Haresva Mi, Focus, and Hup!!!

I know, what a weird title.  Well, 1) the English phonetic verision of Bulgarian words looks funny 2) I’m combining a mish-mash of experiences including some awareness about focus, and 3) ballroom dancers make funny sounds like “Hup!” when we are dancing…or at least we are supposed to.

Okay, so part one:  Harvesa mi is my “English” translation of Bulgarian for “I like.”  You see, I’m trying to learn a little bit of this Slavic tongue.  Why? Partly because I like learning  about other languages.  Partly because Ivan and Marieta are always talking in Bulgarian and I’m insanely curious to know what they are saying.  Also because I have a real live Bulgarian with whom I can practice, and perhaps there is even a possibliity that one day I will visit the country.  Ivan’s parents are coming into town for a month over the holidays as is Marieta’s grandmother so I think it would be fun to be able to say a few things.  I’ve basically found some free podcasts on iTunes and have been listening, and then Ivan also augments my knowlege but usually only with wildly inappropriate things that I’d have to be very careful about saying in mixed company, so not very useful at all.


By Mariusz Pazdziora (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

In any case, I’m not even attempting to learn how to read the language.  First off, it uses a Cryllic alphabet which is super confusing to my brain, and secondly, I mostly just want to be able to understand it verbally and say a few things.  While at the cabin recently, we played Uno and I learned colors and numbers.  But it’s dang hard.  Not only does everything sound, well, very foreign, but also, everything gets modified depending on it’s context in a sentence.  So I learned “one” and I thought that was it, only to find out that “one” can be different depending on the word it is describing.  Like in Spanish, words can be either masculine or feminine in Bulgarian.  Dang.  But, I am really glad that I have experience understanding how to learn a foreign language.  It helps to be able to relate what I’m learning in Bulgarian to Spanish – like how to conguate verbs, and different forms that don’t exist in English like command forms or you formal versus you familar.  Anyways, I know hardly anything but I’m excited to learn.  Thus, the first part of this post.  Haresva mi Bulgarian – translates to I like Bulgarian.  I also learned how to command someone to dance with me.  If nothing else, that should come in handy!  Phoentically it goes:  Dan sue vai sman se ga, mol ya (Dance with me now, please!)

Alright, now on to the second part of the title: Focus.  I probably could have used some of that this morning on my early lesson.  Ivan and I are still working on open routines and we were re-visiting our Rumba.  We have finally gotten smart and I make Ivan do the routine while I video it once we are done because otherwise we forget what we did and it takes a while to reconstruct the routine – a waste of time.  In any case, we ended up working on this new move which I’m not to sure about, but well, nothing that even remotely resembles a trick is comfortable for me – like splits, or jumps, or leg extensions.  And I think I have some bad body positioning habits.  Honestly, I’m afraid in a lot of things and hold back in such  a way that throws me off-balance.  So yeah.  We were doing this thing where I turn 2 times then throw my left leg up backwards into an arabesque and Ivan’s supposed to catch it and then we do a dip and then run run and extend.  So, well, we practiced it a lot, and yeah, I got moderately better at it but it is still super awkward, and toward the end of the lesson on the running part I slipped.  I guess my body weight was back on my heel and the heel of my shoe slipped on a slick part of the floor, but it wouldn’t have if my body weight had been at the appropriate place.  I’m still figuring this out.  It has always been a challenge.  I remember marveling at how others seemed to so effortlessly be able to move and get to places on time in dances while I always felt I was making it there by the skin of my teeth.  Ah, well, more practice.  And more coaching with people who can see what I’m doing and help me fix it.

Well, tonight, I went to Inna’s class and we worked on Samba.  Tonight Inna upped the ante in a multitude of ways.  First, she taught a more complicated Samba routine with moves I’ve never done before.  Just learning it was a challenge, much less doing it with arms, doing it sharply.  Then, she wanted us to make faces.  Then she wanted us to make sounds!  Hup!  Ha!  Pah!  Cha!  Oh! Ew! Gerr!  Anything to express.  And, you know what else…it helps to focus.  Okay, out of order from the title but focus was the big takeaway for me today.  I had such an awareness, on another level about how important focus is, how much better I do when I really concentrate on what I am doing and hone in on my experience, and how much I still (I’ve known that I do this) focus, worry, think about the other people around me.  In a competition, this is not something I want to be doing.  Focus is paramount.  Inna was insistent that this was important practice, and I truly believe she is absolutely right.

We’ve done this exercise before in class and we did it again tonight.  Half the class did the combination and the other half tried to distract them.  It was pretty easy to distract many of my classmates. When it was my turn, I knew payback would be a bitch…but you know what, I decided I was going to do it, and I did probably the best I’d done all night remembering the combination and performing it.  Technique, well, that still leaves something to be desired.  And, you know what, when I was done the feedback from my friends was that I was a woman on a mission.  I will take it.

But seriously.  I worry so much what other people might think of me, it really distracts me from my objective.  Inna told us at the end of class that when she practices or is on a lesson or is at a competition, she is only focused on what she is doing, what she is working on.  I am going to take a note from this book.  Even just adding focus of where to look on one single dance move can transform it.  For instance, in the new Cha Cha with Ivan, we do this little step around each other and when I first learned it, I kind of didn’t know where to look so I just stared off in a vague direction.  Yesterday he told me I’m supposed to look at him.  Suddenly the step had meaning and focus.  This is an element of my dancing performance I’ve been lacking but now that I am more aware of it, and how truly important it is, you better believe I will be working on it….along with all the other myriad of issues!  It is never-ending, but I guess that is what keeps it interesting.

So there you go.  Haresva mi dancing, focus and hup!  Hopefully that made some kind of sense to you.  My brain is a little funny sometimes.

Oh, if anyone is going to Hollywood this weekend for the competition, please cheer for my favorite Bulgarian couple.  Ivan and Marieta will be competing.  I also believe it is streaming live if you want to watch online.

Until next time, do vish da ne (or caio).  That’s goodbye in Bulgarian.


The Drive To Be “Better”

After another hard class with Inna, and mulling over what to write on my 150th post, I am left meditating on where my drive to be “better” as a dancer comes from and what “better” even means to me.

Sergey Surkov and Melia Paso Doble

By Елена Зайчиковна (http://zaychikovna.livejournal.com/26720.html) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Class was tough but great and very sweaty.  We started with rumba then worked to samba then a few killer minutes of jive.  In the rumba, we did our normal rumba box, rumba walks, cucarachas,  and a quarter turn to change direction and begin the pattern again.  Inna, as always, was admonishing us to show the rhythm, be sharp, especially with our arms and also on the quarter turn.  Man, I was trying.  I really was.  I know my arms are a mess (the bain of my existence) and I was really trying to get that quarter turn to be crisp and sharp but it just wasn’t working.  Finally, during one portion I asked her.  Like, I know I should be doing this but I don’t know how to do this.  It turns out, one thing I am learning about the rumba especially, is that it is really important to take advantage of the wind-up to create quick movements.  By this I mean using the spine, twisting it like a corkscrew in the opposite direction that you want to move and the allowing it to uncoil to add that extra “snap” to the movement.  That, and also moving the side of the body going forward as one unit, not as hip, then upper body as a separate section.  It did make it easier to do the job, but again, it’s going to take some practice before I’m really comfortable doing it, or competent at it.

So, not only did I get some insight into how to actually execute the movement Inna was asking of us, but I also learned, after class, that I wasn’t the only one wondering how to do it.  My friend Lady Gaga has rejoined the fold and shared with me after class that she was wondering what to do too, that she was so glad I asked.

In the samba, Inna made us do bota fogos backwards.  Boy was that awkward.  Add in stupid arms, and it was quite a challenge.  But hey, awkward, and uncomfortable means I’m growing…right?

Finally, just a few minutes of jive.  Reality check.  So freaking hard, and my cardio is so poor, I have kind of decided I should just do the little combo she gave us once through every day.  Then I can work up to doing it  over time, repeating it one time more weekly, until I can easily do it for a minute straight.  Seriously, not my favorite dance.  A major reminder why being the size I am and in the poor shape I am doesn’t work very well for me.

And this brings me back to this idea of wanting to be better at dancing.  You know it is interesting.  At the end of class, Inna called out one of the students.  For a minute, I totally thought she was talking about me.  You see, she said, “You know, I couldn’t believe it.  Everyone was working so hard and one person was standing over here being lazy!”  I had done the jive as much as I could but the truth is it is beyond my capacity at the moment.  I did one round of it then had to rest for two rounds, then joined in for one round and so on as I was able.  It really got my heart rate up so high, I thought it might jump out of my throat onto the floor.  But the truth is, I gave up.  Yes, I have physical limitations, but could I have pushed more?  If I had, would I push myself into an asthma attack?  Should I have hung on for even 5 more seconds?  When is it enough and when should I push more?  Cause, like, physiologically the body doesn’t change until it is challenged hard core, stressed diferently and more intensely than usual.  So anyways, there were absolutely moments where I, too, was just standing there and it was all I could do to breathe.  But that’s not an excuse, not really.  It so totally wouldn’t have flown with my childhood dance teacher, not for one second.  No stopping allowed.  So I thought she was going to make me do the solo she had asked of this lazy student, after we had all stopped to be watched by everyone.  But I lucked out, she was talking about another student of hers.  She probably could call him out more than the rest of us because he is one of her long-time students.  But even more interesting is that I shared my fear that Inna had been talking about me after class with another friend and she replied that she totally thought Inna was talking to her!  She was praying, “Please don’t let it be me that has to do a solo,” while I had resigned myself to the embarrassment that was shortly to ensue.

But through it all, I’m watching.  I’m watching the other really good students.  I’m analyzing Inna.  I’m looking for what I can do to make my dancing better.  I really want to do this in the moment in the class and yet, why?  Where does this drive come from?  I’m not quite sure.  And also, what is my goal for my dancing?  I look at pros like at competitions, or Inna in class, or even on DWTS, and I’m not sure I could ever even achieve what they do.  Why do I compete?  Why do I even want to do this crazy thing?

I guess there doesn’t have to be a rational reason.  I just see beauty in it and athleticism and musicality and rhythm, and expression and I want to be that.  I aspire to be that.  But when do I get to go from the state of wanting to be these things, in other words, being in a state of lack, to being these things.  What does it take?  When will I know I have achieved them?

I have no answers tonight.  I’m in the question, as they say.  All I know, is that there are magic moments when dancing feels expansive, amazing, alive.  These authentic moments matter to me, right alongside proper foot placement and hip action and counts and all the technique in the world.  I think that is why I train, even in the shoddy capacity I do, and maybe this has something to do with the “why” behind wanting to be better.  I want to be “better” because it increases the possibility of these magic moments of synchronicity and flow happening.  And, you know what, for me, it’s worth it.

But I’m curious….what drives you to be “better?”  What does “better” look like for you?

Can You Be More Exotic?

Well folks, I’m chugging along and although my hip is mostly recovered, and I’m going to regular dance lessons for the past week, I guess I haven’t felt an urgent need to post about my adventures.  It’s not like I don’t have fun on my lessons, that I absolutely do, I guess I’ve simply felt somewhat drained and haven’t created the space and time to sit down and write.  I am beginning to think that sitting for 8 hours straight in front of a computer at work typing all day long may have something to do with it….insightful, I know.  It’s kind of like when I worked retail and the phone was always ringing, when I got home the last thing I wanted to do was to talk on the phone.  It’s something like that with sitting in front of a computer.  In fact, today after work I got so stir-crazy that I took my dogs for a walk around the neighborhood.  It was nice, but my hip felt sore and fatigued afterwards.  Alas!  Ibuprofen is my friend and I will be using her extensively tomorrow to make it through Inna’s class.

So well, hmmmmm.  The dilemma that comes after not writing regularly is where to begin.  What, of the events that have happened are interesting enough to share?  I guess the biggest thing going on in my dance-life is that Ivan and I are working on an open Cha Cha routine and I really, really like it.  Well, almost every part except for the splits that he’s planned smack dab in the middle of the dance.  It’s not that I can’t do the splits….weirdly, I am quite flexible in that area (not so much in my Achilles tendon which is why I sucked at plie and jumps in ballet), and so even though I haven’t intentionally stretched in a long time, I can still get down into the splits.   No, it’s not the actual splits that freak me out.   It’s the moment after I am on the ground.  It’s the getting back up.  Gracefully.  Um, yeah.  I’m skeptical that this can actually happen.  If I were smaller, that would help.  But Ivan is crazy and he’s going to have me doing this, I just know, way before I think I’m ready to tackle it.  He threatened me today….”The day is coming!!”  AHHHHH!

But besides this serious error in judgement on the part of the choreographer (Ahem, Ivan) I love this sassy little routine.  We have a little bit of everything including syncopation, slowing down, stopping, fast batucadas, and fun playful moves.  We both really enjoy the routine and are excited about it.  When and where it will be first performed, I have no idea.  I do know that it needs a LOT of practicing and polish, but the good thing is, I am again growing up as a ballroom dancer.  I am learning all the counts, and will be able to dance this entire routine by myself.  It feels awesome to know what I am (supposed to be) doing and to not have to rely on my leader to get me through.  In any case, it is starting to come together, and dancing it feels very good.

In the near future we will also start work on a samba routine.  We already have a rumba routine.  And that will be enough for a while on the open routines.  I will spend my time knowing the dances forwards and backwards by myself and improving the quality of my movements.  After all, I spent an entire year with Ivan doing Bronze and this was after a year or so of experience with other previous teachers.  I’m up for it especially after my experience at Galaxy.  Being so comfortable with the moves and dances that I didn’t have to think about them really helped me perform and I intend to free up that amount of mental energy with these dances as well.

Other than that, we have been working on the feedback received from the latest coaching we had with Debbie Avalos Kusumi.  That has been really wonderful as well.  I am liking the fan so much better and practicing my new way of doing it to get it into my muscle memory.  I’m also more aware of where I step on the Alemana, and focusing on bringing my knees together, rather than my feet.  In addition we are working on moving as a unit in connection.  Of course we always work on that, but this is in regards specific parts of the Latin Rumba where my arms go like spaghetti noodles for a fraction of a second and connection is lost.  And, this was quite exciting to me, Ivan actually helped me with a fix on a hip twist.  The man knows what to do, most of the time, but it was like being coached by Ron Montez or Debbie Avalos Kusumi.  He knew exactly what to say to get the right movement.  We both actually jumped up and down exclaiming, “Ivan!  You fixed it!” because it was so great.

In other news, Inna’s class was SO hard last week.  I mean, I knew it would be tough, because it always is, and especially since I had not gone for 3 weeks in a row while my hip was mending, but damn, it sucked so hard.  I feel like I was back in the first class I ever attended.  It’s going to take a bit to get back into even the little shape I was in.  But, oh well.  I will persevere.

And now for the title of this post.  While working on our cha cha, Ivan wanted to make the dance more interesting.  I was half marking the routine and half dancing it just because I am still unsure about the sequence of events sometimes, so I know my face was blank but Ivan wasn’t going to let it slide.  “Can’t you do this……be more……exotic?”

I immediately thought of a Bird of Paradise Flower and Mai Tais.

Exotic Flowers in Balcony

By Swaminathan [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

“Where this word come from?”  Ivan asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied.

“Well, maybe this not the word.  What this mean, exotic?  Like more how a person is looking?”

“Well, Ivan, there is exotic dancing….which is basically stripping.”

“Oh my God!”  Ivan covered his mouth as he giggled.

Thankfully, Ivan doesn’t want me to do exotic dancing in the routine (no just the damn splits), though he does often tell me I am to demure and virginal and that, (not in so many words) I need to channel my inner whore.  I’m not really sure I have one of those, but there’s no telling Ivan that.  And so the saga continues.

Up next, Inna’s class tomorrow night for more torture.

Until next time, Stef

Repetition, Connection, and Inna’s Gonna Be Back

Well sheesh.

Hello there neglected blog and readers.  It’s me, Stefanie.  Your reprobate blogger.

Do I have an excuse for the paucity of my blog posts?  Not really.  I just kind of lost some momentum after Desert Classic and getting injured.  I was off dancing for about 3 weeks, and now I’m back, but its a struggle.  I expected as much, knowing how hard the first class back after being off just even one week when I was at my peak as a dancer.  And now off three, up 5 pounds, and with lingering hip issues.  Happily the weird dizzy thing finally faded away but I’m still not feeling at my best.  Plus, I only had like two lessons last week and Ivan and Marieta were away competing this weekend, so I missed my double lesson for the week.

I did go back to Inna’s class but she was with Artem in England.  I don’t know if they were taking coachings or competing, but honestly it was a mixed blessing she was gone.  They recently lowered the price for the advanced Latin class which means there are more people in the class which is kind of exciting.  Last week Igor took over.  He’s a great instructor and knows his technique, but there is just something about the way Inna conducts a class.  She really pours herself into it and basically demands only the very best for all students.  She will cajole you into working your arms, hanging on and pushing through for an extra 10 seconds, and brings focus and intensity to your performance.  So anyways, it was Igor teaching class and I’ll admit it, I wasn’t at my best.  I wasn’t pushing it as hard as I could, but then again, it sure felt like it.  I was so winded, and I just didn’t have any energy through my muscles.  It was brutal.  So anyways, everyone in class seemed a little pooped and at one point Igor even said, “He you guys, next week Inna will be back!  She will not like to see your arms like that!  You have to push yourselves 100%, 100% of the time.”  I knew he was exactly on target, and I was also glad that my first week back I was able to slack off a little bit just because my physical conditioning has deteriorated with all the time off.

One highlight of the past week was that I had a coaching with Debbie Avalos-Kusumi.  First off, she is absolutely darling, probably as tall as my mom, about 5 foot nothing, and has this vibrant, kind, lovely personality.  We worked on Latin Rumba.  Always a good place to start.  I feel so blessed to get to interact with people like Debbie and Ron Montez.  Both just know what it is I need to do to change the picture I am creating with my dancing.  It is absolutely amazing and I generally walk away with an improved understanding of certain steps.

Probably the biggest point she mentioned was that I was allowing my energy to “go out the back door” like on the fan where I would sit into my hip and get a little stuck rather than using the fan to set me up to move forward, keeping my energy moving ahead.  Basically using every step to set up the next.

Another realization was that legs are straight on the count and bent on the and.  This should have been already in my knowledge database but you know, I am really just now, after about 2 years of doing bronze level, really coming to know the proper counts for steps.  It honestly was just a little too much information in the past, but now, I’m ready for it, hungry for the details.  I know fully knowing these points will set my dancing apart.

I also realized on a new level how I am so concerned with what I am thinking, getting so lost in my own experience of what I think I need to do, that I am unavailable in the connection.  It is a point in my dancing I’ve mentioned about a million times before, and I probably will mention a million times again.

I basically have a thought about this dancing thing which is I am willing to repeat, repeat, repeat the same movements and routines over and over and over because in doing so, I discover them more deeply.  I discover nuances within them.  I come to greater understanding of the mechanics involved, and more importantly, the relationship in the step.  Indeed, in the Latin Rumba, the steps only really make sense when my body is in a certain relationship to my partner’s.

In any case, it is going to take many more hours of practice and repetition to translate what I learned and understand in my head into my body muscle memory.  It’s gonna feel weird for a while, but ultimately, so much better, so much more on balance and connected, which is the reason I love ballroom dancing in particular.

So I need to get my butt in gear.  Get back to the gym in the mornings, get back on the eating plan, and get in more lessons with my instructor.  But I have to admit, I feel a little drag pulling on me.  You see, in my other life, my work life, it’s been a tough ride the past few years.  Basically right now I have an awesome position as a temp doing a job I enjoy pretty well with sane and regular hours which I really appreciate, and at a pay rate for which I am eternally grateful.  Without this position there is no way I would have been able to dance as much as I have, afford coachings, participate in the Desert Classic competition, and have a new dress to wear during it.  The only problem is, it is not a permanent position with the company.  The contract did get renewed for another 6 months so thank you and Hallelujah…and, what will I do once the time runs out?  Well, I’m being proactive.  I applied for a full-time position but didn’t get it, and I’m applying for some other job opportunities as well.  But the uncertainty, I find it uncomfortable and a bit stressful.  I really value security, especially when having a stable job is what allows me to afford to do what I love.  In any case, I feel that my energy is a bit scattered.  I’m expending some energies performing the job I currently do, which requires an enormous amount of mental concentration as well as 70 miles of driving 5 days of the week.  I’m also expending another portion of energy to explore other job opportunities.  This means my reserves feel a little depleted when it comes to creating time for physical activity, dancing, diet.  Wah boo.  I have just as many hours in a day as everyone else, I know, I know.  I’m just acknowledging that it feels a bit like I’m pulling a heavy load behind me.  Yes, if this is my biggest complaint, I am living a charmed and blessed life.  I acknowledge that.  I also acknowledge the part of me that is tired, and feeling a bit down.  I’m missing some my normal spark and passion.  It will be good for me to go get my butt kicked by Inna tomorrow night and I will need to schedule a lesson with Ivan soon.  Honestly, I’m just looking forward to making it through to tomorrow night at this point.  That, and a trip to Disneyland in the near future for a much-needed fun get-away, and taking my 3-and-a-half-year-old niece to The Nutcracker, just me and her which will be so special.

Alrighty, I also pledge to get back to my topical series.  What burning questions do you have about ballroom dancing?  Is there anything you’d be interested to know?

That’s the scoop.  Hopefully I’ll have something exciting to write after class tomorrow.

XOXO, Stef

She’s Alive!!!!

Like a dog you’ve left all day at home, blogs are nice because they will also be there when you come back to them, after being neglected, ready to do your bidding and welcoming you with open arms.  Well, I don’t know that my blog particularly cares if I write on it or not, at least not in the jumping up and down, whiney, excited way my puppies do when I come home from work, but I’ll take it.  I will say that the blog has been beckoning to me in quiet moments in a low whisper calling me to return.  And return I have, at least for this much belated post.

So what’s been going on?  Mainly I injured my hip during the second heat of the Galaxy Competition and the proceeded to dance on it as hard as I could using ibuprofen and will power to make it through.  I mean, my family was there, and I wasn’t about to let a little pain get in my way.  I figured I’d have to rest it a bit after the competition, but I was thinking a few days or a week at the most, but the truth is, it is still not 100%.  It has gotten better, and I’m no longer limping like I was, and I’ve committed to stretching and warming up prior to dancing in the future, both on lessons and during a competition.  You know, sometimes gaining a little wisdom is a costly process.

In any case, this has prevented me from dancing a lot.  Combined with Ivan going to Hawaii for a week, I’ve gained some weight back (5 pounds) and I haven’t been to Inna’s class in 3 weeks.  I’m actually really itching to get back in the gym in the mornings to do cardio and get back on target with my health goals.  But then two days ago, I began experiencing some weird dizziness/vertigo symptoms.  They have persisted for two days, today being the third day.  I had a lesson yesterday, my first one back in a while, and had intended to do a double but ended up only doing a single because I was dizzy and it’s hard to dance when you feel light-headed.

So that’s all kind of bummer news, I suppose.  But I have faith that I will soon recover fully and will get back on target.

In good news, I was able to get enough physical therapy and take enough ibuprofen to show up for a coaching session with Ron Montez after the competition which was beneficial because he was one of judges at Galaxy and had seen me dancing all weekend.  He had extremely valuable feedback for me and I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to work with him.  He is such a master!  He knows these little tweaks in body position or direction that make all the difference.  I will have to practice what he mentioned but it instantly improved the quality of my technique and I made sure to write down all the pointers right after the session because I knew I wouldn’t remember everything if I didn’t, especially knowing that I would probably not be dancing for a while to get it into my muscle memory because my hip was injured.

And looking to the future, I’m considering a competition in February.  This would give me time to recover, lose some more weight, and most importantly, work on some open routines in Cha Cha and Samba.  This is a development I’m excited about.  Ivan and I have been dancing for a little over a year now and this entire time we really focused on Bronze level syllabus steps.  This made me feel extremely comfortable with the steps and allowed me to perform more, relax, and enjoy my experience at Galaxy.  But, I can’t lie, doing the same routines over and over and over, though beneficial in some ways, can become stagnant in others.  So to go to the next level, we will be working on silver level moves and open routines in two of my strongest dances.  I’m excited.

And yesterday, even with all the hip problems and vertigo, we did work a little on finding some steps for an open Cha Cha routine.  Ivan’s process is pretty funny.  He sees something in his head, doesn’t bother to explain it or show it to me, then just tries to have us dance it, and for about 80% of the time I have no idea what he is envisioning.  But one thing that comes from this is creativity and spontaneity.  For instance, Ivan did this one move and I was like, “Oh, I really like that.”  And then I just did the next move that seemed right to me and he and I both loved it.  In fact, he got goosebumps!  It isn’t planned, it comes from playing around, and hitting on something that works and then building upon that.  We decided that this was our particular move, that we should like trademark it or something (ha ha).  But the thing that was fun and exciting about it, although simple, is that it is not what is typically expected.  I van demonstrated 3 or 4 movements that typically follow the move, the ones you’d expect to see, but we were writing our own story, and it felt very fun and cheeky and good.

So, anyways, I’m still alive and kicking.  It seemed like a good post title, especially in light of Halloween being right around the corner.  And hopefully I will have more to write about my dancing adventures in the near future.

Until then, Stef

Bad Dances? WTF?

This is actually just a short aside…

I get on the floor to dance with Mr. Ivan and he says “We have bad dances.”

“What?” I respond.

“We have bad dances.”

“Okay.  Well, I thought we were doing pretty well here so far.  I’ve felt good.”

“No!  We have BAT dances!”

“Um okay.  Cha cha is starting!”

“Shit!” I think.  It’s been such a fun and relaxed and good competition from my perspective.  Why is my instructor now telling me I did poorly?!  I feel like this is the best we have done so far.  GRRRR!  But guess what?  We have to dance.  Suck it up and make it work.  Go!

We have this conversation in the 20 seconds prior to a dance round.

“Oh, I sorry!  Bat (or as my American ears hear it “Bad”) means 5 in Bulgarian.”

My internal dialogue:  Shit?! Really?!  You stinking bastard?!?  Are you kidding me?!  Really?  You actually now just did this to me!  You knew “very well” – a phrase you utilize often with me – you knew “very well” what Bat or Bad or whatever sounds like in freakin’ English…you knew very well it means bad, poor, not good…  You suck!  Hardcore.  Bat?!  Bad?!  WTH?!?!?!

On the outside, however, I graciously say, “Oh!  Thanks for explaining that.  We have 5 dances in a row.  Great!  I am so happy that I get to dance them with you!



Can you relate?  Please share!!!

Where To Begin? Galaxy Dance Festival

Oh man.  The past four days have been amazingly special.  Quite a shift from my last competition, and I’m so grateful.  I don’t think it is actually possible to jam everything that happened in one blog post, and I’m pretty certain I will have lots to ponder and process over the next few days.  I’m sure many of the experiences will continue to leak into future blog posts.  I will just try to put some of the main highlights here for now.

First, I was way more relaxed at this competition.  Not having the pressure of a scholarship really worked for me.  I was able to enjoy what I was doing, and I think that made all the difference.  I feel like I really “got noticed” this time around.  I absolutely had more confidence and this allowed me to connect with the audience, and even some of the judges.  For instance, I got a smirk out of Tony Meredith.  I got Toni Redpath to totally crack up.  I got people in the audience to cheer and clap for me even if they weren’t a friend who knew me.  I achieved my goal for this competition in spades.

I was even able to find the confidence to pull off touching Ivan’s butt during one Rumba – something we had discussed prior to the competition which we thought would be awesome.  And it was.  And my friend Randall even got it on video!  This is what got Toni Redpath to bust up laughing.  I rock!

I strained something in my hip on the second heat which sucked.  Thanks to ibuprofen and not wanting to miss out on anything, I pushed through, even after re-tweaking it again during Latin rounds.  But my family surprised me, and that was so awesome.  My parents were traveling but my husband and mother-in-law and my brother and sister-in-law and my 4-year-old niece and 2-year-old nephew came to see me dance.  It was unexpected and so special to get to share some of my dancing with them.  Now I just need to lay low for a few days to allow my hip to recover.

One of the moments I will treasure forever was Debbie Avalos Kusumi telling me that she enjoyed watching me dance and that she could feel me through my dancing.  God, isn’t that the best compliment you could ever get?  It really made my day.  But poor Ivan, he was jokingly sad that everyone said things about his students, but not him.  Well, really they were complimenting him too because he was the one who worked with us to create the performance.

I had so much fun watching my friends and acquaintances dance, watching the pros dance, just hanging out with Ivan and Marieta which is always very entertaining and full of laughter, chilling with my bud Randall, making new friends, and more it was a delightful break from reality and I love feeling so connected to the wacky world of ballroom.

Today was special as well.  After the competition the event organizers had an American style congress with some of the top teachers and coaches in the American Rhythm and Smooth styles.  I was frankly shocked at how few people attended because from my perspective it was an amazing opportunity to learn.  And I’m so glad I went because boy was it fun!  Especially the lectures by Ron Montez, Toni Redpath, and Bob Powers.  I’m sure I’ll write more about that in a later post, but I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to learn from these greats!

I’ll share more once I’ve had a chance to rest a bit.  Thanks for all the well-wishes and support.  I had a fantastic experience and am even more fired-up to work diligently toward my dancing and body goals.  I refuse to settle when I now have confidence in my dancing abilities and confidence that I can work to improve the technique toward excellence.  Hey, I’m a work in progress, you know?  My dancing nor my appearance aren’t where I would like it to be, but I’m proud of putting myself out there again and proud that I was able to loosen up and enjoy the dancing.

To be continued….