The Trip So Far…

So much has happened in the last 48 hours, I’m feeling a little overwhelmed at the thought of writing a blog post about it.  But writing for me is cathartic, so I know at the end of this post, I’m going to feel cleansed.  It may take a while to get it all out, but get it out I will.  I have a lot to mediate and process about my experiences over the past two days.

As you know, I’m currently at the Desert Classic DanceSport Championship.  Getting here was the easy part.  Once we arrived, well that’s another story.

Anyways, I left Wednesday morning to pick up Ivan and Marieta.  We road-tripped it to the competition.  Here’s what I know about Europeans.  They like to take their sweet time.  I didn’t have anything to rush to the competition for, so I was happy to go with the flow as Ivan needed to stop at the bank, and then they wanted coffees, so since we were right there I topped off my gas tank at the gas station, and an hour later than our departure time, we finally headed out of town, bound for Palm Desert, California.

The car ride was a lot of fun.  We put on tunes, listening to ABBA and Queen, Ivan singing horribly off-key, and me and Marieta sharing deep conversation.  Also, they taught me a few cuss words in Bulgarian.  Always handy, and dang hard to remember! Ivan was cracking up listening to me say all these horrible things in his mother-tongue.

I made Ivan put on his seatbelt.  I honestly think he would have preferred to go sans the belt, but it’s not safe, it’s the law, and it was my car, my rules.  I locked the doors too.  Anyways, after our trek through the hot desert, when we finally arrived, Ivan got out of the “jail.”  Yep, he called my car a jail.

So we step out, and my car is making a horrible noise, like a cow, dying.  Also, there is bright green liquid leaking out from under the car on the passenger side.  Not good signs.  Ivan tells me to pop the hood and he looks under it.  We can see the liquid in one of the compartments boiling.  Ivan asks me if the car overheated.  He starts the car and we look at the gauge – it is all the way in the very high hot zone.  I didn’t know a car could overheat with no symptoms, like the air conditioning not working, or some engine sputtering, or something.  Plus, that gauge isn’t one I generally pay attention to (lesson learned).

So anyways, yes my car overheated.  It was not to be driven or else the engine might explode, completely destroying the car.  What to do?

Luckily we have AAA.  I was able, with the help of Marieta and the concierge, to find an AAA approved mechanic, have the car towed there, and get it fixed.  Honestly, Marieta was an absolute angel.  She located a shop right away and helped me make the myriad of phone calls necessary to locate different repair options, get price quotes, and coordinate delivery and pick up of the car.  Not only that, but since I was dancing today, I gave the mechanic her phone number and she handled it for me.  All I had to do was pick up the car and pay for the service.

Happily, I have a fixed car and will be able to get home on Sunday.  Also, we were all counting our lucky stars that the car didn’t completely overheat to where it exploded the engine, especially out in the middle-of-nowhere desert we passed through for hours on the trip.  In over 100 degree weather, that would have royally sucked.  Instead, we were able to handle the situation from the comfort of a hotel, then enjoy a nice dinner at a quaint little Italian restaurant.

We were very messy.  I feel badly for the person who has to wash that tablecloth we used.  First, Ivan spilled olive oil.  Have you ever seen those oil and vinegar containers that have oil in one side and vinegar in the other?  This one had a hollow glass clump of grapes which housed the balsamic vinegar, and the oil was in a container surrounding it.  Anyways, as Ivan said, it was “tricky.”  He poured out a big glob of the olive oil accidentally.  Then I created a pink streak from the salad dressing bowl to my salad plate.  Not to mention the red beets from the salad which fell of the salad plate onto the table.  I was just waiting for Marieta to spill her wine, but instead she lost some of her chocolate dessert off her spoon.

After dinner Ivan and I did a little practice, and after us Ivan and Marieta practiced.  I tried to stay up and watch SYTYCD, but I was so beat, I had to turn it off before it ended.  I had a big day tomorrow and needed my rest.  unfortunately, I woke up every hour or so and then was up by 5:45 am so Marieta could begin my hair and make up at 6 am.  That took an hour and a half.  I’d hoped I’d have time to get a real breakfast but it was an oatmeal breakfast bar and banana for me.  Honestly, with all my nerves, that was even hard to get down.  But I knew I’d need fuel for the coming hours.

So we made it to the ballroom by 8am before my first heat.  It was smooth to begin, and I did well, I guess, on my first round of heats, placing a bit first, second, and third.  After that, it wasn’t so hot.  And I was having a hard time with Ivan.  He kept wanting something more from me.  He was trying to move me around the floor, telling me I was getting tired and leaning on him, telling me things to fix.  It was too much.  It really got me in my head.  I began to let the mental stuff get in my way.  Plus I feel like, why are you trying to fix all this right now?  You can’t tell me I’m doing well on lessons, then find 500 things that are wrong at a competition.  I wasn’t mentally prepared for that.  I can understand reminding me of things we already discussed, but when I have no clue what you want, not fair.  And for whatever reason, I couldn’t just let it go.  Anyways, things really headed south after I got dead last in the scholarship round.  It was my first one ever, but I have to be honest, I didn’t think I’d get last.  I have no idea how the other people danced, or what the judges were looking for, or whatever, but I still have certain expectations for myself.  I’m not delusional, and I know that there are a lot of technique issues in my smooth dancing.  I didn’t expect to win or anything, I just didn’t think I was that bad.  Kind of hard to swallow, but hey, just feedback right?  And this mixed with other feedback from people who didn’t have to say anything to me because they don’t know me from Tuesday, but still came up and said how graceful I was.  Also mixed with an un-pleased Ivan.  Ahhhh!

I mean, I get that I’m supposed to dance to please me, and to be happy if my dancing is improving, and I don’t think placements are necessarily an objective judgement of how I, or anyone else is doing.  Anyways, I still, mentally get into traps about how other people perceive me, what they think of me, and when I don’t place well, I let it affect me sometimes.  Now in the silver and open levels, I had no expectations of placing, and I didn’t.  I was fine with that.  I was way more upset with the dynamic with Ivan.  It’s hard not to please my teacher for me.  I struggle with people pleasing.  And he didn’t seem thrilled with my performance, at all.

You know, honestly, today was an off day.  I was seriously toast by the end.  I think my blood sugar got low a few times, because I got stupid, like my brain was zoning out.  All the sugar was going to my muscles.  Anyways, I kept downing Gatorade and water and even a few hard candies, but I blanked more than a few times on the leads Ivan was giving me, I couldn’t stay focused and rushed things, and I even forgot we had one last jive to complete.  I went to get some water thinking I had 10 minutes before my next round of heats and see Ivan walking on the floor.  I was really confused.  But I missed one.

Oh, and I fell.  I need new smooth shoes.  I believe the ones I have are too big and my foot slipped out of my right shoe and down I went.  But I got back up and curtsied to Ivan and continued my dance with a smile.  I even got a little applause.  I mean, what are you going to do?  It’s just embarrassing.

Okay well, good, I thought.  Smooth was finally done.  Time to switch to Latin.  Problem.  The zipper on my dance shoe bag jammed.  I tried to open it.  Ivan tried.  Eventually I had to borrow some scissors and slash the bag to get my shoes out ten minutes before my first Latin heat!  Sheesh!  What is going on this weekened!  Give a girl a break!  Anyways, I was looking forward to some Rumbas and thought I’d do decently in Latin.  Alas, it was not to be so.  I didn’t make the final for the Latin scholarship, and I didn’t place in any of the single dances.  But here’s two tidbits that are “go figure” about the Latin set.  First, we never practiced the Jive.  Ivan had to resort to call out certain moves because I was so unsure of what to do.  Seriously, my head was fuzzy.  But guess what?  We placed 3rd in stinking jive.  It is an exhausting dance and I did only the most basic of steps, but it was the one I did best in.  Not only did I place, I got a comment from Ivan’s professional friend that he really liked my Jive.  That felt good.  Second, we danced in some open silver heats after the scholarship, and apparently I placed in some of those heats.  Okay, so I place in the harder heat level, but don’t even make it to the final?

Only one or two of my like 80 heats actually felt good or “on” today.  It was actually fun to do some of my showcase rumba as an open entry, but the first one, I was totally off, rushing everything.  The second time we did it, it went much better, I thought and that was one of the heats that felt okay.

I was really up and down today.  One heat doing horrible, the next okay.  A bobble here, a misstep there, a missed lead there.  I am mystified how professional athletes, of any kind, can develop consistency.  Like I know I can sometimes do a really great rumba, say, but not every single time.  It is more difficult, it seems, to be consistent, than to have moments of good or great.

In good news, Colette is a total rockstar and she got 3rd in the Latin Closed Pro/Am scholarship!  Awesome!  She looked fabulous.

Also in good news, my body held up pretty well after my day of dancing.  Better than expected overall.  My feet hurt, but not too much, and not so much swelling.  No major asthma interfering with the dancing.  And though endurance continues to be a problem and my body was ready to be done by the end of the day (it was an absolute Godsend that the last two Latin rounds were sans Jive), I was able to tolerate the dancing I needed to do.  That being said, having better endurance and cardiovascular capacity would help me immensely.

You know, there is just so much to think about from a big experience like this.  I have a conversation that Ivan and I have tabled until we get back and are done with the competition about goals, what we need to fix, etc, etc, but also, I am unsure about my dancing.  This isn’t a great place to be.  I got some really nice comments and compliments from a few professionals.  I didn’t do well in terms of the competition ranking.  I’m wondering how much appearance (read being overweight) factors into things – like I’m absolutely aware that I’m the biggest girl in the ballroom, and I look nothing like what a Latin dancer is “supposed” to look like.  But I have to say, watching the Latin finals that I didn’t make, I really feel like there were two dancers that I moved better than, but hey, what do I know?  But I don’t think placements are entirely based on just the dancing, that’s all I’m saying.  These competitors had the “Latin look” and one danced with a well-known, highly ranked pro.  It makes me wonder what weight judges put on dancing, quality of movement, looks, appearance, and politics.  Not that I guess it matters – they are going to judge how they are going to judge – it is just really interesting to ponder, and it’s all so subjective anyays.

Regardless of results and all that, when it comes down to it, I’m finding that ballroom dancing, really taking it on, showing up for events like this, is a great opportunity to learn more about myself, as well as to discover opportunities for personal growth.  For instance, I have come to the conclusion that I’m a mental marshmallow.  I need to toughen up and not take it all so personally (though I have no clue how to do this yet).  Also, if I am really serious about this dancing, I must be willing to do what it would take to get myself into a presentable shape.  If I just want to be “pretty good” and “have fun” that is fine.  I need to get clear on my goals, and then go for what I want.  I simply cannot be the dancer I wish to be unless things change.

I have to remember, most people wouldn’t show up like I am.  I have to remind myself that I’m a badass because I dare to claim a little place in the ballroom world, which values many qualities I don’t possess.  I have to remind myself, that I have the power to move people.  I absolutely saw one lady smile in the audience in response to my dancing.   I have to remind myself not to feel small, not to feel unworthy because I am different from everyone else, or that I’m not performing how I or my teacher wishes I would.

So moving forward, what I have learned that I will apply to Saturday and beyond in my life are these things:

1.  Eat breakfast.  I needed better fuel to support me today.

2.  I am grateful for Ivan and Marieta.  I have had so much fun with them yesterday and today.  It is like friends hanging out with much laughter.  They are gems and I’m so lucky to be working with them.

3.  I have some confidence issues to work out.  I will be as confident as possible on Saturday then do the work that needs to be done to create more confidence in myself and my dancing.

4.  Appearance is a big deal.

5.  There are still communication issues to be worked out.

6.  Tomorrow is a new day and a new opportunity.  In fact, every moment is a new moment and a new opportunity.  How do I want to show up next?

Tomorrow is a day of rest, including a massage at the spa.  I’m really glad I came to the Desert Classic this year and am grateful to have the opportunity to do it.  It is at a gorgeous venue and it is fun to see many of my friends dancing here alongside me.  Irina and Igor Suvarov have done a beautiful job with this well-run and well-organized competition.  Also, I am learning a lot about myself and really having a wonderful time.   Plus, my car now has a new thermostat.  Extra bonus.

Alrighty.  I’m pooped.

TTFN, Stef

10 thoughts on “The Trip So Far…

  1. Dear incredible amazing Stef,
    I wish I could reach through the computer and give you a huge hug! I won’t try to tell you that placements don’t matter at all.. of course we all want to place well. But you know, as you said, it can’t only be about the placements. When you do a sport with any subjective judging and scoring (skating, riding, etc) vs track and field or swimming or weight lifting where a clock or scale is your judge there will always be the human aspect that we cannot “train” for. You cannot choose which few seconds the judges glance at you, so you may well be a better t

    • (Sorry commenting fom my phone this is coming in pieces). may well be overall a better dancer that those who made the finals but perhaps the judge saw the few seconds when you were not in that dance. You cannot train for politics or the “name” of a pro (and I know you wouldn’t trade Ivan for anything), all this is beyond your control.

      You inspire people just by showing up. And your courage and willingness to grab life and dance says to every one in the room “hey look at me! I’m amazing as I am and I just keep getting better. I dare you to watch me!” And people are drawn to you, as a dancer, a person, an inspiration. Please

      • Remember…you make a difference and you matter. Sending HugZ and so much love.

      • loveablestef says:

        Yep, I wouldn’t trade Ivan for the world. And thanks, Ellen, for the awesome encouragement. It is wonderful to think that you can see all that in me. It helps a lot. I mean, I’m really having a great time here! It’s all a journey, and hey, not all of life is peaches and cream, you know? Live, learn, grow. Sometimes there’s growing pains. Still a lot better to be here going after it than sitting on the couch. I wouldn’t trade being here and placing last in every single of my 119 heats for the alternative! HA! I will dance from the space of “I am wonderful” on Saturday. Let that be my goal. Let whatever happen, happen, and let me not even let Ivan affect me, unless positively!

  2. caityrosey says:

    I definitely think that the day of the competition is not a time to fix anything. Anything that can be fixed has been fixed. Hopefully you’re so used to your routines that you know them inside and out and you no longer have to dissect them in your head as you dance them. The times I did bet in competition were times when I didn’t have to think about my steps at all but, instead, focused on expression, which is much more fun.

  3. Alaina says:

    Ah, dance sure can be a roller coaster! You know, I’ve only been dancing for over a year, and just this Monday, I found myself, for the first time ever, actually getting frustrated with myself while dancing. It didn’t feel to good. But I realized, that me getting frustrated was an excellent sign. It means that I’m actually meeting a challenge, and with a challenge, comes the possibility of progression. One can’t progress when one is on flat terrain, if you catch my drift. My best wishes to you, you’ll be great!

    • loveablestef says:

      Yes, Alaina! That is exactly right. I’m not on flat terrain at the moment and even if it doesn’t feel fun in every moment, it is still a gift, and I value it. It wouldn’t be fun if it weren’t a challenge and with challenge comes a not-always-smooth road. It is in overcomming the challenge that we discover ourselves and make all the effort and discomfort a small price to pay.

  4. Paragon2Pieces says:

    I have approximately ONE MILLION thoughts on this post, but will spare you the ramble (for now) 😉 My main thought is that one of your primary goals right now is working on your endurance and stamina. Yesterday, you made progress on that goal by making it through a very long day and dancing an incredible number of heats. Very admirable!

    I have a feeling rhythm is your strong suit… the best is yet to come!!!

  5. bgballroom says:

    Big hugs from Canada too, Stef! Let me say that you are brave to blog at all during a comp. It is always a bit of a roller coaster, especially since you have had a break and are with a new partner. Honestly, you should give yourself a pass on almost everything to do with results (and all of your other bad luck – yikes! – can you just claim Friday the 13th and hope for better dates next year? LOL)

    We are watching the Rythm final right now streaming online, which is pretty darn cool. There was a little kid doing a cha cha during general dancing and he had the shoes with lights in them:-)

    Anyway, what we really need is some nice photos showing your costume and hair. If it was worth getting up at 5:45 to have done, we need to see it!

  6. bgballroom says:

    PS We know all about the appearance thing. My husband is a foot taller than me – not great for International Standard, and we know that sometimes we miss finals just because of our height difference. Just the way it is.

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