I’m Baaaaaaaack!

Did you miss me?

Well, this will be a short one (for me)! There will probably be more to come after I debrief with Ivan tomorrow morning about Desert Classic and after my husband (finally) manages to send me the photos and videos he took.

So here’s the quick update about my most recent competition:

First, I had a new dress made.


I know it is not the best picture but you can get an idea of the bright colors. That’s right….color! And I actually liked the color combo on the floor from the pictures I’ve seen so far.

What I didn’t like was my big belly. And the fact that my big belly wasn’t smoothed out/hidden with draping or ruching. I didn’t see the final product until the day before the competition so it was like, well, this is what it is and it is either wear it or don’t because there really isn’t time to fix it. I think it will look so much better on me with a flatter stomach but that was not to be on Thursday.

Thursday was Latin and I danced very inconsistently. I got marks all over the place but didn’t make the final from a semi final with 14 couples in the Latin closed bronze A scholarship. So I was kinda bummed about that but even more bummed that I was feeling really exhausted, had some balance issues, and felt like Ivan and I were pushing and pulling each other all over the floor. Basically that means I wasn’t “moving my ass” like I need to and because I’m late he tries to help to get me where I need to go which creates resistance in our hold and then, paradoxically, I move even less and also get more exhausted. It is a vicious cycle and totally sucks. So I wasn’t over my feet or moving fast enough and this caused a chain reaction which compounded the problem. And it meant Ivan was kinda disappointed in my performance because we both knew I was off and have the potential to do better. So boo! Thursday was not my best day.

And wouldn’t you know it – I did best in stupid Jive again! I hate that dance in terms of the cardio it requires but somehow, even though I only know like 3 figures, and we like never practice it, that is the dance I placed best in most consistently. Go figure! lol.

But still, there are always learning opportunities just from participating. I realized how little I had mentally prepared for the competition. I realized, in hindsight, the importance of putting energy into getting myself into a strong frame of mind before stepping on the floor. I became more aware of things I wish to improve and work on, and I also became more clear on how I wish to direct my physical fitness training in the near future.

Because I’m done with not feeling awesome about myself when I step on the ballroom floor. I don’t want to put myself through this anymore. I must change dramatically. Period. It takes a lot of energy, strength, and confidence, to really dance, and I just couldn’t muster it about myself on Thursday, especially when I was so aware of my large belly and arms. I mean, I felt like I kept myself under control in a pretty good to neutral energy, but my lack of confidence gnawed at the back of my mind. I was aware of it on some level and when I saw a picture my husband took of me from the back, I looked as large as a male trucker. Yuck! I’m over it.

It is too hard to have so much shame about how I look, to not feel feminine or pretty, and to get out on a dance floor and pretend like I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread. I’m not, and a I can’t fake it. Frankly, I find it off-putting when people think they are too cool for school so I have reservations about being or acting like that. You know, I feel like my authenticity and emotionality are some of my greatest strengths as well as weaknesses. It is why people can “feel” me when I am dancing, and why, I think, they connect with me. So when I’m feeling good and strong, it is really great. But it also means I can’t fool anybody when I’m feeling down about myself and my body. There is no question in my mind that how I feel about my body affects how I show up in dancing…and in life. And it is not my best. So I’m waiting to hear the verdict from Ivan because I know he mentally stockpiled a bunch of feedback for me about the competition and we have a lesson tomorrow. Also, I’m contemplating not doing another competition for a while, though the next one on my radar is Galaxy here locally and local comps are harder to say no to. It is in September so I think I will wait and see how I’m feeling about it at the end of August and make a decision at that time. Because it isn’t okay with me just to go through the motions and to dance just because….it is important to me to have purpose and meaning in my dancing and I wasn’t able to generate that as strongly as I did for previous competitions. I attribute this to my lack of consistent, significant progress toward my weight loss goals and the subsequent feelings of lower self-esteem thus created.

So anyways, more to come about what’s next, but Thursday was kinda blah. Friday was a day to rest, regather myself, and recuperate. My husband was along for the trip and we joined Ivan and Marieta for a little jaunt up to the top of a nearby mountain, 9000 feet high, where the temperature was a lovely 62 degrees. We got there by riding in an air tram that spun 360 degrees while traveling upwards on steel cables for 10 minutes. It was a fun and delightful day.

Saturday was Rhythm. There was more competition in terms of number of couples in my division in Latin than in American Rhythm, but I think there was maybe more chaos in the ballroom because there were tv crews filming for two separate shows in the ballroom. It is going to be very interesting to watch both shows as I personally know some of the people they are following for the one to be on TLC, and I have come to meet some of the people to be featured on the other show, I think for the A & E channel. I had to sign a release because they had me in one of the frames dancing in the background while they were filming one of their main protagonists so you may also see me on tv some time soon ha ha ha!

In any case, I did much better in American Rhythm, basically placing first in most heats and winning the scholarship round from a 7 couple final (no semi final). Also, and more importantly, Ivan felt my energy was better and I felt stronger as well. We were not pushing and pulling too much through the frame and I was more on my own feet. Well, this was after we had a bit of a come-to-Jesus meeting after he had let go of me, releasing me completely from the frame, multiple times on the floor, in front of the judges, so I would get the point about hanging on him, pushing to hard, relying on him for my balance, and all that, but also so that I could have easily fallen on my ass. Don’t get me wrong, it’s FANTASTIC kinestetic feedback. I’d welcome it on a lesson. But please don’t let me get away with things on lessons repeatedly and then do this on the floor when it counts!?! I was miffed! Anyways, we worked through it, which is the most important thing, I suppose, and I ended up with fantastic results. As Felipe Telona Jr. jibed me, “You should have brought a broom!” and, “I’m glad you are leaving now so the rest of us have a chance!”


When I got off the floor and my husband took this picture he was like, “And you won an…..envelope?!” It contained a check, silly! Double what I got for People’s Choice, which was very nice – the equivalent of a few more lessons, because, yeah, all money gets converted to the equivalent number of dance lessons in my brain. ūüôā

So I still managed to make it into the top 20 students, which surprised me with as few heats as I did, and so did Ivan’s other student, plus he was 7th place top teacher with the 2 of us, and he and Marieta placed 3rd in Pro Open Am Rhythm, second only to Emannuel and Liana and Yuki Haraguchi and her new partner.

Best of all, no injuries, I’m not exhausted, and I had the energy today to go to ballet class after work plus I went to the grocery store to replace all my perishables and pulled out the items I’d prepared last week from the freezer, which is to say that I’m baaaaaack! Back to my eating plan, and getting my fitness plan in gear, and right back into my normal activities. I didn’t run myself into the ground this time so I won’t need a week to recuperate like I did after People’s Choice.

Alright – gotta get to bed! TTFN!


Because Life Is More Fun With A Scarf

Well folks, the journey continues.

Perhaps you have seen on the Facebook Page for the blog that I have joined a gym (Hint, Hint.¬† Go¬†“like” it and add¬†it to your news feed if you haven’t already.¬† I post “bonus”¬†material there and it’s another way to interact!).

Anyways, enough with the plug….

The story is that I can say with complete integrity that I have been focused and determined on my weight¬†release project since we last chatted.¬† What this means is that I’ve been eating on my plan (The Stax¬†plan created by Chris Powell, the guy behind Extreme Makeover, who¬†is from Arizona where¬†I live and¬†knew my old trainer),¬† and I’ve been going to the gym in the morning to do 45 or more minutes of cardio at 6 am in the morning or a lesson with Ivan at¬†6:30 am, and then doing dance classes in the evenings after work.¬† Monday it was a stretch and tone class, Tuesdays I go to Inna’s¬†kick butt class, Wednesdays it’s Belly Dancing and “Glee Cardio” which is really fun.¬† Tonight I have off, tomorrow, Ivan in the morning and then I’m meeting my friend Ivonne for some¬†Lindy Hop and Swing.¬† The goal is to sweat and move and be active in lots of ways that challenge my body in lots of different ways.

And, yes, it is creating results.¬† I’m officially below 260 pounds.¬† My¬†current short-term¬†goal is to be at 250 or less by August 3rd.¬† (I find that setting goals is very important¬†for me and I’m going to break it down into bite-sized pieces!)¬† Now, the deal is, how fast this all happens is up to my body.¬† I’m still going to set goals and do what is in my power to reach them.¬† And,¬†my main focus is to keep on the plan, do what¬†I’m supposed to do, and be kind to myself.¬† And….it is a slow process.¬† As much as I expect my body to be transformed every morning when I awake, alas, it is not.¬† I’m in it for the long haul.

So, I’m committed.¬† For realsies.¬† Like no kidding.

sweat is my fat crying

This is my “drastic” action, as encouraged by Ivan to take on.¬† So I’m taking it on.¬† With help!¬† I have a work-out buddy for the gym, and am making new friends at the dance studio, and I’m getting lots of moral support here through the blog.¬† Thank you!¬† I need it!¬† I accept it!¬† I receive it!

Okay.¬† So I’m doing all this and I’m committed and it’s not all peaches and cream.¬† It’s emotional.¬† Just ask my husband!¬† Just ask Ivan!

Like, there is a reason why I got so big and fat.¬† There’s a lot of stuff that’s going to come up as a result of changing my body, and my life.¬† There will be tears.¬† And maybe even rages.¬† And it’s hard to weather sometimes.

Here’s what happened on Wednesday:

I showed up for my lesson with Ivan.¬† After our delightful lesson this past weekend, I was not expecting what happened.¬† First, we watched my videos from the Desert Classic together.¬† I don’t know about you, but I have always had a difficult time watching myself dancing on video…heck, I’ve had a hard time just seeing myself in a picture, so seeing my dancing, something that means so much to me, is especially difficult.¬† Anyways, there were issues, as there always is, and that is fine because it can be used as a tool for course correction.¬† For instance, my feet were super slow on the Cha Cha….Now I know that is something to really work on.¬† Also, We were “hopping” a bit in the Latin dances.¬† This is a reminder to be grounded and push into the floor.¬† So good visual feedback, I’m okay with this.

Also, Ivan said that the videos were better than he expected.¬† So this is happy news.¬† He said our upper bodies, and facial expression were good and strong.¬† Yes the arm styling is still an issue that plagues me, yes, there are imperfections, but overall, I did well from a dancing standpoint from my instructor’s perspective.

But it brought up so much emotion for me.¬† We’ve really been working on me knowing what I’m supposed to be doing in detail.¬† Knowing the dances without Ivan so I can practice them alone.¬† Knowing the exact count of each move.¬† I am being held to a higher standard and I love it.¬† My ego hates it!¬† But I love it.¬† And I know that Ivan is calling me to a new level so it’s time to grow and that isn’t always easy/fun/fast.¬† It will take work and focus and dedication.¬† Great!¬† And, my lessons feel so different than they did just two weeks ago.¬† I’m going to have to adjust a bit.

So, lots going on.¬† Combine that with a subconscious fear that Ivan’s going to bail on me (I lost my last two instructors right after competitions), and him realizing how much the weight affects me/our partnership, and it was overwhelming for me.¬† I completed my lesson, but it was difficult to focus in moments and I choked up at least twice.¬† I felt defeated.¬† I kept going, but the feeling was very strong.

Here’s what I realized:

Two things:

First, Ivan before the competition helped me feel okay about my body.¬† I knew about all these issues from appearance to health to physicality and being a dancer, but he helped me to push them aside and just dance.¬† He made me do crazy things I didn’t think possible, like a drag and a dip on one leg, at my large size.¬† He helped me find confidence in myself and my body even as big and out-of-shape as it currently is.

After this competition, Ivan has awoken from our happy delusion.  He really gets that my physicality affects everything.  He was almost lamenting it.

“I wanting to do the splits with you, but I can’t.¬† You too heavy.”

It’s limiting our choreography choices, muddling the lines, making it difficult to achieve the speed and sharpness necessary¬†to be a true competitor.¬† And it is a true competitor that I believe myself to be and that Ivan sees within me.¬† He’s going to hold me to it because I am capable.¬† Ultimately, he believes in me.¬† In the moment, it is really painful to fully acknowledge the reality and I feel like I’ve lost some confidence.¬† I feel like he’s lost some confidence in me.¬† I could totally be making that up in my head, but the truth is, even so, it feels completely different.¬† I’m going to have to find a way to get my mojo back.¬† Part of that involves losing significant weight.

Second, I realized that I’m doing something really big.¬† More than losing weight or anything like that, I’m reclaiming a dream that I’d buried and thrown away.¬† Yes, I’ve already¬†come back to dancing, so in a way I’d cracked open the door to that dream, but this is reclaiming¬†it on a whole other level.¬† The level at which I desired as a kid.¬† I don’t know exactly how to explain it – but for the first time in my life I actually believe it’s possible for me to become the dancer I’ve always dreamed of being….to no longer be at war with my body, but in harmony with it, fully expressive, creating gorgeous lines, moving people through my movement, maybe even becoming a champion.¬† I mean, that’s a bold, ballsy¬†statement!¬† Who am I to, at age 34 and at 259 pounds to say I want to be a dancing champion?¬† Well, who am I not to if it is my heart?¬† Who knows how this will happen, but I know this:¬† If I don’t go for it with all that I am, nothing will happen, nothing will change.¬† And a person aiming for the stars often makes it to the moon.¬† I just might go much farther than I ever thought possible especially if I set a goal that is big and hairy and seems ludicrous.¬† Those are the best kind!

In any case, the moral of my very long rant here is that I’m on my way.¬† It doesn’t always feel very good, but I know that it will eventually feel awesome.¬† I’m reclaiming a dream, I’m in a growth phase, things have changed.¬† I’m struggling hard-core in moments but that isn’t stopping me, not by a long shot.¬† I’m in it for the long haul and I’m creating some results.

I’m kind of in my own little drama here, you know?¬† I’m not thinking I’m doing anything that is really all that important to anybody but me and Ivan.¬† But I want to share something with you that rocked my world today.¬† Something that reminded me that what I do (what you do, what we all do), matters.¬† That I am (you are, we are) powerful and that I (you, we) affect one another, probably most especially when we are honoring ourselves, our passion, our purpose.

I got this message from a reader:

I smiled when I saw your new Golds membership! I joined a gym this weekend for the first time in years!¬† One of the things I’ve been thinking about after reading some of your post-Desert Classic posts is what it means to give one’s self full permission to go for it (in dance, in health, etc.) and really live, and whether I’m giving myself the best shot possible.¬† It motivated me and one of the things I did in response was head into the gym this weekend.¬† So when I saw your post pop up on Facebook it was awesome.

Wow?!¬† Really?!¬† I inspired someone to action?¬† According to¬†their own words, someone else is going to give him/herself “full permission to go for it.”

If I had anything¬†to do with this I feel honored and humbled and like, wow, I’m in my purpose.

So, that’s the end of the “Me” show for this evening.¬† This is my place to get it all out of my head!¬† So Blah!

And, um, oh….

Just kidding about me being done.¬† Just one more thing…I went to edit this and realized that I never explained why I titled the post as I did….

So, briefly, I went to the belly dancing class on Wednesday.¬† It was the evening after my tough lesson with Ivan.¬† I was still feeling pretty depressed.¬† But dancing always makes things better, especially classes where you don’t know what the heck you are doing, like in belly dancing.¬† You have to be completely in your physical experience because it is so foreign, and feels funny.¬† Anyways, the teacher in this class is so great.¬† I love her energy and she has such amazing musicality in her body.¬† Truly I never realized how beautiful belly dancing could be until I saw her dance.¬† Anyways, halfway through the lesson she says, “Let’s get scarves because life is more fun with a scarf.”¬†¬†It was so amazing and just what I needed.¬† Some childlike play.¬† We made the scarves into butterfly wings.¬† Mine was a fuchsia¬†and green silky number and I ran around the room, swishing my hips, spinning like a three-year-old.¬† It was so freeing.¬† The oppression of the day’s negative thoughts faded away in an instant.¬† Truly, life IS more fun with a scarf.¬† I think I’m going to have to get one just to carry around with me for emotional emergencies!

Okay, now I’m done for real.



Fahren-Pink 109

Howdy readers!¬† This is Stefanie here in the italics.¬† I have a very special treat for you (and me) today!¬† As you know, I met The¬†Spinning Dancer¬†in person at Desert Classic!¬†¬† (I’ve included the link to her fabulous blog here so do go check it out.¬† She is a very talented photographer as well as writer and you don’t want to miss her gorgeous photos of the event).¬†¬†Anyways,¬†we had an encounter, shall we say.¬† And, Miss Spinning Dancer is so completely awesome, I suggested we do guest blogs for one another.¬† She, being a red-haired rockstar, got me a post post-haste!¬† Enjoy!

Because I dye¬†my hair red, often while perspiring, I will sweat pink. Pink, oh the many meanings that color has. Pink is the color of universal love and compassion. As the song goes, “Pink is my new obsession…Pink on the lips of your lover, ’cause Pink is the love you discover.” I already knew that I loved ballroom but for the first time to feel the love back, when I was awarded Top Solo at 2012 Des(s)ert Classic, was just as lovely as being wrapped up in pink cotton candy and if you can believe it, that feeling is second to the best feeling Pink has to offer, the Pink you feel when you meet a new friend.

Let is also be said for the record to show that Pink is also the color that your cheeks turn when you may have been completely and totally wrong.

After performing my two solo’s I settled in the ballroom to watch my friend Rick dance his rounds with Tina. I was taking pictures and couldn’t help but notice in between his rounds a familiar face, a fellow blogger. It was “Dancin’ with Stef” and there she was dancing (and really well) with Ivan. My first thought was I should go over and say hello, but then thought better of it because I thought, “Dude she’s in the middle of her rounds, she might be in competition mode, she may not appreciate an introduction now.” I chose to watch and smile as they danced to give them a little of the pink.

After her round, to my surprise she came over to me, introduced herself and she was lovely. We had such a lovely chat in fact, she may have forgotten that she had to go dance another round. But Ivan called her over and she was on the floor in a flash. High off of the feeling of meeting a new kindred spirit, I cheered. I cheered LOUD. REALLY LOUD. So everyone could hear! “GO STEF! WHOOOOOO! GO COUPLE 109!!!” Maybe Ivan heard me or it was just that AMAZING cosmic timing I have, because without missing a beat (and I’m sure he never has), Ivan turned around to reveal the number perfectly placed on his back, 190. Whoops…



The temperature that the human body starts to perspire is between 75-80 degrees F, it just got hotter then¬†Hades exactly where I was sitting in the air conditioned ballroom and the pink sweat started to trickle down the back of my neck. Thinking, maybe she didn’t hear it, I debated not mentioning it, ever. But she did hear it, I owned up to my dyslexic mistake and we laughed and laughed about. Pink cheeks flushed the whole time.
So to finish the song… “Pink gets me high as a kite, And I think everything is going to be all right, No matter what we do tonight.”

Photo captured by The Spinning Dancer of me and Ivan

The Joys Of Fake-Tanning

Goodness me…

The blog is getting away from me! I can’t believe how long it has been since I have been able to find a moment to sit and write. Again, so much has happened since I last posted.

Really, there is only one thing on my mind….

Though I go to work daily, and do some online writing jobs, and try to get some sleep, every spare moment my mind wanders to the Desert Classic. A jolt of excitement flushes through my stomach every time I imagine what it will feel like to be there, only a few short days from now.

But until then, there’s a lot of work to do!

The dancing is pretty much where it is going to be. Ivan and I can discuss small details at this point and work on performance, and also just continue to go through the steps and connect. I think that’s probably the most important thing right before a competition.

Ivan is actually really excited about it. I, well, I had a nightmare about it last night! I dreamt that he was late and while I was looking for him, I missed most of my dance heats. Then, I couldn’t find my dance costume. I couldn’t get the pantyhose on. I couldn’t move fast enough. We finally made it on the dance floor, but Ivan was in a foul mood, and the judges didn’t like our dancing. In fact, one was correcting us while we were competing! After that round was finished, we went to go talk, and Ivan was talking so much that we missed the last heats that I had on my ticket. Can you say anxiety much?

But Ivan, well, he says he’s going to do great with Marieta on Saturday night because he will have been dancing on the floor with me all weekend. He will have the lay of the land and feel comfortable in the space. For him, it’s worse to just show up and get thrown on the floor. It’s worse to not be dancing all day long and then have to dance from a “cold start,” if you will. Well, I do what I can to help! Just kidding. But still, I’m glad that he seems ready to enjoy the competition.

Anyways, last weekend we went to the lake again, but this time we had a speed boat. Ivan was really amazing. After only like two tries, he made it up on the wakeboard.

Me, I wasn’t so successful.

But like Marieta, I too got to ride the inner tube.

But boy were we all sore for the next few days! I was laughing with Marieta because she and Ivan couldn’t even practice Monday and Tuesday because they hurt so bad they could barely move.

But move we have, anyways. Marieta and her mom, Ivan’s mother-in-law, Nona, are making me a second dress, like I mentioned. It has evolved into something entirely different from the original sketch, but I’m liking it so much better. It has lovely draping that hides all my bulges and bumps. It is now off the shoulder because of how the arms fit when they were attached, but again, it is an improvement to the original design that just sort of happened. I think this dress has a mind of it’s own. It’s designing itself! Anyways, they’ve promised me the dress will be done by Monday so I can have it and try it on in case any last-minute fixes need to be done and I’ll share photos when I can.

Also, I have decided to tan for this competition, and not be “yogurt” as Ivan calls it. Yes, I have a pale complexion normally, but now I’m living in an alternate universe where I’m going to a tanning salon, for a spray tan, of course. And it feels funny to be darker, but Ivan really liked it when I did an at-home version by myself.

I learned a few things from my experiment which I will share with you here. Please don’t laugh too much. Well, scratch that, actually laugh tons. I’m laughing at myself, and just glad I gave myself enough lead time for my home-done tan to fade a bit.

So if you are going to purchase a spray bottle of tanning stuff to do at home, learn from my mistakes. Number one, clean your hands, especially the palms, right after you spray. Mine have looked like I have dirt on them perpetually for a week!

Next, and this one seems obvious, spray evenly. I managed to create some very straight lines on my body of where I sprayed and where I missed. Like on my fingers, there was a line of tan and a line of white. And on my arms, It was like a painted street divider from the side to the under part of my arm.

Then, there is streaking. Yeah, on the back part of my legs to the inner calf there were streaks where the liquid collected. In some areas it created dark streaks. In others, it created, well, nothing. My yogurt-y skin shone through in stark contrast to the nearby copper, like coal eyes embedded in a snowman’s face.

Finally, it did look kinda orange. But, even with all my blunders, Ivan liked it when I showed up for my lesson Wednesday. I do think it made my calves look slightly smaller.

But really, Paragon was right….it DID affect the way I felt. I felt more like a “real” ballroom dancer. Like a fat Karina Smirnoff or something. It was a little bit addicting! Not that I’d normally go around looking like that – I feel like a freak, like my face is dirty or something as I wade around in my life, but it will make a difference on the dancefloor.

So today after work I went to a real tanning salon now that the crappy job I did faded a bit and to fix the streaky errors. But that was an experience as well. I suppose it is probably best to have a person physically spray you in detail in one of those tents but honestly, I’m just not comfortable enough with my body to have someone see me like that yet. So I opted for the automatic tanning machine so I could be by myself in the room.

It made me think of this episode from the t.v. show “Friends” where Ross has an experience, shall we say, with a tanning machine. Seriously, people, this is funny. Click and watch! And, as an aside, the first tanning machine Ross enters is the exact same one that sprayed me today and it was definitely rigged for t.v….I will explain about the mist later in the post…

Well, I made sure to turn around when I was in there! No counting Mississippi for me! But even I learned a few things about those machines:

First, I closed my eyes for the first part (the front half) and when I opened them, I thought maybe my vision had changed. There was so much mist in the air that everything looked blurry. That was a little disconcerting, and not at all as clear as it was on the t.v. clip there.

Second, breathing was a bit of an issue. That stuff, whatever it is, kinda stinks, and is certainly a chemical. You can’t help but breathe it in when it is saturating the air so heavily. I personally have asthma so I’m a bit sensitive to things like that. I don’t know what a person can do about it, except maybe do the hand spraying in that tent, or have a fast-acting inhaler nearby should it trigger an asthma attack. Maybe pre-treat with albuterol before going in the machine if necessary. Oh, and just like when I go camping near dark soil, well, um, blowing my nose is colorful at the moment.

Third, they give you barrier cream to put on your nails and hands and feet, and I thought I applied it liberally…but again, my hands look like I’ve been making mudpies all day. I guess really slop that stuff on. The spray gets under your nails and looks grimy!

Lastly, they give you a cover for your hair, but make sure to keep it right at the hairline. Mine fell just a little below it and it created a line on my face. Nothing that can’t be fixed when I go in to tan again on Sunday, and nothing that couldn’t be blended with some make up, but still, it’s kind of tough to get it exactly right.

All in all, though, I should just thank my lucky stars I didn’t end up looking like Ross! You know?

Anyways, I don’t think my experience at Desert Classic will be anything at all like my dream. I fully anticipate it to be oodles of fun. I’m going to have my friend Colette there, and some other gals from Inna’s class on Tuesdays will be there too, as well as Ivan and Marieta, and Inna and Artem. I will get to meet Paragon in person, which I’m super excited about, and I have like, two local friends who are making the trek to come watch me in Palm Springs! I am so blown away by that. Truly. It feels awesome and I already feel supported and like people are rooting for me and I haven’t even taken one dance step yet! I am so blessed! Plus I can’t wait to make more friends.

So this weekend I will have a dance lesson or two, I need to get some fishnets, I want to do laundry and pack, I will get another layer of tan, I will get my fake nails put on. I will write my final checks for the dress and the entry fees. I will write as much as I can so I won’t have to complete writing assignments while I’m at the competition. In sum, it’s time for final preparations. I work Monday and Tuesday, then Wednesday we all hop in the car and head off to Palm Springs. Thursday I dance all day long. I can’t hardly wait!

And Ivan….well for his final preparations, tomorrow he’s going to driving school! Ha ha! Silly man got a ticket. What a dork! But a cute one, nonetheless. ūüôā

Project Kindness

My dearest readers and cyberspace friends, I need your help!

As you know by now, I’m going to the Desert Classic DanceSport Competition.¬† Depending on when you joined the bandwagon, you may or may not know the entire story why.

The short version is that I met Irina Suvorov and she invited me.¬† Well, she invited everyone at the table, but I accepted the offer.¬† She and another judge joined our table at dinner during a past competition¬†because we were laughing loudly and “appeared like we were having the most fun.”¬† Basically, we were the most fun table.

Irina was lovely and we shared a nice conversation.¬† I befriended her on Facebook and liked the page for the Desert Classic Competition so I could stay up to date on the latest developments for this competition I was planning to do.¬† But I didn’t seriously expect her to actually remember me.¬† Well, I guess she did!

I think this speaks to what I am discovering about this lovely lady peripherally through various interactions online as well as that one fun conversation we shared almost nine months ago.  It is my experience that Irina really cares about others and I think this is especially demonstrated in a new project she has come up with that will be sponsored by the competition.  Basically here are the details:

PLEASE READ ABOUT “PROJECT KINDNESS.” The Desert Classic is giving ‚Äúkindness awards‚ÄĚ to recognize good deeds. We‚Äôve experienced much kindness from others in our lives and are grateful for the blessings. We finally decided to do something about it and are calling it ‚ÄúProject Kindness‚ÄĚ The plan has one simple goal: to encourage people to do something nice for someone else. There are many ways to accomplish this. Here are some ideas … buy a friend a ballroom ticket, donate a pair of shoes to a child, pay for a solo video for someone, give some sort of surprise to a friend or loved one … or anything else you can think of. We also want to hear about what you want to do so we can recognize it. (Of course, if you prefer, you may remain anonymous.) We simply want to find a way to encourage good deeds in our community‚ÄĒand to bring smiles to peoples‚Äô faces. Shortly after we started thinking about this project we received a call from someone who wanted to give 20 surprise entries to a loved one. Soon after that, we received an email from someone who wants to give away books to kids on Sunday during junior events. And another person said they are planning to do something special for someone. If you have an idea about a kindness you‚Äôd like to bestow on someone, please post a private message on the Desert Classic Fan Page or on our personal Facebook pages. Please pass this on to the community by clicking ‚Äúshare.‚ÄĚ Thanks, Igor & Irina.

Incidentally, Igor Suvorov happens to be one of Artem¬†and Inna’s main coaches.¬† Ballroom is a small world, huh?

Anyways, I don’t necessarily want to win a kindness award, though that would be cool,¬†I just want to participate and participate BIG!¬† I mean, is there any other way I’d care to do it?¬† Nope!

This is where you all come in!  I need ideas!  How can I spread some kindness?  What could I do on the blog, in my life, or at the competition that would be worthy of Project Kindness?  I think it is an amazing opportunity to support the ballroom community that I love, and make my little corner of the world a little brighter and more loving.

Here’s what I already know…I’ve experienced an abundance of kindness from all of you during my blogging journey thus far.¬† I’ve made some genuine connections and have received fountains of support, encouragement, and shared lots of fun.¬† It’s time to pay it forward.¬† How can I best do that?

Also, if you know anyone who is going to the Desert Classic DanceSport Competition, please share this information about Project Kindness with them.  You can click here to read more about it.

Alright dearies.  Another late night.  Another early morning.  But you know, I get to dance with this guy:

I¬†guess it’s worth waking up for!¬†¬†¬†Ha ha!¬† Makes you want to take some dance lessons, huh?

TTFN, Stef

I Love Chocolate….And My Friends, And My Mom

Sometimes I feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.¬† One of the very important (to me) things that sometimes gets put on the backburner when other responsibilities get in the way is writing a blog post.¬† You know, these things take time and between work, the commute, getting a dance lesson in, and preparing my food for my eating plan, not to mention some online writing gigs, and fitting in some time to make sure I still connect with my husband and some time to have fun and relax, well, living a balanced life is a full time prospect!¬† I don’t think I’d get even half of this done if I had kiddos!

Anyways, the short of it is that a lot has happened since my last blog post and I kind of don’t know where to start.¬† I think tonight it’s going to be a stream-of-consciousness ramble about some lessons, a boating trip (with dancing friends), and my mom’s first dance lesson, plus an update about the Desert Classic.¬† And Paragon, I would be happy to tell you about the dress – thanks for asking!

Let’s see….

I guess with Ivan I’ve probably had 3 lessons?¬† We’ve worked on all sorts of stuff, but mostly connection and expression.¬† As Ivan explains it to me, I’m not the first one to ever do a fan.¬† It’s not like people have never seen a fan before (in Cha Cha or Rumba), but how am I going to style it so I stand out?¬†¬† One of the things I’m most excited about, which may sound silly, but to me is scrumptious, is the preparation to dancing (did I really just write that?¬† OMG, Ivan’s Bulgarian English is rubbing off on me!¬† What I mean is ….preparation to dance).¬† Especially in Latin Rumba and Cha Cha we’ve been working on Ivan placing me on the floor and then a little interaction where I am like bursting, I want to dance so bad (well, the idea is to act that way), and then he approaches, we connect, and then we begin as one.¬† Of course, it doesn’t always happen that smoothly, but the idea is there and I do¬†think it will set us apart.

Also I am working on doing a better job of shifting my weight over my standing leg more quickly, and moving myself.¬† There are some “deadspots” in my dancing at times.¬† They way Ivan explains it, it’s like my engine stops working.

“You doing so good, Stefanie, to this point but then¬†your “Check Engine” light goes on.¬† You run out of gas.”

Ah yes, the car metaphors abound.¬† Hopefully I’ll show up as a Ferrari rather than a dump truck while dancing¬†at Desert Classic!¬† Ha Ha.

One thing I’m not excited about is the Jive.¬† Seriously, we haven’t even practiced it!¬† If I place last in all my Jives I will let myself off the hook!¬† We haven’t worked on it.¬† I’m just going to try and enjoy them as much as I can and let it be whatever experience it is.¬† I’ll expect more of myself once we’ve actually worked on the dang¬†dance!

I’m feeling better about the stamina issue.¬† It looks like based on the schedule at Desert Classic that I will dance Smooth Thursday morning then Latin in the afternoon.¬† Friday I’ll have off to recouperate.¬† Then Saturday is American Rhythm.¬† I will wear my red and black dress for Rhythm and Smooth and I’m having a new dress made by Marietta for Latin.¬† I had a fitting just yesterday, and although still a work in progress, I really like it – more than I thought I would from the sketches.¬† It is going to be very figure flattering for me.¬† It’s black and gold with lovely asymmetrical draping.¬† If it continues along the same lines as what I saw yesterday, I’m going to feel very sexy and sleek in this frock.¬† Once I have it in my posession, I’ll be happy to post pictures.

Also, I’ve decided that I will get a tan this go-around.¬† Yes, I’m mostly covered, but go big or go home, as they say.¬† Why not do everything to play the part?¬† And time to put on the nails as well.

Okay, so besides doing what I can to get ready for Desert Classic, because seriously, there is so much I learn every day I dance, and at a certain point you just have to show up as you are Рa work in progress, you know?  Well besides doing what I can to prepare, I also had some time for some R & R this weekend.

I was fortunate enough to be invited to go on a pontoon boat for a few hours this past Sunday with my friend Colette (featured in¬†this post ) as well as my friend Ghada, and also Ivan and Marietta.¬† OMG!¬† It was SUCH a good time.¬† And yes, believe it or not, we do have a few lakes here in Arizona!¬† Anyways, I think we talked about dance for the entire time, which is just the way I like it.¬† The coolest part is that Ghada, Colette, and I all take from different instructors, but we are all friends and genuinely support one another.¬† Like if either of those gals won, even if they beat me in competition, I’d be happy for them and celebrate.¬† I know they’d feel the same about me too!

And we brought Ivan along for the entertainment, and he didn’t disappoint!¬† As you can see, we got into some chocolate trouble.¬† We also danced on the boat, ate, drank, posed for pictures, talked, laughed, tanned, and floated.¬† It was a most relaxing day and the entire world melted away.¬†¬† I just feel so very blessed to have such amazing friends.

Oh, and here’s Ivan making a “Bulgarian cocktail”¬† Ha Ha!¬† He actually was a bartender for a few years in Spain, believe it or not!

Anyways, best day ever…well, one of the best ever.

But then I had to come back to the real world.  *Sigh*

However,¬†back in the real world, there was another exciting event on the horizon.¬† Remember how Ivan was like, infatuated with the idea of¬†dancing with my mom?¬† Well, he convinced her to come in for a lesson!¬† He has it in his mind to do a showcase number to “Gonna Make You Sweat” by C & C Music Factory with her as the centerpiece.¬† So today she came for her very first lesson and I got to be there too!

She was really cute.

“Wow.¬† That is quite a drive!”¬† She exclaimed upon arriving.¬† We got started and it was really fun.¬† We played around making up different moves and Ivan¬†taught¬†mom the Cha Cha basic step.¬† The showcase number is going to be freestyle so we can just have a lot of fun with it and not worry too much about technique.¬† Mom showed us some moves from the 60’s like the Pony and the Twist and Ivan made her do side splits and we also lifted her up in the air, making a seat with our arms.¬† She did great for her first lesson and Ivan said she was learning quickly.¬† I had to laugh, though when Ivan suggested, “Chris, maybe you to coming by yourself for the next lesson so we not killing Stefanie’s lesson.”

The thing is, we are gearing up for the competition right now, and Ivan has a lot of choreography to figure out and teach my mom.¬† I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to pick it up pretty quickly, so this sounds like a good plan to me, but I’m really looking forward to the day we do this performance.¬† It’s going to be EPIC!

I also had to laugh when Ivan suggested to my mom, “You have to practicing.¬† Listen to the song lots at home and dance at home.¬† Discover different movements, and how the music makes you dance. ¬†Dance in front of the mirror.¬† Dance in front of your husband.”

“Oh no!” Said Mom.

“Yeah!”¬† I laughed, “Dad probably wouldn’t watch.”¬† He’s not big on the dancing.¬† This made it especially wonderful that he came to my showcase because he had to sit through a lot of dancing before I performed.

“Okay, okay.” Interjected Mr. Ivan.¬† “You not dancing in front of your husband.¬† You save it to being a surprise!”

“Okay, Ivan.¬† When do you think this showcase will be?”

“In September maybe.¬† There is a showcase the weekend before the Galaxy competition.”

“But I’ll be in Italy from August 31st through September 18.”

“It’s okay, it’s okay.¬† You can practicing in Italy!”

We all laughed at that.

“But we’ll see,” he said.¬† “Maybe we can doing it¬†in September.¬† If not, there will be other events.¬† Maybe November or January.¬† It okay.”

So, the long and short of it is mom did great, Ivan is very excited about the whole thing, and at one point or another we will be performing as a trio.

Alright, last in a long list of updates, I had a lesson with Inna tonight.¬† Actually, she wasn’t even supposed to teach tonight!¬† She was supposed to be in Florida, competiting at Milennium.¬† But apparently there was a snag with her travel plans and she was there tonight.¬† I think since most people thought Inna would be gone it was a smaller class than usual.¬† There were only four of us plus Inna.¬† And you know what?¬† I’m SO glad I showed up tonight.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again…Inna is a master teacher.¬† Tonight, because the class was smaller and consisted of more experienced students,¬†she was able to get into deeper detail and explain timing in a way such that I discovered an entire new level to it.¬† I actually felt it differently in my body.¬† And as Inna explained it, when you really get the timing and rhythm of a dance it feels like the music is dancing you rather than you dancing to the music.¬† I had a tiny little taste of it tonight and it was honestly a breakthrough.¬† Like I said, at the very end, it actually felt different in my body, and it felt good.

You know, if you are a ballroom-er, then you’ve heard about timing.¬† We all “know” the counts.¬†¬† But wow, I’ve never understood the timing in this way before.¬† It took the better part of the class for Inna to get her point across, as well as many demonstrations, so I’ll probably not do the subject justice, but I’ll do my best to share what I discovered.¬† One of the things Inna does that is so very effective is that she will demonstrate two different ways of dancing the same steps.¬† This allows us to visually see two different ways of dancing.¬† And the thing that is so effective about it is that she will dance the steps well, with the correct timing and arms and all, but then she will dance it with that added flair that makes it look professional.¬† One of the hardest things to figure out as a student is how to make my movements match those of my instructors.¬† What is it, exactly, that makes the quality of their dancing so much more amazing¬†than mine?

Like I can see that it is cleaner and sharper, but try as I might, I can’t always emulate this, even if I use all my abilities.¬† But tonight, I discovered the importance of timing.¬† Holy heck!¬† It changed everything.¬† And, ha ha, I thought I knew timing before, right?¬† I also knew that one of my less-than-stellar-habits is to pass through steps, making them look sloppy, soft, mushy, because I am so concerned about getting where I need to get two steps ahead, rather than fully completing the step I am presently in in the moment.¬† Oh, Ivan’s communicated the same thing, but somehow I was able to hear it more deeply¬†from Inna tonight.

So the concept is this:¬† In Cha Cha, say, the counts are 2, 3, Cha Cha, 1.¬† There are 8¬†counts in the measure.¬† The 2, 3, and 1 are all one full beat (2 counts).¬† Each “Cha” is one half of a beat (one count).¬† Therefore, logically, the 2, 3, and 1 are movements that take more time.¬†¬† The Cha Cha part should take less time.

But in my dancing, even though I’d step on the right beats and all, everything looks even.¬† I made 2, 3 about the same length of time, but then I made the Cha Cha, 1 like 3 even beats, instead of quick, quick, full count.¬† I’d rush the 3 to get to the Cha’s, power through the Cha’s to get to the 1.¬† Okay, again, very confusing to put into words, especially without a physical demonstration.¬† So if you can’t follow what I’m trying to say, sorry!¬† The point is that conceptually I’ve known about this¬†construct called timing, but today, I think for the first time, I truly felt it IN my body.¬† Amazing.¬† And super hard!¬† OMG it takes so much concentration and energy.¬† But it’s worth it!

One final thought and then I have to sign off.¬† It’s 11:35pm and I’ve got to be up early and have a full, full day once again.¬† Anyways, that last thought is this:¬† It takes no talent to be a dancer, just discipline, and having talent as a dancer, meaning the dance comes from the inside, is paramount.

What do I mean by this?¬† Well, I’m talking about being able to embrace the paradox of two opposites and knowing that both are true.¬† The paradigm that it takes no talent to be a dancer, but it does take a mind and discipline and practice, this comes from Inna.¬† She said this herself to us tonight.¬† And I think she is right.

But also, the paradigm that having that inner dancer, being able to move and change and evolve quickly, and having the dance come from inside is more important than all the practice in the world, this comes from Ivan.  And I think he is right, too.

How can this be?¬† Well, I think both are essential.¬† There is absolutely an element of training the body and creating muscle memory through repetition and practice in the¬†study of dancing.¬† There is also absolutely an element of the dance transcending the technique, and that can’t be taught.

So my feeling is, I’m so grateful to have both teachers and both paradigms in my dancing practice.¬† I get the yin and the yang.¬† The whole shebang. (And that is my¬†poem for the night).¬† My practice is to embody both the discipline and the freedom.

Alright, I think my system is shutting down now.  My bed is calling!

I’m Gonna Find My Inner Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer

If you haven’t been watching SYTYCD, you should be.

It’s like, my fav-o-rite dance show evarrrrr.

And it relates to the title of my post. You know, everything happens for a reason and there are signs everywhere if we have the eyes to see them. The messages in my life abound. They come via friends, conversations, encounters at the grocery store, and even while watching t.v.

Tonight something Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer said on the on the show really stuck with me. He was asked to dance for his life. This happens when the judges aren’t sure about a dancer but he still has enough support that he or she gets one final chance to win the judges over for a spot on the show. He had to perform his solo, doing the style of dance that he is best at.

While very nervous in the previous rounds, Cyrus suddenly seemed calm and centered. Peaceful. Cat Deely interviewed him before he put it all on the line and he said, “There is no better feeling than being myself. I cannot wait to show the judges what I got.”

That stopped me dead in my tracks.

It represented what I call a paradigm shift.

If you haven’t already figured it out from reading my blog, I sometimes struggle with self-esteem issues, confidence issues, and body image issues. And I am also a dancer. A ballroom dancer. You know, those super sexy and elegant creatures, very feminine, confident, love having all the attention on them. Like, the very opposite of how I generally feel inside. But that is not why I am a dancer. I am a dancer because I was born that way, even if I didn’t even realize it for portions of my life. Dance lives inside me. My job, my biggest struggle, is to simply let it out, get out of my own way. To halt my hang-ups and insecurities, and analysis to paralysis, and negative thinking from getting in the way of the expression of that greater spirit that sometimes comes out when I let it.

So when Cyrus said what he said about there being nothing better than being himself and being so excited to share that with the judges, it was like, what? That thought never occurred to me.

You see, my aim for the Desert Classic, the goal behind the goal if you will, is not just to dance well, or place high, or even to get a top student award, it is actually to allow myself to be seen. To have dances full of pure dance, connection, joy. To let myself go to the places I usually keep dammed up, closed. I guess, in the end, it’s really about being vulnerable. Like some part of me is afraid to really let that show because I don’t necessarily feel like Cyrus. I don’t always feel like it’s awesome to be me. If I don’t feel great about myself, why would I want to share it? I’d want to only reveal the polished veneer, to look good.

You know, in theory, I believe we are all special, even me. We all have our own unique greatness. But when it comes to actually feeling that way about myself I waver between delusions of grandeur and being a squashed bug. Like in my dancing, sometimes I think I’m awesome. Other times, I feel like I can’t do anything right.

But the part of me that is actually awesome is bigger than any dance technique. It’s the part that my friend Colette saw when I danced on my birthday with Ivan. She told me, “I don’t know if it was the wine, but when you danced that night you shone.” It’s the part that my mom saw that brought her to tears when I danced in the showcase. It’s the part that gives Ivan goosebumps every once in a while when we dance together, like happened this morning for no particular reason I could discern.

But OMG, do you know what he told me Monday morning? There I was, struggling through more Rumba walks (in my head concentrating on my hips, getting over my feet, not slapping them on the floor, making my arms move, not dying because of the cardio, etc, etc, etc.) I was in the space of knowing that what I was doing just wasn’t good enough. That I was lacking proper technique…something Ivan was quick to remind me of, correcting something every few steps. And he tells me some fixes, and I do the best I can to implement them and you know what he tells me? He says, “I jealous of you.”

Like, say WHAT? Back that train up!

Here is this man, this amazing dancer. This person that I look up to and wish I could move like him, or Marieta. And he’s telling me that he’s jealous of me. I couldn’t believe it.

Like, what on earth did he have to be jealous of?

He explained. “You getting it so quickly! I have to practicing years and years and I never move like this. It’s cause you have talent.”

I have always thought that it really wasn’t talent. It was the fact that I danced as a kid and had a great teacher who knew her technique in ballet, tap, and jazz. I worked really hard to be moderately good in those genres, but I knew I’d never be able to do say the kind of dancing that is performed on SYTYCD. I knew I’d never be a professional dancer.

But ballroom is different. Not only is all about connection and partnering, but it seems to fit the way my body moves like a glove. By this I mean my hips are very flexible. Apparently this is not the case for a lot of people. I never gave it a second thought because it just came naturally to me. Don’t get me wrong – there is a lot of technique to absorb, and a lot of working it though, but I think the base is there.

Anyways, I thought Ivan was totally off his rocker. I would give anything to move like he and Marieta or Inna…but then again, maybe I should rethink that?

You know, on Tuesday night I went to get my butt kicked in Inna’s class and we did Rumba, Cha Cha, and Samba. There is some tricky stuff in all three dances to master, and Inna often has students demonstrate what we are working on. It’s good because it gets us used to performing, being in front of others, being uncomfortable. etc. So at one point she had me do a Samba combination across the floor.

As an aside, I think I am actually doing better in the class in terms of stamina. Trust me, it’s nowhere near where it needs to be, but we had a new student in the class who looked like she was really fit. Even she was like, “When is this class gonna be over?” I had to laugh. I’ve so been there! But at least last night I was hanging in there pretty well.

So back to the Samba combo. Anyways, after class Inna said to me, “I love your Samba.”

Wow! That’s so cool. And I was like, “Thanks Inna.”

“It’s so much better!” She said.

Which is true. I actually had a lesson with her while Ivan was in Bulgaria getting married specifically to work on my Samba bounce – that tricksy movement! So she knew where I had started from.

Anyways, that felt like a pretty good acknowledgement. See, Stef, there has been progress. You are becoming a better dancer. Enough that others notice.

But every time I think about the Desert Classic, which happens multiple times during the day, I get butterflies in my stomach. Part of me is excited. Part of me is nervous.

I wonder if I will have the stamina to do what I need to do. I waver between being okay with how my body is because it isn’t going to change all that much between now and the competition, and just trusting that I move well and will be expressive and that it will be enough, and then freaking out because I am going to look so different from most of my competitors.

Well, I guess I’m deciding right now that screw it. Screw it all! Screw all the chatter in my head! It just needs to shut up!

Instead I’ll listen to Ivan and the music. I will tune into the dance.

I’m big. But I’ll be big in all ways, not just in my ass. I will be noticed. And not just for my size. I think it’s kind of unavoidable that I will be noticed for that initially. But that doesn’t have to be the main attraction. Instead, I will then begin to move. And from then on, I will be noticed because I will shine.

You know, I’ve got to get over myself and just set aside all this B.S. I will find my inner Cyrus “Glitch” Spencer and love being me, at least for the time that I’m dancing. I will find my inner Cyrus and be so excited to “show those judges what I’ve got.” Whatever that looks like in the moment.

I suppose I’m giving myself a little pep talk here on the blog, well so be it.

This is my time to shine. Carpe Diem and all that.

Can You Be A Little More Elegant….Not So Heil Hitler?

First blog post in the new house!  Yay!

Yes, I’m still alive, but I realize it’s been a bit since I last posted.¬† Well, after yesterday I finally have something to write about.

It was kind of a rough day.¬† One of those days, if you’ve ever had one, where I just woke up feeling low about being me.¬† A low self-esteem day.¬† No particular reason.¬† No event that triggered it.¬† But for whatever reason, it just hit me.¬† To the point that I was tearing up on my way into work.

But before I went in to work and realized how low I was really feeling, I had a lesson with Ivan.¬† He had absolutely nothing to do with this foul mood.¬† In fact, he provided some of the laughter I experienced during those 24 hours.¬† Yes, it’s true.¬† Even on an emotionally low day, there are moments of joy to be found.

So Ivan was just back from the Crystal Ball in¬†Chicago where he danced with my friend Katie and another student, and of course Miss Marieta.¬† They placed 3rd in Professional Open American Rhythm, which is awesome, and Ivan felt like he danced really well.¬† This was an interesting comment because usually he focuses (like a lot of us perfectionist-prone dancers) on what was lacking, what could have been better.¬† I’m so proud of Ivan (and Marieta too) for doing such great work on their “mental problems.”¬† If you don’t know what I’m referring to, you can read about it here.¬† Anyways, they are really coming to think like the champions I know they are.¬† It will be exciting to watch what happens over the next couple of competitions.

So Ivan seems pretty excited to be going to Desert Classic with me.¬† I know it is going to be an absolute blast.¬† I’ve already decided.¬† We are going to have fun, enjoy ourselves, and dance amazing.¬† It’s just my vision of what is going to happen.¬† I’m working on practicing owning my space, doing the (what feels like) over-the-top facial expressions, practicing the presentation and bow/curtsey portion of the performance, and fixing what technical¬†details I can correct in the next 4 weeks.¬† It would feel amazing to just act as if I owned the dance floor!¬† Which, is a challenge, I tell you!¬† I have a hard time doing it with Ivan, and also in Inna’s group class.

Anyways, so Ivan was on a high from the competition and we began.

Oh arm styling, I’ve mentioned you before, and I will mention you again.¬† And Ivan really picked up on¬†it that morning as well.¬† Doing under arm turns in Rumba, I did my usual arm and Ivan stopped me.

It was weird.¬† He kind of enunciated the question to me more clearly than I’ve ever heard him speak.¬† “Can you please be a little more elegant…”¬† The “t” particularly popped, like a single drumbeat.¬† “And not so heil Hitler.”

Well, that gives the visual.¬† I was thrusting my arm out in a straight line rather than developing it throughout the entire arm, using all my muscles and joints to unfold it.¬† But seriously, only a comment you’d hear from Ivan.

Later in the Waltz, I was reaching upwards on a side sway and I heard, “Hit the balls!”


“Hit the balls.”¬† Ivan punched one of the beach balls hanging from the ceiling at the studio where we’ve been practicing.¬† He so totally knows he’s using a double entendre.¬† Yes, it was an admonition to reach upwards to my very limit, but really?

Then on the Waltz, I groaned, grunted.¬† Why?¬† The freaking effort it takes to move!¬† I takes so much energy!¬† It feels exhausting.¬† Maybe this was the straw that broke the camel’s back in terms of breaking the damn of emotion that was coming toward me on the ride to work.¬† I am sick and tired of it feeling¬†like such a Herculean effort to dance.¬† When is it not going to feel like this anymore, I wonder?¬† There was a time in my life when I felt strong.¬† Yes, I got out of breath.¬† Yes, my muscles burned.¬† But underneath that, I felt powerful.¬† I don’t feel like that at my current weight.¬† And it sucks.¬† And I’m tired of whining about it.¬† And I’m on day 3 of my eating plan.¬† And, simply, I’m tired of being at war with¬†my body.¬† I’m tired of all the self-hate.

Anyways, so I grunted, a grunt containing all of that angst, frustration, anger, in it, and Ivan was like, “How you have a man in you?”

Yeah…that’s graceful and elegant like I should be in a Waltz….not!

So that started me giggling.  Uncontrollably.  To the point that I bent forward.

“Are you fart?”

To translate Ivan’s Bulgarian English, he was asking me if I had farted and that was why I was losing it in the huge guffaw.

“No! I didn’t fart!” I exclaimed, after I caught my breath.

Well, anyways, we ended the lesson and Ivan was talking up Desert Classic and saying things like “I so excited to going with you!¬† I want to dance with you all day!”¬† I mean, to hear your teacher tell you things like that, how could you have a bad day?

Oh, I managed.

It’s a dark place, my mind sometimes.¬† Also, there are the painful realities of what I’ve done to my body.¬† And the grief I feel for the loss of what could have been if I had not given up dancing, if I had found ballroom sooner, if I had stuck to my diet 9 months ago.¬† You know, the futile, negative, voice, blah, blah, blah.¬† It hurts.¬† And it doesn’t change anything.¬† And in just a few weeks I’ll be at a competition.¬† In a body I’m not thrilled about.

So I made my way to the car and fell a little bit to pieces.

I bulldozed through work and headed home.  Convinced the best plan was to come home, prepare my food for the next day, and crawl into bed to fall asleep by 7:30 and start a new day as soon as possible, I was in the middle of packing up my last food container when I got a text.

You know, sometimes God intervenes in our lives.  Yesterday it was in the form of a text message from my friend Colette.

*Bleep* *Bleep* I heard the ringer on my cell phone.

“Are you coming to Latin?”

Oh, I was aware it was a Tuesday.¬† I was aware Inna’s butt-kicker was going to start in about 20 minutes.

I texted back:

“I’m not decided.¬† Feel fat.¬† Sluggish.”

She texted back:


Well, it was enough of a nudge to go to class.¬† I knew I’d be late, but they always seem to start a few minutes late.¬† And, I didn’t have any clean dance clothes, so it was black leggings and my XXL Boston t-shirt.¬† It was that or not go.¬† Not a cute outfit by any means, but functional I suppose.¬†¬†You know, only one option had any chance of getting me closer to the dancer and body I want to be and have.¬† Painful as it was, and as much as I liked (on some level) my pity-party (as my husband called it), I knew¬†I’d feel better if I went.¬† But still, part of me wanted to not go.¬† Crumbling into a limp lump in bed did seem somewhat attractive.

But another part of me knew better, so I went.

I made it to Inna’s¬†butt-kicking class and got to see the blonde¬†elfin powerhouse for the first time in a month since she left to compete with Artem¬†in Blackpool where they placed 2nd in Rising Star and 16th in Open Professional.¬† They are amazing!¬† I feel so blessed to be learning from them and Ivan.

Artem and Inna at Blackpool

Just another reason to ask myself, what am I saying yes to (and conversely no¬†to).¬† In this instance I said yes to movement, dance, the chance to burn some calories, the opportunity to learn from an internationally ranked professional, and the pleasure to see my friends Colette and Toni.¬† I also got to work on my arm-styling which was a topic of interest in the group class as well (it was an arm-themed day).¬† I definitely benefited from Inna’s perspective on this issue and feel like¬†I have a better understanding of ways to improve my arm styling because I was present in class last night.

Yes, yes.¬† Logically, that all makes sense and it is the clear beneficial decision to make.¬† But emotionally, well, I just didn’t feel like going.

On the converse, however, by going to class even when I didn’t want to,¬†I was saying no to wallowing in self-pity, dwelling in self-hatred, and my comfy, comfy bed.¬† And trust me, that bed was calling to me as sweetly as a Siren!

Ah, well, every moment is a choice, and every choice has prices and benefits.

And because I showed up, there were two wonderful moments for me.¬† One, I met a new friend who had just taken her second dance class!¬† She came to watch the group class and I gave her a card for the blog, in case she’d be interested to read it.¬† It is exciting to meet new dancers, and exciting to share the blog.¬† Two, Inna had me demonstrate a Samba combination.¬† Usually she has one of her more experienced students demonstrate the combinations, but every once in a while she has me do one.¬† I heard her saying, “Good!” as I did the combo across the floor and when I got to the other side she had me do it all by my lonesome.¬† It kind of gave my ego a boost.¬† And, whether true or not, I feel inside, that Samba is one of my stronger dances.¬† I can move those hips!

So thank you, Colette, for getting my ass moving last night!¬† You were a Godsend.¬† Also, you cracked me up after class when I was sharing with you my woes, deep in lamentation,¬†and you said, “Well snap out of it, girl!”

And now it comes full circle.¬† Today was better and my favorite dance show is on (SYTYCD).¬† The last guy they showed¬†was tubby, like me.¬† And in some ways it didn’t matter.¬† He was a good human being and a good dancer and his joy and passion shone through.¬† He was absolutely able to move¬†people with his dancing.¬† Then, in some ways, of course¬†his size¬†did matter.¬† Clearly he wasn’t in any shape to continue on in the competition past the choreography round.

Well, I kind of think that is how it is for me, at the moment.  Tubby, but passionate and can move surprisingly well.  However, my vision is to marry that with a healthy body, and it is painful that reality is nowhere near what I can envision in my mind.

And yet, I will be there on July 12th with my sparkles on.  I will be there shaking what my momma gave me, as I am, on that day, whatever that looks like.  All I know is that I have a focus and drive like no kidding to make the most of the last four weeks before the competition.  I have this time to do what I can to best prepare myself for the upcoming challenge.

Wish me luck!

How Does 75 Become 120???

The quick answer is, Ivan Dishliev.

Here’s the longer version:

So, if you’ve read my story, you know that I’m going to compete at the Desert Classic DanceSport¬†Competition.¬† It’s coming up in July, the 11th through the 14th to be exact.¬† And today I wrote the check.¬† I kissed a nice sum of money goodbye and also made it official.¬† I’m REALLY going.¬† It’s REALLY going to happen.

So when we started talking about the competition, I thought I’d maybe do like 75 entries.¬† That’s still no small number, maybe averaging out to be around 25 per day of the¬†3 days of the competition.¬† I’m going to do Latin (minus Paso Doble, but plus Jive, which I haven’t worked on one iota), and Smooth, and American Rhythm.¬† We’ll also throw in a Hustle or two and some West Coast Swings just for fun, just to relax and enjoy.¬† I thought this would be enough dancing that I’d feel like I was doing something while I was there, but not so much that I’d kill myself.

If you read more of my blog, you’d know that last June I did 150 heats at the San Diego DanceSport¬†Competition, and that was in two days time.¬†I had to ice my feet between heats, and had 30 in a row right off the bat which about killed me.¬† It was a Herculean feat, one I didn’t know if I could do, but I did, and even earned Top Student in the Bronze category.¬† So anyways, I’ve done a marathon.¬† I’ve done pushing my limits past what I thought I could do.¬† So I thought I wouldn’t do that this time around and 75 seemed like the reasonable number.

But not to Ivan.

“Why only 75?”

“Ivan!¬† That’s a lot!¬† That’s plenty!”

I suppose to someone who¬†once did¬†600 heats in a competition I’m small potatoes.¬† But I’m no pro.¬† I’m just me.¬† And I’m not in the best dancer’s shape either!¬† 75 sounded like a good challenge.

“How about 100?”

“I might consider 100.¬† But I want to try doing a scholarship round this time.¬† I’ve never done one of those.¬† I’d like to see how I’d do.”

“Okay, okay.¬† It’s fine.¬† You think about it.¬† Maybe if you doing 100 you can be Top Student.”

To be honest, that would be cool.¬† I would be thrilled to achieve that again.¬† But with the 150 heats I did last time, that was my clear intent.¬† I wanted to prove to myself that I could actually do it.¬† And I made sure to enter enough heats that I had a fighting chance.¬† Not a lot of people do that many heats, I don’t think.¬† But since I already did that, it’s actually about having more dance time this go-around.¬† I want to be out on the floor showing off what Ivan and I have worked on for the last 8 months.¬† I want to have time to really express myself.¬† I want enjoy my time dancing.

So the prospect of going for Top Student hasn’t really been a driving force in my decision.¬† But I know that I would rather be dancing than sitting so since I can afford it right now, I thought, well, if Ivan wants to dance with me that much, then I will say yes.

But the negotiations didn’t end there, it seems.

Today I showed up on my lesson and wrote out the check for 100 heats.  I thought that was it.  But Ivan had another surprise in store for me.

Around 10am I got a call.¬† Somehow Ivan had a way for me to dance in¬†20 more heats for the cost of only 2 more.¬† How could I say no to an opportunity like that?¬† Suddenly I was dancing in 120 heats instead of 75.¬† So I guess that’s how you get from 75 to 120!

“Now you maybe can be Top Student.”

“Maybe Ivan.¬† We’ll see.”

“Yes.¬† You have to doing all the expression, and melt the ice, and energy, and breathing, and all that.¬† Me too.¬† Me too.¬† It depending.¬† But maybe we can do it.”

It’s actually kind of exciting.¬† I think it is a longer shot and would mean more if I actually made Top Student in this upcoming¬†competition.¬† For one thing, it would be at a larger competition.¬† For another, I’d have to place really well in most heats to earn enough points to win.¬† In the other competition I had 30 more heats which meant more opportunities for points, even if I placed last.¬† We’ll see.

I’m actually more psyched about the scholarship rounds.¬† I’m excited about being introduced on the dance floor like they do with the professionals (assuming I make it to the final!¬† Just making the final would be a huge accomplishment for me!).¬† I want to put myself out there and see what happens.¬† I figure it will be some great feedback no matter what the outcome and great experience as well.

Anyways, that’s what’s going on in my world right now.¬† We moved this weekend and I’m dancing.¬† I’ve been going in at 6:30 am before work.¬† I think it’s a good thing and I’m excited to see how far I can get in terms of fitness and cardiovascular endurance with a final concerted effort in this last month before the competition.¬† Today I did 2 minutes on most dances we did and over 3 minutes of Waltz.¬† It’s brutal, but great!¬† Progress!

And one final thing.¬† I’d like to share something that made me smile.¬† I get spam links on my blog all the time. Luckily I have a program that identifies them and I can look through them, purge them, etc.¬† But every once in a while one comes along that isn’t trash.¬† There was a bona fide comment in there once, and today, it probably was spam, but I clicked the link because it had dance in the title and it turned out to be a fun thing.¬† It also made me think, if¬†this guy can¬†go out there and shake it in a tiny sequin¬†speedo, I can go out there and shake it in my bedazzled¬†ballroom dress.¬† I have to admit, I was a little worried for him doing the open-legged handstands…that could¬†have gone very¬†wrong, but I love his energy, and cool, calm confidence.¬† Hopefully I’ll be¬†like that at Desert Classic…but don’t expect to see me in a sequined speedo any time soon!¬† Enjoy!

100th Post – Woot!

Because I’ve reached¬†my hundredth post, I thought I should write something special about that.¬† You know?¬† Cause it seems like a milestone or something.

But the truth is, I have no idea what I could do that’s special!¬† I think it would be boring, and maybe difficult, to read (and write)¬†100 reasons why I love dancing, or something like that.

So I thought I’d celebrate simply, by just doing what I always do, and chronicle my dancing adventures.¬† And also, I’m going to dedicate this post to my instructor, Ivan, who has made more of a difference in my life than I think he will ever know.

I will start with yesterday morning when I danced with Ivan at that new studio.¬† This time I remembered my shoes and there was no electrical shock therapy involved.¬† But it was a great lesson.¬† Just one of those times when I felt healthy (for the most part) and energized.¬† I awoke feeling that life is full of possibilities especially with the increase in cashflow I anticipate with the new job.¬† I don’t know if the lesson was remarkable for any other reason than that.

After work, I then headed over to Imperial Ballroom because they were going to have a social dance party¬†with wine and my friends Colette and Katie were planning on going.¬†¬† I arrived at 7pm¬†for class with Toni where we worked on Mambo and Tango and I had a blast, as usual.¬† Toni is so cute and funny and I generally just feel better about life after a lesson with her.¬† Also, I made a new friend, Harry (or Harold) who had just started taking lessons with Toni but has some experience with Salsa and Argentine Tango and that was a special treat.¬† He really seemed to get the “soulfulness” of dancing, and how it can fill a special place in a person’s heart.¬† In addition, I saw my friend Rebecca, whom I haven’t seen since December.¬† We used to dance with the same instructor but she has also moved on and seems very happy.

It was a very fun night full of laughter and conversation and just enjoying dance.¬† I got to dance with Harry a little bit, and Toni and I did a wacky (horrible) Hustle which was mostly just messing up and freestyling.¬† Then I also had the opportunity¬†to dance some Mambo and¬†Cha Cha with Artem.¬† I was like, “Artem, you dance Mambo?!” because he competes professionally in Standard and I’ve never seen him dance Latin.¬† He was like, “Yes.¬† It’s dance.¬† I dance everything!”¬† I did pretty well though there were certainly some things I didn’t know and my knee-jerk reflex is to say “Sorry!” when I screw up.¬† He was like, “Why you keep saying sorry?¬† You think I know what I’m doing?”¬† I was like, “Yeah – you are the professional!”¬† When the Cha Cha started playing, I asked Artem which kind we¬†were going to do, American Rhythm or Latin, and he said, “Let’s just keep it social,” which was fine with me.¬† It was pretty fun and Igor even said after our Cha Cha that it was “spicy” which was a total ego boost.

I also got to dance one Latin Rumba with Igor which was fun but nerve-wracking, a little bit.¬† I’m still pretty new to the Latin dances and only ever have done them with Ivan.¬† Every man¬†leads a little bit differently and there are also differences in body shape and size.¬† Igor is quite a bit shorter than Ivan so¬†when we did some side by side rocks and I spun in front of him, I realized it wasn’t necessary to go up on my toes like I normally do with Ivan.¬†¬†He was also very gentle with his leads…it just felt different.¬† Not bad, by any means – I absolutely love the Latin¬†Rumba, it’s just that dancing with a different partner creates a totally different experience.¬† Plus,¬†it made me even more insecure just because it was my first time ever dancing with either¬†Artem¬†or Igor.¬† However, I was thrilled to hear Igor complement my dancing, saying “Nice Rumba!”

It was all very, very fun.  I was sweating buckets by the end of the evening but even so, it felt like everyone was just cutting loose and playing with the dancing, which is especially nice for us ballroomers because we work so hard and get so technical most of the time on our lessons.

I will also say that as fun as the dance party was (I¬†always love dancing with good dancers and especially ones who are¬†better than me!) I absolutely, completely, and fully feel¬†that Ivan is the instructor for me.¬† It’s just such a¬†good fit in all ways – personality, teaching and learning style, body shape and size even, and I am so grateful.

So today I awoke and headed off to a lesson with Ivan.¬† I got there early so I stopped by the Starbucks to grab an unsweetened iced green tea for myself and a hot white chocolate mocha for Mr. Ivan.¬† Sometimes I just think I am psychic.¬† When I walked in the door the first thing Ivan said was “Hot Mocha! (my nickname) I just thinking I want to go get a mocha from Starbucks but no time.”¬† Apparently I got the mental request through the cosmos.

Just then, Marietta came out from the back.¬† Had I known she was going to be there, I’d have gotten her a drink too!¬† She was subbing¬†for her mom on a lesson but since she was there, Ivan began to tell her about our “shocking” experience at the other studio.¬† And somehow then the conversation turned to doing lifts.¬† I told Ivan I was more likely to be able to lift him so he asked me to try.¬† I grabbed him around the waist and lifted him up!¬† We laughed heartily.¬† Then Ivan decided to give it a go.¬† And he managed to lift me off the ground holding me around my waist twice!¬† Then Marietta told him he had to hold me over his head.¬† Ummm,¬†I think we need to wait on that one, Ivan.

So anyways, we began with¬†the Smooth dances and Ivan reminded me that he wanted to hear my heels scraping along the floor.¬† Boy could I hear his feetsies and I told him he was doing a great job all the while laughing at myself and wishing my feet would just do what they are supposed to do, sliding connected along the floor, heel and toe coming up and going down at the correct time.¬† Ah, yeah, still need to work on that.¬† But of course it wouldn’t be a lesson with Ivan without more twists.¬† He made us get really close to the mirror to practice being in tight quarters on the dance floor.¬† He also made me get close to Marietta, like right up in her face while we did a pose in the Waltz.¬† I noticed that with her, since I know her and feel comfortable around her, it felt¬†okay to do it.¬† I could even look her in the eye.¬† I wasn’t uncomfortable or shy.¬† Normally, this isn’t the case – especially with strangers.¬† I am afraid to look and so my eyes find the floor.¬† I still really struggle with issues around worrying about what other people think of me.¬† It has gotten better, especially with Ivan, and I find more and more confidence, and care less and less, and express more, but I still have a long way to go.

Anyways, after the Smooth dances were complete, we began Latin Rumba and I have to say, it is so easy for me to go on automatic pilot.  It sucks!  Bad Stefanie!  I continue to forget to tune in and connect right away.  I kind of did but then Ivan decided to delay a movement going into an underarm turn creating a slow controlled dynamic and then a quick movement to catch up and get back on time.  It felt so grown-up and fun.  But then Ivan upped the ante.  He wanted me to find my sexy.  I still cringe inside around this.

“C’mon¬†hot mocha!¬† You gotta dance like that, hot!”¬† He made me practice squashing my face so close to his that our noses were touching.¬† He made me practice coming toward him like that hungry tiger we’ve talked about.¬† He also made me do it when he didn’t react (like I normally don’t) being “cold,” as he calls it, so I could see how un-fun it is to come at someone with that hot and heavy energy and get no reaction.¬† It’s all just so dang uncomfortable!¬† Ugh!¬† So many thoughts go through my head when working on this stuff – bringing out the “inner whore” as Ivan calls it.¬† He tells me I dance like a nice virginal high school girl but what I need to do on these particular dances is be a harlot.¬† It’s just so much easier to dance a swing and be happy-go-lucky!

Also, I think about like, is it really okay that I’m this close to you, Ivan?¬† Or that I’m touching you?¬† And what are other people who are watching think?¬† I automatically look anywhere but¬†into his eyes and then remember that I’m supposed to look in them but then my head wobbles around and I don’t seem focused.¬† Not very sexy, I know.

Anyways, we ended up having a whole conversation about all this (and more) after the lesson.¬† Ivan assured me it is okay for me to touch him in the Rumba.¬† He told me that he has to help me push some buttons inside me.¬† He agreed that my expression is getting better but that there is still more that needs coaxing out and the sooner I can “push my buttons” and get it out there, the better.¬† Ivan told me I need to love my body as it is and that I need to lose weight.¬† He told me I dance very feminine.¬† He told me I need to start feeling sexy, even right now – that it would be great if I came wearing less clothing or whatever to help me feel that.¬† I started getting teary-eyed.¬† My willingness and ability to allow myself to feel such things is so tied into my body image.¬† How can someone as fat as I am be sexy?¬† Is that even possible?

It’s tough, you know, because there is this idea of what a dancer should look like, both male and female.¬† I may feel a¬†certain way inside, but no matter how good a dancer I may be, it can only be expressed so much though my physicality such as it is.¬† So there is both the mental and physical aspects¬†of me that still need to evolve.

I feel like such an oddity.  I do believe myself to be a good dancer but I look so much different than most of my competitors.  Last night, for instance, I went to grab a drink after the dance party Colette and Katie.  Alongside those gorgeous gals I felt like we were Wilson Phillips, and you can guess which member of the band I represent!

To a certain extent, I’m at the place that I don’t care about my size and shape – that I love dancing and I’m a dancer, and¬†dancing from the heart transcends physicality.¬†¬†In some ways this is true.¬† But it is also true that¬†my physical presentation absolutely does matter.¬†¬†It absolutely¬†affects the ease with which I can move (or not), my¬†endurance, my overall health, and the lines and pictures I can create.¬† To to another extent, I¬†am very concerned about my size and shape.¬† Layer womanly insecurities about being sexy¬†on top of¬†all that and you get¬†a befuddled mess!

I mean, at the end of Inna’s¬†class on Tuesday, she did a little demonstration, acting out three different couples with help from Chuck, one of my classmates.¬† First,¬†they walked out with a belligerent, combative, irritated attitude.¬† Next, they acted very shy and¬†lacking energy.¬† Finally, they came out with heads held high in calm confidence.¬† Inna asked, “Which couple will win the scholarship?”¬† We all knew it was the third couple.¬† “How do you know this?”¬† she asked, “None of the couples even danced.¬† You saw no dancing.”¬† It was a visceral demonstration of how very important presentation is.¬† She then proceeded to ask us, “How do you present yourselves?¬† To your co-workers, your dance partners, your children, your friends?¬† How do you present yourself to yourself?”

Ask any of my family members and they will tell you how little I generally bother with how I present myself.¬† From wearing worn-out clothes to pulling my hair back into¬†a ponytail from my make-up-less face, I’ve considered spending the time and effort to present myself nice usually not worth it.¬† This isn’t to say I don’t dress up appropriately for special events, but in most of my daily life, I’m as casual as they come.¬† I always figured it wasn’t that important – that what mattered was what was inside and that people who loved me or were my friends would love me or befriend me because of who I am and that had nothing to do with how I look.

And now, here I am, addicted to this dancing sport in which presentation is 80% of the game!  Where make up and glitz and glamour are as important as technique.  Where to win at the game, I have to play by the rules that are 180 degrees from how I normally show up in life.

I almost started crying after Inna’s demonstration because I realized that I don’t always present myself that¬†well.¬† I want to hide.¬† I don’t want to put effort and energy into make up and hair and clothes because nothing can hide how obese I am.¬† If you dress up a frog in the clothes of a prince, everyone can easily see that it’s still a frog.¬† Like I don’t want to look nice with nails and hair when I’m ashamed of the rest of me.¬† You can’t hide 250 pounds behind a haircut, you know?

So on this 100th post, I’m feeling like I’m still the same person as I was on the first post – still someone struggling to find herself and evolve.¬† Someone who acknolwedges her greatness and also is humbled by her humanity.¬† Someone who is still in the game, moving forward, learning, and growing.¬† Someone who has gratitude in her heart for all the lessons and friendships and experiences she has had thus far.

On this 100th post I can see how my ballroom family has grown larger and deeper, and so have I.  I feel re-energized and re-focused as I gear up to compete in the Desert Classic competition in about two months.  I feel clear that the choices I make regarding how I feed myself, care for myself, exercise myself, and present myself in the coming days and weeks will build to create how I show up for this next competition.

So the story continues!  Yay!

Now…. on to the 101st post.

Toodles, Stef