Tuesday, December 20th, 2011
Dance Starz Studio
Coaching with Linda Dean
I’ve had the good fortune to have been coached by some amazing people during my short ballroom student career. The first person was Igor Suvorov. Then, it was Paul Holmes. Next it was Ron Montez. And today it was Linda Dean.
Now as much of a fan of ballroom dancing as I am, I am still a baby beginner in this world and there is lots to learn. I looked up each coach before I met them to know a little something about them. Here’s a nice article I found about Linda Dean.
I have to be careful not to psych myself out when reading this stuff! Even I know that the Blackpool ballroom competition is one of the premier competitions in the world. To win that is a big deal. For little ole me getting coached by a person who has achieved so much can be intimidating. I just have to remind myself that we all put our pants on one leg at a time.
At every coaching I’ve done, I’ve gained new knowledge, a new way of doing a step, and improvement in my dancing. It is such a blessing to benefit from the expertise of others, and so far, those I’ve interacted with have been generous and kind and helpful.
I experienced Linda as a warm, friendly woman and it was a pleasure to get to work with her. To begin, Ivan and I danced the Rumba, Latin stye. She was a Latin champion and I’ve recently begun studying the style in earnest so it was a perfect fit.
I am happy to report that once we completed our little performance, Linda said that I had done quite a nice job. Of course, there were also things that I could consider that might change the way my dancing appears.
One of the interesting things she said was that she could tell I was trying so hard to do things that were good and all but that might not be that necessary. For instance, she demonstrated how I could move my feet, brushing them through to the next step, but not focusing so much on them actually touching. It is the asthetically pleasing line I want to create moreso than making sure that my feet touch perfectly with each step.
We also talked about remembering why we dance. We talked about not just getting from one place to the next but how I want to look while I am going there. It rocked my world.
It kind of goes along with my last post in which I talked about how I try to hustle to get from one step to the next but miss all the gooey goodness in between. Thinking about how I want to look, move, and be as I am going from one place to another my carriage changed dramatically. My back leg was straighter, longer, and my toes more pointed. My head was held taller. My balance was better. The secret was being aware of how I wanted to move through space rather than focusing on getting from point A to point B on time. I see the power of focus. The different things I focus on create different results.
If you’ve read any of my other posts you will know I see parallels to life and in dance. From this little exercise I realize that it is important how I do things, not just that I do them. It matters if I am loving, kind, and compassionate while performing a task. Yes of course, it matters if I do the task or not, just as it matters if I get to the next step on time in dancing, but the artistry, the beauty, the juciness of life and dancing is how we move through space to get there, I am discovering. What wisdom Linda has shared with me!
We also had the opportunity to work on connection. Again, I was at the same place and knew it for the first time. The nuance and control in the connection is incredibly difficult to get right. I did feel it differently than ever before – my hip was to be connected with Ivan’s latissimus dorsi via the arm connection – and it was magical. If/When we can ever create this type of connection consistently, wow. Dancing will feel so good once I get this stuff. Not that it doesn’t already, but there is another eschelon of effortlessness that I’ve just tasted. These little nibbles are incredible, and I want more!
Next, and most profound was something I’ll never forget. Ivan is such an amazing teacher and human being. I want to give him credit and acknowledge that he has mentioned to me all the things I discovered in the coaching today, including this next awareness. I guess when you have a thick head like I do, you have to hear things a few times for them to sink in. And sometimes the teacher appears when the student is ready.
Linda asked me about my arms. Now, arm styling has been a bain of my dancing existence ever since I began to care about it. It just always feels so awkward. But I try. So she asks me if I pay attention to them when dancing. I honestly answer, well, usually not, because my focus is always on my feet or my hips or the steps or the connection with my partner. I remember about my arms in specific places that we’ve practiced, but usually they flop around like tentacles on an octopus.
So I am open to any feedback Linda has for me regarding my upper extremities. But her feedback is surprising. Why not keep them still?
This doesn’t compute until she demonstrates what she means.
Linda performs Rumba walks forward. First, she holds her arm out to the side and connects the other with Ivan. Then she repeats the same walks but moving her free arm in a circular motion. The effect is immediately apparent. The arm movement draws attention to the arm (not my strongest feature). When held still, attention is drawn to legs and feet.
It is obvious which way I want to move from now on. My foot work is good and my leg action pretty. This is where I want to focus attention. This is what suits me.
Which brings up a larger idea that Ivan has mentioned before. It is something that will make me an artist. It is finding the way I move. Not emulating anyone else. Not trying to move like others. Moving like I am meant to move, naturally. It is having the confidence to be who I am, and love it in every movement.
Linda explains: “Now I love Yulia (referring, I think, to Yulia Zagoruychenko). She is fabulous. And gorgeous. But all these girls try to move like her. She is so fast because she is as big as a toothpick and she is on balance. She knows exactly what she is doing with her body. But it looks awful when other people try to do that.”
She’s absolutely right.
However, I feel at sea in how to do this. My frame of reference is to look to others to see what I should be doing. It is time to look to me to determine what I should be doing.
So before we end the session, Ivan tells Linda that we will show her American Rhythm Rumba and Cha Cha. Alright, now it’s time for me to brag a little. Honestly, I’d better start practicing declaring that I am fabulous. So much of dancing in the ballroom is confidence and attitude. I’ve just experienced in this very lesson how thinking this way about how I move through space can transform the way I dance. I have to own this fabulous-ness before stepping foot on the floor in order to show up the way I know I can.
Linda shared a story with me that demonstrates the power of speaking positivity into our lives and the effect of a confident attitude. She had five weeks until her first compeition with her new partner – just enough time to prepare one dance routine per week for each of five dances. The competition was the National Championships! Before she and her partner stepped on the floor she told him, “We’re gonna win!” He replied, “Don’t think like that.” But she retorted, “You just watch.” And the rest is history. They won.
Well anyways, I’m going to declare it. I am fabulous! It is so. How do I know this, well, Linda reminded me that I am fabulous regardless of my size. She related to me another story of a student who knew how fabulous she was even though she was 190 pounds. No one won with this gal on the floor.
I’ve decided that I’m going to be like this girl.
So back to the bragging on myself, since I’m so fabulous and all…
Linda’s jaw about dropped when we started dancing American style. She told me that if I competed, I had to do both American and Latin style.
So let’s scratch the title of this post. It should really say: I’m Fabulous and I Know It!
And you know what, I’m starting to believe that I am.
You get points for reading this post. Bet you didn’t know that, huh? There’s also a bonus round. You have an amazing opportunity right here, right now to be courageous and list one or more ways in which you are fabulous. I would love to read about it.