Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Last lesson of 2013 - A little of this, a little of that, and the Big Ass Fox Trot Box

This past week had my last lesson of 2013 (I can't imagine I'll be able to squeeze another one in by January 1st at this point). There had been some good natured joking on my Facebook Page about what Steve could have in store for this lesson. Well after a really long drive (The Chicago Blackhawks were playing, which messes with traffic) I needed some time to chill before my lesson. I didn't realize I was tense about traffic until I arrived to the studio and all my muscles started twitching. (I don't like to run late and I was cutting it pretty close!) Steve was wrapping up his lesson and practice with one of the student performers for the upcoming Get on the Floor event.

After catching up with Steve and Franny for a few minutes and changing my shoes, away Steve and I went to the music machine where I was informed that I now have a binder. You may or may not remember that I don't care for my previous binder, I have never liked the binder. I don't even remember why exactly, just that any time the binder came out it meant a frustrating lesson. A binder also means that I'm officially at student with Get On The Floor... makes it harder to escape the reality I guess. (Don't ask me what that's all about... I sort of live my life by "I wouldn't want to be a part of any organization that would have me as a member.")

So Steve says that we are going to warm up with an East Coast Swing... Katy Perry comes on and we Swing away... no idea if I was doing the same things we talked about the previous week, and you know what... don't care... I was too busy having entirely too much fun! I think we made it nearly a full song and a half before my quads were over it (I know official dancers actually use their core a lot to lift their legs, my core doesn't usually cooperate and my quads end up doing all the work). I was actually really pleased with that level of stamina. It seems my old skills are coming back faster than I had first learned them. I read a lot about how former athletes can get back into shape faster largely because of muscle memory. While I have never been, nor will likely ever be considered an athlete, I can attest to feeling better faster than I did the first time I learned how to dance.

Next up... Fox Trot technique, and something Steve calls the "Big Ass Box". This is an exercise that largely focuses on American Smooth technique- 8 steps forward 8 steps to the side with rise and fall, 8 steps back, and 8 steps to the opposite side with rise and fall again. Hence, we've made a really large box. While working on this we discussed a lot about spine position and weight shifting. Which is where one really gets to learn about how dancing is not like walking, and how dancing looks really pretty and a casual observer may think it could be natural, however the actual proper way to execute steps are anything but organic to daily life. Also since I have a largely American Rhythm training I have to re-program some of the habits I use in Rumba, Salsa, Swing, Cha Cha, because American Smooth is a completely different animal.

Here's what I really liked about this technique, because I've been through it before, I remembered a lot of the answers to some of the questions Steve posed, and I've also learned to think about some of these things in a different way. My body doesn't remember how to apply all this knowledge in my head, but it'll get there. Unlike technique lessons of the past, it felt more like an almost peer to peer discussion. (Brave words I have to actually attempt to compare my dance knowledge to that of my pro yeah?) I think it's because with the technique discussion #1 Steve talks TO me about it and not at me or down to me, #2 I have done this before and I have been through many many group classes that discussed all of these things, so I actually may have something to contribute, I just can't execute what I'm discussing real well yet. My body and particularly my balance still needs to come back. You'd never imagine how difficult it actually is to dance a Fox Trot forwards or backwards in an actual straight line unless you've practiced... a lot.

While discussing the Fox Trot and working side by side on the Big Ass Box we also did some open position (facing each other holding hands) boxes. I don't know why but it is such a huge mental relief to have a dance partner in front of me. Maybe because I prefer to think that my instructor is not analyzing my foot position or the position of every other part of my body while I'm doing this. Just another one of those things that no one would ever think they have to overcome, until they start to dance!

Since the side steps were there we also discussed the difference between Fox Trot and Waltz, they both contain rise and fall, but even between the dances they are executed differently. Main things to remember when stepping forward and back is to push off from the weighted foot and keep the heel too the floor when stepping forward (known as a heel lead), lead with the ball of the foot on the non weighted foot on the floor when stepping back.

I have ALWAYS from the beginning of time had an issue with taking my feet out from under me. To have split weight when both my feet are beyond the center of my body is one of the hardest things for me to overcome because I do not want to fall. Even at my current weight (and this girl has dropped 10 lbs in 2 weeks) if I go down... I'm likely down for the count because my weight will work against me if I crash to the floor.

Speaking of... yep... in two weeks I've lost 10 lbs! You know what that means right? Yep... 40lbs per square inch have been taken off my knees! If you didn't know, and Steve had not heard this little factoid, for every pound a person looses 4lbs per square inch of pressure is taken off that individual's knees. My knees still hate stairs... but they are starting to love dancing again! I could already tell even while executing the Big Ass Fox Trot Box that my knees were markedly improved since my last lesson.

Once I received some pretty decent compliments on my forward steps in particular.... Steve said we were going to work on Rumba... to which I may or may not have made a snide comment regarding spending all the time trying to break my feet of their American Rhythm habits, only to work on an American Rhythm dance!!!

Now I have never claimed to be very good at Rumba, but for whatever reason I can't seem to pick it back up! It is NOT coming back as fast as the other dances and I have no idea why. It makes no sense considering how much time I had spent on it before. It's starting to really irritate me, there are some basic figures that my brain is reading as some other kind of lead and just not changing. I read a side step as a swivel or a open break as a turn... it's like we're not even speaking the same dance language. Anger... rising! I must work on this more, I have a sneaking suspicion it has to do with the Rumba Syllabus being the most noticeably different from the Syllabus we are currently working with. I did try to maintain eye contact during the appropriate spots, and during one basic step just Rumba box I almost started cracking up because Steve's Cuban motion (the way one is to move their hips during most Rhythm dances) was appearing in the lowest portion of my bottom peripheral vision.... it had been SO LONG since that has happened! It generally only happens when dancing with pros, as the amateurs don't have a pronounced Cuban motion for a long time. I decided to be a grown up about it and not actually start laughing... I'm really making an effort to not burn too much lesson time on hysterics. At one point it did start to feel a bit more like Rumba and I'm told my hips showed up to the party, but if they did, it was of their own doing... I certainly wasn't trying to make it happen.

We finished the Rumba and I thought the lesson was over, somewhat sadly resigned to the fact that I wouldn't get a Salsa due to lack of time. When Steve said I wanted to Salsa....

"Of course I want to Salsa! I ALWAYS want to Salsa!" Which is really totally true...

I asked for not a crack speed Salsa, and then Steve went and blew my mind... he chose a Taylor Swift song to Salsa to!
I'm kicking myself that I can't remember which one it was... but as soon as I heard it and ran a Salsa beat in my head in tandem to it... OMG IT TOTALLY IS A SALSA! I don't think I've ever danced Salsa to a non-latin artist before... Mind... Blown... and Salsa was danced! Steve has asked me a few times if I liked one artist over another and in my personal life for the car, workouts, cleaning, yeah I have favorites... for dancing... I don't really care. If it has a good beat and clean lyrics (or no lyrics is fine too) then I am happy to dance. Once the dancing really gets going it's more about the beats then the song anyway.

So as we're dancing and Steve is pulling out moves from places I didn't think he would remember, and I'm following things I never used to follow as easily... free spins, one of those under arm turns where I have to duck my head... Steve pulls out swivels...which I HATE! The only good thing about Swivels is that they are the best way I know how of getting my core to wake up and get with what the rest of me is doing... but there are oh so many reasons why I hate them! 1- can't do them without significant support from my partner. 2- swivels cause my midsection to jiggle and if it's one thing a girl with a mid section does not want to do it's jiggle! (yeah, you know... like jell-o shots... jiggle...ick). 3- my brain goes into an immediate war between keeping time and trying to not rely on my partner which makes that measure a lot less fun than all the rest. 4- sometimes my breathing becomes more irregular during swivels and it makes me tire out faster.

But... still trying to be an adult about it... I used to actually yell when swivels started... (just wait til we get to a left and right turning crossover break in Cha Cha.. I'm going to lose my mind... again)... I actually just try my best to execute and keep the comments to a minimum. There is definitely something different about the way I behave during these lessons... maybe I now truly understand the value of everything I'm learning and I'm really trying to push past the insecurities of before... I certainly don't want to keep hanging on to them!

Lesson ended with what was a really nice Salsa... I can't wait til we get to some of the more advanced steps I may still have buried in muscle memory somewhere.

So far... a few lessons in... and a whole new world... I am already more comfortable with Steve as an instructor and pro partner than I have been with any of my other previous pros... which I think is amazing and a real asset to what Get On The Floor Dance Company is trying to bring to the world of Ballroom.

Happy Last day of 2013 people! I'm going to be coming at you New Year's Day with TWO new posts! 1- about and event with the GTF crew and 2- about what this first part of 2014 means to me...

Keep your eyes peeled and your comments coming!

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