So Much To Be Grateful For… (Or, The Longest Post Ever!)

Yes, I know it is improper to end a sentence in a proposition, and also, it seemed appropriate…So sue me! Not! Lol.  Artistic/Poetic License and all that….

Okay now (and as fair warning, I will be using lots of ellipses in this post)

First things first….I am so Influential! LOL!  FINALLY got my friend Nena and my Mom to take advantage of the introductory lessons I gave them for Christmas!!!  So what, it is March….?  Better late than never!

Ahem…and Michelle, you know who you are…

TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FUN, please 🙂

Okay, so back to the narrative, I’m so genuinely thrilled for them both (Nena and Mom)!  They both enjoyed their time at the studio, from the sounds of it, dancing, which makes me so very happy.

They can choose what to do after the introductory package runs out, that is totally up to them, and I respect that.  Nena danced with Ivan previously, and my mom also had one lesson with him too, before her two knee replacements!  Now they are both ready to dance if they choose to….

And now, switching gears, on to the philosophical frontier….

Geezes.  Not sure how to put all this into words.  So here goes.

Good things.

Not so good things.

Here’s my way of “explaining:”

I guess the place to start is the showcase.  I can’t believe how many people liked and commented on the one photo I shared, both on my personal Facebook page and the blog page.  Truly, I was astounded.

 

showcase

Well, so the “report” is that it went well.  I felt totally calm which was great.  I knew what I was doing and where I was dancing.  Other than that, I was grateful my parents, husband, and friend, Nena, came to watch.

So I come to my lesson Monday morning and the DVD of the performance is in…I am not necessarily keen to watch it, but I also understand the value of having my instructor see it.  So we plug it in and I’m not horrified, which is good, if you’ve ever watched yourself perform.  I can’t tell you how uncomfortable it is for me to watch myself in action on film.  Truly, it makes me sick to my stomach.  But anyways, I want to grow, so I’ve resigned myself to watching feedback so that I can get better.

Well, watching the film, like I said, the worst wasn’t realized.  I was okay with it.  Not epic, or lovely, or beautiful, or any of that, but also not disgusting and maybe a little bit fun…I’ll take it!

So we watch the DVD and proceed to dance on our lesson.  Interestingly, about 3/4ths of the way through my lesson after the showcase I noticed something different was happening.  It was so weird!

Like I said, Damir watched the video, too.  As we danced, he was giving me all this high level information, information about my lats, my upper body, things that had previously been “off limits” or to “be ignored” just because I was focusing on my feet, ankles, and knees for stability.  Well, suddenly, I realized 40 minutes in that I’m getting coaching and information on all this stuff that I knew was missing but that I also implicitly agreed was off the table for the moment, until I could get my foundation under control.

So here we are, 40 minutes into a 45 minute lesson and I suddenly feel like I can move, like I can do more, like I’ve been holding back for the sake of creating stability.  And Damir says, “Stefanie, you were so solid in every step on that video.  Each step could not have been more clear.  You knew where you were on each weight change and you never took any step that was too big.  I am basing all the information I am sharing on this, from seeing the video.  And,  apparently it is time for you to have more information.”

Um, wow?!!?!?!

Happy Dance!

For sure I’ve felt more solid, stable, and on balance, but I have to say that I’ve wondered if I’ve changed my dancing at all since I stepped into Damir’s studio.  The truth is, yes, I most definitely have.  It has been subtle, and maybe slow to appear, but yes, the quality of my dancing has changed.

I have to tell you, lol, I was horrified!  Damir informed me that when I first walked into the studio my feet moved “6 feet” at a time (according to him) but now they are “planted.”

All I know is that I feel much more stable and generally I know where my weight is – and also that if I go off-balance I can recover much more quickly than before.   All are immeasurable benefits.

I guess it’s good.  Maybe with this coaching and information I can maybe mold myself into the artist I long to be….

(More ellipses….)

And, yes, it IS good. I am supported.  I am growing.  My dancing IS changing.  There is even evidence of that fact captured on film, at least according to Damir! Lol.

So yeah, time to switch to yet another subject…. (more ellipses)

Yesterday I went to work out and I was pissed.  There were so many things that were SO difficult for me to execute.  There were so many times I pushed my heart rate to the max.  I was annoyed that my body is not in the condition to execute all items asked to an elite level.  And, also, I fail to acknowledge all I did do during that session.  I was in the top 3 people getting through rounds in the weight room.  I pushed my heart rate up to over 185, and I saw many others not needing the recovery period like I did because I pushed myself so hard.  This is not to compare, this is only to say, I did my best, in a lot of ways in this work out, and, if I am honest, in every work out. No I don’t max myself in every single way on every single work out, AND, I  DO push myself, and usually I max out at least one muscle group, or my lungs, or something! I mean, if I don’t push my limits on at least one exercise in a workout, what was the point?  The point of a workout is to grow and expand limits.  Maybe not on all items, but for sure on one or more! So anyways, good work, why can’t I acknowledge it?  Why am I obsessed with the thought of being “inferior” or not “good enough?”  Truly that is a question worthy of exploration!

In any case, the bottom line is that I did a “good” job and at the same time, I have these mental demons that torment me and remind me at every turn how I am never, ever, ever doing enough.  So after pushing my limits a few times (not on every event – but still) after my work out yesterday, I was discouraged, disheartened, and upset (And, as an aside here… (more ellipses) What the hell is up with that?! OMG! – So Crappy, that is!!! – Because like 2 years ago even the thought of doing what I’m doing in these workouts stopped me dead in my tracks and now I’m doing them regularly…)  I just felt like it is all so difficult.  I push so hard.  So why am I still so Fucking Fat?  I see people beside me who look so perfectly proportioned, lean, beautiful…and they are barely breaking a sweat.  I can’t even explain how UNFAIR it feels.

And….

Can you hear the Bullshit alarm going off?  I can!

Do I know what they do, eat, or execute during the other 23 hours of their lives when I am not on a treadmill beside them???

OF COURSE NOT?!

Why do I even go into the Comparison Game, Anyway?  It’s a Lose-Lose Proposition…..

Ugh!!!!!!!!!!

Oh the DRAMA!  I’m so damn Human! lol.

So the bright spot is I left the work out and had a decision.  And I usually would have just thought, “Well, I’ll go home and wallow in my misery.”  And this time I went to the studio and practiced a dance exercise.  LOL!  Why? Because I’m committed.  And, I am determined to get the proper dance rhythm in my body.  So I am willing to work on it.  And it was great, and I got to see people at the studio I love and adore.  It really was such a nice choice, especially after my mental negativity fiasco.

Go me!  I mean, really now!  This is Epic.  At least for a mere mortal like me.  🙂

So what is the sum total of all this talking/writing?  I’m not sure, except that I DO know I have a LOT to be GRATEFUL for.

I just posted a status on my personal page that said, “As much as I still sometimes (daily) have negative thoughts about my body and how it looks, I am also constantly reminded of how grateful I am for the condition it is in now as compared to even a year ago.  When I see people having trouble getting around in the grocery store, when I watch My 600 pound Life on tv, when I see my own reflection lifting 100 pound barbells in the gym…I have a lot to be thankful for.  Here’s to three weeks of consistently getting to all my dance lessons, gym sessions, and all but one Orange Theory workout.  Good job, Stef!  Keep up the good work and it will only get easier to move!”

Right?!?!

I mean, most people in this world haven’t experienced the joy of walking! It is SUCH a joy for me these days.  It used to be that I had the weight of a refrigerator on my back.  Now, I can stroll as if I am walking on a cloud.  I walked for 3 hours on my desk treadmill like it was nothing today!  This would not have been possible before, and I tell you, in all sincerity, even 10 pounds makes a world of difference!  So just imagine having 100+ pounds on your frame.  You can’t!  That’s the goddamned truth.

Well, anyways, enough of that ranting diatribe! Lol.  I am done waxing poetical for the moment!

The Bottom line is that I AM Grateful.  I have so much to be grateful for.

And, I promise to post a video of the showcase once I get the digital file from Damir.

*Cringe*

🙂

Love, Stef

 

 

 

 

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Getting Real

Howdy folks.  I thought it was time for another blog post and also a lot of crap has been going through my brain and this is one great way to sort through it.

Let’s start with the dancing, that’s probably the cheeriest part.  The big news is that I’m doing a showcase next Friday.  The routine is still incomplete and I haven’t danced a full routine, much less in public, in many many months.  Also, I only have one wardrobe option because I ended up giving my other two dresses away.  Why?  I vowed I am changing and I refuse to be seen in those old dresses again.  I wanted to get rid of them because I wanted to send a message to my subconscious that I was serious about this vow, that there was no back door, no way out, that I have excised the choice to even step backwards and present myself as I was before.   Anyways, I’m doing a cha-cha to “Boogie Shoes” because I wanted to do something fun, light, and energetic.  I don’t feel too much pressure about this since it’s not a competitive setting and pretty much I just wanted to have some fun dancing.  I’ve been focusing so much on the technique lately, and all my lessons are so early in the morning, that it hasn’t been as much fun, even though I do enjoy my lessons for the most part.  So anyways, I’m looking forward to it and it’s also a plus because now I’ll have an open routine for if/when I dance next.  Happily, my husband and parents will be in attendance and there will be a DVD.

Also in dance news, I posted it on my Facebook page, that I was a super-lucky-ducky and because Damir is friends with Andrej Skufca and Melinda Torokgyorgy, he occasionally has them coach at the studio and I got one lesson with each.  Damir ended up being really sick so I was alone with them but it was absolutely wonderful.  It was so helpful to see the way Melinda moved and she was able to work with me on Rumba on basic steps.  We talked a lot about incorporating the upper body and arms, which basically stems from using the core, squeezing and compressing between the hips and ribs, which made it easier to coordinate the lats.  It definitely elucidated some muscle memory habits I have, and it also gave me the opportunity to feel the correct postures in my body.  On my lesson with Andrej, we worked on samba and it was also excellent.  He helped me, again with principles of dancing on basic steps and it again elucidated how much more movement I can be generating with the body of mine, which is kind of exciting while at the same time daunting.  It is also just wonderful to be in the presence of greatness, to stand beside these people, see how they are moving, and compare it to what I’m doing, and getting nudged toward what I could be doing to expand, express, and hold my space even more.  Truly it was a wonderful experience and I think the best part was that I wasn’t overly intimidated.  I mean, these two compete in the top competitions in the world alongside the likes of Joanna and Michael, many times in the final.  I certainly have an immense amount of respect for them and look up to them.  However, I didn’t feel “less than” them, even though certainly I’m less experienced and on their dance level.  It was a wonderful space to be in because just a few short years ago I think I would have been so “in my head” worried about how bad I was compared to them that I would have missed being truly present with them and what they had to offer as coaches/teachers.  So that’s a big win, not to mention all the other benefits I already mentioned.  And this is especially wonderful in light of my body, my big, pudgy, large, non-dancer-looking body.  I’m still pretty embarrassed about it in general.  I’m still not proud of it, so that is a bummer and brings me to my next section…

The not-so-cheery stuff.

So I hired that guy to help me with my goals and it just didn’t work out.  What I thought I was getting, and what I had actually purchased were two very different things.  Initially I filled out all these forms with all these questions and I was very vulnerable with this guy, telling him everything, pretty much begging him to help me get this done once and for all.  I thought I would be getting coaching, but instead, I got 2 half-hour workouts with his sister as a trainer that didn’t even push me as much as I push myself when I go to the gym on my own and I sent him emails of what I ate every day.  That, plus a 20 page manifesto that was not clear and had a lot of information he never followed up on, as well as a calorie and carbohydrate limit for the day.  So after a few weeks of diligently sending my menu daily, I’d get one word feedback like, “don’t drink Diet Coke” or “Don’t use too much Bragg’s Amino Acids.”  And I was like, hey, I know Diet Coke isn’t like the best choice, however, it’s not the worst, either.  Look at the rest of the day and how awesome I did.  Thanks a lot (not!) for focusing in on the one not-so-great thing – firstly, that’s why I don’t choose it every day, it’s a once in a while (like once in a month) type choice and secondly, I am not about being perfect, and thirdly, I’m already so hard on myself, I already focus in on all my shortcomings and flaws, I don’t need this type of crap from a person who is supposed to be coaching me, ESPECIALLY since this was the only feedback for the entire day – there was NO mention of what I did well, there was no encouragement building me up….and that’s what I thought I’d be getting.  I mean, great, give me feedback about not drinking Diet Coke but, like, anything else you wanna mention?  So basically, I was doing this process on my own, like always, and so why I am I paying for that?  I communicated my true thoughts to him, which is a pretty big deal for me to really speak my truth and to really say, “hey!  This isn’t working for me!”  It’s not always easy for me to declare my needs and ask for what I want but I did.  And he was like, “Well maybe what you need is Life Coaching.”  And that was probably the best advice he gave me.  He’s right – and – based on our interactions – he’s not the coach for me.

So that’s that.  And now here I am, fatty-fat-fat.  At least that is how I am feeling right now.  It’s so disappointing to see my body in the mirror, while at the same time, I’m about 10 pounds down and can move easier, at least it seems so.  It feels like my fat tissues are thinning out, however, when I look in the mirror, I’m still as big as ever.  I don’t see changes, at least not big ones, and I’m still in my same clothing.

I’m still watching my diet and doing my orange theory cardio sessions and getting to the gym twice weekly to get in some heavy weight lifting (last week I did 90 pound deadlifts, which was a personal record and I am looking to do 100 pounds this week because I felt like I could do more.)  Oh – and one of the things the trainer said to me was that as I lost weight I’d lose strength, and that so doesn’t work for me.  No way, Jose!  I intend to continue to get stronger.  That’s totally possible!  Why would a trainer ever say something like that?   Okay so anyways, the process continues, and it feels like it is so Goddamned slow – but what’s new?  A this point it is imperative to stay consistent with the process.  However, something’s got to change, I’m not sure what, because I’m committed to changing!!!  But here’s the deal that’s really hanging me up right now:

I don’t want to compete until I look dramatically different.  On one hand, it’s my line in the sand and I know that it will be such a boost in confidence to really make a change before I dance again.  On the other hand, it’s a big bummer because how long do I not dance because I’m so hung up about my body and my appearance and miss out on something that brings me so much joy?  I don’t know that there is a “right” answer to this, it’s just the crap that is swirling around in my mind.

So Damir told me he talked with Ivan the other day, and I was so excited about it.  I think there is still hope we might dance together again, though I’m not attached to that particular outcome.  But anyways, today I decided to send him a little text just to say I miss him and I hope everything is going great for him and Marieta.  He was happy to get my text and asked me how I was and when I’d be on the dance floor.  All I could say was that I don’t know and that I don’t feel ready yet….and what I didn’t say is that the biggest reason for that (besides not having completed routines lol) is because I’m still fat.  Part of me was tempted to answer, “How are you?”  with “Still too fat to dance with you.”  Because part of me would love to dance with him, but I really want/need to be confident in myself before I do that, and to me, that means having a dramatically smaller, leaner body.

Seriously, it’s really mucking me up inside.  How much do I let my adipose rule my life?  But also, what about compromising on my vow?  That’s really important too.  The answer is seemingly simple:  Just lose the weight, dork!  Then you can dance and not break your vow.  Well, that’s what I’ve been intending to do…and it doesn’t seem to be happening. I mean, on one side it seems like it’s happening because I feel like my body is changing, slightly, but then it doesn’t seem like it’s changing because I’m still in the same clothes and my belly seems so big right now, and I just don’t want to step on the competitive floor like this.  Ugh!!!!

And my mind is so mean to me.  Like today while working out I was so bummed with myself because I can’t do all that is demonstrated, and my heart rate doesn’t get below 160 even when “resting” and it’s just so hard, and I even got my heart rate up to 192 and killed myself, and it’s like still not enough.  My body is so stubborn!  I look around the room and I’m killing myself and so what – I still look like a slob.  I sometimes go into the “It’s so unfair, pity-party, victim bullshit” for a moment or two, I’m not gonna lie.  But even with all this negative Nelly going on, I mean, I’m still there.  Double Ugh!!!  I’m just in a bummer mood lately.  I am also frustrated because it’s a choice to feel this way.  I mean, I could be loving toward myself and happy with myself regardless of my weight.  And yet, my happiness is very much tied up with this.  I know I’d feel better about me if I were thinner.  It’s so crappy!!!!!  It’s so, so crappy.  Like, I withhold love, acceptance, and approval of myself and I think I’ll give it to myself if I were thinner.  But is that even true?  It’s such a racket!  Why am I stuck in this mind spiral?  How do I get out of it?  When is what I do enough even if it is not getting the results I want?  Does that mean it is truly not enough?  When is enough, enough?  When do I just feel good about me  and feel confident about myself just as I am?  Period. Without all these requirements and conditions?  I keep thinking that if I continue to monitor my diet and workout the outcome should be inevitable…but it sure doesn’t seem to be a straight line at all. Triple UGH!!!!

success

Just to be clear, I’m not necessarily asking you for the answers to all these questions lol (Though if you have some kind encouragement or insights, I’m open to hearing that).  Mostly I’m just processing this so it gets out of me and I can move forward toward my goals and dreams.  Because one thing is certain, I’m not giving up!  And there are really big changes in who I used to be and who I am today – like how working out has become a habit and I have a totally different relationship with food, and like how I actually spoke up for myself and stated what wasn’t working for me and what I needed.  These are all good things, and I’m still trucking, damnit!  Even if the results have been disappointing to me thus far.

But speaking of goals and dreams, the showcase is a week away, then after that Damir promises me we’ll sit down and talk about “the plan.” “The plan” meaning what we will do this year.  I think it will have to be flexible, but also I think to actually put something on the calendar will create a shift in urgency and make things real again.  So, we’ll see.

I don’t know how “good” of a blog post this was tonight, but I do know that I can’t be the only one struggling with my body and questioning when I let it hold me back from experiencing joy in life.  I can’t be the only one who struggles with self-esteem, self-appreciation, self-love.  Maybe that has some value in sharing?  Who knows?  Thanks for humoring me.

-Stef

 

What’s In A Name?

Hey guys!  Thank you so much for all the feedback about the name of this blog.  I sincerely appreciate all the comments and suggestions.  I am still a little bit “in the question” around what I should call this blog so I have a little experiment that I’m going to conduct for the next week to give myself time to get clear on what the name means to me as it is, to try on a new possible name for size (haha), or to potentially land upon the perfect completely new name.

I believe that words are powerful.  And as I’m in the practice and process of transformation, both inside and out, it makes sense to me that as I evolve, things in my life will also evolve.  I want my blog to support me in this process and I am currently ready to let go of the story I’ve been replaying in my mind, heart, and body, the one in which I live as though I am a fat person, like that’s the most important part of who I am. I’m ready to let go of the part of the story where my personality is so wrapped up in claiming this physicality as my identity.  As I let it go, it is a little death.  And it creates the space simply be who I am rather than make up a story about it.

So I’ve been doing some work around this idea of the story that was imprinted upon my psyche that I claimed as my identity, and I’ve engaged in a process where I can identify where this may come from.  Once seeing that, I can then choose a quality to practice being.  That may sound a bit confusing so here’s an example of what I mean: I did this work previously some years ago and discovered that I was run by the need to be liked.  I’d compromise myself, even betray myself, not speak up for myself, and so forth all because I needed people to like me.  Of course, this rarely created the desired effect.  In fact, this “act” I engaged in pushed people away.  Yet it came from a deep need in me, so I don’t blame myself for operating this way back then.  I didn’t know better and I didn’t have the tools to cope better.  I was pretty much doing it unconsciously.  However, once I discovered this and became aware of how it was affecting my life, I gained the power of choice around it.  I could decide that I was more committed to being an honest, authentic woman of integrity and choose different.  I could then ask myself, “How would an honest, authentic woman of integrity act in this situation?”  Then, I could “show up” in my life that way.  I would practice recognizing when I was about to engage in people-pleasing behavior and then I’d practice being different – being honest, and authentic, and in integrity.  Or I’d notice when I’d fallen into the old pattern and ask myself what I could do differently the next opportunity.  I got better and better over time – and it took some time – and a bunch of practice.  It also went from being scary and overwhelming (I mean in my mind being this way could lead to total rejection and abandonment) to being second nature.  I wouldn’t say I’ve 100% let go of that need, but I will say I am much more in choice around it.

Okay, so anyways, the quality I’ve landed upon that I think would help me most to move forward in my life right now is PRECIOUS.

Why precious, you may ask.  Well, here’s one of my “acts:”  I act really capable, even over-achieving because I want to be seen, loved, valued, and acknowledged.  Well, that’s like saying to my subconscious that I’m only worth something because of what I do, what service I can perform, or what value I can add to the life of others. I think it comes from a need to be seen as important or significant or that I matter so that I can feel validated that I have a right to exist.  That’s hogwash in reality but my subconscious totally buys into it.  I mean, we all have the right to exist because we do exist! Right?  Anyways, this “act” is not necessarily good, bad, right, or wrong, and it really serves me in come contexts, like at work.  However, it doesn’t serve me in other aspects of my life, because I am not in the state of knowing and believing in my bones, on a heart level, that I’m loveable and precious just because I’m me.  And because of that, I only give myself love when I “do what I’m supposed to be doing.”  This is especially in the context of diet and exercise.  And it also results in my withholding love from myself which is just mean.  It doesn’t serve me.

The word PRECIOUS is defined as: of great value; not to be wasted or treated carelessly, a term of address to a beloved person, highly esteemed for some spiritual, non-material, or moral quality, cherished.

I think that works perfectly to shift my focus.  So my challenge is to incorporate a practice of treating myself as a precious person in my daily life.  It certainly works in the context of nourishing my body properly and exercising it excellently, while doing it in an encouraging and loving manner – without comparison to the journey of others, and with a dose of grace.  It becomes a process of how I’m being rather than on what I’m doing.

Also, being PRECIOUS has nothing to do with how I look, how much I weigh, how well I dance – which are all things I’ve strongly identified with as who I am, and with the persona of this blog.  In reality, these features are only a tiny part of who I am, of who any human being is.  Ergo, as I am doing the inner work to let go of this junk, and create a new, more evolved, enlightened, and expansive self, I thought perhaps changing the name of the blog was something that could support me.  Lord knows I could stand to step into more than one quality in my life.  I don’t like using Precious for the title of this blog but since I do use the words in the title to this blog quite a bit via social networks and in person, and since I know that repetition is a powerful tool for change, a new name might be just the ticket to ease me into another aspect my new self that I’d like to call forth.

Which reminds me of something Damir said.  Oh yes, we are still dancing.  And today was another wonderful lesson…more on that later.  Anyways, he said to me, “Stefanie, you are just converting physical size into energetic size.”  In other words, I’ve used my physical body as a way to claim my space in this world.  Now the process is to claim my space on the invisible plane.  His point was that I’ll still be “big” but in a totally different way, a non-physical way.

So in some ways, the name “Biggest Girl In The Ballroom” still fits.  It could fit in the context I just mentioned from the conversation with Damir.

Other comments from you guys that I got were:

Because you’re about owning your place and your space – not about size – and because people do know the blog name, maybe go with something that’s a variation of it so you don’t totally lose brand identity?

So… the reason I came across your blog is because I noticed that there weren’t really any fat chicks in the dance studio and I felt a little bit out of sorts… “Is this really for me?” “Why am I the only one?” I am grateful to have come across your blog because it was encouraging to me that even if there are only TWO starfish in the sea, at least I wasn’t alone. I have done some growing since I started following you… and you have too. Biggest girl in the ballroom isn’t about size for me any more… it’s about putting on your big girl panties and accepting who you are for what you are and accepting others too. It’s about keeping on keeping on, even when you want to give up. Due to an injury, I’m no longer able to dance, but I still keep up with you. You’re not the size you once were… life changes. BUT the lesson you teach seems to me to be about being a big girl even when the world tries to make you feel small.

We think keep the domain name the same so you don’t lose any readers or followers.  And Then Making it “The (formerly in handwriting font with an up arrow) Biggest Girl in the Ballroom”. We think will imply the journey and the success you have made of it. All of the best with whatever you decide.

I agree about the larger meaning of being Big. I was also thinking about being a Big Girl (in the being responsible for oneself idea) and also re: not losing your branding. Since comparison is the least interesting and least important part, how about “Big Girl in The Ballroom”?

Biggest isn’t just about weight. It’s about power. It’s about presence. It’s about an indomitable spirit. Why wouldn’t you want to be the biggest girl in the ballroom?

I think the biggest girl in the ballroom’s meaning can morph and change regardless of your size. Biggest can mean so many different things. My opinion is it is perfect just as it is.

Pretty amazing, isn’t it?!  I feel so blessed to have this type of engagement with you!  It’s helped me re-frame my thinking about this issue and I appreciate it very much.

So here’s what I’ve settled on; I’m going to try on a potential name for one week.  I want to see how it feels.  I want you to see how it feels to you and let me know what you think.  I chose this new name because it encompasses a lot of what the people above were saying, including dropping the comparison game, which I think is especially important for me.  I’m not 100% sure just yet and still open to feedback, and, at the same time, I want to create some forward movement on this so this seemed like a great step to take.  I will make my final decision by next Thursday so make sure to make your thoughts known urgently.  All the input thus far has helped me immensely to get more clear on what I want to create. And, yes, this is ultimately my decision.

The name I’m trying on is “Big Girl In The Ballroom”

Let’s see how it goes 🙂  And Lisa, you may just be the winner of a $25 gift card 🙂  You’ll know by next Thursday.

Alrighty, now that that’s all taken care of, I want to share with you what happened on my lesson today.  I think I should talk a little bit about dancing here too! lol.

So as much as I sometimes miss Ivan, I so totally trust the teachings I’m getting from Damir at this time.  My experience of it thus far is becoming more aware of my body on a more detailed level and being present in neglected areas.  Basic areas, like feet and knees.  We haven’t really even made it up to lats and arms just yet and that’s totally okay.  When I get results like I got today, I’m grateful about going so slowly.

Damir said something pretty profound today that teaching dance was his calling.  It’s not a job, it’s not even a vocation.  He’s convinced he could do anything he’d want to do in this world as a profession.  Dance didn’t come easy to Damir.  He searched for answers for a very long time and ended up having to find them for himself.  Even though he had many instructors and coaches that influenced him, his process, from how he describes it, was him having to go so slowly in every step and breaking it down minutely and focusing just on one body part for months at a time.  Because he went through this process, he’s now able to see things in others’ bodies – alignment, energy, where their focus is.  He’s also able to adapt his language in such a way that his students understand clearly what he is asking of them – at least that’s been my experience.

It’s like, I’ve wanted these same answers.  I’ve known that my dancing didn’t look like it potentially could and all the answers I got were from the outside in – making things happen.  God bless all my instructors – they gave me the information I was ready for, that I could handle, and/or to the best of their personal understanding.  However, now I’m being coached from the inside out and it is a total game changer.

It’s also a lot more physical work!  I feel that my body will be changing soon simply from the new method from which I’m approaching dance.  It takes a lot more focus and energy and is based a ton on creating oppositions internally in the body.  It’s awesome and it ain’t easy.

Anyways, Damir focuses on a very practical method for dancing, the thought being that if you have a structure to follow, no matter what your emotional state or how your body is feeling on any particular day, you can use this structure to discover what adjustments might need to be made to still perform at an excellent level, especially in the context of a competition.

And this structure system begins with the feet.  If I thought I used my feet before, I was wrong.  They are experiencing an entirely new level of conditioning.

We are just now beginning to focus on the knees.  Being the second major joint in the leg, they affect a lot of things.  Hips are now moving as a result of the movements in my feet and knees, rather than actively “trying” to make my hips move.

I’m starting to see where the true causes of movement stem from, which is internal and not always obvious, rather than just seeing the end result, which I think a lot of us gravitate toward trying to emulate.  Both ways of approaching movement can be helpful in different contexts, by my personal dance education has been deficient in the information Damir is sharing with me.

It’s pretty wonderful.  Sometimes I may feel like I’m not doing anything on our lessons, that I’ve regressed as a dancer, or that we’re just talking too much!  Then there are moments like today and I realize that all my previous work has been valuable.  I realize that all the work I’ve done laid some foundation and that with new tiny bytes of information, new small puzzle pieces of data that I’ve not been aware of now being presented, things can shift dramatically and quickly in my dancing.

So we were working on the knees, just doing 1,2,cha cha cha, in place and focusing on really stretching the space between the knees as much as possible – like doing it with an imaginary resistance band around them. And it was hard work!  It engaged more muscles, but was controlled, and it caused proper alignment, and made me pull up in my abdomen, there were all sorts of great results from focusing on this particular aspect.  I’m learning how to utilize internal resistance, opposition, and elasticity to create a new quality of movement with stability and control.

So then Damir invited me to use this skill I’d just started practicing in Rumba walks.  Oh. My. God.  For the first time in my life Rumba walks felt GOOD!

Some iterations were better than others but that doesn’t matter.  I had a few really quality ones.  I got the feeling in my body.  It felt like my standing leg was pulling my moving leg forward, instead of the other way around.  I was (mostly) on balance.  It just felt “right,” not so forced.

I had a flashback to Inna’s class.  We’d practiced a lot of Rumba walks in there.  And her style is more aggressive in terms of coaching us to step big, to use big arms, and most of all, to push forward.  This could work great for some students.  For me, I always felt I was forcing this and it was taking way more effort than it should if I was moving ergonomically or biomechanically correct.  But I could never figure out how to do that from the language and demonstrations being used.  With Damir, I’m focusing on very different things: the back of my neck and head, staying on my standing leg as long as possible, planting it into the ground and allowing the elastic resistance between my knees to pull the walking leg forward under my body, keeping my hips under my ribs, and even a little in compressing my lats and pushing my chest forward (but that’s pretty advanced for me right now).  And it freakin’ feels better, way better, totally-different-breakthrough better, like I’m never going to dance the same way again (well, yeah, I may have some muscle memory to overcome) but now that I’ve had this visceral experience, I could never truly go completely back.  Things will never quite be the same.

It gives me hope that possibly all my dancing could feel this good.  It’s showing me I have things in my body ready from the work I’ve previously done to jump to a new level of quality with just the next right bit of information and practice.  It has been a joyful, fun process, for the most part, and although I have some urgency about my goals, I’ve also surrendered to trusting the process being laid before me by my new coach.  All will unfold in it’s proper time.  I fully trust Damir has my best interests at heart.  In fact, I feel so incredibly lucky to work with him, even more so because he told me that he hasn’t taken a new student in years and he’s totally booked with the students he has now.  I’m one lucky ducky he fit me in and I’m going to make the absolute most of my time with him.

Probably the greatest gift Damir has given me is the freedom to be me without expectations, both around my body and my dancing.  I always felt such pressure with Ivan, as well as his frustration and disappointment.  With Damir, I feel like he believes in me, like he believes in all his students, 100%.  He also believes that it’s up to the student to determine how far they really want to go with this dancing thing, and how fast.  It’s so great to be given this responsibility.  He’s totally just there to support me in my process.  It’s a precious gift of his time, attention, presence, information, guidance, and nurturing.  I’ve been able to stop beating myself up so much in this space, as well as to embrace the work required.  I’ve also become less fearful about making mistakes and not being perfect.  He’s helped me define the game I’m playing, and it’s one of personal excellence rather than comparison, authenticity rather than staged performance, deliberate internal presence rather than external forcing, one of groundedness rather than an emotional roller coaster.  He’s supporting me to become the excellent, authentic, present, consistent, grounded dancer I know I can be.  And at the same time, he places no need on me to be anything different than what I am.

I was so lit up about how excellent my lesson turned out today, that I totally thought, “I have to write a blog about this!”  And that was cool because it’s been a while since I’ve felt that way.  I think perhaps it’s because I’ve been in transition and thus the blog has been too.  The blog is going to evolve right alongside with me.  I did start this blog and journey years ago, and I’m not the person I was back then either.  Sometimes it’s okay to let old identities die and integrate their experience into the whole.  I feel like who I was cannot exist in the same space of who I am now, just like the partnership I had with Ivan could no longer live on once shifts had been made.

So life looks different now and probably the blog will too.  I’m excited to see where the journey leads me.

Love, Stef

 

Last Minute Comp! Say What?

Yesterday when I went to my lesson Ivan and I had a heart to heart.  I think Tony Meredith was a good influence on him.  They talked about the fact that nobody ever feels ready but if we wait to feel ready we’d never do anything.  They talked about how important it is to practice the mental aspects of competing as much as it is to practice the technique.  They talked about how you’ll never be younger than you are now.  They talked about how important it is to not regret – the importance of going after you goals in the now.

Anyways, it shifted something in Ivan.  He’s got a new outlook and is keen to compete and be seen more often with Marieta.  It seems to be paying off.  They did so much better last week in Atlanta and, even better than their placement, were the comments from judges afterward.  They really feel like this is their year.  If they are going to do anything, their goal is to be finalists, it’s gotta be now.

And it’s lucky for me, too.  Because the shift helped Ivan re-think things with us as well.  He realized that he actually did want to dance with me.  Both of us had had the mentality that we didn’t want to show up until I was closer to “perfect” – that I was more thin, that’s the biggest hang up, but we’ve had such a good time on our lessons lately, I’ve been so mentally relaxed and moving so much more and feeling more secure in our routines because we’ve been practicing them so much, well I felt like we could dance in a competition next week if we wanted to.  The only thing stopping us was my fat.

The main reason we didn’t want to compete and haven’t was because we didn’t want to feel like we did at our most recent competition.  A lot of that had to do with feeling insecure, and, a big portion of that had to do with Ivan’s thoughts as much as they did with mine.  Because when he’s feeling proud and good about showing me off we tend to do well.  When he’s stressed out, feeling bad because I’m the fat one and we’re focusing on that, then we do more poorly.

The reality is I’m still not where I want to be physically.  But, on the flip side, I’m in better shape.  We practiced doing rounds tonight and I was able to handle it.  The Orange Theory cardio has been helping.  And last night at Inna’s class I was surprised to see some new students who obviously had some experience but were extremely out of breath with our exercises, to the point of bending over and gasping, and I was doing just fine.  And, I tried on my dress and even if it’s not how I want it to look, it does look better than the last time I donned it.

Life’s too short.  Why not dance?  I guess that’s basically what it comes down to.  And we’re only doing open heats.  I have zero expectations.  It’s all about me, my progress, my experience, my growth.  Beyond that, it’s about enjoying our dancing, and enjoying the partnership.

I’ll be honest.  I’d lost some of my fire.  Because for me, doing this dancing thing, it has importance because I am a competitive student.  It’s fine to take a break from competitions and all, but I don’t want to dance socially.  I got clear on that a while ago.  So if I’m not ever going to compete, then I should save my money and stop taking lessons.

The long and short of it is, Ivan really wanted to dance with me, even if for just a little bit. He took the conversation with Tony to heart and it changed things.  He was so cute and told me multiple times that he wasn’t doing it for the money, and that if I couldn’t get the day off or if it was too expensive that he was fine, that I didn’t have to do it.  But that he thought it might be good to get out there once again, to just even do little things, because we are both clear on my ultimate goals.  And when I told him this morning that I was in, he texted me back, “I so excited for you!” And then tonight he told me, “I told you I not care if you can not doing this, but really I do care.  I’m so glad you are doing this.”

He really took the time to talk with me yesterday and I was like, well, sure.  If I can get the day off, I’d be up for a few heats.  My biggest concern was him being proud to dance with me, to want to dance with me.  I’m a work in progress, and I’ve made some progress.  Why not live a little and show it off?  Plus, he only wanted to do open heats with me – no more Bronze – so that speaks volumes to me as well.

I love how life is a flowing river.  You can never know what might be around the next bend.  Two weeks ago we would have said we were not competing in People’s Choice.  Yesterday we discussed it.  Today I went to see if I could maybe get the day off only to realize that it was the one Friday out of every 5 that I have off because I work on that Saturday. It’s almost like it was meant to be.

And I have to laugh because not only did we not plan this, but I have decided to loan some of my dresses to a very special lady across the country who is competing at her very first competition in just a few days!  (A blog post about that is forthcoming) At least I was smart enough to save one dress for myself, but I couldn’t dance Smooth if I wanted to!  I only have a costume suitable for Rhythm or Latin.  It all seems to be working out.

So yeah, life is pretty dang good right now.  I’m blessed to be in the position where I can do this at the drop of a hat.  I’m mentally chilled, have time to get the nails done, I’m prepared enough physically, I have a dress that will work, I have an instructor that wants to dance with me, and I could think of a lot worse ways to spend a Friday off work!

I scheduled a lesson for tonight and, like I mentioned, right away I wanted to do rounds of our open routines to see if I could hack it cardiovascularly.  I did, and that is actually a major victory for me and a testament to the work I’ve been doing outside of my dancing since we rarely practice one routine after another in a lesson.  I’ve never done open scholarship at a competition so I figure it’s better to try it out now, at a local, smaller competition, with less pressure and when I am mentally relaxed.

Alright, enough with the “serious” stuff!  Now for the funny part!  So tonight we were practicing our Bolero and Ivan all the sudden stops and says, “I hear this crack!”  And he grabs his nether-regions from behind.  “I think I split my pants!” He says.  “Third time in my career,” he says.  And he then proceeds to recount other episodes of pants splitting, the worst being white cotton pants gaping up the entire back seam from crotch to lower back while teaching at a studio all day long, not being able to change them or leave to get another pair because his schedule was so full!

I laughed, as you might imagine, hysterically, and said, “Show me.  Let’s see what happened.”

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He split not one side but two!!!!   LOLOLOL.  I laughed even harder, and I love this man, because he actually let me take this photo!  OMG!!!! Never a dull moment with this guy.

I guess that’s all the news!  If you are coming to People’s Choice here in Phoenix, please do come say hello!

What’s Up Buttercup?

Heya!  I know I’ve been gone a while but I’m still alive and still dancing.

I guess I just don’t feel like I have all that much to share lately.  There is no definite competition on the horizon and my lessons are pleasant and fun but I still feel like I have to be in better cardiovascular shape and to have lost significantly more fat before I get on the competitive floor again.  Truly those are the things that are holding me back.

Thankfully Ivan is pleased with the quality of my dancing lately and even saying he’s excited to compete with me when the time comes.

I’ll be excited too.  It’s just that I want to have completely transformed and I want new dresses.  Period.  I just don’t want to compromise on this and I’m sick of being the fat one.

So, it’s really the same old same old.  Boring.  Who wants to hear about that?  It’s a broken record.

So I’ve not been writing.

On the up side, I feel like I’ve found my confidence in my dancing.  I believe I am a good dancer and can own it.  That’s a huge victory.  In fact, I was even shocked today in group class as I was asked to do the one and only demonstration in Jive.  Pretty cool to be recognized.

I’m still a little shy about it, and kind of try to hide and look at my fingernails between rounds of practice and stand to the sides or not in the front row.  I don’t feel 100% confident nor do I feel the need to pretend I’m a diva.  But there is some level of feeling like I’m somewhat competent at what I’m doing, even if there is still room for improvement.

Because, let’s face it, there’s always room for growth, with Ivan too.  But, for me, the deal is, the more confident I feel, the better I dance.  And being confident, for me, comes from practice, preparation, and the body-image stuff.  The smaller I am, the better I feel, the easier it is to move, the more I move, the better I can cope with the physical demands.  It all goes together – it’s kind of like which came first, the chicken or the egg.  All parts of me from the mental to the physical and emotional are interconnected and affect one another.  I can’t wait to feel so wonderful about how I look and have that reflect in my dancing.  I can’t wait to actually create a “look” to present on the competitive floor.  I can’t wait to really love my new dress and how it flatters me.

But all that’s old news.  Now it’s about being consistent, being as active as I can, and putting in the time and effort to drive the transformation.  It’s gonna take time.

Three interesting things of note have happened, though.  The first was Tony Meredith came into town and I was lucky enough to get a coaching with him.  He created a new Mambo routine for Ivan and I.

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The second thing is that on my last lesson Ivan and I had a grand old time just goofing around toward the end of the lesson.  I put on music I enjoy and he tried to whip me around like crazy, pretending like he was “Michael Malitowski.”  He tried to spin me all these directions and then he went to drag me, so I grabbed around his neck and he began to spin at the end of the drag.  And I don’t know why, but it just felt like the natural thing to do, so I lifted my legs up!  He spun me and I was completely off the floor.  I haven’t felt like that since I was probably 8 years old.  I was flying!  It was truly incredible and I can’t wait to see all the cool stuff we might be able to do when I’m lighter.  Because I’m strong under here!  And I can’t tell you what a phobia I’ve overcome with this because even when I was in high school and 80 pounds lighter, I was terrified of how heavy I was and convinced no guy could lift me.  I had to partner with this senior guy in the school musical and he even dropped me in one of the performances, proving me right in my mind!  So anyways, I can fly and the possibilities are exciting.

And the third thing is that I’ve been going to Orange Theory.  It’s great for me because it gets my cardio in, I’ve never burned less than 540 calories in a bout, and it keeps me interested so the time goes pretty quickly – much better than hopping on the stair machine for 45 minutes (which is tedious and boring and takes a lot of mental convincing to do).  And hey, I was pretty proud of myself when I first went because I was able to hang with the crowd.  Sure I might have had a higher heart rate, and maybe I wasn’t as fast as other people, but I was stronger and faster than others and I began to think, maybe I’m in better comparative shape than I thought.  There is no way 6 months ago I would have been able to perform this well.  It was also a pretty crappy reality check because my heart rate was so high (they track it throughout the workout).  I was working really hard, ergo, I am still fat, sick and out of shape.  But I was also thinking to myself during moments, “I am magnificent!” because I’m there, I’m sucking it up, I’m doing it, I’m pushing hard because that’s how things change.

And speaking of pushing hard, I had probably the most difficult and miserable hike of my life last weekend!  It was way too hot out, there were thick, icky swarms of gnats that plagued us from our first steps to our last steps,  and I’m fat, sick, and out of shape!  My heart rate was around 174 for most of the incline during the 3.4 miles.  I wanted to give up most of the time because it was so uncomfortable, and I made a pact with myself not to do that damn hike again until I’m under 200 pounds.  It is so much work to move my mass uphill and people just have no idea what it’s like for us fatties.  For example, my husband also tracked his workout and he burned 250 calories on the way up while I burned 3 times that amount, 750 calories.  Mostly it just makes me mad and that motivates me to keep working at it.  I made a pact with myself to be as active as I can this week and to get under 200 pounds once and for all.  I’ve been playing with the same 10 pounds for 2 months – stupid “social events” and “real life” – like Easter, family obligations.  I do great when I’m in my own little bubble during the week.  Weekends and any social obligations are much more difficult.  And my stupid body is so efficient if I give it any extra, it gloms onto it.

Anyways, I’m focused and fired up and while I was suffering on the peak I really concentrated on how awful it felt.  I wish sometimes I could bottle that misery up so any time I even want to think about going off plan I can take a little sip of it and instantly I’ll know what choice I really want to make.  I guess the next best thing is to go on miserable hikes and do horrendous workouts that feel awful so I am constantly reminded of why I want to change.  For the moment it is fresh in my mind.

So that’s the deal folks.  I’m still struggling with being consistent but I’m also still plugging along, I haven’t given up or given in, I’m resolved to be as active as necessary, and I’m gunning for the 199 pound mark in the next 3 weeks.

Oh, and I was sad to hear that my ballet class on Mondays will be cancelled.  I have to find a substitute activity and I’m thinking yoga.  But I’ll miss the ballet – the people, the exercises, the balance and leg strength it’s given me.  I will be sad to lose the progress but I don’t think there is another class nearby.  Yoga seems like the next best thing, maybe it will be better, who knows.

So now you are all caught up!

Until next time, Stef

An Epic Vomit Story, Ham Hocks, And I’m Glad I Wore Tights! (Not Necessarily In That Order)

Boy am I glad I wore mostly-opaque black tights tonight!  I’m even more glad I wore my “boy shorts” underwear.  Why, you ask?  Because if I hadn’t, it could have been a very embarrassing evening.

Tonight Ivan and I had a really good lesson.  And afterwards Ivan was like, “This is your second good lesson.  I like it.  I love it.  But it is your second good lesson in two months.  Can you believe it?”

The truth is, he’s right.  It’s been a roller coaster the past two months.  Playing with the same last 10 pounds.  Other life things.  The long and the short of it is that I showed up for my lessons, sometimes sporadically, and it didn’t help that Ivan and Marieta had a full competition schedule.  I went through the motions, but that’s about it.  It’s not necessarily a “bad” thing – because there is value in repetition and showing up – but was the quality and presence there?  Not like it can be.  And consistency was lacking.  But still, I kept going, and sometimes that’s all a person can do.

I have to say that over the last few months I’ve learned some lessons.  Well, I think it is more like I’ve come to know these concepts, not as intellectual understandings, but as integrated aspects of my being.  For instance, everyone always says, “it’s the journey, not the destination,” and “trust the process” and other platitudes that I usually think are total crap.  And, well…  I am starting to see value in “the process” even when it doesn’t look exactly like I want it to or think it should.  Even when it looks exactly opposite of what I would have said I would have wanted.  Like gaining weight back.  But now after a week of consistency and being back on the program, I am back down and heading toward my goals again.  And just knowing that not all was lost was a huge win.  Instead of going into a total tailspin I talked to myself calmly, saying to myself that I know what to do, and I just need to do it.  And I chose to be gentle with myself until I had the inner resources to jump back on the horse – again, another huge triumph.

Because the deal is, that I’m the one driving the bus.  It’s all up to me.  I get the results I get from the choices I make. And sometimes there’s a lot to juggle.  And now, instead of feeling upset, put upon, indignant thinking about this, I feel empowered.  It’s my choice.  I DO have control over some things, like my food, my activity level.  And most of all, I embraced the idea that all this is a lifestyle, not a diet.  I’m in it for the long haul.  If there are blips up, that’s okay, even if it is a 10 pound blip, because that’s not the final outcome.  Because life is life.  There are choices I make because I want to enjoy things, be social, share a meal with family or my husband, or because I’m depressed and the best way I can figure to comfort myself, nurture myself, isn’t to eat what is on my plan.  And, it’s worth it.  I’m done with being a black or white, absolute right or wrong, good and bad-thinking person when it comes to my journey to health.  I can make any choice I want at any moment.  I can choose to eat cake when I feel like the benefit outweighs the price and vice versa.  That, to me, is the most empowering thing of all.  I can change my mind at any moment, nothing is off limits, and I’m going to make the choices that serve me best, holistically.  I love and value myself enough to do that.  And, truly, most of the time the best choices are to be on plan and to engage in regular activity.  And, sometimes they are not.  It’s about discretion and insight.

Maybe some people don’t understand how big these wins are if they’ve never been severely overweight.  Hell, I couldn’t even see them as wins until now.  I had to belittle any progress I made because it was never “enough,” because I was never skinny, never even close.  But from my recent experience I now believe that it’s okay to acknowledge what is going on, to see the changes that are happening.  In this case they were changes I didn’t like, but then, this time around, instead of thinking I’d completely failed, that I was a total loser, that I had slipped up for a fraction of a second and screwed everything up forever, I realized I just needed to make different choices.  And I also realized I’d made the choices I had for valid reasons.  I simply had to own all of it, and allow it to be okay that I’d not been “perfect.”  And this time, I somehow avoided the whole self-denigrating, beat-to-a-bloody-pulp punishment method and just got straight away to the next proactive step.  That, my friends, is a MAJOR victory.  Maybe some people don’t have to go there to learn this, but I did.  And that’s why I have a little more trust in “the process” no matter how it looks.   I gained wisdom, I gained a different level of confidence, I gained 10 pounds, and this week I lost 6 of them.  And I understand this entire experience like I never understood it before.

And with the proactive steps I’ve been taking comes progress and results, and, for me, self-esteem.  Because, let’s face it, it’s pretty obvious that how I feel reflects in my body – with weight and with dancing.  So it follows that with better self-esteem, goes better dancing. And thus was the case tonight.

Amazing, isn’t it?

In summary, I’m in a pretty good place overall.  Yes, my last lesson before tonight was a total bummer, but the one prior to that was just as good as the one tonight.  Things are looking up.  I’m heading in the right direction.

So, yes, tonight we had a good lesson.  Full of connection and feeling.  Full of constructive conversation and polishing.  We were in sync, we laughed, he taught me a new Bulgarian phrase – my legs are “Sfvinski crack” – ham legs, when they were moving slow.  And he confused me with his thick accent which was entertaining.

It happened like this: To begin the Rumba he puts his hand out and I’m to react and accept it.  Then we do a slow hip roll and then we’re off doing some forward Rumba walks.  Anyways, we’re to look into each other’s eyes until the moment we jet forward.  It’s actually a pretty intimate, connected moment.  It takes some presence.  And, of course, Ivan is all about the connection, and even more about the idea that the leader leads and the follower reacts.  I’m not to move until I get the “signal.”  To reiterate and further explain this notion, Ivan told me that he was the man and that he was the one that “opened the driveway gate.”  He said, “The man has the cold.”  Well, at least, that was what it sounded like, lol.

“The man has the cold?”

“Yes, the man has the cold.  Beep boop beep.”  Ivan pantomimed a finger punching a keypad.

“Oh!  The man has the code!”

“Yes, what you think I say?  The man has the cold.  You cannot open without the man cold!”

Uh huh.  Right. lol.  But really, he does so well with English!  I laugh and it’s funny and all, but I have so much respect for how well he communicates.  As a person who has been in a country that speaks a different language I understand how daunting a task it is.

But I digress.  We worked mostly on Rumba and Bolero in the jam-packed studio.  They were having a social dance party for half of the time we were on our lesson.  But you know, I didn’t even really notice it.  I was so into what we were doing, so focused on our work, it was as if we had our own separate space in an invisible bubble as we weaved in and out of the other couples.  I was happy to discover a few new details to incorporate in the dances, little moments with expanded arms, exaggerated whiplash through the body, remembering to push my hips upward as I do backbends.  It was a productive, joyful lesson.  I was mostly on balance.  Ivan told me I had never danced like I danced tonight.

However, at one point we were doing the beginning of the Bolero where Ivan runs up to me and puts his hands on my legs and I’m supposed to react, as he says, like “he’s the prince,” and I’m being “touched for the very first time.”  And that I’m supposed to enjoy it, or, at least look like I enjoy it, and he started raising his hands upwards and my skirt was raised with them, up, up, up….until you could see about 2 inches of my underwear!  OMG!!!!

There is no other context in which this would be okay in public!

And even so, when it happened I was like, 1) thinking internally that I’d made an excellent wardrobe choice and 2) yelling at Ivan that I didn’t want to show everyone all my cookies even as he was saying to me, “It’s okay!  If you love it everybody gonna love it!”

Oh what a wild life I lead!

But I do want to acknowledge that I’ve come a long way.  Because even though I don’t want to necessarily regularly show my underwear in public, I wasn’t totally mortified.  That may sound strange, but listen, I’ve developed some level of comfort with my body and that is an EXCEPTIONALLY good thing.  Also, I dress in the boy shorts and with tights or leggings because I have developes in some of my routines so I want to make sure I’m appropriately covered for those.  I have to be comfortable to do those kind of moves.  Anyways, I was prepared (I mean, I don’t even own a g-string, but if I did, and had worn it tonight, it would have been a TOTALLY different story!) and better than that, the wardrobe mishap didn’t freak me out.

So that little episode was, ahem, entertaining, but  even more entertaining was Ivan’s epic vomit story, a play in two acts.  He told me the first part a long time ago when we were reminiscing about New Year’s Eve.  Apparently one New Year’s, Ivan got blasted.  So blasted that he was going to be sick on the drive home.  He begged Marieta to stop, she urged him to hold on for just a little while longer.  He tried to roll down the window…and blew chunks.  Everywhere.  Inside. Outside.  All over.

The next morning he awoke, knowing he was blitzed but not quite remembering the events of the previous evening.

He showered.  He got ready for the day.  He got into the car.

The miasma of dried stomach contents curled his nose hairs.

He looked around.  He saw the salad he’d eaten.  Chunks of the chicken.  Red peppers.

It was epic.  Thus ends act one.

Apparently two weekends ago Ivan had a repeat performance.  Let’s call it act two.  It was hilarious hearing about it from Ivan, with all his over-the-top expressions, funny accent, and wild gesticulations.  He went to a party at his friend’s house and got hosed.  Marieta drove him home.  This time, he claims, he didn’t even have the energy to warn her or to request that she stop so he could be sick.  He struggled with massive effort to lower the window.  This time, he says, he “had learned from his previous experience” and so, he stuck his head out the window, his neck extended gracefully long like “a giraffe.”

He saw a car approaching.  The headlights were about to pass him in the next lane.  “It was amazing!” he said.  “One minute I see the lights, the next they are gone!”  Covered in his vomit, the light from the headlamps was drowned out.  He sprayed vehemently all along the outside of his car.

Once again he awoke the next morning, knowing he was hungover, and took a shower, prepared for the day, not quite remembering the exact events of the previous night.

“You’d better go check the car,” said Marieta.

“Why?” Inquired our hero, “Did the ‘check engine’ light come on?  Is there something wrong with the tires?”

“You’d better go check the car,” she repeated once again, exasperated.

He checked the car.  As he approached the side and accounted for most of the Technicolor specks of food (from where is come these carrots? He queried), so did his neighbor appear.

“Looks like you had an exciting night,” said the neighbor.

Ivan procured his garden hose.

He cleaned the car, but apparently, as he told me tonight, even after the cleaning, his mom, who is visiting from Bulgaria, opened the window and found a layer of slime that he’d missed.

“Good thing I sold the van,” he proclaimed on the lesson.

Who is the poor soul who purchased it, I wonder.  Alas, they will never know the full extent of its storied history.  And, that, my friends, is probably a good thing.

The End.

 

 

 

Mambo In Chinatown

Hello readers!

Maybe you’ve noticed – I’ve been on a little hiatus.  Things are going just fine, still dancing and all that but I guess there just doesn’t seem like much noteworthy to share recently, well, except that on my last lesson we went to a new studio and there was another couple there that Ivan and I know from competitions and they were totally having all these dramatic spats!  It was kinda uncomfortable but kinda funny at the same time because even though they’d yell at each other like cats, and storm off to opposite ends of the room, two seconds later they were smiling and dancing again.  I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s healthy, but it seems like that is how they communicate, how their relationship is set up.  To each his own.  But I digress.  This is not the main purpose of my post today.

Today I have a special treat for you!

You see, I have fans, fans far and wide.  Even fans who are bestselling authors, yes I do!  Fans who write great books about ballroom dancing and who have agents who approach me to feature their book.  This particular fan is named Jean Kwok and I know she is a fan only because I got this note:

Will you also please tell Stefanie that I actually found and read her blog when I was doing research for Mambo in Chinatown? Isn’t that a coincidence? I’m a big fan of hers! I love her voice and enthusiasm. I enjoyed hearing her insights about the world of ballroom very much, and I absolutely share her passion for ballroom!

Ha!  Too cool, right?!

Well you see, Jean is already a bestselling author for her book “Girl in Translation,” and now she has a second book coming out, poised to be another bestseller titled, “Mambo in Chinatown.”

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Yours truly was lucky enough to get an advanced copy which I really enjoyed and then, even better than that, I had the opportunity to ask Jean some questions as well as get some exclusive photos of Jean herself, dancing, which I will share with you presently.  Because guess what?  Jean is the real deal.  Not only has she danced ballroom, she was a professional and even competed both with professional and amateur partners, once upon a time even with Jose Decamps!

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So what is the book about?  To quote the book cover, it’s “a novel about a young woman torn between her family duties and her secret escapes into a more Western world.”

Charlie Wong is the main character, an American-born Chinese girl 21 years of age.  She lives pretty miserably as a dishwasher with her widower father and younger sister.  She gets a job as the receptionist of a ballroom studio and her world changes.  We follow Charlie’s journey as she blossoms through her exposure to the ballroom dancing world even as her sister becomes chronically ill.  While Charlie comes to understand more of the Western world, her father continues to be suspicious of it and insists his youngest daughter be treated only with Eastern practices.  Charlie is left to reconcile where she has come from with who she has become.

If this piques your interest, because come on, if you are like me, you are always looking for books about ballroom, and I think most of us relate to the transformative power of dancing, then you can pre-order the book here

So without further ado, here we go with the exclusive Q and A!  I’m pretty excited about it!

Biggest Girl In The Ballroom: When did you start dancing? 

Jean Kwok:  I was an immigrant child living in an unheated apartment in the slums of Brooklyn, so I didn’t have the chance to take any dance lessons when I was growing up. I desperately wanted to, though. I envied my friends who went to ballet school. It wasn’t until I was at Harvard that I started taking dance lessons on my own. I must have been terrible since I was such a late beginner, but I loved it. I took all sorts of dance classes: ballet, African, jazz, Middle Eastern. I made the decision to become a writer at around the same time, so after I graduated, I searched for a day job in New York City that would allow me to write in the evenings. I saw an ad in the paper that read, “Wanted: Professional Ballroom Dancer, Will Train.”

I was terrified but I wanted that job so much. I passed the interview and was invited to an audition. At the audition, they picked about twenty of us to join a three-week training class. At the end of that class, miraculously, they hired me at Fred Astaire and that was the beginning of my truly learning how to dance.

Biggest Girl In The Ballroom:  How long have you danced?

Jean Kwok:  I worked as a professional ballroom dancer for three years. It was so hard to learn to dance well, and yet it was one of the most exhilarating things I’d ever done. In that time, I did shows, competitions and taught students. I still love to dance but unfortunately, I am married to a wonderful man who does not dance. I guess you can’t have everything. 😉 In the process of doing research for Mambo in Chinatown, I not only came across this wonderful blog of yours, Stefanie, but I also went back into the ballroom world. I danced a salsa with Jungie Zamora at Fred Astaire East Side Studio, which is now owned by my dear friends, famous choreographer and coaches Taliat and Marina Tarsinov. We filmed this salsa and I’ll release it on my website soon.

Biggest Girl In The Ballroom: What is your favorite dance style?

Jean Kwok:  I love all of the dances: the speed and precision of a Viennese waltz, for example; the poise and grace of foxtrot; the hypnotic rhythm of tango; but I have to say that my heart belongs to the Latin dances. Mambo, rumba, cha cha are so unfettered, passionate and intense, while requiring tremendous discipline at the same time. I love doing high-speed turns and I enjoy the complexity of interaction with my dance partner. Outside of ballroom, I also love just going out dancing and rocking the night away. I’ve been hoping to get a group of dancing writers together but thus far, no success.

Biggest Girl In The Ballroom:  Do you compete?

Jean Kwok:  I competed with my students and with professional partners as well. I had some wonderful students and we competed in all dance styles as Pro-Am couples. With my professional partners, I competed in Latin. In fact, I danced briefly with Jose Decamps, now 4-time US and 3-time World Rhythm Champion. Jose and I had some great times together. I won Top Professional Female at Fred Astaire National Championships right before I left ballroom. Leaving dance broke my heart but I needed to pursue my dream of becoming a writer, so I went to Columbia to get my MFA in fiction.

Biggest Girl In The Ballroom:  Is the story autobiographical in any way? How so?

Jean Kwok:  I think that fiction is for me, always a veiled way of telling the truth. Like my heroine Charlie, I had always been considered clumsy and not-too-bright by my family. I was dreamy and no good at any domestic skills whatsoever. I burned everything, I hated to clean, I was opinionated and stubborn. (I’m still like that, actually.) Unlike Charlie, I was born with a gift for school, which is kind of like being born with an extra toe. I’ve often thought that if my gifts had been reversed, if I were good at cooking and cleaning and not gifted at school, I would be most likely working in a restaurant somewhere today. That was the beginning of Mambo in Chinatown.

I wanted to tell the story of a seemingly talentless young woman who discovers something she loves – ballroom dance – and thereby unleashes her own gifts. I also wanted to show my readers worlds they might not have seen firsthand: the professional ballroom dance world and Chinatown.

There are so many incidents from the book that come from my own life. Charlie goes to her interview at the dance studio in an oversized red dress, a red turban around her badly-cut hair, and black pumps that she has filled in with magic marker to cover up their worn patches. That was exactly what I wore to my interview. I had learned many things in college but how to dress was not one of them!

Biggest Girl In The Ballroom:  How has dancing enriched your life?

Jean Kwok:  If I had never discovered dance, I would be a different person today. Dance has taught me about passion, health, my body, grace, humility, beauty and discipline. For me, both writing and dance are ways of accessing the deepest parts of my spirit. Through dance, I rejoice and grieve, I stretch the boundaries of my experience as a woman and as a human being.

Biggest Girl In The Ballroom:  How do you respond when people say that they are interested in dancing but are too afraid to start?

Jean Kwok:  Well, I know all about fear and I sympathize. Years ago, I made a decision that changed my life: to never allow fear to stop me from doing something I truly wanted to do. If I had listened to my fear, I would never have stepped into the dance studio and my life would be so much poorer for it. I would also say that ballroom is extremely forgiving. It’s been designed to be easy and anyone can do it. Of course, it also grows with you and the better you become, the harder it gets. That’s why it’s so fun.

So there you go!  I’m so happy Jean allowed me to be involved with the launch of her new novel.  It’s one of the better books about ballroom dancing I’ve had the pleasure to read.

You can follow Jean on Facebook here and on Twitter here