A Blog By Any Other Name Would Smell As Sweet

You may have noticed there’s a little something different around here, namely, well, the name!

Yes, I finally did it.  A while back I was trying on some new names but couldn’t land on the right option.  I decided to let it marinate and frankly, I forgot about it.  But the reason I wanted to change the name of the blog was because my focus has shifted.  I’m still me, but I’m no longer placing my body in the spotlight and making it the most important thing about me.  Rather, I’m focusing on who I am.

Well, as you know there are two new dancers at the EuroRhythm home and I’ve had the joy-filled opportunity to work with them both.  I honestly barely know them but they are a great addition to the family.  They bring amazing, positive, supportive energy and they are generous with their knowledge and so approachable and accessible.  So after my lesson with Kristijan, I was hanging around the studio kind of watching a friend on her lesson and struck up a conversation with Anja. We talked about a lot of things – confidence, shyness, the process of dancing.  And somehow or another my blog made its way into our chat.  I was showing her pictures and the Facebook page and told her I’d invite her to join it.  When I pulled it up and she read the name she was like, “Why this name?  You can’t have this name.  You need to change it!  I won’t join until you change the name!”

She was so sweet about it but so committed to it!  It was quite extraordinary, in my humble opinion.  I said, “You know, I wanted to change the name a while ago but couldn’t find the right thing to change it to.  And it has to be the right choice because you can only change the name of your page on Facebook one time in the life of the page.  Once it’s changed, it’s permanent.  I’m open to changing the name but I need help brainstorming.”

She said, “Well, maybe it could be something like Biggest-Hearted Girl In The Dancing World.”

And I said, laughingly, “Yes!  Of Course! I do want to be humble about it.”

And she said, “Well it’s a little too long anyway.”

So then I recruited my friend MB to assist and after overhearing our prior conversation she said, that the perfect name could be, “You wish you were me.”

To which I replied, “I don’t even wish I were me some of the time!”

And we had a good laugh over how outrageous and prideful these names seemed.

I told Anja I’d think about the name and we parted ways for the evening.  She reiterated that she would not join my Facebook page until I changed the name of the blog.

About an hour later I got a message from Anja through Facebook:

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So that’s the story.  And I have a new like!  Bonus.

Since I’ve changed the name, I’ve had one more lession with Kristijan and a double lesson with Ivan.  I have much to report…but right now I’ve got to be on my way to a family birthday celebration.  So we’ll save that for the next post, which should be completed shortly.  I’ll just say that things are moving right along, I feel like I’m having breakthroughs and growing and being stretched on each lesson and it feels so good.

TTFN, Stef

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Unsung Hero

If you read my last post, it may be apparent to you, as it is to me, that there is quite a bit of forward movement in my life that has happened in a short amount of time.  To recap:  I’m dancing with Ivan again (Rhythm), I’m staying at Damir’s studio (of course!) for Latin, and he has a new high-level couple from Slovenia, Kristijan and Anja, both of whom I am working with in addition to the coaching I get from Damir, himself.

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(That’s me with Kristijan! And yes, we choreographed a wink into our Cha Cha!)

My last lesson with Ivan was on Saturday and it went so very well.  As I walked in the door, however, I was greeted with a big surprise.   Miss Linda Dean and Anna Nicole were in the studio.  I’m not much acquainted with Anna Nicole but Miss Linda came right up to me and gave me a big genuine hug. Indeed, it surprised me a bit as it was a full embrace and longer than I expected…you know how ballroom people generally are when we greet one another – kiss, kiss, hug, hug – perfunctory and devoid of meaning, authenticity, or emotion?  Well, this was not that – in my experience this particular hug was more than the usual “ballroom” greeting, and it pleasantly surprised me.

She said, “So you are dancing again?”

I said, “Yes! I’m back! I’m going to show more expression, I’m mentally in a much better place, and I feel more solid in what I’m doing!”

“I don’t care about that,” she said.  “I want to see how you were already; on your leg and with the rhythmicality in your body.”

I took a moment to process her input – to me, expression is paramount.  For me, full self-expression with complete abandon is my ultimate goal. And, also, it was incredibly elucidating and helpful to hear what she (and I imagine what other judges) are looking for.  I can deliver on this!  Be on my leg, be rhythmical.  Great!

But the funny thing is, I never stopped dancing.  In fact, Miss Linda saw me at Damir’s studio, briefly, at one point.  She knew I was dancing there.  So I find it interesting her choice of words, “You’re dancing again!”

Well, I’ll take it!  She seemed genuinely pleased and she actually said, “I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear this [news].”  (The unsaid part is …daincing with IVAN!)

Sweet!

So I had an incredible lesson with Ivan.  We pretty much have our Cha Cha squared away, which is great.  Of course, we were moving around and dancing while we were reviewing it and finalizing it and I noticed this slim, petite lady with frizzy reddish-brown braided hair watching.  I’m not sure who she is but she is either a pro or a high-level amateur who is dancing with a recent California transplant who briefly flittered with Damir for a spot in his studio.  I’ve met him before but I’ve never seen her.  Anyways, about halfway through my lesson with Ivan she approached me and said, “Oh My God!  You have the most amazing leg action! I guess your teacher must be pretty good!” To which I smartly replied, “He’s alright,” LOLOLOL.  And Ivan turns to me and says, “See! Nobody is coming to me ever when I dancing with anybody else!”

So that was cool and all, but for me the best part was that I felt solid.  We reviewed our Cha Cha and we have it on video in case we forget.  Then we spent the rest of the lesson exploring the Rumba – we danced various pieces from previous Rumba routines as well as explored new possible movements.  It was so much fun and a little bit exhilarating.  I mean, when your dance instructor says, “Let’s try  Marieta’s routine here” that’s kind of a big deal!  She’s the professional!  And yet, suddenly, my arm is firmly grasping Ivan’s shoulder from behind his neck, I’m slowly sinking into middle splits and pointing and flirting with the imaginary audience to my diagonal.  Then I squeeze my legs and thighs together, make sure my ankles kiss, and reach my hands heavenward.   Suddenly I’m the dancer I’ve watched from afar in the audience….wishing I could be her…now I am her.

And Ivan says, “What you think is missing from this Rumba?”  And I say, “I like it all very much.  I don’t have any idea of the order of the steps but I am enjoying what we are discovering.  I feel like we have a lot of puzzle pieces and we can work on the next couple lessons to fit them together in the proper place and order to create a beautiful image.”  And then I say, “Beyond the fact that I have no idea how this Rumba goes in terms of sequence, the only thing that I want to do is touch you!”

I have to tell you, audience, this is a major breakthrough.

I don’t know about you, but for me, I had a lot of hang ups about enjoying my body, and also, enjoying anybody else’s body.  I think that I correlated “enjoying” with something prohibited or profane.  I imagined that any sort of physical enjoyment, no matter how innocuous or laid back, was something to be avoided.  I imagined that to simply enjoy one’s body was to be sexual.  And now I know that is not the case.

Anyways, I embraced the feeling and idea of the Rumba and what came up naturally, when Ivan asked me, which in and of itself is a breakthrough – because he’s involving me in the process of creating the routine we will do (in the past it just would have been assigning or dictating what the steps were)  – okay so what came up naturally was, “I want to touch you and your body more.”  And naturally I found opportunities to do so – on his neck or chest or shoulders.  And how great is that?!  Seriously?!

Okay so if you dance with a professional Ballroom dancer you know they have different body boundaries than most “normal” people.  It’s all about getting and being in their personal space.  It’s all about touching and sensuality.  It’s all about full expression.  When I first came to a lesson with Ivan, I was so completely intimidated and shy.  I pulled inward because I was afraid of what he might think of me.  I was afraid to *really* show who I am and all I feel inside.  My excuse/story for holding back was about my body/weight/size/I-don’t-look-like-a-ballroom-dancer-thererfore-I-could-never-be-one…yada yada yada….

And, that’s the past.

So how I show up now is open, authentic, and willing to be myself.  And I surprised myself by being open, authentic and confident enough to declare my truth that the only thing that was missing from the Rumba was more touching.  I was like, let’s find every opportunity we can to touch!

And it was so fun!  I mean, Ivan is a good looking cat with a good, solid body.  I enjoy touching it.  I was just afraid to admit that previously and so I didn’t touch it and I held back.  Now I’m like, whatever!  It’s another body in this world.  All bodies are miraculous and wonderful in so many ways.  And, this one in front of me is wonderful and looks nice to touch.  Because of the nature of our relationship, and the roles we play for various dances, it is appropriate to touch his body (within reason!) and so I’ve come to peace with this aspect of the dance-acting and have chosen to embrace and enjoy the sensuality of it!  Why not?

I do think it caught Ivan a little off-guard with my, ahem, enthusiasm, lol.  But of course, what I consider courageous and outrageous and acting with abandon seems middle-of-the-road to Ivan lol!  Even so, after a beat or two and a few practices of a hip roll, we got in to a position where I was directly in front of Ivan and he was like, “Now I get to touch!” as he grabbed my ample hips. Woo! Lol!  It was so lighthearted and great!  I loved it all.

But here’s the deal:

So, like, Miss Linda Dean has seen me in relation to Ivan on the dance floor.  From the feedback we’ve gotten, it is a pleasing and even, maybe, exciting show.  This is how all the judges who have taken any notice of me have seen me – in the context of dancing with Ivan.

It’s actually such an incredible gift, in my mind, that anyone remembers me…I last danced maybe a year ago.  And I find it even more incredible that others are invested in the possibility of me participating in competitions in the (near) future.

And they see me as in relation, or maybe as an extension of Ivan.  That’s fine.  That’s great, actually.  Ivan has been a major, major influence in my dancing and has pulled out so much from inside me.  I adore Ivan and I’m so grateful to be dancing with him again.  It feels like home.

And yet….there is an amazing, humble, giving, kind, compassionate, generous, extraordinary human being (who disguises himself as “ordinary”) who has contributed incredibly to my life.  He has been a support, an uplifting presence, an example, a coach, a guide, a mentor, a friend.  He has given me tools such that I can be on my own feet, solidly on my legs, independent.  And yet, I know this person has my back like no kidding.  All he has ever wanted to do was support me in becoming the dancer I have wanted to be. He has given so generously of his knowledge, his wisdom, his authentic self.  I have been truly blessed to work with this exceptional man.

And yet, this man will be an unsung hero.  He will be unseen.  He is the person who helped build me up.  He brought me back to center and sanity and balance.  He is such a genuine and humble man that he cares not who I dance with, but rather, that I am empowered to dance as I wish to dance.  It’s such an amazing gift.  He tells me, “Nothing has changed.  I am still here for you.”  And I believe him, wholeheartedly, even as many external circumstances in my dancing world are shifting.

This is a true master.  This is an extraordinary human being.  This is one who is willing to step aside, to never receive any recognition or accolades for the work he has done, to gain nothing for the wisdom he has shared, and to receive no tangible reward for the love he has poured into a person.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this person is Damir.  He is the unsung hero.  He is the humble, supportive, wise, kind man who has helped me get to where I am in attitude and technique these past 9 months.

No one will ever visibly “see” all he has done for me as I dance with Ivan, and if I end up competing with Kristijan.  Because of my previous foray into the competitive ballroom world, I am inexorably connected to Ivan (happily so!) and that is how I am seen.  I feel like many people might attribute my progress to Ivan.

And this is how amazing Damir is.  He’s totally okay with that.  He doesn’t even care where the recognition lands.  He’s that humble, that committed to being of service that he has removed any trace of his ego from the equation.

So this is why I want to publicly and formally and gratefully acknowledge the “Wind Beneath My Wings,” Damir.  I want at least some people to know how big of an influence he has been for me, how much he has helped me, how much he has loved me, and how much he has supported me…and even how much he has believed in me.   Like everything he coaches to, it’s the stuff that’s not obvious, the stuff that is internal, being with the “ordinary,” that really makes a difference in quality of a person’s life.

The trajectory of my life is profoundly changed because it intersected with Damir.  I don’t think many people will “see” that when I dance with Ivan and, perhaps, Kristijan.  But it is Damir who has helped me make a quantum leap during the past months.  He may not need or expect acknowledgement or recognition, however, I wanted to give it!  Thank you, thank you, thank you.  I look up to you in so many ways, as a dancer, and as a human being.  You are incredible and I am ridiculously blessed to get to work with you.  Know that even if others outside my “story” don’t know who you are and what you’ve contributed to me, I do, and I am Grateful beyond words.

The End.

Love, Stef

 

 

I Broke My Shoe Today

Where to begin?  Since my posts have been so sporadic and with much time in between them, lots has happened so there is lots to share.  Why the paucity of posts?  I’d say it’s because I’ve been in a season of taking a step back to regroup.  I’ve taken this time to go internal, to rebuild my dancing foundation, and to get mentally clean.  I’ve not competed in the better part of a year and I’ve wondered what I was doing all this for.  I don’t necessarily have all the answers but I do feel the siren song of the ballroom world calling to me once again.

I don’t regret a thing.  It has been an important piece of my journey to take this time, to get different coaching, to gain a measure of independence and being solid on my own two feet.  It was good to be separate and get centered.  From this space I can truly move, truly connect, truly be a partner.

So what happened was that PBS aired “America’s Ballroom Challenge” and I watched it and I saw all these friends and people I know and I was invigorated.  I also saw a particular instructor and amateur partner dance and I thought to myself, “I could do that better!” Boastful, I know.  And perhaps not even true!  But the deal is that it stimulated me to call my old friend, Ivan, because I wanted to have the possiblitity of it being true.  And as much as I love Latin, I also miss Rhythm.  And I missed Ivan and Marieta, too.

So I called Ivan and we talked and because we parted so amicably, going back was a possibility.  I said, “I’m thinking to do Rhythm with you and Latin with Damir.”  And he said, “Okay, no problem.”  It’s actually even better than that because Ivan and Marieta are going to start competing in Smooth so after we get our Rhythm routines squared away, I want to do Smooth as well, which Damir doesn’t offer.

As of the writing of this post we’ve had 3 lessons and the new, re-vamped Cha-Cha is complete.  I feel like all the moves in it are within my reach and I love that Marieta helped us with it as well.  She added some sections that allow me to be more expressive and feminine.  I am excited to show new aspects of myself and I was pleased that Ivan could tell that my dancing was more solid.  The best part is we are having lots of fun.  There isn’t the pressure that used to be present and I am committed to keeping things mentally healthy between us.  As much as I’m showing up differently, more positively, more joyful to Ivan, he’s also declared that he will relate to me as the Stefanie I am now, rather than drudging up the old Stef with less confidence, more worry, more story.  So great!  Things are chugging along and feeling good.

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The other exciting news is that a new couple has come to EuroRhythm.  They are really excellent and I have had one lesson with both Kristijan and Anja each.  Last week I worked with Anja on some styling and she actually reminded me of Marieta a little bit in how expressive and free she is with her body.  Today I worked with Kristijan on my Latin closed Silver Cha Cha choreography and boy was it an experience.  He certainly has a lot of energy and he gave me so much information.  The biggest thing was creating the space to really dance, expressively dance.  I’ve been so focused on getting on my legs, feeling solid, I’m overthinking everything.  I went from being overly emotional to being almost robotic. I was way out of my comfort zone on my lesson today but I embrace it.  It’s like I’ve been practicing in a small pen and now the gates have been thrown wide open and I’m being introduced to a world that is way larger and deeper than I’d previously exprienced.  Also cool was that Kristijan said that I have beautiful legs and feet and that I’m very flexible.  Plus he was blown away with the way I connected through our frame, the amount of resistance I had.  The best part of it was that I was glad to hear the good feedback but that my ego didn’t take it and blow it up bigger than it is.  Of course he also gave me some corrections, mostly about making smaller steps and working my back leg more, but again, I stayed even keel.

The way I’ve been dancing with Damir I’ve been very much in my head, thinking everything through.  My face shows it.  So one big thing Kristijan kept asking me for was to smile, to actually look at him, then to look to the audience.  It reminds me of my early days with Ivan and how he pulled so much out of me.  I think working with Anja opened it up for me a little bit and then when I was on the lesson with Ivan this weekend I showed more of that freedom, more of my personality in the sections Marieta helped choreograph.  Both of them were like, “See!  You have this in you!  Why you not showing it before?  Not everyone has this inside them.  I ask my other students, please do this, and you just doing this.”  And yet, there is still more to show and express.

For me, I think it comes down to Trust and Confidence.  Trust both in myself and my partner and Confidence in my movement.  I noticed on my lesson today I was a bit unsure.  And as Damir says, the worst thing an Artist can do is hesitate.  It is our complete committment and conviction to the Art we are creating that allows access to the Art.  I have some growing to do in this regard but now that I’m aware of it I can choose differently and practice it until it becomes my new way of being.  I was so excited to be very uncomfortable on my lesson today because that means growth.  And I just know that I’m going to become even more expressive than I ever was before.  I’m going to be able to be completely authentic about who I am in my movement and that is exciting indeed.  I also noticed that I have been working so diligently to be able to be independent and move myself that I’ve not been practicing really relying on my partner.  One thing that happened with Kristijan (we’ll call him “K”) was that he wanted me to rely on him more so that I could go a little off balance or create a bigger movement than I could do on my own – to leverage the connection to create a fuller picture.  It’s not something I’ve been practicing, to trust in this connection and my partner, but I’m excited by what’s possible beyond what I’ve been doing.  My limits expanded today.

After the lesson tonight with K, I saw Damir and said that as much as he was helping me be a robot, Kristijan was all about expression, which is what I was overdoing before, so I’ve come full circle.  And he said, well it must be time for more expression.  The entire journey is to work to find balance and just when you find balance, destablize it.  Then work to regain the new balance and just when you find it, get off balance again.  It’s funny how all this unfolds, isn’t it?

So I forsee a competition in the not too far future.  I have routines to get together so it will be a bit but maybe before the end of the year.  Maybe Galaxy, maybe Holiday in Vegas.  I do think, regardless of what’s next, that I am in a great position for next year.  Also, there is a sense of urgency without pressure.  At least when it comes to Ivan, we talked about it and we want to get out there as soon as possible but doing it joyfully, sanely, taking what time we need to set ourselves up to win (and by win I mean dance with excellence and without all the drama – the results will be what the results will be in terms of placement.  I’m clear that I’m more committed to loving me and loving my dancing and sharing that than I am to placing first.)  Of course I care about how I place and I am competitive and I do want to win, it’s just that my priorities are re-ordered.

In that same vein, I’m ready to let go of my hang ups about my body.  It hasn’t changed much in terms of how it looks in the past months and frankly, so what?  My struggles with self-esteem and body image have been such a big part of this blog but it’s time to let that be in the past and to drop all the drama.  My body is how my body is.  It’s different every day.  It changes based on the choices I make about what I eat, how I work out, how I treat it, how I dance it.  I’m discovering that I can still be an incredible dancer just as I am right now in this moment.  So much of what has kept me stuck has been feeling like I need to look different to “really” dance.  No!  This is not the truth.  I can dance right now, and in many respects, I can dance better now than I did when I was in high school and a size 8.

In fact, truth be told, my body has very little to do with dancing even as it has everything to do with it.  This weekend the People’s Choice DanceSport competition was held and I went to spectate with two dear friends.  The most moving part was a woman who came out on the floor in a wheelchair.  I’m not sure what condition she has but it looked like her body was fighting against her for every single move she made.  She was able to stand up and take some steps with the support and assitance of her dance partner even as she shook with each and every movement.  It was completely captivating.  In fact, I found it more beautiful, authentic, and engaging than many of the pro performances that evening.  That was true dancing.  She’s my new hero.  Even though her face couldn’t move to express her feelings, it appeared frozen, it was so very clear she loved dancing and she was passionate about it.  It was so incredible how she was emoting purely, and without all the usual cues like facial expression or clear, smooth body movement.

So my body isn’t important when it comes to dancing, even though it is totally important when it comes to dancing (get the paradox?)  That being said, it’s not an excuse to give up or stop working on honing my instrument.  In fact, I’m starting a new plan June 1st and comitting to 30 days of doing it.  Mostly I want to prove to myself that I can successfully complete it and I think it will support me in re-creating my future body.  But in this moment, this is the only body I have.  It is how it is.  I’ve been resisting it, I’ve been fighting reality, I’ve not wanted to choose my body, insisting in the fantasy that there is any other body to have.  Right now, this is it and this is perfect.  There is nothing to fix or change.  There is only the body I have so I might as well choose it and dance it with freedom and abandon.  It’s like, all these dancers I’m working with are reflecting to me some of my great assets as a dancer – my legs, my feet, my connection…they see it and they celebrate it.  Why shouldn’t I?  They are not as hung up about my body as I am.  They see it differently than I have chosen to see it.

So anyways, I’m the Biggest Girl In The Ballroom.  Maybe that will never change.  Maybe it will.  I’m choosing to be okay with what is so and to continue to put energy and effort towards my goals and dreams.

Finally, the title of my blog post is a true statement.  One of the straps on my heels snapped tonight so the Universe is telling me I need a new pair.  I’m going to take it as a sign that it’s finally time to try on the 3 inch heels.  I have two pairs of unused shoes that I’ve not worn because I wasn’t on balance.  I got them out and walked around in my kitchen and I actually feel like it might now be possible to work in them.  Of course it will take some adjustments but I think it was a message that my old shoes broke – that it’s time to “step up” to the next level.  Perfect timing.

So that’s the skinny in my world.  I’m excited to see what happens next.

Guest Post: The Girl With The Tree Tattoo

I cannot tell you how incredibly pleased I am to get to share this next Balllroom Village Blogger with you!

Please welcome Girl With The Tree Tattoo!

I appreciate her authenticity, enthusiasm, and willingness to share.  Please do check out her Blog at: 

http://www.thegirlwiththetreetattoo.com/

And for a special treat, you can see her in action, dancing! 

http://thegirlwiththetreetattoo.com/more-about-the-girl/videos/

Without further ado, Enjoy!

 

“I can’t…I have dance.”

 

Balancing a Full-Time Life and Ballroom

 

First of all, I am honored to be writing a guest post for the Biggest Girl in the Ballroom! I found Stefanie’s blog because it showed up on my suggested list from WordPress. Thank you, WordPress algorithms! It’s so exciting to be able to connect with a fellow ballroom dancer. As for me, I have been a student/addict of ballroom dancing for over 2 years. I have been competing for just under a year and currently compete at the bronze level in Smooth. I call myself the Girl with the Tree Tattoo because of the tree tattoo that covers my entire back. Important to note: I have not been dancing my entire life. I did a couple years of ballet, jazz and tap when I was 6 and 7 years old. But that’s it for my dance education. So I can’t do a split and spray tanning still weirds me out.

 

I wanted to take this opportunity to share the challenges I face in trying to maintain a balance between my “regular” life and ballroom. I am a full-time member of the cube farm, working as a technical editor. And to help pay for ballroom, I’ve taken on two additional jobs, freelance editing and personal assistant to my ballroom instructor, and started selling scones (I love baking and scones have become my specialty). A typical weekday for me starts at 5am and goes like this: get up, take my two dogs for a walk, eat and get ready for work, go to office and work, go home, take dogs for another walk, eat (maybe), go to ballroom studio, take group class and/or practice, go home, take dogs for another walk, go to bed. Two days a week, I have private lessons, so insert another “go to ballroom studio” in between work and home. I’m usually home for the night around 9:30pm and try to be in bed by 10:30. Somewhere in there, I find time to write, take care of any freelance jobs I may have, and complete entry forms or other assistant tasks for my teacher. Doesn’t leave much time for anything else! I hate it when I run out of food. It’s such an inconvenience.

 

If you’re like me, once you started ballroom dancing, your entire life pretty much revolved around it. You scheduled other appointments so they wouldn’t interfere with your lessons. You declined non-dance friends’ invitations because you were going to a practice party that night. If your teacher asked to reschedule a lesson to an atypical time for you, you did whatever you could to rearrange your schedule to make it work. Everything starts to take a back seat to ballroom, including grocery shopping.

 

Unless you’re independently wealthy or you find a way to get paid to be at the studio all of the time, you have to establish a balance between your ballroom and your work. And if you want to maintain relationships with the non-dance people in your life, like your family and friends that were there before you discovered the missing piece that was ballroom, you have to establish a balance between your ballroom social life and your “regular” social life. It’s not easy!

 

I’ve been blessed with friends and family who are very supportive of my ballroom dancing. They see what a positive impact it has made on my life, how much happier I am, and they want that to continue. And it just so happens that my boss is a fellow ballroom dancer and is the one who introduced me to the studio I dance at now. So she understands when I tell her “I can’t stay late today, I have a lesson.” But their support and understanding will only go so far if I start neglecting things other than my dancing. The key is balance. I rarely go to the studio on weekends, saving that time for social time with friends and errands/chores. Also, I make an effort to return the support. It’s easy to get swept up in your own passions, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be there to support your friends in their passions. So I will skip a group class and I have even told my teacher “sorry, I can’t reschedule.” Dance withdrawal be damned!

 

It’s an odd feeling to be so dedicated to and passionate about something that others view as just a hobby, secondary to “real life.” Sometimes it feels like I cross into another dimension when I enter the studio. There, people understand why I have three pairs of shoes in my dance bag – rhythm, smooth and practice. I can say that my next goal is Emerald Ball and they nod and smile and say “that’s great!” They know what I mean when I say I need to work on my frame. Outside the ballroom dimension, people just ask me if what I do is like Dancing with the Stars. No, Dancing with the Stars is like what I do, not the other way around. It’s a little anti-climactic when someone at my office (other than my boss) hears that I wasn’t at work the other day because I was at a dance competition and they say “oh, that’s cool, how was it?” and I exclaim “I won best of the best in bronze smooth!” And they just stare at me with a blank smile and then say “ok, great!” while walking back to their desk, because they have no idea what that means or what a big deal it is for me. Like I said, different dimensions.

 

On the flip side, having a full-time job outside of ballroom means I can’t dedicate myself as much as I might like to my dancing. I can’t make it to the day classes offered at my studio unless I take a long lunch and then make up the time at work, assuming my workload allows for a long lunch. I always have to request time off to attend a competition, and I almost didn’t get it approved for Emerald Ball next month because my boss is on vacation at the same time. She has no issues with it, but my time off also has to be approved by a manager above her. When my teacher asked me if I would be able to afford a few entries at the upcoming San Diego Ballroom Beach Bash, organized by one of his coaches who he wanted to support, I had to tell him I probably could figure something out finance-wise, but there was no way I would get the time off because my boss was also competing at San Diego. I tell him it’s because the company is very focused on utilization goals right now and I get that familiar blank smile/stare. Different dimensions.

 

I say again, the key is balance. I am not one of those people with endless amounts of energy; I have a limited supply, and so I need to be particular about how I spend it. Some weeks are really hard to get through. By the time I get to the studio for a lesson and my teacher asks me how I am, the most I can say is “I’m here.” But it’s so incredibly worth it. That ballroom dimension provides something you just don’t get in the “real world.” And once you get a taste, you don’t want to give it up. So do what you have to do, walk that tightrope between those dimensions, and keep chasing those dreams!

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

 

 

 

 

It’s Emotional

Sorry no vlog today, ha ha!  The truth is that the past few days have been awesome as well as emotional and I’m feeling the need for some writing therapy.  I need to just “write it out” today….that or it would have been a 90 minute vlog, probably with some whining and crying, and nobody wants to watch that!  lol.

IMG_20130713_132355_226

Photo from Desert Classic – if you want to see more check out my Facebook Page where I uploaded an entire photo album of the trip.

We’ll pick up the story from Thursday when I was feeling pretty darn good.  After my snafu last Sunday, I’ve been more focused and clear and determined than ever.  One thing I’ve learned on the journey so far is how important it is to take advantage of times like this because it’s not always like this!  But for now I have an opportunity to blaze forward productively and so I’m doing just that.  I’m rocking my eating plan, I’ve been dancing and going to the gym.  I even made it there on my own to work my arms and legs on two separate days which has been an intention I’ve had for a while but this week I was finally able to put it into action.

I’ve also been reflecting on how very far I’ve come over the past three years.  And something my husband did made the changes even more recognizable than ever; he got a new digital picture frame at work so he brought the old one home and loaded it with all sorts of images, including photos from trips we took a few years ago.

The woman I see staring back at me looks so completely different.  I can’t believe that it was me, that I was ever that big.  Because I feel so entirely humongous right now.  And right now is 80 pounds or so less than what I used to be.

It made me incredibly, incredibly sad to see these pictures.  My mood changed in an instant from glad, proud, motivated and peppy, to reflective and somber (though still determined, actually, maybe even more determined – like I am NEVER going back there!!! No way, no how).

I am saddened by the reflection of me that I see in the photos.  I am so sad that I felt I was worth so little, that I disliked myself so much, that it somehow became okay to let myself become that woman staring back at me with a smile slapped on just in time for the camera flash.  Because I can see she is unhappy.  She is uncomfortably huge.  She has no fashion sense or sparkle.  She wants to hide.  She looks older.  And she isn’t even that pretty – her loveliness is covered, coated, dampened by the wall of flesh she fashioned from her silent misery as a shield between herself and the world.

It’s so weird because I, this very day, see myself as so very large.  A glance in the mirror confirms that my size dwarfs those beside me.   And let’s face it, I’m still categorized as obese. I cannot wrap my mind around this other way of being, that it was me, that it still is me.  Because even as large as I still am, and as far as I still have to go, there is a vivacity about me when I look in the mirror.  There is a sparkle in my eye, an aliveness, that is absent in those digital photos.

And it is a weird mental game this body image thing – especially when it was so messed up to begin with, and especially because I’m changing my body right now.  I am not entirely in touch, nor was I, with my actual body.  I say this because there is a certain amount of denial that has to happen to become 313 pounds.  I could say in my head that I could dance or jump even if the reflection in the mirror told a different story.  Reality hit when I noticed myself struggling to walk about 200 feet from the car to a building entrance.  It took that particular incident to notice something wasn’t right.  I’m mean, of course I’d noticed I needed larger clothing sizes, that I could barely squeeze into airplane seatbelts, that the rollercoaster safety bar didn’t close properly and that I had to be kicked off the ride.  But it was this event that woke me up.  I thought, “I used to be a dancer.  This isn’t right.  I shouldn’t be having a hard time walking.”

Anyways, here I am, three years later, and there is a lot of progress and growth and weight loss to be proud of.

But I am only halfway up the mountain.  Maybe less.  And this is a sobering reality.

Even as I am in a space to acknowledge my progress, with both my health and my dancing, I am also in a space to be in touch with reality.  I’m in that in-between, and it is truly a bizarre place to be.

All my life, as long as I can remember, the picture in my mind of my body was that it was huge.  Now, looking back at objective evidence in photographs, I was a normal-sized person, if not as lean or thin as I wanted to be.  But I couldn’t see that.  I could only see my cellulite, my bulges, my body which was larger than the other girls next to me in dance class.

So when I began to become bigger, and reality began to match my mental image of myself, I wasn’t surprised.  At first, I fought back.  After gaining the “freshman fifteen” (and then some), I worked my butt off during summer and got down to a lower weight before school began.  But after that things spiraled out of control and I gave up and gave in.  I accepted my role as a fat, frumpy girl.  The one no boys noticed.  The one who faded into the background.  Who was un-special.  And I got bigger and bigger and bigger.

So now, I’m on the other end of this pendulum.  I have a vision of my body in my head that is smaller, leaner, fitter and the reality doesn’t match.  It’s very confusing.  Plus, I still have a lingering vision of my body as it was at its largest and expect physical activities to feel as they did 50 pounds ago.

What do I mean by this?  Well today on my workout with my trainer at the gym she asked me to do some exercises I’ve never done before.  She wanted me to do “mountain climbers” and some half-pushups when all I’ve managed to do recently were on an incline and it took a long time and a lot of struggle to get to the place where those were really do-able.  Anyways, I see her do these exercises and my sensory memory creates a picture for me of what it would be to do these things…but with the body I used to have, not the one I have today.  So I panicked.  I had already told her that I might get emotional, that it just comes up sometimes, especially with physical stuff, and that it is not meant to get her to ease up on me or anything, that I am at the very least open to attempting the things asked of me, but sometimes it just comes up and I can’t control it.  I told her that my first reaction is automatically going to probably be that I can’t do something, but that even so, I will try it, and based on evidence from taking this approach, I think I’ve mentioned it before, I truly do not have a realistic picture of what I can and can’t do.  I have many times been surprised when I am able to do an exercise that in my mind appears impossible.

So anyways, the mountain climbers set off “red alert” alarms, and with that, emotion.  Enter waterworks.  But I gave it a try.  And by God, I was able to do them.  Yes, it was taxing.  Yes, I went pretty slow in places.  Yes I rested.  And, I completed the sets.  I was gobsmacked.

Same thing with the half-pushups and some weirdo planks where I had to put my leg out to the side for 15 reps.  I thought these feats outside of my abilities but they were within my reach.

It feels similar in terms of dancing when it comes to what I think I can do versus what I can actually do, and how I feel inside versus the reflection in the mirror.  But with dancing, it is even more muddied.  I think I’m both better and worse than I actually am.  I truly don’t have an accurate gague of my level or ability, and heck, it is such a subjective thing anyways, I don’t know that my reality will ever agree with anybody else’s!

In any case, I was feeling all good and happy and went to a double lesson Saturday  but then was faced with a reality check.  Basically, I’m really struggling to find the balance between emoting, feeling the dance and the music, and also being on top of all the technical aspects that must be present for excellent dancing.  I also struggle with feeling really good about it on the inside and still needing another person’s approval as validation, or feeling really rotten about it on the inside when I’m getting positive feedback from someone else’s perspective.  In terms of the emotion versus technique, it seems that I’m only able to do one thing or the other, but not both together at the same time, at least, not yet.  And for the other part, I think it comes to trusting myself and knowing my truth rather than looking for answers from the outside, while at the same time recieving feedback, especially from those I respect.

In any case, we got into one particular techincal aspect on our last lesson, namely timing and counting, which continues to be a difficulty.  Where to start about this!?  Really!  I mean, I “know” the counts of my dancing.  I don’t have the habit of counting out loud, which is not the best.  I do count in my head, which is better than nothing.  But still, there are points of confusion. And perhaps I believe the counts are one way when they are different in Ivan’s mind.  For instance, there is one move in Rumba where I thought I would go directly into a spiral but he thought I’d hold and move slowly onto my leg for preparation for four counts.  We were both counting, but we were counting different moves.  It created confusion and frustration.  Our bodies were fighting against each other, me trying to move forward, him holding me back in place.  He told me I wasn’t counting.  But I was!  But, alas, it was still my fault because it was incorrect!  Gah!

And then there is another figure where I was counting it correctly, and I even counted it out loud to Ivan but just flat and he said it was correct. But then I told him how I was saying it in my head…two, Threeeeee, four, and-one, my thinking being to draw out the three to make the four faster (which seemed like it should be right for the step in my silly head even though we all know that the emphasis in Cha Cha is on beats 1 and 3) and so I was counting it correctly, but with the wrong emphasis.  So I looked slower than him and we were not in sync.  It’s one of those little details where I can see something is amiss but it’s not (seemingly) a gross error, and so left to linger while I’m in the process figuring out the big details like which step comes next!  And plus I’m not sure how to fix it even when I do notice things like this.

Anyways, we had big discussions about all this (and more) and it’s awesome.  Maybe not easy, maybe not “fun,” exactly, but I so totally see the value in it and I want to improve my abilities.  Plus, I’m so grateful Ivan is sharing this information with me.  I don’t know that many students get into this level of detail with their pro, and consider myself extremely lucky that Ivan is doing what he can to empower me with the tools I can use to become a better dancer, as well as someone who can more effectively and efficiently practice on my own, much less become a better communicator in terms of the dance routines.

Indeed, I think this has been a huge breakthrough for how I communicate with Ivan.  Now I know that when things aren’t working we can talk about the counting and make sure we have the same understanding of what is supposed to happen.  Instead of seeing the other person as frustrating or wrong we can simply come into alignment, and our bodies will surely follow.  I’m excited that this is possible.

Well, anyways, I had this minor tiff with Ivan for about 30 seconds on our lesson yesterday when I thought I was moving forward and he thought I wasn’t, and though it was resolved and indeed led to a renewed desire to count and be accountable for my dancing, it dampened my mood.  But I focused on all I was grateful for, decided to take it in and not let it get me down, decided to let it be a tool to build me up rather than focusing on what I lack, and I was able to come back to an even keel relatively quickly.  That, and I had a visit with some ballroom friends over coffee and later at a barbecue, and so I was refreshed and motivated than ever for my lesson this morning.

I showed up ready to work and when Ivan said, “We didn’t work on Samba yesterday,” I was like, “Well, I went over my routines with the counts in my head and I have one question about this one area in the Cha Cha.  Before we start in on the Samba can we review that?”

Well, it turned into the entire lesson.  And I think some good work was done.  I was feeling strong and sassy.  I was kind of liking how I was moving in the mirror.  It was good (in my head), and we worked on this one part, adding the details of where, exactly, I’m supposed to look, where I place emphasis, and all that, and Ivan decided he needed to film me.  So I wasn’t thrilled about this, because I don’t like seeing myself in photos or videos, but I obliged, because, well, it is excellent feedback.  So he videoed me and he liked maybe 80% of it, which was an improvement, and all, but when I saw the video, I was so very sad and disappointed in how I was moving.  I went from feeling good about it, to being faced with the reality of it, and in two seconds flat once again felt badly about myself.

To me, I look so big and slow, as if my body moving underwater instead of through the air.  How am I ever going to look fast, to create contrast and dynamic, to become the dancer I wish to be?  I already feel like I’m moving as fast as physics will allow but it is still ridiculously slow in appearance.  Sigh.  The obstacles in front of me see dishearteningly insurmountable but I’m choosing to tell myself that I’m just in the part of the story where the hero seems farthest away from his goal.  It’s this that makes a tale epic, so it just means that I’m on an epic journey lol.

But epic though it may (or may not) be, for me at least, this process is extremely emotional.  I’m weathering highs and lows sometimes moment to moment.  I have a vision and dream for myself when it comes to my body and my dancing in which I’m deeply invested, but sometimes the closer I am to realizing them from where I initially started, the further away they seem.  You know, like when you are climbing a mountain and you think you are just below the summit and it turns out to be a turn in the trail revealing a whole new section you couldn’t see before – it’s like that.  I keep climbing higher and discovering just how much higher the summit is than I thought.  There’s no bones about it – it can be discouraging.  But I remind myself that I am the sky, and these passing moods are the clouds, ever-moving and changing.  The sun will come out soon enough.

Part of that “sun” and part of what has been so awesome over the past few days even amongst my lower moments, has been sharing the journey and connecting with others.  Like I said, I spent part of my weekend in fellowship with other dancers, but something very special has also happened that touched my heart.

Every once in a while I make a connection in real life through the blog and that has been the biggest and most unanticipated blessing of writing about my life experiences. I’ve made a few friends and sometimes receive messages via Facebook or Twitter, and even one letter in the mail (can you believe it!?) but today was the first time I had a phone call conversation with a very special person who reads the blog.  The conversation I had with this courageous and strong individual touched my heart profoundly.  Because this dancer shared with me that the blog had been a kind of “lifeline” during a really difficult time.  That reading it, that me putting myself “out there” and sharing authentically from my heart, had come at just the right time and had been a part of a healing process.  It was, as you might guess, emotional.  Because just like me, this person has been transformed and coaxed back to life through dance, and to have been a part of that is awesome and humbling and so very special.

Indeed, it has been an interesting couple of days, with the emotinal roller coaster only being truly alive can offer.  I’ve had much to reflect upon, I’ve experienced a wide variety of emotional ups and downs, I’ve connected with friends, and my next competition is just weeks away.  It is an interesting space, this “in-between” where I started and where I am going and I have a feeling that I’ve only just begun.  I believe and that more discoveries about myself, and my body, and my dancing are just around the corner.  It’s an exciting time, though I’m tempered with the knowledge that the road stretches long and far before me.

There’s work to do yet, but I am grateful for the people on my team helping me move forward.  Between Ivan, Chelle, and everyone who encourages me along the way, I believe my goals are possible and I’m clear and focused like never before. I am determined to keep plugging along, and so I will, however it looks, emotional and all.