Guest Post: The Girl With The Tree Tattoo

I cannot tell you how incredibly pleased I am to get to share this next Balllroom Village Blogger with you!

Please welcome Girl With The Tree Tattoo!

I appreciate her authenticity, enthusiasm, and willingness to share.  Please do check out her Blog at:

And for a special treat, you can see her in action, dancing!

Without further ado, Enjoy!


“I can’t…I have dance.”


Balancing a Full-Time Life and Ballroom


First of all, I am honored to be writing a guest post for the Biggest Girl in the Ballroom! I found Stefanie’s blog because it showed up on my suggested list from WordPress. Thank you, WordPress algorithms! It’s so exciting to be able to connect with a fellow ballroom dancer. As for me, I have been a student/addict of ballroom dancing for over 2 years. I have been competing for just under a year and currently compete at the bronze level in Smooth. I call myself the Girl with the Tree Tattoo because of the tree tattoo that covers my entire back. Important to note: I have not been dancing my entire life. I did a couple years of ballet, jazz and tap when I was 6 and 7 years old. But that’s it for my dance education. So I can’t do a split and spray tanning still weirds me out.


I wanted to take this opportunity to share the challenges I face in trying to maintain a balance between my “regular” life and ballroom. I am a full-time member of the cube farm, working as a technical editor. And to help pay for ballroom, I’ve taken on two additional jobs, freelance editing and personal assistant to my ballroom instructor, and started selling scones (I love baking and scones have become my specialty). A typical weekday for me starts at 5am and goes like this: get up, take my two dogs for a walk, eat and get ready for work, go to office and work, go home, take dogs for another walk, eat (maybe), go to ballroom studio, take group class and/or practice, go home, take dogs for another walk, go to bed. Two days a week, I have private lessons, so insert another “go to ballroom studio” in between work and home. I’m usually home for the night around 9:30pm and try to be in bed by 10:30. Somewhere in there, I find time to write, take care of any freelance jobs I may have, and complete entry forms or other assistant tasks for my teacher. Doesn’t leave much time for anything else! I hate it when I run out of food. It’s such an inconvenience.


If you’re like me, once you started ballroom dancing, your entire life pretty much revolved around it. You scheduled other appointments so they wouldn’t interfere with your lessons. You declined non-dance friends’ invitations because you were going to a practice party that night. If your teacher asked to reschedule a lesson to an atypical time for you, you did whatever you could to rearrange your schedule to make it work. Everything starts to take a back seat to ballroom, including grocery shopping.


Unless you’re independently wealthy or you find a way to get paid to be at the studio all of the time, you have to establish a balance between your ballroom and your work. And if you want to maintain relationships with the non-dance people in your life, like your family and friends that were there before you discovered the missing piece that was ballroom, you have to establish a balance between your ballroom social life and your “regular” social life. It’s not easy!


I’ve been blessed with friends and family who are very supportive of my ballroom dancing. They see what a positive impact it has made on my life, how much happier I am, and they want that to continue. And it just so happens that my boss is a fellow ballroom dancer and is the one who introduced me to the studio I dance at now. So she understands when I tell her “I can’t stay late today, I have a lesson.” But their support and understanding will only go so far if I start neglecting things other than my dancing. The key is balance. I rarely go to the studio on weekends, saving that time for social time with friends and errands/chores. Also, I make an effort to return the support. It’s easy to get swept up in your own passions, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there to support your friends in their passions. So I will skip a group class and I have even told my teacher “sorry, I can’t reschedule.” Dance withdrawal be damned!


It’s an odd feeling to be so dedicated to and passionate about something that others view as just a hobby, secondary to “real life.” Sometimes it feels like I cross into another dimension when I enter the studio. There, people understand why I have three pairs of shoes in my dance bag – rhythm, smooth and practice. I can say that my next goal is Emerald Ball and they nod and smile and say “that’s great!” They know what I mean when I say I need to work on my frame. Outside the ballroom dimension, people just ask me if what I do is like Dancing with the Stars. No, Dancing with the Stars is like what I do, not the other way around. It’s a little anti-climactic when someone at my office (other than my boss) hears that I wasn’t at work the other day because I was at a dance competition and they say “oh, that’s cool, how was it?” and I exclaim “I won best of the best in bronze smooth!” And they just stare at me with a blank smile and then say “ok, great!” while walking back to their desk, because they have no idea what that means or what a big deal it is for me. Like I said, different dimensions.


On the flip side, having a full-time job outside of ballroom means I can’t dedicate myself as much as I might like to my dancing. I can’t make it to the day classes offered at my studio unless I take a long lunch and then make up the time at work, assuming my workload allows for a long lunch. I always have to request time off to attend a competition, and I almost didn’t get it approved for Emerald Ball next month because my boss is on vacation at the same time. She has no issues with it, but my time off also has to be approved by a manager above her. When my teacher asked me if I would be able to afford a few entries at the upcoming San Diego Ballroom Beach Bash, organized by one of his coaches who he wanted to support, I had to tell him I probably could figure something out finance-wise, but there was no way I would get the time off because my boss was also competing at San Diego. I tell him it’s because the company is very focused on utilization goals right now and I get that familiar blank smile/stare. Different dimensions.


I say again, the key is balance. I am not one of those people with endless amounts of energy; I have a limited supply, and so I need to be particular about how I spend it. Some weeks are really hard to get through. By the time I get to the studio for a lesson and my teacher asks me how I am, the most I can say is “I’m here.” But it’s so incredibly worth it. That ballroom dimension provides something you just don’t get in the “real world.” And once you get a taste, you don’t want to give it up. So do what you have to do, walk that tightrope between those dimensions, and keep chasing those dreams!

So Much To Be Grateful For… (Or, The Longest Post Ever!)

Yes, I know it is improper to end a sentence in a proposition, and also, it seemed appropriate…So sue me! Not! Lol.  Artistic/Poetic License and all that….

Okay now (and as fair warning, I will be using lots of ellipses in this post)

First things first….I am so Influential! LOL!  FINALLY got my friend Nena and my Mom to take advantage of the introductory lessons I gave them for Christmas!!!  So what, it is March….?  Better late than never!

Ahem…and Michelle, you know who you are…


Okay, so back to the narrative, I’m so genuinely thrilled for them both (Nena and Mom)!  They both enjoyed their time at the studio, from the sounds of it, dancing, which makes me so very happy.

They can choose what to do after the introductory package runs out, that is totally up to them, and I respect that.  Nena danced with Ivan previously, and my mom also had one lesson with him too, before her two knee replacements!  Now they are both ready to dance if they choose to….

And now, switching gears, on to the philosophical frontier….

Geezes.  Not sure how to put all this into words.  So here goes.

Good things.

Not so good things.

Here’s my way of “explaining:”

I guess the place to start is the showcase.  I can’t believe how many people liked and commented on the one photo I shared, both on my personal Facebook page and the blog page.  Truly, I was astounded.



Well, so the “report” is that it went well.  I felt totally calm which was great.  I knew what I was doing and where I was dancing.  Other than that, I was grateful my parents, husband, and friend, Nena, came to watch.

So I come to my lesson Monday morning and the DVD of the performance is in…I am not necessarily keen to watch it, but I also understand the value of having my instructor see it.  So we plug it in and I’m not horrified, which is good, if you’ve ever watched yourself perform.  I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it is for me to watch myself in action on film.  Truly, it makes me sick to my stomach.  But anyways, I want to grow, so I’ve resigned myself to watching feedback so that I can get better.

Well, watching the film, like I said, the worst wasn’t realized.  I was okay with it.  Not epic, or lovely, or beautiful, or any of that, but also not disgusting and maybe a little bit fun…I’ll take it!

So we watch the DVD and proceed to dance on our lesson.  Interestingly, about 3/4ths of the way through my lesson after the showcase I noticed something different was happening.  It was so weird!

Like I said, Damir watched the video, too.  As we danced, he was giving me all this high level information, information about my lats, my upper body, things that had previously been “off limits” or to “be ignored” just because I was focusing on my feet, ankles, and knees for stability.  Well, suddenly, I realized 40 minutes in that I’m getting coaching and information on all this stuff that I knew was missing but that I also implicitly agreed was off the table for the moment, until I could get my foundation under control.

So here we are, 40 minutes into a 45 minute lesson and I suddenly feel like I can move, like I can do more, like I’ve been holding back for the sake of creating stability.  And Damir says, “Stefanie, you were so solid in every step on that video.  Each step could not have been more clear.  You knew where you were on each weight change and you never took any step that was too big.  I am basing all the information I am sharing on this, from seeing the video.  And,  apparently it is time for you to have more information.”

Um, wow?!!?!?!

Happy Dance!

For sure I’ve felt more solid, stable, and on balance, but I have to say that I’ve wondered if I’ve changed my dancing at all since I stepped into Damir’s studio.  The truth is, yes, I most definitely have.  It has been subtle, and maybe slow to appear, but yes, the quality of my dancing has changed.

I have to tell you, lol, I was horrified!  Damir informed me that when I first walked into the studio my feet moved “6 feet” at a time (according to him) but now they are “planted.”

All I know is that I feel much more stable and generally I know where my weight is – and also that if I go off-balance I can recover much more quickly than before.   All are immeasurable benefits.

I guess it’s good.  Maybe with this coaching and information I can maybe mold myself into the artist I long to be….

(More ellipses….)

And, yes, it IS good. I am supported.  I am growing.  My dancing IS changing.  There is even evidence of that fact captured on film, at least according to Damir! Lol.

So yeah, time to switch to yet another subject…. (more ellipses)

Yesterday I went to work out and I was pissed.  There were so many things that were SO difficult for me to execute.  There were so many times I pushed my heart rate to the max.  I was annoyed that my body is not in the condition to execute all items asked to an elite level.  And, also, I fail to acknowledge all I did do during that session.  I was in the top 3 people getting through rounds in the weight room.  I pushed my heart rate up to over 185, and I saw many others not needing the recovery period like I did because I pushed myself so hard.  This is not to compare, this is only to say, I did my best, in a lot of ways in this work out, and, if I am honest, in every work out. No I don’t max myself in every single way on every single work out, AND, I  DO push myself, and usually I max out at least one muscle group, or my lungs, or something! I mean, if I don’t push my limits on at least one exercise in a workout, what was the point?  The point of a workout is to grow and expand limits.  Maybe not on all items, but for sure on one or more! So anyways, good work, why can’t I acknowledge it?  Why am I obsessed with the thought of being “inferior” or not “good enough?”  Truly that is a question worthy of exploration!

In any case, the bottom line is that I did a “good” job and at the same time, I have these mental demons that torment me and remind me at every turn how I am never, ever, ever doing enough.  So after pushing my limits a few times (not on every event – but still) after my work out yesterday, I was discouraged, disheartened, and upset (And, as an aside here… (more ellipses) What the hell is up with that?! OMG! – So Crappy, that is!!! – Because like 2 years ago even the thought of doing what I’m doing in these workouts stopped me dead in my tracks and now I’m doing them regularly…)  I just felt like it is all so difficult.  I push so hard.  So why am I still so Fucking Fat?  I see people beside me who look so perfectly proportioned, lean, beautiful…and they are barely breaking a sweat.  I can’t even explain how UNFAIR it feels.


Can you hear the Bullshit alarm going off?  I can!

Do I know what they do, eat, or execute during the other 23 hours of their lives when I am not on a treadmill beside them???


Why do I even go into the Comparison Game, Anyway?  It’s a Lose-Lose Proposition…..


Oh the DRAMA!  I’m so damn Human! lol.

So the bright spot is I left the work out and had a decision.  And I usually would have just thought, “Well, I’ll go home and wallow in my misery.”  And this time I went to the studio and practiced a dance exercise.  LOL!  Why? Because I’m committed.  And, I am determined to get the proper dance rhythm in my body.  So I am willing to work on it.  And it was great, and I got to see people at the studio I love and adore.  It really was such a nice choice, especially after my mental negativity fiasco.

Go me!  I mean, really now!  This is Epic.  At least for a mere mortal like me.  :)

So what is the sum total of all this talking/writing?  I’m not sure, except that I DO know I have a LOT to be GRATEFUL for.

I just posted a status on my personal page that said, “As much as I still sometimes (daily) have negative thoughts about my body and how it looks, I am also constantly reminded of how grateful I am for the condition it is in now as compared to even a year ago.  When I see people having trouble getting around in the grocery store, when I watch My 600 pound Life on tv, when I see my own reflection lifting 100 pound barbells in the gym…I have a lot to be thankful for.  Here’s to three weeks of consistently getting to all my dance lessons, gym sessions, and all but one Orange Theory workout.  Good job, Stef!  Keep up the good work and it will only get easier to move!”


I mean, most people in this world haven’t experienced the joy of walking! It is SUCH a joy for me these days.  It used to be that I had the weight of a refrigerator on my back.  Now, I can stroll as if I am walking on a cloud.  I walked for 3 hours on my desk treadmill like it was nothing today!  This would not have been possible before, and I tell you, in all sincerity, even 10 pounds makes a world of difference!  So just imagine having 100+ pounds on your frame.  You can’t!  That’s the goddamned truth.

Well, anyways, enough of that ranting diatribe! Lol.  I am done waxing poetical for the moment!

The Bottom line is that I AM Grateful.  I have so much to be grateful for.

And, I promise to post a video of the showcase once I get the digital file from Damir.



Love, Stef





Getting Real

Howdy folks.  I thought it was time for another blog post and also a lot of crap has been going through my brain and this is one great way to sort through it.

Let’s start with the dancing, that’s probably the cheeriest part.  The big news is that I’m doing a showcase next Friday.  The routine is still incomplete and I haven’t danced a full routine, much less in public, in many many months.  Also, I only have one wardrobe option because I ended up giving my other two dresses away.  Why?  I vowed I am changing and I refuse to be seen in those old dresses again.  I wanted to get rid of them because I wanted to send a message to my subconscious that I was serious about this vow, that there was no back door, no way out, that I have excised the choice to even step backwards and present myself as I was before.   Anyways, I’m doing a cha-cha to “Boogie Shoes” because I wanted to do something fun, light, and energetic.  I don’t feel too much pressure about this since it’s not a competitive setting and pretty much I just wanted to have some fun dancing.  I’ve been focusing so much on the technique lately, and all my lessons are so early in the morning, that it hasn’t been as much fun, even though I do enjoy my lessons for the most part.  So anyways, I’m looking forward to it and it’s also a plus because now I’ll have an open routine for if/when I dance next.  Happily, my husband and parents will be in attendance and there will be a DVD.

Also in dance news, I posted it on my Facebook page, that I was a super-lucky-ducky and because Damir is friends with Andrej Skufca and Melinda Torokgyorgy, he occasionally has them coach at the studio and I got one lesson with each.  Damir ended up being really sick so I was alone with them but it was absolutely wonderful.  It was so helpful to see the way Melinda moved and she was able to work with me on Rumba on basic steps.  We talked a lot about incorporating the upper body and arms, which basically stems from using the core, squeezing and compressing between the hips and ribs, which made it easier to coordinate the lats.  It definitely elucidated some muscle memory habits I have, and it also gave me the opportunity to feel the correct postures in my body.  On my lesson with Andrej, we worked on samba and it was also excellent.  He helped me, again with principles of dancing on basic steps and it again elucidated how much more movement I can be generating with the body of mine, which is kind of exciting while at the same time daunting.  It is also just wonderful to be in the presence of greatness, to stand beside these people, see how they are moving, and compare it to what I’m doing, and getting nudged toward what I could be doing to expand, express, and hold my space even more.  Truly it was a wonderful experience and I think the best part was that I wasn’t overly intimidated.  I mean, these two compete in the top competitions in the world alongside the likes of Joanna and Michael, many times in the final.  I certainly have an immense amount of respect for them and look up to them.  However, I didn’t feel “less than” them, even though certainly I’m less experienced and on their dance level.  It was a wonderful space to be in because just a few short years ago I think I would have been so “in my head” worried about how bad I was compared to them that I would have missed being truly present with them and what they had to offer as coaches/teachers.  So that’s a big win, not to mention all the other benefits I already mentioned.  And this is especially wonderful in light of my body, my big, pudgy, large, non-dancer-looking body.  I’m still pretty embarrassed about it in general.  I’m still not proud of it, so that is a bummer and brings me to my next section…

The not-so-cheery stuff.

So I hired that guy to help me with my goals and it just didn’t work out.  What I thought I was getting, and what I had actually purchased were two very different things.  Initially I filled out all these forms with all these questions and I was very vulnerable with this guy, telling him everything, pretty much begging him to help me get this done once and for all.  I thought I would be getting coaching, but instead, I got 2 half-hour workouts with his sister as a trainer that didn’t even push me as much as I push myself when I go to the gym on my own and I sent him emails of what I ate every day.  That, plus a 20 page manifesto that was not clear and had a lot of information he never followed up on, as well as a calorie and carbohydrate limit for the day.  So after a few weeks of diligently sending my menu daily, I’d get one word feedback like, “don’t drink Diet Coke” or “Don’t use too much Bragg’s Amino Acids.”  And I was like, hey, I know Diet Coke isn’t like the best choice, however, it’s not the worst, either.  Look at the rest of the day and how awesome I did.  Thanks a lot (not!) for focusing in on the one not-so-great thing – firstly, that’s why I don’t choose it every day, it’s a once in a while (like once in a month) type choice and secondly, I am not about being perfect, and thirdly, I’m already so hard on myself, I already focus in on all my shortcomings and flaws, I don’t need this type of crap from a person who is supposed to be coaching me, ESPECIALLY since this was the only feedback for the entire day – there was NO mention of what I did well, there was no encouragement building me up….and that’s what I thought I’d be getting.  I mean, great, give me feedback about not drinking Diet Coke but, like, anything else you wanna mention?  So basically, I was doing this process on my own, like always, and so why I am I paying for that?  I communicated my true thoughts to him, which is a pretty big deal for me to really speak my truth and to really say, “hey!  This isn’t working for me!”  It’s not always easy for me to declare my needs and ask for what I want but I did.  And he was like, “Well maybe what you need is Life Coaching.”  And that was probably the best advice he gave me.  He’s right – and – based on our interactions – he’s not the coach for me.

So that’s that.  And now here I am, fatty-fat-fat.  At least that is how I am feeling right now.  It’s so disappointing to see my body in the mirror, while at the same time, I’m about 10 pounds down and can move easier, at least it seems so.  It feels like my fat tissues are thinning out, however, when I look in the mirror, I’m still as big as ever.  I don’t see changes, at least not big ones, and I’m still in my same clothing.

I’m still watching my diet and doing my orange theory cardio sessions and getting to the gym twice weekly to get in some heavy weight lifting (last week I did 90 pound deadlifts, which was a personal record and I am looking to do 100 pounds this week because I felt like I could do more.)  Oh – and one of the things the trainer said to me was that as I lost weight I’d lose strength, and that so doesn’t work for me.  No way, Jose!  I intend to continue to get stronger.  That’s totally possible!  Why would a trainer ever say something like that?   Okay so anyways, the process continues, and it feels like it is so Goddamned slow – but what’s new?  A this point it is imperative to stay consistent with the process.  However, something’s got to change, I’m not sure what, because I’m committed to changing!!!  But here’s the deal that’s really hanging me up right now:

I don’t want to compete until I look dramatically different.  On one hand, it’s my line in the sand and I know that it will be such a boost in confidence to really make a change before I dance again.  On the other hand, it’s a big bummer because how long do I not dance because I’m so hung up about my body and my appearance and miss out on something that brings me so much joy?  I don’t know that there is a “right” answer to this, it’s just the crap that is swirling around in my mind.

So Damir told me he talked with Ivan the other day, and I was so excited about it.  I think there is still hope we might dance together again, though I’m not attached to that particular outcome.  But anyways, today I decided to send him a little text just to say I miss him and I hope everything is going great for him and Marieta.  He was happy to get my text and asked me how I was and when I’d be on the dance floor.  All I could say was that I don’t know and that I don’t feel ready yet….and what I didn’t say is that the biggest reason for that (besides not having completed routines lol) is because I’m still fat.  Part of me was tempted to answer, “How are you?”  with “Still too fat to dance with you.”  Because part of me would love to dance with him, but I really want/need to be confident in myself before I do that, and to me, that means having a dramatically smaller, leaner body.

Seriously, it’s really mucking me up inside.  How much do I let my adipose rule my life?  But also, what about compromising on my vow?  That’s really important too.  The answer is seemingly simple:  Just lose the weight, dork!  Then you can dance and not break your vow.  Well, that’s what I’ve been intending to do…and it doesn’t seem to be happening. I mean, on one side it seems like it’s happening because I feel like my body is changing, slightly, but then it doesn’t seem like it’s changing because I’m still in the same clothes and my belly seems so big right now, and I just don’t want to step on the competitive floor like this.  Ugh!!!!

And my mind is so mean to me.  Like today while working out I was so bummed with myself because I can’t do all that is demonstrated, and my heart rate doesn’t get below 160 even when “resting” and it’s just so hard, and I even got my heart rate up to 192 and killed myself, and it’s like still not enough.  My body is so stubborn!  I look around the room and I’m killing myself and so what – I still look like a slob.  I sometimes go into the “It’s so unfair, pity-party, victim bullshit” for a moment or two, I’m not gonna lie.  But even with all this negative Nelly going on, I mean, I’m still there.  Double Ugh!!!  I’m just in a bummer mood lately.  I am also frustrated because it’s a choice to feel this way.  I mean, I could be loving toward myself and happy with myself regardless of my weight.  And yet, my happiness is very much tied up with this.  I know I’d feel better about me if I were thinner.  It’s so crappy!!!!!  It’s so, so crappy.  Like, I withhold love, acceptance, and approval of myself and I think I’ll give it to myself if I were thinner.  But is that even true?  It’s such a racket!  Why am I stuck in this mind spiral?  How do I get out of it?  When is what I do enough even if it is not getting the results I want?  Does that mean it is truly not enough?  When is enough, enough?  When do I just feel good about me  and feel confident about myself just as I am?  Period. Without all these requirements and conditions?  I keep thinking that if I continue to monitor my diet and workout the outcome should be inevitable…but it sure doesn’t seem to be a straight line at all. Triple UGH!!!!


Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily asking you for the answers to all these questions lol (Though if you have some kind encouragement or insights, I’m open to hearing that).  Mostly I’m just processing this so it gets out of me and I can move forward toward my goals and dreams.  Because one thing is certain, I’m not giving up!  And there are really big changes in who I used to be and who I am today – like how working out has become a habit and I have a totally different relationship with food, and like how I actually spoke up for myself and stated what wasn’t working for me and what I needed.  These are all good things, and I’m still trucking, damnit!  Even if the results have been disappointing to me thus far.

But speaking of goals and dreams, the showcase is a week away, then after that Damir promises me we’ll sit down and talk about “the plan.” “The plan” meaning what we will do this year.  I think it will have to be flexible, but also I think to actually put something on the calendar will create a shift in urgency and make things real again.  So, we’ll see.

I don’t know how “good” of a blog post this was tonight, but I do know that I can’t be the only one struggling with my body and questioning when I let it hold me back from experiencing joy in life.  I can’t be the only one who struggles with self-esteem, self-appreciation, self-love.  Maybe that has some value in sharing?  Who knows?  Thanks for humoring me.



Dance Lesson Roulette

Does this happen to you where you never really know how you are going to show up on your lesson?  Like the night before my lesson I will have all these ideas and machinations about how the lesson will go, the questions I want to ask, the things I want to work on, and then I wake up, go to my lesson, and it’s completely out the window.  The best laid plans…..

I guess that each lesson is just pretty much a version of Roulette.  I could be feeling good, ready to go, motivated, or, well, things could happen like they happened for me yesterday morning.

So here’s the deal.  I woke up and I just felt so drained and achy in my body.  I have been sick sick sick for 2 weeks.  It started in my ear, proceeded to my nose, then lodged into my throat and chest.  Being as I have the asthma, it lingers.  Sincerely, today is the first day it’s actually been better.  I’ve been coughing, desperately, painfully, wetly, deeply for two weeks.  Like to the point that my muscles are sore in my rib cage from the effort to produce sputum (graphic!  I know!  But I lived it lol).

Anyways, so I’m on the rebound from that, I am coughing, I can’t breathe right, then I’ve been on this low carb diet and to today is the day I am feeling it the most.  I had been feeling it previously, on workouts I was being fatigued much more quickly than usual and at lower weights, and I haven’t even attempted an Orange Theory session under these conditions.  So I’m carb deprived.

Did I eat breakfast before I went?  Nope.

Do I hate the mornings?  Yes.  I am a night owl, NOT a morning person.  I don’t even understand how a human being could be a morning person.  Ironic I married one…

Anyways, so I wake up, and I’m feeling my tired, broken down body, and I feel it and I make a conscious decision to be grateful.  I am grateful because I don’t live in chronic pain.  There is nothing seriously wrong with my body.  I’ve never had major illness or surgery, just a few stitches on my knee and a broken pinky from a scooter accident as a kid.  I have so much to be grateful for.  So I consciously choose to tell myself this knowing that I wasn’t necessarily at my best, thinking that if I changed my focus, I’d change the outcome of the day.

It didn’t work so well.

I show up and I’m off-balance.  My body doesn’t seem to be working.  I choose to wear my practice shoes rather than my heels (always a bad sign).

In all honesty, I don’t exactly remember the first part of my lesson, that is how out of it I was.  I think we tried a few basic exercises and I was just not getting it, and Damir could see that.  And he is wise.  And he authentically supports me.

So he asked me to do the Jive.

Let me repeat this.  I’m broken down, things aren’t clicking, he says, “Let’s Jive.”

He heads to the music system and I start tearing up.

Let’s be honest, it was just the basic step, four kicks, then 2 kicks and a Sailor Step, Repeat.  Nothing major.  I did it.  It was exhausting.  It was draining.  I’m like, “Thank God that’s over!” in my mind.

Then he says, “Let’s do rounds.”  He gives me basic step combos for Rumba, Cha Cha, Samba, and Jive.  The waterworks really start flowing now.  It would be so easy to say, “Not today! Any day but today.”  It totally crossed my mind.  It would be so easy to say, “Damir, I’m just not feeling right today.  Can we please do something else.”  I kind of wonder how he would have responded to this.

But instead, I just accepted this was what was being asked of me and cried.  I did it anyway.

My experience of it was that it was a totally different level of “ask” than I’ve ever experienced before.  I’ve danced through an asthma attack in competition.  I have also danced through a hip injury for an entire competitive weekend that had me limping and taking no lessons for a month afterwards.  I have some experience working through “pain” under fire.

But this was something I’ve never experienced. I felt completely stripped, completely tapped out, naked almost.  I had no resources left.  That’s when the tears came.  I was broken, and you are asking me to do this?  Probably I am at my lowest game ever and you want me to do what?

What a gift!

It totally didn’t feel like it at the time.  It felt shitty.  lol.  It wasn’t my best dancing, that’s for sure. However, I had the opportunity to know something about myself.  I also had the opportunity to show up.

Okay, so I survive the ordeal.  I know it’s not my best dancing and I’m beating myself up internally for not dancing how I want to dance, knowing that I’m not displaying my best game, knowing that this is really quite pathetic, and angry that I’m crying.  Because, this is not something to be so freaking emotional over.  But I am so spent, I don’t even have the energy to hold back tears.  Didn’t I just make a vow to show up differently on my lessons?  Be more positive?  No wallowing?  WTF!

And here I am, blubbering, exhausted, feeling bottom of the barrel.

And Damir is like, “I’m so proud of you.  What you did today is a big thing.”

The cool thing I must acknowledge is that it was not a possibility not to show up for my lesson even though upon waking I knew it wasn’t going to be comfortable, that my body wasn’t cooperating.  Go me.  Sounds like a small thing, but it’s actually huge because it’s a big shift in my way of thinking.  And I showed up anyway.

So in this episode of Dance Lesson Roulette, I lost…but I also won.

Fast forward to today.  Damir has a local Dancing With The Stars charity event tomorrow so he needed to reschedule my Friday lesson.  He suggested 6:30 tonight.  Yay! I rejoiced.  An evening lesson!

And tonight, my friends, tonight I had a great lesson!  A big Dance Lesson Roulette WIN!

I felt a nuance in my Rumba walks I’ve heard described but never experienced until now.  I danced full-out basic Jive for over a minute after not doing it for months and survived the cardio challenge better than expected.  I progressed in my Samba technique.  I got sweaty and I enjoyed myself.  Who could’ve known?  Life is weird like that, I guess.  I think that saying is true:  Sometimes the biggest breakthroughs happen after the biggest breakdowns.  It seems to have worked for me in this instance.

Well, anyways, I guess that’s the latest scoop.  Aren’t you impressed I posted again and it hasn’t been 6 months?  YAY! LOL.



Image By © Ralf Roletschek – Fahrradtechnik und Fotografie (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m On My Way!

Greeting and Salutations my dearest readers!  It’s been a while, hasn’t it?

Sometimes a gal needs to go inward and take some time for herself.  As open and transparent and forthright as I like to be on this blog of mine, I found that what I was going through I didn’t want to share.  I’ll share some of it now that I’m through it all, but then I was not ready to.  I hope you will understand, and even if you don’t, oh well lol.  I’ll just say that I’m happy to be back, I’m happy that there is a blog post in me that wants to be written.  I’m not even entirely sure what will come out of me tonight, but I was certain that it was time to get back to you, to the blog, to sharing.

So thank you for being loyal, thank you to all of you who checked in on me from time to time.  I’m so blessed to be so very supported.  I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Okay so nothing dramatic has happened.  In fact, it’s probably the exact opposite.  It’s been a ho-hum couple of months.  Like, I mean, very little fire.  Partly it had to do with the holidays and being busy and distracted with that kind of thing.  It also had to do with being a little bit depressed.  I’ve had bouts of clinical depression in the past and it’s been so long, and I’ve created so many coping mechanisms in my life, and I’m genuinely so much happier in general with myself and my life than I was before, that I kept telling myself I was just in a little funk and I’d snap out of it.  It took a friend pointing it out to me to really acknowledge what was going on.  It was textbook anhedonia – for those of you you don’t know what that means, it’s basically Greek for “without pleasure” – the antithesis of hedonism.  So, like, I wanted to be in bed all day.  I couldn’t motivate myself to work out.  I would back out of social engagements, even dance lessons.  I would not experience joy doing activities that normally brought me joy.  My life consisted of work and the most imperative of obligations.  And working from home, I could go days without leaving the house or even showering (I did manage to brush my teeth every day – because, that’s just gross lol – even depressed Stef has her limits).

So with that context in mind, it’s no surprise that I didn’t make it any further on my body and weight loss goals.  Okay, so here I am, a year has passed, and I’m basically in the same place as I was 365 days ago, in the same clothes.  It bothered me.  And, like, I don’t want to share that I’m totally depressed and stuck.  It’s just such a downer, and I wasn’t in the place to either a) gloss it over and make up some bullshit silver linings or b) wallow in it here.  So I just decided that I wouldn’t say anything, not to mention that I didn’t even have any motivation to do so.

That about sums it up.

The good news is, that even with the holiday fluff-fest, I know that I know that I know that I’m never ever going to allow myself to fall back to where I was over 300 pounds.  It’s just not a possibility in my reality.  On the upside, I’ve managed to mostly maintain, for an entire year, gaining only holiday-related fluff of 15 pounds.  Yes it’s significant, and I was fully aware of what I was eating and the results it would garner.  I forgave myself and permissioned myself to do this. And, there is something this demonstrates.  So many people drop tons of weight then gain it all back.  I have truly transformed something in myself because that would not be acceptable.  15 pounds is about the upper limit of gain that I would ever tolerate, and to be honest, in my current head-space, I don’t even think I’d tolerate more than 5 pounds.  So I’ll just take the opportunity to give myself a little credit for not regressing.

Okay, so my friend pointed out the obvious that I was choosing to not know and I’ve gotten the support I need around that.  Life is looking better.

And with this, I also had a weekend of deep introspection.  In case you didn’t know, Phoenix hosted the Superbowl.  During that same weekend was the Phoenix Open golf tournament.  I knew it was going to be a chaotic, crazy weekend locally, plus my husband was reliving his fraternity years with 4 friends staying at the house for the festivities.  I decided to get out of Dodge!  I went to San Diego by myself to escape the insanity, and I couldn’t be more pleased with my decision.

Long story short, I was able to take the opportunity to take stock of my life, what has been working, what has not, who I want to be and who I have been being.  I made a firm decision.  I decided it was either life or death, truly.  I could either jump in, make the necessary changes, and choose to value the time I’ve been given, or I could continue to slowly wither and die as a walking zombie through life.  I got really clear about the choice and what I’d been choosing for the past months.

I think you must have gathered by now that I have chosen to live.

And with that choice, things were set in motion in the universe.

The cool part, is that I’ve been trusting my intuition and taking action.  I’ve been saying “yes” more and it’s amazing how things are unfolding.

So I was driving in my car at a time when I normally don’t, and the radio station I normally listen to was full of static so I turned the dial.  I heard this guy talking on the radio.  I have no idea what he was saying, but it was about losing weight and I felt like, well, hey, what if this message is for me?  What if this is speaking to me? The voice said, “I will give the next 5 people who call in before 5:30 pm a free $150 assessment if they sign up for a program.”  I was like, I’m not normally a person who would call.  But guess what?  I did!

So that set something in motion.

I’m now being held accountable for my diet!  Yay!  I’ve signed up for 6 weeks with Dr. Fitness and he’s got me on a plan of 1400 calories and no more than 42 grams of carbs per day.  I’m so glad I worked with Chelle last year.  It really prepared me to take this on like a Rockstar.  I’ve taken even more ownership for my choices, I plan my diet every day, and I send it in to Lance.  I also get 2 half-hour training sessions per week.  I’m down 10 pounds so far.  It’s a living, breathing plan, this is just the beginning stage, but it feels good to be heading in the right direction, and I can definitely feel the difference 10 pounds off my frame makes.  I can hardly imagine how free I will feel when I’ve dropped 60 more.  It’s gonna be amazing.

I think my biggest aim is to really believe in myself -to say and to know that I will accept nothing less than my desired outcome – to say and to know that I will actualize my dreams in reality.  I am determined to keep going UNTIL I reach my goal.  The end.  With this definite-ness of purpose and clarity comes a new level of commitment I’ve not experienced around this particular issue ever before.

And with this clarity and decisiveness, and new vigor has ignited in Damir.  He’s showing up differently on our lessons because I’m showing up differently.

I told him that I didn’t like how I had been showing up (or not showing up, for that matter).  I came clean with him.  I owned that I’d been more flaky with my lessons that I’d ever been, ever, with Ivan or any other instructor.  I owned the fact that when I did show up often I had a negative, defeated attitude.  The cool thing is, he has totally allowed me to be who and how I am no matter what.  He’s supported me and been available but he never pushed, or shamed, or cajoled.  The truth is, no one can make me a champion except me.  He, and I, know that it’s not his job to make me do anything – if I really want this, then it has to come from inside me.  That wasn’t happening through the depression. But what a gift, he let me be exactly where I was and it was okay.

So I came clean and I declared the new reality.  I said, the past is the past, let’s wipe it clear and start fresh from this moment on.  The past has no bearing on where I am going.  I’m now going to be who I need to be to be that champion I say I am inside.  The end.  No need for drama or self-chastising.  No need to even feel bad about myself.  No need to convince you with words because my results will be here, or they will not. I request of you to call me on it if in a month there is no visible change. All I need to do is be here now and take the next right step.  That’s it!  Show up, say yes, and do the work.  Damir is totally on board and it is exciting to see his enthusiasm.  We did some great work on my lessons this week!

So the goal still stands:  Ohio Star Ball, 2015.  Here I come!

There’s only one more thing I want to mention.  As you all are aware, my relationship with myself and my body and my body-image and self-esteem have been major themes in this blog.  A lot of what I share here is the transformation of these aspects of self, both internally and externally.  I have, as I think many women do, had a warlike, contemptuous relationship with my body.  I’ve hated it and felt shamed for having it the way it is.  I hated it when I was 116 pounds as a teen, and I hated it at 313 pounds.  Part of the process for me has been finding appreciation, and, dare I say it, even love and reverence for my body, even as it is.  I’ve worked consciously and deliberately to acknowledge and appreciate aspects of my body, such as how it moves, how it works for me, how amazing it is, how it heals itself, how it has taken the abuse I’ve heaped upon it and still serves me so faithfully.  I’ve also come to consciously work to build my awareness around how moving feels good!  That it doesn’t always have to be a huge, horrible, painful, awful struggle.  And, at the same time, I’ve come to be able to tolerate being uncomfortable and really pushing my limits, be they cardiovascular or strength or endurance.  I have a confidence that I can handle it and push through.

Okay so what I’m trying to say is that as I transform my body outwardly, I’ve also worked really hard to change how I relate to myself and my physical body.  I’ve worked really hard to forge a peace with it, rather than a hateful war.

The reason I say all this is because I’m so inspired by watching my Big Fat Fabulous Life with Whitney Thore.  I remember when her dance video went viral.  Now she has a show.  I love how she is so fully engaged in life.  I love how she just is who she is and it’s enough.  I love her courage and her bravery and her audaciousness and boldness and her zest for life.  I love that she is so generous to share herself.  I love that she is passionate and that she dances and that she puts herself out there.  I love her sense of humor.  I do, also, see that there are certain aspects that would not be acceptable to me, personally.  For instance, she has had to modify how she shaves her legs because of her size.  I was getting to that place, personally, where it was uncomfortable to be on a plane, where I had to modify how I lived life just to function.  That was a huge wake-up call and red flag for me.  For me, personally, it is not okay.  I don’t presume to judge others or their choices.  That’s their business.  And, also, I know how hard it was for me to move at 313 pounds…she’s 380.  I give her major props for dancing.  Most people in their lifetime will never know how hard it is to move with that kind of weight on their frame.  It’s so desperately difficult!  I tell you I’m freer with 10 pounds less on my frame.  Anyways, mad props to her for moving like she does, and also, I think about how heavy and weighed-down it must feel and I think that it could be better.

Okay, so mixed bag of emotions but the most interesting thing to me was that I absolutely had no problem looking at her body.  It didn’t bother me one iota.  I didn’t feel bad or have shame arise seeing how big she is – she’s 380 pounds!  I mean, it’s not the norm.  It’s shocking, even.  But I realized that people who react to a fat person such as Whitney or myself are actually not reacting to that person but to themselves.  They are reacting to their own projections of themselves if they were that big.  So many people say that they’d kill themselves before they got that big.  I, myself, would occasionally see people at restaurants that were severely obese and feel upset about it in the past.  No more.  I’ve worked through it.  They can be how they need to be right now, and it has nothing to do with me.  They no longer need to be my scapegoat for the aspects of myself I’d be afraid to see, know, or own.

But somehow, and I think Whitney says it best, that it’s like the “worst crime to be a fat woman” and that people can’t seem to reconcile a happy fat person, someone who genuinely likes herself and is confident even while being obese.  It’s somehow very threatening to others.  There is a group consciousness that if you are are fat then you should be unhappy with yourself and embarrassed and ashamed, and you are probably lazy and stupid and have no self control etc.  I had totally bought into this paradigm and it had stolen my joy, my self worth, my self regard, my view of myself as an attractive, lovely woman.  I felt like no one would love me if I were fat, certainly I withheld love from myself for this reason. It did not help to make me thinner, it only served to make me miserable.

But Whitney says pooh pooh to all that crap!  And I agree.

My worth, my beauty, my ability to contribute, my compassion, who I am, actually have NOTHING to do with how I am packaged.

Now, I’m clear that I want something different for myself.  And let’s be honest, my appearance does have a bearing on how I feel about myself – it’s connected.  In fact, I’ve hired a make up artist for some make up lessons and also a stylist to help me create a sense of style so I can do some work from the “outside-in” to affect how I feel about myself, and to bolster my confidence.  It’s also another opportunity for self expression and to declare who I am without saying a word. I figure, even if I’m not where I ultimately envision myself at the final goal, I can still be “put together” and still enjoy how I dress myself, how I present myself to the world at large.

At the same time, I’m committed to creating the vision I have for my body and my life.  And, while I’m on my way, I refuse to feel bad about myself anymore.  I will support myself in any way I can to do this all positively.  I will take a note from Whitney and love me, just as I am.  I’m enough.  I am important, special, worthy, lovely, active, strong, powerful.  I am these things NOW.  It doesn’t depend on my body fat content.  It won’t change when my adipose content is less.

And as I look around in life, I realize, I’m not the only one.  There are lots of us out there struggling with our bodies, our weight, our self-confidence and our self-worth.  I’m taking a stand, for me, and for all of us.  I’m choosing to accept full responsibility for all of my life and all of my choices and all of my results.  I’m choosing to wipe the slate clean and be open to the infinite possibilities of who I am becoming.  I am choosing to love myself like never before and to express my authentic self.  I no longer need to hold any shame or sadness of who I’ve been.  I’m choosing to let go of whatever stories I’ve made up about what I can’t have, or how awful I am – that’s simply junk.  I’m just as precious and worthy as I was the day I was born.  It’s just that back then I accepted it!  Somewhere along the way I took on some beliefs that didn’t serve me.  No longer will I believe lies.  You don’t have to either.  Whitney knows this truth and she’s living it.  From now on, so will I, even as I forge ahead to create the body I desire.  Why?  Not because I “should” or “need to” or “have to” but simply because I’m choosing to express myself differently because that’s what I want to do.  No further justification necessary.

The truth is I am an athlete.  I am a dancer.  I love to move.  I’m active.  I don’t care how my body looks from the outside in this regard, these are my truths.  Soon enough the “outside” will be in alignment with my “insides” and will reflect my truth.  I am now being the me who takes the actions that are in alignment with that.

Okay, so have I rambled on long enough? lol!

This is where I’m at right now….


I’m on my way :)




What’s In A Name?

Hey guys!  Thank you so much for all the feedback about the name of this blog.  I sincerely appreciate all the comments and suggestions.  I am still a little bit “in the question” around what I should call this blog so I have a little experiment that I’m going to conduct for the next week to give myself time to get clear on what the name means to me as it is, to try on a new possible name for size (haha), or to potentially land upon the perfect completely new name.

I believe that words are powerful.  And as I’m in the practice and process of transformation, both inside and out, it makes sense to me that as I evolve, things in my life will also evolve.  I want my blog to support me in this process and I am currently ready to let go of the story I’ve been replaying in my mind, heart, and body, the one in which I live as though I am a fat person, like that’s the most important part of who I am. I’m ready to let go of the part of the story where my personality is so wrapped up in claiming this physicality as my identity.  As I let it go, it is a little death.  And it creates the space simply be who I am rather than make up a story about it.

So I’ve been doing some work around this idea of the story that was imprinted upon my psyche that I claimed as my identity, and I’ve engaged in a process where I can identify where this may come from.  Once seeing that, I can then choose a quality to practice being.  That may sound a bit confusing so here’s an example of what I mean: I did this work previously some years ago and discovered that I was run by the need to be liked.  I’d compromise myself, even betray myself, not speak up for myself, and so forth all because I needed people to like me.  Of course, this rarely created the desired effect.  In fact, this “act” I engaged in pushed people away.  Yet it came from a deep need in me, so I don’t blame myself for operating this way back then.  I didn’t know better and I didn’t have the tools to cope better.  I was pretty much doing it unconsciously.  However, once I discovered this and became aware of how it was affecting my life, I gained the power of choice around it.  I could decide that I was more committed to being an honest, authentic woman of integrity and choose different.  I could then ask myself, “How would an honest, authentic woman of integrity act in this situation?”  Then, I could “show up” in my life that way.  I would practice recognizing when I was about to engage in people-pleasing behavior and then I’d practice being different – being honest, and authentic, and in integrity.  Or I’d notice when I’d fallen into the old pattern and ask myself what I could do differently the next opportunity.  I got better and better over time – and it took some time – and a bunch of practice.  It also went from being scary and overwhelming (I mean in my mind being this way could lead to total rejection and abandonment) to being second nature.  I wouldn’t say I’ve 100% let go of that need, but I will say I am much more in choice around it.

Okay, so anyways, the quality I’ve landed upon that I think would help me most to move forward in my life right now is PRECIOUS.

Why precious, you may ask.  Well, here’s one of my “acts:”  I act really capable, even over-achieving because I want to be seen, loved, valued, and acknowledged.  Well, that’s like saying to my subconscious that I’m only worth something because of what I do, what service I can perform, or what value I can add to the life of others. I think it comes from a need to be seen as important or significant or that I matter so that I can feel validated that I have a right to exist.  That’s hogwash in reality but my subconscious totally buys into it.  I mean, we all have the right to exist because we do exist! Right?  Anyways, this “act” is not necessarily good, bad, right, or wrong, and it really serves me in come contexts, like at work.  However, it doesn’t serve me in other aspects of my life, because I am not in the state of knowing and believing in my bones, on a heart level, that I’m loveable and precious just because I’m me.  And because of that, I only give myself love when I “do what I’m supposed to be doing.”  This is especially in the context of diet and exercise.  And it also results in my withholding love from myself which is just mean.  It doesn’t serve me.

The word PRECIOUS is defined as: of great value; not to be wasted or treated carelessly, a term of address to a beloved person, highly esteemed for some spiritual, non-material, or moral quality, cherished.

I think that works perfectly to shift my focus.  So my challenge is to incorporate a practice of treating myself as a precious person in my daily life.  It certainly works in the context of nourishing my body properly and exercising it excellently, while doing it in an encouraging and loving manner – without comparison to the journey of others, and with a dose of grace.  It becomes a process of how I’m being rather than on what I’m doing.

Also, being PRECIOUS has nothing to do with how I look, how much I weigh, how well I dance – which are all things I’ve strongly identified with as who I am, and with the persona of this blog.  In reality, these features are only a tiny part of who I am, of who any human being is.  Ergo, as I am doing the inner work to let go of this junk, and create a new, more evolved, enlightened, and expansive self, I thought perhaps changing the name of the blog was something that could support me.  Lord knows I could stand to step into more than one quality in my life.  I don’t like using Precious for the title of this blog but since I do use the words in the title to this blog quite a bit via social networks and in person, and since I know that repetition is a powerful tool for change, a new name might be just the ticket to ease me into another aspect my new self that I’d like to call forth.

Which reminds me of something Damir said.  Oh yes, we are still dancing.  And today was another wonderful lesson…more on that later.  Anyways, he said to me, “Stefanie, you are just converting physical size into energetic size.”  In other words, I’ve used my physical body as a way to claim my space in this world.  Now the process is to claim my space on the invisible plane.  His point was that I’ll still be “big” but in a totally different way, a non-physical way.

So in some ways, the name “Biggest Girl In The Ballroom” still fits.  It could fit in the context I just mentioned from the conversation with Damir.

Other comments from you guys that I got were:

Because you’re about owning your place and your space – not about size – and because people do know the blog name, maybe go with something that’s a variation of it so you don’t totally lose brand identity?

So… the reason I came across your blog is because I noticed that there weren’t really any fat chicks in the dance studio and I felt a little bit out of sorts… “Is this really for me?” “Why am I the only one?” I am grateful to have come across your blog because it was encouraging to me that even if there are only TWO starfish in the sea, at least I wasn’t alone. I have done some growing since I started following you… and you have too. Biggest girl in the ballroom isn’t about size for me any more… it’s about putting on your big girl panties and accepting who you are for what you are and accepting others too. It’s about keeping on keeping on, even when you want to give up. Due to an injury, I’m no longer able to dance, but I still keep up with you. You’re not the size you once were… life changes. BUT the lesson you teach seems to me to be about being a big girl even when the world tries to make you feel small.

We think keep the domain name the same so you don’t lose any readers or followers.  And Then Making it “The (formerly in handwriting font with an up arrow) Biggest Girl in the Ballroom”. We think will imply the journey and the success you have made of it. All of the best with whatever you decide.

I agree about the larger meaning of being Big. I was also thinking about being a Big Girl (in the being responsible for oneself idea) and also re: not losing your branding. Since comparison is the least interesting and least important part, how about “Big Girl in The Ballroom”?

Biggest isn’t just about weight. It’s about power. It’s about presence. It’s about an indomitable spirit. Why wouldn’t you want to be the biggest girl in the ballroom?

I think the biggest girl in the ballroom’s meaning can morph and change regardless of your size. Biggest can mean so many different things. My opinion is it is perfect just as it is.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?!  I feel so blessed to have this type of engagement with you!  It’s helped me re-frame my thinking about this issue and I appreciate it very much.

So here’s what I’ve settled on; I’m going to try on a potential name for one week.  I want to see how it feels.  I want you to see how it feels to you and let me know what you think.  I chose this new name because it encompasses a lot of what the people above were saying, including dropping the comparison game, which I think is especially important for me.  I’m not 100% sure just yet and still open to feedback, and, at the same time, I want to create some forward movement on this so this seemed like a great step to take.  I will make my final decision by next Thursday so make sure to make your thoughts known urgently.  All the input thus far has helped me immensely to get more clear on what I want to create. And, yes, this is ultimately my decision.

The name I’m trying on is “Big Girl In The Ballroom”

Let’s see how it goes :)  And Lisa, you may just be the winner of a $25 gift card :)  You’ll know by next Thursday.

Alrighty, now that that’s all taken care of, I want to share with you what happened on my lesson today.  I think I should talk a little bit about dancing here too! lol.

So as much as I sometimes miss Ivan, I so totally trust the teachings I’m getting from Damir at this time.  My experience of it thus far is becoming more aware of my body on a more detailed level and being present in neglected areas.  Basic areas, like feet and knees.  We haven’t really even made it up to lats and arms just yet and that’s totally okay.  When I get results like I got today, I’m grateful about going so slowly.

Damir said something pretty profound today that teaching dance was his calling.  It’s not a job, it’s not even a vocation.  He’s convinced he could do anything he’d want to do in this world as a profession.  Dance didn’t come easy to Damir.  He searched for answers for a very long time and ended up having to find them for himself.  Even though he had many instructors and coaches that influenced him, his process, from how he describes it, was him having to go so slowly in every step and breaking it down minutely and focusing just on one body part for months at a time.  Because he went through this process, he’s now able to see things in others’ bodies – alignment, energy, where their focus is.  He’s also able to adapt his language in such a way that his students understand clearly what he is asking of them – at least that’s been my experience.

It’s like, I’ve wanted these same answers.  I’ve known that my dancing didn’t look like it potentially could and all the answers I got were from the outside in – making things happen.  God bless all my instructors – they gave me the information I was ready for, that I could handle, and/or to the best of their personal understanding.  However, now I’m being coached from the inside out and it is a total game changer.

It’s also a lot more physical work!  I feel that my body will be changing soon simply from the new method from which I’m approaching dance.  It takes a lot more focus and energy and is based a ton on creating oppositions internally in the body.  It’s awesome and it ain’t easy.

Anyways, Damir focuses on a very practical method for dancing, the thought being that if you have a structure to follow, no matter what your emotional state or how your body is feeling on any particular day, you can use this structure to discover what adjustments might need to be made to still perform at an excellent level, especially in the context of a competition.

And this structure system begins with the feet.  If I thought I used my feet before, I was wrong.  They are experiencing an entirely new level of conditioning.

We are just now beginning to focus on the knees.  Being the second major joint in the leg, they affect a lot of things.  Hips are now moving as a result of the movements in my feet and knees, rather than actively “trying” to make my hips move.

I’m starting to see where the true causes of movement stem from, which is internal and not always obvious, rather than just seeing the end result, which I think a lot of us gravitate toward trying to emulate.  Both ways of approaching movement can be helpful in different contexts, by my personal dance education has been deficient in the information Damir is sharing with me.

It’s pretty wonderful.  Sometimes I may feel like I’m not doing anything on our lessons, that I’ve regressed as a dancer, or that we’re just talking too much!  Then there are moments like today and I realize that all my previous work has been valuable.  I realize that all the work I’ve done laid some foundation and that with new tiny bytes of information, new small puzzle pieces of data that I’ve not been aware of now being presented, things can shift dramatically and quickly in my dancing.

So we were working on the knees, just doing 1,2,cha cha cha, in place and focusing on really stretching the space between the knees as much as possible – like doing it with an imaginary resistance band around them. And it was hard work!  It engaged more muscles, but was controlled, and it caused proper alignment, and made me pull up in my abdomen, there were all sorts of great results from focusing on this particular aspect.  I’m learning how to utilize internal resistance, opposition, and elasticity to create a new quality of movement with stability and control.

So then Damir invited me to use this skill I’d just started practicing in Rumba walks.  Oh. My. God.  For the first time in my life Rumba walks felt GOOD!

Some iterations were better than others but that doesn’t matter.  I had a few really quality ones.  I got the feeling in my body.  It felt like my standing leg was pulling my moving leg forward, instead of the other way around.  I was (mostly) on balance.  It just felt “right,” not so forced.

I had a flashback to Inna’s class.  We’d practiced a lot of Rumba walks in there.  And her style is more aggressive in terms of coaching us to step big, to use big arms, and most of all, to push forward.  This could work great for some students.  For me, I always felt I was forcing this and it was taking way more effort than it should if I was moving ergonomically or biomechanically correct.  But I could never figure out how to do that from the language and demonstrations being used.  With Damir, I’m focusing on very different things: the back of my neck and head, staying on my standing leg as long as possible, planting it into the ground and allowing the elastic resistance between my knees to pull the walking leg forward under my body, keeping my hips under my ribs, and even a little in compressing my lats and pushing my chest forward (but that’s pretty advanced for me right now).  And it freakin’ feels better, way better, totally-different-breakthrough better, like I’m never going to dance the same way again (well, yeah, I may have some muscle memory to overcome) but now that I’ve had this visceral experience, I could never truly go completely back.  Things will never quite be the same.

It gives me hope that possibly all my dancing could feel this good.  It’s showing me I have things in my body ready from the work I’ve previously done to jump to a new level of quality with just the next right bit of information and practice.  It has been a joyful, fun process, for the most part, and although I have some urgency about my goals, I’ve also surrendered to trusting the process being laid before me by my new coach.  All will unfold in it’s proper time.  I fully trust Damir has my best interests at heart.  In fact, I feel so incredibly lucky to work with him, even more so because he told me that he hasn’t taken a new student in years and he’s totally booked with the students he has now.  I’m one lucky ducky he fit me in and I’m going to make the absolute most of my time with him.

Probably the greatest gift Damir has given me is the freedom to be me without expectations, both around my body and my dancing.  I always felt such pressure with Ivan, as well as his frustration and disappointment.  With Damir, I feel like he believes in me, like he believes in all his students, 100%.  He also believes that it’s up to the student to determine how far they really want to go with this dancing thing, and how fast.  It’s so great to be given this responsibility.  He’s totally just there to support me in my process.  It’s a precious gift of his time, attention, presence, information, guidance, and nurturing.  I’ve been able to stop beating myself up so much in this space, as well as to embrace the work required.  I’ve also become less fearful about making mistakes and not being perfect.  He’s helped me define the game I’m playing, and it’s one of personal excellence rather than comparison, authenticity rather than staged performance, deliberate internal presence rather than external forcing, one of groundedness rather than an emotional roller coaster.  He’s supporting me to become the excellent, authentic, present, consistent, grounded dancer I know I can be.  And at the same time, he places no need on me to be anything different than what I am.

I was so lit up about how excellent my lesson turned out today, that I totally thought, “I have to write a blog about this!”  And that was cool because it’s been a while since I’ve felt that way.  I think perhaps it’s because I’ve been in transition and thus the blog has been too.  The blog is going to evolve right alongside with me.  I did start this blog and journey years ago, and I’m not the person I was back then either.  Sometimes it’s okay to let old identities die and integrate their experience into the whole.  I feel like who I was cannot exist in the same space of who I am now, just like the partnership I had with Ivan could no longer live on once shifts had been made.

So life looks different now and probably the blog will too.  I’m excited to see where the journey leads me.

Love, Stef