Archive for the ‘dance’ Category

Occasionally a dance teacher describes a movement or a technique in a manner that works for other people but not for me. I think this happens because they omit key details in their explanation. I tend to miss or completely misunderstand details, so naturally, I do the technique incorrectly and miss the point.

For example, in Argentine tango I learned to keep my shoulders parallel to the leader’s shoulders in order to keep the frame and follow better. I had a heck of a time trying to keep track of both my shoulders relative to the leader’s. Today, almost a year after I stopped doing Argentine tango for unrelated reasons, I finally figured out the key technique that might have made everything easier for me (assuming it’s actually correct): Concentrate on keeping the center of my chest connected the center of the leader’s chest — not literally touching, but connected as if by a laser beam. Then I only have to worry about one point instead of two shoulders. Maybe I really did learn it in class and just didn’t pay attention or totally forgot about it for a year.

Another example: Activate the lats to improve connection, yet how do I activate my lats? I’ve never successfully done a pull-up in my life. I know where to find my latissimus dorsi, and I can squeeze them, but just squeezing them takes more effort than I want to expend during a dance. I finally found the answer when someone told me tonight to keep my elbows pointed down and low and imagine a string connecting the elbows to the body. I’ve always tried to keep my elbows pointed down (more direct power connection), but keeping them low activated the lats without making me squeeze uncomfortably. (Nevertheless, keeping my elbows low is still a bit uncomfortable. Oh, well.) That, combined with trying to keep my shoulders back, activates the lats.

To be fair, I might have figured out the latter example much earlier if I had actually tried the exercise of holding a tennis ball under my armpit as taught in the dance class I attended and also in tai chi class years ago, but keeping the elbows low and connected just seems like a much more direct tip. You don’t even need a prop.


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I’ve been ballroom dancing for about 2 years on and off. I’ve learned the ten International style ballroom dances, salsa, West Coast swing, lindy hop, Argentine tango, and a couple of American style dances. I like dancing. It’s fun, and it’s the only kind of exercise I can motivate myself to do frequently. I like competing in ballroom competitions and potentially winning, but it’s frustrating when I don’t win as easily or as much as I want, or get money, fame, or photo shoots for dancing.

Another facet of ballroom dancing is social dancing. I originally learned to dance because I figured it would be a way to socialize when I can never think of anything to say in a conversation. It took a long time to work, but it did eventually. Frankly, however, social dancing, can get tiresome. Socializing can also get tiresome. What I like best is dancing/practicing by myself to whatever music I feel like, or sometimes to no music at all. Then it’s just me, the music, and maybe the mirror.

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Halloween partying

Tonight was fun. First, I went to the Caltech Ballroom Dance Club’s private shindig. Then I checked out the Prufrock Halloween Party. It’s amazing how many people I now know through dancing, and to a lesser extent through tai chi. Things I did tonight included:

  • polka with a pirate
  • dirty dance with a devil (only it wasn’t dirty, and I think the guy was dressed as a devil)
  • chat with Cleopatra
  • cavort with cats, three of them to be exact!

I saw a number of interesting costumes. One of the coolest costumes was Magritte’s The Son of Man. Others included a very elaborate Cleopatra, a scantily clad cat, a heavily clad cat, another cat, WinAmp, Princess Buttercup and Dread Pirate Roberts from Princess Bride, a group of billiard balls, and a lifesize R2D2. Thursday night I had already seen many great costumes at the Lindygroove Halloween party. The most noticeable was a glowing green squid that won 2nd place in Lindygroove’s costume contest. 1st place was taken by Optimus Prime.

At all the parties I wore a cowgirl outfit: jean shorts, a pink checkered shirt I bought for $4 at a Ross in Oregon, cowboy boots from a Ross in Pasadena ($13), a deliberately ragged corduroy jacket also from Ross ($7?), a pair of faux leather gloves that I bought last winter at Target, and a jingly belt ($6) and a black cowboy hat from Aardvark’s ($8). The shorts, shirt, jacket, and gloves were all items I already owned. The other items I intentionally bought for the costume, so in all, I spent $27 for the costume. I really like the hat. It’s rare that I find comfortable, good-looking hats that fit me. The boots hurt my feet after a night of dancing, but their slick soles slick turn well, and pivoting on the cowboy heels feels smooth as silk. I’ll probably wear them occasionally in the future just for fun. They’re more comfortable and more versatile than my black boots, and they’re better looking and better suited for dancing than my pink Bearpaws.

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