Starting December Off Right – With Dancing!

I can’t believe it’s December already! I feel like I’ve said this before, but every year seems to go by faster and faster. Part of it is probably due to the fact that I’m getting busier. If you caught my Facebook livestream, you know that November was especially busy (not my choice). Thankfully, for this first weekend of December, I am not working overtime. I get to dance instead!

The weekend started with my “usual” Friday evening lesson. I put “usual” in quotes because Friday’s lesson is the most commonly cancelled or rescheduled lesson because if Teacher is travelling for a competition or some other event, it’s usually on a weekend. Thankfully, this week, the lesson proceeded as planned.

It was a “thinking” lesson. Teacher wanted to work on Foxtrot and make sure I understood the correct direction, rotation and alignment of each step. To be honest, this type of lesson isn’t much fun. I do enjoy them in a way because I like to challenge myself in dance and figuring out how to align (or contort) my body in the way that lends itself best to quality dancing is definitely a challenge. I feel accomplished when I finally “get it” and exclaim “ooooh!” But I don’t feel like I’m actually dancing when everything is broken down into such minute detail. Whereas on Wednesday’s lesson, we worked on just keeping my right side up and got to dance a lot more. Like actual dancing, even with music.

Friday’s lesson was a good lead-in to Saturday’s workshop. The owners of the dance studio I train at are now also co-owners of a new competition, The Royal Ball. As a thank-you and holiday gift to everyone who has supported the studio, they decided to have the competition sponsor the workshop and so it was free to all attendees. You know there was no way I was missing out!

The workshop was three hours, with the first 1.5 hours taught by Heather Smith and the second 1.5 hours taught by the studio owners, Marzena Stachura and Slawek Sochacki. All three are amazing dancers and champions in their days (I’m so blessed to train at a studio that brings in so many top-level coaches!).

Heather focused on Viennese waltz and, wouldn’t you know it, direction and rotation! I suppose it’s natural for me to relate everything I hear in a workshop back to what I hear in my private lessons, but it’s funny when I hear the exact same things two days in a row! Maybe the concepts will stick a little better in my brain now. As another one of my coaches likes to say, “repetition is the mother of mastery!”

In the couple workshops I’ve taken with Heather, she always does some kind of warmup drill and gives everyone exercises that they can do at home. I love this and frequently use a couple of her drills in my solo practice. I also appreciate that she talks about keeping up with the times. She said that if she were to teach how she won her championship title to competitive dancers today, she wouldn’t have any business, because ballroom has evolved so much and people don’t dance it the way they did when she was competing. Great teachers are the ones who never stop learning, adapting and evolving along with their industry.

Marzena and Slawek’s main topic was clarity of intention, that is making your intent in your dancing as clear as possible to those watching you. Yet another concept Teacher tries as hard as he can to drill into my head. A great example of unclear intention is me in the shadow parts of my Foxtrot routine. I don’t know where to look and so my eyes sort of drift, usually downward, and it makes me look like I’m doubting myself or thinking instead of dancing. It’s not enjoyable to watch because people don’t understand what I’m trying to portray.

Now, Marzena is one of those teachers who will speak very fast and give you enough information to fill a year of workshops, but all in an hour and a half. I remember one of the first workshops I attended where she taught, she said to not worry about trying to retain everything, and if you could take even a third of the information home with you, you’re in good shape. I took that to heart because usually about halfway through one of her lectures, my eyes are wide because my brain is starting to overflow. Everything is gold, but I can only carry so much!

Today was no exception. After introducing the idea of clarity of intention, Marzena and Slawek went through timing, posture, body alignment, swing, sway, shaping, and probably some things I forgot to illustrate how all of these things can and should be done with clear intention. I realized at one point as I was listening and trying to absorb as much as possible that my mouth was hanging open. Hopefully, it wasn’t for too long or no one noticed.

After the workshop, I made a Target run and then watched a cheesy Christmas movie at home to give my brain time to process all (or at least some) of the information it had received. The next step will be going to solo practice tomorrow morning and attempting to apply some of the information! Viennese waltz is definitely on my to-do list.

I’m starting December off right with three days of dancing (private lesson, workshop, and solo practice)! The only bummer is I have to wait until Wednesday to reconnect with Teacher and review what was discussed in the workshop (he was there too). Maybe my solo practice and then a couple more days will help solidify whatever my brain managed to absorb, so I’ll be in a better position to apply the concepts while dancing with my partner. I’ll let you know.

Only 29 days left in 2017! Crazy. I set a goal of completing the first draft of Your Solo Practice Guide by the end of the year. My progress has stalled unfortunately, for a lot of good reasons/excuses, but I’m still aiming to finish 2017 strong and start the new year the same way. I have a feeling that 2018 is going to be full of awesomeness!

P.S. – For those interested in another weekend full of dance training, there is a two-day workshop happening next weekend. See the flyers below and the website for more information. There is a TON of different classes being offered. One of the organizers is a good friend, so I’ll be stopping by at some point too.

Happy dancing December!

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