Falling Flat On My Ass…Maybe Just What I Needed?

Heya blog-followers…..

I was editing some posts, categorizing them and adding keword tags and remembered that I had written this post a while ago when things were pretty tough back in March.  Back then I published it for a day then password protected it because the financial information was pretty raw and even though I didn’t mention my former employer by name, I didn’t want the information I’d shared to affect their business in any way.  But I remembered this post today and read it and now I think it is okay to share.  It’s a goodie…And it makes me that much more grateful for my current-much-better situation to reflect upon life for me 9 months ago.  So here it is.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did upon rediscovery. -Stef


You know that saying…

When life gives you lemons,

Stick them in your bra.  At least then your boobs will look bigger.

Seriously, I need a few laughs right now.  Life has given me a few lemons, and I’ve had a bit of a struggle making the damn lemonade, if you know what I mean.

It all started before the trip to Vegas.  You see, in my “real” life, I’m a pharmacist.  I got so burned out on it a few years ago that I actually quit and thought I’d never go back to it.  (That’s when I started tutoring).  But alas, the money was very good.  I finally found a part-time job but it was across town, and a fearful environment.  I knew that I wouldn’t ever make any sort of major contribution to this world in that place so when the opportunity to switch jobs and work for a smaller independent company, I was excited.

So I gave my two-weeks notice and took the job.  It has been way more stressful than any other job I’ve ever had as a pharmacist, mostly because I have to do these stretches of being on call and it is also about 45 minutes from my home.  The pay is the same….theoretically.

I say theoretically because two pay periods ago, my boss couldn’t make payroll.  I knew something was up when the delivery service we use on weekends said we had been locked out of the account.  I asked the CFO point-blank what the deal was, to please be honest with me.  Did I need to be looking for another job?  No, I was assured.  Things were tight but they’d be sure to pay employees over other vendors.

Then payday came…but no check.  Finally the owner sat us down and said that money was on its way, could we wait until Tuesday of next week at the latest?  Sure, we all agreed.  We understood – things happen.  It’s a small company.  Things are tight.

So on Wednesday when I came in, I expected to be paid….but again, I was not.  The money hadn’t come through just yet.  Finally on Friday it did, and I received my pay a week late.

My next paycheck was due the following Friday.  When I did receive it, I deposited it right away and watched it to see if it bounced.  It actually posted, not like with the pending transaction where only a portion of funds are available, but the entire amount got added to my balance.  Great, I thought, sighing in relief.  They are being honest.  Things are better.

But Tuesday night I got an email from my boss.  The check had been returned.

It was a very sleepless night.

I mean, what should I do?  Should I be like, the hell with you people.  I’m not working for free.  To me this was a broken agreement.  I feel like most people would bolt right away.  And this was the second breach of trust, if not the third, because I had asked earlier about what was really going on at the company and if I should be expecting a problem with getting paid.

Apparently my check was the only one that bounced.  They added a few extra bucks for the inconvenience and deposited cash into my account Wednesday.  Of course, this was at 4pm when it had been promised to me at noon.  Yes, I’ve already begun looking for other employment opportunities.

So, I’m at this precipice in my life.  Do I try and find yet another pharmacy job, or do I pursue something different entirely?  I’m not at all sure.  Do I quit now after all the games without something to go to, or do I hold on until something materializes and just accept that I may not get reimbursed for my service?

Part of me would be happy to find a job I could tolerate as long as it pays enough for me to dance.  I feel like I could keep myself sane if I had a double dance lesson every day and maybe I could afford that working as a full-time pharmacist once again.

The other part of me feels like I am not passionate about doing pharmacist work.  It would be settling to find another stressful job in this setting.  I’ve said for a few years that I want to retire myself from being a pharmacist, but to do what, exactly?

So the future is wide open, full of possibilities, excitement mixed with fear, stress, worry, uncertainty.

But through all of it, I dance.

Thank the Lord God for dancing.  Especially with the financial worries, knowing that I can’t count on anything more than what I have right now, and maybe even that will be pulled from my bank account, I feel like I should use what I currently have because who knows what’s going to happen next week, tomorrow, or even in the next moment.  So I dance.

It’s a non-negotiable in my life right now.  It just simply isn’t an option to stop dancing completely.  Even if I had to just take Inna’s class once weekly for the monthly fee of $85, I’d find a way to keep moving.  It’s my lifeblood.  It’s who I am.  I stopped once before.   Never again.  I slowly die when I stop dancing because I’m not living.

So on Tuesday I made an appointment to dance with Ivan in the morning.  He knew from the moment I walked through the door I wasn’t okay.  We didn’t talk specifics but I told him the latest installment of the financial situation, which I’ve mentioned before.

Oh well, I thought, I’m here now.  I should feel better after dancing.

But I could do nothing right.  I hated the way I looked in the mirror – my feet weren’t moving at all, it seemed.

“Shit!”  I exclaimed.  I’d missed a connection.

Then the f-word.  Seriously.  Normally I don’t cuss so much, but it was the only word that expressed how I was feeling.  I’d messed up again.

And then….


Flat on my ass.

Seems I was off-balanced in more ways than one.

Physically, my left ankle twinged and I went down.  I just lay there and shook.  The tears streamed down my face and I blubbered in all ways a person can blubber.

But emotionally I was off-center before I even left my house that morning.

“You okay?” Inquired Ivan.

“Uh, huh.”

“You hurt.”


But it took me a moment to recover from the adrenaline and for the tears to stop falling.

And then Ivan told me a story.

When he was a little boy, his parents didn’t have any money and couldn’t find a job in Bulgaria.  His parents were forced to feed him only bread and water for his meals.  They had no electricity.  He’d get dizzy on his dance lessons because he was malnourished and he remembers his parents crying about the fact they couldn’t feed him properly.

He told me, “This scary for you because you never having to do it.  But I live through it.  It no scare me anymore.  I know I survive.”

Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn’t it?  That man never ceases to amaze me.  I feel like if anyone deserves to be a champion, he does, after everything he’s been through.

In any case, we danced a little more, but I left the lesson feeling completely defeated.  I went home, and like a total loser, I played a video game all afternoon.  It was one of the less-destructive ways I could have chosen to escape, I suppose, but yet completely unsatisfying.

But then at 7pm I had a decision to make.  Should I show up for Inna’s class, feeling the way I did?  After a fall?  With a sore butt and ankle?

I debated and left it to the very last minute.

But I went.

Still distracted with the events of my life, and my body completely spent, it felt like a special kind of torture to do Samba and Cha Cha for over an hour.  I haven’t been 100% present in the moment lately, I have to admit.  I’ve left things at home I meant to bring with me, and during Inna’s class after crossing the floor doing basic Cha Cha walks, I leaned against the wall and zoned off.  I never do that.  It must be my training from Glenda Folk – always pay attention to the teacher!

It’s kind of ironic because I saw the exact same scenario unfold last week with another student who hadn’t been paying attention and then he got called on to do a demonstration across the floor alone.

Anyways, I kind of heard Inna spout off a combination, then ask Michelle to demonstrate it across the floor….”….and…..Stefanie!”

Oh, I snapped to attention in 2 seconds flat!  “I don’t know the combination!”

“Our usual,” she replied.  “Two Cha Cha walks, two time steps, two (blanks – I can’t remember the name), and two sets of locks.”

I thought quickly and off we went!

As per usual, the class went long, I was covered in sweat, and exhausted.  I’d had to use the strategy of dancing full-out, then dropping my arms, then stopping completely to rest, then joining the group again dancing full-out and repeating even though they never stopped moving.  My body just couldn’t tolerate it.  And my stomach was hurting.

But at the end of class, Inna came right up to me as I was taking off my shoes.

“Stefanie! You the hard worker!”  She told me.

You know, that’s awesome.  I still felt pretty defeated at the end of my day, and physically spent.  But at least I still danced.  And even when I couldn’t go 100%, 100% of the time, I did what I could and it felt good to be acknowledged.

“One day I’ll have enough stamina to make it though the class, Inna.”  I told her.

And I will.

After that, Artem made the entire class take a silly picture.  I wouldn’t have been in it if I didn’t show up, I suppose.

Well, anyways, I went home and went to sleep and dreamt about getting paychecks and awoke the next morning to have an early lesson with Ivan before work, (which who knows if I’ll get paid for, but what the hell else was I going to do with myself and I hoped I’d get what was owed me so I decided to go in) for a change and you’ll never guess what happened.

Well, first off, Ivan swore.  I’ve kind of created a monster.  He like thinks that saying “Shit!” and using the F-word make him more American or something.  He’s practicing, he says.  And I’ve heard more cussing on my last few lessons (though in jest) than I’ve heard all the months I’ve been dancing with Ivan.  Like today, when stepping out of a spiral turn (the bane of my existance) he said, “What the F-ing Hell are you doing?”  We both laughed out loud.  “Ballet,” I replied.  That muscle memory is hard to break!

Anyways, I proceeded to rock my lesson.  Seriously.

Before we took our first step, and he offered me his hand, I inhaled deeply and paused to actually connect with my partner.  Then, out of nowhere on this one part of my Latin Rumba routine, where normally my turns are like wah-wah-wah (wish I could insert sound effects here – we dancers use them a lot) they were like f-f-f-f-f  – by that I mean to imply fast and sharp and more exciting/dramatic – like the blade of a helicopter.  Ivan liked them and me too.  It wasn’t a conscious thought at all – I just did it.  It surprised me, to be honest.

By the end of the routine Ivan was so happy, and I was too.  You know, it can’t be a bad day when your instructor likes your dancing!

It makes me think that falling flat on my ass might have been just what I needed.

Isn’t life weird that way?  There’s a saying I’ve heard that I found to be true:  The biggest breakdowns are followed by the biggest breakthroughs.

Maybe the situation at work will now be followed by a major breakthrough.  I don’t really know.  Hell, I don’t know what’s going happen the next minute.  But what I do know is this; I’m going to dance my way through it, whatever comes my way.

On that tough lesson Tuesday morning, through the tears, I told Ivan, “You know what?  No matter what happens, no one can ever take away from me how I dance.”

At any moment, I can choose to become a diva, a princess, a sweet-fun-loving girl-next-door.

My future may be uncertain.  I may not have money in the bank.  I may face unpleasant surprises.

But no matter what,

no matter what,

I have me.

And I am a dancer.


I Like You For One Second

So I decided to fit one last lesson in before Ivan and Marietta headed off to Emerald Ball Wednesday afternoon.

Tangent here….congratulations to Rose and Michelle who made it to the finals in the Latin Open A Division at Emerald Ball on Thursday.  Rose got 2nd place!  Seriously, they are amazing.

Okay, back to my story.  It was a good choice to take that lesson.  Because for me it was one of the best, most enjoyable lessons I’ve had.  Most of them are pretty great, I’ll admit, but for the first time today, I think I really experienced and generated what people talk about when they say how important it is to dance with your energy.

First things first: Alaina, Ivan was thrilled when I told him that he was right about calling jellyfish medusa.  He said, “See, I so smart!”  So thanks Miss science major.  You brightened Ivan’s day.

Secondly, we began with a little Mambo to kind of warm up.  At first Ivan was being arm-y (this is an official dance term – Not! – but what it means is that the movement and leads felt like they were generated from the arms rather than the body) and forceful.  As hard as he pushes, I, as a follower, have to match that and resist. It is exhausting when he’s pushing hard.  And, I discovered something else about that as well, which I’ll get to later.  So anyways, I was really noticing the force and pushing so I actually stopped Ivan and told him to relax.  He was just being his “puppy dog” excited self, but it was making things more difficult.

So he kind of calmed down and we moved on to my favorite, Latin Rumba.  He went on automatic pilot and just grabbed my hand, but me, I love the connection stuff and wasn’t willing to settle.  I pulled my hand away and said, “Now Ivan.  You gotta invite me to dance!”  He immediately perked up and was like, “Yes.”  So we slowed down, centered ourselves, he offered me his arm, and I took a moment to raise my hand above my head and place it in his.

“I like the arm.  But what the hell (he said smilingly while laughing) is going on with the foot?  I like you for one second, but you dancing three seconds.”

Yeah, Ivan.  Thanks for the feedback.   So I corrected that detail and we started again.

But then he wanted me to wait and hold that position as he began the dance, stepping toward me so that our faces were close.  I was to wait for the lead to actually step back and hold my ground until that time, even as he was coming directly toward me.  It was a bit of a challenge.  I was unsure of where to go because normally I vacate space so he can step into it, but in this case I wasn’t supposed to do that.  Ivan explained that the Rumba (in not as eloquent words as I’m going to use here) is like breathing, in and out.  The Rumba is supposed to be a coming in close and the illusion of almost consummating close contact, and then the pushing away, moving outward at just the last moment – a dance of expansion and contraction of the space between the partners.  Well, anyways, that bit needs a bit of work but it is exciting to be thinking of things artistically in this way.

The long and short of today’s lesson was that I still need to push that button inside me that will allow me to step into complete confidence and freedom of expression.  Ivan even told me, “I know you can do it,” and it always means a lot when your mentor says something like that, you know?  He can see it in me, so he’s bothering to pull it out.  He even commented that perhaps other instructors who might be on the clock wouldn’t necessarily take the time to work on such things.  But that right there is why Ivan is my instructor.  That is why I’m so devoted to being his student.  That is the amazing value I get from learning from this particular man.  Ivan does take the time to work on this stuff.  He does slow down and try and pull the expression out of me.  It is so completely what I need.  I feel like perhaps we had a celestial contract to work with one another in this lifetime, you know?  It may sound woo woo, but really, it is a special, sacred kind of work.  And seriously, ask my mom, for whatever reason that I can’t explain, Ivan is able to tell me things and do things to me and with me that if my family or husband would do, I would absolutely have a meltdown!  Somehow he is able to bypass my programming and defenses and make it work.  Thank you God for this gift in my life.

Ivan made a point to tell me that he is not judging me.  That we’ll get enough of that with judges at competitions.  And that other instructors perhaps might not want to dance with me like he does, or be willing to dance with me at larger competitions, because of my size.  Yes, he said, yes I dance well, but other instructors might be so concerned with how things are supposed to look that they might prefer to dance with a slimmer, fitter, blonder, more traditionally-beautiful student, even if they danced worse because the truth is, the reputation of the pro is at stake when they dance with amateurs.  How the amateur student-partner performs reflects upon the teacher in the ballroom world.

Believe it or not, this totally didn’t bother me.  Actually, it just occurred to me as I’m writing this that for some people, this might be hard to hear.  I guess I just already accepted the fact that I’m not the usual ballroom dancer.  I already experienced going to studios (when I was looking for an instructor) and them just partnering me with whomever had space in their schedule, rather than seeing how I moved or asking me my goals so they could match me with the best fit.  I “get” that from just seeing me, you’d never know how deeply my motivation runs, or how well I move, or even my potential – Ron Montez, himself, was a bit flabbergasted and admitted to me that he’d kind of formed an idea of how I would move when he saw me initially but that it wasn’t the case and that I’d surprised him – so if that kind of high level champion and professional can’t tell, I can’t expect anyone else to, either.  I’ve already accepted that there will be people who will judge me and who will see my adipose tissue before all else.  I’ve already faced the music, knowing that it is possible that I could dance better than anyone else (which isn’t really where I am as a dancer but to make the point go with me here) and still be judged harshly, and scored lowly, just for presentation.

So I think that makes it even more exceptional that Ivan is willing to dance with me, and even more, that he is willing to develop me.  He so isn’t in the game of just sucking me dry financially.  He’s in the game of a person helping another person out.  Thanks Ivan.  You are the best.

Okay, back to the actual lesson….

Ivan made me play.  He put on a song and asked me just to move.  Not to dance and “steps” but rather just to be interesting, engaged, dancing.  He referenced the time at Sunburst last Decemeber when we just danced for fun.  I told him that the music informed my music – basically, whatever the music was, it told me how to move.  Fast. Slow. Crazy. Playful. Fun.  Whatever.  But it made me remember that when we were jamming that night, there was an amazing energy exchange between us.  Ivan was leading me in dances I didn’t know (the Lambada) and also just dancing like you’d dance in a club with no choreographed steps.  It was SO fun!  And, people gave me compliments on how fun it was to watch me.  My energy was in full force that night.  I was just out there, not caring what anyone thought because the floor was full and the judges panel had gone to dinner and I was just dancing to the music with my friend.  I felt free.

So, it was a good reference.

Ivan made me play around just like that.  He wanted me to “surprise” him.  He used to say that to me in our earlier lessons when he was trying to coax some expression out of me.  But he hasn’t said it in a while.  The thing is, that Ivan truly does want to have an authentic energetic exchange while we are dancing.  He wants, as far I can can discern, to have that conversation between leader and follower.  He wants to have the connection.  What I am saying, is that it would be great for him to be on the receiving end of a person “surprising” him.

The problem is, I’m shy.  The problem is, I contain myself, because part of my brain is concerned with how I look and what Ivan will think of me if I look stupid.  It’s so unconscious at this point, I don’t even realize I’m doing it.  Until Ivan had me do this exercise, that is.

He told me to dance in front of him and that he was going to be totally disinterested.  He was going to be judgemental and tell me I was a horrible dancer.  It was my job to ignore that and be interesting enough that he’d start to watch me.  I moved around a bit but it wasn’t working.  Then I stepped behind Ivan’s back where he couldn’t actually see me and went nuts!  I totally let loose because there was no one actually watching me.

“See!  This is it!”  Ivan exclaimed.


“Didn’t you feel the difference, Stefanie?  When you going behind me you completely free.  You let go.  This is what you supposed to be doing in front of me.”

Suddenly it clicked.  I “got” the difference.  I felt the difference.  It was an “Aha” moment.

So then he went even deeper.  He told me, “See, we touching the button.  It not totally pushed yet, but we hitting on it.”

He explained that there were still barriers that have to come down.  For instance, he told me that when I am concerned or worried about my body or how I’m dancing, he feels that same way.  He said he feels “shy to touching” my body when I am hating on it because he can feel my concern that he will “discover my fats” on the arms, the legs.  He could also tell that I’m struggling a little bit with touching him while dancing too.  He physically grabbed my hand and said, “Hello.  I am Ivan.  This is my leg.  This is my butt. This is my head.  This is my arm.  This is my breasts.”  He slapped my hand on each part as he named it.  “It’s okay to touching it.”

I got a bit scared.  Because what he was really asking of me was to touch him and energetically connect with him as if I wanted him physically.  That isn’t appropriate! My mind screamed.  But the thing is, this is that acting hat I’ve got to learn to put on.  Of course it isn’t how things are in “real life” but rather it’s that magic, protected bubble Aurora was talking about where the normal rules don’t apply.  Where the show happens. But there also has to be an element of authenticity to it.  Even though I don’t really want to like, oh my gosh, I’m getting so embarrassed here, but I don’t really want to “bone” my instructor but I have to act and imagine how I’d be if I were going to do that.

Before in this post Ivan told me to come at him like a tiger.  But this was pretending to be an animal.  It was supposed to help me connect with that kind of character.  But a tiger is a tiger, and a woman who is interested in a man is something different.  The tiger is less scary to play at.

But after the “Aha” moment, I was able to wrap my head around all this a little bit better.  Ivan asked me to do some Latin walks, coming toward him.  I thought to myself, how would I walk toward him if I was pursuing him?  And it’s kind of hard to put into words what happened.  I’ll try my best.

The Latin Walks were no longer just steps I was taking to move forward.  They had a purpose.  I was driving toward my “man,” coming directly at him, unabashed, confident.  My energy, usually scattered, was focused and directed to Ivan.  It’s like the light produced from a light bulb which is diffuse and harmless versus the light of a laser which is focused and can cut through cement.

And Ivan noticed the difference too.  I was coming from my core, both physically and energetically.  He was like, a little bit scared!  He was genuinely surprised.  For once I was a driving force in the partnership.  He could retreat a little.  I was showing up.  He told me, “Now I become shy!  I put you to a turn because I scary!”

So I can do it.  It is there inside me!  Wow!

Next, Ivan had me do more walks and I put my free arm out to the side, holding it still for the first four counts because on my coaching with Linda Dean she demonstrated the power of keeping the arms still to emphasize the legs.  My legs and feet are more of a strength in my dancing than my arms so it makes sense to take advantage of this way to draw attention to my assets.

Ivan was like, “You always putting your arm still because of Linda Dean.”

“Yes, Ivan, I like to do that for the first few counts.”  I explained my reasoning.

“Okay, okay.  Do it like that then change it to how Ivan would like you to do it.”

That meant I should allow my arm to undulate like the tentacles of a jellyfish.  He likes to never stop moving.

Then he got excited.  “Okay, it’s good.  Now do it like Inna!”

I was like, “Pah!”  Thinking strength and attack.

“Good, good!  Now Marietta!”

I pouted and tried to be flirty and soft and feminine.  He laughed at my impression.

But it was a really great discovery.  I cycled through the four personalities, Linda Dean (proper and elegant), Ivan’s way (moving and fun-loving), Inna’s way (powerful, aggressive), and Marietta’s way (flirty and sassy).  It was easier to imagine how these very different and amazing dancers would do the movement than to imagine a tiger.  And it created amazing contrast in the steps, making the Latin walks much more interesting.  It was fantastic.

Next we moved on to Cha Cha.  We do this one figure from a cross-over to face each other and cha cha, then I step forward and flip 180 degrees and we travel backwards doing a cha cha lock and then I flip to face him and I’m supposed to put my hand on his chest.

Well, when I do it, I look down, or to the side.  I’m focused on placing my hand.  But it’s not a very exciting moment when it really should be.

“Why you always looking to down?  NO!  You have to looking directly at me.”

Aha.  I got it!

We did the move again, and just like I came at Ivan with that directed, focused energy on the Latin walks that surprised him, I came at him like that in this move.

He was like, “Wow!  You scary.  This good.  I have to be uncomfortable dancing with you.  I have to be feeling this.”

What?  Him uncomfortable to dance with me?  This is a total reversal of the usual situation!  Huh.  But wow.  That is really asking me to be an equal partner.  That is allowing for me affect him as much as he affects me during the dance.  I’ve just assumed the submissive role being the student, you know?  But that doesn’t make for an interesting dance dynamic.

And now we come full-circle.  Back to the other thing I discovered on the lesson that I mentioned in the beginning of the post. About when he was kind of pushing me around the floor.  The thing I noticed was that when he is dancing from that place, I don’t have the space to move my own self.  All the resistance restricts my movement.  It seems like it’s helping but really it is making me more dependant on him than I should be.  I really should be on my own two feet, maybe like 98%, and using Ivan like 2%.  But when we dance like usual, it is something like 90%/10%.  When he backs off, and only gives me the merest suggestion of a lead, I am empowered.  I have to move my own ass!  But it is so much freer.  I can move more.  So as much as I need to drive forward and be more active in the dancing, Ivan needs to practice backing off!  Interesting, huh?

Sheesh! Probably one of my longest posts ever.  It was just such an “Aha” awareness that I had.  I don’t think my dancing will ever be the same.  Now maybe Ivan will like me for a whole two seconds!  Ha ha.

Alrighty.  I’ll end for now.  Good luck to Ivan and Marietta as the compete at Emerald Ball tomorrow (Sunday) night!


What Did I Do Today? Not Much, Just Danced.

Today has been an incredibly relaxing and wonderful day.  After a weekend of being on call and some stress at the workplace, I decided to splurge on a double lesson this morning.  I can’t be financially responsible and do that very often these days, but I have to say, it was just what I needed.  Though honestly, I don’t know why I bothered to shower.  After an hour and half of dancing I was beet red, dripping sweat, my hair completely sopping.  Ivan had the barest pink glow in the very center of his cheeks.

It was an interesting lesson.  I, for whatever reason, took charge of the music selection.  When I showed up, Ivan had a Samba playing.  I was like, “Really, Ivan?  Why always the Samba?”  He like, always wants to begin with the Samba.  Maybe it’s just his routine, I don’t know.  I know he likes the Samba best and all, but I’m a Taurus, a bull.  It takes my body a little while to warm up.  So Ivan was like, (I’ve decided to go ‘Valley Girl’ for this post, kay?) “What do you want to do, Stefanie?  Tell me what you want to do.  Whatever you like.”

What I liked was to do the Foxtrot.  Oh my gosh, we haven’t done it in ages.  But it just felt so good.  I put on “Just Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Buble’ and off we went.  I felt like I was floating along.  So pretty.  Graceful.  I just really liked the feel and look of it.  It was a start-with-the-Foxtrot kind of day, I guess.

I have to give Ivan some props.  Last night when I called to schedule my appointment, he sounded kinda funny on the phone.  He was being unusually positive, like telling me, “Okay, you gonna be champion.  Maybe not 2012, but 2013.  And me too.”  Like, where did that come from Ivan?  I was just trying to schedule my lesson with you tomorrow.  But then it all made sense.  He told me he was enjoying some vodka with his father-in-law after they had completed a demanding day of physical labor cutting down a tree – a job that took 5 hours.  He was three shots deep when I called.

So, when I arrived, I asked him how he was feeling.  He said he was fine but that he and his drinking companion had downed half of a handle of vodka together.  Yikes!  But Ivan was “with it.”  He was spot on with the feedback he gave me on corrections, noticed things I was doing that could be better, and he had no trouble keeping up with me…nope.  I was still the one struggling for breath and I didn’t have a hangover.  Well, it didn’t seem like Ivan did either.  But after our lesson he wanted to skip doing “Insanity” with his friend and go rest.

So after joking with me that he was still a little drunk, which I really don’t think he was, we went on to the Waltz, Viennese Waltz, and Tango.  I still hate that one stupid move in the Waltz, but overall, it was pretty fun.  He did a shaping move with me that I’ve never done before and re-introduced a develope’ that I’ve only been taught once.  Viennese went surprisingly well.  I felt strong and elegant and like I wasn’t rushing so much.  The only problem was the floor.  It was super slippery.  I slipped multiple times, especially as we danced around the periphery of the room.  Tango went the worst.  It was still lots of fun today, though.  I love the snap into Promenade when it goes correctly.  In any case, it was a good first 45 minutes.  I was feeling warmed up, energized, and my heart was pumping.

Then we moved onto the American Rhythm dances.  Everything seems so much easier and more fun now that I’ve been working on Latin.  We did Rumba, Cha Cha, Mambo, Samba, but forgot Swing.  The Bolero felt particularly nice.  For like the first time ever I felt strong on my legs and loved the way I moved.

Then Ivan pulled a surprise move on me.  We we doing a spot turn in Cha Cha or Rumba and all the sudden he pulled away, wasn’t where he usually is.  We were still in frame, but I was off balance, almost falling forward.  What had happened?

What had happened was that he finally stopped enabling me!  I had no idea I was doing it so wrong, using his arm so much, supporting myself using his body.  Why?  Because he never let me feel what it was like if he didn’t let me do this to him.

It was awesome!

I say this because it was instant feedback.  I instantly knew what I was doing was incorrect.  I then had the opportunity to hold myself up, be responsible for my own body and movement, and be an actual partner, not a hanger-on.

I was like, “Ivan!  You’ve been enabling me!  Stop it!”

It was the first time he’s done that – pulling back, letting me feel how much I’m using him instead of holding myself.  I don’t think I do it all the time, but maybe more than I realize.  Some steps go easier than others and usually when there is some sort of resistance or hang up I am pretty sure it is me not being in the right position, or blocking him, or not getting around him or something.

But that action, whether he is consciously thinking it or not, communicates to me that he holds me capable of moving my own damn self!  That he can start to not baby me so much.  That I can handle not being literally held up on the dance floor.  And that, to me, is exciting!

Onto Latin Rumba and practicing the piece for the showcase.

We put on “Voleveras” by Gloria Estefan and off I went…on the wrong starting foot.  Ivan asked me before I began which foot I should step forward with first and I knew it was the left.  (Insert annoying buzzer)  Wrong!  But I covered it up.  I just added an extra step in at the end.  I thought I did nicely to save it but Ivan just laughed at me.  “See, wrong foot!  Not good!” But he was smiling just the same.

So I started again, this time beginning with the left foot and made it to a slow swivel turn before I was stopped again.

“You do well but you can’t be showing any shaking.  No wobbling.  You reaching up too much.  Better to not reach up so high but stay balanced.  Feel the floor.  Stay connected to the floor.”  He also corrected this side step I take to add more drama, holding my arms out at first but then quickly, like a cat pawing at its prey, snag my arms back inward toward the body.  It looks much improved, I must say.

Third time’s the charm.   So I do the beginning sequence once again and concentrated on staying grounded into the floor.

It is amazing that small shift in focus can do.  My movement is more solid, clearer.  It felt different inside, too.  I am feeling more and more confident, less shy on my lessons.  I have to be careful not to get too caught up in all the “feeling” stuff, but before I was afraid to show it at all.  Now it is just naturally oozing out of me and I love it.

So Ivan and I kind of go over the moves in the Rumba and he finally comes to a conclusion….one that I had thought from the beginning but never said anything about.  I assumed we’d dance to the entire song I’d selected.  I understand that usually pieces are 2 minutes or so, but the way this song is, it kinda doesn’t work if you cut it in the middle.  Also, the Rumba is so slow, and I do a good 30 to 40 seconds alone in the beginning, I just didn’t feel like we had enough time to complete the dance.  Ivan concluded that we should do the entire song but until today, he had wanted me to chop the song in half.  I agree with his new insight.  I think it will be very nice to complete the song.

However, Ivan needs to get his butt in gear and finish choreographing this thing!  We have one month left and I still don’t know exactly what we are doing!

What I do know, is that I like the parts so far.  We just have to put them together in the proper sequence and practice it as much as we can.  Ah, even if it isn’t completely polished, I know it is going to be amazing.  I am doing it just because I want to, not for any competitive reason so who cares, really?  I mean, I’d like it to be gorgeous and all, and will do my best to make that happen, I just am not feeling any pressure or worry about it.  There’s no reason to, since I’m just doing it for fun.

It makes me much more nervous to think about competing in larger competitions this year.  Ivan asked me which ones I was thinking of doing and the good news is that he didn’t balk at any of my choices.  I know that if he didn’t think I was ready, he would tell me.

But really, I’m a newbie to the competition thing.  I’ve only done 3 total, only 1 with Ivan.  The two larger ones were Galaxy here in Phoenix, and one is San Diego.  Neither are as big, as say, Millennium.  I will be a much smaller fish in a much bigger pond.  I haven’t been tested against the competitors who will be at a competition like that.  Again, competing is for fun, but I’m not gonna lie.  I want to do well.  I’m pretty competitive, it turns out, about ballroom.

The plan is to wait until May for a local competition here.  The plan is to save enough money to do a good number of entries and to have enough to also go to Desert Classic and Millennium and possibly fund a new dress.  But the desire is to compete more often.  Ivan and Marieta will be going to the California Open next month, and I am sorely tempted to want to play too.  Why does this hobby of mine have to be so dang expensive!?

Part of me just accepts this as the price to play.  Another part of me knows I’d do way more if I could afford it financially.

But for today, I am satisfied and grateful that I was able to do a double lesson.  Even on a day after drinking some vodka, Ivan is amazing.  I am grateful for days like today when I sweat, and work hard, and learn something new, but that I also take the time to enjoy the process and the journey.

What a blessing.  It must have been the music!  Like, I should take charge of it more often.  Okay, Valley Girl speak complete.