Saturday, April 19, 2008

Private Lesson

At the 24 Hour Danceathon, I bid on and won a private lesson with Laura Keat. It's been weeks, but I finally got around to contacting her to schedule and do it. And it was amazing. I'd mentioned that I wanted to work on connection and any tips that would help with Jack and Jills. I might have bitten off more than I could chew.

First off, we worked on connection, something which I'm pretty proud of and expected to breeze through. Nope. Her critique was that I'm keeping my left forearm and bicep tense, which really interfered with communicating my intent. Ouch. Her target connection is one where the forearm and bicep are completely loose and connection is created with the follow by the weight of the connected hands tending to fall down and apart if the fingers let go. Wow. This is a totally new connection paradigm for me, and I have a lot of trouble adjusting.

Step two is to have the trapezius muscled engaged in the back, pulling the shoulder blade inward.

Step three is to activate the tricep to keep connection when close to my dance partner (3-4 of a swing-out for example.

This is all really tough to practice on my own, as the relaxation of the forearm and bicep means that I can't hold my own arm up. So I'm doing swing-out footwork and positioning with a relaxed arm. Weird feeling.

The result is that my connection is a lot lighter. [Michelle tells me the next day that it's pretty different feeling. And easier to follow. I'm still working on it, and it's difficult to do all the time.] Laura points out that the tension I have is why my arm stays high on some of the turns I do (tuck turn or inside turn for example). I see right away how a relaxed arm automatically falls to waist level. We go through a tuck turn over and over again and improve buy never get it perfect. Lots of work needed. Timing the engagement of the tricep at the bottom of the fall of the hand to keep it from swinging is another tough thing to do.

After all that, we work on a couple footwork variations after working on a soft connection engagement on 5-6 of a swing-out. On 7-8 we do a lean with the right foot stepping on 7, holding 8. This is a lean to the right with the ribcage leading the body to the right (for guys, gals use their hips), with the body staying centered.

Or a shuffle-step the right: 7-a-8 is a right-left-right. Instead of leading with the ribcage, I lead with the shoulder and light pressure on the hand to move the follow to the right (yah-da-dah).

Or a third variation which I don't remember. Maybe a right-left lean? I should have written this earlier.

Also, I voiced a feeling to her that I was repeating my patterns. She noted that out of closed, I tended to do a tuck-turn, and she suggested doing a swing-out instead. Good idea. Another suggestion was doing an inside turn. We work on the relaxed connection through that, and she showed me how easy it is to lead a double in 6 counts, if I apply the lead at the correct time (before she's completed the first turn, not after).

Overall, a great lesson. I need to do more of those.

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