Well friends,  I’m tired and have to be up at the crack of dawn tomorrow, but I’m committed to this blog, right, so I thought I’d at least write a little something about my lesson today.

I went after work and wore a dress with bike pants underneath.  A conscious choice to wear something better than on my last lesson.  I guess it worked because when Ivan saw me he told me I looked “fluffy.”

Oh Ivan, I will never truly understand you, even though sometimes I feel like I totally “get” you!  Anyways, he said, “Is that the word?  Fluffy?  Puffy?”

“I don’t know, Ivan.  What are you trying to say?  Am I retaining water?”

“No, you so cute today.  Like fluffy.  It not mean fat.”

I imagine the little cute fluffy chick named Stefanie that I gifted to Ivan not long ago.  I have a feeling this is the kind of “fluffy” he’s referrring to.  Even if it isn’t, it’s put me in a good mood and started the lesson of to a nice beginning.

But there’s a problem.  The music computer is kaput.  Completely.  It was already on it’s last leg.  Luckily, I have my trusty iPad today and we are able to plug it in to the speakers.  On the downside, I have a weird mish-mash of music, and not a ton of ballroom music.  But there is this one cool song I have from Frank Sinatra called the “Coffee Song.”  It starts out as a Samba and progresses into a Foxtrot.  It’s just darling and I wanted to share it with Ivan.  So we start there and the mood is light, ebullient.

Next we decide to do a Rumba.  But with my weird mix of music, I spend a lot of time trying to find something that will work to do a Rumba but it takes so long Ivan gets frustrated.  He walks over and just randomly picks something.  It’s Lisa Loeb.  These slow kind of whiney songs but Ivan says it’ll work for a Bolero.

“See.  You crazy.  You working so hard to find a song.  I just two tries and find one.  I feel the music.”

I don’t say it but I was like, well, I thought there were, you know, rules, about what song you can dance to.  Clearly not a lot of the music they generally play on the radio is going to be suitable for a ballroom dance.  But maybe that’s not as true as I thought.  Oh, I’m pretty sure there are rules about the beats per minute that are necessary for regulation Cha Cha and all that, but we’re just practicing in a church rec room, here.  We can be flexible.

It begins an avalance of unlikely dancing songs.  And it is so much fun!

We do those Lisa Loeb songs, then “Bulletproof” by Le Roux, and then “Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger” by Daft Punk.  And then “Lady Marmalade” from Moulin Rouge which I totally blast at the highest volume possible.

Interspersed with bronze and silver syllabus steps are bits and pieces of complete freestyle dancing.  No rules except having fun.  And Ivan’s trying to sing along with me, off-key, like a baying dog in pain, to songs he doesn’t know at all.  He really dives into things with everything he has.

We even did a little ballet.  Ivan sticks his butt out.  It’s kind of funny being the more experienced person in the room for a minute.  And though I’m no true ballerina, I still have more technique in my little pinky toe when it comes to a plie’ or bourre’ or pique’ or posse than Ivan does.

It was exciting.  He told me that there is another showcase coming up the weekend before the Galaxy dance competition here in Phoenix and asked me if I’d be interested in doing it.

“If it nice, we can doing it at Galaxy as a solo.”

Woo….that would be a stretch for me.  I’m interested.

Even better, he then said, “We maybe do some freestyle dancing in it.  You can help with the choreography.”

Oh, well, goodness now.  I am feeling more and more like a grown up every minute here.  To have more creative control over what I perform.  I’m enticed.

And, about this time, Ivan began reminiscing about dancing with my mom last weekend at my birthday party.  He really enjoyed it, I think.  He was fantasizing that maybe my mom would join Ivan and I for a little routine.  I’m not so sure she’d be willing to do that, but it’d be pretty fun and cool if she was.  But I do think he enjoyed the mambo they did because she was smiling and having so much fun during the entire thing.  It was pretty cool to watch!

Isn’t my mom the cutest thing ever?!

Anyways, Ivan said I could do anything I wanted for the upcoming showcase.  And, if it is good enough, he’d be willing to do it with me at competition.

So, what do you think I should tackle?  A Samba?  A Mambo?  A Swing?  A Foxtrot?

Is there any song that you are really digging right now that might be good to do a routine to?

I think I got my mojo back.  That was quick!  It helped to see my mom dancing like that!  Who wouldn’t want to jump up and dance after seeing her bust a move?  Best birthday evarrrr!

Love, Stef

Happiest Birthday EVAR!!!!

Oh loyal readers, I fear I have an inconstant blogger.

Life has got the best of me in terms of actually sitting down to write a blog post, but I assure you, I haven’t stopped dancing, or even blogging.  I have simply been delayed.

Since the last time we chatted, I had at least two lessons, a coaching with Ron Montez, and a birthday party.

The lessons were fun, but I don’t recall anything particularly worth mentioning about them.

The coaching was amazing, so I’ll mention it.

And the birthday party was  pretty much my heaven.  My best birthday present was the video I’ll share with you of Ivan dancing with my mom.  But besides that, I was surrounded by people I love, doing the thing I love most.  I rented out a dance studio for a few hours and we had an absolute blast.

But first – the coaching.

We are lucky enough in Arizona to have one of the paragons of the ballroom world living in our state.  Mr. Ron Montez is widely known and respected thoughout the ballroom industry.  On top of that, the man is a sweetheart.  He truly is a pleasure to work with and so very knowledgable.  I swear he can see what is going on wrong with my dancing, and tell me one little thing to change, and magically the dance picture I’m creating changes.  Really, he is a master.  He fixed like five things on the one lesson.

In the Rumba, seems like I’d been practicing an intermediary movement on the swivels used throughout the dance.  I’d been concentrating on keeping my foot pointed out in front of me when turning.  This is a good thing to practice to increase stability and sharpness of movement, as well as to keep the hips square when pivoting.  But, it doesn’t create the quick movement necessary to generate drama and a contrast between quick and slow.  The trick is to immediately step behind when performing a swivel.  To hold that line I’d been practicing for only a split-second on the way through to the next step.

Then, in the Samba, we worked on my knees.  I’d kind of tabled part of the Samba bounce for the time being, but I guess it was time to add it back in.  You see, the Samba bounce is pretty tricky and incorporates a variety of movements. forward and back as well as up and down and also circular.  I’d kind of consciously forgot about the circular portion while working on the horizonatal and vertical aspects but Ron didn’t let me continue to be lazy.  He had me working my knees left and right on whisks, the basic step and botafogo and this naturally translated into that circular part of the movement I’d been missing.

In Waltz, Ron helped me improve my swing.  Doing side by side walks he had me do different arms to create more swing in my upper body, again miraculously improving the quality of the movement.  As an added bonus, he fixed one of the steps I strongly disliked because I knew it was always wrong but couldn’t figure out how to make it better.  It’s this little walk around step consisting of three steps in a circle and then then three toward my partner.  It always felt like there was a lot of resistance in the step and I was always struggling to meet up with my leader.  Ron knew exactly what to say.  I had been heading the wrong direction and actually had to allow Ivan to come to me rather than for me to try and rush toward him.

Of course, I still need to work on closing my feet in Waltz steps, a detail which Ron reminded me about multiple times.  But he also does this cool thing after explaining something.  When I did something right Ron would exclaim, “There was the good one!”  He does a great job of providing feedback, both positive and corrective.  He is an excellent teacher and instructor.  Truly, I am grateful I have had the opportunity to work with Ron twice now.

Then, yesterday, it was my 34th birthday and I decided to throw an actual birthday party.  I haven’t done that in many years, usually opting to go to a dinner with immediate family.  But this year I surrounded myself with family, non-dancing friends, and dancing friends alike.  Ivan and Marietta taught a Samba lesson which was fantastic.  We even worked on Samba rolls, something I’ve never worked on with Ivan but once.  Of course there was open dancing, and music, and food, and wine, and conversation and even cards and cupcakes and presents.  I did a little Rumba with Ivan, and a Mambo with my friend Randall. and Mambo with my husband.  We also played a hilarious dance game where you had to switch partners as quickly as you could as soon as the music stopped.

But the very, very best part was when Ivan danced with my mom.  I promise to post the video as soon as I can because it needs to be shared with the world.  It was so dang cute! But at the moment I’m having technical difficulties.  It will be up shortly.

Alrighty, I’ll commit to be better about blogging.  A week long absence is too dang long!

Ta-ta for now, Stef

“Dress” Rehearsal

I continue to be amazed by the experiences I’m having because of starting this blog.

You all remember Ellen, right?  She’s the one I wrote about in this post.

Well, she’s borrowing my dress for an upcomming competition and she sent me a video of her dress rehearsal.  You get the double entendre, right?  I want to share it as a teaser for what’s to come.  She’s promised me photos and/or a video plus a blog post about her competition experience and I can’t wait!

You can watch her sassy Tango here:

Also, I just found out my friend Ghada, who you can see dancing here:

started her own blog about ballroom dancing.  It’s called, “They Call Me Legs” and here is the link: http://theycallmelegsdotcom.wordpress.com/

She dances in Inna’s butt-kicking class on Tuesdays alongside me and I’m impressed at her progress in such a short amount of time.

In other news, Ivan and Marieta will be competing at the Vegas Open Dance Challenge this Friday, March 2nd.  Me and my friend, Ivonne, are going to drive out there Friday afternoon to come see it.  So, if you will be there, please cheer on my favorite couple and even come and say hello!  Their heat is scheduled to begin at 10:29pm but doors open for the evening session at 7pm.

If you are interested in them, you can check out the fan page I made for them on Facebook here.

Lastly, team Dance Starz rocked the Tucson Dancesport Jam yesterday, Saturday, February 25th.

From left to right we have Billy Jones, Iller Hardy, Holli Christiensen, Joe Eros, Ivonne Ward, and Scott Wheeler.  It was the first competition for Iller, Holly, Joe, and Ivonne and from what I hear, they had an absolute blast.  Iller was dancing on her birthday!  What a great way to spend it.  Coincidentally, it will Ivonne’s birthday when we go watch Ivan and Marieta!  They all did great and I’m super excited to read about the experience as Ivonne has promised me a guest blog post!  According to Ivonne, it was a “magical” day and when I asked her if she was addicted like me to competitive ballroom she replied, “Girl… This is a sickness and the only cure is more dancing…”  True dat!  Way to go team!

So, even though the title of this post is “Dress” Rehearsal, I realize that in life there are no dress rehearsals.  All that is, is right now, this very moment.  There are exciting things happening in my life and the life of my dancing friends and community.  I hope you’ll choose to stay tuned as our stories continue to grow, blossom, and unfold.