Ballroom, week 7

I’m doing anything I can to avoid having to write about Fellini’s 8 1/2. So:

I just spent ten minutes balancing on my toes. Also, I had my knees bent and kept my heels as high as I possibly could, which had to be at least taller than a phone book, I’ve been told. I wish I knew where I’d read this, it may be from Plato, about all beings having unique hierarchies upon which each can be placed, the pinnacle being one’s exercising his or her existence to the fullest; and without getting into my own cosmology I’ll just leave things there. I say ‘unique’ because I’m certain that one’s circumstances, even if likely to be excruciatingly similar to a billion others’, are necessarily singular…which doesn’t make you special. A domesticated dog, for example, reaches its pinnacle by running with its tongue hanging out, eating shit (followed by grass), and unabashedly masturbating with the assistance of everything in the room. I suppose, when put this way, a dog doesn’t sound much different than a person; but dogs have recently been shown to have the ‘intelligence’ of a 2.5 year old child, and a much greater ‘social intelligence.’ And what’s the heights of humanity? Childhood is a cruel thing because it robs us of the time we need most. I don’t know the answer. But in my cosmology, of which I promised to spare you, there’s a reason we have bodies, and a reason we have time, and I know why we have illness, and I know why we have death, and I know why we have suffering. So I know why I must dance now. It’s not the only physical thing I’ve immersed myself in, certainly…

What I was trying to get around to saying is that posture is a funny thing, because we’ve evolved to a point where a certain posture is best for us. So, because I hassle my instructor rather than allowing him to move forward in our lessons, hassle him to teach me about every last movement, concept, theory, history, concerning every step, we haven’t made it beyond natural turns in waltz. That’s fine with me, because I still haven’t quite found my balance this week. But this is the first week that I’ve begun to find myself quite connected to the dance–there’s so much to think about, and when I lift my heels and bend my knees, the position I would be in briefly as I close, where I’m supposed to use CBM as I transfer the weight to my right foot, I can feel the muscles down my legs tense, and my abs as well, and about 7 and a half minutes into it I was shaking, but in the mirror my posture was Perfect, and I hadn’t had to consciously align my spine. And I don’t mean to say that evolution began with a waltz, but it is rather wonderful that dancing involves physical health.

Something I’ve found most fascinating is how walking takes place. In those videos of baby giraffes just falling out of their mothers and immediately standing up and wobbling off somewhere, and giraffes, from what I can tell, have little more than popsicle sticks for legs. We have feet, and we have ankles. And we don’t tend to give them as much attention as we should. I mean, beyond pedicures. Because if you end up with diabetes, a hangnail may lead to your whole leg being amputated. Meanwhile, there’s a transfer of weight from the back of one foot slowly to the front, which is supposed be at the ball of the stationary foot when the moving foot has passed the stationary one. Really? Is that how it happens, and then with the one foot touching down at the heel, the other foot is brushing the floor with its toes? That’s what walking is?

Well, lucky you, that melatonin just kicked in.

Definitions of Technical Terms

Alignment. This word has several meanings in dancing. It may refer to the position of the feet in a forward or backward step, when the feet should be perfectly in line, turned neither in nor out, and with the inside edge of each foot touching an imaginary line drawn through the middle of the body. It is also used to refer to the directional line of some part of a figure. Its technical meaning for examination work is described on page 26.

Amalgamation. A combination of two or more figures. See further explanation below.

Balance. The correct distribution of the weight of the body when dancing.

Basic Figure. A figure that is considered to form a part of the basis of a particular dance.

Brush. When the moving foot is being taken from one open position to another open position, the word Brush is used to indicate that this foot must first close up to the foot supporting the weight of the body, but without the weight being changed.

Contrary Body Movement. The action of turning the opposite hip and shoulder towards the direction of the moving leg, and is used to commence all turning movements. . . . In many cases, the term “Body Swing” would probably convey this turning action more clearly, for it should be noted at once that an excess of CBM will produce a dance that is more ugly and unbalanced than one entirely devoid of it.

Figure. A completed set of steps. See further explanation below.

Footwork. Conveys which part of the foot is in contact with the floor on each step. These are the parts conveyed as, for example in the case of a Reverse Turn (Waltz)–Lady: 1. Toe, Heel. 2. Toe. 3. Toe, Heel. 4. Heel, Toe. 5. Toe. 6. Toe, Heel.  “…although it is to be regretted that the new method of describing Footwork hardly gives a clear or true picture of the subtle uses of the ball of the foot as well as the toes.”

Natural Turn. A turn to the R.

Partner in Line, Partner Square, Square to Partner. Terms used to indicate that the couple are standing in the normal dance position, i.e. facing each other and with the man’s and lady’s feet approximately opposite each other.

Poise. The position of the body in relation to the feet.

Reverse Turn. A turn to the L.

Rise and Fall.

Step. This usually refers to one movement of the foot, although from a “time value” point of view this is incorrect. In the case of a walk forward or backward, for instance, the time value of the step is not completed until the moving foot is drawn up to the foot supporting the weight, ready to commence another step. Thus, when instructed to rise at the end of a step the dancer should not commence to rise until the moving foot is passing the foot supporting the weight of the body. The following analogy provides an easy method of remembering the meaning of the terms “step,” “figure,” and “amalgamation.” Think of a step as a “syllable,” a figure as a “word,” and an amalgamation as a “sentence.” A complete dance could be compared to a paragraph.

Swivel. A turn on the ball of one foot.

Tempo. This indicates the speed of the music. The approved speeds for standard dances are– Waltz: 31 bars/min. Foxtrot: 30 bars/min. Quickstep: 50 bars/min. Tango: 33 bars/min.

Time: the number of beats in each bar of music.

Variation. A varied and more advanced figure, additional to the basic figure.

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