Saturday Ivan and I practiced at Dance Starz studio. When I arrived, we had the entire space to ourselves. We started working straight away on the Latin Rumba for the showcase in February. Although it is still in pieces, we have figured out the beginning for sure. I’m supposed to remember it and remind Ivan if he tries to change anything.
So we get a few of the steps set in stone as to the order of them but then Ivan wants me to make the movements over and over. I do one pose or step and he stops me, corrects something, then I repeat it 5 more times. Then on to the next millisecond of the dance and the process repeats. The way I’m describing it here you might think it was tedious or annoying, but really, for me, it wasn’t. It was actually endlessly fascinating.
I worked up a sweat just raising up my hand above my head in preparation to move. Ivan shows me where to look, how to hold my fingers, to turn out my front foot and cross my back leg to increase balance. These all seem like minute details, but these miniscule pointers are what will separate me from the pack so that my movements have a different and unique quality to them, so that they are finished.
I’m doing pretty well but Ivan has a very sensitive BS radar. One of the other aspects of my dancing that I believe will set me apart from others is the authenticity I bring to it. I truly feel things when I move. Sometimes I feel too shy to reveal them but luckily my instructor recognizes that. He can sense the dancer in me and we are working on bringing her out completely. The downside of this is that the moment I’m not present or feeling, Ivan can tell and he’ll call me on it.
The thing is, I can flip in and out of being present and authentic in a nanosecond and not even realize it. One minute I’m dancing, the next I’m in my head worrying about all the stuff I’m supposed to do rather than feeling it. For instance, I did the opening sequence for the Rumba a few times. Then, with the increased feedback from Ivan about where to look, fingers, toes, etc, I went into mental land.
“What happened? You doing so good, then now you being scary.” (Scary translates to scared in Ivan-talk)
Well, it didn’t help that a group of about 12 people entered the studio. I saw they were watching us work as they waited for their lesson. Instead of being excited about that, I tend to withdraw, contract inward, and avoid eye contact….the exact opposite of what I should be doing. Like, the entire point of being a ballroom dancer is to get noticed. I’m getting noticed, but it makes me want to hide.
I have to take a deep breath and try to tune out the crowd, just focus on the feeling. Again, more details are shared that I must remember and my brain is starting to reach capacity.
“Ivan, it’s just so much to remember.”
“But you doing so well. Don’t be thinking, oh, it’s too much. You are doing it, almost like a professional. You are so close. It’s okay to not getting it right away. I see you understand. I see you feeling but then it goes away.”
He wants me to emote and move at my best in every moment. He sees me withdrawing and demonstrates what I’m effectively doing. He walks toward a nearby office door with purpose, looking directly at it, and making a straight line to it. This is how I should be moving. Then he demonstrates what I’m doing. I’m walking toward the door, but my eyes are looking all around the room. It’s like he’s trying to find the door blind. He is in the general vicinity and eventually locates the door handle, but it is disconnected, sloppy, slower than the direct approach.
I laugh but I also know he is absolutely right.
“I know, Ivan, I know I do this.” I sigh.
Then he pulls me over to the bathroom. He is walking directly toward other objects in the studio demonstrating the concept again, and this time with more passion. He’s almost getting angry. He walks to a screen, the wall, the bathroom sign. Then he grabs my arm and pulls me to a photo on the wall. It is two of the dance instructors doing that overhead lift from “Dirty Dancing.” Pretty impressive.
“When we gonna do this, Stefanie?”
In my head I answer, “like about 120 pounds from now, Ivan.”
It doesn’t even seem like a real possibility at this time. Why is he even bringing it up? Overhead lifts have never been a part of my plan. Even in my skinny days I was too heavy to be lifted, at least in my own head. I always felt like the biggest girl.
He’s fearless, though, and doesn’t have my particular flavor of mental baggage that creates limitations in my mind. I’ve seen him toss around a 70-year-old woman, one of his students, in the Hustle.
And don’t get me wrong, I have big dreams when it comes to dancing. In my head I have all sorts of fantasies about how I’m going to look, that I’m going to win some scholarship competitions, that I’m going to eventually get to dance in open heats in the night sessions when the lights are low and the ballroom is buzzing. But all that feels like a fairy tale – things I generally do not talk about for fear that others will think me mad but that are in my heart and that I desire greatly.
But today is not the day to attempt this particular trick. Just standing still and preparing to move have been a challenge. But ultimately I feel encouraged by Ivan’s belief in me. Sometimes I think he believes in me more than I do. That’s why he endlessly crams my brain full of details. That’s why he has me do the same thing over and over and over.
And one day I’m going to believe in myself this much. One day, if I stick with it, and work hard, and practice, and sweat, then one day I will get to maybe play out in real life some of those fantasies in my head. And what an amazing feeling that will be.
After all, I’m so close.
It reminds me of this movie I saw on the internet which you can see here:
After all, I’m not working at all this to just be good.
I want to be GREAT!
I think it is time to turn up the heat…