If you read my last post, it may be apparent to you, as it is to me, that there is quite a bit of forward movement in my life that has happened in a short amount of time. To recap: I’m dancing with Ivan again (Rhythm), I’m staying at Damir’s studio (of course!) for Latin, and he has a new high-level couple from Slovenia, Kristijan and Anja, both of whom I am working with in addition to the coaching I get from Damir, himself.
(That’s me with Kristijan! And yes, we choreographed a wink into our Cha Cha!)
My last lesson with Ivan was on Saturday and it went so very well. As I walked in the door, however, I was greeted with a big surprise. Miss Linda Dean and Anna Nicole were in the studio. I’m not much acquainted with Anna Nicole but Miss Linda came right up to me and gave me a big genuine hug. Indeed, it surprised me a bit as it was a full embrace and longer than I expected…you know how ballroom people generally are when we greet one another – kiss, kiss, hug, hug – perfunctory and devoid of meaning, authenticity, or emotion? Well, this was not that – in my experience this particular hug was more than the usual “ballroom” greeting, and it pleasantly surprised me.
She said, “So you are dancing again?”
I said, “Yes! I’m back! I’m going to show more expression, I’m mentally in a much better place, and I feel more solid in what I’m doing!”
“I don’t care about that,” she said. “I want to see how you were already; on your leg and with the rhythmicality in your body.”
I took a moment to process her input – to me, expression is paramount. For me, full self-expression with complete abandon is my ultimate goal. And, also, it was incredibly elucidating and helpful to hear what she (and I imagine what other judges) are looking for. I can deliver on this! Be on my leg, be rhythmical. Great!
But the funny thing is, I never stopped dancing. In fact, Miss Linda saw me at Damir’s studio, briefly, at one point. She knew I was dancing there. So I find it interesting her choice of words, “You’re dancing again!”
Well, I’ll take it! She seemed genuinely pleased and she actually said, “I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear this [news].” (The unsaid part is …daincing with IVAN!)
So I had an incredible lesson with Ivan. We pretty much have our Cha Cha squared away, which is great. Of course, we were moving around and dancing while we were reviewing it and finalizing it and I noticed this slim, petite lady with frizzy reddish-brown braided hair watching. I’m not sure who she is but she is either a pro or a high-level amateur who is dancing with a recent California transplant who briefly flittered with Damir for a spot in his studio. I’ve met him before but I’ve never seen her. Anyways, about halfway through my lesson with Ivan she approached me and said, “Oh My God! You have the most amazing leg action! I guess your teacher must be pretty good!” To which I smartly replied, “He’s alright,” LOLOLOL. And Ivan turns to me and says, “See! Nobody is coming to me ever when I dancing with anybody else!”
So that was cool and all, but for me the best part was that I felt solid. We reviewed our Cha Cha and we have it on video in case we forget. Then we spent the rest of the lesson exploring the Rumba – we danced various pieces from previous Rumba routines as well as explored new possible movements. It was so much fun and a little bit exhilarating. I mean, when your dance instructor says, “Let’s try Marieta’s routine here” that’s kind of a big deal! She’s the professional! And yet, suddenly, my arm is firmly grasping Ivan’s shoulder from behind his neck, I’m slowly sinking into middle splits and pointing and flirting with the imaginary audience to my diagonal. Then I squeeze my legs and thighs together, make sure my ankles kiss, and reach my hands heavenward. Suddenly I’m the dancer I’ve watched from afar in the audience….wishing I could be her…now I am her.
And Ivan says, “What you think is missing from this Rumba?” And I say, “I like it all very much. I don’t have any idea of the order of the steps but I am enjoying what we are discovering. I feel like we have a lot of puzzle pieces and we can work on the next couple lessons to fit them together in the proper place and order to create a beautiful image.” And then I say, “Beyond the fact that I have no idea how this Rumba goes in terms of sequence, the only thing that I want to do is touch you!”
I have to tell you, audience, this is a major breakthrough.
I don’t know about you, but for me, I had a lot of hang ups about enjoying my body, and also, enjoying anybody else’s body. I think that I correlated “enjoying” with something prohibited or profane. I imagined that any sort of physical enjoyment, no matter how innocuous or laid back, was something to be avoided. I imagined that to simply enjoy one’s body was to be sexual. And now I know that is not the case.
Anyways, I embraced the feeling and idea of the Rumba and what came up naturally, when Ivan asked me, which in and of itself is a breakthrough – because he’s involving me in the process of creating the routine we will do (in the past it just would have been assigning or dictating what the steps were) – okay so what came up naturally was, “I want to touch you and your body more.” And naturally I found opportunities to do so – on his neck or chest or shoulders. And how great is that?! Seriously?!
Okay so if you dance with a professional Ballroom dancer you know they have different body boundaries than most “normal” people. It’s all about getting and being in their personal space. It’s all about touching and sensuality. It’s all about full expression. When I first came to a lesson with Ivan, I was so completely intimidated and shy. I pulled inward because I was afraid of what he might think of me. I was afraid to *really* show who I am and all I feel inside. My excuse/story for holding back was about my body/weight/size/I-don’t-look-like-a-ballroom-dancer-thererfore-I-could-never-be-one…yada yada yada….
And, that’s the past.
So how I show up now is open, authentic, and willing to be myself. And I surprised myself by being open, authentic and confident enough to declare my truth that the only thing that was missing from the Rumba was more touching. I was like, let’s find every opportunity we can to touch!
And it was so fun! I mean, Ivan is a good looking cat with a good, solid body. I enjoy touching it. I was just afraid to admit that previously and so I didn’t touch it and I held back. Now I’m like, whatever! It’s another body in this world. All bodies are miraculous and wonderful in so many ways. And, this one in front of me is wonderful and looks nice to touch. Because of the nature of our relationship, and the roles we play for various dances, it is appropriate to touch his body (within reason!) and so I’ve come to peace with this aspect of the dance-acting and have chosen to embrace and enjoy the sensuality of it! Why not?
I do think it caught Ivan a little off-guard with my, ahem, enthusiasm, lol. But of course, what I consider courageous and outrageous and acting with abandon seems middle-of-the-road to Ivan lol! Even so, after a beat or two and a few practices of a hip roll, we got in to a position where I was directly in front of Ivan and he was like, “Now I get to touch!” as he grabbed my ample hips. Woo! Lol! It was so lighthearted and great! I loved it all.
But here’s the deal:
So, like, Miss Linda Dean has seen me in relation to Ivan on the dance floor. From the feedback we’ve gotten, it is a pleasing and even, maybe, exciting show. This is how all the judges who have taken any notice of me have seen me – in the context of dancing with Ivan.
It’s actually such an incredible gift, in my mind, that anyone remembers me…I last danced maybe a year ago. And I find it even more incredible that others are invested in the possibility of me participating in competitions in the (near) future.
And they see me as in relation, or maybe as an extension of Ivan. That’s fine. That’s great, actually. Ivan has been a major, major influence in my dancing and has pulled out so much from inside me. I adore Ivan and I’m so grateful to be dancing with him again. It feels like home.
And yet….there is an amazing, humble, giving, kind, compassionate, generous, extraordinary human being (who disguises himself as “ordinary”) who has contributed incredibly to my life. He has been a support, an uplifting presence, an example, a coach, a guide, a mentor, a friend. He has given me tools such that I can be on my own feet, solidly on my legs, independent. And yet, I know this person has my back like no kidding. All he has ever wanted to do was support me in becoming the dancer I have wanted to be. He has given so generously of his knowledge, his wisdom, his authentic self. I have been truly blessed to work with this exceptional man.
And yet, this man will be an unsung hero. He will be unseen. He is the person who helped build me up. He brought me back to center and sanity and balance. He is such a genuine and humble man that he cares not who I dance with, but rather, that I am empowered to dance as I wish to dance. It’s such an amazing gift. He tells me, “Nothing has changed. I am still here for you.” And I believe him, wholeheartedly, even as many external circumstances in my dancing world are shifting.
This is a true master. This is an extraordinary human being. This is one who is willing to step aside, to never receive any recognition or accolades for the work he has done, to gain nothing for the wisdom he has shared, and to receive no tangible reward for the love he has poured into a person.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this person is Damir. He is the unsung hero. He is the humble, supportive, wise, kind man who has helped me get to where I am in attitude and technique these past 9 months.
No one will ever visibly “see” all he has done for me as I dance with Ivan, and if I end up competing with Kristijan. Because of my previous foray into the competitive ballroom world, I am inexorably connected to Ivan (happily so!) and that is how I am seen. I feel like many people might attribute my progress to Ivan.
And this is how amazing Damir is. He’s totally okay with that. He doesn’t even care where the recognition lands. He’s that humble, that committed to being of service that he has removed any trace of his ego from the equation.
So this is why I want to publicly and formally and gratefully acknowledge the “Wind Beneath My Wings,” Damir. I want at least some people to know how big of an influence he has been for me, how much he has helped me, how much he has loved me, and how much he has supported me…and even how much he has believed in me. Like everything he coaches to, it’s the stuff that’s not obvious, the stuff that is internal, being with the “ordinary,” that really makes a difference in quality of a person’s life.
The trajectory of my life is profoundly changed because it intersected with Damir. I don’t think many people will “see” that when I dance with Ivan and, perhaps, Kristijan. But it is Damir who has helped me make a quantum leap during the past months. He may not need or expect acknowledgement or recognition, however, I wanted to give it! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I look up to you in so many ways, as a dancer, and as a human being. You are incredible and I am ridiculously blessed to get to work with you. Know that even if others outside my “story” don’t know who you are and what you’ve contributed to me, I do, and I am Grateful beyond words.