The story goes that my mom put me in dance at Ernie Miller’s Dance Studio in Denver, Colorado at the age of 5 because she didn’t want me to be as uncoordinated as she felt she was. I practiced ballet and “shuffle ball change (which I thought was buffalo ball chain)” with the other “peanuts” in the class, as we were called by Mr. Miller. After each lesson I got a dum dum sucker and shoved my ballet slippers and tap shoes into my rectangular vinyl-covered black dance bag. Before a big recital, my mom fussed endlessly over the bunny ears headband that wouldn’t stay up straight. Afterwards, I took a photo with my grandpa in my red and white striped jazz costume after he presented me with flowers for what I am sure was a performance only thrilling to loved ones.
Fast forward to El Paso, Texas where I joined a dance team. It was here that I first realized that my body was bigger than the other girls around me. I didn’t learn much technique – mostly just got better at learning steps, and got to be the Captain and Co-Captain once in a while as the title rotated each month from girl to girl.
I got my dancing legs, really, from Glenda Folk and her daughter, Tricia, in Scottsdale, Arizona. I learned ballet, a little bit of tap, and jazz. I practiced my fan kicks, tendus, and more shuffle ball changes. The day Glenda told me I could get toe shoes was the most exciting experience ever…until I put them on (OUCH)! Finally finding my center and completing a double turn was another milestone I worked very hard to achieve.
I danced my way through junior high and high school, through recitals, and high school musicals.
But then I stopped.
Realizing that I did not have a traditional dancer’s body and that I was not good enough to be a professional, I saw no value in continuing to develop as a dancer. It was time to go to college and get serious about a profession, a career, and being an adult.
It had been 12 years since I had taken a bona fide dance lesson when I saw a man giving ballroom lessons out of my gym. “Why not?” I thought – I hated the gym routine and working out with a trainer hadn’t helped me drop the significant weight I had gained since college.
Five lessons later and I was hooked. Fueled by the popular show Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) and the discovery of a new way to experience dance in partnership, I worked my way up to dancing in heels, dancing 4 lessons a week, and even doing a competition – all at over 250 pounds.
And then, my teacher disappeared. Miserable with my working situation, I quit my job and didn’t have the funds to purchase more lessons elsewhere. And so I spent another two year hiatus away from the love of my life – dancing.
I am happy to report that I have found a new dancing home. I am once again working my way up to dancing in heels and taking 5 or 6 lessons a week. I am focused on improving as I prepare myself to compete at future competitions.
So welcome to my blog as I document my journey to this competition (and others to follow), as I document my weight release process (down 40 pounds, 130 pounds to go), and as I share with you my thoughts and insights about dance.
Ballroom dancing is my passion. Thank you to all my teachers for getting me where I am today and for my current teacher, Ivan, for getting me to where I want to go.
Get ready to be inspired as I take on my life like no kidding.
I’m inspired already! I love your blog and can relate to your journey very well. It’s fabulous that you’re getting out there, performing and competing in competitions (something I get little/no opportunity to do) – I can feel the excitement, the adrenaline and the euphoria just from reading your blogs. And I really admire your courage to share your weight-release journey with us all. You’re gorgeous, you obviously dance beautifully and I love how you write with so much soul. I’ll be following your journey and cheering you on from over here in my neck of the woods. You go, girl! 🙂
Thanks so much for visiting the blog and I’m thrilled you found it inspiring. It is great that we can all inspire one another, don’t you think? I was certainly moved reading your story as well. Thanks for the lovely compliments, too…they made my day. Let’s keep cheering one another on as we travel this road side by side.
Hi Stefanie! Love this blog, but I wonder if you wouldn’t mind writing about how your husband views all of this?
Hi Michelle! Why do you ask? What would you like you know about how my husband feels about, well, what exactly? My dancing? The blog? My weight loss? Could you be a little more specific? Thanks! I will do my best to answer.
Thanks Stef, I have begun ballroom dancing about a year and a half ago. My teacher/partner is a young man (of course) and it burned my hubby that I was so enjoying the dancing, in part because of this teacher, and my hubby’s feelings of jealousy… I wondered if your husband was jealous/envious of the time and emotional energy you spend with Ivan, or if he embraces the beautiful changes that partnership brought; or if it was a process for the two of you. Obviously every man is different; but I wondered if you had heard/experienced any of this, and if it made your commitment to dancing harder/easier. Thanks!
Oh wow, I’m looking at the date of this and I’ve been away for so long! I am sorry to have left you hanging. In my particular case, which is not the same for everyone, my husband has been extremely supportive of my dancing. He saw how much I enjoyed it, how much it lit me up, and he was happy that I was happy. If he was ever jealous, it never became an issue. I have definitely heard of this being an issue for many women, I don’t necessarily think it’s that uncommon. Because the truth is, there is a lot of time and emotional energy poured into the dance partnership, just as in any partnership, any relationship, really. If your husband is the one getting upset, then it’s up to him to figure out why that is and take action to amend it. And it’s up to you to be open to respond to his requests. And then you can “dance” your way through this conflict in your marriage partnership. I think, too, that people especially in our society mistake sensuality and intimacy with sex. There is a lot of touching, sensuality, and even intimacy in dancing. I totally feel like I have that with Ivan, but it’s platonic, it’s the “acting.” Of course it taps into an authentic part of myself, but there are clear boundaries too. And there are only certain things I’ll share with my husband or that Ivan would share with his wife. It’s a learning curve, too, for both you and the hubby. Ballroom is a bit more mainstream these days because of DWTS, but it is pretty far-removed from most people’s experience of interacting with one another. This kind of interaction is appropriate in the context of the ballroom world where it would be completely invasive and weird at the grocery store, you know? But, yeah, lot’s of people experience this. I don’t think it’s ever a valid reason to stop if you love it and it adds value to your life. I do think it can be an opportunity to explore and examine and strengthen your committed romantic relationship when issues like jealousy arise.
Hi Stefanie! You are an inspiration, congratulations on leaping back into dance. And ballroom, too — no small feat. I think we are kindred spirits. So happy to have found you and your blog. Happy 2012, looking forward to more! Laura (born again dancer)
Laura! Thanks so much! I also think we are kindred spirits…so very cool to connect. Have a great New Year and I will look forward to your continuing adventures! -Stef
Hi Stefanie, it was very nice meeting you for the first time last night..I really enjoyed the Salsa & Tango at the group class and social afterwards. I will send you an email a little later on today with the details you had asked me about. Have a great weekend..! Harry
Hello Stefanie! I have recently started dancing (a bit over two months now) and certainly do not have the typical ballroom figure. I notice that you mentioned you worked your way up to dancing in heels… I started out dancing in heels and ended up doing something awful to my foot… Now I dance in flats until it has healed or until I am sure I won’t cause further damage and severe pain dancing in heels. I was hoping maybe you had any advice for me. I’ve been looking into a new pair of shoes… Maybe Dance Naturals with a two inch heel (my current shoes are Capezio with a one inch heel that I’m pretty sure I purchased one half to a whole size too big since I didn’t realize they’d stretch quite so much). Also… I was hoping maybe you could offer some inspiration on how you deal with not being the typical dancer build… I love dancing but sometimes it feels like people like me (not just my size but my overall uncoordinated-ness) shouldn’t be dancing… I’ve had a lot of problems with this lately and it’s gotten me down even during class. I love your blog by the way and really enjoy reading about your journey through ballroom. Dancing really does change your life and let’s you express yourself in a way nothing else does and I can tell just how much you love it and I’m sure that translates into your dancing!
Hi Mybelle940! I’m so glad to see you stopped by my blog and I see that you have just started your own one! I can’t wait to read more posts and learn more about your journey with ballroom dancing.
I’ll do my best to answer your questions and I do think I might even write a whole post in response to your thought about who “should” and “shouldn’t” dance. Trust me, I can relate. If you’ve seen any pictures on the site, you know I’m not your average ballroom dancer.
But first things first. About heels…. Well, before that – the disclaimer! I’m no podiatrist or shoe expert, though I’m happy to share my opinion and thoughts. So yeah, back to heels….
I’d say that while your foot is healing, flats or a low heel are a good idea. I, personally, absolutely love my practice shoes. They ain’t pretty, but I have a pair of black Ray Rose practice shoes with a short one inch heel. They are so comfy, but still put my weight forward so that I can build those accessory muscles in my shin and calf that help stabalize my foot and ankle. Then, I rotate my heels in once or twice a week so that my feet stay conditioned but that I don’t stress them too much. Heels are difficult enough to manage when you are regular size, and being a bigger girl, it’s even more challenging.
Other than that, I’d say you want to be prepared to pay for a high quality pair of shoes and have the patience to try on as many different models as you need to in order to find a pair that fits your feet and will work for you. I’d say go to an actual store that specializes in ballroom shoes, if possible, and/or go to a local competition where vendors set up and have shoes you can try. Buying something as important as ballroom heels online is a gamble, though possible to do successfully. Then, once you know what shoe works for you and what size you need you can, of course, order online with confidence. Many dance studios also sell shoes, but often through a catalog. If you order from them, make sure they won’t obligate you to purchase the shoes if they arrive and don’t fit. If you can find a ballroom dressmaker, they often sell shoes as well.
Especially for practice, it’s best, I think, to mostly wear comfortable, supportive shoes (my favorite are my practice shoes) and then rotate in the heels I’m going to compete in….or in your case, the ones you will wear for the showcase. They feel very different and so it is important you feel comfortable dancing in the shoes you’ll actually being performing in. The last thing you want to do to yourself would be to never wear the shoes you will be performing in until the performace! Trust me – there are many other things to cope with from nerves to dealing with an audience, perhaps an unfamiliar dance floor, or music malfunctions, or dancing in a costume. The more prepared you can be ahead of time, the more comfortable you are in your heels, then the better off you will be…one less thing to assimilate under duress!
Anyways, I hope this is some useful information, and if you have any other specific questions I can help with, please don’t hesitate to ask! You can also ask the readers of the blog at large because many of them are experienced dancers as well and have great perspective. In fact, on of my readers and friends, Ellen, is something of a shoe expert! She has a website selling shoes so she’d be a great person to connect with…http://www.iftheshoedoesntfit.com.
As far as you other question…well, I’m going to answer in a blog post, but the short answer is: IF IT IS IN YOUR HEART TO DANCE, THEN YOU SHOULD DANCE! PERIOD!
So….Welcome to the blog! I’m so glad you’re here. And if you have any questions along the way that I can help with, I’d be honored to do what I can. Honestly, I want to know how I could best support you, especially since ballroom is such a new experience for you and sometimes I wished I had someone to ask things. Just let me know how I can be of service. After all, I’d only be paying it forward. The truth is that I’ve received an incredible amount of support and encouragement from the community here on the blog and now you are now a part of that community too!
I just found your blog via the Top Dance Blogs 2013 post, and I just wanted to say how incredibly inspiring your story is. I too was a dancer in my younger years, and I did continue dance in college, but I was mainly choreographing and teaching lesser-experienced dancers without being able to dance myself. As such, I’m bent out of shape, gained a ton of weight, and at day feels very regretful that I didn’t take dance more seriously as a kid.
The journey as an adult dancer returning to the studio is an amazing one, and your weight loss and healthy lifestyle journey is also a huge inspiration as I attempt to correct my own poor habits and get my life back on a healthy track. Looking forward to more of your posts!
Hi Vivian and Welcome! Thank you for your very kind words! I checked out your blog too. I love your story and applaud you for refusing to settle and for pursuing a life of purpose and passion!
I am excited to read your blog. I had a love of dance as a kid but never got to take lessons but made up dances with friends all through high school but had forgotten it. I will find a place to take dance once we move this summer. I am just over 250 pounds and will not let it stop me !!
I cannot wait to read more here !!
Welcome! That’s right – dance anyway, every way! Hope you enjoy the blog 🙂
That’s a lovely blog you have there. I love dancing myself and it is amazing to see something so inspiring. I do, honestly, take my hat off to you… 🙂 Keep up the good work 🙂 It was wonderful because at this age Tallenge has provided me with a portal to display my dancing skills 🙂
Thats’s a lovely blog you have there. I love the fact that it is so inspirational and engaging. Thank you. I’m sure dancers all over find it motivating. I personally am quite a big fan of your blog since the last few days. Keep posting and sharing your lovely words. 🙂
Hi, Stefanie! Thanks for checking out my blog. Great stuff you have here! All the best.
I always wanted to learn how to dance– as a child and as an adult. In recent years, I’ve been too self-conscious about my body to even like dancing with a boyfriend at a nightclub. But maybe it’s time to rethink that. Thanks for the inspiration! 🙂
GO FOR IT!!!! I hope you do!
I just wanted to let you know I really enjoy your blog and it has been inspirational to me and I think it’s great! So I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. It’s just a blogger-to-blogger pay it forward kinda thing to recognize other bloggers who we feel are great at what they do and deserve some recognition. Have a great day!
Loved this. Off to read your latest entry.
I’m delighted to have you following my site. Someone from above has been listening to my thoughts. Although I’m not a dancer I’m Captivated by Ballet, and other forms of dance. I remember when I was about 5 or 6 years old my Mother (Bi-Polar) enrolled me in tap dance, and ballet. I had a difficult time keeping up with the other girls, as I looked at the Concerned Mother’s watching their daughters, it was my Mother who was laughing hysterically by my inability to follow through while the other girls carried out the dance routine. That’s just a glimpse of the beginning of the emotional abuse that I endured for many years to follow. I just have to share that although I don’t watch DWTS, I do enjoy Dance Moms and Breaking Point. I’m excited and L👀king Forward to read all about your adventures.
Your New Friend, and Follower,
You are an inspiration and indeed why not dance… IAM so glad you decided to listen to your heart and soul and go for it… as my friend emanual said in his awakening story… people talk about you and judge you anyway… maybe interesting for you to read… and was thinking you might have a story of your own to tell already…? http://emantable.com and my challenge… http://memymagnificentself.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/challenge-2014-my-awakening-experience-and-moving-forward/
Hello Barbara! Thank you for your lovely comment! I’m very interested to follow your blog and love the community you are cultivating with others. I feel like I am still living my awakening story! It continues to unfold. I would love to partipate. Thanks for following the blog and I look forward to more mutual inspiration.
IAM sure we are going to be inspired with each others journey into the unknown and creating our hearts desire… Barbara
Hey, Stef. I know you’re interested in building a sort of online community for ballroom dancers. I’ve just created a new page with links to the appropriate blogs (You’re on there, of course. 😉 ) Just wanted to let you know. Oh, and if I ever think of something for a guest post, I’ll let you know.
Your story is truly an inspiration. Loving what we do is such an important part of living, It makes us more of who we truly are!
thank you for following my blog.
it is so good to read you could succeed in your story, so very similar to what I’m struggling with. I dance Middle-Eastern and even when I was actively performing – during high school and in my first years at university – I was overweight. Of course, first university, then finding a job and so on would always be “more important”, so these days I’m not only struggling with being obese but also feeling I’m too old to get anywhere with dance and feeling unable to even get back to the level where I was before stopping….but I just cannot give up. Thanks for the inspiration.
Thank you for your inspiring story. It is stories like these that shape us into who we are today, as living proof that we can overcome obstacles. I look forward to reading more of your blog!
Your blog and your inspiring words were some of the first that resonated with me when I started my weight loss journey. I am nominating you for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Check out the details here http://lessthighsmorethunder.wordpress.com/2014/07/13/the-very-inspiring-blogger-award/
I was just googling Glenda Folk and I came across your blog. I only read the about me page but I will be back to read more. I too went to Glenda Folk. I still have nightmares about her and her yard stick. My saggy knees got smacked often. Whenever I blowdry my hair I tighten up my knees….30 years later.
Her yardstick was EPIC and SCARY! And, also, I grew so much under her. It is a double-edged sword. It seems Glenda has influenced innumerable lives. I have actually run in to other former dancers and they also vividly recall her fabled yardstick. For better or for worse, I could not say. I guess that depends on the person, and how they interpreted it. What I can say is that she definitely influenced my life. And, although it was quite harsh at times, fearful even, I am ultimately very grateful for her influence. I needed it. I probably would never have changed or grown the way I needed to without her being the domineering, intimidating figure she was. And also it has served me quite well as I pursue dancing. In terms of having a good work ethic. I do not see a lot of people around me to have that same drive, and I attribute that to her as well. Glenda was “old school ” and brutal at times. Yet, I look upon my time with her as sacred. I am immensely grateful. She shaped me as no other person has. Indeed, the dancer I am today stems from Glenda. That being said, I DO believe the same outcome could have been achieved with a more compassionate framework. And if I were to be the teacher, I would employ a much more compassionate, supportive, and loving framework. I’m not saying that Glenda was blameless. Nor am I saying that she did anything wrong. She was who she was, and what more could anyone ask of a person? She was authentically, if brutally, herself. It was epic. I am so grateful to have been her student.