I’ve been hiding out. Well, that’s not entirely true. It’s been an interesting couple of months so I have a lot to share to catch you all up to what is happening in my life, and my dancing life. Yep, you can expect a very long post.
First off, welcome our newest Ballroom Village member, Rob, from Musings For Ballroom Beginners. Looks like he offers advice for ballroom beginners in the Boston area so check it out and thanks to Katie from The Girl With The Tree Tattoo for hooking him up to our little community.
It’s been a while since I went to Ohio in November. It was seriously cool to be there and to check a few items off my bucket list! If you recall, I was invited to participate in the Best of the Best (So was our friend Katie and it was such a bummer she wasn’t able to come. I can’t wait to meet her in person and I was definitely thinking of her as the day unfolded). This was unexpected especially since I hadn’t competed for the better part of the year and just did Galaxy since it is a local competition and a nice re-entry into the dance world.
The deal was that since I won my scholarship in Bronze and then beat other scholarship winners I qualified to dance at Ohio in a 90 second solo using only Bronze figures plus up to 5 figures from the Silver level.
So here is a picture of the poster of all the competitors and a video of the routine I did with Ivan.
I did not place well in this event, nor really in any other heats or scholarship rounds. In this particular event I was rated highly by all judges but one who rated me inordinately low such that it knocked me out of the running for a placement. It’s odd that there was just one outlier but it goes to show that it is important to connect with everybody and I guess I still have room to grow, and/or I should go to the competition owned by this particular judge lol.
I mean, really I shouldn’t have been shocked by my poor performance in terms of results. I had been to exactly 1 competition for the entire year. I hadn’t been seen and it was a bold move to go to Ohio after such little preparation. Ohio attracts a lot of high level competitors so it’s already on a higher level than many other competitions. I think I made it to finals in 3 of my rhythm rounds but other than that I didn’t even make semi-finals for many heats. At first I wasn’t phased by it. I was just excited by the fact that I was actually living the dream – so many people wish to go to Ohio and some people never go. Also, I was with my friend Mytia, I had other friends from EuroRhythm there, I had Ivan and Marieta there and Damir. I saw many friends and lots of great dancing. So even though we didn’t place as highly as I would have liked in the Rhythm rounds, I was mostly focused on Best of the Best which was my reason for coming in the first place.
It was such a special opportunity I didn’t want to pass it up. To get to do a solo on one of the largest competitive stages in the country for amateur ballroom dancers might be a once in a lifetime thing so even though it totally caused me to overextend financially and I didn’t necessarily feel totally prepared, I knew I had to be there.
I’m really glad I had the presence of mind to take a moment right before we went on the floor to look Ivan in the eyes, give him a hug, tell him that I love him and appreciate our partnership, and to be grateful for the opportunity to be there doing this. So we danced and then I watched all the other dancers and some were really good and some were less good and it was interesting and fun to be a part of it.
Then I made a fatal mistake! I thought, “Maybe I have a chance of placing!” In this one thought, I generated an expectation and when there is an expectation, no matter how subtle, there is also disappointment. If only I could have stayed in the space of gratitude I would have been fine. But with that one thought a death-spiral ensued that led to a pretty big melt-down during my Latin rounds the following day.
I mean, it wasn’t all doom and gloom! There are some really neat events at Ohio unique to this competition. Besides Best of the Best, there is also Team Match, which some of the best dancers from each region in the US are invited to compete on a team representing their particular region. Each couple dances one dance against other regions in the same style and then the region teams earn points for first, second, and third placements. It’s a real party atmosphere, relaxed, and very fun to watch and cheer for. There are noisemakers provided to the crowd and the regions dress up in moustaches, wigs, vests, and hats in the color that represents their region. Ivan danced with another one of his students in the team match but alas, my region did not win.
Also excellent were the professional rounds. There is an amazing energy when so many professional couples are on the floor together! They danced like 4 or 5 rounds, and the floor was completely packed. Also totally cool were the showdances! They were lots of fun and very creative. I even got to see Yulia and Ricardo in person which I’ve always wanted to do, and even got a picture with them!
Can you believe it?! You’ll also probably see me in the audience on TV if it is on PBS this year. I was in the very front row, right on the dancefloor.
But anyways, after the disappointing results in Rhythm and Best of the Best I was less than enthused to dance my Latin rounds.
It’s weird. Normally I’m nervous, and especially right before going on the dance floor. Before these particular rounds, however, I was too grounded, too calm, there was no joy or performance quality inside me. There was only the worry of dancing it “right” and “looking good/not making a fool out of myself.” But with that attitude, I did not dance my best and my instructor and coach Damir was honest enough with me to tell me so. Worse than that was that I freaked out after it was complete. I was surprised to hear things come out of my mouth like, “I don’t belong on that dance floor.” And, “I’m not good enough.” My confidence was shot and I thought I was over that. I got a reality check that there is still more confidence for me to own and grow into. I mean, the positive side of all of this was that I got direct feedback of exactly where I was and exactly where I wasn’t. You can’t know until you actually show up and act it out, no matter how you imagine you might show up and how things might go, you never really know until you are in in it.
So it was nice to see some friendly faces from home and to know that people who knew me believe in me. Bree invited me to come work with her to really get clear on a few things with Rhythm (I have yet to take her up on the option) which is an amazing opportunity. I know with just a few tweaks I will be that much more self-assured, comfortable, and confident, which I have discovered is what creates the space inside of me to feel safe enough to be vulnerable and really show who I am in my dancing. Otherwise I get too caught up in trying to do it well, trying to look good and not look bad, trying to be technically correct, none of which allows me to actually be present and connect with my dance partner, the audience, the music, or the experience.
So Ohio was a whirlwind, total immersion experience. There was a lot of fun, a lot of self-created drama, and I was a bit burned out by the end of it. I mean, it’s weird timing. I wanted to dive right back in with dancing and handle some of what I discovered, but I had blown my financial wad so paying for lessons was a concern, and also it was the holidays. With that comes closed studios and lots of family time. In addition, our family had a major life transition. My mother’s mother, my grandmother, had a stroke in October and this marked a quick decline. She passed just after the new year. It was a big stress on my mother and truthfully the entire family system even though I had a beautiful experience saying goodbye to her and I’m so grateful for my memories of her.
So the upshot of all this is that I basically stopped dancing for about 2 months. I’ve just gotten back to it about two weeks ago. I gained about 20 pounds and I’m nowhere near the physical fitness level I was before I went to Ohio. So I’ve regressed. Also, I’m not feeling as passionate about dancing like I used to. It was such an urgent drive before, and now it’s more of a meditation. Kristijan and I have been focusing on being authentic, being very present so that a true lead and follow can occur, and dancing. I have to continue to remind myself to stay in a space of acceptance and love and joy when my monkey mind wants to go directly to attack the image I see in the mirror, the one that is larger and flabbier and out of breath. But you see, I’m determined to be kind to myself. I refuse to abuse myself like I used to…that does nothing but create stress. In fact, my goal this week is to look in the mirror and give myself one or more genuine compliments daily. I shared my intention to do this with a friend and she told me she did it daily for over a year until she stopped crying when she did it. She said it was then that she knew she believed it. So that’s my plan.
So if I’ve apparently regressed when it comes to my physicality and dancing, I’ve also been up to something really cool. I was feeling a bit stagnant a few months ago so I decided to take some courses at a personal development company. I took their entry level course, then the advanced course, and I just completed what they call the Self-Expression and Leadership Program (SELP). This lasted for 3 months during which the participants created projects for the communities in their lives that they care about. One of my peers created a game called Fit Chess which combined physical fitness and logic to connect people who normally wouldn’t come together, another one created a class for kids about connection and being in a community, another one created No Drama Baby Mama for at-risk pregnant women to teach them skills for meditation and self-advocacy so that all babies born would have a baseline of peace as their first experience in the world, and another created personalized bags for foster kids so that they didn’t have to put their belongings in trash bags when moving like she did when she was a kid. Needless to say, it has been inspiring and wonderful to be surrounded by people like this who are a contribution to society and the world.
As for me, I’ve teamed up with my dance community. With help, I’m throwing a fundraising showcase next in April that is set to raise $2000 or more for a local domestic violence shelter. Dancers from various studios across the city will be participating and all proceeds will be donated. In addition, residents at the shelter will have the opportunity to take a group ballroom dance class for 4 weeks and during the last week they will get the opportunity to have a complete ballroom makeover. They will get to wear the dresses, have their hair and make up done, and get pictures. The vision is that they will see themselves completely differently than when they were in crisis fleeing from dangerous situations. Some escaped with just the clothing on their backs. Can you imagine coming from that space to being dressed to the hilt like someone on Dancing With The Stars? If you are interested in donating, or even coming (I have a friend from Texas who is travelling to either be in the event or watch it) you can check out the Facebook page I created for it here. It is open to the public and the more money we can raise the better.
It is an interesting time in my life. I feel like I’m starting from square one with my dancing, fitness, and weight loss journey. My job is feeling less satisfying although I just got a raise and my performance couldn’t be rated any higher. I’ve agreed to coach the next SELP so I will be creating another community project over the next 3 months all while helping others to do the same. I wanted to dance in the Beach Bash in San Diego in April because I hear it is super fun, and, I’m intimidated by how much work it would take to get back into some semblance of fitness. Where is my drive? Where is my motivation? What do I want to do with myself for the next 20 years, assuming I get to live that long lol? What’s next for me?
So I guess that gets us caught up though unresolved. The winds of change are brewing. Also, I’m unsure of what to do about my dance teacher situation. Financially I can’t compete with both of them, at least not with my current job situation, but I love them both and they both add value to my life experience. So that’s another issue up in the air as to what to do about that.
As I end this blog post I’m present to how most posts have some sort of awareness or lesson or discovery that I made and can share. This time, however, there is no such purpose. If anything, it is even more “in the question” and unsure than ever before.
It is odd how life unfolds and how the journey often looks very different than we would have imagined it would go. So here I am, middle aged, married, overweight, no kids, great job, feeling a bit dissatisfied, wanting to be of contribution and to be excited about life. Things were much clearer as a kid. The entire path was laid out before me – I knew I would go to college and probably some higher education and then adult life could really begin. But without the distraction of kids and working from home alone by myself many hours each week I am left with just myself. But who am I and what am I going to do? What do I want to do? Who do I want to be? I thought I was a pharmacist, a dancer, a friend, an aunt, a wife. Each role I played the part changing hats as the situation called for it. And now? Now I’m not so sure. What will bring me joy? What gifts do I have that I can give to the world? My belief system about how reality works has been shaken lately. I don’t have it all together, not by a long shot. If anything I’m questioning life more than I ever have.
I do know that things must shift and dancing will most likely be part of that. I’m glad we have created a space to share what’s going on for us as a community. From dancers going through the process of cancer, to injuries, victories, competitions, showcases, fights with our teachers, disappointments, and sweet stories of connection and love, it is a rich landscape and I’m grateful to all of you who inhabit our virtual dancehall.