Where to begin? Since my posts have been so sporadic and with much time in between them, lots has happened so there is lots to share. Why the paucity of posts? I’d say it’s because I’ve been in a season of taking a step back to regroup. I’ve taken this time to go internal, to rebuild my dancing foundation, and to get mentally clean. I’ve not competed in the better part of a year and I’ve wondered what I was doing all this for. I don’t necessarily have all the answers but I do feel the siren song of the ballroom world calling to me once again.
I don’t regret a thing. It has been an important piece of my journey to take this time, to get different coaching, to gain a measure of independence and being solid on my own two feet. It was good to be separate and get centered. From this space I can truly move, truly connect, truly be a partner.
So what happened was that PBS aired “America’s Ballroom Challenge” and I watched it and I saw all these friends and people I know and I was invigorated. I also saw a particular instructor and amateur partner dance and I thought to myself, “I could do that better!” Boastful, I know. And perhaps not even true! But the deal is that it stimulated me to call my old friend, Ivan, because I wanted to have the possiblitity of it being true. And as much as I love Latin, I also miss Rhythm. And I missed Ivan and Marieta, too.
So I called Ivan and we talked and because we parted so amicably, going back was a possibility. I said, “I’m thinking to do Rhythm with you and Latin with Damir.” And he said, “Okay, no problem.” It’s actually even better than that because Ivan and Marieta are going to start competing in Smooth so after we get our Rhythm routines squared away, I want to do Smooth as well, which Damir doesn’t offer.
As of the writing of this post we’ve had 3 lessons and the new, re-vamped Cha-Cha is complete. I feel like all the moves in it are within my reach and I love that Marieta helped us with it as well. She added some sections that allow me to be more expressive and feminine. I am excited to show new aspects of myself and I was pleased that Ivan could tell that my dancing was more solid. The best part is we are having lots of fun. There isn’t the pressure that used to be present and I am committed to keeping things mentally healthy between us. As much as I’m showing up differently, more positively, more joyful to Ivan, he’s also declared that he will relate to me as the Stefanie I am now, rather than drudging up the old Stef with less confidence, more worry, more story. So great! Things are chugging along and feeling good.
The other exciting news is that a new couple has come to EuroRhythm. They are really excellent and I have had one lesson with both Kristijan and Anja each. Last week I worked with Anja on some styling and she actually reminded me of Marieta a little bit in how expressive and free she is with her body. Today I worked with Kristijan on my Latin closed Silver Cha Cha choreography and boy was it an experience. He certainly has a lot of energy and he gave me so much information. The biggest thing was creating the space to really dance, expressively dance. I’ve been so focused on getting on my legs, feeling solid, I’m overthinking everything. I went from being overly emotional to being almost robotic. I was way out of my comfort zone on my lesson today but I embrace it. It’s like I’ve been practicing in a small pen and now the gates have been thrown wide open and I’m being introduced to a world that is way larger and deeper than I’d previously exprienced. Also cool was that Kristijan said that I have beautiful legs and feet and that I’m very flexible. Plus he was blown away with the way I connected through our frame, the amount of resistance I had. The best part of it was that I was glad to hear the good feedback but that my ego didn’t take it and blow it up bigger than it is. Of course he also gave me some corrections, mostly about making smaller steps and working my back leg more, but again, I stayed even keel.
The way I’ve been dancing with Damir I’ve been very much in my head, thinking everything through. My face shows it. So one big thing Kristijan kept asking me for was to smile, to actually look at him, then to look to the audience. It reminds me of my early days with Ivan and how he pulled so much out of me. I think working with Anja opened it up for me a little bit and then when I was on the lesson with Ivan this weekend I showed more of that freedom, more of my personality in the sections Marieta helped choreograph. Both of them were like, “See! You have this in you! Why you not showing it before? Not everyone has this inside them. I ask my other students, please do this, and you just doing this.” And yet, there is still more to show and express.
For me, I think it comes down to Trust and Confidence. Trust both in myself and my partner and Confidence in my movement. I noticed on my lesson today I was a bit unsure. And as Damir says, the worst thing an Artist can do is hesitate. It is our complete committment and conviction to the Art we are creating that allows access to the Art. I have some growing to do in this regard but now that I’m aware of it I can choose differently and practice it until it becomes my new way of being. I was so excited to be very uncomfortable on my lesson today because that means growth. And I just know that I’m going to become even more expressive than I ever was before. I’m going to be able to be completely authentic about who I am in my movement and that is exciting indeed. I also noticed that I have been working so diligently to be able to be independent and move myself that I’ve not been practicing really relying on my partner. One thing that happened with Kristijan (we’ll call him “K”) was that he wanted me to rely on him more so that I could go a little off balance or create a bigger movement than I could do on my own – to leverage the connection to create a fuller picture. It’s not something I’ve been practicing, to trust in this connection and my partner, but I’m excited by what’s possible beyond what I’ve been doing. My limits expanded today.
After the lesson tonight with K, I saw Damir and said that as much as he was helping me be a robot, Kristijan was all about expression, which is what I was overdoing before, so I’ve come full circle. And he said, well it must be time for more expression. The entire journey is to work to find balance and just when you find balance, destablize it. Then work to regain the new balance and just when you find it, get off balance again. It’s funny how all this unfolds, isn’t it?
So I forsee a competition in the not too far future. I have routines to get together so it will be a bit but maybe before the end of the year. Maybe Galaxy, maybe Holiday in Vegas. I do think, regardless of what’s next, that I am in a great position for next year. Also, there is a sense of urgency without pressure. At least when it comes to Ivan, we talked about it and we want to get out there as soon as possible but doing it joyfully, sanely, taking what time we need to set ourselves up to win (and by win I mean dance with excellence and without all the drama – the results will be what the results will be in terms of placement. I’m clear that I’m more committed to loving me and loving my dancing and sharing that than I am to placing first.) Of course I care about how I place and I am competitive and I do want to win, it’s just that my priorities are re-ordered.
In that same vein, I’m ready to let go of my hang ups about my body. It hasn’t changed much in terms of how it looks in the past months and frankly, so what? My struggles with self-esteem and body image have been such a big part of this blog but it’s time to let that be in the past and to drop all the drama. My body is how my body is. It’s different every day. It changes based on the choices I make about what I eat, how I work out, how I treat it, how I dance it. I’m discovering that I can still be an incredible dancer just as I am right now in this moment. So much of what has kept me stuck has been feeling like I need to look different to “really” dance. No! This is not the truth. I can dance right now, and in many respects, I can dance better now than I did when I was in high school and a size 8.
In fact, truth be told, my body has very little to do with dancing even as it has everything to do with it. This weekend the People’s Choice DanceSport competition was held and I went to spectate with two dear friends. The most moving part was a woman who came out on the floor in a wheelchair. I’m not sure what condition she has but it looked like her body was fighting against her for every single move she made. She was able to stand up and take some steps with the support and assitance of her dance partner even as she shook with each and every movement. It was completely captivating. In fact, I found it more beautiful, authentic, and engaging than many of the pro performances that evening. That was true dancing. She’s my new hero. Even though her face couldn’t move to express her feelings, it appeared frozen, it was so very clear she loved dancing and she was passionate about it. It was so incredible how she was emoting purely, and without all the usual cues like facial expression or clear, smooth body movement.
So my body isn’t important when it comes to dancing, even though it is totally important when it comes to dancing (get the paradox?) That being said, it’s not an excuse to give up or stop working on honing my instrument. In fact, I’m starting a new plan June 1st and comitting to 30 days of doing it. Mostly I want to prove to myself that I can successfully complete it and I think it will support me in re-creating my future body. But in this moment, this is the only body I have. It is how it is. I’ve been resisting it, I’ve been fighting reality, I’ve not wanted to choose my body, insisting in the fantasy that there is any other body to have. Right now, this is it and this is perfect. There is nothing to fix or change. There is only the body I have so I might as well choose it and dance it with freedom and abandon. It’s like, all these dancers I’m working with are reflecting to me some of my great assets as a dancer – my legs, my feet, my connection…they see it and they celebrate it. Why shouldn’t I? They are not as hung up about my body as I am. They see it differently than I have chosen to see it.
So anyways, I’m the Biggest Girl In The Ballroom. Maybe that will never change. Maybe it will. I’m choosing to be okay with what is so and to continue to put energy and effort towards my goals and dreams.
Finally, the title of my blog post is a true statement. One of the straps on my heels snapped tonight so the Universe is telling me I need a new pair. I’m going to take it as a sign that it’s finally time to try on the 3 inch heels. I have two pairs of unused shoes that I’ve not worn because I wasn’t on balance. I got them out and walked around in my kitchen and I actually feel like it might now be possible to work in them. Of course it will take some adjustments but I think it was a message that my old shoes broke – that it’s time to “step up” to the next level. Perfect timing.
So that’s the skinny in my world. I’m excited to see what happens next.