I have amazing news.
I have been to ballroom hell, and I survived it! Heck! I even enjoyed myself a bit.
You see, ever since I began taking Inna’s Advanced International Latin class on Tuesday nights, she’s always ended the class by saying how sad she is (wink, wink), that we’ve run out of time, and that we won’t be able to do the Jive that evening.
Usually we all groan, and sigh in relief. Jive is freakin’ hardcore cardio for 2 minutes straight! Not easy in a fit body, much more difficult carrying the extra weight of an entire person on your frame. So, I always dreaded the day that we would do Jive in class. I didn’t expect it to come so soon. But Tuesday it happened!
Not even a warm-up Rumba! Inna went straight for the jugular.
“Oh shit!” I thought.
Maybe only dancing the routine one time through with any quality before my cardiovascular capacity (er…or the lack thereof) would stop me. I’d huff and puff a minute or so and get back to it. And, you know what, as pathetic of shape as I may be in at this point, it is a heck of a lot better than when I first began. In fact, I was even reflecting that Inna saw me about 2 years ago at my highest weight, when I’d just come back to ballroom dancing. She’s actually seen the entire journey so far, which is kind of cool. And, even cooler, we both know there has been progress. (At the end of class I told her my strategy is to go as full-out as I can until I can’t and then recover and then go at it again during class and that eventually I WILL be able to make it through the entire thing. I commented that I did think it was better than at the beginning, and she wholeheartedly agreed.)
Anyways, Inna showed us how we were supposed to bounce on our feet and taught us a little combo that involved a basic, some kicks all around, and some chasses. It is important to have the body forward, the arms forward and relaxed, and no hips! That was a bid admonition! NO HIPS IN THE JIVE!
But then, after that, Inna, being Inna, upped the ante. It’s never just simply about the steps with her. I always get more. She always shares a golden nugget, and this Tuesday was no different.
She split the class in half and had the first half dance the routine while the rest of us, including her, tried to distract them. Their object was to stay focused, calm, to stay in their performance regardless of our obnoxious intrusions.
So that was fun, of course, to try and bug my classmates. But then, alas, it was my turn.
I did pretty well, I think. My biggest limitation being lack of breath and inexperience with the technique of the dance. But I didn’t let that stop me. I did the routine with my friend up in my grill, and looked her directly in the eye until my legs and lungs gave out.
As I was breathing deeply to recover I heard the soundtrack to Jaws playing through my brain.
Inna, like a shark stalking its prey had arrived to my end of the room. She could see I was struggling.
“Are you okay?” She asked. “Can you do it?”
I nodded in assent, gulped in one last breath of air, and set to it.
Inna didn’t hold back. She got even more in my face than my friend had. It was actually quite fun. But it did goof me up a little bit…Inna is pretty intimidating to have in your space. I used to be afraid of her from afar when I first saw her at my old dance studio. She just has such a presence. Anyways, I feel more confident now, but still, come on! She a world-ranked pro!
So she got in my face and instead of doing two sets of the basic before launching into the kicks, I only did one set. But I thought I recovered pretty well. I simply smiled and told her I’d changed the choreography as I continued to dance toward her. Then, on the way back, she danced right beside me. As I switched my arms, my left arm hit her in the head!
It messed up her hair, but not much more than that. It was truly a glancing blow. It just sounds much more dramatic if I say I hit her. But, still, you know, well Inna….you got in my space! This is what happens when you get in MY space! And I’m now, after this exercise (and a lot of other background work) I’m holding my space like never before.
So that made me giggle. And I’m glad I didn’t injure anybody, including myself. I think I deserve a sparkly t-shirt that says “I survived Jive class with Inna!” kind of like how my husband got an orange headband for completing a Tough Mudder. (It’s about as hard, I think ha ha)
Anyways, as the class was about to close, Inna invited us to do the Jive routine one last time.
“Imagine it is the last round of your scholarship. Or the last 10 minutes of the final round. How do you want to dance?” She asked.
“Give it all.” She told us. “Because, no matter how you place, if you do your very best and leave it all on the floor and know that, you won’t feel badly about it. But if you know you gave up, gave in, didn’t give it all you have, then when you get placed lower, you will wonder if you could have made the final round, or 2nd place instead of 3rd.”
She reminded me that it’s all tough but there is the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. I have to remember this each time I practice.
Even more so, with what she said next after we had danced.
“How did you end?”
Most of us had made it to the end of the routine and collapsed, mentally, and physically. We immediately lost focus. It was apparent in our body language that we were relieved to be done, that it had been a huge effort, and that we were tired.
She demonstrated for us.
I was like, ohhhhhh. Yeah. I so do that.
“It’s the last 10 seconds when the judges are making their decision. Who is the last couple to be placed in the final round? Who should be 1st and who should be 2nd? This may be the moment they make that decision! What do you want to show them in that moment? How do you want to end?”
Again, a nugget of pure gold. I appreciate Inna and her expertise so much and I’m so grateful because it is helping me transform and grow every time I go.
The only problem is…..
Inna promised more Jive next week! AAHHHHHHHHH!
But, yo! I’ll be there! (With my sparkly shirt on) Hopefully it won’t involve hitting anyone…..