That’s Video-blog, yo!

I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some Vlogging.  You know, like show my actual personality instead of reading about it.  Don’t fret, I think that mainly I’m writer, so most likely I will stick to the written word most of the time (and that might be a good thing after you see the vid).  But well, a few weeks ago the hubs was out of town and I got bored so I made a video on my iPad.

Maybe if I do it again I will talk more about dancing than just goofing off but, whatever.

Anyways, the hubs saw it tonight and thought it was funny.  He had no idea I knew any Skee-lo. Ha ha!  So here ya go!  Enjoy… (or cringe. That’s an option too) 😉



By Renee Comet (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Oh how I love my favorite Bulgarian, my dance instructor, Ivan. His language gaffes keep me entertained.

So here’s the story:

Ivan and I are working on our Samba routine. I think we have it completely choreographed but I have yet to dance the entire thing full-out, to music, in sequence, and we are days out from my next competition, people! AHHH!

I will just do what I did for Jive last competition. We had practiced it once, count it once, before Desert Classic and I knew all of three, count ’em, three steps. I did three steps for the entire Jive. So anyways, then with the un-practiced Jive, and now with the un-practiced Samba I’m simply going to give myself a mental pass on that dance, meaning that I will dance it the best I can and that I will be fine no matter if I mess up or how well or poorly we place because the fact of the matter is, we simply do not have the time to really make this routine polished. Heck! We are still working on, improving, and polishing the Rumba and Cha Cha routines and I’ve been dancing those for a few months now!

So I’m not going to be too hard on myself when it comes to performing the Samba this time around. I will be a little more serious about it for my next competition after I’ve had the opportunity to work out the bugs and practice! And yes, I may be in a pickle with this Samba dance at the competition for lack of preparation, but that is not what this post is actually about.

You see, on my last lesson we were working on the Samba and Ivan’s shirt flew up. I saw this big brown june bug on his side. I thought perhaps he had a tatoo on his abdomen or something. I was curious – I know, like it was so important to find out what this brown dot was when I was in the middle of learning a routine I will be dancing in a few days – I don’t pretend that I make any sense when it comes to these things. Well anyways, I had to know. I just did, okay?

So I told Ivan, “Ivan. Pull up your shirt! What is that brown dot on your belly? Do you have a tatoo?”

“No. What you talking about?” He pulled up his shirt to reveal his belly button and I scanned the skin for the mark I’d seen.

It wasn’t nearly as dramatic as I’d thought.

“What you looking at?” He inquired.

“Well, I guess it must have been this.” I pointed at a small brown dot on his side.

“My pickle?”


“My pickle.”

Tears streamed down my face as I gasped for breath between guffaws.

“Ha ha ha, Ivan! No, that is NOT a pickle! A pickle is a very different thing.” (If you know what I mean)

“That’s a freckle.”

Chicky Chicky Chicky Chicky Chicky Ta!

Today my post is going to be a smorgasborg of a variety of events, details, and generally entertaining observations that I’ve stored up over the past few weeks. I just haven’t managed to sit down and write a bunch of posts lately with all that has been going on in my life, so instead of being about one specific event, here’s a compilation.

The other day I set the context that it was going to be a fun day on my lesson. I had the day off work so I had to get my daily fix of dancing in. Little did I know that I would laugh myself silly with Ivan on my lesson that morning. And boy did it feel good!

I showed up in a better mood than our previous lesson because I’ve had some time to process all that is going on in my life, plus I had the opportunity to go to a group dance class with Toni on Wednesday (which was really fun), and also to go out to dinner with Ivonne, my dancing friend, and discuss life.

So anyways, I walked into Allegre studio (the church) and sat down.

“Which shoes should I wear today, Ivan?” I asked.

I opened my shoe bag and found my close-toed Smooth shoes which I haven’t worn in I don’t know how long. They seemed the right choice.

“Ah, Smoot chews. Okay we do smoot.” Ivan replied. At least it wasn’t “smut” we were going to do! Ha!

And so we did. Starting off with a Waltz we completed one song and then Ivan said, “Again.” We went to the music controls to select our song. Ivan found one called, “Morning Journals.”

“What is a Jur-nal?” He asked.

“Like a diary,” I replied.

“Di-ar-i, like the pooping?”

“Oh my God, Ivan! No!” Right, like they are going to name a Waltz, “Morning Bowel Movement!” Sheesh!

“It’s like one letter different! English is so crazy. Just an “a” and it mean something completely different.”

Um, no, Ivan. Diary and Diarrhea are quite different! But I suppose the words sound similar, kind of? He has a point, but leave it to Ivan to go straight to the toilet with his brain.

But the grossness didn’t stop there. I think I was sneezing or coughing or something and maybe Ivan asked me if I had blown my nose or needed to do so. This started a whole other conversation about what else, phlegm.

Apparently, once in Bulgaria Ivan was dancing in a competition and spun right in front of a judge. He was congested and the contents of his nose flew across the gap and landed on the lapel of the judge. He was mortified! He couldn’t finish dancing, he says. And he apologized profusely.

So when Marietta was stuffed up one day before a competition, he advised her to clear her nasal passages. After all, he had experience with this sort of thing. But we women have to get all gussied up for competitions and she didn’t want to mess up her make-up. Can you believe it, but during a spin Ivan saw a boogie fly across the floor. Thankfully this time it didn’t land on a person, but Ivan joked, “Can you imagine? Like a bannana peel on the floor.” I don’t think anyone actually slipped on it, though.

Okay, enough with the gross-osity.

Now we will move on to some of the weird things ballroom dancers say. Sometimes we communicate completely without using actual words. For instance, when moving my hips in a Rumba, Ivan will say, “Ticky Ticky Ta!” in place of the usual “Quick Quick Slow.” There’s a lot of “Pah!” or “Shah!” or “Da da da!” or “Whoosh,” or “Bah!” I mean, sometimes the sound effects convey the feeling the movement should embody better than saying “one, two, three.” But I think Ivan finally topped even himself with the longest one ever. He wanted me to very slowly extend my arm upwards in this move in the Latin Rumba showcase number we were working on. To emphasize this he said, you guessed it, the title of this post, “Chicky Chicky Chicky Chicky Chicky Ta!”

If you haven’t figured it out yet, Ivan has a very big personality. He is extremely charismatic and always has something funny to say. Well, at Marietta’s belated birthday party he was no different. I’m going to share the photo we took and trust me, he was the one to told me to put it up. You see, he had some tequila in this wild bottle shaped like a rifle. “I want to see on Facebook,” he told me. Alright, weirdo. Your wish is my command:

I know, right? He even had on cammo pants which compliment the military theme…but paired with a pink shirt? That’s Ivan for you! Marietta is the one with the fashion sense!

We make a colorful pair, no? Hey, a girl’s got to let her hair down every once in a while! It was a fun (and safe) night. And besides, these blog posts need some pictures and videos spicing them up so your brain doesn’t get befuddled by all the words, words, words.

So finally, we will close this post with a reverent, respectful, elegant look at….cussing.

It’s like Ivan’s favorite thing these days. “What the f’ing hell are you doing?” He’ll ask me if I screw up. It just makes me guffaw. He’s not being mean, he’s practicing “being American.” Hungry for more “Americanisms,” I taught him WTF, WTH, F’ing and other variations. Now he can swear using slang! A valuable skill. Maybe I could trade for a lesson? Probably not. But at least it makes me laugh during my lessons.

Well I guess that’s it for now. I’m bummed because this week I am scheduled to work during Inna’s class on Tuesday, but I’m excited because DWTS begins on Monday and watching that with my mother-in-law has become a tradition. I’ll make sure to schedule some lessons with my favorite Bulgarian and blog about his silly antics and share my musings about the latest season of ABC’s smash pro/am ballroom dancing hit.

Signing off for now – Pah!

The Anatomy of a Lesson In Ten Parts

Ok folks!  I’ve got some funny clips from a previous lesson.  Once again, (arrgh!) the timing of the sound is shifted such that it is not in sync with the action.  I don’t know why this is happening, but I’m going to use a different recording device in the future.

In any case, I’ve decided that I will write a little bit about each snippet so you can know what I meant to draw your attention to.

Also, writing can only convey so much.  In these clips you’ll get to hear Ivan’s funny remarks in his “Arnold Schwarzenegger” voice.  Describing it in words sometimes just doesn’t do the comedy he naturally creates proper justice.

Thanks to Ivonne who came early before her lesson to record Ivan and me.  You’ll hear her laughing along, and even coaching me at one point with some very valuable feedback.  You’ll probably also notice Nona with her student Randall in the background.  Sometimes you can hear her explaining a step too!

So, without further ado, here’s what’s going on in this first clip:

We were working on connecting with the audience.  Ivan wanted me to oscillate between seeing him and the audience.  Over and over he repeats, “Me!  Audience!  Me! Audience!”  But the instruction doesn’t end there.  As you will see, he gets more in-depth with it and also coaches me on my facial expression.  He’s telling me not to be “Chinese.”  HE said it!  NOT me!  But I squint when I smile really big and he’s always telling me to open my eyes wider.  He also demonstrates how I am being like a bobble head doll….not focusing immediately on him or the audience, but letting my head wander around without definite focus.  You can hear Ivonne snicker as he demonstrates, “what you call?  Head bobble?”  Finally, added treat, you’ll get to hear me groan in frustration right at the very end.

This next video I’m just including for vanity reasons.  Well, you know, I was kind of, like, surprised at how I looked doing swivels.  They are one of the bains of my existence as a ballroom dancer.  I just never feel like I’m doing them right and I think they are one of my worst steps.  Clearly I need to work on remembering to keep my shoulders down while doing them, and I see a little up and down action that is choppy…I need to press more into the floor, but overall I like the picture it creates.  So, here are my swivels.

Part 3 of our saga opens with an exclamation of, “Perfect!”  Yes!  I got it on video!  I did something right….which was short lived.  You’ll hear how quickly we move on to learning the next thing.  On this clip the sound is way off.  The actions come before the sound so it looks a little weird.  However, during this little stretch there are a few gems including Ivan stepping on my toe, then telling me to dance with passion to which I respond by slapping him in the face with my very wet, sweaty hair.  Also, at the end Ivonne tells Ivan, “No more tequila for you.”  This was the lesson the day after he stayed up late drinking that rakia (some homemade Bulgarian liquor).

Moving on to clip 4, you get to hear Ivan saying, “Push your butt,” and demonstrating how I should hug him….like I actually like him, not like “Ivan, you smell bad.”  One comment I make in the clip deserves explanation.  At one point I tell him he is worse than my grandpa.  This is because Ivan squeezed me silly.  My grandpa DeGregori always gives the biggest, strongest bear-hugs in the world…ones in which I feel like my eyes may pop out of my head.  But Ivan topped even that big of a squeeze.  Without that explanation, you’d probably think I was making no sense at all.

Added bonus in this clip is a cramp in my calf.  Ivan decided to change one move where I bend backwards from being on two feet to being on one foot.  Although it has since been changed back, I bargain with him for the use of two feet, claiming that I can’t hold my 300 pounds on one foot.  To which, God bless him, Ivan replies, “Liar!  You not 300 pounds!  You 260.  300 long time ago.”

And now part 5. It’s just Ivan singing. I find that funny.

Our sixth installment consists of me attempting to be sexy. Bonuses include hearing Ivan say “Oh my God, yeah!” “Touch yourself.” And the infamous, “Don’t be scary.” Again the sound is off kilter.

Our septimal segment (like that alliteration?) I continue to work on bringing the sexy out. The sound is horribly off time, but you’ll get the idea. Ivan tells me that I’m moving like a mummy…but what he means is a zombie. He tells me that I’m doing nothing, that even zombies like froth at the mouth and groan. Also, you get to hear that coaching from Ivonne which is dead on. Finally, you hear me get a little whiny. I was thinking Ivan had led me into the next move, but clearly he hadn’t. “I gonna send you there!” is his manly refrain. I shriek in frustration.

Rounding out our lesson, part 8 examines the meaning of life. Just kidding. I’m just going to title it, “Touch my face.”

Our penultimate clip is basically Ivan showing me how the lady should do this part of the routine versus how I’m actually doing it. Yeah, you’ll see…not a very feminine choice I made.

You’ve made it! We are at our last clip. It contains more refrains of, “Touch yourself! Touch your butt.” Also, I get whiny once again because not all of us began dancing at age 6, like Ivan did. On the last move, Ivan tells me I have to be like an American Eagle and stand proudly over him. Still working on that one… Finally a high five and a hug and we are finito!

I hope you enjoyed this little blog post, even if the sound was really screwy. It would probably have been funnier if the audio and video had been in sync but alas, they were not. Hopefully you’ll now have a clearer picture in your head of what I’m describing that happens on my lessons since you’ve seen Ivan in action on video.

Until next time, I’m going to sign off like Ivan always does with a “Ciao!”


So last night I went to a  West Coast Swing (WCS) group class because my friend wanted to go.  It was a dance she explored a few years ago but hadn’t done in at least a year.  I’m so glad we went because it was actually a really good class, the instructor was clearly a “Westie” (i.e. not a person who specializes in ballroom teaching WCS, but someone who knows the WCS dance specifically), and my friend remembered how much she loved the dance.

I’ve been interested in learning WCS, really, after meeting an instructor at a competition.  He brought it to my attention that ballroom has stylized this dance and it looks really different when danced by people who know it.  I went to a class back in September and instantly understood what he meant.  It is such a smooth, sultry, down and dirty, but super creative, and fun dance.  It really depends on the connection between partners and allows the opportunity for a conversation to occur between the partners.  It was a total different experience than I’d had learning it from a ballroom instructor.

So, in any case, my interest in learning the “authentic” WCS is piqued.

Last night we learned a ton of moves and I met a lot of people as the classes progressed and leaders rotated around to followers one after an other.

Some of these dancers are amazing.  They know all the moves and they know how to lead.

Some of these guys are less experienced, but open to learning, and fun to connect with.

Then there are those who think they are there to instruct me.

Listen, it’s generally great to get to dance with a more experienced dancer.  They can teach you stuff just through the process of dancing with them.

But the worst is when they think they know what they are doing but in actuality they don’t.  Yes, perhaps the “know” how to do a figure or step, but really they don’t know how to do it properly.

It’s also super bad when a leader thinks that just because he leads something, the woman should follow.  Uh, hello!  Sometimes there’s a reason we don’t follow.  Just because you thought in your brain you did something, doesn’t mean you actually did (happens to me all the time).  And to get mad at me because of that, well that’s just rude.  You know, perhaps your lead wasn’t clear.  Perhaps your body is positioned incorrectly and blocking my way.  Perhaps I don’t trust you enough to be in an intimate hold when I just learned your name 2 minutes ago.

It is offensive to me when people try and instruct me at a social dancing lesson, unless I specifically ask for it.  I’m a pretty smart girl and a very good dancer.  I’m also open to learning.  But I paid the instructor to do that for me, not you, Mr. full-of-yourself!  Plus, the instructor of the class actually complimented me on my following skillz last night! (Yes, Skill-z with a “z,” because I’m ghetto cool like that)   Yes, I do miss the lead and try to lead from behind sometimes, but in general I try really hard to be connected and follow.  I’m pretty aware of this situation and do my best to be the best follower I can.

Last night I danced with one person in particular who really rubbed me the wrong way for all of the above reasons.  At one point he spun me around and my arm was blocked by his arm.  He placed my arm on his shoulder and told me that was where it was supposed to go.

“Oh, for that particular move?”

“No, in dance.  In dance when you turn, you put your arms up.”


I was not aware that in all of dance, anytime you ever did a turn you are supposed to put your arm up.

The way he said it was so patronizing!  OMG!  I was like, (in my head) you don’t know who you’re talking to, bub!  I’m a better dancer than you, hands down.  Maybe I don’t know all the steps you know, but in terms of creating connection, controlling my body, and doing the steps I do know, I can kick your butt!

“Oh really?” I replied, acting like he was really instructing me and I was really learning something from him, like a pedantic groupie.  In reality, I couldn’t believe this guy.  He didn’t know what he was talking about!

He had originally told me what a nice connection I had when we had danced during the class.

“Thank you.” I replied.

But here’s the thing.  I may not know WCS, specifically, but there is a reason for that ability to connect, why it felt nice.  I practice it all the time with Ivan.  I think the connection is super important and almost magical when present.  I know what connection should feel like (generally) and because of this I can do it, probably better than someone who is just taking social lessons or a beginner.

So anyways, I can make a nice connection.  Great.  This guy liked it and told me it “Felt great.”

Cool, I thought.  When he asked me to dance after the classes during the time for open dancing practice, I was glad.

But then all the cocky, instructional stuff.  Ugh!  Makes me not want to dance with you.  Makes me tense up and wish it were over.

After the arm issue, he tried the move again and again we had a problem.  He almost seemed like he was getting frustrated with me.

He told me, “I’m gonna push you because you have a good connection.  I’ll take you out on the dance floor and teach you some stuff.  So don’t cry about it.”


Who says this?

Well, that is fine and good, but mister you forgot the first thing about lead and follow.  It is an INVITATION you’re supposed to offer, not FORCING someone to do something or wanting them to submit.  The best dancers allow the conversation. Especially in WCS the woman can “hijack” the dance and take control for a time.  (I’m nowhere near good enough to do this yet) But with that possibility the dance is supposed to be a dialog, not a monologue.  Besides, dude, based on the way you were trying to bulldoze me around the dance floor, you didn’t have very nice things to say to me.  I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be in conversation with you.  Seriously,  in the future, if I go to this party again, I may choose to dance with him if he asks once or twice, but if he becomes bothersome I’m gonna let him have it!

Now contrast this to this other leader who was absolutely awesome.  I felt completely comfortable dancing with him.  He had a nice clear lead and we were able to dance almost an entire song with only one or two mishaps.  I came alive dancing with this fellow because he was just digging the music and inviting me to dance with him, not expecting that I bow down to his machismo ego.  He was absolutely more experienced in this dance than I, but he didn’t try to instruct me in anything.  He invited me, and most times, I happily accepted the invitation.

It felt great!  This is the magic of social dancing…when you can dance with someone you’ve never met in your entire life seamlessly.  It is fabulous!

So even if I encounter some bozos out there while learning this new amazing dance, the WCS, I think it’s worth the price.  There are also those awesome leaders out there and boy are the fun to dance with.

Here is a video of a kick-ass WCS.  Notice that it is a true conversation….a word to the wise for mr. know-it-all…and that is what makes it freakin’ awesome.