Settle in, my friends! It’s gonna be an epic post…..well, at least an epicly long one! It’s been too long since I’ve had the time to sit and write and so have a lot of experiences piled up in my psyche and it’s time to flush it all out.
I guess I will start by saying that things have been really good the past week. Besides one little blip back into low-self-esteem land, so many wonderful and happy things have happened for me both in dancing and in my life.
Yesterday was a very good day. I received final confirmation that I actually got a bona fide job! I’ve been working as a temp for many months and my hard work has paid off. I’ve always treated the position as if it were already my job, being thankful for the chance to make money and support my dance habit whether or not it became a permanent affair. I’m only the second temp from my group that I am aware of that got hired and I did a full application and interview process and was turned down once prior to this very happy news. Now I will be an employee, with benefits, and with an awesome schedule for a pharmacist! I’m so very thankful because I will get to work from home and skip the 1.5 hour commute. I’ve worked in a lot of settings since I graduated and this is by far my favorite – I get to turn it “off” when I go home, no crazy hours, leadership I trust and feel safe with, and now the opportunity to work remotely. I feel so incredibly blessed and with the news feel that my income will be a bit more secure, so I’m already planning which competitions I’d like to do in the coming year.
The other thing that happened yesterday making it awesome was that I got a message from a friend who had found the video on YouTube of my Rumba routine from the one and only showcase I’ve ever done. She told me that seeing me dance gave her courage. Talk about humbling. She said she appreciated how I was so expressive with my emotions and you know what? It made me feel like me dancing is important, that it matters…maybe even more than I realize. I certainly know it is important to me, but it also has the power to affect others. This I know because it affects me deeply to watch other dancers, but I guess being the dancer and reversing the situation is a different way of thinking about it. More and more I feel like it is important that I, specifically, dance, it’s a part of my life’s mission, if you will. My logical brain tells me this is a grandiose exaggeration, that something like dancing, an artistic pursuit could never really be that important, most especially since it is not my primary vocation. But screw that. My heart says otherwise.
But even if dancing isn’t my career, I’m driven to do it. I want to be excellent at it. I devote a lot of time and effort and money to it. And I couldn’t be happier about it. I’m so grateful I get to pursue this passion on the level that I do.
So anyways, things have been different on lessons with Ivan. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but they feel more focused, like we both have a clearer vision of where we’d like to go together. We’re working on those open routines which is in and of itself a different level of dancing than lead-follow basic routines. More than that, I’m determined to lower some of my defensive walls and let my light shine, as they say, through my dancing. Really bringing all of me to the dance party. It’s been amazing. We continue to work on connection, and though I’m still losing it at some points, I do feel it is getting better, slowly. That, and I am more determined than ever to shed some of these extra pounds. I love the way I move but I simply can’t show it off to the best effect, nor can I do what I am capable of at my highest potential without doing so. It is something worth fighting for. As Ivan says, I can’t even possibly imagine what I could do if/when I shed the weight.
But before I go any further and share about the most wonderful and amazing experience I had this morning with Ivan, I want to describe the lesson I had with Inna last night.
So the start of the story begins about 2 or 3 weeks ago when I went to Inna’s class on Tuesday and I got super frustrated with the arms she asked us to do. I just couldn’t seem to make it look right…I was like a cheerleader or gymnast rather than a ballroom dancer and it pissed me off enough that I decided to ask for some help. I scheduled a one-on-one lesson with Inna to specifically address my arms, telling Ivan of course, and last night was the night.
First off, I will just say, that if your fingers go numb, that is how you know your arms are in the right position! It was an amazing lesson and I learned even more than I bargained for. For sure I will require many hours of practicing to get what she showed me into my body and muscle memory, however, at least I now have a reference for the proper body positions, which, may I say, are extreme. Basically, I want my body to be a towel to twist it as much as is necessary, and I need to do some yoga or arms/chest stretches to actually get my arms to open comfortably where they need to be. It appears it is actually possible for my body to get into these positions, but right now it is a painful proposition and involves extreme effort, not to mention numbness. But I have faith that if practiced, slowly, little by little it will indeed improve, and like I said, I already know it is possible to do it. The other aspect is the actual coordination and timing of the arms with the body and legs. Inna assured me that eventually it will feel good and right because it makes sense from a biomechanical standpoint, and I have experienced this a bit in Samba where my bounce has greatly improved and feels much more natural than it used to.
In any case, Inna is a technical master, really knows her stuff and like I’ve said a million times, I’m so thankful to get to learn from her. She literally placed me physically in the correct positions, using her body to stretch me into the most uncomfortable places. She would say, “Let me help you out here,” and yank my hips into a right angle with the floor. It was awesome.
In addition, she took me over to a door frame to help me feel what the upper body should be doing to create the Latin twist between body and hips because arm action is actually an extension of the body action. I have to admit that one of my problems that Ivan has pointed out is the lack of connection between my arms and body. It’s like, Ivan has said this stuff to me at one point or another and I can see that in retrospect, but either I wasn’t ready to absorb it, or he didn’t communicate it in a way that I really “got” or maybe both. No matter. I came to understand things on a new level with Inna. And let me tell you, Inna wasn’t going to let me off easy. In fact, I am so glad that she really asked so much of me on the lesson…she didn’t hold back just because I’m 3 times her size. Nope. It is her nature to only call forth the very best and she called forth all the excellence I could muster.
Anyways, while we were at the door frame where I could experience pushing against a “wall” directly in front of my shoulders and upper body to hold them in place while my lower body twisted and I practiced using my free arm properly with the arm styling, she had me begin changing weight between feet and eventually stepping forward with Rumba walks. Here was another amazing eye-opener and a demonstration of Inna’s understanding of human body structure.
Now here’s the thing with dancing…you just kind of start doing it. You know there are a lot of things that are incorrect but you begin moving and then you learn this and you learn that and you incorporate these details into your dancing over time and it is a process that takes time and patience and experience. You can’t really absorb everything all at once. You have to learn the step, then the arms, then the sequence, etc, etc. Your brain is full. Eventually some of the details become more automatic so you don’t have to focus on them and you can put your mental energies toward changing the next detail to bring out the quality of your dancing. Sometimes you aren’t instructed how to exactly execute a movement, you just copy it the best you can from your instructor. Well, anyways, this has been my process, and that is why I now love the fundamentals. I absolutely adore them. Why? Because through really breakikng apart the fundamentals, I continue to discover new aspects, nuances, and deeper understanding of the dances themselves.
So, anyways, here I am, dancing Latin Rumba for over a year. Doing Rumba walks in Inna’s class for over a year. And I discovered that I had been making them much, much harder than they need to be.
I’d just done them in a way to make them appear as feminine as possible, damn the biomechanics or the difficulty in maintaining my balance. I’d brought my legs tight together, including my knees, because you don’t want to look like a linebacker hutting a football doing the Rumba. Boy was I wrong! Can you believe it, but the proper position, which makes total sense anatomically as Inna explained it, is to open the legs and knees, the more the better?! However open the position actually feels, it never appears this way because of the hip twist! It is actually an optical illusion! In fact, doing the movement properly, with my knee facing forward and outward instead of inward and close to the other knee, feels like riding an invisible horse! But, you know what, it doesn’t look like it, it made it easier, and it increased my ability to balance and be over my standing leg in a signficant way. I told Inna she had just changed my world view of Rumba walks.
So anyways, mind-blowing, difficult, uncomfortable, I’m sore today, and I’m so very happy about it all. There is nothing like going to bed spent and satisfied. Plus, my new job requires me to sit for hours and hours every day. My body loves the movement.
Which brings me to this morning.
After all the technical workings, from silent, music-free lessons and counting, to having my body twisted like Regan’s head in “The Exorcist,” and my arms going numb, I needed to just connect with dancing, the feeling of it, the “why” behind wanting to do it. And, well, wow. That I did.
I found this song on my iPod, a “Glee” version of “True Colors” and it filled me up making my heart soar. I listened to it all the way to my lesson this morning at 6:30 am in the cold dark with Ivan….who was listening to freakin’ Pussycat Dolls through the studio music system! It was so completely opposite to my feeling! I made him stop it, plug in my iPod, and we listened to the song. No, we didn’t just listen, I began dancing to it. I began moving. I began feeling. It was, really, perfection. How to describe this…
We danced this song, both of us kind of together, kind of doing a Bolero, kind of separate, kind of doing nothing or free movement…and. It. Was. Awesome.
It was such a release. I sooooo needed it after all the sitting in front of a computer, and in my car on the long commute, and after all the highly valuable and wonderful technical lessons and efforts…I needed to just move, to move from my heart, to move from feeling, instinct. Nothing over-thought. Nothing pre-planned or known.
I had control with my iPod which houses music I love. I was able to feel the music because I love it.
And we danced this and that. We did things apart and together. We did Swing and Waltz and Tango (which totally sucked!) and took up the entire space of the studio.
Avril Levine…”Keep Holding On.” I will never understand how I got into the position I did. I was basically in vertical splits. It felt completely effortless. Ivan said I felt light in his arms. I have no idea how we did it, nor could I probably make myself get back into that same position if I planned it out and tried my darndest. It just happened because I was open, and alive, and trusting. It was the most amazing, bewildering experience. He called me, jokingly, “Marietta” because apparently I was in the same position she gets into in one of their routines.
And the super weird thing is, that it felt like no big deal when it all happened. It just felt like it was the most natural thing to do.
Why I dance.
I wish I had it on film.
In any case, things are changing. I’m going to miss dancing and Ivan and Inna’s class during the break for the holidays. But I’m really, really looking forward to dancing again when it’s time. I’m grateful for the experience and the ride. I’m grateful for the pain and discomfort and the growth. I’m grateful for the joy and freedom that comes along with it.
And, you know, that’s the story of dancing right? The full spectrum of the human experience. The pain and discipline required for excellence, and the freedom and spiritual bliss that we yearn to feel and that comes through it, because of the effort poured into it.
Whew! If you have made it this far, good job! I had a lot to say! And more than that, I hope you can feel what I mean by all this. It’s been an awakening on a new level, difficult to explain such an emotional thing in stark words, but well, hopefully soon I will be dancing the message instead.