(just taking a breather) …

 

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Every so often I need to back down, go into hibernation, close down the world, do some serious introspection, examine, re-assess … you get the picture. Something like Game of Thrones, except hopefully my return to the public eye won’t take almost 2 years 🙂

Miss you guys — “see” you soon !!!

 

Moving on — Stage 1

Thumbnail of last week’s coaching session:

–           Forget technique … “you’ve got that”

–           The time has come to “stop thinking like a social dancer and start focusing on PERFORMING”.

So, first and foremost, I need to focus on intentional and dynamic movement … “iffy” is no longer an option … two of the most essential elements of the dance are clarity and readability of every step, and there has to be clear intention behind every movement.

Physical connection is essential, but now I have to start working on the “emotional” connection. It starts with the eyes always on either a) my partner or b) someone in the audience. It’s critical to make those connections, to put yourself out there; you’re always teasing, “would you like to see what I can do?”, and answering your own question with “THIS is what I can do”.

From this point on, guesswork is no longer acceptable in terms of knowing the routine, knowing the counts and being clear in my mind exactly what it is that I’m trying to convey to the audience, and exactly how I’m going to do it.

I don’t think I’ll have any issues with the technical elements.

I do think I’ll have somewhat of a struggle dealing with the emotional.do-what

Madame and The Icon, after spending some time discussing this part of the equation, actually got me to “test the waters” so to speak. It was a trap!  I should know their method by now – they have me try out something new, and voila, I do it. So of course that sets the stage for the follow-up of “You’ve shown us that you CAN do it …. now you need to continue to do it !”

Sigh.

My coaching was on a Tuesday, and in spite of the scarcity of coin, I kept my standing Thursday session in order to review the material we had covered and to set in my mind the salient points of this “new” direction.

With this in mind, The Icon had thoughtfully set aside for me a copy of a local dance publication (“The Dance Calendar”), which contained a short article by a lady named Lynne Gambone, entitled “Finding Your Inner ‘Ginger’.” It struck a chord with me. Especially when she touched on these two issues:

The learning curve was challenging, not because the dancing was hard; it was actually easy. The challenges were emotional. The barriers loomed large:

  • Embarrassment
  • Worry about others thinking “show off”

She goes on to say:

It is embarrassing and awkward to be expressive, publically, while you are learning … “

So essentially, my first goal will be to accept that I will be embarrassed in upcoming days, but not let it get in the way of me moving my dancing to a level I never imagined I’d achieve.

I’m going to leave you here for now so that I can go off and ponder some of the amazing milestones my dance life has reached over this past year.

Wishing you all a very Merry and Joyous 2019 … and may it be filled with reaching new heights in your dancing journeys !!!!!!!!!!!!

2019 Happy New Year glowing gold background. Vector illustration

 

Still here. Still Dancing.

And still getting immense joy from the thoughts, feelings and ideas that you share. You are not only my Village neighbors, but my ballroom friends, so here’s a dancefloor full of wishes for you ….

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To quickly catch you up, last competition was the Constitution State Challenge back in October … and it was around this time in past years that we’d start preparing for my dance checkout. But last year I officially qualified for and closed out the final level of our studio’s Silver syllabus.trophy

It’s really strange not having any more dance checkouts to prepare for. I do feel very much at loose ends simply because up until now, this time of year was dedicated to getting ready for my checkout. Truth be told, it’s hard to wrap my head around the idea that I’ve actually achieved one of my major dance goals, and can consider myself truly back up to Gold Level.

But you know the old saying about one journey ending and another one beginning … because now we start on reviewing, assessing and re-structuring all of our smooth and rhythm routines with strong focus not only on technique, but performance and “stage presence”.

With that in mind, we’re going to kick this new goal off next week with a coaching session with Madame, in order to get some actual choreography going with my ChaCha.

In the meantime, The Icon and I are having a serious back and forth about doing a joint Showcase  on January 11th … he wants to, I don’t. Can’t tell you why I don’t, other than just not in the mood ?

And last but not least, there are two competitions coming up — Golden Star in January and the New York Dance Festival in February. I would love to do both but finances dictate a choice must be made so I think I’m leaning more towards NYDF in February. So last decision to be made will be should I go for Smooth or Rhythm.

And in closing out this session, let me leave you with:

(to be continued) ….

 

What was I thinking

Funny how time flies.

Tonight’s adventure at the Dance Studio is a special Spotlights Party. Most of the students taking lessons will be doing one-minute solos and surprisingly, we’ve got quite a number of people participating — 24 numbers, broken into two acts.

I actually let myself be talked into doing a Viennese Waltz, but I rationalized it would serve two purposes: a) re-acquaint myself with the basic Silver syllabus figures (you do forget things after a 2-year hiatus), and b) it will give me a chance to practice my performance personna.

I think I mentioned that the Icon and I will be doing Closed smooth at the Constitution State Challenge in 2 weeks, and although I was being exceptionally cranky on the last few lessons because I felt not doing my open work was akin to have my wings clipped, the truth is that the open work — with some minor alterations — has been artfully re-distributed. It has helped that there is nothing too crazy outrageous in the open routines that would have caused us to leave the material out all together.

But I’m not going to lie — getting back to the basics has been one of the hardest challenges I’ve had to address. Alignments, shaping, frame, body contact, feeling the Icon’s lead (as opposed to me flying off and around the floor on my own agenda), precise timing, actually dancing as a couple… ay yi yi ….

The last few weeks have been nothing but mind-numbing review of technique and incessant drilling. I recognize the need for regular and consistent practice (remember the old vaudeville joke about “how do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice, practice, practice.”)

Plus (and I DO NOT BELIEVE I’m actually saying this), I desperately miss dancing rhythm. I wish I was in a position where I could fully indulge myself doing both styles in both single and scholarship events at whatever competitions I wanted to. But sadly, this is one of those times when real life gets in the way of my fantasy life, and I need to remind myself that at least with a little judicious planning and lots of sacrifice I am keeping a foot on the floor, so to speak.

If I ever get the nerve, I’m going to move to the upgrade WordPress offers so that I can post a video or two … if nothing else, that should provide a few moments of levity … but for now, you’re all just going to have to put up with my written lamentations. Hehehehehehe.

See you again soon. And remember … Saturday is the 1st day of Fall. Which means (in case you’ve missed all the hints scattered around in the guise of Pumpkin Spice Flavored Everything), that my favorite holiday is only 38 days away. Yes people, HALLOWEEN IS COMING. So start warming up the cauldrons, brush off the brooms and like the Addams Family, get out there and play Wake the Dead. It’ll be here before you know it.

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New Rule, New Game Plan

National Dance Council of America’s (NDCA) Old Rule:

“Partners must start in a closed or open facing hold. No entrances are allowed in Closed American Smooth …

“Closed Silver – Single or double hand hold in facing and shadow positions may not comprise more than 50% of a routine. Routine must be comprised of at least 50% Closed Position.”

The New Rule, in play as of July 1st, 2018:

“For ALL Closed American Style Smooth Bronze and Silver levels all couples must start in the traditional Ballroom closed hold, including the lady’s left hand being placed on the man’s right shoulder, and the first four bars they dance must be in this hold. Double hand hold and other alternative hand holds do not count towards this requirement. For all Closed Bronze and Silver levels, 12 complete bars (including the required 4 bars to commence) of the first minute of music must be danced in the traditional closed hold as already defined.”

Why the new rule?

Consensus of opinion is that dancers will always push boundaries in order to gain a perceived advantage … there is nothing wrong with that; but when a dancer feels like they need to break the boundaries by exceeding the closed work restrictions in order to win a Closed Bronze or Silver competition, then the rules as they currently stand need greater clarity in order to level the playing field and make it a fairer contest.

***  =================   ***

So now, seeing as we’re bringing smooth back into the mix after a 2 year hiatus (we did get our feet wet back in February at NYDF), The Icon has decided that it would be a good idea to limit ourselves to closed division for the next couple of comps.

His reasoning is that even though that means we’d have to restructure our existing routines to comply with the New Rule (well, not so much restructuring, just moving parts around a bit), getting back to basics would be invaluable — in other words, focusing on meticulous syllabus figures coupled with flawless technique.

Yeah. Right.

I’ll be the first to admit that open choreography has allowed me to fall into some pretty bad habits, as well as get away with all sorts of murder. I’ve forgotten what I have to bring to the table as a working partner in a closed relationship. My dancing has been more along the lines of a soloist than team player. I know my part, The Icon does his part, and somehow when we do meander our way back to any kind of closed work, the heat is just about over and it’s on to the next.

Well anyway, with focus on basics and execution thereof in mind, the last couple of lessons have been total immersion in Waltz and FoxTrot. And believe me when I tell you that I walk out of that studio with eyes rolled back in my head, mouth open and drool just running down my chin.

Frame and Connection

Lead-Follow

Timing

Musicality

Spotting

Focus

Shaping / CBMP

Our Waltz and FoxTrot have different opening gambits, but the meat and potatoes of the routines are pretty much the same:

Twinkle

Open Right Turn

Tipple Chasse

Pivots

Shadow Twinkles

Run-Around

Promenade Chasse to Heel Turn to Weave

Oversway Throwaway

Double Handed Swivels to Heel Turn to Twinkle ….. and probably this will be the new home for the opening choreography.

So far, The Icon has been hammering me with the five points of connection:

Lady’s right hand and gent’s left hand;

Lady’s left wing bone fits into gent’s right hand;

Lady’s left elbow rests on top of gent’s right elbow;

Lady’s left wrist rests lightly on gent’s upper left arm; and last but not least, Lady’s left side is plastered to gent’s right side.

I’m constantly dancing out of The Icon’s hold. And without that strong frame, connection is lost and I can’t follow his lead. I find it ironic (and frustrating) that I’ve finally managed to 85% of the time maintain frame and connection in rhythm, but am having such difficulty in smooth.

And I will not even get into the basic forward and backward running steps exercise he’s given me to build my timing, feet (heel, ball-toe, toe, toe-heel)  and arms/body shaping (CBMP) for FoxTrot.

Actually, just reviewing to this point has pretty much fried my mental circuits, so we’ll continue this next week.

Hopefully by then, things will have started to gel … just like with all those other “impossible” things I never thought I’d be able to grasp.

See you then!

I know, I know ….

Funny how some things just gradually manifest in your life, and one day you wake up and realize that you no longer feel the way you used to about certain situations.

A good example of this would be my attitude towards dancing Rhythm. I fought that concept tooth and nail, doing anything and everything I could to keep it on the back burner. Then Fate stepped in and during the two years The Icon was unable to dance Smooth, I had to make a decision. I could find another instructor, quit dancing, or bite the bullet and stick it out.

I went with sticking it out. And all of you out there have walked that road with me, through the angst and agony of the initial stages of my whining and groaning about how I wasn’t a Rhythm dancer, how I didn’t look the part, I was awful in every way.

And here I am, 2-1/2 years later, not only dancing open silver, but placing well, making callbacks to the finals, and actually holding my own in the Championship and Scholarship events. Somewhere along the line I’ve gotten to be a stronger, more aggressive dancer. I’m beginning to see myself in a totally different light and it shows in how I look and feel when I step out onto the floor.

One of the judges in my first round of dances in this last competition (Manhattan Dance Championships), was my coach, Madame. As The Icon and I walked off the floor, she caught my eye and gave me a nod. I held it together until we got back to our table, trying not to cry and ruin my gorgeous make-up – a simple nod, yes. But it meant the world to me. Because she was telling me that I had done good and how proud she was of me. Drop the mike.

OK, that being said, I had planned on segueing into a couple of other topics, one of which is causing me angst, but I find myself struggling with how I want to present same without going into a 20-page post. So I’ll leave you all here for now, but with a little preview of what’s to come:

I’d like to start bringing in detailed thumbnails of the material I cover in my weekly lessons (working on getting the weight over the foot; hip-lift technique; making each and every step clear and identifiable; sinking into the hip; turnout of the feet, spotting) … as well as opening the floor to opinions on and discussion of the new NDCA amended rule regarding what you can and can’t do in the closed divisions.

Oh, and BTW, yes the big Empire Dance Championships were just last week and no, for the first time in my dance history I DID NOT compete. Not by choice, but by necessity. That necessity being a new car. [sigh] It’s hard when real life gets in the way of one’s addiction,  isn’t it ??

embarrassed

 

 

 

Huh?

The Icon insists that his students keep a dance journal, taking notes during each lesson. I would do this even if he didn’t insist. It contains bits and pieces on footwork, timing, choreography, body movement, how much I’m going to spend on the next comp or showcase, what I need to bring with me for my next lesson or coaching … you name it, it’s probably in the journals — I start new ones every year and yes, I have built quite a library.

Next competition is Manhattan Dancesport, doing Rhythm on July 4th — 15 single dances and the Closed Silver Rhythm Scholarship. Whee whoooo …. so here’s a brief rundown (in no particular order) of what I’m supposed to not only keep in mind, but execute as well, in addition to staying on beat to the music, performing to the judges and the audience, and be focused and aware of my surroundings ….. OK, OK … here we go:

Technique — applies to all dances in general:

CONNECTION

SPOTTING

CLARITY and readability — quicks need to be quick, use all the space on the slows. Know your choreography so well that you could do it if you were unconscious

FOCUS on either your partner or the audience

Arm Styling

Fully committing to each and every step; making sure your weight is fully on your foot, drop deep into the hip

Really work the legs and use the feet. And MAKE SURE the feet turn out and heels are together

When I asked the Icon  about where I should be ending up in a particular pattern, he boiled it down to you are either facing your partner or facing front (the audience).  When I asked him how would I anticipate where the front was, we quickly reviewed Line of Dance, and various directions thereof. Believe it or not, Open Rhythm DOES follow the line of dance, just like in smooth.

Bolero: strong CBM on check and exit, making sure to push out from pelvis.

Good grief. I haven’t even started warming up yet.

OK, to be continued. I want to get into the habit of  being more specific in my posts in terms of what I’m doing in lessons and coaching rather than a general overall commentary.

 

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