Tags: geekiness

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Fun with dance research

I've been teaching what are basically beginner lessons for our Vintage and Traditional Tea Dance: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=tn_tnmn#!/pages/Vintage-and-Traditional-Social-Dancing-in-the-Delaware-Valley/135758283110094

We have a lot of beginners in vintage dance but we also get a few people who already know vintage dance, or who are skilled in other forms of dance. I have been trying to balance the lessons between basic info but also having something that will be interesting to people who are not novices. I have a fair amount of basic lessons in my syllabus, but I've been trying to find something unusual but not too complicated in the dance manuals to add to each basic lesson.

Prior to this my favorite find was a way to transition a clockwise pomander turn into a counterclockwise pomander turn and incorporate that in any number of ways into a yale sequence in Ragtime dance. It works in one-step, waltz and tango, and also in country western two-step. I've found it very useful because a pomander turn is an in-place turn and tends to block the flow of dancers on the dance floor, and this move lets you change direction quickly and get out of the way or jump right back into the movement on the dance floor.

But I found something that really blew my mind while hunting for polka moves for this months lesson! Quite a few (if not the majority of) Victorian dance manuals briefly mention that in the polka, one should reverse the turn to prevent dizziness. I thought that was interesting because I have never seen anyone reverse turn in polka, never heard of it being taught, and I've even been told by some people that it's impossible to do that. I tried doing it and found that it's quite easy to polka turning counterclockwise, but changing from normal turn to counterclockwise (and vice-versa) was nearly impossible.

Still perusing the manuals to find an interesting yet accessible move, I found one manual that described a move called "the pursuit" which is essentially what we call "backing the lady". Doing whatever step is normal for that dance, but dancing with the man going straight forwards and the lady straight backwards without any turns. OK, that's not very exciting, but it's accessible enough to put into a basic lesson and it's also something that most people never heard of in polka. And then at the end of the explanation, there is a sentance or two to the effect of "And of course the way to reverse the direction of turning in polka is to do at least one measure of pursuit as a transition in between the different directions". BINGO!!!

D'oh!! That's exactly how we reverse the turn in waltz, but it's a little more intuitive in waltz because backing the lady in waltz kind of lines up with the couple's "normal" waltz orientation. But in polka, backing the lady requires that you under-turn the last turn and end up 90 degrees off the normal polka oriention. So I tried it out by myself and it seemed to work, and I came up with a mnemonic that matched the timing. I tried it out at dance rehearsal last night and found out it was easy and natural to follow and that once you've done it, it's very intuitive and you don't really even have to count. You can really just back the lady and when your natural sway brings you towards the direction you want to turn, just go with it and keep turning.

Seriously, this is going to change the way I dance polka!!! There are plenty of vintage polka figures around, but to my mind, most of them are "fripperies" consisting of twee little heel and toe moves that also bring the couple to a stop on the dance floor or require doing half the figure against the line of dance. Which is fine in a choreography or set dance but darn annoying at a social dance. So I'm very happy to have discoverd something that I will be able to use so much!
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Best Dance Ever!!!

I finally just unwrapped and listened to a new CD I picked up at the Grand Civil War Ball in Scranton. "Now Tango" by Spare Parts, a tango and ragtime cd.

http://www.bfv.com/nowtango/

Toni picked up their "Tango Viejo" and we found it far inferior, but I really love "Now Tango". One of it's tracks is a very rare half & half, a 5/4 waltz. Using info from Susan De Guardiola's website, http://www.kickery.com/2008/04/half-half---bas.html
I started working on some choreography for it today.

I am so in love with this dance form. It combines the beautiful swooping/flying sensation of a cross-step waltz with the lush, dragging-behind-the-beat feeling of a really good tango while alternating hesitation and quick steps. I'm going to have to hit the Library of Congress and the Internet Archives and download more turn-of-the-century dance manuals to find more info on it. But with the five figures I already know, it's definitely my new favorite. Now to find someone else who wants to dance it!! And also find more music!
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Lord of the Rings Marathon

A friend of mine has never seen the movies. So while I'm dog sitting at my brother's house next week(can you say wide screen TV?) I'm having a Lord of The Rings Marathon. It's been a while since I've let my geek out, so I've decided to have hobbit refreshments and a hobbit feast.


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