Say what? I know, I know…kind of a weird title. But hopefully it made you a little curious as to what I’m talking about. Well, here’s the deal – on a recent lesson Ivan was admonishing me saying, “Stop dancing like baba metza! You so young. No should be dancing so slow.”
“What the heck is a ‘baba metza,'” I asked, being as I am not-as-yet-fluent in Bulgarian.
Turns out a “baba metza” is a “grandmom bear.” Quite a visual image for ya, huh!? Can you imagine a grandmother bear trying to dance? She’d be lumbering, and huge, and slow. Well, it kind of fits my current physical condition. And it’s funny. And, well, we’ve know this for a while, but I really don’t want to be a grandmother bear before my time. There is a time to be a grandmom bear, but before you hit your 40’s ain’t it.
By Harry Furniss (en:Harry Furniss, 1854-1925) (Lewis Carroll: Sylvie and Bruno. (1889)) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
And the truth is being baba metza really messes with my head. So much of my psychology is tied up with my body image, and I’m in the totally wrong sport for being a baba metza. Maybe I should take up weight lifting? Well, no. Inside I’m no baba metza. Inside the hot girl exists. But letting her out, really, well, while in the body of baba metza, I’ve been unable to let myself do it.
And as much as Ivan has pulled out performance and connection in me and my dancing, well, there are still barriers in the way. I’m truly grateful to be dancing with this particular teacher because he focuses on these aspects of the dancing as much as the steps and technique. But because of that, he can see the walls I put up to protect myself, but that also keep him, and the audience out.
Case in point. We are at a lesson on Thanksgiving and Marieta has come along because they are going to practice after my lesson. It’s always a treat when Marieta shows up – she can add an extra critical eye, explain how to do things from a female perspective, and its generally such a big help and a treat to have her present. Anyways, we were having a pretty schizophrenic lesson – Ivan was filling me in on some technique he learned on lessons with coaches while at Ohio Star Ball, and then we were working on the Rumba, and then, it became about my damn body image, and the stupid barriers.
We were working on side by side rocks and Ivan was like, “You have to keeping the energy between us, but then reach out and connect with the audience or the judges, but then be coming back to me.”
Conceptually I understand it. Executing it is another story.
“Marieta! Come here be judge.”
“No! Not enough! You didn’t share the story with her!” Says Ivan.
“I did! I looked her in the eye.” I swear.
“Yes, for a millisecond,” chimes in Marieta. “But you didn’t really connect.”
Dude! Don’t you know even having the confidence/courage to make eye contact at all is a big deal for me? I sulkily think silently to myself.
We try again, and this time I make more faces. It’s still not really working. I’m lacking authenticity.
Upon reflection, after marinating on the experience for a few days, I realize this is because I don’t have a story inside. Well, that’s not entirely true. I do have a story inside me, a rich, gorgeous, story, but I haven’t allowed it to be the impetus for my movement. All the movement has to start from conviction somewhere within. The story can be as simple as I’m happy to be here with my partner and then I’m sad that I’m not as I step away from him. I mean, there is most certainly a story inside me, but I never let it out. It bumps up against the barrier I’ve put up for protection, because I am a baba metza. It’s a wall that prevents me from really revealing myself. It feels extremely vulnerable to do so, especially in the Rumba. I can’t seem to allow myself to really “go there” while my self-image is so tied up in a huge knot with grandmother bear.
It all started when Ivan grabbed my thighs while standing behind me on a prior lesson. If I were Marieta, he’d do that movement and I’d respond, have a feminine reaction, which in the context of the Rumba would be to feel it, enjoy that touch, and melt into it. Being myself, I shrieked in fright, tensed up, and it immediately brought up memories of body shame – like when I was in high school and this boy I liked touched my upper arm. I was immediately horrified because my arm is fat and gross and he must be disgusted to feel that. Projection of my own thoughts about myself at it’s best! Well, regardless, this is what came up for me. I mean – it’s not every day that I am touched, especially on the thighs. And even though I trust Ivan, and there was nothing icky about the touch, I still had that strong reaction.
I shared this with him as he was encouraging me to connect, the reason why it’s so difficult for me.
“You think I caring what I touching when we dancing? No. I no care. I hearing the music. It no matter.”
It’s hard for me to believe he wouldn’t rather touch Marieta, or a fit student, than my baba metza frame.
As I see it, there are two parts to this that need to come into alignment. The first is emotional/psychological. Ivan gave me a chance to step into that immediately on this lesson. He created a challenge for me in the moment that was extremely uncomfortable for me. Happily, I know that if it is uncomfortable, then in means that I am growing, so I embrace that, as much as it makes my stomach twist and I try to hide it behind nervous laughter. I take a deep breath and say yes to the exercise.
Basically, it was simply this: Marieta stood in front of me. My job was to touch her and make her “melt.” To do this meant to look her directly in the eye, openly, as well as to invade her body space (well, that is what it felt like to me), and actually touch her, feeling her body and mine.
I warned Ivan ahead of time that there may be a lot of tears in the next few lessons and as we work on this. I explained that when I very first began dancing, and began to move my hips, it seemed like I would never run out of tears. Well, we’ve hit on another aspect deep like that.
“It’s okay. It’s okay. Do it and cry. But do it. You having this opportunity right now. Today, right now it is here. But tomorrow no.”
So I do the exercise and I cry a little bit, but I stay with it, with Marieta, with myself, and Ivan is pleased.
Marieta says, “Good job. You did well. Could it be better? Yes, but you did it.”
Ivan says, “You be like this and I could stare at you for three minutes.”
“What do you mean by that? Huh?”
“That we could no be dancing, just you being like this, and it would be enough. Everybody, if they care to watching, would be wondering what is happen next.”
I brought the drama, I guess.
He gives me a hug and says, “You perfect on this lesson.”
Marieta says, “It’s not about who you touch.”
“No,” I say, “Its about being vulnerable.”
“Well, you can be just as strong in a Rumba as a Paso Doble. It doesn’t have to be about being vulnerable.”
It sure feels that way to me, though. Perhaps there will be a day where I can feel that strength. But until then, at least I did manage to bust up some of the emotional/psychological b.s. that gets in my way, which is good. Yes, there is still more, as I am layered like an onion and there is more to peel back. But it was a step forward.
However, it doesn’t bring the other, physical aspect into alignment. Only time at the gym, eating right, physically challenging myself will do that.
So anyways, I’m on the hunt for resouces that will assist me with shedding this baba metza physique and interestingly enough, I discovered one such resource called slimkicker.com. It’s actually a pretty cool platform and makes fitness and nutrition into a game. That sounds a lot more fun and engaging for someone like me who resists the regimentation I associate with taking on a diet plan. One drawback for me is that although they have an app for the iPhone, they do not as yet have one for Android phones (which is what I currently have) so I am limited to the website and that will make it trickier to keep up with logging my eating in real-time. However, slimkicker.com has a lot of good things that interest me right next to all the practical stuff I’ve found on other sites like LoseIt and with the FitBit. In addition, the website also has a ton of forums to participate in, a bunch of challenges to take on, and a myriad of ways to reward yourself once you “level up.” I’m 7% into my first level and once I complete it I’m buying myself a song on iTunes to dance to! There are even challenges in which you can earn giveaways from the website. You earn points to level up for entering in what you eat, completing exercise, and for doing challenges. And speaking of challenges, I thought they were pretty awesome – I signed up for one which is simply to put on my running shoes for 10 minutes for 3 days in the next week. Sounds simple enough and it works on the psychology of just getting started. Committing to putting on shoes is a lot less overwhelming than committing to three 45 minute workouts at the gym but once the shoes are on it’s pretty much guaranteed that I’ll do something, even if it is only 10 minutes, which I doubt it would be because once I get going, I’d be there for a while. Plus, there are also plenty of harder challenges for people who are more advanced than I. Each challenge has an explanation of the reasoning behind it, plus you can make up your own as well. In addition, the challenges are in a variety of categories like nutrition, or willpower, or emotional. The website is pretty cool from what I saw, and packed full of information, including oodles and oodles of expert advice and articles on every subject under the sun related to maintaining health or losing weight. I mention it because if you are working on changing your physique, like I am, I found it to be a pretty neat website, and it’s free so it might be worth checking out.
And that, my friends, is it for now. Baba metza begone! Time for you to hibernate until I’m in my 60’s.
I absolutely love this blog post… I feel the same way when I dance. It’s like I want to give so much more but my issues with my body keep me from really connecting in a physical and emotional sense. I think my instructor senses this…. He always tries to get me to let him into my life but I have so many walls built up to protect y physical and emotional self that its very hard to break them down and truly make dancing the expression it should be. Keep up the great work though… It seems like you’re really opening up. You should know that people want to witness your story through dance… It will be beautiful when you do!
Thanks mybelle. Somehow I will find the courage to do this!
It’s amazing how deeply rooted our emotions are in our bodies, I know what you mean. In my ballet class sometimes, when I’m really *being present* for it, I nearly cry. I can’t even quite identify the feeling – it’s just this overwhelming combination of relief and shame rising up from real, honest focus on my body.
Which is only to say, you’re doing admirable work in those sessions, and I am suitably impressed. I look forward to seeing where you take it!
Thank you Tophos. Yes, there is much memory in the tissues – a real connection between mind, body and spirit that I don’t think we in Western society acknowledge or appreciate very much. Certainly it isn’t something we talk about and indeed being able to control our emotions, which often happens by blocking them through a physical reaction such as tightening of the throat for instance, is a sign of “growing up” and “being an adult.” But our psychological and emotional selves are inextricably intwined with our physical selves. It’s part of being human. And dancing (or other physical pursuits) can help us explore areas that have been shut down or blocked. Indeed, sometimes the emotions that arise seemingly come from nowhere. But, of course, they do come from somewhere – there is a reason they exist. Anyways, looking forward to continuing to heal and embrace all of me. Thanks for the kind words and encouragment. It’s nice to know other people can relate to what I speak of here.
Those painful emotions are all too familiar to me. I learn a lot about what dance should be from your recreations of your lessons, too.
Stef – you are also the bravest girl in the ballroom. If it was me I would be saying, “So Ivan, hows about some of that International Standard?” LOL Two looks – happy ballroom girl and tango-tude tango. No romance, fake or otherwise. Seriously, I would have a lot of trouble doing that Rhumba stuff even with my husband. You are amazing!