Topical Series: Ballroom Demystified (Part Deux)

Where was part one, you may ask?  Well this post is an extension of another post by Alaina which you can read here.

I thought it was an excellent topic and told her so.  And, me being as opinionated and vociferous as I am (at least as a writer), I was inspired to continue the conversation.

I’ll use Alaina’s same format.  She was comparing DWTS, which probably represents how most uninitiated people think of ballroom, to what actually happens at a ballroom competition.  If you’ve never been to one, then you can’t possibly know, but the two are worlds apart.  I think pretty much the only things they have in common are spray tans, amazing outfits and hair, the fact that there are judges, and Pro/Am couples.  Other than that, things are really different.  And one housekeeping note – I’m talking about NDCA Dancesport competitions as those are the ones I have experience with.  There are other competitions put on through studio chains or through other independent companies like World Promotions which have their own set of rules and protocols.

Point 1: In competition, there are multiple couples on the floor at the same time

Alaina got this right.  The only thing I’ll add, is man, is it a different experience with all that movement going on at the same time.  It kind of makes more sense as to why ballroom couples try to be so ostentatious.  If you don’t know what they will be up against, it may seem particularly gaudy and over-the-top how they move, how they dress, how they do their hair and make up, and all that.  Each couple is vying for the attention of the judges and the audience and being showy, glittery, or even ridiculously cheeky, may help achieve that aim.  It is practically impossible to watch just one couple while they compete as each one will catch your eye at a different point.  This is also part of why couples rotate around the ballroom between heats – to perform for a different section of the audience and hopefully gain their support.

Point 2:  Two styles of dance

I’d argue that there are 4 categories of dance – broadly divided into American styles and International styles.  But it’s not just the styling that is different – it’s also the dances that are performed.  On the American side are the American Rhythm and Smooth Divisions, and on the International side are Standard (or Standard Ballroom) and Latin.

American

American Rhythm – Cha Cha, Rumba, East Coast Swing, Bolero, Mambo

American Smooth – Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese Waltz

International

Standard Ballroom – Waltz, Tango, Foxtrot, Viennese, Waltz, Quickstep

Latin – Samba, Cha cha, Rumba, Paso Doble, Jive

As you can see, some of the dances are the same.  This is where that styling that Alaina was referring to fits in.  In general, legs are straight in Latin Rumba and Cha Cha but there is a bending and straightening action that occurs in American Rhythm.  In American Smooth, couples can go in and out of a dance frame hold and tend to do lots of sweeping movements, and spins with the lady, and maybe dips too, but in Standard Ballroom, the couples must remain in a dance frame hold throughout the entire dance and travel in unison around the floor.  On DWTS, Len’s background would be more in Latin and Standard Ballroom (being from Great Britan) and this is why he often harps about couples breaking out of hold (which I think he used to do more often than he currently does).

In addition, there are also other dances that may be at competitions like country western dances, Night Club Two Step, Argentine Tango, and West Coast Swing, but generally they have different stylization as compared to the dances as danced in their traditional milieu, like a milonga, or with true “Westies.”

Furthermore, there are more types of pairings that can occur.  On DWTS we see a little of this – sometimes there are Pro/Pro pairings, also formation teams, both of which occur at competitions.  In competitions, there are also purely Amateur couples, some of which are very high level and almost as good as the pros.  This pairing is two amateurs and would be the equivalent of two of the “Stars” on DTWS pairing up.  Now that would be interesting to see on the show, but would probably result in poor dancing because instead of only 1 person not knowing what they are doing, both would be clueless!

Also, remember that the couples dancing at competition do not know ahead of time which music they will be dancing to.  On DWTS the routines are more like those that would be presented during a showcase; the music is known and choreographed to.  But in competition, you may have a routine but it has to work and the timing must be correct no matter what music is played.  DWTS did show some of this with those “Instant dances” they have had on a few seasons.  Those dances test the skill set of leading and following.  I believe (though I don’t know for sure) that for most divisions the couples have a pre-planned routine, however they still have to remain in connection so they can react seamlessly if another couple gets in their way or something unexpected happens like one partner forgets the routine.  They can then fall back on lead-follow dancing to get them through.  However, in the Standard Ballroom division, I think there is more of a chance that the couples don’t have a planned routine.  They probably have the basic idea of what they will do and also which steps they will want to show off, but because there is so much movement around the floor and many couples are buzzing around, floorcraft is key in this division in particular.  The couple has to react quickly and often to avoid collisions. (As an aside, I think Artem and Inna are particularly adept at this.  I’ve only ever seen them almost collide once, ever, on a video, and I have seen them masterfully avoid collisions multiple times without missing a single step.)  Anyways, I think in this division, and probably Smooth as well, lead-follow plays a much bigger role.

Amendment:  Please do see the comments section of this post!  Why? Because Ellen so generously and eloquently clarified this detail, about Standard Ballroom dancers.  I am incorrect, it seems!  Standard dancers do have planned routines, and maybe even more so than other dancers!  Who knew?  See Ellen’s explanation!  The main idea is that there are only certain ways to get into and exit out of various steps (very true) so they have to be strung together in careful and meticulous order, which many times will require a pre-set routine.  And yes, I admit when I am wrong! LOL!  Love it!  Thank you for interacting, Ellen!  I appreciate you so very much.

Point 3: Scoring and points

Yeah, there are no paddles at competitions.  Instead, judges mark couples, ranking them or recalling them on forms which are collected and tabulated, and then at various intervals during the day there are awards.  The announcer quickly calls out who made 3rd, 2nd, and 1st in a particular heat.  That’s it.  You may get some gold stickers, or you may get some coupons for $1 off rounds if you compete again next year for placing, and a plaque for participating, but no mirror ball trophy.  Medals are sometimes given for placing in a scholarship competition (I will explain that in a bit).  But certainly no commentary on what each couple did well or any advice on how to improve like happens on DWTS.

Another difference is that because there are multiple couples competing at the same time, if there is a large heat, with many participants, it is possible that many rounds may have to be danced.  There can be multiple preliminary rounds, then quarterfinals, then semifinals, then finals.  During each iteration, a few of the couples will be eliminated.  In the earlier rounds where there are many couples on the floor, the judges simply vote to “recall” those couples they’d like to see more of.  The final round will consist of 6, maybe 7 couples, so getting to semifinals can be a real feat if there are like 24 couples entered in the competition.  Rounds like this can be found at bigger competitions like Ohio Star Ball, or Millennium, or USDC, but usually only happen for pros.  I’ve only ever had one heat large enough to require a semifinal.  All the other heats I’ve danced have always been a final right off the bat because there aren’t enough couples to warrant multiple rounds.

Once reaching the final, judges then place the couples as 1st, 2nd, 3rd and so on.  Each judge gives his or her own individual opinion/ranking and these are tabulated.  This is why you see perhaps 33221 by the picture or write-up in the media of a couple that placed 3rd.  In this example, 2 judges placed the couple 3rd, two judges placed them 2nd, and 1 judge placed them 1st.  The couple with the most 1st’s wins and the ranking follows the same pattern.  Hopefully the rankings will agree somewhat, indicating that the positions were highly contested, and the the judges were generally on the same page as to the excellence of the the couples.  Sometimes, however, they may also vary widely.  A couple can miss a final round, or a higher placement by the opinion of just one judge.  Truly, for this reason, I have such respect for the strength of character and perservence of the pros who put themselves out there to compete.  It can be a brutal process sometimes and very difficult to convince the majority of judges to place you highly enough to reach any level of professional success.

Often competitors can obtain their scoresheets after the competition online to see how a particular judge placed them, or if that judge recalled them.  If the competitor knows the predilections of that judge, then they may gain insight in areas to work on.  For instance, some judges are known to focus in on toplines, others footwork, others overall presentation.  In addition, competitors can see if there was a wide variation in their placements, or if the judges generally agreed upon how they were placed, again giving them more of an idea of what to focus on in the future.

Here’s where I’m going to veer off the path laid by Alaina.

Point 4: Single dances versus Scholarship Rounds, Open versus Closed heats

Okay, so in competitions there are a variety of types of heats.  Single dances are just what they sound like.  You want to dance Mambo, you dance a Mambo.  You will dance it at the appropriate level and age category.  In America, there are Bronze, Silver, and Gold levels.  These may be further divided into “pre-” or “full” or “intermediate” levels.  For instance, as a way of stretching yourself, if you are ranked as a full-Bronze student, you may also participate in a pre-Silver level heat to see how you fare against more advanced competition.  In addition, you dance with people your same age, and can dance against those one age category below you.  This makes it fair so 20-year-olds aren’t competing against octagenarians.

Scholarship rounds are kind of like a mimic of what the pros do.  The pros don’t dance a single dance.  They dance all the dances in their category.  Now, for us beginners, they go a little easier on us.  First, for the lower levels like Bronze, you may only dance 3 or 4 of the dances required by the pros.  Also, the length of the heats is less – 1:10 minutes to 1:2o seconds versus about 2:00 minutes for pros.  Thank God, I have to say, because it takes time to build up the cardiovascular capacity and skill level necessary to complete all the dances for such a (relatively) long duration.  So for instance, I did a closed Bronze scholarship round in Latin at Desert Classic.  This meant that I danced 3 dances in a row: Samba, Cha cha, Rumba and was ranked on those compared to the other Pro/Am couples on the floor at the same time in my same skill level and age category.  No Paso Doble of Jive for me! (Thank heavens!  However, I did dance some single dances in Jive, separately)

Again the scholarship rounds are divided by skill level and age.  They can get very competitive, especially at the Open level.

Okay, now for the difference between Open and Closed.  Closed rounds are those that only include steps in the syllabus.  For NDCA events, this is the DVIDA syllabus.  Open rounds can include more creative choreography and include steps not strictly on the syllabus.  There can be open single dances as well as open scholarship rounds.  They can also still be divided by skill level, so for instance you can dance an open bronze Bolero or an open silver Waltz.

When pros compete, they are competing as an open.  Anyone can enter.  Though for Pro/Am and Amateur levels, the open scholarship rounds are generally still divided by age, but then again, you don’t usually see senior citizens in open professional competition, but you will see them in open Pro/Am scholarship rounds.

Hmm….well, that’s probably just scratching the surface of the differences between DWTS and a NDCA competition.  Honestly, if you’ve never been to one, it’s worth checking out.  The energy of the ballroom during pro heats is unbelievable.  And it’s so inspiring and incredible.  Though I love getting my DWTS fix, I love being a part of this other world and participating in the “real deal.”  There are a lot of ways to participate in ballroom and I’d encourage anyone to participate to any level that works for them, from social dancing, to full-on competition.  All are wonderful, and special, and important.  But for me, I’ve decided, it’s the competition route I’m interested in.  Yeah, I’m crazy.  I know.  Lol.

If you do happen to have anything to add, or any further questions, please comment!  I love hearing other perspectives, and about other experiences.  Part of what I’m after here on the blog is to build community.  Please join in the fun!

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Good Little Blogger Part 2: DWTS The Results

Okay.  It’s been a long day.  But I’m committed (at least today!) and I want to see who survived this week on DWTS.

I’m going to attempt to watch and type at the same time – you know, kill two birds with one stone.  This is my third post today, plus I worked on two more for the topic specific series that will be forthcoming.  Today is my day off so I had some extra time and I’m a pretty fast writer, even if it does take some time to put these posts together and edit them and insert links and all that stuff.  It’s a commercial break right now.  Why am I watching them!  This girl needs to get some sleep at some point tonight and the show is on the DVR.  Time to press fast-forward.

That’s better.

Okay.  Here we go.

But first, just a comment about the Judge’s choice dance.  Man Derek can move those damn hips!  And I liked the kiss with Carrie Ann.

On the chopping block first are Gladys, Maria, and Melissa.  Wow.  Kind of shocked Melissa is safe.    Yes!  Gladys gets to stay for Motown week!

Dance Duels.  Hmmmm.  Not sure I like that the judges get to have the ultimate say in who gets kicked off. I don’t believe Len that the judges always make their decisions only on the quality of the dancing.  I’m skeptical.

Okay.  Now Train. I love seeing the professionals perform to the live music acts!  Who will it be tonight?

Cheryl and Louis faster than a hummingbird on crack cocaine.  Love Cheryl’s outfit.  OMG!  wish I were that sharp and fast!  Damn!  Good thing Inna taught us about Impact Musicality tonight…ha ha.  Even if I can’t execute it yet (or maybe ever…sigh).  Sweet!  They ended with the same move Ivan and I used in the Rumba.  That’s pretty cool….and they went about 10 inches lower to the ground than I ever did…but hey, I got a kiss on the belly and Cheryl didn’t.  lol.

Okay after the commercial break, it’s chat time with Brooke, Roshon, Gavin, William, and their pros.  Have you ever noticed she always does a weird thing with her lips when waiting to speak?

Now Macy’s Stars of Dance with Latin dances to Shelia E.  Very cool.  Capoeria plus Samba. Some serious, frantic, booty shaking with spread legs…looks pretty authentic, like right out of Rio. Then Salsa.  Love this song!  There is a lot of energy on that stage.  Wow.  Azucar!

Whew!  More commercials.

Now Selena Gomez in some very high heels and a tutu.  Dancing we have people I don’t know.  Not ballroom.  Must be people from her tour.  Not my cup of tea.  Oh! I want a sparkly microphone too!  I’ll make that a requirement when I perform on DWTS…that with a bowl of only green M&M’s.  Just kidding.  But the bedazzled microphone is still cool.  Maybe I can apply some rhinestones to my Rockband microphone….You know, I’m a legend in my living room.  🙂

Next on the guillotine is Donald and Peta (I seriously can’t believe Len gave them an 8), Mark and Catherine (I thought they’d get all 10’s), and William and Cheryl (masters of sexual tension).  Squirrel! (that’s a reference from the Pixar movie, Up!)  I just noticed Brooke’s outfit.  Love it.  She looks great.  Glad William is safe.  Glad Catherine is safe.  Glad Donald is safe.  Like the tense build up here!  Who is in the bottom two??

Woo!  Team Cheryl vs. Team Katrina and Team Tony vs. Team Lacy, and Team Mark vs. Team Louis.  LOVE the idea of the Ballroom Battle.  I can’t wait to see all that amazing dancing!

Ooh!  Good commercials.  I love that Target commercial with all the primary color people jumping out of a hotair balloon.  And, a preview for Dark Shadows with Johnny Depp.  I love that stupid show.  They did a revival of it in the 90’s and I was in high school.  It is about a vampire and it is heinously, horribly, cheesier than potatoes au gratin, and completely awesome.  I’m weird I know.  Ok, car commercial.  Time to fast-forward.  I’m doing pretty good keeping up with the show!  Go me!

Alright.  Gavin, Jaleel, Roshon.  We know two of the three are gonna Duel.  I hope Gavin survives.  He’s the worst dancer but the most charming personality of the three.  Karina farted!  LOL!  I guess it wasn’t that smelly if she had to tell Gavin about it.  I love how she coaches him to “get sexy.”  How does one do that in the middle of a dance, especially after their partner just ripped one?

Oh Roshon.  You survived.  I predict he will be in at least the semi-final, but I’m not a fan.

Okay.  The Duel….insert menacing music.

Jaleel is a little weird, no?  I have no idea what he was singing.  And that Mickey Mouse comment in a previous episode.  I think people might be having a hard time connecting with the guy.  I am.

I must say I respect Gavin more for practicing the night before at 11:32, and Jaleel less for complaining about being there at 8:47am the morning of.  Jaleel may be more inherently talented at dancing, but I like Gavin’s work ethic more.

Commercial.

Boy am I stinky after two dance lessons!  Must.  Shower.  TMI, Stef.  TMI.

Who would I save….Gavin!  But based on the quality of the dancing, Gavin is so gone. 😦

I actually feel like Gavin did more actual Cha Cha steps.  Kym and Jaleel did more filler, and less actual Cha Cha.  The world is so unfair!

Who are they going to save?

Oh wait.  First the obligatory moment of saying nice things to both stars.

One vote Jaleel.

One vote Jaleel.

It’s done.

Bruno, Jaleel too.

Duh.

Boo.

Peace!  This girl has to go to bed!

I’m Being A Good Little Blogger And Keeping Up With DWTS!

If you read my blog and you are are a fan of DWTS, then you might recognize the people in this photo.  From left to right is Marietta Nedyalkova-Dishileva, Maksism Chmerkovskiy, and Ivan Dishliev, my instructor.

I post this photo just for fun because Maksism is on DWTS.  If you continue to tune in to my posts over the next weeks, I’ll share a few more pictures with a more DWTS professionals.

So tonight I had the pleasure of watching DWTS with my dear mother-in-law as is our customary ritual on Monday nights, but I also had the pleasure of sharing dinner (delicious spaghetti with homemade sauce and salad) with my husband and father-in-law.

After a decadent meal, even more appreciated and enjoyed because I didn’t have to make it and because Debbie is a phenomenal cook, we settled into the home theater and turned the volume up for our favorite dance show.

It was Latin night and I actually liked Brooke’s dress for a change.  I guess the new format is to open with a little routine from the dance troupe.  They shook their booties to the legend Santana.  It was immensely enjoyable to watch.  However, if I were to name this opening number, I’d name it “banana split.”  Why?  Did you see the couple in yellow?  The gentleman jumped into a spread eagle and did a trick, catching his lady between his legs.  I was like, WOAH!  That woman has some serious guts!  I don’t know how I’d react if some guy was flying through the air toward me, his crotch eye level, the force of his pelvis soaring toward my face pulling me backwards into a back bend, but I’d probably freak out.  Yeah, just a little.  No.  A lot.  That is some serious trust, I must say!  I’ll leave that move to the professionals!

First up was Kym and Jaleel doing the Samba.  The fire was pretty captivating, but in my view, it outshone the actual dancing.  I have to admit that Samba is one of the most difficult dances to master.  Although the judges gave the couple three 8’s, I found the routine a little bit lackluster and wished Jaleel (and even Kym) had more hips.  Jaleel was certainly on the beat and I give him props for that.  The man can move well.  I may be a tough critic, but I just wasn’t that impressed.  However, I was very entertained by Len’s comment that Jaleel’s bum was moving like it was “chewing toffee.”  TMI, Len, TMI.

I guess for me the thing about Jaleel is that I’m not emotionally connecting with him.  His movement is pretty good, and I acknowledge that.  I just personally prefer emotional dynamics, even over excellence in dancing.  For instance, I love Gavin, but technically Jaleel is a better dancer.  Whatever.  To each his own.  The man did well.  This is just my opinion.

Next was Team M & M – Maksism and Melissa, that is.  First let me say that I want the pink sparkly shoes Melissa was wearing.  Such a pretty color.  Look, I admire Melissa’s gumption.  I love that she “got back on the horse” and asked Maksism to put the same trick that went awry last week in this week’s routine.  I’m super glad to see that she is okay.  But dance-wise, I think the judges had it right with three 7’s.  It just isn’t that technically strong.  Melissa hopped around a bit, and still has areas of stiffness in her body.  On the flip side, I agree with Carrie Ann that it is wonderful to see her beginning to embody her womanly power and sexiness.  She is hot and cold, with moments of great movement and lines, and then moments of hot mess.  I think she is adorable overall but don’t think she is going to win the Mirror Ball.

On to Maria and Derek dancing Salsa.  So much amazing stuff to write about with this couple (the kiss in the routine NOT being one of them).  First off, my heart jumped into my throat when Maria hit the floor and hurt her chin.  I’m so glad that she seems to be somewhat recovered from her injuries and that they weren’t made worse by this week’s rehearsal mishap.  Second, I loved the practice session with full-body bubble wrap plus the helmet!  LOL.  Third, wow, Dr. Drew got a show tonight!  I about lost it when Maria began the dance, slithering in front of my favorite Hollywood rehab doctor like an unmanned fire hose!  But the gimmicks in the routine, like Derek shedding his shirt, and the prolonged kiss, were probably entertaining to the masses, but I found them cheesy, kind of annoying even.  I’m a sucker for authenticity, and although I felt like Maria enjoyed what she was doing, I didn’t think it deserved a score of three 9’s.  Maybe like a 9,8,9 or something.  It just wasn’t “all that” to me – especially reflecting upon routines debuted later in the evening.

Holy crap this is turning into a long post!  And I thought I didn’t take many notes on the episode tonight! Ha ha.

Okay, so Mark and Catherine danced an exquisite Argentine Tango next.  I knew this would suit Catherine because of her beautiful ballet feet and legs, and I was right.  With a score of 10,9,10, they tied with William and Cheryl for the highest score of the evening.  The drama was there.  The intensity was there.  The gorgeous dancing was there.  I just wish they hadn’t danced in pink.  A weird detractor for me, I know, but pink isn’t a fiery, passionate color to me.  That, seriously, was my biggest criticism (which is pretty weak – indeed, I felt like they deserved three 10’s).  Mark and Catherine were sharp, on time, and in sync.  They created the exact same lines side by side.  I really thought Catherine looked as good as a professional dancing this number.  So  just as with  Mr. Bruno, this number made me “tingle.”

Oh sweet baby Jesus.  Gavin and Karina.  What shall I say about you?  Samba, or “Shamba,” or “struggle” as touted by the show, Len, and Gavin, respectively, I can only say that Gavin, you are a “white boy” if ever there was one.  First off, he looked pale next to tan Karina, and it didn’t help.  Secondly, the cool effect of him rowing in the canoe in the beginning of the number pretty much upstaged the actual dancing.  Thirdly, I kept wondering why Gavin’s shirt was so dirty – it was very distracting for me.  As my mother-in-law mentioned, Gavin looked like “a fish out of water” doing this dance.  But the thing is, I enjoyed it!  I just see Gavin’s personality shining through and for me that trumps technique.  Gavin comes across as self-deprecating, humble, joyful, and charming.  I hope to see more of him, even if I think it is unlikely.  Scores of 6,6,7 are probably appropriate.

Okay, we are reaching the home stretch now.

How did the show have time to fit all this in?  Next was a number with Anna and Louis which was FANTASTIC and FAST!  I sincerely yelled aloud, “Stop!” they were going so fast!  I was amazed with the dang footwork and in wonder of how the human body can move that speedily….actually, I am wondering if it is even possible for my human body to move that fast.  So far, that has not been the case.  They were Ah-maze-ing.

Back to the Pro/Am couples and William and Cheryl were next up with an Argentine Tango.  Talk about sex, intensity, and good dancing.  I didn’t write many notes for this number because I was so mesmerized and engaged in the performance.  It may seem weird, but I was particularly captivated by the intensity with which William threw away the towel they were using.  I observed William as playing the part exceptionally well and having sharp, staccato movement.  It was fantastic and the scores tying for the top spot on the leaderboard were appropriate.

Now we travel to Irelenad and Motown – Tristan and Gladys.  They are cutie patooties, no matter how you cut it, both of them!  Gladys’ personality never fails to radiate through her dancing out to the farest reaches of the audience.  She is genuine and a born entertainer.  She has great musicality.  However, the scores of 7,7,8 I agree with.  The movement was simple, the technique is lackluster, and she just can’t move like William, Donald, Catherine, or Maria.  I really enjoy watching her, but again, don’t think she will ultimately win.

On to my least favorite couple – Roshon and Chelsea.  This is just my bias, but I just don’t like the kid.  I think it was horrible to try and make him be “sexy” in the Samba routine.  He’s about as sexy as a beanpole.  He did generate great excitement with his movement and he is very quick, very sharp, and on time.  But I agree with Len – he dances like a young man with his first car…a bit out of control and overly confident/cocky.  Scores of 9,8,9 position him appropriately in terms of dancing, in my mind, but again, I’d have liked a bit lower scores.  What I saw lacking were fluidity, hip movement, and dancing down into the floor instead of hopping atop it.  Sorry Disney fans – this is just my personal appriasal.  I acknowledg that it is not “the truth.”

And last, but not least, Granny Sweater and Peta.  OMG, Peta is Ah-maze-ing.  I will say it again, I want to grow up to be her.  I wrote nothing but “Holy Shit” for this number because I was watching their captivating Argentine Tango every second.  I couldn’t even look away to write something.  I felt like Len was a poopy pants giving them a 8.  They are positioned high enough that I think they are safe and I personally hope to see them in weeks to come.  I agreed with the audience as they booed the overall scores of 10,8,9.  This score put them below William and Cheryl and Mark and Catherine when I feel they were on par with those two couples.  I’d have preferred to have seen a three-way tie.  However, I am no Argentine Tango expert.  Perhaps Len was justified in his scoring.  I rarely see much of the basic AT step (which I do know) in DWTS routines.

If you’ve read this far, you are awesome.  So far my word count tops 1700.  I know this is a long one!

Please feel free to opine!  Whether you agree or disagree, the point is to generate discussion!

XOXO, Stef

Dance Show Mecca

In case you haven’t noticed, it is a great time to watch tv shows about all things dance right now.

Of course there is Dancing With The Stars (DWTS).

And Dance Moms.

And now a spin off, Dance Moms, Miami.

Plus, America’s Best Dance Crew (ABDC) just started this week.

The only one missing is So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD), oh, and that one with Laurie Ann Gibson.  Maybe that one is on, but if it is, I’m not watching it.

I could probably write 10,000 words, easy, about all these shows, but for the sake of not making you read for an hour, I’ll focus my commentary.  I think I’ll just mention highlights for all these shows to get caught up (kinda), because if I took the time to write everything I actually have to say, I’d be here until next week, and you probably don’t want to rehash things already transpired.

That being said, here is my disclaimer:  you probably need to have been watching these shows to know what I’m talking about in the rest of this post.  I’m not going to explain everything that has been going on, the backstory, if you will.  Maybe I’m being lazy, but seriously, it would take too long than I’m willing to spend to explain everything!

I wrote about the premiere episode of DWTS and then let life get in the way and haven’t mentioned a word about it since then.  Yes, I’ve been watching, and yes I have thoughts.

Let’s see….First, I’m sad Sherri is gone!  Truth be told, I’d have preferred Roshon to have gotten the boot.  I felt for her so much as she sobbed and I loved how she expressed gratitude for the experience.  I am totally okay with Jack Wagner being kicked off (the dude danced to his own song, yo!) and though I thought Martina was adorable, I’m not surprised she was first to leave.  I’m sorry Melissa got injured, and hope that she has a full and speedy recovery.  And Catherine has been awesome.  She did great in the Latin dances and I thought she might be too soft in them with her ballet background (well, I’m assuming she had ballet – they haven’t disclosed that bit of information).  Maria, I’m on the fence about.  I can’t decide if she is awesome  (well, yes she is awesome) or foolhardy for pushing too hard.  I feel like she pushes, pushes, pushes, makes things work, and maybe, just maybe, her body is giving her a signal.  You know, broken ribs, stress fractures in the feet….it could be a sign to slow down.  I admire her positivity, her commitment, and perserverance.  She’s got character and she’s adorable.  Even her laugh is growing on me.  But I also feel like when a person pushes, and pushes, and pushes, eventually they push against something and it doesn’t work.  At that point it is time to change.  I wonder how long and how hard she has been pushing.  No one can be super-human.  I sincerely hope her injuries heal quickly, and completely, and that she is able to continue on….if that is the safe and sane course of action.  I’m sure they have doctors at the beck and call who can advise her as to the best path.  William is adorable, I hope he continues to grow.  I am a huge fan of Donald Driver at this point.  Only a true man can wear a “granny sweater” and I want to grow up to be Peta.  Jaleel, um, well, I’m lukewarm.  Let’s just leave it at that.

Now for Dance Moms.  What a dysfunctional show!

It is a mixed bag for me.

I can see my old instructor in Ms. Abby Lee, though Glenda was as thin as a rail and Abby is about as fat as I am!  What I mean to say is that I can see the pushing, the cajoling, the pulling from students.  I can see the perfectionism, the demanding of being flawness, the reminding of what it really takes to become a professional.

I can see that on some level, Abby must know what the hell she is doing in terms of technique but that doesn’t excuse her abhorrent behavior.

But, I have to say, as much as a taskmaster as my previous teachers Glenda (and her daughter Trisha) were, I am eternally grateful for her influence in my life.  She, who pushed the most, she who reminded me how far away I was from the ideal, and how unlikely I was to become a professional dancer, she was the one who made me into the best dancer I’ve ever been.

Now everything in this life has prices and benefits.

Would it have been possible for Glenda to mold me and many others into the dancers we became through different methods?  Most likely yes.  Would it be possible for Abby as well?  Of course. I feel for those little girls.  They are in the crossfire of all sorts of emotional bombs between Abby and their mothers and it seems to me like it could be very damaging.  How is this affecting their self-worth?  It’s like an emotional warfare battle zone.  There is so much drama, clearly some of it is scripted, but even so, that has to be very difficult to navigate, especially at such a young age.  And what is this pyramid business?  It is just a tool for control and a reinforcement of comparing oneself to others, rather than tracking one’s individual progress.  It’s a sort of madness.

Some of them are excellent dancers and Nia has really grown throughout the seasons.   I felt good for Chloe getting her moment to shine on the season finale both with winning the top solo routine and getting the Joffrey scholarship.  She is already a little Rockette and I’ve always felt bad for her as it seems she has been playing second fiddle to Maddie.  But poor Maddie blanked out on stage during her solo and caused something I never thought I’d see….Abby Lee Miller crying.  No one celebrated Chloe’s victories because they were all feeling bad about placing 10th in the group number and Maddie running off the stage.  And don’t get me started on how poorly those moms behave.  I was embarrassed for them as one of the instructors from the Joffrey ballet had to exit the class and chide them because of the ruckus they were making.  And that Candy Apple lady – what a piece of work!  I feel like there has to be a better way to produce excellent dancers.  Abby boarders on abusive, I think, and I can’t hardly believe those moms allow such treatment of their daughters.  I have yet to watch the premiere for the Miami spin off but hopefully it isn’t as awful for the kids as the original.

And lastly, ABDC.  I enjoy the dancing but can’t stand the judges, except for Deetrix.  I experience JC as snobby and I can barely understand Lil’ Mama.  I also question their level of dance expertise (except for Deetrix who is a b-boy).  The groups were pretty entertaining but I do think they got the right one in the bottom slot.  Right now I don’t have a favorite group but I really enjoyed the comic performance of Stepboys.  The opening number was fantastic with so much energy with all the dancers from five of the crews that it spilled out of my tv into my living room.  ABDC tends to be a high-energy show and I get more attached to the groups as time goes by.  It will be fun to see what creative and fun things happen as the season continues.

I guess that is it for now.  Happy watching!

Damn! Maksim Looked Hot There For A Few Seconds! – DWTS Premiere Commentary

Belated, I know.  The Dancing With The Stars (DWTS) premiere was Monday and it’s Thursday, but hey, better late than never!

Watching this show has become a special ritual for me and my mother-in-law.  She loves the dancing just as much as I do and she lets me come to her house, eat her food, drink her wine, share her company, and talk my silly head off about all that is going on in the show while it plays on her movie-sized projection screen and I sit in a reclinable home theater chair.  It’s pretty close to heaven.  The only thing closer is dancing myself!

So, being someone who actually dances ballroom, I have opinions about this show.  I’m sure most people do who watch it, of course. I mean, that’s were all the fun comes in, right?  We get to pick our favorites and cheer them on, see them transform and grow, and be inspired.

Let me say this before I say anything else.  I totally honor and acknowledge the fact that these stars are willing to get out of their comfort zone and take this challenge on.  No matter how “good” or “bad” of a dancer they show up as, I give them props for being players in the game called life.  We viewers are simply spectating.  As a person who is a player (at times – such as in my recent showcase or at competitions), I can say that there are prices and benefits to being both a player and a spectator.  As a spectator you can have any opinion you want but you don’t risk anything, really, and there isn’t much opportunity to change or grow.  As a player, you risk screwing up, failing, and embarrassing yourself, but you have the opportunity to transform, learn, gain experience and wisdom.  Neither being a player or a spectator is right or wrong, good or bad, but each is a very different experience.  From a sometime player (me) to the players on the show (the stars), I salute you.

That being said, I still have lots to say on the beginning episode of this season.  Maybe you will find it entertaining.  Maybe you won’t.  Maybe you will agree with me.  Maybe you won’t.  I don’t always agree with the judges that’s for sure! Please feel free to comment as much as you like if you have something to say.  I’d love to interact with you!

So the show is following its same formula as always which is kind of annoying.  You know they do it to cover as many demographics as possible but we had our standard Disney kid, a sexagenarian, a few athletes, some singers, a tv/movie star, and someone in the media, all of which we have mostly have never heard of.

The first couple was Maria Menunos (media person) and Derek doing a Cha Cha.  Derek, in my opinion (actually everything I write is my opinion so please just mentally insert that phrase after everything I write from here on out – I mean, it’s my thought, not THE TRUTH, you know?) Well, getting back to this run-on sentence, Derek is very good at making his partners look good.  I feel like he manhandles his women a little bit sometimes, but he has been very successful highlighting his partners’ strengths and hiding their weaknesses.

From my perspective, the Cha Cha was okay.  Maria needed a few “ticky ticky ta’s” to help her hip movement and she danced a little stiff, I thought, like a two-by-four, as Ivan would say.  So, not bad, not great, and plenty of room for her to blossom and grow.

Next was Jack Wagner and Anna Trebunskaya in their bright turquoise outfits doing a Foxtrot.  I thought Jack was very stiff but coped okay.  There was a lot of “fluff” at the beginning to waste time.  The dance for me was enjoyable because of Jack’s acting and personality but the technique left something to be desired.  Again good, not great for me, so I was shocked when Jack got two 8’s from the judges.  It made me wonder if he’d made some contract that he couldn’t be kicked off the show the first week, or something.  Especially in light of some of the other performances of the night, I thought the 8’s were pretty high for his performance.  But, I really want Anna’s shoes from this number!  They were sparkly blue goodness.

Then came Donald Driver and Peta.  Oh my gosh Peta is gorgeous.  That little number she was wearing was amazing too.  Their Cha Cha was fantastic.  I think Tom Bergeron had it right about this number – it really didn’t feel like week one watching them dance.  Donald did a lot of great side-by-side dancing which I think is difficult to do…much easier to stay in frame and be guided by your professional partner.  The side-by-side work demonstrated Donald’s balance and ability to move.  It will be very interesting to see how Donald does next week with the Quickstep, being a ballroom dance and all.  He seems much more suited to the latin numbers and had great rhythm.  So to be awarded all 7’s by the judges I was like, WTH!  I’m sure he’ll be voted through, though.

Interesting side note…I’ve only voted once, ever for DWTS and never for any other show like SYTYCD, Idol, etc.  Weird, I know.  I’m quirky like that.

Gavin Degraw and Karina were up next with a Foxtrot.  I appreciated Gavin’s authenticity about feeling more confident when he has a piano between him and the audience and I genuinely enjoyed his performance, but not so much because of the dancing.  He was a weird mix of being fluid and stiff and definitely suffered from “paddle hands.”  But I really liked him anyways and see that he has a lot of potential to improve.  I was like, awwww Gavin, I like you, even if you are a two-by-four.  His rankings were about right from the judges, I thought.

Chelsea and the token Disney kid, Roshon, were slated for the Cha Cha after that.  Can he move?  Yes.  For me, he’s like, Dance ten, attitude three.  I appreciate the fact that he shared that he is a freestyler but didn’t appreciate the fact that he claimed not to be intimidated by ballroom at all.  It was nice to see he changed his tune at the end saying that he was “very wrong” and that ballroom wasn’t that difficult.  Also, it annoyed me a little bit that he did the Moonwalk like five times during the routine.  Though I totally get why Chelsea would want to choreograph the number to highlight Roshon’s abilities, even my mother-in-law asked me what dance they were doing because she couldn’t tell.  So, I’m not a fan.  He’ll probably do very well this season.  For sure I thought he danced better than Jack Wagner, but he got an equivalent score.

OMG do I love Miss Sherri! I’m going to call her “Smiles” from now on.  As my friend Ivonne said, “Sherri Shephard just made me feel so joyful and happy. It was contagious! Watching her whole segment made me feel like I was wrapped up in rainbows and puppy dogs and kittens.”  Yep.  That pretty much sums it up.  She was darling.  I loved the part where Val put her hand on his behind and she declared, “God is real!”  Smiles will be very fun to watch this season and I’m rooting for her.

The next team on the floor was M&M – Melissa Gilbert and Maksim, that is.  Damn!  Maksim looked freakin’ hot when the showed him when he first met Melissa with the long hair and scruffy beard.  I’m not normally so into him but for those few seconds, I think he was even hotter than the Cuban guy, William Levy.  Anyways, I digress.  Maksim had it right – ugly movement (at times) but correct.  I think Melissa has the opportunity to come out of her shell and I did see some nice movement mixed in there – I noticed a really nice time step.  Considering the woman has recovered from breaking her back, I think she is doing awesome.  I hope her confidence continues to grow as the season progresses.

Oh la la.  William Levy and Cheryl Burke.  Here we have the opposite of dance ten, looks three.  It was looks ten, dance three.  Well, maybe not a three, but maybe a five or six?  Sure the man has rhythm but he dances like someone who works out.  He moved, I thought, like Psycho Mike from last season who got booted after the first episode.  A little bit stiff with pigeon toes.  Plus he danced more like he was at a club than in a ballroom.  He sure had audience support, though.  And he is pretty to look at.  Also, I love, love, loved Cheryl’s green glitter outfit with matching shoes.  Again, I think he will be around for quite a while.

Martina and Tony graced us viewers next with a Foxtrot.  Martina is darling but she dances very manly, like Hope Solo did last season.  It’s just that she has such different muscle memory from the sport she plays.  However, she did look beautiful in her dress and how awesome that she was wearing it after not donning one for 20 years.  It’s her opportunity to get in touch with her femininity and I would love to see that journey unfold.  I mean, her biggest concern was wearing heels.  I’m cheering for her success but we will see how far she gets.  You never know….Hope made it very far last season dancing that manly.

Okay, so here in the show I got a little annoyed.  It was Mark and Katherine Jenkins.  She was absolutely gorgeous, don’t get me wrong, but that’s probably partly because she really looks to me like she’s had ballet training in her past.  That, to me, is absolutely fine – I just wish they’d acknowledged it like they acknowledged the dancing background for Roshon.  You see, she made exquisite lines and the Foxtrot really suited her, but she was dancing it like a ballerina, on her toes (and with a gorgeous port de bras), not like a ballroom dancer.  I’m just sayin’.  It doesn’t seem fair that someone can be that beautiful and talented at both singing and dancing.  She is amazing and I think she will (and should) go far. She is a great dancer.  It will be interesting to see how she manages with the “sexy” dances.

Oh Gladys, you are darling and I want that red dress!  Gladys Knight and Tristan did a great Cha Cha and I thought Gladys was very cool, calm, and collected.  I was really impressed and she deserved that standing ovation.  But alas, she got the same score as Jack Wagner!  Can you believe it!?  She did amazing and I will enjoy watching her for weeks to come.

And last, but probably the best, was Erkel, I mean Jaleel White and Kym Johnson.  His Foxtrot was spectacular right from the start with an impressive 360 leap.  He was very light on his feet, had great flow, lots of charisma, and was even compared by Bruno to the incomparable Gregory Hines.  The show producers were right to put him last as the show ended with a bang.

All in all, a great first show and a nice, glittery escape from real life.  I will be watching!

It Must Be The Skirt

Today was a stellar dancing day. I mean, stellar. Not only did Ivan like my dancing, but Inna did too. If they are saying I’m doing a good job, then I’m doing a good job.

I’ve decided it must be my new practice skirt. It’s magic. Kind of like the red shoes. Just kidding, but it is still fun to wear because of the movement it generates.

Marietta and Nona made it for me for the showcase but it is also intended as practice-wear. On Monday I went to the ladies’ styling class with Marietta at Dance Starz and she had it ready for me.

I have to say, it’s been quite a week. On Monday at Marietta’s class, I was having a lot of “mental problems.” They were overwhelming. Marietta is gorgeous. Absolutely, amazingly, gorgeous. Her body is perfect, from my point of view. It’s not that all different types of bodies can’t be beautiful, but she has this long, lean, yet voluptuous look. She’s so feminine, and moves so incredibly well, it’s sometimes difficult for me to stand next to her.

It’s nothing she’s doing. It’s all in my head. I totally own that. But it’s stuff I’ve been dealing with since I became aware as a kid that my body wasn’t like other girls’ bodies….that I was bigger. It’s the comparison game, and I’m always a loser. I can’t even imagine having a body like Marietta’s in my wildest dreams. But I wish I could…so incredibly badly. It is entwined with my desire to be a woman, a desirable, captivating, beautiful woman. I just don’t feel like I stack up. Ironic I chose a passion in which most of the top competitors have amazing bodies.

I kind of had a realization about this, though. I’ve been so emotional lately – there’s been some dramatic stress at work and I’m not using food as a crutch to numb myself like I used to – and it’s been hard to weather. Luckily I have dancing and friends, both of which help me stay afloat and refocus. Anyways, I realized that life can really suck whether I’m on the right path or not. What I mean by this, is that difficult emotions arise whether I am eating on a plan and doing what I need to do to lose weight or not. I can totally binge on food or drink a bottle of wine or I can stay on the compassionate self-discipline path and either way, life can really be hard, so I might as well stay on the route that leads me where I want to go.

But that was yesterday. Today I began my day with an early double lesson with Ivan. He’s planning on leaving tomorrow evening (Wednesday) so he can practice with Marietta (I discovered that I’ve been misspelling her name all this time! Ugh! It actually has two “t’s”) before they compete at the Vegas Open this Friday night. She’s going there early to do hair and make-up. I think it’s a great idea, and it shows that they want to get back to the top of their game after a lot of time off because of the wedding. So, it’s a good thing, but a bummer for me and all Ivan’s other students because we can’t have lessons until next week!

Actually, I’m pretty excited because Ivonne and I are going to make a road trip to Vegas on Friday to go watch the Dishliev’s. Katie may join us as well, which would be doubly fun. It will be Ivonne’s first time to see a “bigger” competition. The one she did in Tucson was pretty small. And, it’s her birthday. I can’t think of a better, more exciting way to spend it. The energy of the ballroom during the professional events is truly indescribable.

Also, Marietta and Ivan apparently know of a Bulgarian restaurant that they absolutely love near the hotel in Vegas. We’re planning to go there after the competition and enjoy a big meal.

Well, anyways, getting back to my narrative, since Ivan will be out of town, I elected to have a double lesson this morning even though I also have class with Inna tonight as well.

Ivan and I worked on fundamentals which was excellent. We reviewed the open hip twist step in Cha Cha and he also showed me another variation of the step. Cross-overs continue to be a challenge, but I’m starting to understand the proper movement and timing required. I’m just glad to be getting it right so that I can practice the new way and integrate it into my muscle memory.

We also worked on Swing and did a Foxtrot and Viennese Waltz. I’ve concluded that I need to work on my quadricep strength so that I can actually curtsey. Watching playback of some of my presentations during competitions, they are pretty weak. I also see how low the professionals go, and even if I can’t do that just yet, and heft myself back up, I can go deeper and work up to it.

Finally, we got to the showcase Rumba. Ivan had me do the opening sequence in which I dance by myself. It was actually really cool. I got to the place where he’s supposed to dance with me and he was still hanging out by the music controls. He said that it was good, that he enjoyed watching it. That for the first time he felt relaxed watching me, he could sense I was secure in my movement. He said that he could easily watch me dance for four minutes if I continued to dance like that.

Then he said, “You gotta dance this all by yourself. Not for the showcase on the 16th, but later. You show your balance, and your movement. You dance like you are dancing with someone but all by yourself. This is highest level. It’d be so nice you to doing it.”

Then he gave me a correction in one place (I mean, he is still my dance teacher), but then said, “Do it again because I like it.”

Go me! That is some awesome feedback, if you ask me. It didn’t really give me like a super-ego charge or anything, like it might have in the past. It would have been a “peak experience,” a “high,” to hear that. But this time around, I experienced it in a more balanced, centered way. It’s kind of hard to explain, but it was wonderful, but not like a double shot of espresso for my ego.

It just feels like, especially after Inna’s feedback today, that I’m growing, changing, and shifting closer to the excellent dancer I know I can be and that I’m therefore showing up differently enough that those who see me regularly notice a difference. I feel acknowledged. The dancer in me feels acknowledged.

So, about Inna’s class. As usual, it was a butt-kicker. I’m kind of getting to know Inna’s little peculiarities. She always does this thing. She’ll have us stand in a position, either starting position, or she’ll yell out, “Stop!” in the middle of a routine and have us hold that position. Then she’ll walk around and correct positioning having us all stand still. My God sometimes I want to kill myself! Tonight, for instance, my arm was actually shaking at the shoulder. So she has us hold these positions and then when she’s done making corrections, she says, “And now hold that position for the next 45 minutes.” She’s only half-joking. We really are supposed to hold these positions while dancing over the next 45 minutes of class.

Well, anyways, we did Rumba and Cha Cha. She had us do a Rumba box with arms (which killed my arms) and then she had us do Rumba walks. Going forward wasn’t so bad, but then she got it in her mind to have us do backward Rumba walks. Now, I’ve never done them before. She demonstrated the technique and we went across the floor backwards about 6 times. That was an interesting experience, for sure! But once again, its something I don’t think I’d learn anywhere else. These classes are just so valuable to me and I appreciate them very much.

Finally, we did a Cha Cha combination: two basics, cuban breaks, time step, then locks on both sides. It was exhausting! We worked on making our arms sharp. By this time, my left arm didn’t even want to work! The muscle was just so fatigued I could barely swing it into position, much less stick it there with force, precision, pizzaz. Whatever, I rocked it once or twice, then had floppy arms, then rested, then gave it my all once again.

Inna ended class on time tonight, probably because she had a lesson directly afterwards (thank you Jesus!) so we curtsied and exited the floor. As I was packing up my stuff I just told Inna,

“Inna, thanks for another butt-kicking class! I just appreciate them so much.”

She replied, “You did well tonight! Very good! You’re getting better and better every time.”

Well goodness me! That was an amazing thing to hear.

“Thanks, Inna! And you saw me when I first walked into Jeff’s.”

“Yes, I see it.”

Back then I was carrying around 40-plus more pounds on my body and hadn’t been dancing in over two years. I’d only danced ballroom for maybe 6 months total. It’s kind of cool that she can see my progress. Scratch that, it is very cool.

She’s a top competitor and I respect both her and Ivan as professional dancers who know their stuff. To get a double dose of recognition from them today, well, it really was quite wonderful.

I know that earlier I joked that all this must be because of the new practice skirt I got to wear today. But the truth is, this is the result of dedicated practice, sweat, lessons, and sticking with it. It is about showing up and doing the best I can in the moment. Sometimes, admittedly, it turns out better than others. Today, I guess, was one of the days where it worked out for me…twice! Yippie!

Well, I guess that’s all the news for me in my life, but I see that the new cast of DWTS has been announced. My mother-in-law and I are addicted to watching that show and I usually go to her house to watch it. They have a movie theater in their home with reclining chairs…it’s a little piece of heaven. So I go and then I tell her everything I think, and trust me, I have a lot to say!

The next season premiere is less than a month away, March 19th, and you better believe I’ll be watching.

Alright, kids, it’s time for me to sign off. I’m tired, it’s bedtime, and I’ve written upwards of 1800 words tonight! It’s been a long one.

I promise my next post will be less verbose and include more video. Funny video. In fact, I can hardly wait to share it with you – it’s Ivan at his finest and most hilarious.

Until then…now, to bed!

Eat Me

Man.  It has been quite a week for me.  I’m spent.  Drama at work.  Stress.  Ugh.

I even called Ivan to have an “emergency” dance lesson on Wednesday night.  I just needed to blow off some serious steam.

I showed up in my scrubs from work because I hadn’t been planning to come in for a lesson that evening.  I was stinky from the long day and not  feeling particularly pretty.  But a funny thing happened.  We worked on Rumba (of course) and because (I think) I was so emotionally spent, tired, and feeling beaten down, there was no wall like I usually have.  I was raw, open, authentic.

We did a fan and Ivan told me to grab my butt and I was like, okay, fine.  I totally did it.  I totally just danced the step and used my arm to muss my hair, and really let go.  That was the secret.  I let go.

Ivan was like, “Wow!  What happened?  This is your sexiest day.  You never do this before and now, today, bam!”

Seriously?!  This is what it takes to let the sexy out?  I felt like crap and yet according to Ivan, it was my sexiest day ever.

Hmmm.

Don’t really know how to respond to that except for the fact that I discovered that I am more and more often letting go, relaxing enough to express myself, even if it is small chunks, and little by little, I am becoming “that Latin girl.”  There really is something to letting go….like remembering what it was like when I was a kid and had no social filters.  You know, the ones that say, “Don’t look stupid.  Don’t draw attention to yourself.  Don’t be stuck up.  Don’t be this.  Don’t be that.”  And when I listen to them, I end up doing nothing.  The steps are empty.  That isn’t why people love to watch dancing.  They love to watch the abandon, the freedom, the thrilling emotions as expressed by the dancers.

Ah, abandon.  That’s a challenge for me.  It surely is.  But not so much for Ivan.  He’s a pro at it.  Good thing he is my teacher.

So anyways, even after the emergency dance lesson I was still not feeling quite right.  I decided that I could get out of my “stuff” by focusing on doing something for someone else so I drove to Michael’s and bought the materials I needed complete the mirror project I mentioned in a previous post The Mirror of Relationship.  I knew it would be a special thing to do and would give me great joy.  I made a mirror for Ivan that says “I am a champion!  Yes I am!” in Bulgarian.  You can see the photo here.

Anyways, yesterday I gave him the mirror and read him a card and I think he was genuinely touched.

“Nobody do this for me, Estefanie.”

He almost, but not quite, teared up.  I’m sure of it!  Ha ha.

Anyways, I might have created a monster!  Right after this he started strutting around as if he were the lone rooster in a hen house.  He was sporting a big smile and started joking with me.

“You better get a lot of lessons in now before I champion!”

“Yeah, Ivan, you’re right.”

“Ya, I cheap right now.  So dance with me now.  Touch it now.  ‘Cause later it’s gonna be expensive.”

“Gosh!  I better get in as many as I can because I’m already stretched to afford lessons.  They’re worth every penny, but I’d love to be able to do more.”

“No, no.  I not gonna raise my prices, but many people do.  Once I met a lady at a competition who used to dance with Tony Dovolani.  She was say, ‘To think, I used to miss lessons, or skip them, and now he’s a champion!  I feel sick to my stomach about it.  Then he was $60.  Now he’s $190 and I can’t dance with him.'”

“Well, Ivan, when you do become champion, you should raise your prices….just not for your old students, like me!”

“Just think, Estefanie.  Maybe one day you dance with a champion!”

“I do every day already, Ivan.”

I really feel this way.  I see the champion in Ivan.  He was already a champion in Bulgaria so sometimes I think he thinks his career has already peaked.  But I disagree and believe in him and Marieta and think it is entirely possible that the best is yet to come.

In any case, this got us both to thinking….what if, just what if, Ivan ended up being one of pros on DWTS.  That would be HILARIOUS!  He is so freakin’ entertaining on all our lessons.  I’ll provide yet another example later in this blog post – but seriously, he would be fantastic.

The only thing would be that he’d have to be matched with someone he didn’t hate.  He recently fired a student because he felt about her what cats feel about being doused in a tub of water.  I could totally see him walking off the show if he ended up with some horrible human being.

But, as long as he was with a reasonable student, wow, America watch out.  It’d be a whole new level of entertainment.

So, I’d really better get as many lessons in right now as I can!  Ha ha!

After all the banter we finally settled into actually dancing.  We ran cha cha and bolero and rumba and samba.  Then we focused on the Latin Rumba because there is still a lot of work to do on dancing that well.  I realized that I was not settling on my standing leg with my hip and this is why I was always falling off balance.  My body’s still trying to dance like a ballerina even though my head is trying to get me to be a Latin dancer.

Next we worked on steps that set up the fan.  During the first part I’m supposed to be feminine, Ivan explained, then in the second part when I come toward him, I’m supposed to be more aggressive.

“Eat me,” he tells me.

Of course, I burst out laughing.  It’s a little lost in translation.  He doesn’t mean like eat me, he means like literally, “eat me like a tiger would eat a person using that aggressive, intense type of attacking energy.”  I may not speak Bulgarian, but I speak Ivan.  There is always a touch of translation that has to be done but usually the gaffes are adorable and always they are meant well.

He continues, “You gotta be hungry.”

Okay, I think.  I get the point.

We do the steps and I come at him like a tiger!  Rarrrrr!

“You not hungry.  You not hungry tiger.”

Fail!

We try again and each time I raise my intensity.  Finally we hit one Ivan likes.  Then he tells me to do it one more time so he can look in the mirror and watch it.

“Wow.” He says, “I think it maybe look good, but it look really good.”

Yep, the sexiest day ever continues.

Ivan's New Business Card. C'mon now! If this man asked you to be a hungry tiger toward him, what would you do?

As I reflect upon the past few days, they were difficult for me.  But I realize that I handled it better than I ever did in the past.  And also, even with all the stress of this past week, I knew I had something to look forward to.  Dancing is a non-negotiable in my life right now, even if I have to stretch financially to make it happen.  I’ve given it up before and when I do that, I slowly die.  As I continue to dance, I continue to come more and more to life.  I think that is one of the things Ivan really embodies – being alive, like vibrantly alive.  His aliveness calls out to the small alive plant taking root in my soul and little by little I awaken from my numb slumber.

Oh, that brings up another point.  I don’t know if I mentioned it, but I’m down another 4.4 pounds from my last weigh in on February 10th.  So, I’m shedding the weight, coming more alive, feeling more emotions (the entire spectrum – including the not-so-fun ones), and I’m doing it by dancing.

I’ll admit, I was beginning to despair a little bit about my chances of transforming myself by July of this year.  But if I just keep doing what I’m doing, even with the detours and screw-ups, if I keep just logging my calories, dancing, and wearing my Fitbit, no matter what, I’ll be different in 5 months.  I may not be where I want to ultimately get to, but I do want to show up regardless.  I may even have friends who will come to see me dance at the Desert Classic.  I can’t let them down.  But more importantly, I can’t let me down.  I can’t let go of this dream of finally being happy with my body, and give up, even if my progress hasn’t been as swift as I’d like.

Part of me wanted to back out of this dance competition because I’m not near as far along as I wanted to be.  I’ve been treading water, I feel like, for months.  But how could I do that, really?  I’ve got to stay committed – in fact re-commit, and choose back in with all I’ve got.  Which makes me think it’s time to purchase the plane tickets for July for two reasons:  1) it will make it a reality that I’m going to this venue and 2) the tickets will be cheaper so far in advance.  I just have to remember to tell Ivan the next time I see him.  I’m serious about doing this, I just need to make sure I know it!