let’s back track to April 1 for a minute.

I wake up after a horrible night coughing up my lungs and decide to check Facebook before getting out of bed (never do this). The first post on my wall is from Teach. He’s not a big one for posing on social media, so any post he puts up I read. It was a post saying that he was moving to Japan (where his financee is from) and starting to work at his in law’s dance studio there. He had tagged his in-laws and included the appropriate hashtags and everything. I don’t funcion before I have my tea, and I had been up sick all night, so I burst into tears and ran to tell my mother and daughter. Five minutes later I had myself losing all kinds of weight in my grief, and many dollars richer from switching studios. (I move on quickly.) Then my mother noticed the date… He WOULDN’T. Yes, he would. It was an April Fool’s joke. Oh, yes. He got everyone. By everyone I include all the managers of the dance studio. He got in a bit of trouble for that one.

I took advantage of the fact that he made me cry because of a joke and shamed him into letting me choose what to work on. It kind of worked. I requested a run through of the Waltz choreography because I need a revew every once in a while so that I don’t forget the important bits. Next I demanded to learn Bolero. Yes, I demanded. Part of my goals was American 9 dance. Right now I have 7 dances, not 9. I needed something different. Sometimes it seems like you’re in a dance rut. That’s how I’ve felt. Logically, I know that practice, practice, practice is necessary for progress, but that rut is deep and it can do a number on your esteem and dance stamina. The April Fools joke gone awry gave me the ammunition to demand what I needed. So he taught me the Bolero basic in about 10 seconds and then went on to teach me Mambo. I called Teach out for this about 15 minutes in. (it could have been because I needed to breathe. Jeez that’s a fast dance!) He laughed and told me that American Rhythm is traditionally taught in this order: Rumba, Cha Cha, Swing, Mambo, Bolero. So I technically got what I wanted – to learn a bit of Bolero – but Teach got what he wanted – to teach me in the traditional order. But I still won because I just needed something new. It turned out to be Mambo and I love it! What a fun dance. The counting/timing is going to be an issue, but I’m up to the task and glad to have another dance in my arsenal. Now we can go back to our regularly scheduled dance technique.

Relax While Dancing, an Oxymoron

I admire all you bloggers out there who can write up about your dancing on the day you do it. I find I need to reflect for a week or more before I put fingers to keyboard. Maybe it’s just that writing doesn’t come naturally to me.

So my double lesson was on Leap Day. Yes, that long ago. Lesson one was with Teach. We went over the new Tango routine again at my request. There is only so much I can keep with me at a time; I find it good to review the end of the previous lesson at the beginning of the next weeks lesson. Does that make sense? While we were reviewing I made a comment about the frame of one of the pro ladies working with another student. Remember that one of my goals for the year was to have posture like Edita Daniute (nothing like reaching for the stars!). So guess what? I now have the keys to having that beautiful frame if I dare to work on it. This will also give us the body contact necessary for future Silver dancing. I’m thrilled!

My second lesson was with a new instructor for me. He’s been at the Land of the Endless Perky Bottoms (AKA Studio #1) for almost two years now but I’ve never had a lesson with him. My previous second teacher, Mr. R, took a new position opening a new studio in the chain in Texas. I’ll miss him. I need to think of a nickname for my new #2. He’s another “grueling Russian instructor” type. We worked on Rumba and Cha Cha. His biggest problem was that I was too tense on the top. You mean I have to relax while dancing? With someone I’m not used to dancing with? That is more difficult than learning technique. I’m so nervous that I’m going to miss a lead that I tense up and, you guessed it, miss the lead because I can’t feel it because I’m too tense. The more this happens, the more the nervous turns to panic. It’s a circle of awful that hits my sensitive side like Thor’s hammer, leaving me feeling like a hopeless, crappy dancer. And it’s all my fault. He’s doing nothing wrong.

How can I make this better? I took some calming breaths and plowed through ok. Perhaps going to more social dances would help, but my social anxiety really rears its ugly head in those situations. Alcohol? Really bad idea. Maybe taking more random lessons with the instructors there would be a good idea. Then I could get used to them all and I won’t be so nervous. The problem with that is that it takes me an extremely long time to get comfortable with people. *sigh* Maybe I’m just a lost cause with the whole relaxing thing, but I did get some great nuggets on info from #2 that I will use at my next lesson. Happy dancing all. Any tips for the socially anxious like me?

Dancing in February

I got more than I expected this month. Where do I even begin?

I started with an unexpected coaching lesson. Studio #1 was having a Team Match that weekend and they usually bring coaches to the studios for a bit of extra. Lady V happened to be free for the first of my two lessons so I snapped her up. Well, not really. Teach did that. I freaked out and danced an awful Rumba for her. What ended up happening was Lady V told me that I have talent and then gave me the book on dancing. You know, the “you dance a beautiful social rumba, now we have to fix everything for competing.” Seriously, it was a head to toe fix. I could work a lifetime on the things she taught me. But I’m going to break it down a bit so that I’m not overwhelmed. (Yeah, right.) Keep in mind, this was only for Rumba.

  1. Feet/legs/hips. I am to practice my box religiously using this: One-ball of foot/take step, Two – heel down, Three – push from other foot, Four – settle. Then repeat. Eventually I will be able to do this rhythmically.
  2. Take smaller steps. Side steps should not go larger than shoulders. Apparently I am tall and have now learned how difficult rhythm dances are for the tall, leggy people.
  3. Arms. I totally screwed up here. I told Lady V how I’m not a fan of touching myself. I forgot that someone needs to be touched, so now she made arm styling for me that has me all over Teach. (I exaggerate slightly, but it’s awkward nonetheless.) I can’t describe them here, but it involves grabbing Teach’s waist and having him turn me, etc.
  4. Oh yes, there’s more. Connection. This is something Teach hasn’t really enforced in Rhythm. I think it was going to come at some point, but he has different things he’s focusing on. No problem until the end of the lesson when Lady V said I was BACKLEADING!!!! Let me tell you I stewed on that for two weeks until my next lesson with Teach.

Continuation of the backleading comment. I couldn’t practice all week because my gut was burning about this. I do NOT want to back lead and I was a bit peeved that Teach hadn’t said something about it. I confronted him immediately about it and he put my mind at rest that he would never let me get away with that behavior. He said Lady V must have seen that I was a touch ahead of the music and assumed the backleading, but that it was really my nerves making me follow his lead quicker than should have. I guess this makes sense, but to tell you the truth, I’m still a bit upset.

The rest of the lesson consisted of a lot of awkward arm styling and violations of personal space.

Me: “Um, we’re really close, are you sure this is right?”

Teach: looking at me like I have seven heads “It’s a rumba.”

Okaaaay.

The heat in the studio was broken, so we danced a few Viennese Waltz rounds and a Swing and a Cha Cha to stay warm. It’s the first time I’ve danced in a sweater – that’s how cold it was. It seems like spring is coming now. Since that lesson we’ve even been up in the 60’s with no freezing nights in sight. All the snow that NYC got, we missed. We’ve had maybe an inch this whole winter. I’m a bit sad because there’s something almost warm about being insulated by snow, but I have to say it was nice not having to deal with the transit problems of getting to NYC for lessons during snow storms. Happy dancing all.

Attitude

I walked into Studio #2 with intentions of fixing my issues. Instead, I took a lesson with Mini.

I was emotionally tired, but dance usually perks me up. I was frustrated with myself and the situation and my inability to do something about it. (My fear of confrontation coming out.) I really tried to hide it and just dance, but Mini picked up on it midway through our second dance. He just assumed I was sleepy tired. I was tired because all those emotions are exhausting. But somehow, his assumption that I was sleepy tired triggered a huge attitude adjustment. I felt like a teenager that pouts and whines even when on vacation in Ireland (my step daughter). I wasn’t really tired. Who am I to be a complete princess when I’m learning something that not everyone has the means to do?

From there I led the lesson in terms of dances. West Coast Swing had me smiling and laughing. Cha Cha had me cheering when I managed a complicated, to me, figure on time. It turned into one of the better lessons I’ve had at Studio #2, and my best with Mini. Sometimes it really is all about attitude.

On that note, Showcase is coming up at Studio #2. I had such a blast with the Quickstep in June that I’m thinking of participating again. Also, since competition with Studio #1 is out, it will keep me motivated in my dancing. I had picked out a Tango to do, but since it will be dance with Mini, I think I’d better pick out a new song to one of the dances I enjoy with him more. I’m going to get on that soon.

Who knew that all those quotes about attitude were correct? Anyone else need an attitude adjustment from time to time?

Gimme That Swing

I danced East Coat Swing successfully and it actually swang. Yes!

When I arrived at Studio #1 they had changed my second lesson from Teach to Mr. R. I wish they had called me first, not that I would have minded, but I do like to be mentally prepared when I walk into the studio.

Teach has been focusing on Smooth with me lately. We ended up working on using my standing leg. For some reason this had me in tears. I worked all week on rolling through my feet. I must have jumped to the conclusions that working on my standing leg was the same as rolling through, and, therefore, as a criticism of all my hard work. I started misting a bit and Teach called me out on it. So then I cried all over the place until he finally got through to me that this was an entirely different thing. I put so much pressure on myself because I want to get it. NOW. Some of these concepts take forever to master, but I want to be the first to get it in one lesson. I appreciate how Teach can talk sense into me without my mind tumbling into the pits of despair.

My lesson with Mr. R was enlightening. We started with Cha Cha where he introduced me to shadow position. I have no feelings about that yet. I’m still a bit stunned. But Swing was a huge success! He had me dancing without freaking out and being tense. The most enlightening part of our lesson was in connection. I tend to be a bit wimpy because my brain tells me that resistance is rude. Teach allows this, but I don’t think he should. Dancing Rumba with Mr. R was so good. I could feel the elasticity between us. I’m going to have to talk to Teach about this and see what he thinks. I know it will bring on an interesting lesson.

The bad news is that I’m not going to be able to afford comp in November. To compete in eight heats each of seven dances is the cost of a European Vacation. I would like to attend some of the workshops included over the three days and also attend the professional showcases, but I have some time to think on that. Have a great weekend everyone!

Misfire

I’ve been taking lessons at both studios since Showcase and it’s a bit confusing. My brain can’t keep up with all the new information and I feel my dancing is taking a nosedive as a result.

Mr. R at Studio #1 had me sweating like a pig. He was trying to cement the press line into my body. My body was rebelling. Typical. It was quite frustrating. The swiveling action, the press line, all the crossovers… Too much. He even took video. I barely think I can dance at all. Show me my giant a$$ and horrid feet in slow motion and I just want to run screaming in the other direction. I think I ended the lesson doing my Rumba and Cha-Cha half the crappy way I was doing it and half the corrected way. In other words, all screwed up. I’m going to have to clarify a LOT this week.

At Studio #2 I had a childish hissy fit when my daughter started learning Samba. So I took a lesson in Samba, too. Now they’ve got me. Later I took another lesson in International Rumba. These lessons were not technique, just steps. Still. I’ve basically added three dances over the last month. Bolero, Samba, and International Rumba. I want to learn it all, but my brain is beginning to misfire.

One thing I did enjoy was learning arms early on. At Studio #2, I was taught arm styling right away after I had gotten a feel for the footwork of the routine. I think this is beneficial so that I don’t cement poor arms into my dancing right off the bat. My initial dances still have poor arms because we never work on them. They always take second to technique. I understand to a point, but arms are an important part of expression. Thoughts?

In conclusion: Why am I so afraid of Crossovers? Anyone else have a move that just confounds them? What do you think of arms? Early teaching or later when technique has been better cemented into muscle memory?