Good and Bad Practices

Well, with regard to my last post and talking about not having enough time to update, I suppose I spoke too soon. Time to use my insomnia for productive things such as blogging instead of doing actual work like I’m supposed to…  Anyway, I wanted to share some thoughts I had about practicing.

If you’re dancing regularly and have a partner, I’m going to assume that you practice fairly regularly.  Perhaps more often if you’re a competitive couple, though social dance couples and partners practice together all the time as well.  You can also regard social dancing a type of practice, too.  I’m sure you’ve all experienced awesome practices and disastrous ones.  So why is there this variability? Why can’t we have awesome practices every single time?   (That would be amazing, right?)  I don’t know if I can answer that, but maybe at least I can discuss what goes on in a good versus a bad practice.   Two of my partners would have these idealized perfect practices in their heads and be pretty disappointed that we couldn’t dance like that each and every time.  My response would be, well, things can’t always be perfect (though of course this is what we strive for).  Nerdy side note: I proposed that practice/dancing can go towards the asymptote of perfection.  It can steadily approach it but never quite get there…

The best practices tend to include these qualities:

  • Things seem to be working.  The dance just flows well, sometimes without putting a ton of effort into it.  You feel very “on” and it’s a magical feeling.
  • You get along with your partner.  If there’s any critique, it’s respectful and well-received.  Lots of statements such as “I feel” such and such and “I think” such and such seem to help with this (well, unless it’s something like “I think you suck!”), rather than things like “You aren’t” doing something good or “Why do you keep” doing something wrong.
  • Concepts you learned in your lessons (private or group) make sense and you can apply them to your dancing.
  • Being in a good mood!
  • Feeling productive – that you got a lot of work done, efficiently.
  • It’s fun! Pretty simple.

The worst practices, on the other hand, are the exact opposite:

  • Things are sucking.  No matter how hard you try, you can’t get X figure or Y concept to work, and you can’t figure out why at all.  It’s super frustrating.
  • You are not getting along well with your partner.  I’ve been through this, with a cycle of criticism-overemotional reaction-frustration-anger, etc.   The very very bad practices end with drama, someone storming off in a huff, or people refusing to talk to each other.  Or even worse, screaming matches, crying, etc.  This is clearly an exaggeration, but not unheard of.  I’ve been both a participant and an observer for these kinds of practices.  Yikes.  (No screaming for me though, but perhaps everything else…)
  • Using lots of “you” language in criticism certainly doesn’t help with the above. “You aren’t dancing well,” “why aren’t you moving?”, “you keep doing this wrong.”  Bad bad bad. AVOID.
  • You try your best to apply new concepts from lessons but for whatever reason it just doesn’t make sense or you can’t make it work.
  • Coming in with a bad mood or ending with a bad mood.
  • Maybe not being productive – especially when you feel like you’re trying your best.  But things just aren’t feeling any better, or they feel even worse.
  • It’s not fun.  It feels like work.  Or worse, torture.

These are clearly polarized examples of good and bad practices.  There’s of course everything in between, but that’s not nearly as interesting to write about, right?  I think something to keep in mind is that you can’t always have that perfect practice.  Sometimes you’re in a good mood coming in, sometimes you’re in a bad mood.  Dancing could cheer you up or worsen your mood, depending on how it goes.  Sometimes you’re “on,” and sometimes you just can’t get it.  And that’s okay!  The point of practicing is that over time, we’ll be more “on” and consistently good all the time, but that takes a LOT of practice to get there.  And by the time you feel that you’re good at something, you’ll learn about something else you need to work on to get better.  Asymptote, like I said.

Personally, I think it’s best to accept the ebb and flow of practice and be conscious of what you can do to maximize the positive aspects.  It’s perhaps easiest to apply this to interpersonal interactions with your partner – being respectful, being nice, being considerate, but still offering positive critiques when appropriate.  Also, being partners, there should always be that element of equality – both of you have something to bring to the table, even if perhaps one partner has more skill than the other, or is better at this particular thing than the other.  It’s a partnership, not a dictatorship.  (Pro-am has a different dynamic entirely, so this applies more to am-am partnerships.)

Disclaimer: none of this is based on psychology research, just my own experience and intuition.  I can think about it in a psych way though, just give me some time 😉

Stoning Party

So I’ve been super busy since the semester started, and unfortunately haven’t had much time to post anything. This is not a particularly interesting post, so sorry about that. I’ve been doing lots of stoning recently! By that, I mean gluing shiny things on things. One reason for that is that the girl who rented my Latin dress dry-cleaned it, so it’s cleaner, which is great, but the dry cleaning solvents affected the glue somehow and some of the stones have been coming loose :/ .

On a more positive note, I finally got some dress floats made for my standard/smooth dress.  It had floats originally, but I lost one of them at the Manhattan Amateur Classic a couple years ago, because sometimes I’m dumb like that.  The floats aren’t 100% what I had in mind, particularly with how the armbands were sewn, but they’ll function fine, I think.  Importantly, they needed some bling, so I took care of that.

Pictures below:

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Yes, that is just random stuff I stretched the bands over, so that they’d stay stretched out while I worked. If you stone stretchy fabrics while they’re not taut, then the stones might pop off when you stretch the fabric to put them on.  So I hear.

5-second stoning tutorial: For my method, I use Gem-tac glue, make dots wherever I want them to go, let them dry for a few minutes so they get tacky, then use this rhinestone picker-upper tool with some kind of wax on the end to pick up stones and stick them on.  A little glue should spill out from underneath, once you press the stone down, so it forms a little rim and secures the stone better.  Let dry, and voila!  I found that this fabric soaks up the glue quite a bit, so I used more glue than what I’m used to.

I ordered a new unstoned standard/smooth dress recently, which is due to arrive any week now (that sounds like it’s a baby, ha).  I plan to get a bunch of nice stones for it, so the before and after pictures of that project will soon follow! And be more exciting! Potentially.

Horrible Things That Have Happened to Me on the Dance Floor…

…yet did not cause the end of the world…

1) Have fallen on my butt, completely sprawled on the ground (I believe about three times). Often with a shoe popped off.  There is video evidence, but I won’t help you find it 😉

2) Had my skirt slowly roll down so much that I had to yank it up not-so-subtly in order to not moon the poor audience members

3) Arrived to the ballroom (after sprinting from the parking garage) literally about a minute before I was supposed to be on the floor (comp was running earlier than the previous day), changed while running to line up, and danced! (And made a callback, miraculously!)

4) Had my necklace snap off and get loose in the middle of dancing smooth, so I (more dramatically than I intended) tossed it off to a corner (as not to step on it or have anyone else step on it)

5) Completely blanked out on the routine – both in competition and in showcase (this has probably happened at least a dozen times)

6) Gotten hit directly in the head by a smooth-style explosion arm (from a rather tall lead) and got the wind knocked out of me for a second or two

7) Knocked heads with someone while in frame

8) Danced off of the floor, possibly close to hitting a judge?

9) Danced completely and utterly off time, making faces at my partner because we disagreed about the beat/phrase

10) Made an utterly-clueless facial expression because I’m bad at hiding that

11) During a solo-couple on-stage performance, did a  deep lunge but wobbled around off-balance like an idiot for what felt like a solid 10 seconds. Awk.

And now, for things I’ve witnessed from other dancers:

1) Buttons popping open on a borrowed Latin shirt. Round after round… (you know who you are if you’re reading this, and it’s all good…)

2) Hooking the bottom of a skirt with a heel and actually completely mooning one side of the audience

3) Collisions galore

4) Various body parts popping out that should not be doing so…

5) Awful tanning disasters (think…green.)

6) Hair flying loose from fancy standard hairstyles

Take-home point: **** happens, you deal with it, and move on! 😀

How-to: Ballroom Makeup

The general take-home message for how to apply dance makeup is: go bold or go home! I always feel like an idiot when I leave the ballroom and go someplace “normal” during a competition weekend. In ballroom, if you look kind of like a drag queen, it means you’re doing something right.  We’re talking crazy bright colors, big fake eyelashes, shimmer, glitter, the whole shebang. What is the point, anyway? Well, if you think of ballroom dancing as being similar to performing on a stage, you want to be able to see your features clearly from across the floor. This means, highlighting your eyes (make ‘em look as big as humanly possible), accenting your mouth with a colorful lipstick, and rouging your cheeks. I won’t be able to explain makeup application as well as the Youtube makeup guru gals, so I’ll just go over things briefly and you can spend a few hours watching videos and filling in the rest.

Foundation: I hate it. But I wear it for ballroom comps, using a sliiiiightly darker color than my natural skintone so that I don’t look washed out. In fact, I probably go lighter than most girls in terms of coverage – I like to mix a tinted moisturizer with a darker foundation, then apply it with either a makeup sponge or a dual-fiber brush for a stippled effect. Blend blend blend, making sure you don’t have that foundation line that ends at your chin (trust me, not a good look). Bring your foundation down to your neck. Concealer under the eyes and over any flaws, more blending, then set everything with a matching powder and a big fluffy brush.  If you’re particularly oily, you might want to stick with a powder foundation, so long as it has adequate coverage.  Or a liquid/cream that is supposed to have a matte finish.  Also, applying a primer before foundation is an option – I’ve tried it a couple times, but don’t see a huge difference though, personally. If you feel comfortable contouring (which, of course, is all the rage right now), then go ahead and do that with darker and lighter cream colors.

Eyes:

First, Urban Decay Primer Potion or your primer of choice (I’ve heard Too Faced is another good one). In lieu of primer, use concealer and powder over your lids.  Primer makes your eyeshadow pop and keeps it from fading or moving throughout the day, which is super important especially if you sweat a lot.  You can also use a cream eyeshadow as a second base, particularly a white one if you are using bright colors – this will keep the color bright. Lots of white pearly highlight below the browbone (really pack it on), then I usually do a smoky eye in either a neutral color combination (gold/brown, or silver/black) or purple, depending on my mood.  Neutral is a little harder to make dramatic, so really pack on the colors and shimmer, and be sure to use a dark color in the crease, like a dark brown or black.  Use a heavier hand than you’re used to – this is even beyond nighttime “going out” makeup. Then I add a thick line of cream, gel, or liquid eyeliner in black, in a cat-eye shape with a flick/wing in the outside corner.  Doing this with a pencil first might help for precision. Also, I just discovered that going over this with a really dark black powder eyeshadow makes it even more dramatic. Add lower-lid color and/or liner if you want.  You can really go crazy with eye makeup here in ways you can’t in everyday life, so take advantage of it!

Curl lashes, add some mascara, then plop on some fake eyelashes. The biggest Ardell-brand ones at CVS are great along with Duo glue in white (it dries clear), and I can re-use them a bunch of times, so long as I peel off the gunky glue off of the lash strip. (P.S. Peeling off my fake lashes at the end of the day is SUCH a good feeling!!)  Fake lashes are really pretty essential to making my smaller Asian eyes pop.  If you’re blessed with huge natural lashes you might be able to go without, but otherwise, I strongly recommend them. They just add a ton of drama and open your eye up, which especially helps with a more neutral, subdued eyeshadow look.  Please do practice putting them on ahead of time, because there’s a learning curve with using them.

Other options: glitter eyeliner or glitter eyeshadow, fake eyelashes with little rhinestones at the base, multiple liner colors, slightly wacky color combinations (cause, why not? So long as they’re somewhat tasteful).  Ballroom is one place where matching your eyeshadow to your dress is not a faux pas, but actually commonplace.   One thing that really helps with intensifying color is applying eyeshadow wet and packing it on with sort of tapping motions instead of brushing or sweeping across the lid.

Edited to add: fill in your eyebrows! I recently started doing this and I think it makes a really big difference.  It’ll look a bit intense up close, but really adds to the polished made-up look.

Awesome purple eye:

How to apply false eyelashes:

Liquid eyeliner:

Brows:

Cheeks: Any bright powder or cream blush should do, so long that it works with your skin tone. For extra contouring, use bronzer in the hollows of your cheeks and a highlighting powder on top of your cheekbones and forehead. I haven’t really gotten the hang of contouring yet, but if you want to try it, check these videos/guides out:

Lips: This is the easiest part. Line your lips with a neutral liner (one that is close to your natural lip color), then fill in with a shade of your choice. I like to do a pink berry-ish color for standard/smooth, and a Snow White true red for Latin/rhythm.  One is softer, and the other is more bold/in-your-face.  Lipliner can help define your lips and keep bright colors from spreading beyond your lipline. Personally, lipstick is all I need, but some people might like to add a lipgloss for extra shine (but don’t do this if your hair is loose, because it will stick to your lips and drive you nuts).  You might want to blot so that it’s less likely to smudge or get on your teeth.  Some girls like to do a dark liner with a lighter lipstick, but I’m not a fan of this, personally.  I don’t recommend using a nude color, so we’re going to break the normal emphasize-eyes-or-mouth-but-not-both rule.  Your mouth will just disappear from a distance, and it’s probably the most expressive part of your face.

For products, you can get by perfectly fine with drugstore products, so long as they are sufficiently pigmented.  A light, sheer, natural look is not what we’re going for.  I recommend NYX, L’Oreal, and Revlon, which are all available at drugstores and/or Ulta. I’ve also heard great things about Morphe and Makeup Geek eyeshadows, which you can order online. Maybelline makes awesome mascaras.  If your skin is finicky, you might want to go for nicer higher-end foundations. Ulta and Sephora will have basically anything you could ever want/need.

Nails: Nice nails are a bonus, but not a necessity. The classic ballroom look is a French manicure on long nails. But, colors are fun too! A classic red or a subtle pink are both great, or maybe something that goes well with your costumes.  Some girls like having those long acrylic nails, but those are a little intense for me. I started growing my nails out for ballroom, but short nails are perfectly okay, too.  The key here is good grooming.  I’ve recently ventured into glue-ones and love using them! They’re so much faster than painting your nails with polish, and look perfect.  They’ll make doing everyday things a bit harder, though, so keep that in mind.  Also, file off the rough edges to avoid scratching your partner or snagging them on things. The point of long nails is to extend your lines and complete the whole done-up look.

Do you need to do different makeup for different dance styles? Well, no, not really, but there is a general trend for Latin/rhythm makeup to be stronger and standard/smooth makeup to be softer.  A lot of people like this sort of “exotic” look for Latin/rhythm, whatever that means.  A bit heavier on the liner, a darker lipstick, maybe extra black eyeshadow in the crease.  You might also want to add some more bronzer as well.

A few good full-ballroom-makeup videos:

Products I Recommend:

  • Revlon Colorstay Liquid Liner
  • L’Oreal HIP Cream Liner Discontinued…but it looks like L’Oreal Infallible Lacquer Liner is its replacement?
  • Urban Decay liners
  • Maybelline Full ‘n’ Soft Mascara and Lash Sensational Mascara
  • L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara
  • Shu Uemura Eyelash Curler (it’s seriously the best, at least for my eye shape)
  • Revlon Super Lustrous lipstick
  • NYX powder eyeshadows and Jumbo Eye Pencils (especially the shade Milk)
  • Urban Decay eyeshadows (especially the Naked palettes)
  • L’Oreal Infallible eyeshadows
  • Maybelline Color Tattoo cream shadows as a base
  • Urban Decay Primer Potion
  • Urban Decay Heavy Metal Glitter Liner
  • NYX Brow Gel
  • NYX powder blushes (normal and mosaic)
  • NARS powder blush in Orgasm (classic)
  • Urbam Decay All Nighter Setting Spray
  • Kiss Everlasting French glue-on nails
  • Essie and Revlon nail polishes
  • Seche Vite Dry Fast Top Coat
  • Ardell false eyelashes
  • Duo lash glue