Dance – The Best Way to Improve Your Ballroom Dancing

It seems like an obvious thing to say, but if you want to substantially improve your dancing – practice your basic. That’s right, practice that really, really simple step you have been doing since Day One. Get in front of a mirror and do it over and over. Look at it. See how your body transitions through each part of the step. Critique yourself. You have been watching people around you and you know there are some who simply look better than you do. Here’s your chance to up your whole game a notch.

Why?

Because the basic is the step you always come back to. You may do a flashy move once or twice in a single dance. But the basic is there over and over, between those moves. Transitioning from a fancy move back to an elegantly executed basic is what seals the move and makes it special. If you do a flashy move and end it with a poorly executed basic you throw away half the beauty of the complex step.

How do you improve your basic?

Start with your balance. Are you properly balanced to take that first step? Is all your weight on one foot ready to move? Is your weight forward, your frame and posture correct? For each part of the step, are you moving swiftly from one balanced point to another? Do you minimize split weight with the body caught between the feet? Are your steps too wide? As an exercise, try to make them as small as possible while still hitting all the correct placements required by the figure.

Dance is about control. Can you move through each step without having your shoulders shrug or move? Shoulder movement should be a compliment to a step. If you cannot control it, it becomes a detriment. Isolate the hips from the chest at the waist. Even smooth dances require isolation to emphasize control and balance.

Check your feet. Are you hitting every step on the correct part of your foot? Landing too far back on the ball of the foot can cause you fall at the end of many latin and swing steps. Landing on a flat foot in a forward or side step, usually results in a heavy jerking movement that makes the frame shake.

Are you using your knees to lower into the floor or are you stretching with your calves and falling heavily? Are you using the thigh muscles to maintain the rhythm of the dance, or are you just trying to get your feet to hit on the beat?

You can check every one of these items in your basic. And if you improve your basic then it is a short leap to carrying that improvement to all the other steps you do.

So always start with your basic. No matter how good it is, it could be better. And, it will give you the most improvement for the time you invest.

David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.
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Food Review – Crazy Burger

Crazy Burger Cafe and Juice Bar

144 Boon St
Narragansett, RI 02882

Crazy Burger must be one of the most reviewed restaurants in South County – and for good reason. Crazy Burger is one of my go-to places for an incredible breakfast. The decor has to be seen to be believed. Crazy doesn’t quite cover it. No waiters in formal black attire here. In fact, the menu invites you to “BYOBBAM” – Bring your own booze by all means.

The seating is limited and even the locals will stand outside in the cold in middle of January for a meal here.

The waitstaff are the best you will ever meet in a relaxed style place. They work together with smooth efficiency in a place that still would be full if it were twice the size. Everybody shares the load. Waitresses will bus tables when their load is light. I’ve seen cooks deliver drinks when the load was heavy. You can tell the staff likes each other. And that happy atmosphere carries into the way they treat their customers. They WANT you to have a good meal. They want you to enjoy the food and the service.

Crazy Burger has a small back courtyard area for outdoor dining. It opens in the spring and stays open until just before the snow flies. The place is dense with tables and plants. It stays fairly cool even on hot summer days and when the temperature dips they have gas powered heating units to keep away the chill.

The back area is handicap accessible but the crushed stone driveway makes it a serious challenge. The outer front door is narrow and two small steps to an inner front door are a real challenge for the non-handicapped, so no entry through the front for those in a wheelchair without assistance.

Now, let’s talk breakfast. Eggs Benedict is one of my favorites here, served with a wonderful batch of cubed home fries or fresh fruit. Yes, I know that it’s considered sort of trite to like eggs Benedict. But try it here and tell me I’m wrong.
I also like their Western Quesadillas with red peppers, crumbled bacon, eggs, a Monterey Jack cheese, and soft, artfully browned, folded, and pie cut quesadilla which fills half the plate. It is served with a small pool of hollandaise and a thin slice orange as a complement to the meal. It works!
You can also opt for a fun and basic dish like the Surfer’s Breakfast, or come a bit later for some of the lunch items. The Gorgonzola Burger is fantastic!
Of course there are puns all over the menu. My favorite, and the favorite of reviewers is the Lunacy Burger, made with salmon and wrapped with a paper thin pastry shell.
I could go on, but there is no need. Ask anybody where they want to go for a crazy good meal – and, yes, you can finish the pun.
In spite of the lack of handicap accessibility this restaurant still deserves five stars. The service, the atmosphere and the staff are just wonderful. I hope you like it as much as I do.
David Dougher – author, ballroom dance instructor, computer consultant, game designer, and odd fellow.

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Current Events I’m planning to attend

Frankly, I’m swamped with writing and marketing.  So I’m not planning on going very far from home this month.

I do teach a group class at Ocean State Health and Fitness on Thursday evenings at 7:30 for those who would like to start or improve their dancing.  Or, you can schedule a private lesson.  I’m in the phone book.  Or link to riDance.com and check out Movable Feet on the left side column.

I try to get out at least once a week to go dancing.  Favorite places are the Knickerbocker in Westerly for Swing, K&S dances for ballroom (a bit more rarely), and I like to pop into other places from time to time.

As far as food reviews go, I have several on the Yelp site that I will be transferring and expanding on this month and I hope to add a few more as I go.  Current favorites for breakfast based on where you are…

  • East Greenwich area – Jiggers is first choice, Dante’s or Crosby’s if Jiggers is closed (like Tuesdays).  Ed’s Roost is excellent too (but it is cash only)
  • Narragansett area – Crazy Burger
  • Exeter – Celestial Cafe ( weekend brunch)
  • Westerly area – The Cooked Goose  (check for their winter vacation shutdown)

There are many more, but these are among my favorites.

Why the Basic’s Matter

Nowhere do you get a clearer picture of how much the basics, the fundamentals, matter in life, than in dance.  For the leader, basic footwork, a fundamental frame, and attention to timing is essential to giving a good lead to your partner.  Likewise, the ability to follow, the ability to respond correctly to the subtle shifts in a partner’s lead, and simply looking your best on the floor is dependent on making sure your basic is the best it can be.

I always try to explain to my students that the real key to becoming a better dancer is not to learn a billion steps.  Instead, try to learn the fundamental characteristics of each dance.  Then master the basic step in each dance and practice it relentlessly until you do it without thinking.

When each step you take in the basic is done properly, then you are ready to transition to other more complicated steps and return to that basic step while maintaining a constant flow of movement characteristic with the dance.

Just as martial artists must respond instantaneously to their opponent’s moves, counter, and return to balance,  a good ballroom dancer must respond quickly within the constraints of the music, the position of others on the floor, and the characteristics of the dance..  Focus should not be wasted on basic footwork.  Incorrect or sloppy footwork leads to poor balance, improper timing, and missed signals.

For the leader, having to think about your basic footwork means you lose time in the selection of what steps to lead.  You can miss what people are doing around you.  You can fail to see how your partner is reacting to your lead.  Not to mention that if you are concentrating on your footwork it is quite likely your frame is suffering and you don’t look your best!

For the follower, it can mean being off balance in a turn, missing leads, looking down, and occasionally getting a foot stepped on!

So, don’t worry about how many steps you know.  Worry about how well you are doing them.

 

How I Review

This is a new blog area for me.  I’m expanding on the reviews I do for Yelp.  I don’t do a lot.  I’m pretty choosy.  Here, you will get some additional insight on my choices for good places to eat.  I’m also going to tell you a bit about my philosophy on food reviews.  I’ll comment a bit on some of the other factors I take into consideration, like service, ambiance, handicap accessibility, noise level, and even pet friendly service.

Obviously, food quality is of paramount importance.  Fresh fruits, meats, and vegetables are the starting point of any good meal.  Portion size is another factor.  These form the basis for the food portion of any review.

However, I often see reviews in which the reviewer seems to have blundered into the wrong place.  Looking for a quiet meal and elegant dining at a sports bar during the Super Bowl is ludicrous.  In fact, expecting great service is pretty much out the window too.

When I review I try to see what the focus of the restaurant is.  Are you trying to be an upscale restaurant, a country getaway, or a family friendly buffet?  I do not expect to get coq au vin, from a pizza and burger joint.  If the servers are coming to my car on roller skates, I’m not expecting the menu to have a big wine list.

My expectations are also set by what I want to eat.  When hungry I look for places with large portions.  If the waistline is pushing staunchly against the belt buckle, I seek out places with smaller portions and more interesting choices.

I try to give a more detailed view of my expectations in my review.  So, if I tell you that the décor is fun and interesting,  I’m also telling you that it’s not the place for a quiet, intimate, candlelight dinner.  If I say I liked chatting with the servers, that means I talked to them and they were intelligent, bright, conversationalists.  If I say the servers were efficient and the restaurant was intimate then I’m telling you that this is not a place for a sweats and sneakers.

I also have a personal policy of never giving a bad review.  It’s not that I have never been to a bad restaurant or gotten a bad meal.  I’ve had some that left me in an intimate relationship with the porcelain goddess for hours.  You won’t hear about those places in my reviews.

Why?  Because it serves no useful purpose.  I’m happy to tell you where you should go to eat.  I’m happy to tell you who has great service, wonderful food, and a great ambiance.  I would rather direct you to those places than to denigrate a restaurant that may have gotten a shipment of bad meat, that fired the incompetent chef I reviewed two weeks earlier, or who axed the waitress who got my order wrong three times in a single meal.  You don’t want to know all the bad places to eat – you want to know the good ones.

I also believe that price is important, but not critical, in choosing a restaurant.  I have enough of the penny-pincher in me to want to get a good meal at a fair price.  I don’t want a great meal at a great price.  Why?  Because I’ll love the food and they will either have to drop their quality or raise their price to stay in business.  If they don’t. I’d be reviewing a business that would soon be hosting a “For Sale” sign.

That said, a good chef can turn ordinary ingredients into something extraordinary.  Those are the places I love to find, and love to share.  And, when backed by a great service staff, and a good atmosphere, those are the places I highly recommend.

I’ll have more to say on that later.  But, I think it gives you an idea of where I’m at.

 

Living Life

I was thinking today about how many times we go through a whole day, just to reach the end and measure ourselves against what we have accomplished.  We make lists of things to get done, check them off, and go to bed, often unsatisfied with the outcome.  Usually this is because we have even more things to do tomorrow.

I admit I live in that world most of the time.  But, once in a great while, I manage to do something unexpected, something I personally enjoyed doing, that wasn’t called for, that wasn’t part of the plan, and I realize that much of my life is happening while I am hunched over, planning what I am going to do next.

There is something to be said for getting the essentials for life done, but just how much further should we go in pursuit of “getting it all done.”

If you are like most Americans, (and increasingly like most people in the world who are slavishly following in our footsteps) then you have more things to do in any given day than you can possibly accomplish.  The vast majority of self-help books basically consist of a set of guidelines for filtering out what are the most important things you want to do, arranging them in order of priority, determining how long each will take to do, and consoling yourself that you spent your entire day doing the most important things.  The result is supposed to be a happy productive life.  But for many I suspect it simply means that you have a really good idea that you are totally overwhelmed.

So, I’d like to offer a prescription for American Time Management.

Chill.

Take a deep breath.  Close your eyes.  Let it out.  Now, say this out loud to yourself.

“I owe myself a break.  I’ve worked hard, I deserve it.  I am taking five minutes, right now, that are just for me.  Not for friends, family, society, or habits.  I am not going to think of anything to do.  For five minutes I am going to relax and take in the whole world around me.  I am going to appreciate the simple fact that I am in control of my destiny.

“Maybe I’ll have a cup of tea.”

Putting my First Novel ‘Hayden’s War’ up for Free – for a short time.

For those who have been following my writing efforts over the past year or so I have a fun announcement.  You can go over to my David Nash Blog website and read about my plan to give away my first book for free.

It’s to test a marketing idea I had and I am hoping that lots of people check it out. You can use the main menu or the link above to get over there and read about it – and the marketing plan.

Happy reading!  And please share this with all your friends on social media!

Haydens War cover

OK. I’m back

I’m not sure what the “proper” amount of time one is expected to spend mourning the loss of a parent.  In my case it’s up until now.  No writing, no editing, just the day to day work required to keep my bills and my bank account within waving distance.

Going forward, I think that I will be ok.  I feel like my dad’s presence is still there.  I still hear his advice when I’m contemplating doing something difficult, outrageous, or just plain stupid.  It’s a voice I heard my whole life, whether he was actually there or not.  I don’t expect I’ll ever stop hearing it.  I wouldn’t want to.

My life needs to move on.  I have new stories to tell, lessons I’ve learned to be shared, and new sunrises to see.

He got to read my first novel. He liked it.  The sequel will be dedicated to him.

I think he’d like that too.

First book printing is done!

Well the first book is now out in paperback.  As I may have mentioned I write all my fiction under the name David Nash to make it easier for people to find it on bookshelves.  I have also set up a website — http://www.davidnashblog.com where I am going to cover all the fiction work I do.  You can jump over there now to see the new website and get links to the book and even to the earlier short stories I wrote for Tales of Isgalduin.

I’m also doing a David Nash Facebook page.  I did one before, but messed it up so it needs to be redone.  I’m sure that before everything is completed there will be a David Nash Twitter account and a David Nash Pinterest page as well.

I may end up with a split personality.

Considering how frequently l forget to update this site I have also decided to actually join a blogging group to help keep me on track.  So, in the future I expect to make more regular postings on this and the David Nash site.

Anyway, what are you waiting for?  Jump on over to http://www.davidnashblog.com and take a look at the first book.  Laci Willette did a great job on the cover and you can read an excerpt from the Amazon link to the book.  It’s available for Kindle and can be ordered from both Barnes and Noble as well as Amazon.com

 

Cover for first book nearly complete. Should hit the electronic shelves soon.

Well the cover for the new book is almost done.  Just needs some tweaking and it will be ready to go.  While I wait, I’m fighting the urge to go back to reread and tweak the novel just one more time.

Content edits on the steampunk novel are about 50% complete.  I expect that I will start moving into the rewrite phase sometime next week.  I’ve handed off the cover for that one earlier so that the novel and the cover should arrive within a week of each other.

Moving forward, I am gearing up for work on a non-fiction book on time management.  That one will require a lot more organizational effort, since there is so much ground to cover.  There have been many books written on the subject.  My goal is focus on how to make time management more about managing your time to accomplish what will lead to a happier life and less about managing your time in order to just get more done.

Any professional time management coach will tell you that there is not enough time for anyone to accomplish all they are capable of.  Good time management skills can make you more efficient at accomplishing tasks.  Great time management helps you focus your efforts on the things that are meaningful to you, and demands that you give yourself due credit for reaching those goals.