Dance Party at Dance Starz!

It is exciting to me to see my dancing community thriving.

I’m not kidding.

I love dancing and I think everyone should do it.

So, it makes sense that I am genuinely pleased for owner Bill Jones who has opened an independent studio called Dance Starz (I’ve written about it in some of my blog posts) because last night I had the pleasure of seeing first-hand what creating a safe, welcoming, encouraging, and comfortable dance space can do.

The place was hopping!

Before I get any further, I want to write a disclaimer:

1) In no way did anyone ask me to write this post

2) In no way did I receive any monetary or other form of compensation for this post

I want to clarify this point, up front, because the following is an unabashed, happy, fully supportive description of a place I have been.  I say what I say because I believe it or experience it.  Period.

I think many websites could be suspect because of commercial sponsorship.  This is neither good or bad, right or wrong, it is just that I have no obligation to write what I write heretofore except that I desire to.  That, in and of itself, should be compelling evidence.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I am open to the possibility of making some money to pay for my lessons, and dress, and diet, and competitions through this blog someday.  But today is not that day.

Whew!  Glad we are all clear.

Okay, so now let’s get on with business.  Now that the disclaimer has been satisfied, allow me to continue with my evening….like a normal blogger!

I arrived at Dance Starz, too late to make the “Sassy Cabaret” group class, but too early for the open dance party.  But this was no problem – I felt comfortable enough to lounge.  I perched on one of the striped chairs at the front of the studio and drank in my surroundings.  The studio is bright and clean.  It even boasts a chandelier and a mirrored disco ball.  (Okay, maybe I’m a dorkus maximus, but I think this is cool…a person can go from Foxtrot to Cha Cha in one second).  It’s a subtle hint that the space is inclusive for all types of dancers.  Also importantly, the staff is very welcoming, and Bill alone has over 25 years in the dance business industry, not to mention he competed professionally!  He has made sure to hire some top-notch instructors and has recently welcomed a few more because of the increased volume of dance students inundating the studio.

In any case, during this particular night, I looked out onto the floor to see that there were about five couples and their instructors working.  Some were learning the Waltz, others Salsa.  There were younger couples and sexagenerians.  It may have even been a first lesson for some people.  But the point is, there was a place for every type of person, every type of dancer and it was fun to watch.

Since Bill has opened his doors the stream of dancers has flooded in.  He kicked things off with a Grand Opening hosted by Mary Murphy from So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD).  The place was packed for the entire day while staff instructors led classes in Hip Hop, Zumba, Modern, and Salsa dancing.  One lucky attendant even got to eat dinner with Ms. Murphy!

In any case, I came last night and since I was early Bill came over to have a chat.  Where else do you get personal attention from the owner of a dance studio?  This is when I learned a little more about his history and expertise, which I have happily been able to share with you, dear reader.

But finally it was time for the dance party.  My trusty friend Randall arrived and threw on his shoes.  Joe (you can read about him on the website for Dance Starz) led a little warm-up exercise teaching us the start to a Country Western Line Dance.  Then the music changed and we did a Waltz mixer.  I got to dance with a bunch of different partners and meet some friendly people.  I hope to see them again and even more new faces at future parties.  Then came open dancing.  The music was great and the atmosphere comfortable and non-threatening, even for a beginner.  All-in-all it was a very fun night.

To me, this is what dancing is about.  Well, being a competitive dancer is another part (if people choose to participate that way) but being a good social dancer is a very valuable skill.  It is fun and good for you to just dance for the heck of dancing, without concern for technique or being judged, or doing anything other than simply dancing and connecting with another human being.  It is also is a way to meet a lot of different and interesting people…I mean, the most interesting people I know in my life are dancers.  And finally, having a party like the one hosted by this a dance studio is a much more comfortable environment than say a bar or club because generally people are there for the dancing, not for picking someone up.

Even though I was really sad to lose Ivan for a month when he went to Bulgaria to get married, one of the wonderful blessings to have found Dance Starz studio.  Can you understand why I wrote the disclaimer at the beginning of this post?!

If you want to learn more about this studio, you can visit their website at:

Go Eat Some McDonalds!

Wednesday, December 28th, 2011

Allegre Studio

Private Lesson With Ivan

I don’t always know what I am getting myself into when I say yes to opportunities that come my way. Today was the first day I felt bona fide fear course through my body on a dance lesson. You see, because Ivan and I sometimes practice out of Dance Starz Az ( and because I take some group lessons at the studio, there is a possibility that I may be able to participate in an upcomming showcase. For those of you who don’t know, (I didn’t), a showcase is like a recital. Performers can dance to any song they like and add tricks and creative choreography.

Now, I have yet to participate in a showcase performing a solo number. In fact, the last time I was on stage was probably in high school in a production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. So I’m excited. Especially because Ivan let me pick the song I wanted.

I am totally into Latin Rumba right now so I picked Volveras by Gloria Estefan. It is a sad song and I love it right now, for whatever reason. I have never claimed to understand myself!

Realistically, I’m thinking we will do pretty much just dancing because you don’t do lifts with girls my size unless you want a hernia. But Ivan starts in right away with all sorts of tricks and I’m totally out of my comfort zone. I know Ivan is strong and all, but can he really support all this weight? I am scared to find out.

The first move isn’t so bad, kind of a develope’ kick up in the air. Then another move where I lean a little and put my back leg in attitude around his hips. I’ve seen similar moves on Dancing With The Stars (forever to be known as DWTS from now on in this blog). I’m mostly on my own feet and feel pretty comfortable and on balance with a little assist from Ivan serving as my barre.

But then he really gets going. He wants me to plie with my legs in a parallel position and squirm up back onto straight lets. This is a no go – I’ll need to strengthen my legs with some serious squats before I can master this maneuver. Then he tries a half-split thing, encouraging me to put 75% of my weight onto his arms and he will attempt to spin around. Fail.

Then my heart really gets pumping. He’s gonna attempt to drag me. I’m to push down on his shoulders and he wants to drag me using no arms. We manage with one arm and I’m super impressed. I didn’t even think this kind of thing was possible at my size right now. Props to Ivan for trying all this stuff.

Then a dip. I’m to keep my legs straight and he rests me on his bent knee. Holy crap! I’m scared. How is he holding me up?

He doesn’t stop there. The scariest one for me is one in which I lean to the side, he is supporting pretty much all of my weight and I’m to develope’ and reach outward away from him.

Finally, he’s had enough. I did not know agreeing to work on a showcase number meant I’d be bent into a pretzel and risk Ivan throwing out his back! It just isn’t prudent, or so I thought, at my size.

Whew! I survived! Thanks again, Ivan, for busting through some of my self-imposed limitations. Again, I do not know what is possible and what is not. We discovered some moves that worked, others that don’t right now, but we’d not have discovered any if Ivan and I hadn’t been willing to try. I seriously thought he was crazy…but who’s the crazier one? I followed!

But now Ivan is having me count Rumba and Cha Cha. My brain is about to explode. It is really hard for me to put verbal skills together with dancing. At one point I count two, four (instead of two, three, four) and Ivan accuses me of indulging in some vodka this morning. No, Ivan. Really, my brain just becomes mush trying to talk and dance at the same time.

But it is really a good exercise. I so need to start being aware of when to move, when to pause, when I’m rushing, when to accent the movement. For instance, I am rushing on four and one counts and moving sluggishly on the two count in Rumba. I am hitting two and four hard in Cha Cha, instead of punching beats one and three with pizzaz. Ay yai yai! I totally see how I count affects how I move and also how I breathe. Again, lack of cardiovascular conditioning is not my friend. I am so winded and I hate it. When will this stop being such a burden?

“Oh, Ivan. I am so ready to feel better when dancing. I can’t wait to drop some serious weight and make this easier on myself. The cardiovascular conditioning is killing me.”

But I’m saying this just after doing a Samba. I gotta say it – I have some great hip movement, yes I do! So I’m doing this move, really dancing it, and Ivan is like, “Wow.”

He then said something unexpected.

“I thinking about this. I actually prefer you big. I see you everyday moving like this. Just imagine how other people will see it. I thinking you no need to lose weight. Yes, it not possible to do the lifts and all this, but that’s okay. You can lose the weight, you gonna be skinny. Better the people see you move like this now. They thinking, all the other peoples is skinny but they not moving like her. Let them see you now. In fact, go to McDonalds! You can spend a lot of time and energy and money to learning dancing and never move like you do. But this moving is you.”

Am I like the luckiest ballroom student, ever? I get to dance and go to McDonalds! Just kidding. But wow, what recognition of me as a dancer, no matter how I am packaged in the moment, and from someone who I think is the bee’s knees, in terms of both being an excellent dancer and human being. It means so much to me.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m so over the idea of staying fat just so people might possibly be impressed by how I move. It is unhealthy and I hate the way it feels. It is beyond time to change. I am happy to report that I am right back on plan after Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I’m also thinking about ways to intensify and augment my cardiovascular exercise as well as some weight training. The goal for January is to be 20 pounds (or more) lighter. And, update, I am down another 2.8 pounds since December 20th, current weight 265.5. Not bad for the holidays.

And…just like Linda Dean said, I have to know I am fabulous right now. So thanks, Ivan, but no McDonalds for me. I have plans of doing that split-spin-lift-thing someday, and sooner rather than later!