Last Minute Comp! Say What?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desert Classic Part Two

Phew!  I’m home, I’m exhausted, but it has been an amazing 48 hours and I’m very grateful.

I’m sure I will have more to write when I’m a little better rested but I wanted to at least share a few of the highlights that occurred after my last post.

First off, I want to say that I’m thankful for every part of my journey.

Next, I’ll just list a few things that made my experience so wonderful.  Each one could probably be an individual post, and maybe I’ll write more about them later, but for now, I’m fried, in both body and mind.  I just want to at least get down the broad brush strokes just so I don’t forget anything.

Okay, so after Thursday, Friday was a relaxed day of recovery with a massage and just enjoying the company of my friends, Colette, Ivan and Marieta.  We laughed until our bellies hurt, did a little shopping, had a little practice, and watched a little ballroom dancing.  Dinner was especially meaningful to me because Ivan shared his life story and let me tell you, that man has been through a lot.  I’m amazed by all he has weathered to get to where he is.

Although my right shin and ankle was sore and my neck had a crick in it (thank you ibuprofen), I felt pretty good upon rising Friday morning and made sure to have plenty of time scheduled for makeup, hair, and breakfast.  Again, my nerves were very bad – honestly, I’ve never experienced such nerves all throughout a competition like I did this time.  Yes, I got nervous before, but it was right before I went on the floor the first time.  At this competition, I got nervous, breathing hard, my stomach churning, not being able to eat, and feeling like I had to pee every time I had a chance to cool down.  It was particularly difficult with the dance schedule Saturday because there was a lot of 30 minute breaks between sets of dancing rather than 5 minutes, which would have been ideal from my perspective.  But what it taught me is that I need to develop strategies to cope with the nerves.  When I was very tired as after a set of 5 dances, I didn’t have nerves and felt relaxed.  I think something physical is just the ticket for the next competition.  I really value my experiences this time around because once again, I’m learning so much and will be better prepared the next go around.

Saturday morning was lots of fun with dances of West Coast Swing, Hustle, and Salsa.  This was less pressure and let me move without feeling so worried about how I did.  By afternoon, the American Rhythm dances were in full force.  I did do closed Bronze scholarship and hey, made 5th out of 6, so not dead last this time.  But better than the placement, I’m very pleased on two accounts.  First, I really pulled it together right before the scholarship.  I know that I danced my best for those three dances during the competition.  Marieta was watching and she agreed.  It was the best I’d done the entire time.  So, I am satisfied in my performance, because I know I did my best.  Yay!  Second, and the most fulfilling, was a comment from professional Jason Daly.  He happened to be in the lineup for a dance heat right behind me and Ivan.  Ivan started a conversation with him, and Jason mentioned to me that I was “doing great out there.”  Seriously, wow!  Made my day!  He doesn’t know me from Tuesday, and didn’t have to say anything, that’s for sure.  The fact that he did bother to tell me this little nugget means a lot to me, even more than how the judges place me.  To me, it means I do have potential and people can see it, even professionals.  Anyways, that was a real win for me.

Also, there was a few great moments in some of the heats toward the end where I saw the judges watching me and smiling.  I still think I got placed 2nd or 3rd but the fact they were reacting to me, was awesome.  Yay!  I wasn’t boring (at least not all the time lol).

Also completely wonderful was meeting two very special women.  One is a reader of the blog who I got to meet in person.  She is delightful and helped me with the laborious task of getting into and out of my ballroom dress so I could use the restroom.  I was tickled to have this opportunity to meet her.

In addition, I also met the author of another dance blog, plus got to see her perform two numbers, one of which I recognized from her blog post!  I introduced myself during a break and heartily laughed with her over a bit of conversation and enjoyed her fantastic company.  If you haven’t checked out The Spinning Dancer, you should – it is authentic, honest, artsy, creative, entertaining, well-written, and I love it.  Hopefully we will be doing guest posts soon for one another.  She did great in her dance performances and I could totally sense her passion.  She is quite a performer and dances with a conviction I admire.

Next big win was completing the 119 heats.  Somehow my heats got screwed up, the numbers changed or something between the day of dancing and the day we got there and were handed the heat list.  Anyways, it led to a little bit of confusion toward the end about whether we should be on the floor dancing or not.  But all heats were completed and that in and of itself is a big accomplishment.  I never really thought too much of it, but now being surrounded by other dancers who are very targeted in their dancing, like only doing a round of single dances as a warm up and then the scholarship round, they get very tired just doing those 10 heats or so.  It is an accomplishment I can be proud of that even though I may not be in the physical shape I ultimately hope to be, I have made it so I can tolerate this physical challenge of completing a relatively large number of heats.

Subsequent to that win, of being on the dance floor as much as I was, came two nice results.  First, I made it into the top 20 students, and I think I was in maybe the top 5 or so.  It had to be up there because I was Ivan’s only student, and he got 4th place top teacher.  Honestly, I didn’t think he’d get anything, or if he did, he’d get like, 9th or 10th.  Once they announced the 7th top teacher, I was like, oh well, too bad, it didn’t happen.  But that made it so much sweeter to hear his name called when it was.  It gives me great joy to be able to have made that happen.  The cash prize was a nice unexpected bonus and I’m happy that Ivan got a little something extra to thank him for all he’s done.

But the wins didn’t end there!  I heard my name again and I was like, what?!  It was for the Big Heart Award, given for acts of kindness from Igor and Irina Suvarov.  There were five given, and one was to the lady who made sure everyone got on and off the dance floor at the right time for pretty much the entire weekend – obviously someone who contributed greatly to the competition.  Ivan was especially proud of the award to me.  The funny thing is, I don’t know exactly what I did to receive it.  I had interacted with Irina online prior to the competition, and apparently she remembers me from Galaxy last year, and she knew exactly who I was when I showed up on Thursday, but still,  I didn’t do any huge act, I just showed up as myself.  In any case, it felt awesome to be recognized.

And in the recognition, I realized, I actually achieved what I had come to the competition to do.  In all honesty, I wasn’t that focused.  I didn’t say to myself, “Self.  I want to earn 3rd place or higher in bronze smooth closed scholarship.”  I didn’t get specific.  I pretty much just thought I’d show up and dance and let the cards fall where they may.  I didn’t give much thought to most details, except for three things – 1)  I really wanted to support Project Kindness and 2)  I thought it would be awesome if I could get Ivan in the top teachers for an award, and 3) that it would be nice to make it into the top 20 students with 119 heats.  Holy crap!  I achieved all of the three things I actually thought about doing!  That, plus I had a whole lot of fun, and learned a ton about myself.  Much will be explored deeper in the coming weeks and this I know – it is time for change.  It is time to grow.  I’m excited!

Lastly, Ivan and Marieta danced in the open professional American Rhythm Championship and placed 2nd out of a semi-final.  I love watching them dance – they are so captivating and really draw me in to the performance.  Last night, I couldn’t keep my eyes of them.  Honestly, I usually watch them, then look around the dance floor – they can’t keep my attention the entire time.  But last night they sure did.  When I would look away for a second, it just wasn’t as interesting to me and I had to look back.  I hope they continue to do well and be recognized for their gorgeous dancing.  I feel so lucky to be learning from them.

Another bonus was watching some other excellent dancing including amateur International Ballroom which included a couple that dances out of Inna and Artem’s studio.  I got to cheer for Hans and Ans (not sure how it is spelled) and he even smiled which was fun since he is normally so serious.  They placed third.  Also, I got to watch Artem and Inna dance, which is always a joy, and they also placed third in the open professional International Standard competition.

After the competition ended, there was a fantastic and fun professional show to watch and even better was when the judges, who had been so seriously evaluating us all weekend, busted a move themselves.  It was fantastic and involved many odd couples, including boy-boy couples.  It was absolutely darling and so much fun.  Then, after that, they had a “breakfast under the stars” where they served breakfast foods outside.  It was yummy, and meant more hysterical laughter and fun.  Ivan poured ice water down my front and back.  Yeah, thanks you crazy Bulgarian!  I love you!

So, my gosh…what more could I want from this past weekend?  Yes, as someone mentioned in one of the comments, a competition is a roller coaster.  I’m glad I stayed on for the entire ride, and as you can tell, it all ended well.  I’m quite motivated and ready to make some decisions about where I want my dancing to go, specifically, in the next 2 months before Galaxy, and beyond.  I’m ready to grow, work, change.  I treasure my time with my friends, and love seeing amazing dancing.  I got recognized, in many ways, I met new friends, and gosh, I’m just toast!  Time to recuperate before work tomorrow….and a dance lesson ASAP!  LOL