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.”


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!

Still Image 29 Still Image 13 Still Images 36

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


Do You Want It?

One of the things I most enjoy about dancing, especially with Ivan, is how much fun we have on lessons (generally). Part of this is due to his personality, but another equally charming aspect is the fact that he is foreign. Being from Bulgaria, with English as a 5th language (I’m not kidding – he speaks many languages including Polish, Spanish, Bulgarian, and English and probably more), he says some funny things and there are hilarious mispronunciations and misunderstandings. Not to mention, Bulgaria has weird idiomatic sayings – I mean maybe they make perfect sense in Bulgarian, but when translated, they really don’t make any sense.

This week I skipped ballet in lieu of an extra lesson with Ivan last night because I had to work Saturday and he had to cancel Sunday, plus he’s leaving for Ohio Thursday and will be gone through most of the weekend. It’s possible I’ll be able to fit a lesson in on Sunday, but there is no guarantee. Plus he and Marieta will also be gone the following weekend for California Star Ball. It’s not an ideal situation for me trying to get myself together for Holiday, so I have to fit in what I can, when I can. So this week that meant a lesson Monday night as well as tonight. Anyways, we continued to work on Bolero, which is finally coming along, as well as American Rhythm Rumba and Swing. We also reviewed Samba and Cha Cha, Latin Rumba, and Mambo. It was a pretty good lesson last night. I enjoyed myself and felt like we made progress on our routines. Plus I feel like the cardio I have managed to fit in is finally beginning to make it easier for me to dance. We still have to run rounds and push things to the max but I’ve been tolerating things really well during the lessons.

So anyways, after the lesson Monday night I told Ivan, “Let’s have a lesson tomorrow night,” to which he replied, “That sounds wonderful.” But he cracks me up when he says this because he’s kind of making fun of how we Americans sound. It’s very tongue and cheek, plus he says it with that Eastern Bloc accent and it’s even funnier. And then to drive the point home he says, “That would be fan-tas-stick,” again overdoing it with feigned courtesy, and it’s just silly. I parrot it back to him with my impersonation of his accent and he asks, “How else can you say this? What other word is there for ‘fantastic’ or ‘wonderful’?”

“Stupendous,” I say.

“Pendis?” He queries.

“Stu-pen-dous” I say again, more slowly.


No. “Stupendous!”



“How you say this? What letter it start with?”



“No! S.T. like Stefanie!”

“Marieta!” he calls, “What the hell is she say?”

“Stupendous,” I say for the umpteenth time

“Stupdendous,” translates Marieta…repeating the word just like I have been saying it for the past 5 minutes.

“AH!” Ivan exclaims. “Estupendo! Why you no say this?”

OMG! *Hits head with hand in exasperation*

I mean, yeah, probably not the easiest word to learn in English, but now Ivan has expanded his vocabulary. We say our good nights and good byes, and then Ivan prattles off this long complicated saying in Bulgarian and I have no idea what he said.

“It’s a saying,” he explains, “saying go to sleep. In the garbage but not the garbage. What is this you put the dirty laundry in? Well go sleep in the garbage laundry basket and dream of a penny.”

“Um, thanks?” lol. It totally doesn’t make sense.

But then neither does this other saying Ivan told me – re-ap-a-de-de – means “go eat a radish” and you say it if you don’t like somebody. I guess it means something like “go jump in a lake” but go eat a radish? lol. That’s just weird.

But Ivan is not the only foreign dance instructor in my life! Tonight in Inna’s class, we worked on Samba and Paso Doble. And at one point she was trying to put together a short exercise routine and came to a blank. As she was thinking of the next move, she rattled off something exotic in Russian and then translated, “Something very dangerous is going to happen right here!”

It was very dramatic.


But I have to say that the funniest thing that happened today happened in English.

When Ivan and I were practicing the Bolero we weren’t doing it full out. But then we came to this part where I kick my leg up into a vertical split and grab him around his neck and shoulders and he drags me and dips me. Well we came to the part and since we hadn’t been doing the movements completely full out I didn’t expect to actually give him my leg and do the vertical splits. So we are in this rather intimate embrace and I pause for a second because he seems to be expecting this move to happen. So I quietly ask him, “Do you want it?”

We both about lost it. It came out in a husky voice and it was just funny. I totally meant, “Do you want my leg? Like, really? Right now.” but all I said was, “Do you want it?”

Ermygerd! so frickin’ funny. It came out so totally wrong and sounded so suggestive. After we laughed our heads off, Ivan said the only appropriate thing to say in response, with his voice low.

“Give it to me!” he growled, which sent me into another fit of giggles.

All in all, it’s been a good few days in terms of dancing. We are making progress, I feel, with the new routines, and I’ve been enjoying my time. That plus I had a big win at Inna’s class tonight. You see, when I first walked through the door and took the first class, I couldn’t make it though the class. My body just couldn’t tolerate the cardio. It seemed impossible. It was so, so hard, and I had to quit during many exercises, which was embarrassing and exasperating. But I told myself that eventually I would be able to make it through a class 100%. Well, it’s been over 2 years, actually probably more like 3 since this will be the 3rd year they are having their Showcase and Masquerade Ball, anyways, it’s been years in the making, but as I was dancing tonight, I realized that I was able to cope with the demands of the class. I was able to handle it all the way through. Now, we lucked out and didn’t do Jive, but I’ll take it as a victory! I worked really hard and for quite a long time to make it here. There is still so much to do, however, it is important to me to take a moment to acknowledge this progress.

Well, anyways, though I’m kinda bummed Ivan will be gone and I probably won’t see him again until Sunday or later, I do have a few things to look forward to. I will be streaming Ohio and watching my favorite pro couples compete on Friday night. Saturday Damir has a workshop which will keep me busy, and next weekend when Ivan is out of town again Inna will have a workshop. Plus I’ve started taking a Jazz class on Wednesday nights which has a lot of stretching and a pleasant instructor. Well, those are my latest ballroom adventures. I, however, had better get to bed – I will be working out at the gym in the early morning with Chelle and I know she will kick my butt! So good night and sleep in the garbage and dream of a penny.


That’s Video-blog, yo!

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some Vlogging.  You know, like show my actual personality instead of reading about it.  Don’t fret, I think that mainly I’m writer, so most likely I will stick to the written word most of the time (and that might be a good thing after you see the vid).  But well, a few weeks ago the hubs was out of town and I got bored so I made a video on my iPad.

Maybe if I do it again I will talk more about dancing than just goofing off but, whatever.

Anyways, the hubs saw it tonight and thought it was funny.  He had no idea I knew any Skee-lo. Ha ha!  So here ya go!  Enjoy… (or cringe. That’s an option too) 😉

If Others Are Allowed To Taste It, Then You Are The Only One Allowed To Swallow….

Well, my illustrious adventures in ballroom continue on a trajectory toward my next competition, Desert Classic, in just over a month.

After this past competition, however, it was time to assess and course correct, a time to fix and improve what I can in this short respite. To that end, I had a lesson with Ivan and coaching with Linda Dean the Tuesday after the competition. Happily, Linda gave me great feedback on my dancing at the competition and we then proceeded to work on Bolero, Mambo, and Swing, cleaning up some issues, and revisiting the actual technique of the basic steps. Once again I find I’m too nicey-nice with my dancing. Linda reiterated Ivan’s admonition that I’m being too pretty and precise when some dances call for being more wild, free, even savage.

The other note Linda gave me was that I needed a new dress. Well, I do. She’s 100% right. I kind of hate to get one now but I’m sick of being seen in the same ones since forever. It’s time for a change. So guess what? You are right. I consulted with Marieta Sunday about making a new dress. So far I think it will be asymmetrical and be teal with lime green as an accent color. I’m sick of all the black. Time for color! Time to show a new version of them because, after all, I’m right smack dab in the middle of my transformation, you know!

I missed ballet last week on account of the holiday weekend. But tonight I went and worked up a good sweat. And I have to say things are a’changin’. It felt like the same amount of effort to me, but apparently my penche was noticeably higher this evening. My instructor was like, “What have you been doing?! Your leg was way up there!” And I have to say I felt pretty energized after class. It was an effort but not exhausting. Every few pounds I loose, every inch that shrinks off, makes it that much easier to move. The same amount of effort (which is a lot I tell you!) now produces incrementally bigger and better results. It’s kinda exciting if I do say so myself.

I went to Inna’s class last Tuesday which was taught by Igor since Artem and Inna were busy making it to semi-finals at Blackpool with their Foxtrot and Quickstep!!! How awesome and exciting is that?! But back in the real world, Phoenix, AZ, we worked on Cha Cha. Though the content class is great, and it pushes me to work so very hard, and it helps with cardiovascular conditioning, it is soooooo full of students. It’s hard to find space sometimes and when people don’t move and I am stuck behind them, or they are unaware of their limbs and fling them dangerously in my face, well, it’s getting kind of annoying. Sigh. What’s a girl to do?

Go to Rado’s Latin class on Thursdays, I suppose. It was the last in the series on Rumba for the month of May and it was a goodie. We reviewed the content of the previous classes, namely the 3 types of hip action: pendulum, figure eight, forward and back, as well as the 7 types of walks in Rumba: forward, backward, delayed, delayed with check, check, forward turn walk and one more I can’t remember dang it! Anyways, these basic walks are the components that make up all the steps in the dance such as Hockey Stick or Alemana. Rado gave us some choreography and we danced it and then he went on to talk about the character of the Rumba.

You have to know that Rado is a pretty energetic and entertaining guy. He’s very friendly as well as extremely knowledgable. He shares information with use about how to properly execute the various dances that I’ve not heard before, or he presents in ways new to me which helps me understand the dancing in a new light. For instance he shared with us how to improve our Rumba walks by pushing our ankles downward toward the floor to create that gorgeous line through the ankles and feet on the four and one counts.

So anyways, I enjoy his teaching style, he imparts knowledge generously and effectively, but I’ve never heard him be this racy! He was describing how the males and females should be dancing in the Rumba and it basically comes down to this; the guys are supposed to act like they are “the shit” because they are with this amazing, beautiful, womanly partner and they have the ability to get her to move however they’d like. Of course the woman’s job is to be uber-sexy, so much so that she attracts the attention of everyone watching, especially people across the room. The man she’s dancing with should be appreciative and all, but still maintain a machismo and cool confidence because, after all, he’s the one actually dancing with this maven, not just watching from afar.

He explained it like this (and apparently it comes from some movie, or so he says): If everyone can look at her, he is the only one who can touch her, and if everyone else can touch her, he is the only one who can smell her, and if others are allowed to smell her, then he is the only one who can taste her, and if others are allowed to taste her, he is the only one allowed to swallow.

OMG! Ha ha ha. SAY WHAT?! I almost choked on my tongue laughing! But I suppose it gets the point across….ewww…..??

The only other news is that my asthma is somewhat better since my doctor put me on a few more medications (boo!) but it continues to be an issue. Even so, I am pushing through and mostly recovered from my big dance competition. I had a double lesson with Ivan on Sunday and we mostly worked on our Samba.

I have to say, it was a very good lesson. We went through each step one-by-one from the beginning, refining it. The best part was that I felt pretty good doing it and was performing so much so that Ivan got goosebumps, not once, not twice, but four times! That has never happened before. And it made me very happy. Because it means that Ivan can feel me though my dancing. This means that others should also be able to feel me when I perform. It means to me that the performer is in there and she is coming out of her shell. Of course it is easier with just me and Ivan – it wasn’t quite as effortless when Marieta walked in – but it made me realize, acknowledge, and own my power and it also made me think that it is high time I play a bigger game and stop only showing this much on lessons. The more I shed this outer fat suit, the more my inner self shows up, the more confidence I seem to have, the more I feel like it is okay to be me and to show exactly how I feel. It’s an exciting time.

And I’m 100% back on my eating plan once again. I did all the shopping and cooking this weekend and I’m not going to lie – it is a pretty big effort. I actually enjoy cooking, using my kitchen, baking, reacquainting myself with my counter-top mixer that I got as a wedding present. But it is hard on my feet, hips and ankles to stand so much! I want to get one of those floor mats like we used in the pharmacy for some extra padding. I had to laugh when my husband commented that all the cooking keeps me very busy and “maybe all that cooking is part of the work out!” In any case, my fridge is stocked, my food is packaged, and I’m ready to eat like a Hobbit once again. I learned for future reference that doing a competition or travelling will require even more planning ahead because when I’m back in “real life” I don’t necessarily have the internal resources right away the very next day to go shopping and do food prep. In the case of a competition I was physically exhausted. So I think I will freeze things when I leave in the future so I can just defrost them and be ready to go straight away the next time around.

And my nutritionist and I are also troubleshooting the energy/eating situation during a competition. I’m going to get this carbohydrate powder which is the same idea as a protein powder but with carbs like I need during a comp. Plus I discussed with Martieta what to do to tan without using spray tan since it totally triggered my asthma before the competition. You live, you learn, right? I always learn tons every time I do a competition, about myself, about how to better prepare, and it’s all good.

And finally, a little bit of a rant lol. You see, since I’m working to shed all this weight I decided to follow a bunch of blogs about dieting, eating healthy and all that. I’ve followed people who are obese like I am. I’ve followed people who are already super-duper fit. People with eating disorders. People who had gastric bypasses. People who create clean eating diets. Basically, the entire gambit of anything to do with food, eating, weight loss, getting fit and whatnot… and reading these blogs is pissing me off! lol.

There is a lot of complaining on some of the blogs. Lots of excuses and whining (not like I’ve ever done that here…lol!) Or, on the other hand, there are people all, “I dropped 12 pounds in 2 weeks!” Like super amazing results and I’m annoyed that my progress isn’t as fast. It’s a weird thing – I wanted to follow these because I want to keep my head in the right space but I’m not 100% sure they’re helping.

Of course there are some gems in the pile like, Unbearable Weight, which is excellent and inspires me regularly. I especially found some food for thought reading her recent post. But besides UW, I mostly get annoyed from reading, wishing I was having more dramatic results or that the content wasn’t laced with negativity since I have enough of that to overcome in my own brain!

Alright rant complete. If you read a blog about health, fitness, eating, weight loss or any related topic that you find inspiring and uplifting, that motivates you, that has fantastic content, my request is that you please share the name of it and/or a link to it in the comments. I’m on the hunt to connect with others on this body transformation journey just like I’ve connected with other dancers.

And now for your viewing pleasure, just for fun, here is an entertaining picture of Ivan. He’s such a goofball!


Alrighty folks, that’s it for now. Until next time, keep dancing!

Well Good Morning! A Nice Surprise In My Inbox…

I’m always excited to see the little rectangular dialoge box on the upper righthand corner of my Dashboard light up orange.  It means someone took the time to write me a comment and I can’t tell you how much I enjoy interacting with you guys.  It’s honestly one of the most rewarding aspects of blogging – getting to know some of you and creating community.  So I got a thrill this morning when I saw the “indicator light” was on and eagerly clicked it with nervous anticipation.

What greeted me was a very pleasant surprise from my pal Back To First Position.  She wrote:

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!

Well my goodness!  What a kind gesture!


The Liebster Award is a pay-it-forward way to recognize blogs who have less than 200 followers.  Liebster is a German word that means beloved and valued.  There are a few versions of it floating around the blogosphere.  Some say to nominate 3 to 5 fellow bloggers and stipulate less than 3000 followers.  It’s nothing official, there are no judges or awards, but it is, I think, a pretty nifty and special thing to do for someone whose blog you enjoy.  Anyways, the version bestowed upon me this morning has rules as follows:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and include a link back to their blog.
  2. List 11 random facts about yourself.
  3. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
  5. Choose 11 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate and include links to their blogs.
  6. Go to each bloggers page and let them know you have nominated them.

I’m flattered and happy to participate so here we go!

1.  Easy!  Thank you Back to First!!!!  Go Here To Read This Awesome Blog.

2.  Eleven Random Facts About The Biggest Girl In The Ballroom

I’m left-handed.

When I was a kid I had a white rabbit named Alexa

There is a samurai sword in my living room.  It’s not actually sharp but I earned it by completing a series of personal growth and mastery workshops.  Real samurai swords are so sharp and strong because the metal is beaten and folded upon itself upwards of 80,000 times in the forge, and just like that samurai sword, every life experience is another bending and pounding which, strengthens, sharpens, and hones me to be an instrument of authenticity. It symbolizes cutting through the illusions, projections, and self-limiting beliefs that obscure authenticity and the greatness inherent in every human being.  Whoa, that was kinda deep lol.

I know how to make balloon animals.  My best creature is probably a parrot on a perch.

I was voted most likely to be the next Martha Stewart by my high school class.  How very little they knew me!  I’m messy!!

My favorite color is green.  Always has been.

I have a scar on my left knee from when I fell in my grandparents’ backyard on some stone steps and ended up needing stitches.

I have an awesome laugh.  It is big and loud and full from the belly.  People often comment on it.  In fact, I recorded myself laughing in one of those recordable cards and mailed it to a friend who was always cheered by it.  She still has the card to this day and listens to it often, or so she tells me!

My grandpa nicknamed me “Blueberry” as a kid because I wiped out an entire carton of blueberries one day when I was ravenous after a trip to the grocery store.  I was probably 5 or so.

I’m pretty good a word games.

I’m a Taurus. In fact, my birthday is coming up very soon!

3.  Answer the questions given to me

  • Why did you start writing your blog?

My husband was sick of me talking about ballroom dancing!

  • What is the most fun thing for you about your blog?

Meeting readers in person and loaning my dress to one.  All the friends I’ve made.  Getting Editor’s Choice from Dance Advantage was pretty dang sweet, too!

  • How much time do you spend on your blog weekly?

Depends on the week!  Usually a few hours but it is a labor of love.  I really enjoy writing.

  • What is your happiest memory?

Probably a tie between being surrounded by so many loved ones on my wedding day and my birthday party last year, again surrounded by friends and family but it also included dancing!  I was in heaven!

  • Can you drive a stick shift?

Nope!  Sure can’t!

  • Can you pat your head and rub your stomach at the same time?

Yes.  But I think most people can…right?

  • What has surprised you the most about having a blog?

That so many people connected with what I have to say, and how much support they were willing to give me, a stranger.

  • What was the last movie you saw?

That one with Tom Cruise and the cool space ships on future earth where he is the “clean up crew.”  I forgot the name of it but it was pretty good lol!

  • What is your favorite ballet?

I’m guessing it would be Alice in Wonderland, though I haven’t seen it yet!  It looks absolutely amazing.  Basically, I love any ballet but I’ve only ever seen The Nutcracker live and a few shows with excerpts from multiple ballets.  I love the romantic ones like Sleeping Beauty and Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake.

  • Who is your favorite ballet dancer?

Who else?!  Baryshnikov!

  • Can you do the splits?


4. Create 11 questions for the bloggers I nominate

  • Which of your blog posts is your favorite?  Why?
  • What is the best thing about you?
  • What is your biggest accomplishment in life?
  • Who is your hero?  Who do you look up to?
  • What is your biggest pet peeve?
  • What superhero power would you choose to have if you could have one?
  • What is your most prized possession?
  • What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?
  • If you could spend 1 hour with anyone who ever lived, who would it be and why?
  • Have you ever broken a bone?  How?
  • Captain Picard or Captain Kirk?

5.  Choose 11 bloggers….

Well, I’m pretty sure Tracy Fulks has way more than 200 readers but her blog is exceptional and I just want to share it.  Tracy Fulks

Adult Ballerina Project

See Jen Dance

Body Insider

The Reinvented Lass

Unbearable Weight

Legal Ballerina


…Then Came Dance

The Middlest Sister

Adult Beginner



By Renee Comet (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh how I love my favorite Bulgarian, my dance instructor, Ivan. His language gaffes keep me entertained.

So here’s the story:

Ivan and I are working on our Samba routine. I think we have it completely choreographed but I have yet to dance the entire thing full-out, to music, in sequence, and we are days out from my next competition, people! AHHH!

I will just do what I did for Jive last competition. We had practiced it once, count it once, before Desert Classic and I knew all of three, count ’em, three steps. I did three steps for the entire Jive. So anyways, then with the un-practiced Jive, and now with the un-practiced Samba I’m simply going to give myself a mental pass on that dance, meaning that I will dance it the best I can and that I will be fine no matter if I mess up or how well or poorly we place because the fact of the matter is, we simply do not have the time to really make this routine polished. Heck! We are still working on, improving, and polishing the Rumba and Cha Cha routines and I’ve been dancing those for a few months now!

So I’m not going to be too hard on myself when it comes to performing the Samba this time around. I will be a little more serious about it for my next competition after I’ve had the opportunity to work out the bugs and practice! And yes, I may be in a pickle with this Samba dance at the competition for lack of preparation, but that is not what this post is actually about.

You see, on my last lesson we were working on the Samba and Ivan’s shirt flew up. I saw this big brown june bug on his side. I thought perhaps he had a tatoo on his abdomen or something. I was curious – I know, like it was so important to find out what this brown dot was when I was in the middle of learning a routine I will be dancing in a few days – I don’t pretend that I make any sense when it comes to these things. Well anyways, I had to know. I just did, okay?

So I told Ivan, “Ivan. Pull up your shirt! What is that brown dot on your belly? Do you have a tatoo?”

“No. What you talking about?” He pulled up his shirt to reveal his belly button and I scanned the skin for the mark I’d seen.

It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I’d thought.

“What you looking at?” He inquired.

“Well, I guess it must have been this.” I pointed at a small brown dot on his side.

“My pickle?”


“My pickle.”

Tears streamed down my face as I gasped for breath between guffaws.

“Ha ha ha, Ivan! No, that is NOT a pickle! A pickle is a very different thing.” (If you know what I mean)

“That’s a freckle.”

So Funny And Completely Inappropriate

So this morning I went in to practice the piece for the showcase at 7:45am. The practice was uneventful, which is good, except for the fact that Ivan was super tired because yesterday he did all sorts of work and intense manual labor on his farm which is up for an inspection from the county. That, and he strained his back from carrying 80 pound bags of cement all over the place, so he was like, “Please no splits today.” And I was like, “No problem!” I didn’t mind skipping that part at all….just as long as he is recovered by Saturday, which he seems to think he will be.

So the practice went well enough and at the end Ivan had another morning lesson scheduled. In came a new student who is friends with one of Ivan’s other students who I know. They asked to see what we were working on so we showed them the dance and they were kind and said it looked good, and the new gal said she had heard a lot about me from her friend, and somehow the conversation became about the blog. I didn’t mention it…I think Ivan did, but the lady I know said she didn’t know I had a blog so I fished a card for her out of my purse.

“It’s about my experiences on dance lessons, and all the funny stuff Ivan does, and sometimes helpful information about ballroom dancing, and a little bit of me complaining about trying to lose weight.”

And we’re talking about the blog and Ivan chimes in. “Ah yes. Everything that happens goes on the blog. This why I no have sex with her. because if I do, then it would be on the blog.”


By see below. (see below.) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

SAY WHAT!?! Who says something like that? And who can say that and still be likeable, especially in front of a new potential student? Only my cuckoo instructor. Good thing he is an independent agent because I can’t imagine a comment like that would ever be tolerated at a studio, and good thing that I know him and how ridiculous he is, as does his other student, who I am certain has shared about Ivan to her pal.  All I can say is that he must have been deliriously tired to randomly say something like that!

So anyways, without missing a beat, as I’m walking out the door, I simply reply, “Oh, that’s the only thing holding you back, Ivan? That it would be written about on the blog?” And Ivan’s student cracks up in a guffaw while I think her friend is sitting next to her silently in shock over what just transpired.

Ha ha ha! So here it is, I’m writing about it on the blog. Lolololol.

Why You No Pick The Phone?

I love the way Ivan says things. It’s just so funny sometimes. For instance, he never says, “Why didn’t you pick up the phone?” but rather, “Why you no pick the phone?”

Dialog gr 1972

By Holger.Ellgaard (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

“Well, Ivan, I no pick the phone because I was at the gym.”

“Oh?! What?! You at the gym. You never doing this. Goooood.”

“Well, I did go for a while there but couldn’t make it work. This time I’m making it work.”

“Are you sweat?”

“Yes, I am sweat a lot.”

“I know. I can smelling it through the phone. Go take a shower. What did you do?”

“45 minutes on the stair-stepper. I got my heart rate up to 160 for most of it and pushed it to 180 for 5 minutes toward the end.”

“Goooood. And how you feeling?”

“Pretty good. I didn’t want to go today but I couldn’t bring myself not to go. So I went. I was really tired all day.”

“See. But you going then you feeling good. Ah! The stair-stepper is the worst. But I love it!”

“Yeah, it hurts my butt! But it gets my heart rate up and I need the cardio. Third time this week to make it to the gym. So can we have a lesson tomorrow morning?”

“Yes madam. See you six-thirty, krasiva.”

*krasiva = beautiful in Bulgarian.

I Feel Good

I just got off my lesson this morning and I have to say, I feel good.

I’m fat, and my feet are slow, and there is still so much to learn and work on and grow into, and so what… I’m satisfied.

I’m satisfied because I’m in there working on it. I’m dancing! And dancing makes me love life, and even love myself. Even when I’m flawed. Even when I mess up.

I almost don’t even know what to do with this good feeling. Isn’t that weird? It, like sadness or anger, also needs an outlet. It too, needs to be expressed.

Like today, after my lesson (well, it was a double) I still had energy. I wanted to dance even more! I wasn’t ready to be done with dancing today.

You see, last night I went to go support my friend and watch her dance in a showcase (more on this experience later). I was surrounded by all these people who love dancing and by the end of the night I just couldn’t wait to get to my lesson this morning. Seriously, it just made me want to get on the dance floor and work.

And even better was I brought some new music and that was awesome inspiration. We began with a Rumba, and I just love the way it feels. Perhaps my technique isn’t perfect, and I still miss connections or whatever, but ever since the running blindly episode, I’ve been feeling more secure than before, more confident. More able to enjoy the dance and be in the moment. More able to just feel and move and there is nothing like it in this world.  Yep, you figured it out.  Ballroom is my heroin.  But as addictions go, I think it’s a pretty good one to have!

Ivan and I had said that today would be all about creating a Samba routine, but we got a little distracted by the great new music which infused a new energy into our dancing. And I just feel so good when I’m dancing, really dancing (not thinking or analyzing or critiquing) with Ivan. It is so wonderful to have a partner that will match my energy, that I can interact with. I mean, I’m starting to feel like I’m coming into my own in some ways. Like yesterday on an impromptu lesson, I actually corrected Ivan for once! Ha! There is no thrill like reversing the tables, you know! All lesson long I hear about my shortcomings, what I should be doing, and all of it is true and right, but you know what, Ivan isn’t perfect either! His shoulder was getting out of line and I didn’t even think about it – I just saw it, didn’t say a word and started touching it, patting it like “Hey! Pay attention here buddy!” And he was all, “Yes. Thank you. You is right.” Bam!

So today when I saw my huge ass and my fat flappy arms jiggling all over the place, I wasn’t happy about it, but for once I didn’t let it get me down.  I was feeling too good.  I was feeling too strong about how awesome it felt to go “Kah! Wha! Two and three, four and one!” I was feeling the part, living the part, body be damned….and, oh boy I can’t wait until I’m thinner!

So the rest of my weekend is going to be awesome.  The Arthur Murray studios in town have gotten together for a competition and showcase thing – last night I saw the showcase part and today is a mini competition and then professional show, including dinner and a performance by Jason and Sveta Daly.  So I’m going to get myself all gussied up and go to that tonight which will be very fun, and then tomorrow morning another double with Ivan, then off to Ballet, then off to another lesson with my friend Lady Gaga – ballet and yoga stretching she said.  Then in the evening supporting another dear friend, this one a singer, who will be performing her new original works at a fundraising event.

In any case, all this is getting the bug in me.  Though I am only slightly smaller than the last time I competed, I want to show up with an even more dramatic difference, but I also want to perform or compete soon.  I mean, my routines are still in progress, and I’m not necessarily “ready,” but I still want to do it!  The last time I danced publically was back in September.  And the performer in me who has awoken and is feeling good today wants to get out there and start being seen on a more regular basis.  Life is too short, you know?

I’m thinking about San Francisco, Emerald, People’s Choice.  I kind of wish I could do Vegas in two weeks but the mandatory overtime is still in place at work.  I’m not entirely sure I’m ready to step back into the Scholarship arena just yet, but I’d love to do some open heats.  Ah well, it’s in the works.  Hopefully sooner rather than later.

I guess that’s about it for now.  I just feel good and wanted to document it!  LOL.