The Joys Of Fake-Tanning

Goodness me…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me, I wasn’t so successful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s see….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was really cute.

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

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

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

“Oh no!” Said Mom.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We all laughed at that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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