Back To Real Life…And Beyond

There is always a bit of a transition coming back down to earth after a competition. But I must say, the pace has not lessened one iota since I’ve been home. I was right back to ballet Monday evening the day after I got home, and the rest of my week went as planned with work outs at the gym, Inna’s class, the eating plan, and fitting in some dance lessons with Ivan. Actually, there was even more activity this week because it was Imperial’s annual showcase/masquerade gala Friday night, and over at EuroRhythm Saturday morning after my double lesson with Ivan I was blessed to have attended a workshop with Latin couple Andrej Skufca & Melinda Torokgyorgy, who, according to are positioned 5 in the world and 1 in Slovenia.

It’s honestly been a very, very good week. I’m am clear and focused and determined. This feels really wonderful and like I have some forward momentum propelling me towards my goals. There is a fire in my belly that hasn’t been there before to power me. And I’m so grateful for all the experiences I’ve had, even the difficult ones, for they have brought me to this point.

Earlier in the week I had a nice lesson with Ivan where we focused on American Rhythm technique. I love getting back to the basics and still feel like I have so much work to do to truly demonstrate the proper movements. Especially since I do bronze, I want to be clear, prescise, and spot on with the basics. For me, the more clear and detailed and specific I can be, the more that I know what I am doing, the more confident I feel and the better I dance. I am happy we are taking some steps back to see the bigger picture and re-align. This includes finding our connection, which was the bigger issue we worked on today and Saturday. For certain Ivan and I felt disjointed at Holiday, like we were not dancing together. Well, Saturday morning, it was better. It was more about the energy and connecting properly and that always feels so much nicer and generates/allows more dancing and expression.

And we had some time to communicate and talk about how we both showed up on the dancefloor and at the competition. We discussed better ways to handle things and lessons to learn from the mistakes I made. It is such an all-around journey with opportunities for growth on all levels. And as much as I’ve grown, there is still so much more inside me. And I was actually happy when I felt uncomfortable on the lesson because it was out of my comfort zone.

It’s all tied to confidence. Confidence that I know what I am doing physically. Confidence in myself, which for me is tethered to my body and body image. Confidence in my connection to Ivan. I feel like everything will change as the fat suit comes off. For certain I will feel more beautiful, it will be easier to move, it will be less taxing, and that is why it is my primary focus at the moment, even as I continue to devour as much information about dancing as I can.

So it was a good lesson Saturday morning and we cleared the air and all that, and still it is difficult. We are two different people and sometimes we are not on the same page. It’s a challenge to come together and make it work. But I love it, and we know it’s possible. Again, on both sides of the equation, it depends more on how we feel about ourselves as a couple and what we are presenting than anything else.

So anyways, Friday I was able to attend the showcase at Imperial which was pretty fun and wonderful. But I ended up leaving early before the professional show because it was getting so late. They played a lot of games which were fun but I knew I needed to get some sleep for my big day the next morning.

So after my lesson with Ivan, I made my way to the workshop and it was awesome. It was awesome to be in the presence of these professionals. They shared so much information that my head was spinning! It was amazing to just watch them move which was a lesson in itself. They also gave specific corrections to specific people, which I thought was really wonderful. I even got one on my Samba! Woo!

We started with Rumba and the biggest takeaway I had was that the front foot is actually parallel when doing Rumba walks. It is the back foot, leg, and hip that rotate outward to create the Latin position which is turned out. I never, ever would have thought that, however, it made more biomechanical sense, and freed the hips, and I felt so much more stable walking that way. Also important was the timing. They got so specific 1 and 2 and 3 and a 4 ah! Each count = a specific movement. I am truly learning to love counting, and as Andrej said, there is something really beautiful about being exactly on the beat, not a little behind or ahead. My impression was that the extra counting made the music and movement more gooey, stretching it longer, and it again made so much sense for the release/recoil which propels the next movement, usually a step forward. They talked about torsion around the spine, especially in the upper body, which I find pretty difficult to execute. I wish I could just stand side-by-side with Melinda and do the steps over and over with specific corrections. Latin technique is just as detailed as ballet, if not more so, in my opinion. And the more I learn, the more I see how important it is to be aware and accountable for each and every little ticky-tah of movement. It’s mind-altering.

After a little break we changed to Samba. The biggest takeaway for me here was the importance of both the footwork, which involves a lot of ankle, foot, and calf strength, as well as the forward crunch/scooping of the hips forward to create the bounce. Again, when broken down, it makes more biomechanical sense, but these are details I’d never think of. From what Andrej shared you are supposed to actually begin to lift your heel even while your leg is bent during a whisk to create the movement of the back leg and when done correctly it actually causes the back leg to be placed in the right spot. It also allows a person to squeeze a tiny bit of extra movement forward into the hips to increase range of motion. Whomever sat down and figured all this out was a genius. I am very impressed with how clearly Andrej and Melinda were able to express concepts and ideas and how detailed they were.

In fact, they shared so much information, there is no way I absorbed it all! So I made up my mind to just focus on one or two tidbits in each dance and to work on those in the future.

So that brings us to Sunday which didn’t involve any dancing but does involve an interesting personal revelation about how very, very far I’ve come. You see, one of my friends from high school came into town with his adorable fat-cheeked baby and new wife and we met up to catch up. We had a wonderful visit but of course he asked about all this ballroom stuff he’s seeing on Facebook. And I realized, perhaps he didn’t know I danced in high school. He didn’t have a clue.

How strange!! It was a big part of my life, but I never really shared it. I danced outside of school hours and wasn’t confident enough to proclaim that I was a dancer. Here was this person who knew me since 7th grade, who I was next to in practically every class because of our last names and alphabetical seating, and he had no idea I danced during all that time. I am sad for the 12-16 year-old me. Sad, because I was so insecure about sharing who I was. On the flip side, I’m pretty amazed at myself because here I am now, blogging about and sharing my journey, broadcasting it to the world, all while having a body that is far from ideal and much worse than it was back in high school when I hated it even more than I do now! Actually, things have shifted around that issue as well. I’m finally, finally finding some peace in my relationship with my body. I am even grateful for all it has done and continues to do for me. And I had this weird revelation on my lesson with Ivan on Saturday. This may perhaps be a tangent off into La La land but bear with me. This is how I understand it.

I believe that dancing involves enregies. I think most people would agree it certainly involves emotional energies, which are invisible but very real. Well, anyways, when I dance with Ivan we throw and catch different energies toward one another. Well we were doing a Mambo, which involves a lot of booty shaking, and Ivan was being all interested in my ample, womanly behind, and I realized, my butt liked it! LOL! It really did. It was all happy and proud and I thought, wow, I should really take advantage of this and let my body parts enjoy this energy and attention. I mean, if I can’t give it to them, maybe this will help.

So anyways, those were some interesting realizations and now my wooojy woo tangent is complete.

And all that leaves to talk about is my lesson this morning. It was awesome. I found my mojo once again. No fear, just moving, just letting my body do what it wants to do, feeling the music, feeling good about being me. And Ivan got goosebumps and he loved the lesson and we both felt good. Even better than that was working on our connection. We had great communication around the connection and found a new one. It allows both of us to be more accountable for ourselves. Ivan realized the importance of backing off and even letting me fail so we can find the right placement for both of us. I desperately need the feedback of when I am using him too much or too little but I can’t get that if he always takes care of me (and Marieta) and neglects himself. And when it works like this, it is so nice, it feels so good! And Ivan was all, you dance the best when you just feel, why ever dance any other way? And yeah, he’s right. It’s meant to enjoy. Not to get all caught up in the right and wrong ways of doing things, – at the core dancing is actually not about “doing” anything – it’s really about “being” – being loving, and joyful, and open to sharing, connecting, growing, and evolving.

I’m energized and focused and excited about the coming year. And I want to thank you, dear readers and supporters for the part you play in that. You encourage me more than you will ever know. I appreciate you and I’m grateful to get to share my journey with you. A very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to everyone. Cheers to us all as we embrace the new year! I have a feeling it’s going to be very sparkly!


So Much Samba Fun!

Okay, it’s official.  I believe that Samba is currently my favorite dance.  I say “currently” because, if you dance ballroom, you will know, there are seasons to the dancing…dances you love one moment and hate the next, or, vice versa.  Well, my journey with Samba is a classic “B” rated romance starring no-name actors….starts with passionate hate, and develops into the best kind of love imaginable.

It all started on my last lesson.  Well, let me amend that.  I hated Samba  when I first started it.  Why?  Because of the dumb (I mean awesome?) bouncing action.  You know, that action that looks unbelievable on Julienne Hough but that when you see it you say to yourself, “How does a body actually do that?”

Well, I don’t know about you, but initially, I was stumped.  Over time, and with a lot of lessons and practice, I figured out some things and now feel better about my Samba action, both hip and bounce-related.  In any case, that was very important.  There was a long period of time where I never felt the dance in Samba, but it was necessary to just plug away at the technique of it.  Well, I did, and it has improved, and that set me up to begin to appreciate the dance (as it is danced in ballroom – this is just to acknowledge that it is a “ballroomized” version of the dance, not the authentic dance as found in Rio…but I digress…) – and now I am appreciating it more than ever before.

Okay, back to my long story, long (ha ha).  At the very end of my lesson with Ivan, after we had run our Rumba and Cha Cha, we began to play around with Samba.

“We have to be very delicate with the Samba.  We have to choosing the right moves for it.”

Well, no complaint here.  Look, I have lots of work to do on it, for sure, but the feeling inside…well, that’s the part I’m in love with.

So we began simply working on the beginning steps.  A back step, hit a line, repeat, batucadas, and then….magic!

Why was it magic?  Well, it’s not the actual steps.  That much is clear.  All it is, is two steps backwards and a pose.  What makes it magic is the energy behind it.  I don’t think I’ve ever had as much fun on a lesson.

Before I say more, I want to acknowledge this nagging thought that if this opportunity to dance this way had occurred a year ago, or even a month ago, I do not believe that I would have been ready or that I could have embraced the expression of it with the open arms as I was able to do this week.  Upon reflection (you see, I actually do contemplate my blog posts before I write them….usually in fleeting thoughts during the day, thinking to myself, ‘Oh! I need to put that in the blog!’) well, anyways, upon reflection, I can see that I am in a different place.  A more confident, more accepting, more joyful place.  More open to actually acting out on the outside what I feel on the inside, even if it doesn’t match what I think it could/should look like in a slimmer body.  Well, whatever.  Life is too short….

Okay, diatribe complete.  Here’s why I had so much fun:

If you have dogs, then you know what pure, loving, fun, happy, upbeat energy they have when you walk in the door (and for non-dog lovers, can you imagine that greeting you when you walk in the door?).  Either way, it’s an awesome feeling.  Their cute little faces staring up at you, their tails wagging as fast as a helicopter blade….no matter how bad a day you’ve had, they are there to love you and just be happy that you exist, that you walked in the door (what an accomplishment!).  Well, it kinda felt like that.   That, plus the tension/attraction-type energy between a man and woman that should be exemplified by the Latin dances.

Okay well, we began learning the moves then ba ba ba ba BAH!  And by ba ba ba BAH I mean something.  I may not really be sure how to put this experience into words but I’ll do my best.  Actually, I suggest you attempt to experience it for yourself.  But word-wise, here goes.  It was a building energy.

Imagine you can’t wait to dance with a partner and they are near.  Imagine you are looking toward them and they are kind of looking toward you but yet still in an aloof manner.  But then that person turns towards you.  You get a little jolt inside that it is possible to dance with this amazing person that seemed out of your league just a second ago.  But not yet!  Instead, you walk around each other sizing one another up for a few more seconds.  But then, then the unthinkable happens!  He extends a hand!  An invitation!  Yes!  You get to dance!  You want to dance!  But hey – let’s be real.  You still want to seem under control, cool, regal.  So you, unhurriedly, and centered and on balance, accept the invitation.  Yeah, it’s like that.

I’m totally lying.  It’s like that in the build up, but I always screw it up!  It’s totally not like that (yet)…but it should be…it could be….and with practice it WILL be!  Eh, and for now it totally isn’t.  I have to laugh because when Ivan says “Follow me.  Be the mirror image,” I take him literally.  So when he walks left, I walk right.  I’m “dyslexic” according to the crazy Bulgarian.  Yes, I’m in tune enough now to finally react, but, frustratingly, I’m not connected enough to react appropriately.  Ugh!  Grr. Grr.

However, there is a silver lining.  This is that we practiced eye leads (I made this term up just in case you were wondering).

What are “eye leads” you may ask?  Well, most of us students/beginner/bronze dancers get let with a hand/arm lead.  The deal is, that it isn’t/shouldn’t be the arm/hand/any-kind-of-contact.  At higher levels, like I’ve experienced for minutes out of the thousands of hours I’ve had dance lessons, a person will get a body lead, like a hand on the back or hip or shoulder, but not in the arm – the usual place to look to connect.

All you get in an “eye lead” is connection via the eyes – Awesome yet scary and also revealing of your dependencies/weaknesses/where-you-rely-on-your-partner.  But, overall, very awesome.  I actually prefer it and wish we did more of it.  It’s all about the energy.  You can’t do an eye lead unless you are tuned into the energy and connection.  It’s just not possible.

Well, anyways that was what made the lesson so awesome and fun.  That and on the beginning steps Ivan and I totally get in each other’s faces and it is so funny!  I love it!

So anyways, that’s my story for now…

Creolé Show - Samba dancer 4

By Sérgio Savarese (originally posted to Flickr as Girl) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons