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.

The Traditional Pre-Comp Freak Out

As of this writing, I have 3 lessons left before Team Match. This is not enough. I am NOT ready to dance in front of actual human beings. I still haven’t started learning the Waltz routine (I can’t learn the initial routine because it changes so often); Foxtrot has a VERY tricky part in it that I can’t seem to do (it involves running around him and really moving – I tend to leap when I try to move far. this is not good.) ; Tango is a whole lot of “what?” (remember shadow position that we never really went over). Don’t even get me started on the Rhythm portion of this impending fiasco. I can’t even do proper technique with my legs along with any arm movement. In November I felt so prepared. Now I’m in some crazy rush to the final showcasing of the mediocrity of my dancing.

The pressure is getting to me. I want to do Teach proud. I’m the only student dancing Rhythm with him at the moment. He’s known in the studio as the “Smooth Guy”. He competes in Smooth, but he’s more than capable of teaching other dances. I want him to do well and get him some more business in the Rhythm dances!

Next on the agenda, Manager Lady is dancing two heats with me. I believe a Rumba and a Mambo. She usually only dances with the Studio Stars. You know what I mean – the big spenders or the very advanced, plus her long-time male students. My goal of invisibility unless I’m doing something spectacular is not working. Now I have to worry about messing up my arms and legs with the Manager Lady.

I may also be dancing a few with Lady R, but I’m not sure if that’s true yet. And she’s a sexy beast. I’m going to look like the pretender that I am next to her. (I know I’m being hard on myself. )

One week. The countdown in on for the freak out to be over. I know this wasn’t the nicest to read, but I’m allowed to go as crazy as I want on my blog. Thinking off all you who have comps coming up.

 

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.

January Dance Wrap Up

January had me cancelling half my lessons for illness, both mine and others. You know how things run through a house and no-one gets sick at the same time? This is what happened. I kind of wish we were all sick at once so we could just do it already, but no. So, my last pair of lessons I took when I was almost over my sickness. My problem being that I get dizzy randomly as I’m standing. Obviously I was a bit nervous to dance, but it all worked out. I took two lessons with a break in the middle. It worked perfectly so I could rehydrate and rest a bit.

We discussed what my plans are for this year. I made a decision to not do a competition this year. I really want to dance both Smooth and Rhythm. I can’t afford to do both at one of their competitions. Then I would have to choose between styles and I would never get to Rhythm. So I’m going to shoot for doing a Team Match. This is styled like a competition, but you’re dancing for best studio, not for yourself. The students do get a competency percentage at the end of the day, but that’s just to give us something. I think this is a wise choice because it’s one day (cheaper), and I’ll be able to try out my Rhythm routines. Of course, if I come into money or get a huge raise, this may change. 🙂

During lessons we worked on Waltz and Rumba. We’re upgrading our Waltz routine to a Full Bronze routine. It really means adding a Waterfall to it. This is one of those steps that looks lovely, but is not as easy as it looks. It’s bringing in to play that thought that my upper half has to stay with him, but my lower body has to do it’s own thing. This separation is difficult for me, plus, I’m a bit used to him placing me nicely in the direction where I’m supposed to go. (AKA being spoiled by my pro partner) I think I’m making it seem like I was having a harder time than I actually was. I can do it just fine. I just have to think about these movements for some reason.

As for Rumba, I’m working on Cuban Motion. I think I’m going to be working on it forever. It’s never good enough. 🙂 I can’t even describe what he’s focusing on, to be honest. I know I’m using my knees more and I’m attempting the pretty lines that are required. Obviously, I’m going to need a few more lessons on this.

I have a lot of other things to say, but I’ve written and erased them a bunch of times because it’s not coming out how I want. Maybe I’ll get it right and post it. Or maybe I’ll just comment on all your posts to get it out. I hope everyone has great dancing this week.

Fall Classic Was…

…a success! I had a wonderful time. Let me lay it all out for you guys.

Fall Classic is my dance studio’s competition among the 4 studios in the chain. This year it was 3 days long (a mistake, as far as I’m concerned). American Smooth on Friday afternoon, International on Saturday, American Rhythm on Sunday, plus sit down dinners, pro shows, etc. I could only afford to do a one night package with 24 heats, so I chose to do only American Smooth. It broke into 18 single dances, 1 3-dance Championship, and 1 4-dance Scholarship. For the Championship and the Scholarship I competed against my age group, but they mixed it up a bit during the single dances. Teach danced every heat – 180 heats that afternoon.

On Friday I drove down early for my hair and makeup appointment. I could fake the makeup, but I’m hopeless with hair.  Plus, a mini face lift isn’t a bad idea before going on the dance floor. 🙂 I buddied up with a nice lady from another studio. That’s how I cope with crowds, I find a safe person and just stick to them like glue.

I had enough time to go to the judges classes that I thought I wouldn’t have time for that morning. I’m really glad I made that session. I don’t know many famous dancers, so forgive me for forgetting the names of the judges. We learned about continuity of movement from one judge. Then one of the teachers taught us how to Kizomba. I’d never heard of it either. Let’s just say that it was a naughty dance and these white girl hips weren’t getting the movement just right. The last session was my favorite. He was an American Rhythm dancer who used to get injured all the time. He now coaches professionals on how to avoid injury. He had us test our balance and showed us how such small movement of the feet and ankle can have such large impact on our body and what our body tells our partner. It was fascinating. What made it even better was that Teach was there and as I was trying to figure it out Teach would explain to me – it was like getting another lesson.

On to the actual comp. I had all of your wise words in my head before I went on to my first heat. You didn’t steer me wrong. It was fine. I made mistakes and kept going. I listened to the music, smiled, and just danced. The nerves were minimal – there, but not overwhelming. The demons were burning in hell where they belong. I saw some judges smiling at me and I felt like I won right there. That’s the point, right? That you enjoy dancing and that others receive enjoyment from watching you.

Teach was dancing with 5 of us and we worked him hard with all those heats. He was a sweaty mess by the time the Championship rounds hit. Later on he told me he couldn’t even feel his legs the last few Championship rounds. The thing is, this made me step it up. At this point I knew he had to be hurting despite what he was telling me when I asked him. It made me realize that at these moments he’s more than my teacher, he’s my partner. This is a team sport and a team effort. If I could have carried him around the floor myself, I would have. Let me tell you, my frame was up and light and I was flying around that floor. I did everything in my power to make it easy for him. It worked. He remarked on it later.

Results. Do I even care? I learned and achieved so much. I see why these events are so important for amping up your dancing. But since you should know: I kicked booty. I placed 1st in all my single dances but two that I placed 2nd in. I won with firsts in all dances both the Championship and the Scholarship. I have no words, but I have two trophies that I have no idea what to do with. Where do I go from here? I’ll find out more tomorrow at my follow up lesson.

Ta, Ta fellow dancers!

What Did I Sign Up For?

As you are no doubt aware, I signed up for a competition. It’s on November 13th. I am officially more poor than I would like to be, but the papers are signed and the money has been handed over. I wish I were more excited. I’m just feeling a sense of blah, with a small dose of nerves, about the whole thing.

My lessons have been great. Teach is giving me tentative choreography for our dances. He gives short wall and long wall choreography and then just repeats. I guess this is fine. What do I know? He also prefers to use steps that are already in muscle memory so that there’s not too much thinking going on about steps – this leaves room for performance, and just having fun. Again, what do I know. Sounds fine to me.

Over the past few weeks he’s been choreographing for me. If there’s something I really want in the routine, he tries to add it. All four American Smooth dances are done. It’s not too complicated. We’ve practiced our entrances and how we’re going to start each dance. Next week I have the privilege of dancing our routines by myself. Oh, joy! (I hope you’re sensing the sarcasm – this sounds like hell to me.) I know this will improve my dancing; he can’t see what I’m doing when he’s dancing with me. I just need to be in a good mood so I can take the criticism without sending me into a funk.

On a good note, we videoed the routines so that I could review them. This could potentially be a very bad thing for me mentally. I don’t like to look at myself. Yet, I watched them and thought, “I’m not half bad.” We weren’t even full on dancing and I was pleased with what I saw! What a huge breakthrough for me. It may have been because of how Blah I’ve been feeling, but I’ll take it anyway.

I’m wondering why I’m not more excited. Maybe it’s because I see it so cynically. I know I’m not good enough to win anything. I also know I don’t spend enough money to make it so that I do win anything. Let’s be honest, they need to keep those big spenders happy. I know it’s not all about winning. I know that the experience is great and that it will spur me on in my dancing. I need to be adult enough to not expect a trophy for arriving (like spoiled kids do these days). It’s just that some part of me wants to be fantastic. I love dance so much that I want to out shine everyone and it doesn’t work that way. So we’ll see what ends up happening these next weeks. Maybe I’ll go into the comp very excited. Until then, I wish everyone happy dancing!

Heels Are Tricky

My lessons were great this past week. Really great. I’m not sure what happened in my brain, but my lessons are better than ever!

I mentioned to Teach how hard it is for me to see progress in myself. I can’t see myself easily as I’m usually trying to dance, not gaze upon myself in the mirrors. We spent some time talking about and dancing some of the things I’ve learned the past year. It was encouraging to see how much improvement he’s seen in me, plus he showed me in my dances the things that I just do naturally now that I couldn’t do a year ago.

Then we spent a long time on my feet again. Specifically, the roll through in smooth dances. I do not like backward heel leads. Heels on shoes are skinny and unstable and I don’t like pushing off from them. I do it because I have to. Well, apparently I’ve been doing it wrong. Teach walked me through it by telling me to lift my toes up first. Guess what? It worked! I’m no longer as afraid. I’m not saying it’s perfect. It’s one of those concepts that takes a while/forever to do well, but it’s the start of a new relationship with my dance heels.

As for all the things going on with too many teachers, too many studios, too little funds –  I haven’t been to Studio #2 because my daughter hurt herself at a party and can’t dance for a few weeks. So, I’ve shoved it away for now.

I’m off to practice my roll through. It’s quite amusing to watch me use my feet in this manner while grocery shopping, at work, during meal prep… Anyone practice in strange places?

I Return 

My first lesson back didn’t go quite as planned, but ended up being just what I needed. I received a call from the studio after I was already in the Big City (2 hour train ride each direction). They had to send Main Teach to the doctor for suspected pink eye. They gave me the option to reschedule, but I was already in the area, so I took option number two, a lesson with one of the new instructors. There were three instructions free and willing to teach on standby. Who could pass that up? So off I went to meet Mr. R. Mr. R was a manager at another studio in the franchise and has now come to the Land of Endless Perky Bottoms. Since we’ve never danced together and he’s never seen me dance before, it was a typical review lesson with a few nuggets of input.

Since my limited funds only allow one private lesson a week, I learn only American Style, plus Quickstep. Rumba, Foxtrot, and Waltz were just review. I received positive feedback on my hip motion and frame. Tango he got me up to speed with a few more steps. That was encouraging.  He thought that despite my roughness I was ready for a Fan upgrade. Then we reviewed Viennese Waltz because I love it. By this time I was sweating profusely with cheeks the color of lobster. My stamina is in the toilet. I requested some Cha Cha, just to see how it would go. Heck, I’d already sweat through all my clothes and looked like a crazy, drunk Irish girl. Why not? Obviously, I was feeling pretty good with Mr. R, or I wouldn’t have asked. It went well. We got yelled at by lady manager for too much footwork on my first day back, which made me feel like a rebel. Me, a rebel. I love that feeling! We worked quite a bit on Argentine tango since I hadn’t danced it in a while prior to my injury. I tend to forget how much focus following takes during Argentine Tango. Mr. R didn’t lead anything crazy, but it takes so much brainwork. My nuggets of information came during this section on the lesson. He reminded me to stay chest to chest, not to the side like in smooth. This is so much more intimate, which is probably why I need to focus on it. He had me keep my knees together as much as possible and to follow first with my chest and then work my way down to my feet last. Interesting stuff to ponder. We ended with a bit more rumba. He threw some steps and combinations at me that I was unfamiliar with. When I mentioned to him that I had never encountered these particular figures, he told me knew that, but that he likes to see whether people are figure learners or dancers. I classified as the latter because I followed correctly even though I was unsure. Just the boost I needed and another thing to think about.
Maybe next week I’ll finally have a lesson with Teach #1. I miss him. First dance teachers always hold a special place in your heart.
Later in the week, at Studio #2, I made my song and dance selections for my first-ever showcase! Because I’m nuts, I chose to do a Quickstep to Dr. Wanna Do sung by Caro Emerald. The process of choreographing is interesting. Kind of frustrating for the student who is confused as heck as things change minute to minute. It’s going to be very cutesy, which is just my style.

There was a point where my insecurities made an appearance. Lifts. It was necessary to have “the talk” with Teach #2. There’s one brief moment where I have to give him part of my weight. He grabs my leg bends me backwards. I’m a heavy gal. Even when I’m not overweight, I’m a solid armful of woman. I have a fear of maiming someone with that lifting nonsense. Logically, I know men are strong, and that he wouldn’t put it into the routine if he couldn’t do it, but there’s an emotional aspect to this that screams, “Nooooooooooo”!!! So this brief lean is going to make or break me right at the start. We’ll see what other things happen to this routine as things get moving. I’m slightly apprehensive because he’s going to win any argument. It’s the way it goes. Happy dancing!