Tag: dancing

Float like a butterfly

Damjan and I are teaching Rachael and Julian a waltz for their first wedding dance.

‘Hmm,’ I said, pondering the step that Rachael and Julian had dutifully taken on my instructions.

‘I think it’ll be too slow to do it the way I said. Instead of doing a full L-shape, try sweeping your foot diagonally to land to the side.’

Here is the way I originally described the basic waltz step.

The basic waltz step
The basic waltz step means your foot moves in L-shapes.

And this is what I showed Rachael and Julian to do instead.

The basic waltz with a diagonal shortcut
To shortcut the basic waltz step, you can move your foot diagonally.

Julian made the switch quickly and was soon keeping up in time with the music.

‘That’s great, Julian,’ I said. ‘Rachael, remember you don’t need to bring your foot right back, just go straight across.’

‘It’s like sweeping your foot over a soccer ball,’ Julian said helpfully. ‘That’s the way I think of it.’


Stilettos on the dance floor

I was lucky timing my transfer from London to Melbourne. I arrived in time for the annual staff cocktail party. The theme was Jungle Fever.

Colleagues in Melbourne seem much quicker to get on the dance floor than my London workmates. And it was a pretty spectacular dance floor, filled with lions, giraffes, gorillas, indigenous warriors, big game hunters and colonialists.

I was in the middle of a particularly fun jig when my left foot was stabbed with a stiletto. Ouch! I stared in horror at the perpetrator and she looked vaguely at me before floating off. I don’t think she realised what she did.

I did bleed a bit and my foot is still sore three days later.

The Roxy

After an evening of pub and bar hopping, my team at work often ends up at The Roxy. Somehow, I’ve managed to miss out on all these excursions. The next day, I hear the stories of my boss’s wild dancing, the who-pashed-who, etc.

I began thinking that I couldn’t leave London without experiencing the team night club. So I sent a meeting invitation to my work friends.

‘I would like to go to Roxys on Friday. Is it crazy to plan such a thing? Please join me.’

On Friday night, remarkably four attractive bachelorettes and I hit the town together.

First we went to the pub. I had pear cider. Then we had some filling and tasty burritos. I paid extra for guacamole, yum.

At a Scandinavian bar where my friends spun a wheel and made me drink whatever the arrow landed on. The drink was called ‘Chilly Willy’ and it turned out to be a spicy blackcurrant-flavoured vodka shot.

Finally, at the grand hour of 9:30pm, we arrived at The Roxy. We paid the discounted early bird entry fee and found ourselves alone on the dance floor.

I had the most enormous fun, leaping around the floor like a gazelle, shaking like a buffeted strand of seaweed, striding backwards. My mates had fun too. Some danced barefoot.

By 11:30pm, a crowd had joined us on the floor. It was a distinctively young crowd. I read that The Roxy is a hang out for University College London kids.

The ground got sticky with spilled drinks. By midnight, I had declined two invitations to dance with expressionless boys, and had shaken off another overly expressive one (who pointed at me, then pointed to himself, then I shook my head, then he pointed at me, then pointed to himself, then I shook my head, then realised he was acting out the song lyrics).

I love dancing but have never been clubbing. I never realised how much time is spent fending boys off.

It wasn’t one way traffic, though. Some of my eligible friends made their own successful approaches to their quarry.

My final words on Roxy: Value for money early in the night if you want space to be silly. Music was patchy at best. Male patrons tend to be young and assertive. Fruitful hunting grounds for pumas and cougars.

Dancing in the light

On this sunny day, I walked from my home in south London to Notting Hill. It took about 75 minutes and I plotted a lovely route through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. London is full of gorgeous parks, and these are two of the biggest and best.

At Notting Hill, I had dinner with Liezel and Judy. Liezel and Judy are friends from primary school. After 14 years of zero contact, through Facebook we discovered we were all in London. Today was a little reunion.

On my walk back from Notting Hill, I did something a little bit crazy, perhaps. As I said in my last post, I’ve been feeling frustrated at not being able to dance to my current favourite song. Actually, an even greater source of dance frustration is that I now live in a room/house without any space for dancing. I was very spoiled back home in Melbourne. We had a huge recreation room with a wooden floor downstairs. The room was even big enough for me to have private dance lessons with my Latin American dance teacher.

In Kensington Gardens, between the picnickers, soccer players, people doing yoga, and frisbee games, there was green space for me to dance. Dancing in a public park is something I’ve done before, so after a short hesitation, I walked over to a patch of warm sunshine and dropped my backpack.

I clicked ‘Górecki’ on my MP3 player and started spinning. I was happy — I had so much space! But, sadly, I was self-conscious. I also confirmed that I had no repertoire and could not last the six minutes of the song. Sigh.

After that track, I switched to my hip hop playlist and immediately had a larger bank of moves! I loosened up and started really to enjoy myself.

Halfway through the first hip hop track, a man and woman wandered into my grassy patch and smiled at me. I paused, uncertain. They shook their heads, gave me thumbs up and continued walking by.

I danced this way for about 10 minutes. I don’t know how silly I looked, this girl doing hip hop on the grass of Kensington Gardens to music no one else could hear.

In the end, I enjoyed it a lot because that grassy patch was the only space that I’ve had access to for a long time. However, self-consciousness limited my pleasure. I wish I had some private space somewhere to dance.

Górecki, Lamb

While watching the Doctor Who Confidential episode for Sins of the Fathers, I heard snippets of a song that immediately grabbed my attention. I managed to memorise two fragments of the lyrics — ‘if I should die’ and ‘loving every breath of you’.

I put these phrases into Google and soon discovered the name of the song. It is called ‘Górecki’ by Manchester band Lamb. You can hear it here. Supposedly, Lamb based the song on Polish composer Henryk Górecki‘s Third Symphony Opus 36.

I read up on the song. The song has a large following — there are many, many fan videos that use this track. Perhaps one of the song’s most famous appearances was as Satine died in Moulin Rouge.

I mentioned my discovery to Jessen, one of my team mates, who said, ‘I have that song!’ I promptly procured it from his MP3 player and have been listening to it non-stop.

One of the reasons I love this song is that it makes me want to dance contemporary to it. I can feel how my body should move to it. Unfortunately, I don’t have the training, flexibility, balance, repertoire, or strength for it. I don’t know if non-dancers know what it’s like. Maybe it’s like wanting to sing a particular song and not hitting the right notes. Or knowing what you want to paint but what you put on paper doesn’t match your mental image. Hmm. It’s probably the same frustration people feel when they can’t articulate their thoughts clearly to other people.

Listening to this song and not being able to dance to it is like that, only the tension is physical.

So I looked up ‘Gorecki dance’ on YouTube and found something like I had imagined could be danced to this song.

New knee

For about five years, I’ve had problems with my right knee. It would lock up and felt weak. The worst was when I used to teach hiphop because I had to stand on it and dance for two or three hours without a chance to sit down. I’m pretty sure the knee problems are related to my dancing.

Last year, the problem escalated. Something in the knee ‘clicked’ while I was at Sheringham. Sharp shooting pains went up my leg whenever I put weight on it. This happened for days.

And suddenly, the knee clicked again and it was back to normal.

This ‘click’ into pain, then ‘click’ back out of pain happened another two times. I eventually figured out that I could massage my knee cap (?) back into place after it shifted like this. The only thing I had to deal with, then, was a frequent grinding and clicking sensation in the knee.

Yesterday, I realised that for the past few weeks, my knee has been behaving perfectly. I think… my knee has healed due to the leg exercises I’ve been doing at the gym. Thanks to regular lunging, I now appear to have my good old knee back!

Pineapple Joan

At the end of last year, I had settled into London well enough now that I could think about establishing a routine. The first issue to resolve was, of course, where I would do my dance lessons.

It was always my plan to visit Pineapple Dance Studios, which is the most famous dance studio in London. There are nine studio rooms, and classes almost all day, every day. They teach many styles, from hip hop to ballet to Egyptian belly dance to salsa.

Finally, I decided Monday was the day. On Sunday night, I carefully packed my exercise clothes, a pair of socks, a pair of sneakers and a drink bottle. Along with my work satchel, I took this backpack of dance supplies to the office the next day.

All day while sitting in front of my computer, I was thinking about the evening dance class. I started to feel anxious. What if everyone was really good? What if I couldn’t keep up? What if they’re in the middle of a routine?

I decided not to go. Then I convinced myself that I had to do it some time. Then I decided I could go tomorrow instead of today. Then I told myself off for being a wuss.

By 5 o’clock, I was terrified.

‘You know, I’ll go tomorrow,’ I said to my workmate, Chris. ‘I’ll be ready then.’

‘Aw, Joan, go! You’ve brought your bag and everything. It’ll be fine!’

‘Ergh!’ I twisted my fingers up in a nervous fist. ‘You think I should go?’

Chris nodded emphatically. ‘I think you should go, Joan.’

‘All right. Yes. I’ll go.’

I got lost twice while walking from the office to Pineapple. I paid my day membership at the reception. As soon as I got to the studio, a girl called Bronwyn started chatting to me.

‘Is this your first time?’ she asked.

‘Yes! I’m a bit nervous,’ I admitted.

‘Have you done hip hop before?’

‘Yes, back home in Melbourne.’

Bronwy broke into a big smile. ‘I’m from Melbourne, too! Don’t worry. If you’ve danced before, you’ll be fine.’

During the first forty minutes, I avoided looking at myself in the mirror. The glimpses I did get showed that I was clumsy and uncertain. By the end of the hour less, though, I had found my dance groove again. Yeah! I was getting into it!

It was really fun. Now I go to Pineapple every week.

Turning up the heat

During my second swing dance lesson in Cambridge, the instructors had us switch our usual roles so that leads (usually boys) would learn how to follow, and follows (usually girls) would learn how to lead. I regularly dance both roles so this wasn’t tricky for me (I have the opposite problem in that I sometimes forget if I’m dancing as a girl or a boy).

Of course, the teachers started us off with basic six beat and hand-to-hand charleston. Everyone picked up quickly.

‘We’re so proud of you all!’ the teachers said. ‘That normally takes at least twenty minutes. Do you want something harder? We can make it harder for you. Okay, let’s make it harder.’

‘Yes!’ said one of my classmates loudly. ‘Let’s do it…’ He lowered his voice. ‘…in a ring of fire!’

The dancesport haka

I went to the Varsity Dancesport competition between Cambridge and Oxford. The scoring system is very interesting. The competition is split into two levels. The A team is generally better than the B team, with a few exceptions of experienced couples who are not eligible for A team because they’re not students of Cambridge or Oxford.

Everyone dances four dances: Waltz and quickstep for the modern ballroom section; and cha cha and jive for the latin section. Everyone ends up dancing the waltz three times, the quickstep three times, and so on. It’s set up like a round robin so that different combinations of Cambridge and Oxford couples dance against each other. I believe that by the time all the waltzes are done, every Cambridge couple has waltzed against every Oxford couple, and the audience has sat through about eight or nine rounds of waltz (it could have been more or less — I couldn’t keep track). The algorithm for selecting couples for rounds was a mystery to me. I had no idea what was going on for most of it. Then, of course, it’s repeated for the other three dances.

The couples are ranked in each round and awarded points. Cambridge couples’ points are aggregated and compared to the sum of Oxford couples’ points. The two latin dances are added together, as are the two ballroom. So a score is reported for Cambridge ballroom versus Oxford ballroom, then Cambridge latin versus Oxford latin. The ballroom and latin scores are summed and the winning team has the highest points.

This year, Cambridge won the B Team match for the first time. It also won the A Team match by a long way. It seems that all year, Cambridge has been trumping Oxford. These are the top two university dancesport teams in the UK and they take turns being on top. It would have been quite an experience to dance with the team. I’m sorry I’ve missed my opportunity.

Here are a few photos I took. No spectacular ones but I was there to enjoy watching the dancing rather than take photos, so anything decent was a bonus.

A quiet moment on the dancefloor.

I tried to pan with the moving couples (that is, follow the couples with my camera while the aperture was open) and actually came up with some clearer ones than this. But I like the colour and the composition here.

This is the Cambridge A Team’s ‘walk on’ for the latin section, which was a pretty cool routine. Think of it as equivalent to the All Blacks’s Haka, which is meant to frighten the bejeezers out of the opposition.

For reference, here is the All Blacks’s haka… Yep. That’s exactly what the ‘walk on’ was like.

For your information, Tonga (in the red) lost that match 90 to 7. Maybe the Oxford team need to have a chat to our mates in New Zealand…

And now, back to our normal programming — ‘A Team’ Latin.

Hey, I stick my tongue out at my dance partners as well!

And here she is, with a more conventional ‘dancesport’ face.

Dancing on the beach

For the three mornings we were in Cornwall, I got up to go for a walk on the beach. On the final morning, I walked with Gráinne and Amanda. When we turned to go back, I looked at our incoming footprints.

The set furthest away from the ocean belonged to Amanda.

‘Your footprints are quite deep,’ I commented, surprised because Amanda is a smallish person.

‘I’m wearing boots,’ she explained.

Gráinne’s footprints were slimmer and lighter. I glanced at her feet and wondered how her white shoes had stayed white during the field trip.

‘Your footprints are deep at the toe,’ they pointed out to me.

I thought about this for a while. ‘It might be because of my dancing. I’m always getting told to push off from my toes.’ I felt pleased that my dance practicing had translated to my beach walking technique.

‘Hey! I’ve got an idea! People could dance on the beach to see if they’re getting their dance steps and footwork right!’

I immediately launched into a samba walk. ‘One. a-Two. One. a-Two…’

I stopped to look back at my trail. ‘Woohoo!’ I shouted. My footprints were properly turned out and deep in the toe. Success!

The most active members of my course got up for a 7 AM jog and swim in the cold Atlantic. Brrr!

We were more civilised and went clambering over the rocks.