If you haven’t been watching SYTYCD, you should be.
It’s like, my fav-o-rite dance show evarrrrr.
And it relates to the title of my post. You know, everything happens for a reason and there are signs everywhere if we have the eyes to see them. The messages in my life abound. They come via friends, conversations, encounters at the grocery store, and even while watching t.v.
Tonight something Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer said on the on the show really stuck with me. He was asked to dance for his life. This happens when the judges aren’t sure about a dancer but he still has enough support that he or she gets one final chance to win the judges over for a spot on the show. He had to perform his solo, doing the style of dance that he is best at.
While very nervous in the previous rounds, Cyrus suddenly seemed calm and centered. Peaceful. Cat Deely interviewed him before he put it all on the line and he said, “There is no better feeling than being myself. I cannot wait to show the judges what I got.”
That stopped me dead in my tracks.
It represented what I call a paradigm shift.
If you haven’t already figured it out from reading my blog, I sometimes struggle with self-esteem issues, confidence issues, and body image issues. And I am also a dancer. A ballroom dancer. You know, those super sexy and elegant creatures, very feminine, confident, love having all the attention on them. Like, the very opposite of how I generally feel inside. But that is not why I am a dancer. I am a dancer because I was born that way, even if I didn’t even realize it for portions of my life. Dance lives inside me. My job, my biggest struggle, is to simply let it out, get out of my own way. To halt my hang-ups and insecurities, and analysis to paralysis, and negative thinking from getting in the way of the expression of that greater spirit that sometimes comes out when I let it.
So when Cyrus said what he said about there being nothing better than being himself and being so excited to share that with the judges, it was like, what? That thought never occurred to me.
You see, my aim for the Desert Classic, the goal behind the goal if you will, is not just to dance well, or place high, or even to get a top student award, it is actually to allow myself to be seen. To have dances full of pure dance, connection, joy. To let myself go to the places I usually keep dammed up, closed. I guess, in the end, it’s really about being vulnerable. Like some part of me is afraid to really let that show because I don’t necessarily feel like Cyrus. I don’t always feel like it’s awesome to be me. If I don’t feel great about myself, why would I want to share it? I’d want to only reveal the polished veneer, to look good.
You know, in theory, I believe we are all special, even me. We all have our own unique greatness. But when it comes to actually feeling that way about myself I waver between delusions of grandeur and being a squashed bug. Like in my dancing, sometimes I think I’m awesome. Other times, I feel like I can’t do anything right.
But the part of me that is actually awesome is bigger than any dance technique. It’s the part that my friend Colette saw when I danced on my birthday with Ivan. She told me, “I don’t know if it was the wine, but when you danced that night you shone.” It’s the part that my mom saw that brought her to tears when I danced in the showcase. It’s the part that gives Ivan goosebumps every once in a while when we dance together, like happened this morning for no particular reason I could discern.
But OMG, do you know what he told me Monday morning? There I was, struggling through more Rumba walks (in my head concentrating on my hips, getting over my feet, not slapping them on the floor, making my arms move, not dying because of the cardio, etc, etc, etc.) I was in the space of knowing that what I was doing just wasn’t good enough. That I was lacking proper technique…something Ivan was quick to remind me of, correcting something every few steps. And he tells me some fixes, and I do the best I can to implement them and you know what he tells me? He says, “I jealous of you.”
Like, say WHAT? Back that train up!
Here is this man, this amazing dancer. This person that I look up to and wish I could move like him, or Marieta. And he’s telling me that he’s jealous of me. I couldn’t believe it.
Like, what on earth did he have to be jealous of?
He explained. “You getting it so quickly! I have to practicing years and years and I never move like this. It’s cause you have talent.”
I have always thought that it really wasn’t talent. It was the fact that I danced as a kid and had a great teacher who knew her technique in ballet, tap, and jazz. I worked really hard to be moderately good in those genres, but I knew I’d never be able to do say the kind of dancing that is performed on SYTYCD. I knew I’d never be a professional dancer.
But ballroom is different. Not only is all about connection and partnering, but it seems to fit the way my body moves like a glove. By this I mean my hips are very flexible. Apparently this is not the case for a lot of people. I never gave it a second thought because it just came naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of technique to absorb, and a lot of working it though, but I think the base is there.
Anyways, I thought Ivan was totally off his rocker. I would give anything to move like he and Marieta or Inna…but then again, maybe I should rethink that?
You know, on Tuesday night I went to get my butt kicked in Inna’s class and we did Rumba, Cha Cha, and Samba. There is some tricky stuff in all three dances to master, and Inna often has students demonstrate what we are working on. It’s good because it gets us used to performing, being in front of others, being uncomfortable. etc. So at one point she had me do a Samba combination across the floor.
As an aside, I think I am actually doing better in the class in terms of stamina. Trust me, it’s nowhere near where it needs to be, but we had a new student in the class who looked like she was really fit. Even she was like, “When is this class gonna be over?” I had to laugh. I’ve so been there! But at least last night I was hanging in there pretty well.
So back to the Samba combo. Anyways, after class Inna said to me, “I love your Samba.”
Wow! That’s so cool. And I was like, “Thanks Inna.”
“It’s so much better!” She said.
Which is true. I actually had a lesson with her while Ivan was in Bulgaria getting married specifically to work on my Samba bounce – that tricksy movement! So she knew where I had started from.
Anyways, that felt like a pretty good acknowledgement. See, Stef, there has been progress. You are becoming a better dancer. Enough that others notice.
But every time I think about the Desert Classic, which happens multiple times during the day, I get butterflies in my stomach. Part of me is excited. Part of me is nervous.
I wonder if I will have the stamina to do what I need to do. I waver between being okay with how my body is because it isn’t going to change all that much between now and the competition, and just trusting that I move well and will be expressive and that it will be enough, and then freaking out because I am going to look so different from most of my competitors.
Well, I guess I’m deciding right now that screw it. Screw it all! Screw all the chatter in my head! It just needs to shut up!
Instead I’ll listen to Ivan and the music. I will tune into the dance.
I’m big. But I’ll be big in all ways, not just in my ass. I will be noticed. And not just for my size. I think it’s kind of unavoidable that I will be noticed for that initially. But that doesn’t have to be the main attraction. Instead, I will then begin to move. And from then on, I will be noticed because I will shine.
You know, I’ve got to get over myself and just set aside all this B.S. I will find my inner Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer and love being me, at least for the time that I’m dancing. I will find my inner Cyrus and be so excited to “show those judges what I’ve got.” Whatever that looks like in the moment.
I suppose I’m giving myself a little pep talk here on the blog, well so be it.
This is my time to shine. Carpe Diem and all that.
Stef – You wrote, “It’s the part that my friend Colette saw when I danced on my birthday with Ivan….I don’t know if it was the wine, but when you danced that night you shone… It’s the part that my mom saw that brought her to tears when I danced in the showcase… It’s the part that gives Ivan goosebumps every once in a while when we dance together, like happened this morning for no particular reason I could discern.”
When I read that, I started thinking about what I have heard referred to as “flow.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi coined the phrase in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, and I’ve never forgotten it. He defines flow as a relatively rare state of subjectively effortless performance that occurs when a body/mind that has prepared over and over in a given pursuit suddenly starts performing at its maximal level of competence, seemingly without conscious thought. I’ve had several flow experiences in my life, and they are sublime. I had them a few times while riding my show horse – suddenly, the horse and I would became one – slipping into an almost divine level of synchronization. I also experienced flow on occasion when I was working as an intensive care RN. Some screaming emergency would arise, and suddenly, I would find myself meeting its demands on autopilot – without having to think about what I was doing. I spoke with a fighter jet pilot one time who said he’d had the same experience while in combat. I believe the day will come when I have a flow experience while dancing – probably while Waltzing. I can almost taste it. It will be exquisite.
Stef you are such an incredible and inspirational dancer and human being. I know how hard it can be to see those qualities in yourself but please know you have touched many lives including mine! You have earned the right to dance at the Dessert Classic and you should go and shine – the others will be lucky to be in your light. As for the butterflies – they are good – they keep us on our toes. You never really want them to go away, just harness them and teach them to fly in formation – make that adrenlaine work for you rather than against you! I know you will be amazing! Hugz!
Hey Ellen, Thanks so much for this kind comment. It’s just what I needed today. I am really excited about the comp. Trying to figure out a way that I can still blog and post updates while I’m there, since I’m sure lots will be happening. I’m trusting it will all work out great and it will be a wonderful time. My last comp was so much fun and the one before that was really life changing. I’m sure this one will be too. And I’m so excited that many of my friends will be there and that I get to dance with Ivan. I’m the only student going. Oh, and I’m getting a new dress. I figured I couldn’t really dance in the same dress for 3 straight days. Oy vey! The fake nails will go on next week (after a trip to the lake) and then I have to decide if I’m going to tan, find nylons and fishnets that will fit me, and continue to practice as much as I can! Anyways, I know I will do better because I have friends like you to cheer me on and support me for who I am. That will help because trust me, I feel uncomfortable being around all those stick-thin, gorgeous girls I’m gonna compete against. But usually that fades away pretty quickly once I start dancing. I can’t tell you how much your support and kind wishes mean to me. Thanks again. You’re the best!
Stef I wish I could come out and cheer for you – I really would – but have foot surgery on 6/27 – so no travel (or dance!) for a while. Will they be streaming it? How awesome on the new dress! Can’t wait to see it! BTW did you ever get that song I sent you? It’s really appropriate. I wish there was a way to post a song – but I think it is too large a file – it’s 5.57MB
A new dress!?! How fun. Can we hear about it?
With regards to the tan–go for it! It’s part of getting “in character” and my personal experience was that it gave me more confidence about the skin that I was showing. Somewhat similar to getting nails put on.
Stef you are going to look great and dance beautifully 🙂
[…] guess what? I decided to channel my “Inner Cyrus” and gave my nail tech two Cha Cha basics, in my slippers, but with lots of hip. Ha ha! Go […]