It’s My Movie

Well, the truth is I haven’t really wanted to blog about what has been going on for me the past week or so. First off, I’m annoyed with myself for still getting so emotional about things and really letting them get me down. I didn’t want to make this blog a whine-fest.

But, as usually happens, with some time, and some tears, and some working out at the gym, and some sharing with friends, I’m feeling better. Seriously – when I read that it makes it sound like something dramatic happened, but in all honesty the only drama was that in my head.

I can’t say why exactly, but my body image issues have been getting the best of me lately. That and I’ve just felt sad like I will never be able to have/create a body I love and that looks good, and that I will never become the dancer I wish to be. For whatever reason, it was especially heavy on my heart this past week. And working on the Rumba only exacerbated the problem.

I’ve done a lot of dancing over the past days so perhaps a lot of emotion is just being shaken out. I recall that upon first taking up ballroom dancing I did shed many a tear, so sad about what I have allowed myself and my body to become. It was and is incredibly painful to really absorb the damage done by getting so large, not to mention how I feel about myself as a woman. On good days, I accept where I am and work toward what I desire, I might even find some things to find beautiful about myself. On neutral days I block it out and focus on if my clothes are fitting looser, and how my body moves and all that it can do, rather than how it looks doing it. On bad days I see my reflection in the mirror and it disgusts me, triggering a myriad of thoughts and a swirling drama that threatens to suck me down into a black abyss.

The weird thing is that all was smooth sailing for the first part of the week. I danced almost every day and even went to the gym for some cardio. I had lessons with Ivan, a great group class with Inna and I even danced around my kitchen at home just getting lost in the music and movement, not caring what it looked like and savoring the experience.

Then Saturday on my way to my lesson, I just felt sad. I couldn’t really put my finger on why. I walked in and Ivan was looking good. He had dyed his hair darker because the night before he had done a performance in a local Dancing With The Stars fundraising gala. And I swear he has gotten more trim, plus he had grown some stubble. And it just hit me. Why would someone like that want to dance with someone who looks like me? And the more we danced, the more ridiculous I felt. And the more emotional I got and all the fight went out of me and I could barely focus. I didn’t really say anything, but we both knew it was just bad news. At the end of the lesson was like, “I don’t know what to telling you. I don’t knowing what is making it better. You think I gonna put on my shoes today if I knowing it gonna be like this?”

Even so, he assured me, it’s normal to have a bad lesson every once in a while. If all lessons were like that, it would definitely be a problem, but (thankfully) it’s not. So we parted hoping that the next day would be brighter.

To a certain extent it was. After a serious session of cardio on the stair-stepper and a long chat with my friend “Blue Eyes,” who has also shed a ton of weight and knows what it is like to go through this, I was more or less in a neutral space. But I was worried.

I can’t remember exactly why I thought I wanted to have a lesson with Marieta, but I believe Ivan mentioned he wanted me to see how Marieta did one move that they also have in their routine and I realized that I have another amazing resource I can call upon to grow as a dancer. I haven’t had a lesson with Marieta in a long time and so was excited to set one up and was in good spirits when I contacted her about it.

But the day of the actual lesson with all the body image issues and self-doubt raging through my system, I was already feeling fragile, and I knew just being around Martieta might trigger me. If you have never had body issues you may not understand, but I find it incredibly difficult to even stand beside Marieta sometimes. Because she has a gorgeous body. Because she is an exquisite dancer. Because she embodies so many qualities that I wish I were. I mean, I intellectually understand we are all different and beautiful and amazing in our own way. And intellectually I understand that I am where I am in my dancing and though it is great to have a vision of where I am going, I have to start where I am. There is no leaping ahead to a different reality, a different body. And my greatest beauty is going to be when I express myself, and just like no two singers’ voices sound the same, no two dancers are exactly the same either. But that seems like a small consolation in those moments when I am overcome with the very uncomfortable emotion that arises when I feel intense shame about being who and how I am.

Even so I want to find the expression inside me and to work through this body-shame. And as amazing as Ivan is, even when he does the female part, there is still something inherently different when I see a female dance it. There is a presence these women ballroom dancers have. Marieta’s presence has a very different quality to it than Inna’s but both exude an almost palpable energy just walking on the floor, much less moving. I’m searching to find my quality of presence and also learn how to project it. I have a feeling it is tied into confidence and fearlessness.

So anyways, I wanted very much to have a lesson with Marieta, and I am planning on working more with her in the coming months because what I got on the lesson was of such value. But I was a mess. Actually, Ivan and I had had a decent enough lesson prior to Marieta coming in but just as she was walking in we were starting our Rumba.

In the beginning there is about 30 seconds where I am going to dance alone. There is no choreography at the moment and Ivan was just encouraging me to move, feel the music, express. He said, “It’s your movie. Imagine there is a spotlight on you and thousands of people watching.” He turned off the lights, put a spotlight on the mirror ball in the studio, and told me to enter from across the room.

Inside, I felt scared. But I want to grow and so pushed that down and pretended as best I could and moved.

Well, anyways, Ivan and I then danced, I screwed up a bunch but it was okay and then our lesson was over. It was time to work with Miss M. And I just felt like I should tell her why I had wanted to work with her, what the purpose of our lesson was. But it turns out, that might have been a mistake.

Because it all came out in this big, overly emotional gush. I was just talking and the tears were coming, and that was exactly the wrong thing to do to set me up to have a productive lesson. I was all caught up in my longing to be thinner, more beautiful, a better dancer. And I even blabbed, “I want to be good enough that it will be hard to tell who is the student and who is the pro.” Which, although a worthy goal, and something to strive for, it is most certainly not where I am, and indeed, may never happen. I am actually okay with letting that go and working toward it at the same time, but in that moment I was wrapped up in how lacking I was feeling, how “less-than” I was as compared to Marieta or any pro, in every way.

I guess I felt like because Marieta is also a friend I could go say all this stuff but if I had scheduled a lesson with any other pro there is no way I would have said anything like this at all. Lucky for me, Marieta is a true pro through and through and she set the context right away.

But I’ll be honest, we got started and I was having a hard time concentrating. I had to excuse myself for a moment to collect myself in the bathroom but then I came back and was calmer and more focused and more able to actually absorb what she was sharing…which was really wonderful.

Marieta told me that she had come in during the last few minutes of my lesson with Ivan so she could watch on purpose. “You may have thought that your movements were very expressive, but really they were pretty insular, you were holding them inside.”

“You are right. I’m aware of that. That’s part of why I want you help…to get what is going on inside so that it is readable and expressed on the outside.”

She had me do a lot of rumba walks and some balances. I wobble more than I should. And she explained how to move to keep on balance by imagining my spine is a pole and all movement should always twist around it. She encouraged me work on strengthening my core. She also demonstrated that to go forward you have to go back first – that it is more dynamic to create a sort of whiplash to movement than to start from a static position. And just being around her presence, focus, and intensity was a lesson in itself. I still don’t understand how she is able to switch her weight between feet so quickly, or to move her limbs with superhuman speed and sharpness but I’m looking forward to observing her and working with her again in the near future and more often. It brings a whole new dimension to the dancing, as well as a new level of strong femininity. And I think she was even harder than me on Ivan usually is, which is a good thing.

So I left the lesson richer with wisdom, feeling foolish about being a blubbery emotional mess, but also with a mental adjustment in place that allowed me to finish the lesson and actually get something out of it (a lot actually) and with a stronger resolve to continue to work toward my goals.

Which meant that I made a personal goal to get 45 minutes of cardio in 5 days of this week above my normal activities. Two of those times must be on the stair-stepper. I’m just making this up, just for this week. Then next week I’m going to make up something else to do, focus on, accomplish, and count as a success. Better to focus on specific worthwhile tasks, and practice at being a winner, than to go down in the emotional torrent that can so easily present itself.

And so far I am off to a good start. I got 45 minutes on the elliptical machine in yesterday and then went to a 90 minute ballet class which is more challenging than the one I usually take on Sundays. It was a stretch and I liked it. I even began to feel like I could do a little bit more, raise my leg a little bit higher, hold my chest up a little longer, and that maybe, just maybe, the grand plies were slightly easier than before. I felt like after a month or two of going to classes just once a week has made a difference in my body alignment and strength. I even liked the lines my legs were making sometimes (probably because I came straight from the gym and had runner’s stripes on my pants!) Today I had a lesson with Ivan and shortly I’m off to Inna’s class. Which is all to say, that I’m still moving forward. That the story isn’t over. That I am not satisfied with where I am. Not by a long shot. But it’s my movie, like Ivan said. And the credits haven’t rolled yet.

Work It, Girl!

In case you didn’t know from all my posts on Facebook, this weekend was Emerald Ball in Los Angeles, California.  With over 1100 heats, it was a huge event with thousands of participants.  I happened to know a few people who went so I avidly watched for pictures and video posts on SuperShag.com as the results came in for my friends and for professional couples that I admire and follow.

You can see all the congratulations and who won what or placed where if you care to here and while you’re there, make sure to like the page for Dancing With Stefanie.  That way, a link to any new posts on the blog will show up in your Facebook News feed.  Plus, sometimes I post things on the Facebook page that don’t make it onto the blog.  There is also a “like” button on the upper right hand side of the blog page you can easily click.

Alright, enough with the boring housekeeping items….here’s what’s been going on.

Since Ivan and Marietta went to Emerald Ball on Thursday, I haven’t had a lesson since Wednesday and it’s kind of like going through withdrawal.  Maybe not that dramatic, but by the end of the weekend I was really missing this major part of my life.  But, as they say, nature will always fill a vacuum.  Luckily my friend Ivonne had a perfect solution.  Why not join her for some Lindy Hop and Tranky Doo (yes, that is actually the name of a dance)?  I was especially motivated to go having not danced in days and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

It was a group lesson and social dancing – and the instructors could spot us “ballroomers” a mile away.  “Relax!  No Frame!” were our constant reminders.  It was about getting the rhythm of the dance into our bodies and we were required to actually sing while we moved.  Hoooo Wah! Hoooo Wah!  Hoooo Wah Ooopty Dah!  I’m not even kidding!  But I got why they did it.  And they said that even they still sing these rhythms (different than the beats or counts in the music) while practicing as pros.

It was a nice sized class and a progressive one.  It will continue for the next four weeks, and then if I decide to progress, I’d have to repeat the basic level before they’d allow me in the intermediate class.  Kind of an interesting way of doing things.  I think it’s cool that they value the fundamentals and want their students to have a firm grasp of them before progressing on to harder steps without a proper foundation.  And it creates a strange sort of motivation of like, I want to be a “cool kid” and be in the intermediate class.  Plus it probably weeds out less motivated students.  But we’ll see.  I’m not sure how far I want to jump down this rabbit hole.

After the Lindy Hop class was a class on Tranky Doo.  I really enjoyed it.  You get to dance solo.  It’s from the 30’s.  Here’s a video – sorry the sound is bad:

Anyways, that was lots of fun, not too difficult, but I got a little dance fix and I worked up a good sweat.

But there’s nothing that compares to a lesson with Ivan so I was very excited that he agreed to have a lesson with me today, even after competing late last night (making it to the semi-final) in Professional American Rhythm and Emerald Ball with Marietta, and driving home.  Probably because of that, I had a lot of extra energy and was thinking about all we had worked on last time we met.  I tried my best to project my energy, and after about 3/4ths of the lesson, Ivan finally noticed that I was doing it.  I suppose it’d be better if he’d noticed it right away, but hey, progress.  He gave me a hug.  We had to navigate some issues because the computer through which the stereo runs wasn’t working properly and I ended up using Pandora on my phone for some music.  Not ideal – we quickly used up the maximum 6 skips per hour – but better than nothing.

After the lesson we had a little conversation.  I’m doing Desert Classic so I have to figure out how much I’m going to do, the cost, all that stuff.  I also told Ivan, “Hey!  We have like two months.  I know cardio is an issue, but what other little things can I be working on and fixing during this time?  I want to do the best I can.  But we just dance and you have to tell me!”

He basically told me that yes, there are little things to fix, but the cardio is killing me.  It’s my biggest weakness.  I can’t maintain 100% full energy for long enough.  It’s a problem.  My feet/legs are good, not perfect, and there are expression things to work on, and he put me through my paces on a cross body lead in Cha Cha and doing the Hockey Stick properly into a Fan in Latin Rumba, but the biggest problem is the cardio, and of course, secondarily, the extra weight.  He suggested I work most on those things and lose as much weight as I can before the competition so it will be easier on me.

So I kind of left my lesson feeling a little bummed.  Not a news flash, all this information.  I already know it.  I just wish I could wake up and be the size I was when I was 16 again.  Also, I was feeling insecure.  I tend to vascilate between feeling secure and good about myself and my dancing and then being dismayed that I will never be as good as I want to be, and that mabye I’m delusional about how good I even am right now!  Does anyone else cycle through these as well?

But I digress.  I found, that the dismay also kind of motivates me.  When I have a definite goal, with a definite deadline, and I know I’m not even close to where I want to be, I personally become more motivated to make changes.  So on my way home, I realized that all I would do if I went home was to sit on my fat butt and watch DWTS and maybe write a blog post.  Then I remembered that Marietta teaches a woman’s styling class at Dance Starz on Mondays.  I made a U-turn and headed over to the studio.  No time like the present to take action,right?  Plus, it meant that  I got a double dose of the Dishilev’s tonight!

Anyways, it was one of the best classes I’ve had with Marietta.

This may seem like a tangent, but follow me here – everyone is a genius at something.  From my perspective, Marietta is a genius at sensuality and femininity in ballroom dancing.  It is one of her greatest strengths.

Also, it is amazing to me, how the professional ballroom instructors I’ve experienced are so unabashed about their bodies.  There is like, no shame whatsoever.  I just can’t really relate to that.  But a part of me wants to get there and as uncomfortable as it is, especially with how I’m packaged right now, I’m willing to do the best I can in the moment with it.  These ballroom mavens like Marietta and Inna are the perfect people to model this for me, being as comfortable with themselves as they are.

In any case, Marietta is one of my favorite dancers because she really feels the movement.  She has totally permissioned herself to enjoy every sensuous movement, to touch her body, to play.  The movement she creates with her arms, for instance, as she explains it, isn’t because someone told her to do them a certain way, it’s because that’s where they want to naturally go, where they naturally extend, in a gorgeous and controlled way, because of the movement generated from her body, from her core, from her heart.  She is 100% okay with being sexy, oogled at even.  Again, I really can’t relate.

But what I can’t relate to even more, is putting on socks, taking off my shirt, putting on lotion, and looking in the mirror.   Yes, I know this makes no sense right now, but here’s what happened on the lesson.

Because the styling and movement of the body and arms comes from a natural, organic place, Marietta suggested we start with an everyday task we girls supposedly do.  Marietta suggested we begin with looking in a mirror.  Um, yeah, I generally avoid looking in mirrors, and I don’t have any hand mirrors in my possession.  She had us pretend we were grabbing a hand mirror, looking into it, and loving what we saw.  Uncomfortable.

Then she asked us how we put on socks.  I just slap those suckers on.  She was like, “Oh no!  That won’t do at all!  If I were alone and putting on socks, I’d do this.”  And she bent over, legs demurely crossed, butt up in the air, and delicately, sensually, rubbed her ankles then allowing her hands to traverse her calves, thighs, and all the way up to above her head.  By now, other people in the studio started to watch the class.  I admit, it’s difficult to keep your eyes off Marietta.  And, about this time, I noticed that my legs are at least twice as wide has hers.

She had us practice this movement a few times and then we were on to taking off our shirt.

“How would you take off your shirt?  Please demonstrate for me.”

I shrug my shoulders, cross my arms across my vast belly, and mime pulling upward.  Kind of in a manly, unconcerned way.

Again, not even close to how Marietta demonstrates.  It’s really difficult to describe this all in words!  How to get your mind’s eye to see how it all looked is kind of impossible.  But here’s the best I can do.  She crossed her arms, grabbing at her tiny waist, and drug her hands and fingers, not missing one inch, even her bosom, upwards, uncrossing them until her arms were above her head and only her wrists were entwined, creating almost like a fan out of her hands.  It was gorgeous.

Then she had us put on lotion.  I just cursorily slap that stuff on, when I even bother to use it.  Quick, functional movement.  But Marietta, oh, you’d probably already guess by now, she luxuriates in the movement.  How can a person make something that is so mundane look so interesting?

Finally we had to put it all together.  A basic Rumba box, two Cucarachas, a step back and them “Bam!” We’re supposed to project that sensual energy, reaching for something we want with all our might toward the mirror, arms reaching outward to grab this thing we want so very much.  Then we are to pull it into ourselves, caressing our necks, down through our chests.  Finally, put on a sock, rip off our shirts, rub lotion on our arms, and look at ourselves in our hand mirror.  It’s embarrassing!

It is easier just to do prescribed movement.  Rote movement.  Exact placements of arms rather than feeling it from the inside and expressing it nakedly on the outside.

It’s easier to not become the center of attention, and to avoid touching this body of mine.

It is difficult, for me, to allow myself to really enjoy any of this.

Marietta got a bit upset with me at one point because I was feeling self-conscious and shy doing all this and she wanted me to demonstrate reaching forward with all the yearning energy for that thing I want so badly for the other student in the class.  By then, I’d noticed other people watching us.  That made it even worse for me.

Marietta was like, “Go.  Do it.  Now! Move!  Go! I’m out of words!” And I was like, in my head, waiting for this person to pass behind us, that person to look away, that person to exit.  I didn’t want to be seen.  Eventually, after a lot of deep breaths and once people had moved far enough away, I did my best – enough to satisfy Marietta, but also just enough for me to think I looked like an idiot.

But I survived.  Amazing, isn’t it?

But then Marietta explained something that really stuck with me.  She said that she doesn’t really know how things look when they look good – that that is for others to judge – but rather she knows how it feels.

That, right there, is her genius.  That is why I love watching her and Ivan dance so much.  She is fascinating to watch not only because she is gorgeous and moves fantastically, but because she is actually enjoying the movement.  She revels in the sensuality of it all.  She is unabashed and confident in herself.  Her femininity exudes powerfully and draws me in as a viewer into her story, which seems like it should be a private affair, but there she is, enjoying it and sharing it with the entire crowd.

It’d be awesome to have that kind of power.

It just really affected me – her comment about that she doesn’t know how it looks but rather how it feels.  I reflected; maybe I’ve been looking in all the wrong places to find this for myself.  I realize that look to others, and compare myself to them.  That’s a losing game.  I also look to the mirror but it is not something I love or enjoy to see.  Indeed, it is an invitation to tailspin quickly.

But instead, what I can do, is put the blinders on to the outside and feel.  The Stefanie inside doesn’t feel she is 300 pounds, big, jiggly, and gross when she is in the zone just feeling and being present in the moment.  Like when Ivan and I have dance with our eyes closed and I have to really tune into my body and the leads, nothing else exists – there is no space for the insecurities or the fears or even to consider what other people might think of me, how I look, what I’m doing.  That is where I need to look to find this movement – that was the epiphany tonight.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t to say that feedback from others or the mirror isn’t useful.  It’s just that it may not be the best place for me to find the feeling, and from that feeling the movement, that I’m looking for.

Toward the end of the lesson, Marietta asked me what I thought this lesson was about – and that if I couldn’t handle the 5 people in the studio watching me be all sensual and stuff, how would I ever handle an entire ballroom full of people?

I replied, “This lesson is about feeling really uncomfortable and doing it anyway.  It is about deciding to not care what other people are thinking of me as I do this, and to just get in my own little bubble and do whatever it is I want to do here completely.”  I didn’t say it out loud, but what it was also really about, was claiming and holding my space.  Like, really owning my space on the dance floor, as if I’d put up a fence to declare it mine – one that said,  this is my area to shine and play and do whatever I want.  Don’t come invade it, it’s mine, not yours.

So anyways, it seemed apropos after all these realizations, when I opened my mail tonight and saw a card from my crazy aunt Julie (by marriage – and I mean crazy in the most lovingly way possible – it’s kind of a term of endearment for her).  Anyways, it fits perfectly into the theme of my lesson with Marietta, the sensual genius, tonight:

Boy does that cat look stupid in a pink bikini doing a pole dance.  But you know what, that kitty is working it!  Maybe I should take a cue from this feline.  Let it all hang out…after all, I am totally about the Meow!  Lol.  I’m going to take this opportunity to pledge to myself (and publicly) that I will continue to “work it” as much as I can.  That I am willing to go to these uncomfortable places if that’s what it takes to become who I want to become.  And finally, to thank Miss Marietta for being my teacher, mentor, and friend, and for pushing me a little further out onto the branch today.  Pretty soon, just like Ivan’s new chicks, I’m gonna fly!

Well, it’s been a long day and I am pooped, especially after staying up late to watch the last night of Emerald Ball online and two amazing dance lessons – one that stressed me physically and one that stretched me emotionally and as a woman and performer.  It’s time to go collapse in bed…I’m not even going to watch DWTS tonight and that should tell you something!

How are you “working it” in your ballroom journey?  What things do you struggle with the most?  Can you describe some moments in which you had a breakthrough and let it all “hang out?”

Until next time, I’m signing off.

XOXO, Stef

You Push A Big Button Today

On the heels of my last lesson with Ivan I decided that I should at least attempt to wear something different on my lesson today.  You know, about letting the sexiness out and all that.So I decided to wear this dress.  That cute doggie is my girl Buffy.  She was curious while I snapped the picture.  Thanks for the cameo, Buff.

You know, a normal person would just wear this dress, right?  But me, with my big body and my body issue complex, well, I couldn’t bear (or bare) to show that much skin.  So that was just the base of my ensemble.

Next, I added a skirt.  Why?  To put on top of the inner dress liner but under the kind of see-through part.  This way, you couldn’t see my huge ass and big belly as much.  The liner clung to my midsection and you could see every paunch, every pooch, every rounded mountain of flesh, and it wasn’t pretty.

Okay, now for the arms.  I got to cover the wings.  I can’t have all that jiggly flesh wagging in the wind with every cross-over.

Finally, the legs.  With all the cellulite, I need to keep the cottage cheese knees under wraps.  So on went a pair of black leggings with a little short skirt attached that folds over the top.

So the final outfit had four layers of material.

Maybe it’s not such a mystery why I sweat so much on all my lessons.  I’m always wearing three to four layers of clothing.

Usually, just my calves and forearms are showing.  Oh, and my face.  Everything else I try to cover, in black (it’s slimming, right?) so I look like a big black ball with calves and forearms sticking out.  I kind of want to just make the middle section just disappear, you know?

So I walked into my lesson all bundled up, with my cover-up tied around my waist so you could barely see the dress poking out.

Especially with all the commotion created by the chicks I gave him, we made it through Swing and Cha-Cha without Ivan noticing anything different in my clothing choices.

During the Cha-Cha, Ivan and I experimented with facial expressions.  I did everything! From faces I knew were hideous, just for fun, to “Pah!” and “Shah!” and winking and sticking out my tongue and anything else I could think of.  So that was good, I was playing and experimenting and feeling like it was okay to do that, but you know Ivan – he has to push it to the next level.

“What face you make when you thinking you so good?  When you so beautiful or proud or feel like you are better or stronger than anyone else?”

The question stopped me in my tracks.  I’ve been so focused, most of my life, on blending in, being good but not too good.  Standing out for all the right reasons, but not standing out too much.  Being a sheeple (people + sheep), so I fit in to the fold, being an individual that is slightly recognized, but not showy.

So with all this programming of how I should be, and how I should censor myself so that I’m outstanding, but not too outstanding, I was at a loss as to what a face like that would look like.

It’s not one I practice.

I have a complex, clearly, about being seen as “cocky” or “self-absorbed” or “vain.”

But what if, that was simply a well-founded pride of self?  A healthy appreciation of me?  Wouldn’t that be okay?  What would that look like?

I actually decided I should meditate on what that face would look like for me.  I do think I will explore it, and play in front of the bathroom mirror, alone, to see what it might look like for me to express confidence and love of self, even if some people might interpret it as being stuck up or haughty.  Let them think what they will…AHHHHH!  It kind of already freaks me out.  But whatever.  The lesson didn’t end there.

Because then I revealed myself…I made a fatal mistake, divulging I suppose my true intention with wearing the dress today, though I’d tried to do it in a way that didn’t make me too uncomfortable.

I lifted up the cover-up to wipe the sweat from my brow and the dress underneath was out in the open.

“What’s this dress you wearing?” Inquired Ivan.  “Why you wearing that cover up?  Take it off.”

“No Ivan.  It’s my arms.  I have to cover them.  I hate them.  They are so ugly.”

“I don’t care.  You have to take it off.  You have to loving the arms.  It’s just us here.  Take off the cover.”

Reluctantly, I peeled off the cover and tried my best to ignore my upper extremities.

That was traumatic enough for me, but not nearly enough for Ivan.

“Why you wearing all these layers?  You have to showing the fats.  You have pants on underneath, you should only be wearing top and bottom.  No extra stuff.  Lift up your skirt.”

“Ivan no!  Are you seriously crazy?”

He grabbed it and raised it and discovered my black skirt.

“Show the fats.  Show the fats!  You don’t have a big belly (which isn’t true, I totally do), you having a big ass.  But it’s okay.  Take off the skirt.  Show the fats.  Love the fats.”

He made me shed the extra skirt and then tuck the remainder of my dress into my bosom.  This revealed my legs.

“See.  You looking thinner with less layers.  Now your legs showing.  You going to be incomfortable (that’s an Ivan construct for uncomfortable) but it’s okay.  Now I see your legs.  I never see more than from the knee.  I want to see how they working.  Normally they are covered with a skirt and I can’t see what they doing.”

I was mortified.  But Ivan didn’t let up.

“You have big ass.  This okay.  Touch the ass.  Touch it!  Love it.”

He started playing a Latin Rumba.

“It’s okay, it okay.  See, don’t be scary the mirror.  Look in the mirror.”

Ivan made me stand beside him and face the mirror.

“Do a Latin basic.”

We stood there, side by side, with the romantic music playing, and began to move.  I have to say that my lines matched his.  And for the first time, you could really see my legs were doing exactly what they are supposed to do in that step.  Tears streamed down my face.

“See, the body so free now.  It never getting to be free.”

I have to admit that it felt nice to be cooler without all the layers.  But it is really hard to see myself.  I’ve mentioned that before, I know.

“See.  I not caring how the body look.  I see the straight legs.  I see the good technique.  Love the fats.  Show the fats.  It’s okay.”

I cried during the whole time we danced.  Silently, cleansing tears dropped to the floor as I rocked my hips, grabbed my fat ass like it was the most amazing thing on this earth, and danced as if I were a sexy beast.  I know my face didn’t show it with all the waterworks, but my body told the story.  My big, cumbersome, hefty body.  It talked.  It spoke loudly.  It screamed, “I am a slinky panther.  Watch me stalk my prey!” and “I may be three times her size, but there is a Karina Smirnoff in here, yes there is!

Seriously.  I heard it. 🙂

What a process this is for me!  I am so grateful to feel safe enough to go here – to have a dojo in which I can do my practice, where I can discover myself and work things out before I present myself to the world.  I am so very blessed to have this safe space to unwind the knots in my psyche – where I know on some level that I can let it ALL hang out, and I won’t be ridiculed, or made to feel inferior.  Indeed, I am encouraged, supported, and pushed forward into the realm of “incomfortable” – the place where the magic of breakthroughs happens, where my life changes, and where I am healed.

Gosh this is an emotional post for me.  I must say.  Reading it back for editing brings more tears to my face.  So be it.

It is worth it.

At the end of my lesson, Ivan looked at me and said, “You push a big button today.”  And boy did I.  I sure did.

This last little bit won’t make sense unless you read my previous post which you can read here.

Anyways, it was a big day.  Just as Ivan didn’t know he’d be surprised with some baby chicks today (see here if you missed that story), I didn’t know I’d be surprised with an opportunity to really step into loving myself, just as I am, while at the same time keeping the vision of what I want to become.  I didn’t know I’d have such a strong chance to connect with my inner tigress, and feel safe enough to shed layers of clothing, which, one could imagine, was a metaphorical representation of shedding layers of psychic and emotional protection so that I feel secure enough to fully and finally unleash my whole self.

On a somewhat funny side note, I also didn’t know that the studio would look suspect with my layers of clothing strewn across the floor from when I’d peeled them off!  Trust me – I was still completely covered from ankles to chest, even with all the changes and nothing improper happened.  But I have to admit, I freaked a little when Ivan’s next student walked in the door!  What must she have thought, seeing my skirt lifted up and articles of clothing laying hither and thither?

Well, you know what?  Who cares?  Who cares what she thought.  It was none of her business, really.  And it is none of my business what she may or may not thought of me.  What matters is what I think of me.  And what I think of me today, was that I was courageous.  No matter what that looks like, I went to a place I’ve never gone.  And that, my friends, is progress.  Woo hoo!

Holy Hell!  What a day.  What a post.

I wonder what will happen tomorrow….

Love,

Button-Pushing-Stef