Medusa

Good news is, I’ve begun a new job.  It’s a contract job and guaranteed for six months.  After that, who knows, but I’m really hoping it might turn into a “real” job.  They have to put a lot of resources into training us newbies and I can’t imagine they’d want to mobilize the resources again in a few months, except for in extreme cases of workers with poor performance or a hiring freeze or financial cutbacks.  But again, not something I have control over and I am just extremely thankful for what is, right now.

The bad news is, the learning curve is steep.  Not the normal pharmacist stuff…that’s fine…it’s all the company-specific computer and operational stuff.  It is just a LOT of information to absorb (not unlike learning the entire Bronze syllabus for the Rumba or something in just a few days).  In any case, it was so much info that I dreamt about it last night!  I just know my little brain was assimilating all it could.

You see, I’m playing catch-up because I was added to the job a week after everyone else started.  I’ve had 2 days.  They’ve had 9.  AHHH!  Luckily, I got some one-on-one training to help with all that, but it is still a lot to absorb.  So, all-in-all, not bad news, really – not even close!  After all I’ve been through in the job/financial/work environment categories, I’m GRATEFUL!  It’s just that my mind is spent.  I have the IQ of a wombat by the end of my 8 hour shift (no offense to wombats! Perhaps they are very smart, like parrots.  But I wouldn’t know about that, especially right now.)  And this showed up in my lesson tonight….not to mention the fact that yes, I did watch DWTS this week, and yes, the topical series articles are still in process, but I just haven’t had the mental fortitude to actually complete posts about them with real words and sentences and paragraphs in English and all that.

So anyways, I finished work for the day as a mental case and headed to meet with Ivan.

Even from the beginning he noticed a difference.  I told him, “Ivan!  I’m so tired.  I’m stupid right now.  Seriously.  It’s just that I’m starting a new job and have a lot to learn.  Let’s just dance something socially, kay?”

He was amenable and we began with a nice, soft, sloppy West Coast Swing.  Seriously, I was just barely moving as compared to how I normally show up, but it was about all I could physically and mentally muster.

“Stefanie?  What happen?  You dancing like Medusa?”

“Huh?  The woman with snakes for hair? The one who turned men to stone?  Also known as a Gorgon?  What the hell are you talking about, Ivan?”

“No, a medusa.”

“????”  Arms spread outward to the sides, palms up, shoulders shrugged.

“I make a picture later.”

“Okay Ivan.”

So before I get to that…this is/was the other “bad” news of the night.  I was pretty much worthless on my lesson.  First, I was exhausted mentally.  Secondly, the energy in my body seemed to be completely sapped after about 15 seconds of any dance we worked on.  And, finally I was laughing so much my belly hurt, I almost peed my pants, and because I was guffaw-ing so hard, I couldn’t breathe to dance properly.  It didn’t help that Ivan made fun of every little noise I made.  Yes, I admit, they weren’t what you’d usually hear on the dance floor, but I was so tired that I sighed, or grunted, or squealed depending on if I was trying to push through a move or scared or whatever.

Seriously, my stomach hurt from giggling so much, especially when I tried to “be serious” and then made a noise out of frustration or effort or just to try and breathe and Ivan imitated it which, like a row of dominoes, cascaded into a collapsing heap of me folding inward into a belly laugh.

In any case, we continued to dance and Ivan decided that Bolero was appropriate. Somehow this morphed into Latin Rumba and my Bulgarian dance instructor then decided that it was a prime opportunity to practice crazy stupid lifts and dips for someone as large as I am. We did a few leans with developes and some dips with me lifting my left leg into the air.  But Ivan was making me place all my body weight on his knee while he was in a deep lunge.  It freaked me out.  I actually felt my foot leave the floor for a second, realized that for that moment he was bearing all my body weight, and immediately broke the position so I could plant my feet firmly on the ground.  How can that man hold me up like that?!  I am just so insecure about it I wish he wouldn’t do it.

I have to admit this is not a new fear.  Even when I was 16 and weighed 116 pounds I was concerned about this.  Not logical, I know.  But I was in a production of “The Music Man” in my high school and cast as a dancer and member of the chorus.  There was one move in which I was partnered with a senior theater “god” which made me feel horribly insecure because 1) he was a Thespian paragon and 2) he had to pick me up at the waist and place me on a table.  But then again, looking back on it, it might not have been because of my weight that he failed to get me up there on the table that night.  Truly, he was a slight young man, and not at all muscular in the upper limbs.  In addition, he never practiced the particular move but once with me, and it had absolutely been ingrained in me to practice piano/ballet/anything if it was to be performed to the point where you can do it mindlessly, because when the moment comes to perform, all kinds of things can go wrong.  (And also, once I didn’t practice appropriately and bombed my piano recital.  Not a good feeling! But that is another story).  Anyways, I had a high anxiety level about this move knowing how un-practiced it was, and not having any connection to the person who was responsible for lifting me aloft except for a fearful and reverent adoration from afar, and so, my big fear did come to fruition.  He went to lift me up and I just fell right down.  At least I landed upright, on my feet (so that was good), and he had the theatrical training to grab me and sway side to side to cover the mishap – but I’m pretty sure the audience noticed the gaffe because 1) I made a big loud BOOM! when my character shoes hit the wooden stage floor instead of the table and 2) my dancing counterpart was on a table on stage right doing the same choreography I was supposed to be doing on stage left so things didn’t look symmetrical.  This, plus the fact that the bench I sat on during “Oliver!” while singing “Food, Glorious Food,” collapsed on stage while I (and about 19 other people) were sitting on it, confirmed my fear that I was horribly huge and fat.  See, all along, I really DID have a mental problem.  It just now has manifested into my physical reality, not just my mental reality.

Okay, back now from that psychological detour.  Interestingly, I actually thought this post would be quick because not much happened on the lesson – but clearly my complexes are rooted deeply!  Ahhh!

So a brilliant thing did actually happen on this very-low-energy lesson.  Ivan and I did all our basic Latin Rumba stuff and then I asked him about a step I’ve seen others do, and one that I *think* Igor may have been trying to lead me into last Friday, but that I didn’t know how to do.  What happened next may or may not be the same move, but it was damn cool, whatever it was.  Pretty much from an Alemana I then step forward into a double spiral turn and complete with two walks around the back of Ivan to fan position.  But I didn’t know this at the time.  All I knew was I’d seen this turn-y thing done on YouTube videos by professionals and Igor tried to lead me into something I wasn’t familiar with.

After two tries to decipher which step I meant, Ivan demonstrated what I *thought* I wanted to know so I said, “Ivan, teach me this step.”

At first he seemed a little reluctant but then he was like, okay.

“Is this a Bronze or Silver step?”

“No.  It’s an Ivan step.”

“Huh?”

“It not in the syllabus.  You do it, they kicking you off the floor.  You know who doing this?  It Joanna Leunis.”

“Really!?!  I LOVE her.  She’s amazing.  But okay.  I’m clear. So if we get to do it, we do it in an open heat.”

“Yes, open.”

He led me into it, but only indicated one spiral turn.  I did this successfully then he said, “Oh.  It better if you can do a double.  Can you do a double?”

I didn’t know if I could but I wanted to try.

Bam!  I totally did it.

Ivan and I gave each other a double “Hi Five” and a hug.  I was so excited.  In fact, it was probably the most animated part of my lesson, succeeding at this maneuver.  He told me, “Most people doing this step and can’t even do a single turn.”  He demonstrated, in his Ivan-exaggerated way of how people fall out of the turn (normally), leaning and listing to this side or the other and causing a big problem.  So he wanted me to try it again, just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke.

But me, woot! I easily did the double again! Maybe I’m finally finding my center, once again, and also remembering to spot, plus I had the added advantage of just that little assist in balance from connecting with Ivan – for me that little bit of support makes all the difference, I have to say. So yay.

“See.  I no have to teach you the step.  You already doing it.”

“Let’s try it again, Ivan.”

We did.  And it was successful for the next 3 tries.  On the 4th try I fell to the floor.  I swear the wooden floor at the church is so slippery!  I need new shoes and that floor is difficult.  I love the sticky/tacky floor at Imperial.  It spoils me and I wish it were everywhere!  Anywhoo….I fell.  But I am uninjured and overall the move was a rousing success.

Next onto a Samba.  For some reason, Ivan keeps calling it “Sambera” lately.  Whatever.  He put on the music and since I had suggested we dance socially, we decided to do the Samba in that character.  Oh my gosh, I can’t remember when I ever laughed so hard.  I told Ivan that it is sometimes painfully difficult to watch social dancers do the Samba.  Some of them hop, and jolt, and have no hip movement.  They dance like 2 x 4’s as Ivan calls it when he means people are stiff.  This isn’t to generalize or degrade people who socially dance the Samba, I promise, it’s just that I’ve seen some couples and I’m like, wow, why are you dancing this dance this way?  It is awkward.  Probably the same reaction someone had to me dancing West Coast Swing (as taught by a ballroom instructor) before I knew about the dance.  I promise, we all have stuff to work on, you know?!

So Ivan and I danced this way – no hips, stiff, 2×4, wooden.  It was hilarious!  It looked ridiculous.  And such a contrast from Ivan, who normally dances it so amazingly, and from me, who works so dang hard to create a proper Samba bounce plus hip motion.  I truly wish I had that s*@t on film!  It was too funny.

Honestly though, besides that, the rest of my lesson was unremarkable.  We did Foxtrot, Tango, Waltz, Viennese Waltz, and Cha Cha.  I dragged.  Ivan poured as much Chi energy my way as he could.  It felt a little like an energetic transfusion of sorts.  I did feel somewhat better by the end of the lesson, but still, I’m drained.  Oh well.  Glad I did have one “triumph.”

So please root for Ivan and Marietta as they compete this weekend at the Emerald Ball in LA.  There is live streaming of the entire event (though a pay-per-view) here if you want to watch from home.  It is a big and prestigious and competitive event.  I really, really hope my favorite couple (besides Joanna Leunis and Michael Malitowski) does well.  Ivan seemed to think they wouldn’t even make the final at such a large comp, but I reminded him to look into his mirror, remember the champion he already is, and have an optomistic attitude.  Because you know what? I believe in him and Marietta.  I enjoy watching them dance because they have an real and emotional connection.  And to me, that makes things interesting.  As I’ve said before – I’d prefer to watch a couple that is less technically excellent with an authentic connection than an impeccably technically excellent couple with no emotion or connection any day of the week.

So anyways, as I pumped this positive support Ivan’s way, he rebutted my support by asking me to jump on the roof.  So I jumped.  Not high, not impressively, and certainly not onto the roof, but happily.

He about peed his pants laughing at me.  He said, “Being in the final of Emerald Ball for me is like jumping on the roof right now.  Can people do it?  Yes.  But they need to practice.  You have to remember, I lazy.  And I should be practicing jumping and little by little I jump on the roof like it easy.”

“So what?!” I replied. I jumped up again.  Again, not graceful, not impressive, but to illustrate a point that I hope Ivan got.

The point is, GO FOR IT.  Wherever I am/he is/you are right now, go for it.  Why not?

“You can’t controlling how the judging goes in competitions so you might as well have fun.” Said Ivan.  And I agreed.

“So go have fun at Emerald Ball, Ivan, damnit!  Go have fun!  I will be watching and rooting for you.  You know you are my favorite couple? Right?  Well, if I am honest, besides Joanna Leunis and Michael Malitowski….they I like them best, and you guys (Ivan and Marietta) the second best.”

Ivan was so excited by my comment he said laughingly, “I tell Marietta this.  You know her favorite dancer?”

“Yes, Ivan.  I know it’s Joanna.”

“Yes.  She gonna get a kick that your two favorite couples are Joanna Leunis with Michael Malitowski and us!”

But I mean it.  And so you must be wondering why?  Well, my response is, why not love these two couples?  Because for me, when I watch them, there actually seems to be a connection and that makes the interaction between man and woman interesting to watch.  And Joanna is immaculate.  Truly.  From my perspective, all the high level competitors are technically excellent in their dancing, no doubt about it, but I love the drama, the connection, the emotion.  I personally prefer that above perfect technique, and I guess Ivan does too, based on our conversation which is interesting and makes it no mystery why he ended up being my instructor since we both value the same things in dancing.  I do believe Joanna and Michael to be superior to Ivan and Marietta in terms of experience, ranking, technicque, and even, I hate to say it, connection, but I also happen to believe Ivan and Maretta have the potential to forge an excellence and connection strong enough of their own to compete with the best in the world.  Of course, I’m biased.  But as a dancer and human being, I also happen to see that potential in them.

Whew!  Have I said everything I wanted to say?  Yep.  A brief post – just another 2800-word (and change) post.  Ha ha. Not!

Oh – and before I sign off, I have to explain the title of this post.  Medusa. Well, Ivan “made” me a picture of what “the hell” he was talking about….a jellyfish.  Apparently I was dancing like a boneless, blubbery, soft jellyfish.  The interesting part is that how Ivan described “medusa” to me was that it “90% water.”  Uh huh.  How do you know how to communicate something like that but you don’t know the word for jellyfish?  I’ll never know.  And also, once I figured out that medusa meant jellyfish, I asked Ivan, “Is that the word in Polish or Bulgarian?”

” Bulgarian,” he replied.

“Well great.  ‘Cause that is a useful word, if I ever go to visit there….now I know how to say jellyfish.”  Probably “bathroom” and “beer” and “I’m sorry” would actually be more useful, right?

Damn.

Watch out you Bulgarians.  I am now armed with the word for jellyfish.  Kind of like a Marine armed with a banana.  Sheesh!

It’s way past bedtime.

Gute Nacht,  Stefanie

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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