Relief

When I walked in the studio yesterday, Manager Lady and all the instructors were preparing their dances for the Team Match. Part of me was glad that I could procrastinate a bit longer.

Clyde had me working on Smooth. He seems to want me to be a bit more dynamic in my dancing. I felt like I was already dancing “big” from what Teach had me do, but Clyde wants even more. More to the point that I feel like I’m going to tip over if I stretch my arm to the side any more. He even brought chairs out and had me do some exercises on them. I made a joke about being afraid that he was going to teach me some Chicago-esqe/Fosse dance moves when the chairs came out. He got very excited and told me he had been part of the cast of Chicago for a while and then started planning a Showcase in his head for me. Joke backfire. There is no way that’s happening. So my Waltz and Foxtrot are going well. The dynamics of my arms mixed with the nice stretches he lets me do are making me feel like a dancer. I’m glad he’s pushing more out of my comfort zone. (I can’t believe I said that.)

Lady J and I had a wonderful lesson, too. She worked on my Tango, specifically opening into Fan. I know it sounds like a simple thing, but I can make the simple seem impossible. Then we reviewed Swing. I have to do some Rhythm each time or my body forgets everything. She gave me some good points on turns and fixed some parts where I decided to become a ballerina in the middle. For the record, I was never a ballerina, but somehow I do weird things in the middle of dances. Again, I can make the simple impossible. Overall, Lady J is a wonderful teacher for me. The drill method seems to be working. The movements are staying in my body!

After my lessons, I talked to the front desk ladies for a while about my decision to change studios. They were NOT happy. It’s a bit surprising to me. I know they don’t like people to leave for $$$ reasons. They have a script to follow and all that, but it seemed to genuine that they would miss me. I am likable, I guess. Maybe. If I let you get to know me. The one secretary told me that my personality was desperately needed in their studio and that I would be a great loss. (What? I’m there twice a month!) I talked to Under Manager. She echoed the sentiments and said we would talk more. That’s slightly ominous sounding. I want it to be over with, but you know they’re going to have to come back with some sort of counter offer. I did come out with saying that they’re all under the same corporation. It’s not like I’m leaving for their actual competition. Everyone got a look that suggested I was not entirely correct in that statement. I guess there’s more competition between then I expected. I have eight lessons and a coaching left at the studio. I’m thinking that I’ll call and start at the new studio next month. Yes, I’m heartless.

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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.

 

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.

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.

Them Hips

My final lessons of 2015 went well. The studio was fairly empty with everyone on vacation but me. 🙂 I reviewed my goals with Teach and he loved them all. We began working right away with Swing.

I have a problem with swing. I get frantic because it’s fast and then I can’t keep up. It’s completely mental. I get into my own head and it paralyzes me. So we worked on the basic step. Making sure my steps are small. Using my knees which gives it the swing. Who knew the dance was named after what your hips do when you dance it!

We spent some time on Rumba, as well. More with using my knees. Press lines and checks. It’s enough to make my head explode.

Teach gave me a list of the events that the studio hosts over the year. He wants me to think things over and see what it reasonable to expect next year. Since I’m still recovering from the last event I attended, I don’t even want to think about it yet. Thinking about money is such a downer. There never seems to be quite enough of it. Ah, well. I’ll figure something out.

Ta, ta fellow dancers. I hope 2016 brings lovely dancing for all of us.

 

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!