Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waltz fix... yeah that's right I said WALTZ!

Everyone Meet Steve and Franny of Get On The Floor Dance Co!
Hi everyone!
I hope this super cold weather isn't keeping you off the floor! This past Monday night I had my FIRST lesson since 2011 with Steve, owner/operator of Get On The Floor Dance Company. As previously mentioned, we had been chatting online and after learning of the super reasonable $75/hr private dance lessons, I couldn't not let him take me for a spin!

Now, I live in the NW burbs of Chicago, about 25 miles from GTF's primary teaching location at 3868 N. Lincoln Ave in Chicago. This makes it really tough to just drop by, so Steve and I (mostly I because I have a holiday retail job that has me working odd hours) really had to plan out a time for me to come in. Since I had Monday off, and no plans that couldn't be moved, we decided on a 5pm lesson time. I left my area around 3:30 and the traffic gods were in my favor so I arrived about an hour later, parking was ridiculously easy, even with the snow, and FREE. The studio space is on the second floor so as soon as I crossed the threshold I marched up the stairs. I was hoping to find at least some kind of reception area, but I'd never been to this place before. They have a HUGE reception area! Nice couches, a carpeted path along the edge of the dance floor to an open air hanging space for coats and shoes (which means you never have to take an eye off your stuff). The gal behind the desk asked if she could help me and I said I was there to have a lesson with Steve, she mentioned that she had just seen him, and then as I looked up the unmistakeable lanky tall blond frame of Steve came into view. Woo hoo! This means my lesson is imminent!

We said hello and I was given the grand tour. This place is kind of perfect. Well loved main ballroom floor, welcoming second ballroom/meeting space. Several smaller studios for more private group classes, or choreo sessions, or even a super private 1/1 lesson. (although none but the main ballroom are large enough for smooth dancing, any number of other styles can be comfortable in any of the other spaces) Neutral colors, reasonably friendly lighting, comfortable washrooms and plenty of private changing space. Since it was still very early in the night for a ton of lessons to be going on (there are a few other instructors that rent the space for their students) we sat on a bench along side the main floor and chatted a bit as a couple practiced Tango alone on the floor. To just be IN a ballroom was nice. It's a creative space, I've always seen it as such during lesson times, (it's a social space during parties) and my spirit gets fed in creative spaces. Steve made the point of asking me how I learned, which no one ever really asked.. I usually end up telling. I told him that I learn ballroom best by doing and feeling. Which he agreed for following is the way it goes. About 10 minutes before my lesson we parted ways to change. I in my Bonnie's practice wear, and Steve in Latin pants, a light colored top w/ a vest. (Gone are the days of an instructor in a neck tie, and that's just fine with me!)

As I was about to change my shoes Steve asked if I was nervous.

"If I were working with a brand new to me pro, yeah I would be, but because it's you I'm not. It helps that you even kind of know where I came from with the dancing." I said, but as I tied my laces I was suddenly a bit anxious... which I quelled immediately because it was an unnecessary feeling. 

I tested my ready for retirement jazz shoes (I haven't even worn a 1/2" heel in 2 years I wasn't going to start just then) on the floor and they seemed pretty good. We went over to the music machine and discussed the plan for the lesson. I decided I wanted to take it slow since I didn't know what joints were about to protest, my knees have been a little achy as of late and my ankles have never been ballroom tested since my previous injuries so I wasn't about to wipe out on my first day back.

I did tell Steve that I didn't know what a lesson is like if it doesn't have a Rumba so we opened with that. Taking up frame immediately felt different because Steve is a full head taller than myself (a complete and total perk of the gig for 5'11'' me!) All my regular instructors have been within an inch or two of my height, which is fine, but when "the dream" ideal is to have a partner that is taller, actually finding one that is also personality wise compatible is a huge treat!

So Rumba it was and two steps in I slipped, due to low friction in my shoes and probably my not working into the floor enough, like I can remember a stitch of technique when all my brain can say to me in frame is followfollowfollowfollowfollow! We went over some basics, I was honestly pretty terrible in my own opinion. I was careful, much like I think Steve was being, to not go all out and chastise myself, and Steve was being really cool about the super basics of foot placement and where to transfer weight. Also how to keep my weight off the outsides of my feet. Which as you may have read about years ago, my weight naturally goes to the outsides of my feet due to some corrective inserts I had in my shoes when I was a kid, so to remember to keep my weight centered, or even on the inside edge in Rhythm is going to be a BIG challenge for me again. I'll get there though, I had it before, I'll get it again.

We did some of my least favorite thing in the world, mirror work. *sigh* I still don't own a full length mirror ya'll. The only time I see my whole outfit is when I try it on at the store, and then I pretty much dress from the waist up 99% of the time. BUT I did make a point to not watch Steve's feet for ALL of the intended mirror work, I did also spend brief moments looking at my own foot placement. Pleased to state that during at least two of the 5th position placements my heels and toes were properly aligned from what I could see. I give myself huge props for using the mirror and not making a big stink about it, because as all us body conscious people know... the mirror is not always our friend.  Oh and I completely forgot about using my core and thighs to maintain balance.... like completely.

*facepalm* Oh, the things I have forgotten so severely outnumber the things I remember!!! 

Once we seemed to agree that marked improvement had been made for the moment Steve asked about Fox Trot... I almost responded with "What's that?" Seriously, the idea of doing a Fox Trot got me so momentarily nervous that if you would have asked me what the basic was I couldn't have told you. So I literally relied on every following muscle in my body to get through the first basic until my brain and body went Oh... right.. Fox Trot! That wasn't terrible.. my heel leads were non-existent but so was part of my frame so we worked on that. We worked on how to fill the space in a frame, and create the tension, I don't recall the terms Steve used but it reminded me a lot of lessons of the past. We also worked on the 1/8 turn in Promenade... Steve said 1/8 I looked at my feet and said..."Okay, like 10 o'clock." Which ties back to a long running joke when I taught the overly technical original pro about "10 and 2" which then became a running joke.

Then Steve blows my mind "Oh, you use clock time too? I use that all the time!"

!!!! I wanted to yell at him that he can't think like me! This is going to be way too easy if he keeps teaching in terms I understand! That notable lesson time for me is always used making sure my instructor and I understand each other! But then that would have lead to stories of pros past, and I'm trying to leave that all behind me as I get back into ballroom and look to the future. It might be worth noting that Steve is also one of the first Pros I've tired to work with in earnest that has English as his first language. So I should probably stop being some point I'm sure I will.

Back at the music machine.. after my verifying with Steve that I had improved (sometimes I feel like I can't really tell if it's better between tries... perhaps I'm looking for some really huge improvement where as my partner can pick up on the more subtle nuances he's really looking for... I ask "Was that better?" a lot.)

So we moved on to Waltz.. AT MY REQUEST... HA! You'll never believe it! Not in a million, I, ME, WALTZ HATER from day 1, not even my one and only coaching with Tony Dovolani could make me like it better, or the fact that I scored highest in Waltz in all my level tests (well not higher than Salsa). Or that I had been part of a Waltz Showcase back at Dance Connection, that didn't do it either! on this night though? I WANTED TO WALTZ!

Here's a quick re-cap on why I hate Waltz... it's not because it's not beautiful.. it is. It's not because it's easy, it's NOT. It's not even because I don't want to learn it.. I do! It's because I feel like a total and complete clod when dancing it. If I ever want to feel like the elephant in the room, it's Waltz that's going to put me there.. If there is ever a feeling in this world that I try to avoid it's feeling like the clod hopping elephant in the ergo I avoid Waltz.

Well, I'd been out of ballroom so long that I was even missing Waltz, (a sure sign of the apocalypse I'm positive) Steve says he likes Waltz... so I figure since I seem to pick up on things better when my instructor is also really interested in them... I bit the bullet and we Waltzed... It wasn't terrible, I didn't feel like a clod the ENTIRE time, just part of it... there were under arm turns and twinkles... pretty basic. It was kinda nice!

After our waltz we tied that in with Fox Trot and talked a LOT about balance in Smooth and where to keep chakra's aligned.. and it all made sense... lord almighty it ALL MADE SENSE! Now since knowledge isn't power, but the application of knowledge is... I hope I can remember all this when I try to practice my balance.

Then...a new and improved ballroom lesson experience! Steve did a comprehensive re-cap of everything we went over! That in itself is PRICELESS! I solid re-cap of technique reviewed and reminders on what to work on... Seriously, clearly I have made a good choice! No more will I have to rack my brain for the verbatim blow by blow of my lesson to pick out the parts where technique happened... 

The full 60 minutes came to a close and we were about to wrap up... I didn't want to take anymore of Steve's time, when lessons are a full hour, 20 minutes longer than before, and just about less than half the cost I was not about to try and get more than what was agreed upon...but there was a matter of a little Salsa.

Lessons, no matter how stressful always contain a Salsa for me... call it a rule of Kat, but if I don't get a Salsa for at least 60 seconds when I'm in a lesson all is not right in my world. So I asked if we could do a quick in time but slower in pace Salsa... Steve was kind enough to oblige... turns out Salsa is one of his specialties. :-D

"Hips Don't Lie" came on... which is just about as easy a pace as a Salsa can get... and away we went... the whole thing was so much better than anything we'd danced to that point... and since I'm used to conversing mid dance I pointed out "Clearly I've spent the most time on this..."

"Yeah you do kinda come more alive."

I can even still execute two consecutive spins fairly well... used to be four..but I'm happy with the two...

True to my current stamina I didn't make it all the way through the song...and I knew I was getting to be a heavy follow before I finally said I had to stop...but oh I got to Salsa! We even joked about swivels and #9 from the chain studio syllabus... See... every lesson should end on such a high!

I am telling you folks... I have had over five years lesson experience with some pretty awesome instructors across chain and independent studios... I've taken group classes with "uber" pros and famous Dancing With The Stars cast members..... loved them all, but I really think that for a social dancer such as myself, looking to get a really solid education in dance and motivation to improve.... Steve wrapped it all up in one really nice package! I was WICKED impressed! I can not wait to get on the floor again!

See... I knew back in 2009 when I attended a little impromptu group class of Steve's and after chatting with him some at a few of the ballroom competitions he used to compete at, that I could work with him... I love it when I'm right. :-)

Anyone out there have a dance that makes you feel like "the elephant in the room?" What about a dance that just makes you feel like a clutz? What's YOUR way of dealing with it?? Leave a comment, drop an e-mail, let me know!!

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