Thursday, December 29th, 2011
Private Lesson With Ivan
Consider this fair warning…today’s post is a wandering ramble. But this is what happened for me today, and most days are simply practice. Most days nothing “exciting” happens. I’m documenting all my days here on the blog, regardless of what they look like.
So today I arrive and Ivan is of a mind to dance all the dances. My body is of a mind that it wants a little stretching and warming up. I’m a bit sore from all the dancing this week and I haven’t been good about giving myself a proper warm up before dancing since I’ve done ballroom. In jazz or ballet, it is built into the class. But in ballroom, I don’t know any prescribed movements to do beforehand. Heck, I’m usually too shy to take up any space to do them, anyways. I somehow gain an entire level of confidence just by having a partner to dance with. Alone, I’m still insecure. But I think in an attempt to prevent injury and ensure flexibility, I’m going to devise something I can do before just jumping in, whether it be a series of plies or stretches, or large movements.
In any case, I do a mini warm up for myself but Ivan is hot to trot (pun intended). We start with Foxtrot which is good for slower, larger movements in any case. I can’t remember the last time we practiced any Smooth dances so it has been a while. I am surprised at how good it is feeling. Of all the Smooth dances, I think I like Foxtrot the best. So that goes pretty well, and then we move on to Waltz, Tango, and Viennese Waltz. All are fine, considering. I have to remember to count and move myself on the Tango, and there is this stupid walking-around-in-a-circle move in Waltz that always mucks me up, and it is always a challenge for me to get out of Ivan’s way when doing right turns in Viennese, but overall things go pretty smoothly.
When I first began ballroom dancing, I thought I’d study all the dances. I wanted to be great at all of them. But the further along I get, I realize that overall I enjoy the Rhythm and Latin dances more and also seem to be naturally better in them. I don’t think I’ll abandon learning more about the Smooth and International Standard dances entirely, but I’m thinking I won’t take them as seriously. I’ll still probably do a few heats of Smooth in my next competition, but I’m going to concentrate for now on Latin and Rhythm.
So after doing the four Smooth dances, we move onto Rhythm. I have to remind myself of the different leg action, but overall, it also goes pretty well. I still need help with arm styling. And the struggle with breathing continues to piss me off. I keep waiting for it to be a little more manageable. Come on body! Change already!
But Ivan is so funny. I tell him that I’m down a total of 8 pounds so far over the past 2 to 3 weeks.
“This is good. But I’m gonna miss the fat.”
And he grabs the ample, fleshy lovehandles on my back below the shoulder blades.
“Ivan, you are crazy! I’m not going to miss it one bit! Say goodbye to it now! It may take a while, but it is going to disappear.”
I’m disgusted with my fleshy body, pretty much, but there is nothing like having a person grab it and say they are going to miss it to mess with your world view. It felt good for Ivan to appreciate my body the way it is right now, even if I can’t yet do that for myself. It was better than when my darling three-and-a-half year old niece told me Christmas day, “Aunt Nonny, you have a big bum bum.” Ah, from the mouths of babes… Yes, I do, Ariah. Yes I do.
This reminds me that at some point or another I will be broaching the subject of body image. I’ve already talked to a ballerina who has agreed to share her story for the blog, plus I have my own experiences and observations to share. It is pretty heavy subject matter, but I think so many dancers struggle with it that it is worth talking about. But I digress….
Big bum bum or not, I will say that in general I love the way the body moves. And I’d rather move like I do and be big, than be small and not be able to dance very well. I’m gonna lose the weight and I already appreciate what my body can do, though I can’t wait for it to transform and be able to do more and do it more easily.
Anyways, we resume dancing the Mambo, and after feeling pretty good about myself, Ivan wants to do it one more time. He starts to squat down while I’m doing swivels, so I start to squat down with him. I’m being connected, right?
“No! You stay up!”
He seems a little frustrated.
“You not connected! Why you not using the connection?!”
“Ivan, you seem a little upset.”
“I am! Because you not moving your ass!”
We both start laughing. It is a concern as a dancer if you are not moving your behind! At least he knows there is more movement in me and cares enough to get mad if he thinks I am holding back.
But then it is on to Latin. Man oh man. I am really trying. I promise. There is just so, so much to remember. And right now connection, counting, and remembering the steps seem like the biggest things. Shaking my tailfeather has taken a backseat.
I have always relied on my instructor too much because it is easier for me to tune into him and follow since he knows what he is doing. The only problem with that is that I don’t know what I am supposed to be doing. So I miss steps, or rush through them, or forget to settle the hip. I do want to be empowered and move myself and know where I am supposed to be in any given moment. The way to do that, for me, is through counting.
Oy vey! It so messes up my brain. It is difficult to speak and breathe and dance all at the same time, I’m not kidding! It is so much easier, say, in rhythm, to just listen to the music and move. Now I have to count it. I know it is good for me and will improve my dancing, and it is not coming very easy for me.
Case in point, Ivan has this percussion only Rumba. I cannot find the beat (according to him) for the life of me. I hear a beat and move to it, but he keeps telling me it is wrong. Play a regular song, and I can immediately find the proper beat and count. This thing, on the other hand, I am at sea.
So, today, I’m just going to own the fact that I hate counting. But, even so, I am going to do it. I am going to practice it every lesson. I see how much it helps and how much I’m relying on my instructors instead of myself. I also noticed it in Inna’s class because she stopped counting during one of the exercises and I immediately got lost. So it is a notice for me that it is something I’m deficient in. And I dislike doing it strongly at this time. Oh well. Luckily I don’t have to like it to do it. Isn’t free choice great!
Now, time to go move my ass!
Big bum-bum or not, it’s not the way we look to others that really matters, it truly is the way we see our SELVES. (Yes, purposely two words: our selves, not ourselves.) For too long, many of us have considered ourselves equal to our bodies: what they look like; how they are decorated/clothed/pampered; what they drive; where they live, etc. The real Stef (and the real Billie… or Joe, or Sally) is much more than the shell called a body. Thanks for reminding us, Stef, to play full-out!
Thanks so much for this comment. I have certainly identified with my body over the years. This was a great reminder for me that my “beingness” and spirit far exceed my physical limitations. I think many people, but espeically dancers, experience a lot of pain when they think they are their body. It is certainly a topic I will explore on this blog as it has influenced my story greatly, and one of the reasons I gave up dancing to become an “adult” in the “real world.” Thank Goodness I’m moving once again, and embracing my inner fabulous-ness.
no way to thank you enough, the way you talk about things is so eloquent and what you say is deeply true. I am posting excepts from your blog on my facebook to share with others the way I feel…
Wow, Maria! Thanks so much for the compliments. It is a great way to start the day. I so appreciate the fact that you read my post and felt moved enough to comment. I hope you will continue to join me on my journey and enjoy the ride. Have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve!